PLACE STORMING: PERFORMING NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN CONTEXT
Ken Anderson and Jane McGonigal
This paper stands in interesting contrast to the bodystorming reading. If body storming is for the user, place storming is more for the designer. I really like this concept of playful performance, and I especially enjoyed the shout out to Mikhail Bakhtin in discussing the process of discovery through play and its subversive qualities. These qualities become especially evident as tools used in place storming begin to be reappropriated as environments shift.
Antti Oulasvirta, Esko Kurvinen, and Tomi Kankainen
As a methodology to better understand user needs and desires, I think bodystorming is a fantastic tool to get designers to think more in depth about the ways in which their desired interactions will actually play out among their users. From my own experience it has been invaluable, especially for the development of my Module 2 project. My initial ideas were a little muddied in terms of focus until I picked up my iPhone and pretended to follow other people. I adjusted the song volume as I went and also tested the distance at which I could remain behind someone without freaking them out too much. In the end it also formed my decision to center my project around the concept of the derive after finding that I actually wanted the experience to engage people in a way that engaged them in a nonauthoritarian way, but that also forced them to remain at the disposal of others to continue playing.
Djajadiningrat, Gaver, and Frens, 2000
While reading the article, I found the interaction relabelling method to be a really effective because not only does it force a renegotiation of interactions between user and object, it asks the designer to remix metaphors through the juxtaposition of gestures, parts, or mechanisms associated with the object, allowing it to take on new meanings and fill new roles based on a different scenario. But in putting the method into practice in class, I found it to be somewhat of a troublesome exercise: when it is just one object that you are trying to relabel without a scenario, the properties – the affordances – of the object became constrictive – the conundrum of too much freedom. This activity added yet another tally mark for the importance of developing a scenario around an object, something we did not focus on at all in my major studio last fall.
I remember reading this article last semester and being utterly dumbfounded at their choice of extreme characters and the narratives they developed around them. Despite their caveats and apologizes for any offense, I still find this unacceptable. Starting a design from this place is extremely problematic and permeates the objects’ nature and relationship to the user, potentially turning the user into the stereotype or extreme character that inspired it. I agree with Winner that these are the types of considerations that designers should reflect on at any level.
“The Power of Representation”
From THINGS THAT MAKE US SMART
I like Norman. I like his insight into the everyday design measures lay people (of which I might add, I considered myself about six months ago) take for granted, and the palatable weight that they have in our lives, our interactions, and our systems of culture. And, while the middle part of this chapter was a little harder for me to get through, its substantiation of the beginning and end was well worth it in bringing the invisible forward. Two main points that resonated: in the beginning, he makes the argument that oral cultures without written systems lack formal methods of problem solving or complex educational infrastructures and that an aid as simple as pen and paper have a profound affect on development. Hence, it is our things that make us smart. The second was his closing with the idea of folk psychology and that in the end, designers must keep in mind that which is cognizant and commonsense, but also that which is imperceptible to the user, but still actively impacting her/his experience.
The Design of Everyday Things
Doors are interesting, but switches are the thing. Doors at least give some indication that there is movement to be made from one space to the next, whether it be a person moving from room to room or an object moving from open space to cabinet. Switches, however, are more precarious with many of them because the consequence of your action is the result of an unseen process. But the bad placement of only one switch can be just as antagonizing.
When I moved to Boston after undergrad, I encountered a design problem that duped me every single time: the switch outside the bathroom conundrum. We lived in this fantastic old house with the exception of this issue. Every time you would enter the bathroom you stepped right back out to let there be light. This particular design heresy seems partial, or at least more ubiquitous in northern states. In fact I recall having numerous conversations with friends about this geographic issue. Perhaps due to the prevalence of older architecture? Whatever the case, two interesting things happened by the time I left that place: first, even though you knew where the switch was, muscle memory dominated and second, it caused an awareness of the design, but in particular the house as a character of sorts, a prankster for whom the joke never gets old and the user always falls victim.
WHAT IS INTERACTION DESIGN?
This reading was a great overview of interaction design concepts (especially usability goals vs. user experience goals), but the interview at the end was the most interesting for its applicative and direct experiential link with this user. First and most importantly, her definition of interaction design as the “design of products that reveal themselves over time” is one of the more insightful descriptions I have heard. It is layered and intuitive without being overly ambiguous (for me at least), and assumes a more poetic stance then the some definitions that feel more like the bastard children of engineers and designers.
Secondly, it is almost impossible to not relate to her experiences with clients, no matter your profession. The communication breakdown that happens in the realm of design is also not just a result of the ignorance of the client in my opinion, but also the intimidation that comes in trying to describe their desired end to a professional designer, a role that some designers play into. Most people that I have worked with cite this incessantly as a the biggest problem when working with an outside consultant on a project. A good designer, interaction or other, should also be a good interface.
WHAT IS INTERACTION DESIGN?
I have read this introduction a few times in the past at varying times, always illluminating a few idea based on my current life context. At this very moment, one stands out:
Thinking of the new in terms of the familiar by creating a metaphorical link between old and new, injecting emotional value into the new that wouldn’t have otherwise been there. This link plays the role of language substantiating the interaction between the user and the machine.
I really like the idea of designing a language for the conversation waiting to emerge between people and machines, especially through metaphor. I guess one question that has always lingered devilishly in the back of my head is the degree to which these conversations are really more of a conversation between ourself in our head and ourself in the world. This would apply more to an earlier stage of interaction design that was focused on the individual’s interaction with the machine-object. Then if the next stage is focused on connecting, on communication, the question refocuses to ask to what degree we do this (inject our projections into each other) with other people AND how do the interfaces we design facilitate this.
Even put another way, what is the nature of the suspension of disbelief that occurs when we are plugged in? Is it similar to a play or movie, or do we almost condition and rewire ourselves to bypass the “this is not real” stage and simply insert the same neural settings.
INTERACTION DESIGN HISTORY IN A TEENY LITTLE NUTSHELL
You really cannot appreciate the ease of contemporary interfaces and the rise of interaction design until you begin to look back. The most striking image was not the punch cards, nor the IBM 360, but more so the Wordstar interface and complimentary quick reference card. Granted, it is not the complexity of the reference so much as the functions it outlines. It overwhelms me to come into visual contact with a Flash reference, for example, while the thought of encountering this now seems humorously nostalgic. I also thought his method of framing the evolution of design through the notion of context was significant. It is always important to understand the user and their goals, but taken independent of the context, it would wipe the stage from which the user was standing. This idea was implicit in the other texts, but not as clearly articulated.
FROM COMPUTING MACHINERY TO INTERACTION DESIGN
Winograd’s main argument is that people’s primary interest is communicating and interacting with other people and that it is this drive and desire that will move technology forward. I most certainly agree with this.
Even more interesting is the implicit upshot of his thesis in that the development and refinement of new technology also means (to a certain degree) realigning our initial ideas of what technology can actually do, vs. what we want to be able to make it do. For the laywoman, this can be a huge chasm.
There is a magical property of technology that both estranges us from it in terms of comprehension and in continuing to assign it faulty attributes. At first glance, computational technology operates within a logical structure that appears quite rigid and thus uninviting as a means of interaction. It is especially heightened when compared to intuitive or emotional logic we use to interact, communicate, and receive feedback with each other and with ourselves.
I mentioned metaphor in an earlier post an extremely effective bridge; however, in connecting the machinist to the humanist, it can sometimes widen the gap. My argument takes the form of my current mental image: a bridge that grows with the break between landmasses. Emotional, humanist attributes are one of the current major goals of interaction design: it is interesting to ruminate on what would happen if these metaphors were more in line with the logic of how the object/technology actually operates: would it give the user a greater sensibility of systems thinking? Would a reverse metaphorical translation occur, overlaying technical analogies to our personal interactions, as in so many dystopias? This idea feels rather obvious to type as it currently stands: it deserves a bit more percolation to precisely express it the way I would like. More bubbles, less fizz.