Thursday, July 26, 2007

Interaction Design Grand Challenges

A few days ago I asked here for proposals for what could be considered to be Interaction Design Grand Challenges. These challenges can be either problems that are caused by interaction designers or new technology and use of that technology. Challenges can either be seen as problems or as new opportunities that have not yet been exploited and developed.

Tyler Pace has, in a comment, suggested four challenges, he writes:

"1) Sustainability. I'm not the best person to post on this topic, but we all know it should be a chief concern for interaction designers.

2) Identity. It's fractured and seeping into and out of so many mediums that it's almost impossible to grasp.

3) Expectations of Work and Play. I'm not sure how to lump this into interaction design, but I feel/know that the expectations for work as separate from play are changing and I think the digital workforce has a large part to do with it.

4) Bleeding lines between producer and consumer and the resulting downstream issues of copyright, intellectual property, etc."

I think these are four good proposals, they are all consequences of our new interactive reality. They look and can easily be framed as problems, but can also be framed as enormous opportunities for radical and innovative interaction design.

More proposals anyone?


Tyler Pace said...

5) Universal design and accessibility. If I categorized challenges, I would add this to the group of things we know we should be concerned about, know some of the steps for fixing it but due to various pressures we don't perform our due diligence.

New and "better" technologies (web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 ... 9.3494) are still largely developed with accessible, universal design as an afterthought. As our population ages (including young techies) and comes to terms with the effects of age (vision, hearing and mental losses), we're going to see an explosive growth and opportunity for delivering accessible content.

Tyler Pace said...

A thought just occurred to me that your post is developing into a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis for interaction design. This might be an interesting activity to do in a bigger setting, perhaps capstone class or the HCI only session of HCId I.

Taking the responses to the SWOT analysis and then evaluating our programs awareness of and aptitude towards each area would be an interesting exercise!

Kevin Makice said...

Emergent Design. The traditional view of single tool and single user, or even the more modern view of many users creating value, ignores the impact those interactions have on shaping community, influencing policy and discovering new value. Designers are like physicists, in that we can't control outcomes through precise calculation or by anticipating every interaction. We can, however, understand the dynamics of complexity in a way that allows our systems to not only anticipate emergence but adapt as those properties change the community.

Tyler Pace said...

The guy addicted to digital games and synthetic worlds didn't come up with emergent design .. I feel so ashamed right now.

Apurva said...

ecological design. quite linked to sustainability.

Christian Briggs said...

Virtual Communities as Feeders of Democracy. I'm not entirely sure how to pose this as a Grand Challenge, but i think it's an important one. Currently in the United States we have a decapitated electorate that have lost the understanding of how to be a productive member of a democracy.

Alexis DeToqueville posed the idea in "Democracy in America", written in the 1830's, that it was the township that formed effective citizens who then were able to participate in national governance. In Chapter 5, he states that "The native of New England is attached to his township because it is independent and free; his co-operation in its affairs ensures his attachment to its interest; the well-being it affords him secures his affection, and its welfare is the aim of his ambition and of his future exertions. He takes a part in every occurrence in the place; he practises the art of government in the small sphere within his reach; he accustoms himself to those forms which can alone ensure the steady progress of liberty; he imbibes their spirit; he acquires a taste for order, comprehends the union of the balance of powers, and collects clear practical notions on the nature of his duties and the extent of his rights."

Today's online communities bear much more of the qualities of the 1830's American township than today's townships do. Can we design virtual communities that serve as the "new townships" which socialize their citizens to be simultaneously better citizens of the physical national and world community?

Will said...

I'm a bit late on this, but here's my quick thought.. Shifting roles of Work and Play, emergence of the 'prosumer,' and increasing interest in emergent, everyday design (notably in the domestic design circuit) collectively speak to a broader concern of empowering people as designers of and in their own lives. Krippendorf explicitly speaks to this in the semantic turn and much emerging 3rd wave research on engaging subjective, meaning-making processes (e.g. ambiguous and reflective design) implicitly focus on it. This isn’t an easy task--but it’s an/the important one and could be a step towards creatively addressing many of the challenges proposed here. Humans are diverse, exceedingly heterogeneous creatures and as the focus of interaction design continues to move beyond the office and into everyday life, these complexities must be accounted for. The turn toward, among other things, ethnography and cultural theory to fuel new ways of thinking within HCI/d mark a significant effort to embrace such complexities and has followed with a variety of new focuses (e.g. fun, morality, spirituality, etc..). Each of these new avenues plays an important role in exploring and developing interaction design, however they largely remain disconnected. The grand challenge here is less about rudimentarily tying together these new perspectives, but rather grounding design practice in a true human-centered philosophy—empowering humans as critical designers of their imaginings, wants, desires and, ultimately, life.

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi Apurva, Christian, Will, and Kevin

Thanks for all your input. These are great comments. The diversity of the comments shows the complexity of the issue. It is also interesting to see how the proposed challenges can be seen as depending or not on each other. Maybe they all derive from one fundamental, what would that be? That fundamental challenge might be what would constitute the core of our discipline.