Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The history and genealogy of interactive artifacts

It is time that someone writes the history of interactive artifacts. I would love to find books similar to what is available in architecture, product design, and art. Large wonderful books with beautiful pictures covering the important and significant exemplars in our field. In these books we would be able to find pictures of the first command line, the first Visicalc version, the first Word, the first Tetris, etc. This would of course reveal earlier and present design philosophies and design styles influencing our field during different time periods, and would/could lead to extensive theoretical debate and discourse, all valuable for anyone in the field.

This could further be developed into a genealogy of interactive artifacts, which is something I have frequently discussed with my colleague Jeff Bardzell. This would mean that we would analyze how artifacts over time have influenced other artifacts, how "design genes" live on from "generation to generation". Such a genealogy is needed if we want to create a common understanding of the history and development of the field. It would, of course, be a core part of any education in the field.

So, where can we find these books, and the genealogy of interactive artifacts. Who is working on this today and what is already done?

4 comments:

Kevin Silver said...

Not sure if you have seen this but Dan Saffer has a great blog that has a similar theme:

"No Ideas But In Things is a library of controls, animations, layouts, and displays that might be a source of inspiration for interaction designer."

http://www.noideasbutinthings.com/ixd/

It's alot of fun and it might be interesting to take this information and create an online history and genealogy.

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi Kevin

I had not see that site. I like it! It is a good example of how this could work. There are of course many things that can be developed, but collections if a first step!

Thanks
Erik

Andreas Lund said...

Hi Erik,

One book that comes to mind, although not spot on, is "From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry". One of of the few books that actually focus on software, not the often told Eniac, MARK I kind of history.

This summer I had reasons to do some "real" genealogy. One thing that was surprising to me, was that although it was interesting to trace the bloodline backwards, it was even more interesting to suddenly realize bonds between yourself and other now living people. I wonder if it would be the same with interactive artifacts?

Would we be able to say things like: "Believe it or not, that content management systems stems from the same ticket reservation system as that CRM-system"?.

Anyways, this whole endeavour strikes me as a perfect candidate for "crowdsourcing" (which to some extent seems to be a mechanism going on in people-geneology).

Best,
Andreas

Erik Stolterman said...

Hi Andreas

That is a great comment and it just adds to the argument that we need these kind of studies, since we do not know what would come out of them. I am looking forward to someone doing it.

Erik