Monday, July 28, 2008

Slow Interaction

Among the different "slow" movements (slow food, slow cities, etc) there is the notion of "slow reading". A quite good introduction by John Miedema can be found here. I have always been fascinated by the notion of "slow", which I guess is has to do with my ability and habit to be fast when I do things, so maybe being slow is more a wish than something I do.

Anyhow, there is something fascinating with doing things slowly and with full attention. It creates a completely different experience. So, what would "slow interaction" be? Is it possible to achive some similar experience in our interactions with digital artifacts? A kind of interaction that focuses our attention and our mind -- that leads to reflective interactions?

I truly believe we need to foster ideas like this. It has been discussed before, for instance with notions such as "calm technology" and others. Any ideas?


Heather Wiltse said...

This is an intriguing idea, and what strikes me initially is that fostering slow interactions may be somewhat antithetical to the standard design principle of providing feedback. Usually a user does something and waits for confirmation that the desired action has been performed so that h/she can go to the next step. It seems to me that opening up a space for reflection in this typical loop could be quite challenging to do without causing irritation or confusion.

The types of scenarios that lend themselves to 'slow interaction' seem to me to involve exploration and discovery. The first thing that comes to mind is my Electric Sheep screensaver ( It shows gorgeous images that are constantly changing, and it invites me to slow down and just watch them unfold. Another might be applications that allow for exploration of mathematical formulas through their associated visual representations. In these type of scenarios the goal of user action is exploration just to see what happens, rather than action to accomplish a predefined goal. This also reflects another theme of the 'slow' movements that I would characterize as 'engagement' - being interested in something for its own sake, and for the possibilities it may reveal.

Arvind said...

this is something that has been on my mind lately. the article about reading was great. i have been reading very poorly of late, finding it hard to concentrate on books and such. and i blame the habit of skimming blogs for it. I am reading those things in a rush, just to ensure I do not miss anything rather than learn anything. Which basically makes it pretty useless, but that is the curse of overload.
so, what i do is get away from any and all digital artifacts, but we are at a stage when these things are all around us but not invisible, possibly the most inconvenient balance. like watches, cellphones etc vs the futuristic scenarios pervasive computing people talk about.

Thus, to me it would be interactions which enable us to see and enjoy mundane activities that we have done so often that we don't know we are doing them, let alone enjoy them. Simple things like driving a manual transmission car help me have a richer experience but is probably not the kind of stuff you are talking about. definitely a great thing t o look into, at least from a personal angle.

Erik Stolterman said...

Heather and Arvind

Thanks both of you for your comments! Very insightful. It is now clear to me that it is possible to find examples of slow interaction and maybe also to find ways of designing for it! This is definitley something to continue to explore!


Jodi said...

I considered this topic two years ago with an MDes student and would like to think about it some more. Also, some researchers at Lancaster U are talking about how technology can be designed to support reflection... a similar topic.