Saturday, June 28, 2008

Interaction Criticism

In a wonderful series of posts, my colleague Jeff Bardzell, discusses the notion of "interaction criticism". Interaction design is a field contributing to the imidiate and concrete reality by the creative design of new digital artifacts--as such, it is a field desperately in need of criticism. There is a need to critically examine all these artifacts that in a never-ending stream are the results of the field's design efforts. Since there is basically no (serious) criticism around, which means that there is no learning. Criticism can help us to learn from mistakes, but without it we do not understand what matters in the complexity and richness that make up interaction artifacts, and maybe most important of all, withiout criticism we are not developing a language suitable for an indepth examination and evaluation of interaction. Well, Jeff has in his posts taken on the challenge to tell us what is required and what makes up "useful" criticism. And not only that, he also gives us directions on how to actually do it! Read Jeff's insightful texts and start to explore interaction criticism!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

(Not) Richard Dawkins and unusual Twitter use..

OK, I was fooled by the name. After I wrote about a twitter text from what appeared to be Richard Dawkins, I learned that it was not the "real" Dawkins :-) Here is a great blog about that. So, I decided to remove my post since it does not make sense any more!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nicholas Carr "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and Sven Birkerts

In a recent article in the Atlantic, with the title "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", Nicholas Carr explores the idea that new technology and especially web technology is "destroying" peoples ability to read longer and more dense texts. The exploration starts with his reflection on his own reading ability and how it has changed. This is an idea that has been around over time which is something that Carr also notes, even Plato was worried about the impact that the technology of "writing" would have on peoples ability to think for themselves.

Carr makes a good job bringing together some of the thinkers that has addressed the issue over time. But he does not mention the book that in my mind makes the strongest argument for Carr's observation, and that is Sven Birkerts "The Gutenburg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age". The book was first published in 1997 and was heavily criticized for being too anti-technology and not based on a deep understanding of the potential of technology. I really liked the book at the time even though I was not fully convinced by his arguments, but I found it difficult to argue against his main message. Maybe now is the time to re-read his book.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Interaction, Outcome, and Experience

There is an interesting relationship between interaction and outcome. It is possible to think about interaction as the activity a person is involved in when "using" a digital artifact, that is, 'doing interaction' with an artifact or system. It is also possible to think about the result from the activity of interaction, for instance, when you interact with a word processor, the outcome is the final text (digital or printed on paper) that you use for a purpose.

There are a complex relationship between these two: interaction and outcome. The interaction can consist of simple or compex activities, and the outcome can be simple or complex when it comes to structure and content. Usually we need to perform complex interactions to produce complex results, or simple interactions to produce simple results. But, this is not always true. Sometimes the opposite might be the case.

When we talk about the experience of interaction it does not necessarily have to do with the outcome, except when it is the outcome. The experience of using a word processor leads to the outcome in the form of a text, but it also 'produces' experiences that have to do with the quality of the interaction itself and not at all with the qality of the outcome. As a user we might love or hate the interaction exeprience while being indifferent, satisfied, or unhappy with the outcome, or vice versa.

Sometimes there is no outcome except the experience, for instance, when it come to games. There is no outcome that matters except for the experience of interacting.

Ok, nothing of this is new, I am just trying to analyze these concepts since I find them often used and understood in quite confusing ways, and I think it is crucial for any interaction designer to know the difference. When it comes to design, you have to decide what is the 'real' outcome of your design, what the experience should be realted to (outcome or interaction), etc. At the end it all becomes extremely practical and concret, and that is when your design with its qualities are measured and evaluated. And, of course, in the new world we are entering, as a designer you also have to be able to argue for your design. You have to know why you have devoted your time to the design of respectively interaction and outcome qualities.

I guess will come back to this. This needs more reflection. If anyone has some good recommendations fore readings, since I expect that I am not alone playing with these concepts.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Gartner Challenges Again...

Ok, I got a very good comment from Phoebe Sengers on my post about the seven grand challenges for IT research and development. I claimed that the Gartner report was based on some obvious assumptions that was not spelled out. She wrote and asked if I could say what these assumptions are. Good question, but difficult :-) I gave a bad answer, so it has since then been on my mind. So, here are some new ideas.

In the Gartner report I believe there is an underlying assumption about "direction". It seems as it is obvious where we are going, and the challenges are only about how to get there. This means that some other implicit assumptions (that I saw), such as "ease of use" and "development process performance", can be seen as "measure of success" for the whole enterprise. When challenges are stated in this way, they become well defined problems that has to be solved, all within the overall assumption of the given but not discussed "direction".

I would like "grand challenges" not to be about problem solving. I think the IT field is still in a position where other forms of Challenges would be more interesting. I would like to see Grand Challenges that are more explorative, focused on new innovative use, with an ambition of finding new directions. To me this also means that developing Grand Challenges is all about critical thinking, which has to do with breaking the onedimensional thinking as described by Marcuse in his wonderful book "The One-dimensional Man".

I am not sure I am making any progress here :-) If anyone else want to join this discussion, please do so.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Gartner: Seven Grand Challenges for IT

Gartner has formulated seven Grand Challenges for the development of IT in the next five to twenty years. These kind of studies are always interesting and gives you a possibility to compare with your own reflections about the always present future. It is intersting the the seven challenges are mostly based on well defined technical problems, such as, recharging batteries, persistent and reliable storage, speech translation. Some of them are based on a hope of better production effeciency, such as incresing programmers productivity.

There is one Challenge that relates to interaction and that is "Non Tactile, Natural Computing Interfaces". The idea is that we really need to get away from any "mechanical interfaces". Interesting since so much in interaction research today is about making the experience with computers more physical and tangible. Personally I think we will enter the age when interaction becomes more physical and embodied in artifacts.

Anyhow, amybe the most interesting observation is that the challenges are almost all about ways of doing things, but they have no relation to the purpose, or maybe the purpose is "obvious". Reading the list with the question "why do we need this" is an interesting experiment. Do it, and you will notice that there some deep underlying assumptions about what kind of usage of IT we "need" or "desire" in the future.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Universal Remote

I wrote earlier on this blog about one of the most difficult interaction design challenges -- the design of a simple and useful remote control. Well, here is a new attempt. It looks good, but some comments noticed that why not use the iPhone as a universal remote? With an increasing interactive environment, we do need to find ways to interact with it. There are of course many different appraoches possible. Remote controls is only one way. Another is to use remote sensors and gestures, or maybe speech control, or... Any and every new interactive device becomes a part of a larger interactive enrivonment and we need to find ways for all of us to comfortably live and control these environments.