Friday, March 22, 2019

Interactivity Fields - the next challenge in interaction design

Here is a draft of a couple of paragraphs from the introduction of a paper that I and Lars-Erik Janlert are working on.

"When we walk into a room the light turns on. When we approach a store the door opens. When we enter our home the thermostat changes the temperature in the house, the intelligent assistant starts to play our favorite music, our mobile phone reminds us to take out the garbage, and our loved ones are notified that we are safely home, wherever they might be; all happening at the same time. In our workplaces a multiplicity of digital tools and artifacts are at our command or struggling for our attention, creating a symphony or disharmony of interactions involving us.  

We interact with our environments today in numerous ways, sometimes by just being there or moving or waving our hands, sometimes by precise commands and actions, sometimes with focused attention and direction, sometimes half unaware and lacking a clear addressee or aim, sometimes acting on isolated cues from some specific source, sometimes on overall impressions generated by the environment as a whole. Interaction and interactivity is no longer necessarily something that takes place between a person and a single, clearly defined artifact and interface. A new kind of diffused or confused interaction has become an everyday experience for many of us and we are gradually getting more used to it. 

We have in previous writings introduced and explored the concept of faceless interaction and its potential consequences (Janlert & Stolterman, "Things That Keep Us Busy - the elements of interaction"); we have also extensively discussed multiparty interaction and the ensuing problems of interactivity clutter: occlusion, chaos, and distraction.
We will in this paper argue that what we are experiencing in the examples above reflect the first steps in a larger, coming change in the style and conception of interaction, interactivity and interfaces. As this change spreads and develops, it will be useful to conceptualize what emerges as what we call interactivity fields. We believe interactivity fields is a new way of thinking about interaction, a change in how researchers and designers think that, we will argue, has consequences for HCI research and interaction design practice."

If you want to read more about this, you can find that in our book in the final chapter (Janlert & Stolterman, "Things That Keep Us Busy - the elements of interaction").

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Four Aspects of Being a Successful Designer

Over the years I have worked on simplifying what I see as the core of being a successful designer. This is based on my studies of design practice and professional designers in relation to contemporary design theory and design philosophy. Of course, there are many ways of condensing my understanding, and this is just one of them.

The four aspects of being a successful designer are:

1. The Nature of Designing

Successful designers have a developed understanding of the nature of designing as a human approach to change. They understand what designing can deliver but also what it cannot deliver. They have a deep appreciation of when designing is a suitable approach and when it is not. They understand how designing relates to other approaches to change, such as science and art.

2. The Design Process

Successful designers have a developed understanding of the design process. They understand that there is no one correct process, that there is no best tool or the best method. They know that every choice of tool, technique, and method depends on the situation, time, people, culture, and expectations. They know that every design process is unique and has to be designed in relation to intention and desiderata.

3. The Design Culture

Successful designers have a developed understanding of what designing requires when it comes to context and culture. They understand that every organization has its own unique culture that either supports or hinders designing as a practice. They understand that design is leadership and requires people who can navigate the complexities of contemporary organizations. They understand that design requires an organizational culture that recognizes designing as a valid approach to change.

4. The Designer

Successful designers have a developed understanding of who they are as a professional practicing designer. They have a developed personal design philosophy that guides them in complex and rich situations when decisions and judgments have to be made. They have a deep understanding of what they appreciate as good design and of their own ideals and values. They understand that there is no stable state when it comes to designing and therefore have an intentional way of constantly developing their own competence.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Classroom versus online teaching

Lately I have read a lot about changes in higher education, the development of mega-universities, the explosion of online teaching, etc. Reading all this, it seems as if higher education is facing some dramatic shifts in their basic way of doing things. But at the same time, there are a lot of signs that the fundamental structure of higher ed is not really changing.

One question that seems to be at the core is if online education is as good as classroom education. Everyone agrees that it is different and has to be planned and executed in different ways, but which one is better? After having taught my whole life and seen countless of colleagues teach, it is clear to me that classroom education is both better and worse than classroom education. With this, I just want to point out that the spectrum of teaching quality within classroom education is extraordinarily wide. It goes from wonderful learning experiences in some cases to the most horrible experiences in others.

There is nothing in classroom education that guarantees that there is any learning taking place. Bad courses or bad teachers can destroy any learning situation in whatever form they are delivered.  So, the idea that we can compare and measure if one or the other educational setting is better than any other is futile. And to believe that we by simply transforming teaching from one setting to another will lead to improved results is also futile. The only way to improve teaching is to have great teachers plan, develop and teach relevant materials.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Donald Schön's books and theory

Here is a picture of all the major books by Donald Schön. His name is also on a number of other books where he was the editor or had a chapter. In the picture, the books are in chronological order with the oldest at the bottom. This is an impressive amount of writings and even more as a  scholarly contribution. I am (since several years) working on trying to understand the core of this work and how it all hangs together. Unfortunately, most people who "use" Schön only reference a concept or two from his writings without really knowing why Schön developed these concepts and how they fit in his larger theoretical construction. When you read through his books you realize that his famous concepts are part of a broad and extraordinary powerful theory about professional practice, learning, and design. Since I am often lecturing about Schön' work as a whole (including all books), one day I might write about it.

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