Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My PhD dissertation (in digital version for download)

I defended my PhD dissertation in 1991. It took me forever to finish it but at the end I was at least quite happy with what I had accomplished. I now and then go back and read bits and pieces from it. Always entertaining and sometimes surprising, encouraging or even depressing. The depressing part is when I realize that I wrote everything in my dissertation that I am still working on, and in many cases better than I could write it today (at least it feels like that).

Anyway, I have not had an digital version of the dissertation but found one today (in the Umea University Library). It is in Swedish so it is of course not really readable to many.

A pdf of the dissertation can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Wonderful movie about Heidegger (and design)

If you have not yet watched the movie "Being in the world" by Tao Ruspoli about the philosophy of
Heidegger, you should. The film is full of comments from many of todays leading philosophers. They talk about Heidegger but in a language that makes it possible to understand for anyone. It is a movie about being a human being. And it is a movie about being a designer!

You can read more about the movie here.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Interesting review 50 years later of Marcuse's "One-dimensional man"

It is 50 years now since Herbert Marcuse published his influential book "One-dimensional man". This has been one of my favorite books since the first time I read it. I have frequently returned to it and is every time inspired by it, usually in a new way than before. It is a book rich of big ideas. Recently I wrote a book chapter on how Marcuse is relevant to the field of interaction design research (hopefully to be published soon).

I am of course not the only one who returns to this seminal book. In a really interesting review, written in relation to the 50 year anniversary,  Ronald Aronson explains the immensely important role that Marcuse has had over the decades. This review is thoughtful and insightful. I was while reading it first a bit concerned by the argument that the conditions during the time when Marcuse authored the book have changed so much that it is not relevant in the same way anymore. However, later in the article Aronson makes the case that I would do, namely that the present society is not the same as in those days but that it has the same foundational qualities, maybe even in a way that makes Marcuse's analysis even more relevant today. It is not the cold war with the big (given) enemy that is the system's engine, instead it is consumerism and the comfortable life. One-dimensionality has maybe never been stronger than today!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

DesignX -- a new collaborative initiative to radically reform design

We do not see a lot of manifestos or White Papers in the field of research, which is unfortunate since they do have certain qualities that almost no other scholarly writings have. Some of these qualities are that they are short, to the point, argumentative, and usually written and signed by a group of people with a stated purpose to influence others.

Today I got one such document in an email. The document is called DesignX and is written by a group of well known design scholars (in alphabetical order): Ken Friedman (Tongji University, College of Design and Innovation and Swinburne University Centre for Design Innovation), Yongqi Lou (Tongji), Don Norman (University of California, San Diego, Design Lab), Pieter Jan Stappers (Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering), Ena Voûte (Delft), and Patrick Whitney (Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design).

You can download the text here. Or you can read the text here on Don Norman's site.

The first sentence states "DesignX is a new, evidence-based approach for addressing many of the complex and serious problems facing the world today. It adds to and augments today’s design methods, reformulating the role that design can play."

The document is only three pages. It gives a brief history of design and a review of where design is today and where it has to go. The text contains several quite succinct definitions of what design is and what design can do.

I think the authors have done a great job in describing design and its distinctive qualities and also lays out an interesting agenda for the future. I fully support the general idea behind this initiative.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The future of the smartphone

As we all know it is not easy to predict the future. It is so difficult so it sometimes becomes almost depressing. In this short article with the lead designers Matias Duarte (Google) and Gentry Underwood (Dropbox) are supposed to speculate about the future of the smartphone. They do that by mostly examining the problems with where we are now. It is difficult to see any grand visions or even optimism in their speculations.  They both see the future of the smartphone in its ability to live in an ecology of devices and not as a radical change of the smartphone itself.

It is interesting to see how these two influential designers are discussing the problem of modern smartphones very much in a way that resonates with Albert Borgmann's theory about the "device paradigm". The designers are, in the same way as Borgmann, concerned that the everywhere presence of screens distance us from the "real" reality and Underwood ends by saying "I hope as we push these screens forward, we do it with an attention to what makes life meaningful." This relates to the notion of focal practices by Borgmann.

The short article is a fascinating read. Is this the forefront of the field? Is this the visionary thinking? I find the article to be inspiring in the sense that it is refreshing to see Borgmann's philosophy being present in this type of context, at the same time I find it a bit sad that there are no bold ideas how to deal with the problems that they recognize. The solutions seem to be more of the same unfortunately.

[This challenge of device ecologies is something that I have worked on in different ways and is published:

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (forthcoming). Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future. In Human-Computer Interaction.

Stolterman, E. , Jung, H., Ryan, W., and Siegel, M. A. (2013) Device Landscapes: A New Challenge to Interaction Design and HCI Research. Archives of Design Research, 26(2), 7-33.]

Friday, November 07, 2014

Amazon Echo and Faceless Interaction

Amazon is presenting a new device called Echo. It is a voice controlled device that makes it possible to play music, ask questions (Siri style), create shopping lists, set alarms, etc. It is supposed to have a
sophisticated microphone system that can recognize commands even when playing music. You can place it anywhere in a room and control it with your voice. You can check out the video link found on this page.

I find this really interesting. It is a step towards what Lars-Erik Janlert and I call "faceless interaction" in our article "Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future".

This type of faceless interaction, that is, interactivity without a "real" interface (defined in the article), is becoming more common and the issues we discuss in the article, for instance, interaction clutter becomes more prominent. When we have not just one but many faceless interactions in our environment, new challenges become apparent to interaction designers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Design Way (third print of paperback!)

Just got the good news from MIT Press that they are preparing the third print of the paperback version (first print came out earlier this Fall) of our book The Design Way. This is exciting. It means that for some reason people are buying the book! If you are one of them -- thanks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Anatomy of Prototypes

In preparation of a lecture on Monday I had to re-read an article that I wrote together with Youn-Kyoung Lim and Josh Tenenberg called "The Anatomy of Prototypes: Prototypes as Filters, Prototypes as Manifestations of Design Ideas".

I don't think I have read the whole article in a few years which is always an exciting  and a bit nervous experience. Anyway, this time I was pleasantly surprised. I really find this article to be interesting and still useful. Unfortunately I have not done any more work on this topic since we wrote this article but after having read it now, I think I  have to.

I am more convinced than ever that what our field needs are analytical tools that makes it possible to investigate specific entities in a structured way. In this article we propose an anatomy of prototypes that supports such investigations of one of the most important entities in our field--the prototype.

It would be great if we could develop similar "anatomies" for other entities in our field. The 'power' of anatomies (or frameworks) is that they (if done well)  provide clear definitions that support examinations, categorizations and understanding without being prescriptive. The anatomy of prototypes that we provide in our article is a conceptual tool for the analysis and description of every possible prototype without saying anything at all how to design prototypes or what constitute a good prototype (except in a very abstract but principled and precise way).

Anyway, good to return to "old" texts and to discover that they still can be valuable and not outdated.

A video talk: Improving Design without Destroying it

I did a Skype talk with the Belgium CHI community the other day. The title of my talk was "Improving Design Without Destroying it". They recorded the talk and it is now available on Youtube.

There is an introduction of about 5 min before my talk starts. Here is an abstract of the talk. I am not sure how well I stayed with the topic though....

"The design process is today highly appreciated for the kind of results it can deliver. This appreciation can be found within academia as well as in the  business world. At the same time there is in many communities a noticeable  uneasiness of the ambiguous character and the apparent elusiveness of the  methods of design. This unease has led to many attempts to transform or improve the design process, for instance with the purpose to make the process more efficient, rational, predictable, and safe. However, many of these attempts  have lead to results that are detrimental to the design process, because they  impose conditions, limitations, restrictions, procedures, and measures of success that are not grounded a deep understanding of design as a unique approach of inquiry and action. In my talk I will examine approaches to and examples  of design process improvements that are destructive to design, but I will also explore and discuss some safe alternatives to improving design."

Friday, October 03, 2014

Article Note: "A design thinking rationality framework: framing and solving design problems in early concept generation" by Jieun Kim and Hokyoung Ryu

I just read this (quite long) article "A design thinking rationality framework: framing and solving design problems in early concept generation" by Jieun Kim and Hokyoung Ryu (in Human-Computer Interaction, 2014 Vol 27). I did not know about this work at all but was positively surprised. The authors are doing a great job in referencing a lot of contemporary design theorists. The authors clearly know the field. They also report from a large experiment where they engaged experienced and non-experienced (novice) designers in a design task. The insights from the study is primarily that experienced designers are more effective in framing a design problem but also that they "stick" to their early ideas (what the authors call "design fixation"), while inexperienced designers are not as good at framing a design problem but instead are more willing to let go of initial ideas.

I think these findings are interesting, specifically since I usually hear people argue that inexperienced designers are the ones who stick to their initial ideas while experienced designers do not. The fact that experienced designer are better at framing design problems is less surprising. Anyhow, a lot of interesting material in this article.

My only concern with the work is (something that often concerns me with research articles) when the authors try to use their findings as a tool to improve the design process. They write "These studies might suggest how to develop a creativity-support system that can help expert designers avoid bias and design fixation and assist novice designers in approaching better design strategies". I do not mind so much the second part, the one about novice designers, but I have a problem with the first part.

If it is a fact that experienced designers are more engaged in design fixation (that is, staying with an initial idea) I would be very careful in drawing the conclusion that that is a bad thing. Expert designers probably have this particular behavior because they realize (maybe not consciously) that this behavior leads to good consequences. There are some studies out there that support and argue that the idea of sticking with early ideas and working with variations of that idea instead of working on many parallel ideas is more successful. Anyway, the leap from observation to implication is always a dangerous and difficult leap. Great observations and insights does not have to be transformed into actionable prescriptions. Many times the observations and insights transformed into theoretical concepts is more than enough.

New type of posts--Article Notes

As some of you have noticed over the years I now and then write Book Notes. These notes are not real reviews, but they are comments on books that I am reading or have read. I have now realized that I can do the same thing with journal articles (maybe later on with conference papers). It is a way for me to force myself to read more carefully and also to formulate my thoughts on what I am reading. If anyone else find these article notes useful then even better.

So if you have some articles that you want me to read and write a note about, just let me know. I might do it....

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Article Note: "Making Things Happen: Social Innovation and Design" by Ezio Manzini

In a recent article, "Making Things Happen: Social Innovation and Design" (2014 Design Studies), Ezio Manzini discusses what social innovation is and how it relates to design. The article is quite short and is based on a discussion of cases where Manzini sees social innovation at play. Overall this article is interesting but it is quite brief in its treatment of the cases and the way Manzini deals with both the notion of social innovation and design leads to some really good questions.

I will only comment on one of the insights in the paper since I find the analysis of the cases as different forms of social innovation only to serve as background to the main argument. Manzini is making the case that social innovation involves design. It is possible to read the article in a way that makes it almost impossible to distinguish the two based on the definitions Manzini uses. However, at the end of the article Manzini states that designers (I read this as professionally educated and trained designers) can act in different roles when it comes to social innovation. He mentions the roles of facilitators, triggers, members of co-design teams, and design activists. He writes that at the moment the role as facilitators is today the most common, but argues that the roles as triggers and activists "seem to be very promising". He comments, "In fact, operating in this way, designers can make the best use of their specific sets of capabilities and their special sensitivity." He ends by stating "In other words, "making things happen" seems to be the most concise way to express what could be the most effective and specific role for designers".

I believe that many would find this position as commendable and something to aspire to. Who would argue against the idea that designers should activity try to change society, to make things happen, to engage in social innovation? Well, I find this reasoning to be troublesome. Depending on how you define design and designing, this shifting of roles is  not easily done without serious consequences. Manzini writes about designers "specific sets of capabilities and their special sensitivity". To me, these capabilities and sensibilities are developed because professional designers are trained to be in service of others. Designers work with clients, customers, and users. They have the capability and sensibility to work in close relation with the people to reveal their needs and wants and to be able to imagine new solutions that can fulfill their desires. As soon as a designer becomes a "trigger" of change or an activist, this relationship changes fundamentally. Now the designer is seeing his or her own desires as the primary purpose and goals. The designers role now becomes one of an activist which is a political role which brings ideologies and values to the forefront. There is of course nothing wrong with this, but it also means that the capabilities and sensibilities need for this type of activity is necessarily in the toolbox of most designers. They are not necessarily trained in public policy, the philosophy of government, democracy and activism, etc. They do not necessarily have the capability and sensibility for being the leader of a social change. To me, as soon as a designer becomes an activist, he is primarily an activist that maybe secondarily draws on his designerly competence. The measure of success is no longer if he is a good design, but if he is a good activist. I am quite sure that these two roles requires radically different capabilities and sensibilities (even though there may be some overlap).

The question of what constitutes the role of a professional designer requires an ongoing discussion. New proposals related to design, such as critical design, adversarial design, etc., all raise the fundamental question what the designer is. To me, there is a difference between the role of a designer and the role of someone who is primarily something else and uses design as an approach (as some of the people described in Manzini's article).

As you can see, I am not really sure what my argument here is. It is obvious that the article by Manzini stimulated me more than I thought when I read it. The article raises the question of the role of the designer in a way that leads to more questions, such as what is it that determines one role or another. I am afraid that if the role of a designer, social innovator, activist, etc. collapses then we have lost something. Keeping roles distinct (at least in theory, as Weber's "ideal types") is useful in scholarly discussions, even though in practice it may be less crucial.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The common mistake of seeing design as a particular field or profession

I have written here before about the mistake of seeing design as a profession and/or a discipline. To me, design is an approach, a way of approaching reality with the purpose to change it. There are no given design areas or disciplines. Instead it is the nature of the problem/situation that usually determines what is a field or discipline. So, for instance, graphic design is a field that has to do with graphic and visual artifacts, architecture is a field that engages with buildings and structure, etc. They are not by nature design fields or disciplines.

Graphic design has some similarities with architecture of course. Some of those similarities can be seen as related to materials, surfaces and structures. Some similarities have to do with how people perceive forms, shapes and colors and their combinations. To me it is obvious that you can approach these qualities either with a scientific approach or with a designerly approach or with a combination. This means that graphic design and architecture can, depending on how we understand them, be seen either as two science based disciplines or two design based disciplines.

This is why it becomes so confusing when people or companies try to state what design is based only on their experiences in one field and only from one persepctive. For instance, Zillions Design (a logo design company) puts out what they call a Periodic Table of Winning Design Elements. They write:

"The following infographic on the Periodic Table of Winning Design Elements, completely sums up what goes on in the design field right from what basic skills designers need to have to design elements to how to handle clients."

Of course they don't mean that this is table in a comprehensive way describes all design elements for all design areas. They probably think about logo design. But they don't state that, which is unfortunate. It creates a lot of confusion. It is possible to develop a periodic table of design elements that is meant to be true for all design areas (see my book "The Design way" as an attempt to do that). I would welcome anyone who would engage in the attempt to further an understanding of design, not as a discipline or profession, but as an overall human approach of inquiry and action that can deliver outcomes that other approaches (science, art, politics, etc) can not.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future

Now the article by Lars-Erik Janlert and me is published on the Human-Computer Interaction Journals website. I am very happy to see this article published!

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (2014). Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future. In Human-Computer Interaction


In the middle of the present struggle to keep interaction complexity in check as artifact complexity continues to rise and the technical possibilities to interact multiply, the notion of interface is scrutinized. First, a limited number of previous interpretations or thought styles of the notion are identified and discussed. This serves as a framework for an analysis of the current situation with regard to complexity, control, and interaction, leading to a realization of the crucial role of surface in contemporary understanding of interaction. The potential of faceless interaction, interaction that transcends traditional reliance on surfaces, is then examined and discussed, liberating possibilities as well as complicating effects and dangers are pointed out, ending with a sketch of a possibly emerging new thought style.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The importance of good design presentations

I always talk with my students about the importance of being able to do good design presentations. No matter how good design work you have done, if you can not present it, explain it, and argue for it, no one will "buy it".

I saw this article today by Mike Monterio that in a simple and fun way explain a number of the points I always stress. There are many similar articles out there about presentation techniques, but this has a different flavor and I think it works well.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Design Way -- some news

Some good news about our book, "The Design Way". The new paperback edition of The Design Way was just released by MIT Press. It sold out immediately! More copies will be available in October. And an edition in Spanish will be published in the Spring of 2015!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

new article: "Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future"

I have for many year worked with my colleague Lars-Erik Janlert (Umeå Univeristy, Sweden). Actually we were PhD students in the same department many, many years ago. Our work together has slowly developed and become more focused over the years. We just got our latest article "Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future" accepted for publication in the journal Human-Computer Interaction. We have now three articles published on the theme of "interactivity" and one in draft.

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (in progress). Increasing Interactivity.

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (forthcoming). Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future. In Human-Computer Interaction. (will hopefully be available soon)

Lars-Erik Janlert and Erik Stolterman. 2010. Complex interaction. ToCHI (ACM Transactions of Computer-Human Interaction) 17, 2.

Janlert, L-E. & Stolterman, E. (1997). The character of things. in Design Studies Vol 18, No 3, July (1997).

The plan now is to develop these articles into a book. We are convinced that the field of HCI need our book :-) There is a need for an in-depth and detailed attempt at defining what interactivity is and can be.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some reflections on the overwhelming amount of research publishing

Recently I thought I would try to compose a list of journals that publishes HCI research. I engaged in a search. I was overwhelmed. I never finished a list. The reason is that I found several lists of journals, many journals, many of which I have never heard off and even more that I have never read.

The HCI bibliography
web site of Panayiotis Koutsabasis
microsoft list
and there are many more.

Some of these journals are supported by large academic organizations, some are independent. It is important to remember that ACM is not the only large academic organization that has a special focus on HCI (so are AIS, IEEE, etc).  Who reads all these journals? Add to this all the conferences where an even larger number of papers are published every year. Overwhelming.

This little search made it very clear that as researchers we are not really doing research in a discipline or field but in some sub-sub field or maybe in a corner of an area covering only a tiny portion of what goes on in the world of HCI research. Of course I have always known this, so it is not a surprise really. But going through these lists makes you more humble about your role in the world (in case that is needed) and you can see how small your own role is.

So, what does this mean? I do not know. Should we stop publishing? I have for many years entertained the idea that as a researcher you should only be allowed to publish 1 paper per year or maybe 1 per every other year or every 5th year. This would drastically change the academic publishing landscape. But of course, it is easy to see issues with such a model too. Maybe modern research is just an industry like any other, with many actors doing more or less the same thing. And as in any industry, here and there someone is lucky to break through the noise with an idea or finding that will influence the field, but more as a consequence of luck than anything else. Too pessimistic? The real reason why we are engaged in research is of course that, despite all the publishing pressure, doing research is a drug. Being involved in the world of ideas and learning is exciting and fun. That is it!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is Object Oriented Ontology and Speculative Realism the answer? [and if so, what is the question?]

Over the last few years I have read some books in the new philosophical school of thought called Object Oriented Ontology or Speculative Realism. I have read Graham Harman and others, the most recent books are Levi Bryant's "Onto-Cartography: an ontology of machines and media" and Tristan Garcia's "Form and Object: a treatise on things". I am still intrigued with this new form of philosophical realism and, in some cases, materialism. In many ways it feels fresh and inspiring as an attempt to get away from philosophy that seems to have left the world of 'reality' and things behind.

The basic idea behind all these new attempts seems to be a willingness to return to reality as we experience it as humans in a very direct way, that is, as a world composed of things that make up our reality. It is also an attempt to build some form of objective approach to reality that distance itself from intricate and elaborate ideas of subjectivism and phenomenology. Overall I am in favor of this adventure and I have also really enjoyed reading some of these books, but I am now starting to doubt that this approach is leading to something 'useful', that is, to some philosophical ideas that will be possible to use as a foundation in more everyday research endeavors. Tristam Garcia's book is an example of beautiful philosophy, but it is an intellectual exercise so removed from everyday thinking and practice (and language) that it ends up as intellectual art (which is not necessary bad, I truly enjoy reading it) or maybe some would argue as true philosophy. The most promising ideas I have found so far is in Levi Bryant's "Onto-Cartography". Bryant offers a set of ideas that are basic in the sense of foundational at the same time as they also seem 'usable' in the sense of creating a way of thinking that can influence everyday research practices.

I am far from sure about my thoughts about this philosophical development though. It needs more work and thinking and I assume testing. Just to be clear, I am not looking for a philosophy that is 'useful' in a concrete way. (The popularity of Latour's Actor Network Theory a few years back led to some awful examples where people tried to apply it.) But I do think that real research becomes better if it is at least inspired by and rest upon some foundational philosophical stance.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Beautiful 50 sec video: Elements of Design

Harold Nelson sent me this link today. It is to a short video with the name "Elements of Design" by Matt Greenwood ( Greenwood is an art director and motion designer.
Some of his work is displayed on his site. Very nice work!

Monday, July 14, 2014

"Field Notes" note books and the art of taking notes

A friend of mine gave me two "Field Notes" note books last week. It was a two-pack with one book for science and one for art. I suppose that Field Notes has been around for a while and are probably quite famous, but for some reason I had not seen them before. The format, the paper, and the colors are just wonderful. Take a look at their shop and all the note books, pens, and other smart devices for note taking.

The Field Notes really make we want to be better at taking notes. For many years I did good job and all my research was written down in my favorite note book. Nowadays, not so much. I try to, but I do not do it frequently enough to make it a second nature of my work habits. I have realized that these days I do most of my thinking by typing and not by taking notes. One reason for this may be that I am almost always in front of a screen and a keyboard, so it feels as an unnecessary step to first write my ideas down on paper and then later type them.

Of course, I know that taking notes and typing is not all the same thing and does not require or support the same kind of thinking processes. Taking notes has some great advantages that would serve me well to go back to. I wonder what it would take to make me go back to taking notes instead of typing my ideas. The only solution I have been successful with so far is to move away from any computer, bring some readings and a note book and go to a coffee shop. Since typing is not available, the note book is soon filled with ideas. But since it is not a regular activity, the notes are forgotten in the note book and seldom used.

It is obvious that the difference between my note taking and typing is that my note taking becomes much more visual.  Typing requires words and sentences. It is equally obvious that this difference has consequences for the thinking and what ideas can be thought. Typing on the other hand has the wonderful advantage of being both precise and unforgiving. Your thoughts are 'forced' into shape. This means that the most 'productive' approach would be to use both note taking and typing as thinking tools. Anyway, maybe this little rant can persuade me to engage more in note taking again.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New book in the Design Thinking, Design Theory Series

Yesterday I got in the mail the newest book in the MIT Press book series on Design Thinking, Design Theory that I am involved in. The book is called "Situated Design Methods" and is edited by Ole Erik Hansen, Jesper Simonsen, Connie Svabo, Sara Malou Strandvad, Kristine Samson and Morten Hertzum. The authors make the case that every design is situated and in need of different ways to approach them. They present 18 situated design methods with cases and analysis. The authors all come from Denmark and have extensive experience with these kinds of methods.

It has been exciting to work with MIT Press these last few years on this book series.  Ken Friedman and I are Book Series Editors and we work closely with Doug Sery from MIT Press. We have now published six books and more are coming. You can find a nice presentation of the books in the series here: Design Thinking, Design Theory. If you think that your book idea fits in this series, just write to me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Reflections on Google's Material Design

It is really interesting to read about the new initiative from Google that is labeled "Material Design". It is a new interface 'language'.  Google has released an excellent Introduction that shows and explains the principles and details of their Material Design philosophy. It is very informative to click through all the pages and to try all the examples. It takes a few minutes but it is worth it.

It is impressing how much thinking and work has gone into this new design guideline. The basic inspiration is the notion of "material". It is however not easy to understand what that means and how Google understands the notion. One interpretation that is both ambitious and informative can be read in this interview with two of Google designers. The writer and interviewer is Mark Wilson who writes for Fast Company. His article explores some quite good explanations of "Material Design".

He writes "With Material Design, Google has become a second reality inside touch-screen devices--complete with its own rules of logic and physics--and if Google has its way, it will eventually break free of touch screens to quite literally reshape the world around us". I think he is right. This is the intention behind the new design guidelines. It seems to be an attempt to join the physical world, or at least some of its characteristics, with the digital world. Or at least an attempt to give the digital world some physical properties, as Wilson writes "Material Design wants to add the intuitive feeling of physical objects in a purely digital environment."

It is clear when you go through the Google Introduction that this is their ambition. They have built their ideas based on the common material 'paper' and its qualities. Even though they are not trying to copy paper and all its properties, they are looking for some fundamental characteristics that can guide the design of the digital. For instance, material things can not disappear in any kind of way, materials have built in properties that has to be respected (to some extent), for instance when put on top of each other they cover each other. Wilson argues that this is also why "Material Design is Google's synthetic explanation of what's going on between their screens and apps. The digital physics might not be real, but it provides a grounding to the virtual interface nonetheless." And on a bit more abstract level Wilson ends with "The object will become the interface, and the interface will become the object. In Duarte's mind [Google design lead for Android], one can see Material Design powering a living infrastructure in a world where every conceivable surface glows, shifts, and ripples, quite literally reshaping the way we communicate, learn, work, and live."

I find the Material Design to be a highly developed idea that rests upon a stable foundation of both philosophical principles as well as pragmatic guidelines. However, it is also the case that Google states all through the Introduction what is a "Do" and what is a "Don't", that is, they clearly outlines what is a correct Material Design and what is not. I am sure designers and developers will have a tough time finding ways to design their products in perfect harmony with these strict guidelines. And of course, if they are successful, then everything that is by Google, based on Google, depending on Google, will look and feel the same. Is this what we want? Is this what Google wants?

If we at some time become bored (and we will) with the wonderful, consistent and beautiful Material Design--it will be everywhere and we will not be able to escape it except by escaping Google. This is the underlying problem with carefully developed design guidelines. They show you the way to a world where all things are designed based on great principles, probably reducing the number of bad designs in our world, but at the prize of living in a conformed and boring environment.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book note: "Stuff Matters -- exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world" by Mark Miodownik

I found a really interesting book today at the book store. It is called "Stuff Matters -- exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world" and it is written by Mark Miodownik. Miodownik is a professor of materials and society.

Materials make up our designed world. Most everything that humans have designed are manifested through the shaping of materials. This is true even when we talk about service design or other forms of process designs. In order to make services  or processes possible there is usually some materials involved (sometimes simple materials as texts on paper).

Miodownik has a fascination and passion about materials. In the book he discusses ten different
materials that have been crucial in the forming of our society, such as steel, paper, glass, etc.

It is exciting to see how most of the materials we are surrounded by has been part of our history and been useful for a long time while we only recently have started to understand why different materials have their unique qualities.

Since design and materials go together in an intimate way, I think this book would be of interest to most designers. The book does not necessarily make design easier or better, but it resonates with the sense of wonder that a lot of designers feel when it comes to materials. The book explain in a simple and sometimes deeper way why certain qualities of materials are extremely complex and has consequences on so many levels (for instance, why stainless steel does not taste and therefore is excellent as silverware).  It becomes evident that any choice of materials is a core activity in design that influences everything else.

Miodownik has written a book that is very easy to read, no technical knowledge is needed. He tells stories about materials that are fascinating and informative, and not to forget, it is a fun book to read.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Design is not a profession or a discipline

At a recent design research conference I heard many statements beginning with "we designers..." or "the profession of design...". Almost all these statements are based on the idea that there are certain people that are designers and then others who are not. In many cases participants talked about the design profession  (in most cases meaning "those of us who are educated in design schools"). It is as being a designer is a stamp and when you have the stamp then you are a designer.

The way design has developed over the last three decades has made it almost impossible to argue that design is a profession and/or a discipline, but still it seems to be a prevalent belief even among those who know more about design than most everyone else.

I like to make the comparison with other human approaches, for instance, science. Very few would state that being a scientist is a profession or even a discipline. Science is a way to approach the world with the purpose of creating knowledge. The scientific approach can be "used" in any profession and discipline. People engage in science. People engage in design. [Of course, there is the same issue in science, people who believe they are scientists and that science is a profession.]

Architecture has nothing to do with design unless people in architecture engage in design. Architecture can be exercised in a fashion that employs no designerly thinking or activities. Architecture can be performed as a scientific activity or as a process of art, or as a process of randomness and chance. Architecture is not in itself a design profession. Neither is graphic design, interaction design, or any other field. These words however do denote professions, that is, areas where professionals have the task of developing certain types of artifacts or services. They are in many cases also academic disciplines, but that does not make them into design disciplines.

Designing is an human approach for inquiry and action well suited for bringing change into the world. But it is not a profession or a discipline. A person is not a designer, but a person may use a designerly approach to fulfill their goals.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The DRS 2014 Conference--some thoughts

Last week I spent in Umeå, Sweden (my old home town) not only to meet family and friends or to work at the Institute of Design, but also to participate in the DRS 2014 Conference. I have been involved in the planning of the conference but from a distance. I have been to a number of these conferences over the years. I am happy to say that this years conference was by far the best one yet (and it is not only because I was involved :-)

The conference had somewhere around 370 participants! The introduction of "Debates" and "Conversations" (organized by Jamer Hunt and Carl DiSalvo) was a great success of bring new formats into the conference. The quality of the papers were also, in my view, better than before, which was a consequence of an improved review process (handled by Youn Lim and Kristina Niederer). Overall, the conference was a success. I only heard good things from happy participants.

The idea we had in the planning was to keep developing the DRS conference into the design conference that is not about a particular field of design or a particular aspect of design, instead it is the conference for the "big debates", the issues, questions, and challenges that all design areas are facing.

The overall design of the conference also worked really well with all aspects taken care off by Johan Redström, Anna Valtonen and Heather Wiltse.

I hope that the next conference in 2016 will continue to develop this conference in this way, then the DRS conference will become the most important design research conference.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Where is the right place for the interface?

The notion of wearable technology is creating design challenges. Is is a gimmick or is there a real potential for useful technology? And is that a question of technology or design? It is fascinating to see how the placement of the interface is posing so many questions, and opinions. Should the interface be traditionally placed on a designated surface, such as the laptop or smartphone, or should the interface be on our arms (smartwatches) or in our glasses (Google glass) or maybe we do not need a surface at all?

Hartmund Esslinger argues that "smartwatches are stupid" in a recent article.  As an internationally recognized interaction designer, he should know.   In the same article, several questions are raised around wearable technology, its recent quick but sometimes short successes and failures. The question is discussed if it is a question of technology or of design. I find this discussion interesting, especially in relation to a forthcoming article that I have written with Lars-Erik Janlert called "Faceless Interaction".

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book note: "The Circle" by Dave Eggers

There are many of us who daily reflect on what it means that we are using Google, Facebook and other internet based companies with so many aspects of our daily lives. Some refuse to "sell their soul" to Google while others take the position that it does not matter or that it is too late anyway. The issue that is at the core of these positions is the relationship or balance between usefulness (as in functionality) and privacy. It is obvious that many useful functions have consequences when it comes to privacy, for instance, to accept and use apps that know my location can be useful but it also means I share that information with others.

Dave Eggers' book "The Circle" is a novel that takes on this question in an intriguing and entertaining way. The book is about the company "The Circle" that has swallowed Google and Facebook and many others to become the biggest internet company in history. The story follows a young new employee, Mae, through her introduction to the company and how she becomes one of the core people in it.

I found the book exciting to read and also unusually well developed when it comes to the ideas. Eggers describes "The Circle" as a company where principles such as "privacy is theft", "caring is sharing", has grown to such an extreme level that people have to share everything in their lives. Activities and information is shared and measured and made public. Eggers makes this extreme reality both believable and terrifying.

I will not write a full review here since there are many good reviews of this book, see for instance Margaret Atwood's excellent review. Atwood's review addresses both the literary aspects of the book and the ideas that Eggers develop.

I must say that the book forced me to think more in detail about what kind of future present technology can lead to. The fact that it is a novel makes it possible for Eggers to take some freedom with what technology can do, but it also makes it possible for him to push some aspects of privacy and big data to the extreme in a way that makes the story technologically believable. At the same time Eggers use this format to reveal many of the underlying assumptions and ideals that govern the development.

I am strongly recommending this book to anyone who is in any way interested in the growth and development of information technology, Big Data, interaction, and the internet and what it means to our future society.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Levi Bryant on the relationship between social constructivism and speculative realism

I have found an excellent talk by Levi Bryant on the topic "Object-Oriented Philosophy & Speculative Realism". In the talk Bryant discusses the relationship between Critical Theory (as a form of social constructivism) and Speculative Realism (as a form of materialism) in a way that I really appreciate. He makes the foundations of both "approaches" visible and understandable and also reveals what is the problems with both of them and what can be done. Excellent.

[Here is also a very good lecture by Graham Harman]

Monday, June 09, 2014

New design school initiative: 30weeks

This is how a new design school initiative, 30weeks, is presented in Fast Company:

"Following Apple's success, many companies are finally starting to recognize the crucial role design plays in building a desirable (and profitable) product. Yet very few companies are actually founded and led by designers. Here to change that is 30Weeks, a new program by a powerhouse team of New York design schools--Parsons, Pratt, School of Visual Arts, and The Cooper Union--in collaboration with the education company Hyper Island and Google."

The initiative itself has a video (same page as above) that quickly presents the idea. Here you can read more about the initiative on its website.

It is fascinating to see so many excited people around the world that believes that design in some fashion is the savior. In most cases of course it is seen as the solution to the problem of not having good enough innovations that can become successful startups or new product lines in slow moving large corporations. I will not here be critical to the 30week initiative since I do not really know much about it, except what the article and video says, which is not much. But just a couple of comments...

First, it is interesting to see that the people who will run this 30week program do not want to use the word "curriculum", instead the program is described as a set of crash courses, plus an ongoing design activity with support and critique from established designers. I would assume that if someone is to push for design then the "product" that is supposed to to this is well designed. A curriculum is a design. If you want to introduce design as an approach in 30 weeks, instead of a few years, it seems as if the need for a careful and detailed design is crucial and should be based on some foundational understanding of what defines design as a unique approach. I am afraid that if this is not the case then a program like this can do more damage than good for the general understanding and dissemination of design.

It is obvious that the program is aimed to "produce" people that will create and innovate and hopefully also develop companies. This is to me just one form of a design process which is much closer related to the process of invention and innovation, while less related to the design process where a designer works for/with a client. This is of course not a problem except that it presents design in a very narrow and specific meaning.

So while I am excited about the push for design and the extreme conviction about the power of design that this initiative shows, it is also a bit unsettling. I am afraid that this is what people will think about when they hear about design and design is reduced to a fairly simplistic process. Design is about changing our reality. Therefore design requires knowledge about society, people, and values, and about structures and processes, about impact and consequences. Any designer should have a broad and well rounded sense and understanding of the power of design, its responsibilities, the danger and evil of design, etc. I hope the 30week program includes some of that in their curriculum.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Paper back version of "The Design Way" coming in September

I am very happy to announce that Harold Nelson's and my book "The Design Way", published by MIT Press, will be out in paperback in September. The price will be ONLY $19.00! It is rewarding to see how this book is still alive and well.

It is about 20 years since we started to work on these ideas. The second edition made it possible for us to update the content. Actually, already when we started to write the book we decided to write it in such a way that it would not feel "old" fast. We were careful with using examples and events that would soon be forgotten. Hopefully this has made the book more stable over time.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Book note: "Onto-cartography -- an ontology of machines and media" by Levi R. Bryant

I just read the introduction chapter of Levi R. Bryant's new book "Onto-cartography -- an ontology of machines and media". Very exciting ideas. Now I am really interested in reading more. 

Bryant is a proponent for materialism and develops a strong argument against what he calls "discursivist orientations" in contemporary scholarly work, primarily in the humanities and social sciences. Instead he proposes an ontology that takes "things" and "stuff" seriously as part of our reality that shapes, like gravity, what is possible and not possible. He calls these entities (things and stuff) machines to "emphasize the manner in which entities dynamically operate on inputs producing outputs" (p6).

Ok, I have only read the introduction but so far it has left me intrigued and quite fascinated. Part of my fascination comes from the realization that the way Bryant defines his concepts resonate in many ways with my own thinking. For instance, he writes about machines and proposes an ecological view in which "a medium is understood as any entity that contributes to the becoming of another entity affording and constraining possibilities of movement and interaction with other entities in the world" (p7). Since when I wrote my PhD dissertation, I have always used the idea that any design creates a "possible space of actions" for any human or other design. Bryant states that "worlds are ecologies of machines" which I find extremely useful. 

Anyway, no more comments only based on the introduction (and an interview of Bryant by Graham Harman). More reading is needed. Maybe this is something that can be related to the ideas of artifact analysis that I have been working with (struggling with) these last few years.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vitruvius was right about design knowledge (2000 years ago)

Many who have studied design theory know that Vitruvius was one of the first practicing designers (architect) and design thinkers who formulated thoughts and theory about design. At the same time I believe that there are not as many today who actually have read Vitruvius' writings. He is most famous for his "Ten Books on Architecture" written sometime in the first century B.C. Most of this book consists of specific directions and guidelines for detailed architectural work.

[The whole book is available online at]

I will here only focus on the first chapter of the first book "The Education of the Architect". It is a fascinating text that I find extraordinary full of wisdom in a straightforward and simple way.

I would like to copy the whole chapter, but I have instead chosen to copy a few excerpts from the chapter, just to give a sense of what it contains, and maybe it will lead you to read more. The whole chapter is only a few pages long.

Vitruvius has a clear idea of what knowledge an architect should be equipped with. In Vitruvius text it  is possible to exchange "architect" with "designer".

The first paragraph in the chapter is this wonderful statement:

"1. The architect should be equipped with knowledge of many branches of study and varied kinds of learning, for it is by his judgement that all work done by the other arts is put to test. This knowledge is the child of practice and theory. Practice is the continuous and regular exercise of employment where manual work is done with any necessary material according to the design of a drawing. Theory, on the other hand, is the ability to demonstrate and explain the productions of dexterity on the principles of proportion."

It is clear that to Vitruvius the notion of "judgment" takes the position as the most important form of knowledge. It is through a designer's judgment that "all work done by the other arts is put to test". Judgment brings everything together. Judgment is the "child" of both practice and theory, both which Vitruvius eloquently explains. He presents the role of both practice and theory even more clear in the second paragraph where he states:

"2. It follows, therefore, that architects who have aimed at acquiring manual skill without scholarship have never been able to reach a position of authority to correspond to their pains, while those who relied only upon theories and scholarship were obviously hunting the shadow, not the substance. But those who have a thorough knowledge of both, like men armed at all points, have the sooner attained their object and carried authority with them."

Vitruvius also mentioned more detailed knowledge needed but he returns to the larger areas, such as history, philosophy and medicine:

"5. A wide knowledge of history is requisite because, among the ornamental parts of an architect's design for a work, there are many the underlying idea of whose employment he should be able to explain to inquirers."

"7. As for philosophy, it makes an architect high-minded and not self-assuming, but rather renders him courteous, just, and honest without avariciousness. This is very important, for no work can be rightly done without honesty and incorruptibility. Let him not be grasping nor have his mind preoccupied with the idea of receiving perquisites, but let him with dignity keep up his position by cherishing a good reputation. These are among the precepts of philosophy."

"10. The architect should also have a knowledge of the study of medicine on account of the questions of climates (in Greek κλἱματα), air, the healthiness and unhealthiness of sites, and the use of different waters. For without these considerations, the healthiness of a dwelling cannot be assured."

Vitruvius is aware that his list of needed knowledge is long and ambitious, so he adds:

"11. Consequently, since this study is so vast in extent, embellished and enriched as it is with many different kinds of learning, I think that men have no right to profess themselves architects hastily, without having climbed from boyhood the steps of these studies and thus, nursed by the knowledge of many arts and sciences, having reached the heights of the holy ground of architecture."

and he adds later:

"For, in the midst of all this great variety of subjects, an individual cannot attain to perfection in each, because it is scarcely in his power to take in and comprehend the general theories of them."

Of course, for Vitruvius, this type of knowledge is only for men and only for a certain class of men. This is a consequence of his place in history and place. However, this chapter touches on so many issues that today are discussed when it comes to the education of designers, such as, breadth versus depth and practice versus theory. I find this text exciting and a good read for anyone who wants to engage in the question of what a designer should know!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book note: "Ways of Knowing in HCI" by Judith S. Olson and Wendy A. Kellogg

A new book just arrived in my mailbox. It is "Ways of Knowing in HCI" by Judith S. Olson and Wendy A. Kellogg. I have spent some time today going through the different chapters. I read some and browsed others. Overall I find this to an excellent contribution to the field of HCI research. The edited book contains 18 chapters, each describing a particular research approach, method or technique commonly used in HCI research.

Of course, most of these methods have been described elsewhere and in most cases also in more detail and depth, but the unique aspect of this book is that all chapters are written by HCI researchers who can relate each method to HCI research and also give examples of where it has been used, what it mean to use it in HCI research, what constitute a good job when using a particular method.

I fully agree with the Editors in their Epilogue when they state that we should read all chapters and not just the ones about methods we already are familiar with. I followed their advice and I found right away wonderful argumentations, explanations and critiques of methods that I am less used to. This reading influenced me right away and made me more favorable of them. I am impressed by the quality of the chapters, even though I find some chapters not reaching the level of what could be accepted in a collection like this.

To me this book is already a required reading for all PhD students in the field. I can not see any reason why any graduating PhD student would not be familiar with all these methods, at least at the level of knowing about them as presented here.

I am looking forward to see some reviews of this book (more in-depth analysis than my note here :-) to learn more about what is not covered in the book, what is not done well enough, etc. In the name of developing a discipline we need all members of the HCI research community to engage in a book like this. We need a discussion and debate about "ways of knowing in HCI" and this book creates a great platform for such a discourse.

I really want to thank the Editors and the authors of this book for taking the time to develop and write these chapters. This is not the kind of work that most scholars see as being the most important and rewarding, but it is necessary work. So, thanks for all the great work!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A growing problem in HCI research

After being to CHI and another gathering of HCI related people in the last few weeks, I have to share one reflection. I am not sure that my observation and definitely not my interpretation is correct or not, so comments are welcome.

The observation is that the field of HCI research is growing in size but also in scope. What today is considered to be HCI research spans a far wider area than every before. HCI today includes research that traditionally might have been seen as engineering (for instance, design and development of devices and systems with the purpose to explore technical possibilities), it also includes research that traditionally would be seen as within the social sciences or behavioral sciences (the latter has of course always have been part of HCI), but also research that can be considered humanistic or cultural studies, political or global studies. The research has also expanded in scope when it comes to application areas such as education, health care, transportation, entertainment, sustainability, etc.

This expansion of the field is of course exciting and has led to new perspectives and new knowledge that has enriched HCI. However, at the same time I am concerned by this development. It is possible to see this development as an expansion that leaves an empty space in the middle.

I would argue that a large part of todays HCI research could and maybe should be seen as research in other disciplines. For instance, research related to education should be evaluated and published in educational research venues and contribute to that field unless there is also a serious contribution to the core of HCI. This of course raises the question of what is the core of HCI.

If research in HCI do not in any sense contribute to our understand of human computer interaction in some general or universal sense, and if it is only an application of what we already know in yet another field, then it may be a contribution to that application field but not to HCI.  So, if someone applies HCI theory and knowledge (whatever that is) in another field to explore and examine a phenomena without bringing back some serious insights to HCI theory and knowledge then it is not HCI research.

What this type of expansion leads to is unfortunately in many cases research that do not contribute in a serious way to the core of HCI while also being questionable research in relation to what is the standard in the "other" field. If the research really contributed to those other fields then the research should be evaluated and published in those fields.

Ok, I understand that this argument raises a lot of issues especially around the notion of what is the core of HCI research but I see it as important for our field to discuss those issues if we want to be able to produce knowledge contributions that are distinct and valuable in relation to the contributions from other disciplines. HCI research is not going to be successful or recognized by how it is doing research or by how it is able to "use" knowledge from other fields, it will only be successful if there is a core knowledge contribution that is of a kind that no other field really cares about or produces knowledge about. HCI research will not become successful by expanding the field, not by approaching and including more application areas and topics. HCI research will only be successful if we can offer something valuable at the core that constitute well developed knowledge that no other discipline has done or will do, and that can be valued by its own merits.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Interactivity Studies

One of the most neglected aspects of HCI is, in my view, the notion of interactivity. When I look at some of my own research I realize that I have engaged in interactivity studies for quite some time. I also realize (just back from CHI) that it is not a lot of research done in our field today with a focus on examining interactivity. 

Interactivity Studies means to me research that is focused on the aspect of our field that no other field or discipline focus on, that is, the actual interaction between humans and some form of computational artifacts. I am sure that many will argue against this statement and I am open to reconsider it when I am shown good examples of interactivity studies in the way I think about it. 

So, here are some publications that I have been involved with over the years that are clearly examples of Interactivity Studies.

Lars-Erik Janlert and Erik Stolterman. 2010. Complex interaction. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 17, 2, Article 8 (May 2010), 32 pages. DOI=10.1145/1746259.1746262

Janlert, L-E. & Stolterman, E. (1997). The character of things. Design Studies Vol 18, No 3, July (1997), 297-314.

Youn-kyung Lim, Erik Stolterman, Heekyoung Jung, and Justin Donaldson. 2007. Interaction gestalt and the design of aesthetic interactions. In Proceedings of the 2007 conference on Designing pleasurable products and interfaces (DPPI '07). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 239-254.

Well, I thought I would have more examples, but maybe I was wrong. I have two more articles on the way with Lars/Erik Janlert that clearly would end up on this list but they are in progress still.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

CHI 2014 and theory

Being at CHI is, as everyone here can testify, overwhelming. Lots of people and ideas. It is exciting, even though difficult to make sense of it all. One observation that I have talked to some people about is the apparent interest in theoretical papers. Again this year we have had some sessions with theoretical papers where the room has been way too small. I take this as a sign that the field is really in need of more theory and that there is a shortage of good theoretical and philosophical papers. Personally, I find this exciting and I hope that it means that more people will take the time and effort to engage in theoretical and philosophical work.

AND hopefully CHI organizers will remember to schedule these papers in bigger rooms in the future :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CHI 2014 -- will it be the same or something new, and what does an answer really mean?

There are only a few days before CHI 2014 in Toronto. CHI is the largest and most important HCI conference in the world. It is also the most well organized conference I have ever been to. The value of CHI is, since it covers the whole field of HCI research, that it is the place where you can get a sense of what is going on, what are the new trends and ideas. Individual papers and presentations are to me less interesting than the way the whole conference moves, shifts and transforms. These shifts and changes are not always visible from year to year, but as soon as you take a longer view (I think even three years is long enough) you start to see that the field is constantly evolving. I get convinced that the changes are bigger and faster than most people believe when I talk to colleagues who have not been to CHI for a few years and have some strong opinions about the conference and you realize that their image of it does not correspond to what you experience.

However, there are of course two ways to think about this. I am convinced that the field, and with that CHI, changes every year, but what is the nature of the change? It might be that it is a superficial change that leave the foundational level the same. Is that the case? Is this what some colleagues mean when they are argue that CHI does not change. Is our field staying the same, being conservative? Is the recognition and glorification of the "new" really about something "new" or is it only a form of changes that leave the overall "project" safe, stable and the same? I am not sure. If anyone has some good answers please let me know...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Notes regarding the notion of Device Landscapes

Device Landscapes
 Erik Stolterman

I am working on the idea of device landscapes or ecologies of artifacts since some time back. Here are some notes on the topic. They are short and somewhat abstract, but they work for me. If you want to comment. add or change them, please let me know.

A device landscape can be defined as “the landscape made up by all physical devices with some level of interactivity, made possible by digital technology, that one person owns or has access to and engages with”

Device landscape analysis is about non-designed landscapes, that is, landscapes that are serendipitous, emerging, evolving and dynamic.

A device landscape consists of (1) elements (devices), (2)    relationships, and (3)       qualities of relationships.

-        What constitutes a device, a relationship, a quality of relationship, is a choice.

Why Device Landscape Analysis

There is an increasing need for landscape analysis in our field: digital technology is “wicked”, that is, it is complex, everywhere, connected, and experienced from the perspective of an inhabitant.

Every digital interactive artifact/device is part of one or many device landscapes.

Every person who owns any digital interactive artifacts is the owner and caretaker of a device landscape

People see digital interactive devices primarily as “things” which makes it useful to also analyze them as things/devices.

Landscape factors influence people’s thinking about and behavior toward their devices.

People develop landscape and device strategies

Analyzing/Mapping Device Landscapes

Any analysis/mapping is a response to a question.

A mapping of a device landscape is an activity that leads to a conceptual construct that can serve analytical purposes (knowledge), technical purposes (design), or emancipatory purposes (ideological).

A mapping can be
-       phenomenological (personal, particular, perspective of the “owner”)
-       analytical (composed, universal, perspective of the researcher/designer)

A mapping is always an act guided by intentionality and a result of judgment.

A mapping is a cut in time. A series of cuts may lead to a mapping of a landscape’s evolution.

A landscape analysis and mapping is always based on some kind of device landscape model.

A tentative device landscape model:

This work has been done in collaboration with Heekyoung, Ryan and Marty, and have been published in some papers and in this journal article:

Stolterman, E. , Jung, H., Ryan, W., and Siegel, M. A. (2013) Device Landscapes: A New Challenge to Interaction Design and HCI Research. Archives of Design Research, 26(2), 7-33.

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