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While reading Design Noir – The Secret Life of Electronic Objects, the idea that struck me the most is that of how digital space makes for a homogenous community. Technology now limits individuality. The complex nature of a social culture is almost ignored. Everyone is a stereotype. Everyone can be fit into a ‘mould’. Of how the mould came into existence …

‘Future Forecasters’ as Anthony Dunne calls the decision makers, play a conservative role – predicting human behavior within the limitations of technology. It is as if weaving new meanings to an already existing reality. A comfortable new.

Technology has already changed the way we behave and interact with other human beings. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of vitality and inspiration and yet we choose to ignore to comply with the limitations of technology.
Take social networks for instance. With more that 1.1 billion users across the globe, with different backgrounds and social upbringing, all user profiles look the same. With the introduction of a customizable cover pictures, users have recently taken to personalizing their pages. It is an irony given we are living in an age of complete customization. It is ‘design for an individual’ and not design for a group anymore.

Which raises a question in my mind, Is the dependance on technology making us less ‘human’?
Lose your password and the computer is already asking you if you’re human! [CAPTCHA]

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It’s been a week of reading about Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby! I have to say they have left me
more confused than convinced at the end of it all. In an attempt to understand their design
principle I answered a few questions (for myself).

What is Critical Design? How does it affect Interactions?

– Design that does more than just solve a problem or make the world a better place
– Design based on critical content
– Critical Design is NOT art
– Critical Design is a tool to engage one in a conversation
– Design which makes the invisible visible
– Critical design is about mixing criticism with optimism
A world of industrially manufactured objects dictate what it means to be human in our consumer society. Would a change in the society bring about a change in our behavior? If so, then it most definitely will have an effect on our interactions with the objects.

What is Design Fiction? What has it got to do with Interaction Design?

Design fiction is essentially a term  to analyze the emerging parallels of present and future to test new ideas in design. It is design to inspire. The preface to a chapter yet unwritten. It’s design’s way of asking ‘What will you prize most in the future?’ Design Fiction is as dependent on interaction design as is the latter, on it. Fiction as a result of speculative design has a direct effect on how things will be perceived. Perception and communication are key to interaction.

So then, what is Interaction Design?

Interaction Design to me is a point where object behavior meets human behavior. A point where they stop to exist as individuals and become simultaneous, almost symbiotic. It is no more what technology can do for design but what design can do for technology. Interaction Design today is about making technology more meaningful and relevant to our lives. Products have taken a backseat. It’s about behavioral studies. Design can bridge the gap between consumer satisfaction and be a mirror to user needs. Interaction Design today is about humanizing objects.

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After much hunting couldn’t find the book Hertzian Tales in any of the UAL libraries. So scavenged the internet. Here’s a few quotes from the book from Magical Nihilism’s Blog Post

p16

“Another form of dematerialisation is defined by electronic objects’ role as interfaces. With these objects the interface is everything. The behaviour of video recorders, televisions, telephones and faxes is more important than their appearance and physical form. Here design centres on the dialogue between people and machines. The object is experienced as an interface, a zone of transaction.”

p17

“The material culture of non-electronic objects is a useful measure of what the electronic object must achieve to be worthwhile but it is important to avoid merely superimposing the familiar physical world onto a new electronic situation, delaying the possibility of new culture through a desperate desire to make it comprehensible”

“How can we discover analogue complexity in digital phenomena without abandoning the rich culture of the physical, or superimposing the known and comfortable onto the new and alien?

p19

“No effort need be made to reconcile the different scales of the electronic and the material. They can simply coexist in one object. They can grow obsolete at different rates as well. Robert Rauschenberg’s Oracle has had its technology updated three times over thirty years, but it’s materiality and cultural meaning remain unchanged. Cultural obsolescence need not occur at the same rate as technological obsolescence.

Perhaps the “object” can locate the electronic in the social and cultural context of everyday life. It could link the richness of material culture with the new functional; and expressive qualities of electronic technology.”

p33

“A range of possibility exists between the ideas of the “pet” and the “alien”. While the pet offers familiarity, affection, submission and intimacy, the alien is the pet’s opposite, misunderstood and ostracised”

p71

“In the case of electronic products, hte “unique qualities” of the object of interaction is their potential as an electronic product to persuade the users as protagonists, through the user’s use of the object, to generate a narrative space where the understanding of the experience is changed or enlarged. By using the object, the protagonist enters a space between desire and determinism, a bizarre world of the “infra-ordinary” where strange stories show that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and that our conventional experience of everyday life through electronic products is aesthetically impoverished.”

p89

“The space of the model lies on the border between representation and actuality. Like the frame of a painting, it demarcates a limit between the work and what lies beyond. And like the frame, the model is neither wholly inside or wholly outside, neither pure representation nor transcendent object. It claims a certain autonomous objecthood, yet this condition is always incomplete. The model is always a model of. The desire of the model is to act as a simulacrum of another object, as a surrogate which allows for imaginative occupation. (Hubert, `1981)”

p90

“From a product design point of view these models lack industrial realism; they look like craft objects, hand-made and probably one-off. But an expanded view of the conceptual design model might regard it as embodying the essence of the design idea, a “genotype” rather than a prototype, constructed from the materials at hand. If taken up for mass manufacture its construction and structure would undoubtedly change. The object’s “content” or “genes” are important, not it’s appearance. In the context of design, the conceptual model as genotype rather than prototype could allow it to function more abstractly by deflecting attention from an aesthetics of construction to an aesthetics of use.”

p101

“It might seem strange to write about radio, a long-established medium, when discussion today centres on cyberspace, virtual reality, networks, smart materials and other electronic tehcnologies. But radio, meaning part of the electromagnetic spectrum is fundamental to electronics. Objects not only “dematerialise” into software in response to minituarisation and replacement by services but literally dematerialise into radiation. All electronic products are hybrids of radiation and matter. This chapter does not discuss making the invisible visible or visualising radio, but explores the links between the material and the immaterial that lead to new aesthetic possibilities for life in an electromagnetic environment. Whereas cyberspace is a metaphor that spatialises what happens in computers distributed around the world, radio space is actual and physical, even though our senses detect only a tiny part of it.”

p111

“Objects designed to straddle both material and immaterial domains arouse curiosity about the fit between these worlds. Many military aircraft are now “teledynamic”, designed to fly undetected through fields of radar-frequency radiation. But teledynamic forms are not aerodynamic and to remain airborne their outline needs to be constantly adjusted by a computer. These aircraft fly through fusions of abstract digital, hertzian and atmospheric spaces.

Objects that I call “radiogenic” function as unwitting interfaces between the abstract space of eletomagnetism and the material cutlures of everyday life revealing unexpected points of contact between them.”

p111

“Aerialness” is a quality of an object considered in relation to the electromagneic environment. Even the human body is a crude monopole aerial. Although in theory precise laws govern the geometry of aerials, in reality it is a black art, a fusion of the macro world of perception and the imperceptible world of micro-electronics.”