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Aptly titled, Alpha Ville Exchange was an interesting platform to experience how different designers tackle the idea of interaction. Of using technology without letting it overwhelm you.
Being a newbie in the interaction design sphere, this was quite an eye opening series of talks about the scope of sphere rather than its boundaries. Many a thoughts passed through my brain but here are a few quotes and projects that I fancied.

Alpha ville exchange

At the very beginning, Eno Henze spoke about how not to let technology dictate your design but use it as a tool of expression. I loved his idea of producing generative artwork in a physical form,
re-incorporate it in the realm of human reality. It exists not only in the computer as a file but as something you own.
“You possess the art again.”

Genius! I think every one looks for a bit of themselves in the projects that they take on.

Sougwen Chung’s

<me> ? </me>

“My drawings are like a map. A map of who I am … where I am going.” ~ Shantell Martin.
“Everything is a mistake. So learn to enjoy them.” As much as I loved her work for the organic quality of it, the lack of interactivity makes it more a piece of art, of self expression than design. The problem with self expression is that it is biased and subjective and when exposed for public viewing, more often than not, it is not collectively agreed upon. But I guess she stands correct on ” … you cannot make everyone happy!”

The real highlight of the evening were the numerous data visualization projects. Data visualization is essentially simplifying data generated by humans, compiled by technology. Some of the simplifications are a result of complex mathematical algorithms. I find this blurred line between simplicity and complexity very interesting. Data Visualization vs. Data Illustration. Another major question that came up was the honesty in data representation when aesthetics is the prime focus. How much of the final product is true to the initial quantum provided?

My favorite piece of text from the whole day came from the comic relief act, Helicar + Lewis. The showcase of their playful interactions. Users as participants of a piece.

“The real world is a killer app.
That’s where we like to do our interactions.”

This was also my first time in East London so goes without saying that I was rather taken by the street art and graffiti of the space. 

#Win Day!
x

 

Not so long ago, when Nicole Scherzinger wore the Twitter dress to an event, the world stood up and took notice. In this spirit of fashion and technology Vera Wang designed Bioluminescent Couture, a collection inspired by luminescent jellyfish, using custom electroluminescence panels on dresses. The CO2 sensing climate dress by InfraBodies is also a good example to illustrate environmental concepts  through science and fashion.

Is science the new black?

Technology is no more for the science savvy geeks but for the party hopping, fashion loving, ‘cool’ gangs. But the question arises, in this age when a mobile device, laptop or a tablet is an extension of our selves, does a sci-fi fabric make the cut? Wearable technology is not restricted to fabrics and devices. It has made it’s foray into our everyday lives, into our bodies. The Nike Fuel band, Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear, Pebble smart watch. You name it and we’ve adopted science in every sense of the way. Researchers at Fabrica have developed an accessory to control thoughts via neuro-imaging. Though the technology is currently being researched and developed, it aims  to read and record the thoughts of people and detect ill intentions before they are carried out. Materials scientist John Rogers has developed flexible electronic circuits that stick directly to the skin [like temporary tattoos] and monitor the user’s health. London designer Shamees Aden’s Protocells trainer is a project in progress. A 3D-printed trainer to the exact size of the user’s foot that would fit like a second skin. It would react to pressure and movement created when running, puffing up to provide extra cushioning where required.

That brings me to the question, what is it that makes us give up natural control and make us want to handover gears to technology?

Are we naturally technology dependent?

wearable-tech

A study on wearable technology from the Centre for Creative and Social Technology at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that 71% Americans and 63% Brits said that wearable tech has ‘improved’ their health and fitness. As scary as it might be, according to a research conducted at Stanford University, people are 26% more active when they’re being monitored. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains that human beings are intuitive statisticians. “We are unable to accurately interpret experience as data.” Technology on the other hand quantifies data and promises to transform our understanding of ourselves.

The answer to how far we trust our devices maybe lies in their interaction. As Cory Booth, a Human Factors Engineer in Intel’s User Experience Group puts it, the future may lie in designing devices and experiences that seamlessly fit into the fabric of people’s lives. In the co-evolution of human and machine, singularity of the entities is of utmost importance. Whether tracking daily activities, providing us with cohesive information or controlling other connected electronics in our lives, complex sensors and micro-displays have become our way of life. We’re stepping into the realm of the cyborg.

In the words of Neil Harbisson, “Life will be much more exciting when we stop creating applications for mobile phones and we start creating applications for our own body.”

But before we become cyborgs, we have to get comfortable with the idea of wearable technology. Smart glasses, wearable computers and skin-mounted sensors will soon replace that cell phone, Swiss watch or a wool coat.

image credit: businessnewsdaily.com

How much information is enough information?

We’ve long toiled with the question as designers. We’ve also been accused of dumbing the user. Today in class we had a long discussion about affordance and interfaces [mainly revolving around a door] but what struck me most was the fact that sometimes we behave with a certain object quite intuitively. Never realized there existed a scientific term for it. Excess information or the lack of it can make or break a design. And standing the middle ground is Affordance – the right amount of information for an excellent interaction.

Dexter

The term affordance refers to the perceived and actual properties of a thing. The word ‘affordance’ was invented by the perceptual psychologist J. J. Gibson to refer to the actionable properties between the world and an actor/user. To Gibson, affordances are relationships. They exist naturally; they do not have to be visible, known, or desirable. You see a button and instinctively you want to press it. Therefore, the button includes affordance, users know how to interact with it just by looking.

Don Norman lists seven stages of action: one for goal, three for execution and three for evaluation.
– Forming the goal
– Forming the intention
– Specifying an action
– Executing the action
– Perceiving the state of outcome
– Interpreting the state of outcome
– Evaluating the outcome

Design and affordance share a close relation with interface. Affordance lets users form a concept model in mind and simulates its operation. A good interface facilitates the action and design provides the information about what action has been done to/by the user. Affordance then, merely specifies the range of possible activities, but a good design makes it visible to the users.

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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