Interaction design

Dieter Rams: Less, But Better

Good designers must always be avant-gardists, always one step ahead of the times. They should – and must – question everything generally thought to be obvious. They must have an intuition for people’s changing attitudes. For the reality in which they live, for their dreams, their desires, their worries, their needs, their living habits. They must also be able to assess realistically the opportunities and bounds of technology.

via Less, But Better – an interview with design legend Dieter Rams at  BBH Labs.

Interaction design Publications Research

PhD Defense June 25th

My dissertation, Designing Engaging Interactive Environments: A Pragmatist Perspective, has been accepted by my PhD committee, and I will be defending it on June 25th. The event is open to the public, so feel free to swing by – here is the official invitation (.pdf). I’m psyched that it got accepted, and a bit anxious in the face of the defense itself.

I’ll be giving a 30 minute presentation of my PhD project – not a very long stretch of time to present three years of research – followed by 3×45 minutes of discussions with the members of the committee: Peter Wright, Research Professor at Sheffield Hallam University, Thomas Binder, Associate Professor at the Danish Design School, and Ole Iversen, chairman of the committee and Associate Professor at Aarhus University. Though I expect tough questions and a bit of academic slugging, I also look forward to discussing the potentials and problems of my research. If all goes well with the defense, I’ll write up a summary of the response from the committee and make it available along with the dissertation proper.

Interaction design Publications Research

Some late thoughts about CHI 2009

Roughly a month ago I attended the CHI 2009 conference in Boston straight after handing in my dissertation. Together with co-authors Lone Koefoed Hansen and Kim Halskov, I had two papers for presentation: Performing Perception – Staging Aesthetics of Interaction and Dynamically Transparent Windows. In addition to the plethora of activities and presentation tracks, this made for a rather hectic conference experience. Having had a few weeks to let things sink in, I consider the conference to be the most interesting I have yet attended in my (admittedly brief) academic carreer.

With 14 parallel sessions, there was always something fascinating going on, and much like music festivals, this meant that I had to make tough choices and miss talks and panels that I would have liked to attend. I must give credit to the organizers for exploring a variety of different presentation and discussion forms: Workshops, courses, colloquia, keynotes, short papers, long papers, case studies, panel discussions, design community talks, invited thematic presentations, presentation of selected journal publications, alt.chi presentations, and numerous extra-curricular activities, including an inspiring visit to the MIT Media Lab. As an interesting addition there were a number of “battle-sessions” in which the presentation of particularly contestable papers were followed by panel-discussions, e.g. concerning the role of ethnography in design, or the quantification of experiential aspects of interaction.

Out of the many good contributions (there was a total of 277 accepted papers), I’ve selected six that I found particularly fascinating with regards to my own research interests, and which I hope to discuss in more length in future posts:

Bardzell: Interaction Criticism and Aesthetics

Benford, Giannachi & Koleva
: From Interaction to Trajectories: Designing Coherent Journeys Through User Experiences

Gaver et al: Anatomy of a Failure: How We Knew When Our Design Went Wrong, and What We Learned From It

Snibbe & Raffle: 
Social Immersive Media: Pursuing Best Practices for Multi-user Interactive Camera/projector Exhibits

Herring et al: 
Getting Inspired! Understanding How and Why Examples are Used in Creative Design Practice

Lim, Stolterman & Tenenberg
: The Anatomy of Prototypes: Prototypes as Filters, Prototypes as Manifestations of Design Ideas

Architecture Interaction design Visualisation

fLUX Binary Waves

fLUX, binary waves by Metalab is an installation based on measurements of infrastructural and communicational flows and their transposition into luminous, sonic and kinetic rules. This relation between the installation and the urban activity happens in real time and sets each person as an element of the installation, as a centre of the public realm.

From the project description:

The installation fLUX, binary waves is constituted by a network of 32 rotating and luminous panels of 3 meter-high and 60 centimetres wide, placed every 3 meters to form a kinetic wall. The panels rotate around their vertical axis, and have a black reflective surface on one side, the other being plain mat white. Their rotation is controlled by microprocessors, allowing to determine precisely the rotation speed and angle, while their networking allows to synchronise the movement of the 32 panels. The microprocessors are connected to infrared sensors, capturing the surrounding infrastructural flows, defining the frequency and amplitude of the rotation. According to this set up, each impulse is transmitted from one panel to the other, describing visual waves running from one side of the installation to the other, and then bouncing back while progressively loosing oscillation. All these principles relate the ‘micro-events’ happening in the area to a unified play of light, colours and sounds directly derived from the rhythm of the city flows.

As such, the installation proposes an urban sign having as subject the ‘urban’ and as message to be a catalyst of urbanity via the transcription of urban flows in a contemporary play of kinetics, lights and sound.

Interaction design Publications

Designing Engaging Interactive Environments: A Pragmatist Perspective

Dalsgaard, Peter (2009): Designing Engaging Interactive Environments: A Pragmatist Perspective.
PhD dissertation, Dept. of Information and Media Studies, Aarhus University (PDF, 38MB)

My PhD dissertation, Designing Engaging Interactive Environments: A Pragmatist Perspective, was handed in April 30th 2009 and defended on June 25th 2009. Below I have embedded a video of my talk at the defense – you can skip the introduction and formalities and jump to 2:50 for the main presentation. The slides are not very clear on the video, so these are embedded as a slidecast below the video. If you don’t feel like watching the proceedings, you can also download the manuscript for my presentation (.pdf) to read alongside the slides.

Summary of the dissertation:

The dissertation summarizes three years of research guided by the overarching question: “How can we conceptualize the design and use of engaging interactive environments?”. The dissertation is composed of a selection of publications framed by an overview. My primary area of concern is the design process, however it is also crucial that designers gain a reflective understanding of the use situation in addition to the design situation. For this reason, the included papers as well as the overview span both of these areas. In order to expand upon the understanding of the design and use of interactive environments, I develop a conceptual scaffolding on the basis of concepts from the pragmatist philosophy of John Dewey, with a particular focus on creativity and technology in inquiry.

My research approach is based upon practice-based engagement in experimental design cases supplemented by literature surveys and continuous discussions and analyses of the cases and the domain of study in various fora. Central parts of this work is reported on in the included papers, each of which presents a set of contributions related to specific areas of related work, research questions, methods, and discussions. In addition to these papers, the overview contributes with an explication and discussion of my research approach, labelled “research in and through design”, and the development of a pragmatist perspective that functions as a conceptual scaffolding for addressing my research question. In this pragmatist perspective, I examine and develop the concept inquiry and the notions of dialogical and distributed creativity as well as experiential and transformative technology as means for understanding the design and use of engaging interactive environments.

The contributions of the dissertation fall into three general categories:

(1) A conceptual foundation, with regards to the development of a pragmatist perspective on interaction design on the basis of key concepts drawn from the work of John Dewey in relation to my research agenda.

(2) Means for design and design reflection, with regards to the development of specific techniques for design practice and reflection, as well as the articulation and discussion of design considerations that can inform reflective interaction design practice and research.

(3) Prototypes and installations, with regards to development of interactive systems as means for exploring the overarching research question; these prototypes and installations are in themselves manifestations of and challenges to hypotheses about the design and use of interactive environments.