prompt: After this class’ discussion and exercise, and reading Chris Crawford’s definition and Bret Victor’s rant, how would you define physical interaction? What makes for good physical interaction? Are there works from others that you would say are good examples of digital technology that are not interactive?
interactivity is a dialogue. chris crawford says in the art of interactive design that interaction is not graphic design or watching a movie or reading a book or alking to a brick wall. this feels narrow to me in a way that bret victor starts to open up in his brief rant on the future of interaction design.
crawford’s visions of the future might look like the pictures under glass that victor critiques for being flat, literally and metaphorically. victor valorizes the hammer for extending the capability of the human hand. crawford probably wouldn’t consider hammering a nail to be interactive.
the nail isn’t hammering back because that’s not what nails do, but it is in dialogue with the hammer. crawford only reads interactivity as a dialogue where both parties are speaking the same language. this flattens reality and strips richness from our experience of the world.
Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness. It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.
as victor notes, tech not-visionaries dream of putting more pictures under glass so we can poke at them with our fingers. for some, pictures of words under glass have replaced books—but as any book lover knows, reading is only partly about seeing words. it’s also about tearing and folding pages, underlining and doodling and highlighting, carrying the thing around, peeking at other people’s covers on the subway, trading and borrowing. books exist as shareable objects in the world in a way that opens up opportunities for humans to interact with each other.
“sharing” like “interactivity” is a buzzword worth thinking about in this context. i wonder what elements of IRL sharing are missed when i share a photo or thought on facebook, twitter, instagram, or skype/google hangout.
a not interactive digital technology: the brilliant, elegant, almighty rice cooker. a temperature sensor triggers a shut-off switch when the temperature inside the rice cooker rises above 212 F. as long as there is water in the rice cooker, the temperature stays at 212 F. once all the water boils off, steaming the rice, the temperature rises and shuts off the device.
TOM IGOE’S FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS & MY RESPONSES:
Your rice cooker shows that there are times when limited interactivity is appropriate. Rice gets made better if we don’t interfere, so the interactivity between us and the cooker is limited to telling us when it’s done. How does it signal us? Or does it sit there silently, letting the rice go cold?
my rice cooker doesn’t give a signal. it only has two settings: COOK and WARM. when the water has boiled off, the cooker automatically rests at WARM until i unplug it. there are more advanced rice cookers with timers and notification systems.
How would you explain Crawford’s concept of different levels or scales of interactivity? What are the qualities of those scales? Time? sensory richness? multimodal flexibility (i.e. a device that can either make a noise or vibrate, depending on which you want)? Are there other axes on which to measure interactivity?
yes, this is a great point.
When is the tangible ideal that Victor lays out less than ideal? Are there applications to which a less sensually complex system is more appropriate?
definitely! when mobility is limited, for example, an interface that only reads dramatic gestures becomes really problematic. i victor had to make the extreme point he did because so many of our devices are built around a “pictures under glass” model of interaction.