september 14th
New York City 2016

physical computing
#1 interaction. What is it good for!…

To begin with, my background is on graphic design, so I fall in that category of graphic designers that started placing form before function and ended up realising that it works the other way around, that is one of the reasons of me being on Itp right now.

There is a quote by an early product designer, whose name, as hard as I tried I cannot neither find or remember. this mysterious figure said that everything that we place on a product has to have a purpose, everything else is “banal ornament” that has no reason to be on that product. This thought applies even in a stronger way on interaction design, everything that is added that has no purpose of making things easier or more clear towards the goal of the user has no reason of being there, with the exception of those that have the explicit purpose of complexing the process.

From my point of view an interactive product is no more than a tool for a specific use, that use can be anything from offering a service to you, the user, to making you realize something a with a deeper meaning. We build things with a reason, even people that state that some of the stuff they do does not have a reason of existence, there is an object behind that action.

These are my initial thoughts on interaction, but these written pieces resonated new ideas that are worth mentioning;

First of all, I agree with most of the statements made on both of the readings, and they have made me realize of thought that I had but never developed on. We creators like to state many of the stuff we do as designers has interactive treats and we use that word, as Crawford says, like a Buzzword that we don’t really stop to think if the product that we brought to life is actually interactive or just a mimic of the idea of what an interactive design is supposed to be.

Diving further on this last thought, people, including me, tend to thing as the internet as a whole interactive mass of information but, if we apply what Crawford says and dig deeper, most of it is not interactive, most of the web content is just like a book that we read or watch. Even this post, which will be read and maybe commented on, from my point of view is not an interactive experience, yes there might be a conversation taking place on this page, but only if the readers and the author want to, but the level, and the traffic in this site are so low that that interaction is nothing more than a gimmick. Is like you being on the cinema, shouting to the screen and somebody else telling you to shutup. Yes, that is interaction but it is so low and meaningless that from my point of view cannot be called so.

Another concept worth mentioning is the Idea of the persistence that the author has towards HCI as an interactive process or medium. From my point of view, searching interaction between Humans and Computers has no purpose other than scientific curiosity, real interaction happens between human minds and that is the real level of interaction we should be aiming for. Technology should be a way of improving or morphing the way humans communicate or entertain themselves. Computers are just a tool that make life so much easier and add so much more to it, improving the way we reach the rest of the world and much other things. That’s it, just a tool to reach a specific goal.

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The long term goal of a AI is being able to reach human levels of interactions to the point of confusion. being able to pass the Turing test, but at that point we are just imitating something we have already, maybe better in some ways but in terms of quality interaction, no.

The last issue regarding Crawford’s essay is his idea of interactive art, he talks about all the possibilities that new technologies offer to artists and encourages them to become authors of more interactive pieces. This shows a lack of knowledge around art and the high levels of interactivity it has gotten to in some occasions. In modern art there is a specific kind of actions called Happenings, this consist on the creation of events where the artist interacts why a group of participants in a certain way. A good example is “cut piece” by Yoko Ono, in this happening or performance she asked the audience to take a pair of scissors and invited them to cut.

check out the video here

The second text or rant, Makes a really good point regarding how little our hands capabilities are used, and there are reasons to that, I don’t think of it being because the industry intends it to be that way, but nowadays displays offer so much at such a low cost that it is going to be really difficult to find something that surpasses touch displays in all the aspects that make them so popular.

But since this rant was written some light is shining over this kind of interfaces, a technology names taptic feedback has been introduced. What it does is faking the click of a button through vibration, this simulates that kind of sensation that Bret Victor is asking for.

Devices like the Steam controller, HTC Vive, the Macbook trackpad and the new iPhone 7 have it and the response is mixed, but this is a precedent to what it is to come.

The last concept I want to talk about is the fact of how mobile technology is oscilating toward being light and as thin as possible, my view is that a product marketed as feather-like is a big error on design, the reasoning behind this idea is the fact that like B. Victor states, you need to feel the object you have on you hands, and is you have it in your pocket or backpack you have to know by its weight that you have it there, to be clear here I’m talking about either laptops and cellphones. I am not asking for a cement block to be on my pocket but there’s always a nice spot between that can work.


Please, tell me how good or bad this post was. And comment on anything that comes up in that beautiful brain of yours.