Showing posts from November, 2005

On Desire

When it comes to design and new technology we always end up in conversation where we discuss if this new tool or gadget is something we "need". And often we realize that we don't really need it but we still want it. We also know that there is an ethical issue related to this. We are as designers usually inclined to say we want to develop design in a direction where we create the things people need in a better way. It is something suspicious with design that is directed to create "need", or exploit basic desires that people have, if they are not "good for you". Usually these discussions quite quickly becomes confused and difficult.

Reading the book "On Desire --Why We Want What We Want" by William B. Irvine gives you some better foundation in those discussions. Irvine carries out an analysis of desire. It is done in a straight-forward way, easy to understand, but still firmly related to the philosophical history, psychological research, religi…

The Golden Ratio and design

Reading the book "The Golden Ratio" by Mario Livio raises some interesting design questions. The book is a fascinating story of the history and present understanding of the golden ratio, i.e. the number "phi", or 1.6180339887...... This is the number that is the relation between two things. In nature the number seem to be present everywhere. In art it is possible to find "phi" in so many instances, and of course in architecture. It has been understood as the perfect relation, the most beautiful ratio. Sometimes as something God designed and to which all things have to obey.

This has been used as an argument that design should use this ratio to create beautiful things, that appeal to people. In that way it would be one ultimate true principle for design. Well, the problem seems to be that people are not always willing to accept this. Sometimes people want the opposite, something different, something odd, something "ugly". Design is not about the u…

Digital Material

Read today that iTunes Store is selling more music than Towers Records and Bourders combined. You can now read things like "the CD is dead". If we take the perspective that what the digital transformation is all about is the transformation of the world as we know it into a world dominated by digital material. So, music has not changed, but the material it is manifested by. And what has not been well understood and sufficiently appreciated is the enormous importance of the material. A digital material is so different from other materials that it changes the very foundation of how we can and should understand our reality.

As an example, we remember what was considered to be the huge difference and change when we moved from the LP to the CD as the (material) carrier of music. Suddenly, the music did not wear and tear. Perfect sound. More space on a CD, cheaper to produce, etc. Still, those changes were only the first and least important consequences of what it was really about.…

"Freedom Evolves" and HCI Theory

I have just finished reading Daniel C. Dennett's book "Freedom Evolves". It is a fascinating book with a message that is clear and strong. The idea that freedom is (as almost everything else) a product of evolution is quite remarkable. It also leads to some quite astonishing consequences. For instance, it means that freedom is still evolving, and according to the laws of evolution it can evolve into something we would describe as "more freedom", but it can also be a "dead end" in evolution and disappear.

Anyhow, the message aside, what I realized when reading the book, is the way Dennett discusses his assumptions and ideas in relation to all other theories in the field. He is strong in his critique of theories, and many of them does not "survive" his analytic examinations. He compares ideas and assumptions. He measures their strengths and weaknesses. He categorizes them according to their intention, structure and outcomes. It quite often beco…

Positive Design

Tomorrow I am leaving for the workshop "Positive Design" in Cleveland. I am looking forward to it since it is a working conference in a format I like. The notion of positive design triggers some thoughts. I talked today with some students about why we in Informatics do research that sometimes looks like product development. Students and faculty create and design new digital tools and systems in a way not dissimilar from what goes on in creative companies.

It is possible to make the case that the outcome of a design process is a statement that shows the potentiality of the material in question and the environment we live in. This is related to the ideas of revealing "potentiality" as discussed by Herbert Marcuse.

In this sense a new theory can be understood as a designed object that opens up our understanding for new potentialities in the world. So, a theory and a design becomes very similar. If we accept this (to some extreme analogy) we also have to live with the co…

Total Interaction

There is a new book out with the title "Total Interaction -- Theory and practice of a new paradigm for the design disciplines" edited by Gerhard M. Buurman. I find the book full of short interesting texts on very diverse aspects of interaction design. Everything from game design, simulations, tangible interfaces, to virtual worlds, hybrid reality is covered. The book is nicely designed with a lot of graphics and images. However, the layout makes reading a bit tedious, especially the references. For the person searching for new ideas and insights in one of the special areas covered, I think the book is a valuable contribution to the field.

I like the overall idea behind the book as it is presented in the Introduction by the editor Buurman. I think the way interaction design is framed is at the forefront of the field, imaginative and exciting. At the same time, this makes me as readers eager to find more about the "big" idea of total interaction -- but this is where t…

Cornucopia Limited

I have just started reading the book "Cornucopia Limited -- Design and Dissent on the Internet" by Richard Coyne (MIT Press). Already when reading the introduction I was inspired and the text triggered some ideas that I found more than valuable. The "in-between" conditions are where design resides. Coyne argues that "design provides a way of thinking about the network economy. Design crosses territorial boundaries, stimulates controversies, polarizes, and often offends. Design is also acquisitive and promiscuous in its use of sources and models". Coyne has a way with words and ideas that I seldom find in this field. Read him.