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Monday, October 27, 2003

Ontological Interaction

We ended our look at the four interpretations of interaction design with a deep reading (as if there could be any other kind) of Plato's "Phaedrus."

Each interpretation of interaction is really a different interpretation of reality. Each gets a different answer for the question "What is Real?" The first interpretation, interface or thing to thing, says that what is real is matter/forces of nature. What processes underlie interactions. In the transactional interpretation, what is real are individuals. And in the third interpretation, person to environment, the environment, social and natural, is what is real. In this last interpretation, it is the cosmos that is real, a higher system or organization. Over the next few weeks, we'll be learning how they can all exist together and how they can all have value.

A main point of "Phaedrus" and the center of this interpretation: What is a soul? A soul is a thing that is ever in motion. And what is the motion? Either moving yourself or being moved. The goal of interaction in this interpretation is to make the user self-moving (as opposed to moving by necessity). The goal is to provide freedom and inner determination. And the nature of self-determination is space to think, just like the "open spaces" in Kevin Lynch's "City as Environment." The environment of the city is really the environment of the soul. We need to design for that, providing open spaces so that the things we make are not so rigid. We need escape valves in the things we make; otherwise they are alien to us. We need to make products that are respectful, sustainable, so that working with the product makes us something more, something more than selfish. The products we make encourage us to find our own way. The users need to be able to reason for themselves; they should not be forced or tricked into doing anything.

This type of interaction depends upon a core concern for love. The fundamental emotion that should come out of an interaction: love. A love that connects to the whole cosmos. Agape.

Designers are responsible for creating this connected action. Everything connects to everything else. The goal is to increase and enhance participation in the world. Why? Because everything is interconnected. If we don't participate, we are pushed and pulled by external forces. The product encourages activity, but it is only part of the story. Its effect on the user's soul (and thus on the cosmos) is the other part.

Knowledge in this view is fundamental. You need to understand the product and the people using it. The design must be intelligent, because it connects to the intelligence of everything else.

Dick ended the lecture with a story about the Museum of Civilization. Apparently, a tribe elder came to the museum to request some artifacts back that the museum had. But, the elder wanted to know, will the artifacts still speak to us? Can they still talk and, just as importantly, can my people still hear? And these two questions remain: how can artifacts bring about culture? Do the things we design bring us in touch with the values of our culture?

It is a lot to absorb. I am no where near finished digesting it.

Next time in seminar, we turn our attention from the interpretations of interaction to the Arts, Methods, and Techniques of Interaction Design, specifically the nature of products, what is information, and how do we make stuff.

posted at 09:52 PM in design theory | comments (3) | trackback (0)


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