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Review: Five Themes for Interaction Design

I don't usually review academic papers, mostly just design books. But in doing research for the new book, I stumbled across How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design by Scott Klemmer, Björn Hartmann, and Leila Takayama of Stanford. It's two years old (as of this writing), but I think its themes are dead on and even more relevant now than before, and if you are interested in the future of interaction design, it is well worth a read.

The basic thrust of the paper is that with the current keyboard-mouse-monitor set-up, we do every task, no matter if it is writing a paper or editing a movie or even playing a game, all the same way. Pointing, clicking, dragging and dropping, etc. The work has become "homogenized" and we can do better, creating richer interactions.

Here are their themes:

  • Thinking Through Doing. There are a lot of skills you simply cannot learn by reading or listening alone. You have to try them out. Gestures aren't just for embellishment to communication, they can also be an aid to learning and understanding. Manipulation of items allows for greater understanding of the item. Artifacts have their own characteristics, and their "backtalk" uncovers problems or can suggest new designs.
  • Performance. We should design products for expert users, able to use their hands and motor memory to perform action-centered skills. Thinking can be too slow; experiental cognition (learned skillful behavior like driving a car) can be more rapid and powerful than reflective cognition.
  • Visibility. Through the performance of an activity, that activity can be made visible to others easily, so that collaboration and situated learning can occur spontaneously.
  • Risk. Most products are designed to decrease risk, but retaining some risk can be beneficial. With risk comes trust, responsibility, and attention.
  • Thick Practice. Because there is so much benefit to the real world, we should be careful with replacing physical artifacts with digital ones. The best case scenario is to augment the physical world with digital behaviors, and thus "admitting the improvisations of practice that the physical world offers."

One of the few academic papers I have enjoyed recently.

Originally posted at Sunday, May 18, 2008 | Comments (0) | Trackback (0)

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