Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko
Tangible computing has a long history of interest in technology circles; like augmented reality and computer-supported cooperative work, it has long been the focus of research studies in academic institutions, and not ironically, the focus of a large quantity of science fiction movies, too.
It is only in the past half-decade, however, that the stars have aligned to support tangible computing in practice. The low cost of technical components, a more ubiquitous approach to rapid prototyping, and introductory behavioral memes (such as touch-based computing, made popular by the iPhone) have pushed tangibility to the forefront of actually shipping consumer products and have encouraged the development of product ecologies as related to systems, services, and the blurring of lines between physical and digital computing.
Timely, then, is Mark Gross and Mark Baskinger’s cover story describing the opportunitiesand challengesof tangible computing in normal life. They introduce the new and old, and emphasize the importance of product form in bringing tangibility to life in an appropriate and reflective manner. Don Norman builds on the premise of “transmedia”technological media solutions that aren’t just functional, but are also pleasurable and satisfying.
From the tangible to the intangible, several articles describe human problems facing society that require a much more theoretical approach to design. For example, J. Bidwell and H. Winschiers-Theophilus pull no punches in their outstanding exploration of the topic of design for Africa by Africans, which narrows in on the problem and how it distorts designing in developing countries.
Another theme of this issue describes curation and the increasingly vagueand importantrole of information, socialization, and data visualization in our lives. A third and final segment in our mini-series on iSchools is presented by Martha E. Pollack, dean of the School of Information at the University of Michigan. She describes the need to embraceand potentially, better definethe word “information” in our efforts to train those who will engage in design and information. Peter Jones responds to Hugh Dubberly’s thoughts on conversation, with his own ideas on this method of information transfer; Jones reflects on the relationship between conversation and design, and calls attention to a deep body of knowledge related to this topic.
And many of this issue’s contributions address the increasing importance of the ongoing role of user as co-creator and co-owner, such as in the operationalization of brands (see Denise Yohn’s article) and even in the creationand ownershipof a museum (see Alex Wright’s interview with Jake Barton, the designer of the September 11 Memorial).
We think you will benefit from how the articles in this issue thread together a story of information, physicality, and culture. And we think you will be delighted with the addition of two members to the interactions staff: Liz Danzico and Jonathan Lazar.
Danzico replaces Steve Portigal as a columnist. She is cofounder and chairperson of the MFA Interaction Design Program at the School of Visual Arts. Her column will always provide an insightful look “Between the Lines” of issues of vital importance to design and practitioners. Jonathan Lazar joins us as editor of a new forum on policy and interaction. He is a professor of computer and information sciences at Towson University, where he founded and is director of the Universal Usability Laboratory and serves as director of the undergraduate information systems program.
We thank Steve Portigal for his two years of outstanding columns and welcome him as a new contributing editor. We’ll try to squeeze an article or two out of him as well.
Welcome to our first issue of our third year as editors in chief.
Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko
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