Interactions Cafe

XVII.6 November + December 2010
Page: 80
Digital Citation

On experiences, people, and technology


Authors:
Jon Kolko

When Richard and I took over editing interactions magazine, we proposed a vision statement that would drive our work. I repeat it here:

We see a world rich with culture, emotion, and human connections. The human-built world can afford a sense of beauty, sublimity, and resonance, and through our advancements in technology can come advances in society. At the center of these advances are interactions—conversations, connections, collaborations, and relationships—within and across multiple disciplines, with and without technology.

A key element of our vision has been a recommitment to the original vision of interactions as described by John Rheinfrank, Bill Hefley, and Brad Myers: a focus on practice, and a publishing venue intended for practitioners. But the practice of interaction design has changed since interactions launched in 1994. The Internet has matured, as have our tools, methods, and vocabulary, and so our dialogue has elevated to include language of judgment. Mobile technology has completely disturbed business as usual. New concerns of privacy, information ownership, and policy have crept into our discussion, and old concerns of sustainability, appropriation, and time to market still drive our debates.

In reflecting on the 200,000 words we’ve published in the past three years, I see a common theme that describes interaction design as a discipline focused on culture and behavior. This is not necessarily an unprecedented viewpoint, as scholars like Bruce Archer, Richard Buchanan, and others involved in academia have long since articulated this view of design as a liberal art and not a science. But the theme is certainly new, and provocative, for a number of our readers who are approaching interaction design from a perspective of computer science, usability, and HCI. For these practitioners, interaction design has traditionally been considered an applied science, one that requires a deep knowledge of technology, an understanding of both cognitive psychology and human factors related to perception, and an awareness of machine capabilities. Indeed, this magazine is published by the Association for Computing Machinery—an unlikely home for a magazine that, since fall 2007, has engaged in dialogue about sustainability, privacy, innovation, science fiction, brand, marketing, and humanitarian aid in developing countries. Among my favorite pieces that exemplify this new perspective are Apala Chavan’s “The Washing Machine that Ate My Sari—Mistakes in Cross-Cultural Design,” Bruce Sterling’s “Design Fiction,” Richard Seymour’s “Optimistic Futurism,” and Chris Pacione’s “Evolution of the Mind: A Case for Design Literacy.” These pieces, and nearly all of the others that we’ve published, question our work by contextualizing it in the hopes, dreams, experience, and emotions of real, regular people. This is a dramatic, conscious, and important shift from conversations of artificial intelligence, computer learning, cognitive proof tutors, and usability evaluations.

It’s this shift that has taken the professional world by storm, and it’s this shift that I hope to see our discipline embrace further and louder at our various conferences, in our various books and journals, and as a philosophy for the work we do in our day-to-day jobs. This is not a call to abandon principles of usability or to ignore issues of interface development. But it is a call to focus primarily and enthusiastically on the larger cultural problems and opportunities of our work, and to elevate the discussion out of the weeds of UI mechanisms, implementation best practices, and deliverable formats. We are craftspeople only in our execution. We are first and foremost intellectual leaders, tasked with humanizing technology.

Jon Kolko

Footnotes

DOI: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1865245.1865264

©2010 ACM  1072-5220/10/1100  $10.00

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