XVI.6 November + December 2009
Page: 5
Digital Citation


Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko

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While our profession may have its roots in computing, it has quickly evolved into the world of behavior. We empower social change, strive to support authentic experiences, and borrow heavily from our disciplinary neighbors. Our work in the field of interactions has jumped from a technological point of view to land firmly in the realm of culture and humanity.

This issue highlights that jump and celebrates the benefits of this social, cultural, and humanitarian focus. Kirsten Boehner offers a poetic set of reflections on representation and explores the nature of our epistemologies. Similarly, danah boyd's work takes this highly theoretical approach and tactically explores the nuances of teenage behavior in the contexts of Facebook and MySpace. And Uday Gajendar pursues an emotional path toward soulful experiences, demanding that designers be enabled to "resolve a cohesive blend of the rational and the imaginative into something that people will enjoy using."

A soulful experience is authentic, and authenticity is fleeting. Marc Rettig and Alex Wright review three books that touch on the difficulties of designing for human experiences in a real and meaningful way. Steve Portigal and Stokes Jones take a closer look at authenticity and ask how we can design to support something so intimate and personal. As they analyze Black Sabbath and the VW Beetle, it becomes clear that designing an authentic experience may be well beyond our means.

Other disciplines, such as architecture and marketing, may have had a longer tenure of this type of exploration. Valerie Jacobs, group director (and trend watcher) at LPK Trends, provides a framework for thinking about the complexities of mass-produced, often inauthentic experiences as they relate to brands and marketing. She offers a way out of this lifelessness: "...Our work will be about giving people the tools for interactive storytelling and meaning making—a more generative, open-ended approach, which runs counter to the prescriptive and controlled practice of today."

We can look to marketing for interactive meaning making, and we can look to the roots of design—gestalt, and the psychological principles of visual perception—described by William Lidwell in his piece "More With Less." Lidwell, author of the beautiful Universal Principles of Design, describes how the fundamentals of graphic and communication design can be applied in our quest toward designing for authenticity and human resonance.

Despite the vivid discussion of experience and authenticity, we start the issue with a look at social interaction design—the new and rich subgenre of interaction design that emphasizes social and humanitarian needs first and profit second or not at all. These topics—from health and wellness to sustainability—are the focus of a new generation of socially conscious designers and academics.

Our cover story, from Woodrow W. Winchester, highlights the need for "behavioral interactions" intended to create a helpful interaction. The old criteria of "usable, useful, and desirable" may no longer suffice, as we turn our efforts toward the epidemic of HIV and AIDS. Winchester describes work done to enable HIV prevention in developing nations and illustrates the rich opportunity that exists for our hard work and dedication.

From the search for soul to the need to make a difference, this issue of interactions highlights the push toward social, authentic, and interdisciplinary design. This represents a significant challenge; we hope you find a way to embrace this challenge in your daily work.

        —Jon Kolko

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DOI: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1620693.1620694

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©2009 ACM  1072-5220/09/1100  $10.00

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