Blog post #1

Authors: Uday Gajendar
Posted: Mon, December 17, 2012 - 3:12:07

Hi there! I'm very honored to be one of the new bloggers for ACM interactions online. In particular, I look forward to drafting thought-provoking posts that may raise some eyebrows in intrigue (or skepticism), yet lead to productive debates about emerging opportunities in the field, critical issues confronting our daily practice, and maybe even challenge some good ol' fashioned HCI-oriented thinking. Hmm, so what do I mean by this last part? Well, let me begin with a little bit about myself...

I'm what many of my peers have called a "designer's designer." I'm not an ex-project manager who fell into design after a workshop, or an ex-engineer who felt some kinship with making beautiful things—both of which are fine, of course. When meeting folks at conferences lately I've been asked the question, "So how long have you been a designer?" I always chuckle and smile a bit, sputtering out an answer that may seem a bit self-serving, but quite honestly I've been a designer all my life. Well, okay that's a small lie... I've been an artist all my life, having illustrated action figures, comic book characters, and even football mascots since I was 7 years old. Later in high school and college I studied life drawing, scientific illustration, and typography. I earned formal degrees in industrial design and then interaction design. But all throughout I brought an artistic sensibility of visual exploration, framed by a rhetorical outlook of humanistic values. (Incidentally, my favorite class was Shakespeare's Tragedies, and I still believe you can learn more about human psychology from The Bard than from any HCI textbook!)

For me, looking at non-traditional topics and fields invites new opportunities for thought and practice, to helpfully challenge conventions. What's happening in fashion, furniture, philosophy, literature, food, cinema, and music that we can perhaps borrow from or be inspired by? (And I don't mean "Five Things We Can Learn from Tom Cruise"… that's just silly!) For instance, on a recent unique visit to Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in San Francisco, I noticed the pre-digital matte paintings from Star Wars, and wondered, why don't we do actual matte paintings of our personas and scenarios, rather than staid stock photos? Make it emotional and artistically interpretive? Take a break from sticky notes, and let's engage our other senses for once! Okay, that's just one possibility. But with passion, conviction, and imagination we can dream and achieve some amazing things that will help people live better lives, and truly humanize technological expression (i.e., screens, devices, systems, services). I believe we can all harvest our inner artistic visionary selves towards beautiful, useful outcomes. And that requires rebelling the status quo a bit by inviting new perspectives.

So, with that as my introduction, some of the topics I intend to discuss on this blog include the following:

  • Designing in the age of multiplicity: Too many devices and online identities. What are some humanistic principles that designers of the digital medium should advocate?
  • Actually, users don't know everything... And that's ok! Let's give permission to leap ahead of users and lead them forward.
  • How to design for stuff that's "too smart." When does magical become creepy? What are the ethics involved?
  • What does it mean to be "authentically digital"? Just flat tiles and Helvetica everywhere? Tell me there's more, please.

And plenty of others, as the inspiration (or agitation with something mundane) strikes. Thanks and looking forward to a provocative new year!

Posted in: on Mon, December 17, 2012 - 3:12:07

Uday Gajendar

Uday Gajendar is Director of User Experience at CloudPhysics, focused on bringing beauty and soul to Big Data for virtualized datacenters.
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