We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
One of the main reasons interaction design is so
magical—and so elusive—is because it touches
on the very footprint of our collective soul: As we
design explicitly for behavior, we affect implicitly
our local culture and the fabric of our world.
Transcending our local culture is our global
dependence on relationships, on personal connections, and on our ability to share in the beauty,
sensuality, and realism of humanity. Emotions
are often all too real, and the vibrancy of happiness and the pain of anguish paint our physical
artifacts in a shallow and obvious glow. We’ve
outgrown and outlived the making of these objects,
and yet we still live with the culture these objects
have helped to substantiate.
This issue highlights some difficult topics,
topics that in turn emphasize a theme of interconnectedness and of human relationships. Uday
Gajendar introduces a framework for considering
beautiful experiences that speaks to the idea of
a poetic and fluid interaction model that delves
deeper than previous considerations of “usability”
or “usefulness.” Jeffrey and Shaowen Bardzell
articulate a more tangible form of new-century
beauty, as they describe the manner in which sexuality has become grounded in digital realms like
Second Life. Together, these pieces describe the
ways in which interaction design is beginning to
examine the “highs” of life: beauty and intimacy.
Juxtaposed are the articles by Mike Wu and
Chris Le Dantec. Both authors are independently
investigating the often grimmer sides of humanity:
Mike describes the unfortunate reality of memory
impairment in family life, while Chris offers a
powerful view into the effects of technology on
the homeless. Harold Thimbleby, author of
Press On, describes how the ill consequences of
poor “interaction programming” can result in
death, while William Odom, Eli Blevis, and Erik
Stolterman paint a grim picture of our personal
These topics are difficult, as they challenge us to
examine our own emotions, the depth of our feelings, and the extent of our personal responsibility.
Beauty, loss, and despair are real, and as the reach
of interaction design grows, so do our relationships
and ties to emotions in our users and consumers.
At the least, we must consider these topics in the
due course of our often banal job; at the most, we
should absolutely examine the emotional repercussions of our design activities when our efforts are
embodied in real, delivered products and services.
Therein lies an important subset of the needs
that call out for new models of design and design
education, such as those put forth by Meredith
Davis and Hugh Dubberly. Our world is changing;
old models no longer suffice. We must embrace
complexity; meaningfulness supersedes simplicity.
Without question, Toto, we’re not in Kansas
—Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko
September + October 2008