Indiana University at Bloomington |
[ 1] The notion of the
quality of mental
and operational ones is
ented HCI and a matter
of profound treatment
by Don Norman and by
others. See: Norman, D.
The Design of Everyday
Things. Basic Books,
January + February 2010
[ 2] The notion of software as a material is
HCI and a matter of
especially by Erik
Stolterman and others.
See: Nelson, H.G. and
Stolterman, E. Design
Way: Intentional Change
in an Unpredictable
World — Foundations
and Fundamentals of
You can see and touch and feel a physical thing.
Oftentimes, you can understand from looking
at a physical thing how it works. Moreover, it’s
frequently—but not always—the case that your
conceptual model of a physical thing corresponds
to its actual operation and attributes, and we gen-
erally equate the absence of such correspondence
to “bad” design [ 1]. It’s relatively easy to understand
how to use a physical item and how to prolong its
use and how to reclaim it for another purpose.
You can’t see, touch, or feel software.
Oftentimes, it’s difficult to understand from look-
ing at software how it works. Moreover, most peo-
ple’s conceptual model of how software works dif-
fers from its actual operation and attributes, and
we generally accept this difference as axiomatic
to the very nature of software. It’s much harder to
understand how to use things constructed from
the material of software [ 2]. It’s much harder to
understand how to prolong the use of things con-
structed from the materials of software and how to
reclaim such things for new purposes.
In this column, I present four images of physi-
cal things I have chosen to represent the act of
reclaiming. I reflect on the potential roles of digital
materials in reclaiming.
Please don’t throw me away. (Figure A). Outside
of a school of art and design, some large iron cyl-
inders sit bearing the lines “Please Don’t THROW
ME AWAY!” The fact that the cylinders appear to be
in a 15-minute loading zone, ironically, adds to the
urgency of the need to reclaim these materials for
a new use.
Rainwater cistern reclaimed from an old water
heater. (Figure B). An old water heater is reclaimed
for use as a garden cistern with the addition of
some PVC piping to attach it to the rain gutter of
a house. The original outlet copper piping acts as
a kind of fountain when this water-heater-turned-
Rain-barrel garden and mini farm consultancy.
(Figure C). A plastic rain barrel and various other
presumably reclaimed apparatuses are used to