thetics of movement in bodily interaction with products. TEI allows us
to explore questions of embodiment
through practical experiments.
interactions, Not interfaces
When we were setting up the TEI
conference, we initially had long
discussions about which title to
choose. At the time, one of the
main questions was whether to use
“interface” or “interaction,” both
indicating a somewhat different
perspective and intellectual tradition. While Tangible User Interfaces
had become an MIT trademark,
designers had begun to use the
term “tangible interaction.” I had
also argued in one of my own
papers that the emphasis should
be on the design of the interaction
not the interface, putting interaction dynamics and qualities into
the foreground of attention [ 14].
Using the word “interaction” further
encourages thinking of the tangible
system as part of a larger ecology
and located in a specific context.
We felt that “tangible interaction”
would bring together both perspectives and provide more openness,
allowing for evolution of the field.
The adoption of this umbrella term
has supported the development of
a larger interdisciplinary research
community (the TEI conference
series), but as a downside, results
in some ambivalence as to where
to draw the line between tangible
interaction and other areas.
Meanwhile the conference has
added “embodied” to the “tangible
and embedded” title, reflecting the
growing role of movement-based
interaction and psychological or
philosophical aspects of embodiment. Whole-body interaction is a
new trend in HCI and ubiquitous
computing as new technologies like
the Wii, wireless motion tracking,
and image-processing software have
[ 4] One of my favorite books that starts to answer
these questions is F.R. Wilson’s The Hand — How
Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human
Culture. This starts to construct an argument about
the human urge to be active and creative with one’s
[ 5] Jacob, R.J.K., Girouard, A., Hirshfield, L.M. Horn,
M.S., Shaer, O., Solovey, E. T., and Zigelbaum, J.
Reality-based interaction: A framework for post-WIMP interfaces. Proc. of the 26th Annual SIGCHI
Conference on Human Factors in Computing
Systems. (Florence, Italy, Apr. 5-10) ACM, New York,
[ 6] H. Böhme. Playdoyer für das niedrige. Der
tastsinn im gefüge der sinne. G. Gebauer (ed).
Anthropologie. Reclam: Leipzig, Germany, 1998
[ 7] Modern day psychology has started to question the assumption that most of our senses are
receptive, and begun to study the perception-action
relation (enactive perception defines that perception
is always active) as well as interrelations between
the senses, uncovering e.g. how visual information
can override auditory perception (the McGurk effect)
and the plasticity of our perceptual system (the
rubberhand illusion,) which even allows for sensory
substitution or new senses (such as feeling magnetic north via a vibrating belt).
[ 8] Becker, B. Marking and crossing borders:
Bodies, touch, and contact in cyberspace. Body,
Space and Technology 3, 2 (2003).
[ 9] In many science areas we find a dispute about
determinism, whether it is technological versus
social determinism (on the development of technology) or social versus genetic/biologic determination
of intelligence and gender roles (“nature or nurture”).
[ 10] Dourish, P. Where the Action Is. The
Foundations of Embodied Interaction. MI T Press,
Cambridge, MA, 2001.
[ 11] McCarthy, J., and Wright, P. Technology as
Experience. MI T Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004
[ 12] Twenebowa Larssen, A, Robertson, T., and
Edwards, J. The feel dimension of technology interaction: exploring tangibles through movement and
touch. Proc. of the First International Conference on
Tangible and Embedded Interaction. (Baton Rouge,
LA, Feb. 15-17). ACM, New York, 2007, 271-278.
[ 13] Hummels, C., Overbeeke, K.C., and Klooster,
S. Move to get moved: A search for methods, tools
and knowledge to design for expressive and rich
movement-based interaction. Personal Ubiquitous
Comput 1, 8 (2007), 677–690.
[ 14] Hornecker, E., and Buur. J. Getting a grip
on tangible interaction: A framework on physical
space and social interaction. Proc. of the SIGCHI
Conference on Human Factors in Computing
Systems. (Montreal, Canada, Apr. 22-27). ACM, New
York, 2006, 437-446.
greatly increased our capabilities for
using body movement as input.
A focus on physical manipulation
and movement-based interaction
takes Ishii’s early credo serious of
bringing some of the richness of
interaction we have with physical
devices back into our interaction
with digital content, exploring the
many facets of human sensory
experience. An interesting development is while tangible interfaces
are often portrayed as intuitive and
easy to use, the advocates of movement-based interaction stress aesthetics and skill. We are most happy
when we feel we perform an activity
skillfully and gracefully even if it
took us a painfully long time to get
to this point. Tangible and embodied
interaction can thus be a mindful
activity that builds upon the innate
intelligence of human bodies.
This forum aims to provide a glimpse
of the discussions and approaches
in TEI, reflecting the diversity of the
field and the field’s interest in the role
of physicality in interaction. I hope
you are looking forward as much as
I am to the articles to follow, exploring this rich and diverse field.
Additional historical and
Introductory Literature of note
H. Ishii. The tangible user interface and its evolution.
Commun. ACM 51, 6 (June 2008), 32–36.
O. Shaer, E. Hornecker. Tangible user interfaces:
Past, present and future directions. Foundations and
Trends in HCI 3, 1-2 (2010),1-138
D. O’Sullivan and T. Igoe. Physical Computing:
Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with
Computers. Muska and Lipman, Boston, 2004.
[ 1] Wellner, P., Mackay, W., and Gold, R. Computer-augmented environments. Back to the real world.
Commun. ACM 36, 7 (July 1993), 24–26.
[ 2] Baskinger, M. and Gross, M. Tangible interaction
= form + computing. interactions 17, 1 (2010).
[ 3] Ishii, H., and Ullmer, B. Tangible bits: Towards
seamless Interfaces between people, bits and
atoms. Proc. of the SIGCHI Conference on Human
Factors in Computing Systems. (Atlanta, GA, Mar.
22-27). ACM, New York, 1997, 234–241.
About thE Author
Eva Hornecker is a lecturer at
the department of computer
and information science at the
University of Strathclyde in
Glasgow. Her research includes
a particular interest in issues
of social interaction and collaboration in these
March + April 2011
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