In Fall 2017, the MFA program at CCS is introducing a new studio course called “Interaction Design Evolution.” The course invites students to riff on prior innovations in the history of interaction design and then to invent their own. Seriously.
Rendering of Vannevar Bush’s MEMEX concept from 1945
One example from history: Vannevar Bush’s “MEMEX” comes from the 1940’s. Bush conceived it as a desk containing vast amounts of information stored on reels of microfiche (because digital magnetic media didn’t yet exist). Bush imagined retrieval of information based on what we now call tagging, achieved here by visual splotches on the edge of the frames of microfiche. We’ve got tagging in modern, digital web browsers (with vastly greater numbers of tags and vastly greater speed). But Bush also imagined two displays—not one, as we have today. Why?
At the generous invitation of Chris Myers, chair of Graphic Design at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, I led a 5-day workshop with 9 juniors in his BFA program and gave a public lecture.
The basis of the visit was a workshop in interaction design. I also gave a lecture, “It Depends on Whom I’m With”, whose title expresses what I consider the cardinal goal of interaction design: to create conditions such that each participant can be whom they want to be—or become. Read more here.
Despina Papadopoulos @ChangeModel is visiting CCS and on Friday she delivered thesis crits and portfolio reviews for @CCSMFAIXD.
Steve Stavropoulos, second-year MFA IxD student, presented his design for a service that would allow users to flag repeating issues in their neighborhood, anything from stray dogs or crime, dangerous streets or broken street lights. These concerns would then come to the attention of community groups such as schools, businesses, and churches. Despina advocated for a few foundational shifts. Read more…
Gordon Pask at his desk in the late 1980s. Photograph (c) Paul Pangaro.
I was invited to give a presentation about Gordon Pask and his Conversation Theory at the annual conference of the American Society for Cybernetics in June 2016. My great friend and colleague, Jude Lombardi, has kindly produced and edited a video of my hour talk, which begins with an introduction to Pask as an experimentalist and “maker”. From this foundation Pask built a scientific theory of how conversation works, including a detailed formal “calculus of cognition.” He also offers the principle that consciousness is conserved in the same sense that physics says that matter and energy are conserved. Read more…
There’s been a huge rush toward using AI (artificial intelligence) to build “conversational UIs“—user interfaces that allow us to type or speak to computers in natural language. Sorta. It’s the latest interaction mode and it comes after people interacting with machines, then talking to each other through machines, then talking to machines. Kindah like a conversation (but not really). Here’s a diagram of that progression:
Today, when you hear about all that, “AI” means a specialized kind of AI that’s hugely popular called machine learning. (Yeah, I didn’t make that a link, you can just google it. We all know that we all know how. You’ll find some OK stuff about it. )
So when Siri or Cortana, Amazon or Google, Apple or Facebook, IBM or GE—all of whom are infected with the AI meme—deploys the machine-learning brand of artificial intelligence, it might be good for you to think about it. (But then, that’s up to you.)
I think about machine learning being everywhere in the virtual world whenever I make a typo on my mobile and my text gets snatched away from me and turned into drivel. (Or every time I ask my intelligent assistant two related questions in a row and it behaves as if I’m the schizophrenic in the chat.)
And here’s how I think about it: Read more…
Mai and Heinz von Foerster in Pangaro’s 1970 Citroën DS21 in Pescadero, California, in the early 2000s (Photograph: Paul Pangaro)
Heinz von Foerster was born 105 years ago today. He was a major figure in the beginnings of cybernetics
from the middle of the 20th century, and through to its flowering as second-order cybernetics
. His ideas can be magical and one of his papers is still a favorite
and voted the favorite of students in cybernetics + design courses
year upon year. His wife, Mai, also magical in her clarity as well as succinctness (a trait not shared by Heinz), once said to me, “Heinz has a mind like a crystal.” He demonstrates this so well in his “Ethical Imperative”, a cybernetic koan worthy of contemplation and action: Read more…
Say you want to eat somewhere and you ask for my recommendation. I say, “Sure, I’ve got the best place for you: Luigi’s Pizza, on the corner of First & Commerce.”
You say, “Great, thanks—but why do you recommend Luigi’s?” What if I replied… Read more…
The NY Times has published a smart and useful article on the anatomy of the failure of a startup. Any product manager, or anyone working in a startup, can learn from the detailed sequence of steps that it took to kill Vine (that link will not work once they take the site down for good).
Vine is/was a well-executed app that was early in the game with video sharing, had clever ideas that suited the market, had good backing, had been acquired by a powerful player—and yet it died an unfair death, at least in startup terms. There were many moments of #fail that occurred, not in product design but in lots of other ways, except bad timing. Think of them as checklist for what to watch out for. The article offers a real example of how tenuous a startup can be, and how a cascade of errors can kill even a healthy tech company.
Norbert Wiener is the centerpoint of a new project to raise awareness about the history of cybernetics.
There are quite a few videos, including a 16-minute trailer about the proposed full-length documentary (full disclosure: I’m advisor to the project and appear on-screen). The site also offers a wonderful talk by Andy Pickering, proposing a new synthesis and New Macy Meetings. (Andy started using the term “antidisciplinarity” in reference to cybernetics, which brought cybernetics to the attention of Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, as described in his piece in the Design + Science Journal.)
The relationship between a piece of code and the result of that code is nearly always a distant one. “Code” means a long string of text, written in an arcane logic. It takes months or more likely years to acquire coding skills. But the result of that code — a calculation, a screen display, user controls on an interface — must be approachable, transparent, and require only seconds or minutes to understand.