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30 APRIL 2012

Pictures Under Glass: sacrificing tactile richness

"As it happens, designing Future Interfaces For The Future used to be my line of work. I had the opportunity to design with real working prototypes, not green screens and After Effects, so there certainly are some interactions in the video which I'm a little skeptical of, given that I've actually tried them and the animators presumably haven't. But that's not my problem with the video.

My problem is the opposite, really – this vision, from an interaction perspective, is not visionary. It's a timid increment from the status quo, and the status quo, from an interaction perspective, is actually rather terrible. ...

I'm going to talk about that neglected third factor, human capabilities. What people can do. Because if a tool isn't designed to be used by a person, it can't be a very good tool, right? ...

Do you see what everyone is interacting with? The central component of this Interactive Future? It's there in every photo! That's right! – HANDS. And that's great! I think hands are fantastic! Hands do two things. They are two utterly amazing things, and you rely on them every moment of the day, and most Future Interaction Concepts completely ignore both of them. Hands feel things, and hands manipulate things.

Go ahead and pick up a book. Open it up to some page. Notice how you know where you are in the book by the distribution of weight in each hand, and the thickness of the page stacks between your fingers. Turn a page, and notice how you would know if you grabbed two pages together, by how they would slip apart when you rub them against each other.

Go ahead and pick up a glass of water. Take a sip. Notice how you know how much water is left, by how the weight shifts in response to you tipping it.

Almost every object in the world offers this sort of feedback. It's so taken for granted that we're usually not even aware of it. Take a moment to pick up the objects around you. Use them as you normally would, and sense their tactile response – their texture, pliability, temperature; their distribution of weight; their edges, curves, and ridges; how they respond in your hand as you use them.

There's a reason that our fingertips have some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body. This is how we experience the world close–up. This is how our tools talk to us. The sense of touch is essential to everything that humans have called 'work' for millions of years.

Now, take out your favorite Magical And Revolutionary Technology Device. Use it for a bit. What did you feel? Did it feel glassy? Did it have no connection whatsoever with the task you were performing?

I call this technology Pictures Under Glass. Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade."

(Bret Victor, 8 November 2011)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
22 APRIL 2012

Richard Sennett: The Architecture of Cooperation

"The theme of the lecture addresses a question: how can we design spaces in the city which encourage strangers to cooperate? To explore this question, I'll draw on research in the social sciences about cooperation, based on my book, and relate this research to current issues in urban design."

(Harvard Graduate School of Design, 28 February 2012)

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TAGS

2012Adam Smithagency of access and engagement • architecture of cooperation • autonomybelongingbordersboundariescity • city living • civic engagementclosed systemcooperationcraftwork • declarative forms of expression • declarative mode • designed spaces • deskilling • dialogicdialoguedifferent strata of society • edge condition • edgesempathyencounters between peopleengagementforms of expressionforms of human cooperation • fruitful cooperation • Harvard Graduate School of Design • Harvard Universityhegelian dialectic • kinds of skills • La Marqueta • large cities • lectureMikhail Bakhtin • mode of domination • non-placeopen-endedparticipationpowerproblem findingRichard Sennettsocial constructionismsocial exchangesocial interactionsocial issuessocial relationssocietyspace of ambiguitystranger • subjunctive forms of expression • sympathy • unclosed system • urban centreurban design

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 SEPTEMBER 2010

Wayfinding: the organization and communication of our dynamic relationship to space and the environment

"Wayfinding is the organization and communication of our dynamic relationship to space and the environment. Successful design to promote wayfinding allows people to: (1) determine their location within a setting, (2) determine their destination, and (3) develop a plan that will take them from their location to their destination. The design of wayfinding systems should include: (1) identifying and marking spaces, (2) grouping spaces, and (3) linking and organizing spaces through both architectural and graphic means."

(Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York)

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TAGS

architectural communication • boundarycirculationcognitive mapconceptual mapconceptual model • cues • design • destination • destination identificationdirectional information • districts • edgesenvironmentgraphic communicationgraphic deviceslegibilitylinkinglocalitylocationmarkersmental imagenavigationnavigational methodsnodeorganisation and communicationorganising spacesorientationpathperceptionrepetitionrhythmsignagespace • tactile marking systems • wayfindingwayfinding systemsyou are herezone

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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