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Which clippings match 'Physigrams' keyword pg.1 of 1
23 OCTOBER 2014

Describing social and material interactions through formal methods

"To some extent, Formal Methods sit uneasily within interaction design. Human beings are rich, complex, nuanced, engaged in subtle and skilful social and material interactions; reducing this to any sort of formal description seems at best simplistic. And yet that is precisely what we have to do once we create any sort of digital system: whether an iPhone or an elevator, Angry Birds or Facebook, software is embedded in our lives. However much we design devices and products to meet users' needs or enrich their experiences of life, still the software inside is driven by the soulless, precise, and largely deterministic logic of code. If you work with computers, you necessarily work with formalism.

Formal Methods sit in this difficult nexus between logic and life, precision and passion, both highlighting the contradictions inherent in interaction design and offering tools and techniques to help understand and resolve them.

In fact, anyone engaged in interaction design is likely to have used some kind of formal representation, most commonly some sort of arrow and sketch diagram showing screens/pages in an application and the movements between them. While there are many more complex formal notations and methods, these simple networks of screens and links demonstrate the essence of a formal representation. Always, some things are reduced or ignored (the precise contents of screens), whilst others are captured more faithfully (the pattern of links between them). This enables us to focus on certain aspects and understand or analyse those aspects using the representation itself (for example notice that there are some very long interaction paths to quite critical screens)."

(Alan J. Dix, 2013)

Dix, Alan J. (2013): Formal Methods. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). "The Encyclopedia of Human–Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.". Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Available online at https://www.interaction–


abstract system models • Alan Dix • arrow and sketch diagram • context awareness • context-aware interfaces • design methods • design products • deterministic logic • dialogue models • digital devices • digital interactions • digital system • executable models • formal abstraction • formal analysis • formal description • formal design methods • formal methods • formal notation • formal representations • formalised principleshuman-computer interactioninteraction designInteraction Design Foundation • material interactions • notation • physical context • physical interactionphysigrams • product design process • product development methodologyrepresentationrich descriptionsrich user experienceshaping our relationship to the material worldsocial interactionssoftware modellingspace syntax • specification language • state machines • state transition network • structured approach • system behaviour • tangible interfacestechnology affordancesusability testinguser experienceuser-based evaluationworld around us • world representations


Simon Perkins
08 APRIL 2011

Physigrams: Modelling Devices for Natural Interaction

"This paper explores the formal specification of the physical behaviour of devices 'unplugged' from their digital effects. By doing this we seek to better understand the nature of physical interaction and the way this can be exploited to improve the design of hybrid devices with both physical and digital features. We use modified state transition networks of the physical behaviour, which we call physiograms, and link these to parallel diagrams of the digital state. These are used to describe a number of features of physical interaction exposed by previous work and relevant properties expressed using a formal semantics of the diagrams. As well as being an analytic tool, the physigrams have been used in a case study where product designers used and adapted them as part of the design process."

(Alan Dix, Masitah Ghazali, Steve Gill, Joanna Hare and Devina Ramduny-Ellis, 2009)

Alan Dix, Masitah Ghazali, Steve Gill, Joanna Hare and Devina Ramduny-Ellis (2009). "Physigrams: Modelling Devices for Natural Interaction", Formal Aspects of Computing Volume 21, Number 6 / December, 2009.



2009 • affordance • Alan Dix • analytic tool • design of hybrid devices • Devina Ramduny-Ellis • diagrammatic notation • diagrams • digital interaction • digital interactions • formal specification • interaction design • interaction modelling • Joanna Hare • Masitah Ghazali • modelling and prototyping • natural interaction • novel tangible interactions • ordinary objects • physical and digital features • physical behaviour • physical devices • physical interactionphysical objectsphysicalityphysigramsproductproduct design • state transition networks • Steve Gill • tangible interaction • technology affordancesubiquitous computing


Simon Perkins

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