Contemporary theories in HCI [M5]

Känd [M5] Contemporary theory pt.1

The step into Contemporary theories is a fascinating one. It requires to build and rely on the previous developments of HCI. It also incorporates and expands on top of previously examined theories and approaches. Taking into account the relationship between technology and experience is one that is more to my liking. The circumstances surrounding design and the environment designed in and for is a more complex one. Contemporary theory accepts more involvement from previous approaches and sciences which in turn makes it harder to comprehend and grasp overall. One has to be fluent in the history and development of HCI to be competent while dealing within the realm of Contemporary theory.

Now to the articles.


To examplify the turn to design, I chose an article “Developing the Drift Table” by Andrew Boucher and William Gaver.

Firstly, a drift table is meant to be a table which portraits areal images as if you were drifting across landscapes.  The article describes designing a table and the evolution from the first scetch to the final design over a period of months.

There were many considerations to be adhered during that time, including experience issues about the imagery to be displayed and ways to interact with it, aesthetic issues around designing domestic electronic furniture and engineering issues concerning how to produce a prototype that would be quiet, safe, and reliable. The issues were deeply intertwined.
Potential aesthetic choices were constrained by technical feasibility, while engineering solutions were constrained by the
need to achieve a desirable aesthetics.

The first change that was made in the project, was to abandon the idea of making a dinner table and make a coffe table instead. The reason being very simple, but an important one in the context – they wanted to move away from the task-oriented environment of dining and closer to the relaxed space around a coffee table in order to promote ludic values through the design.

They also didnt want to make the table overly modern to stand out. It was supposed to be simple and usable. It was built using white laminate and wood veneer in order to provide an inherently domestic look. In order to make the prototype as close to the real thing they also went for a self-contained computer setup, meaning that the computer internals and areal photography are all stored within the table itself.

One of the main lessons learned during the design process, was the engineering and making of a full sized, fully operational prototype that was as close to the real thing as possible. That meant that users and indeed future customers would be able to suspend disbelief and engage fully with the device over long-term.Such attention to detail and finish are perhaps not normally associated with an experiment or prototype, but there are real benefits to be gained by doing so.


To examplify the turn to culture, I chose an article “Hatching Scarf: A Critical Design about Anxiety and Persuasive Computing” by Andrew Boucher and William Gaver.

The idea was to create a tangible object which would measure quantified data about the user but instead of persuading the user to perform certain tasks, which might create unhealthy anxiety, they wanted the object/device to make the user reflect on their person as objects and subjects of knowledge. As a computational object, it contains a range of metaphors, symbols, and concepts to help critically interrogate the relations among technology, social norms, and comforting habits.

The scarf contains many pouches and pockets. The way the scarf works is by opening and closing in response to the motion of the hand within the pockets. Its visual and interactive vocabularies are inspired by the way a mother bird brings food to the nest for her chicks.

The most important aim of the designers was to intimately incorporate an artifact into the bodily practice. THey want the user (or wearer in this case) to percieve the object as an extension of themselves. The design is agnostic about what it means, what is correct, etc. It does not give certain feedback to a user, but rather sends cues or signs to to the user to help re-conceptualize the users actions and perhaps see the actions in a new light.


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