Claims, weak and strong.

Here are two tentative claims regarding interaction—in the context of interaction/interactive design—that lie at the heart of posts to come:

Weak claim: Interaction typically involves action, so there’s something to learn in looking at action itself — what is “an action”; what is the line between action and consequence, if any; do actions come in different kinds; how are they composed; etc. (For an introduction see the entry at plato.stanford.)

Strong claim: It’s possible (and preferable) to describe interaction exclusively in terms of action.

Some goals of investigating these claims are to clarify opportunities for (interaction) design decision making and crafting; find more precise language for criticism and evaluation; make finer distinctions between the aesthetics of different interactions; and make finer distinctions between the aesthetics of interactions and the aesthetics other kinds of artifact encounters.

The context of thoughts and questions to come is largely the undergraduate design classroom. I’ve spent some time trying to help young designers better define and manage design problems surrounding interactivity and hope to continue to for some time in some capacity. I’m also increasingly anxious about the complexities of the world my students will need to design for and hope that stronger foundations can help them better cope.

With respect to these needs, I’m interested in descriptions of action (or interaction) that work at an ‘appropriate level of explanation’. For example, a painter need not understand chemistry to paint (which is not to say that this knowledge would be detrimental). With regards to ‘explanatory levels’ I must also admit a great deal of ignorance though. I am only familiar with it tangentially through arguments surrounding J.J. Gibson’s direct perception, (see Ullman 1980 and Carleton 1986). While the nature of explanation is not a concern here, for designers who need to shift between disparate domains and levels of detail, e.g. from business needs to the constraints of digital technologies, ‘levels of explanation’ may be a topic worth looking at more.

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