The presentations on the body genre assignment are today, and I can hardly wait. I really, really enjoyed this assignment. I can’t wait to see what everyone has done with it.
But I’m interested in why I enjoyed it so much. The process of doing the design involved the cultivation of particularly dark lines of thought, and I find our final design quite disturbing. This seems to suggest this would not be a “fun” assignment, but it was it. Maybe I enjoyed doing it for the same reason I enjoy watching horror films. The very things pointed out in the Carroll reading that make horror movies horrific and yet entertaining, seem to apply to me in the design of horrific experiences. The act of making this design almost seemed like an exercise in probing the boundaries of humanity, and the result a design that makes its user aware of and challenges those boundaries. I suppose the latter was the point of the assignment, but what I am getting at is that there was something else special about the act of doing design in this kind of space.
I really think assignments like this have something to say to the whole of our design education. In this class we have often used the comparison of the interaction designer to the movie director. We are both designers of experiences, but while the director works in a medium with maturely defined conventions, we struggle to figure out how to do the basics. I don’t know anything about film education, so I might talk out of my ass with this next assumption (feel free to correct me): A student learning to be a director wouldn’t focus their education only on making movies that make people feel good, would they? They would learn how to make horror movies, suspenseful movies, dark movies; in addition to learning how to make happy feelgood movies. We, on the other hand, learn how to make pleasant experiences, and that’s pretty much it. I understand that there is an argument that in the real world of being an interaction designer, it is simply not going to happen that a boss will ask us to design a horrific experience. But I can’t help but think, are there applications of this?
We often talk in our classes about HCI being still somewhat in its infancy. As it moves forward I believe that designing for a more diverse array of experiences will become important. I wish I could argue that point, but I don’t really feel prepared to; right now it is simply a belief. What this means to me is that it is important to do assignments like this one. It is important that we learn to design experiences that go beyond simple pleasantness. We should be able to design for sadness, for revulsion, for anger, for fear; we should be able to craft interactive experiences that enrage, and experiences that horrify. I can’t point at it and say there it is, but I believe the practical application exists, and I believe that application will grow in the future.
I know this was probably somewhat of an “off the cuff” assignment, but I can honestly say I think it is one of the better assignments I feel I have been given thus far as part of my masters education. It made me realize that in the brief time I have been here I have already developed somewhat of a “design comfort zone”, and it forced me to think outside of it.