“This studio revolves around the exploration of (tangible and actuated) interactive products and systems by means of physical sketching and prototyping. It is a hands-on studio where cardboard modeling techniques are combined with Arduino controlled sensors and actuators (the advanced cardboard modeling platform) to explore the notion of ‘the aesthetics of the third way’. The ‘aesthetics of the third way’ recognizes different approaches to ‘dematerialization’ (the process of the physical becoming digital, e.g., LPs and CDs become digital files and loose the physical media) and tries to balance the qualities of both the physical and the digital in a new manner.”

This studio session was conducted by Joep (J.W.), Frens, Assistant Professor at Technische Universiteit, at the 8th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction.

Joep is actively researching the ‘dematerializing’ of normal objects and how digital interfaces and electronics can be combined in order to create products or experiences that aesthetically seem like one piece – to use the “power of programming” and analog materials to create artifacts that show no signs of separation. This end process-goal-technique is what Joep refers to this as the ‘third way’. This is not to be confused with ‘third wave’ of Human-Computer Interaction/Design.

Examples of cardboard modeling:


For more information on cardboard modeling, you can go here:

After a few presentations, I found myself thinking about Google’s Nexus 5 phone. Though the studio session focused on ordinary products and scenarios  (the design challenge was to create a new experience to remind people to take their medicine) I couldn’t help but think how I love the the Nexus’s hardware but hate the experience of the Android.

The two do not seem like one piece. The Nexus feels great in the hand, smooth, sexy, simple, but Android and its customization for me is confusing, not polished, and doesn’t feel integrated ‘with’ the phone.

This integration ‘with’ approach, a perspective on aesthetics, is one reason I find products like the iPhone to be so successful. A majority of the software, though I find some things of iOS 7 to be problematic, feels apart of the phone – the physical and digital at times are one.

Though Joep was discussing a method called ‘third way’ (which I thought he was referring to the third wave at first – we had a discussion about that and he is going to change the title), the third wave in HCI – especially ubiquitous computing, does have a shared goal in creating computing that is intergraded, everywhere, but not obtrusive, and sometimes not obvious.