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Achieving positive experiences in human-food interaction design


Human-food interaction

  • “Experience is a stream of feelings, thoughts and action; a continuous commentary on our current state of affairs.” [Hassenzahl]
  • “Experience” isn’t something that is experienced only during special moments like seeing a special exhibit at the museum, attending a party, going to an amusement park for a day, etc. [Nardi]
  • It is something that is a part of one’s normal life.
  • Something else is that is a part of our daily experiences is technology.
  • As McCarthy and Wright say, “We don’t just use or admire technology; we live with it… technology is deeply embedded in our ordinary everyday experience.” [McCarthy]

o   We use computers and cellphones everyday. Even if one scorns those technologies, we are surrounded by many ubiquitous technologies such as lights, cars, even the zipper on your clothes. Most likely, there is some sort of technology in your life that you are interacting with.

  •  “…our interactions with technology can involve emotions, values, ideals, intentions, and strong feelings.” [McCarthy]

o   This results in some sort of experience.

  • Something else that is important in our everyday lives is food.
  • Food isn’t just for nutrition to keep us alive. It also a huge social factor.
  • As Comber said, “Food is, and always will be, something that connects people together and which has the potential to inspire and engage us in new and exciting experiences.” [Rob Comber]
  • “Food-related behaviors respond to a complex of situational factors and choices that people make in these steps are neither always consistent (microwave dinner on one day, elaborate meal at the weekend), nor easy to understand.” [Comber et al]
  •  “Various physical, social, cognitive and physiological factors have to be considered when designing for what we grow, eat and throw away. These factors are influenced by our own values, social norms, culture and socio- demographic backgrounds.” [Comber et al]
  • “Given the importance of food in our daily lives [along with technology], it seems equally important to understand what role technology currently plays with regard to food and indeed what roles it can be imagined to play in the future.” [Grimes et al]
  • This is the space of human-food interaction. This is a design challenge for interaction designers and the HCI community.
  • In this space, food and technology is brought together to create an experience.
  • Currently there is a focus on corrective technologies [Grimes et al], which are designed to correct some sort of problem.
  • There should also be a focus on the more neglected path of celebratory technologies [Grimes et al], which focuses on creating positive experiences with their interactions with food and technology.
  • This paper will quickly introduce the space of corrective technologies and celebratory technologies.
  • It will follow by the exploration of two projects with the goal of achieving the creation of a celebratory technology: Food Media/CoDine and The Telematic Dinner Party. It is a look at their designs and their process to see whether or not a successful celebratory technology was created.
  • Finally, the paper will give a prescription of one way to achieve positive experience within the human-food interaction space.


  • Many HCI researchers in the field are focused on fixing problems.
  • They “sought to examine how technology might alter human-food interaction… uncertainty would be turned into certainty, inexperience into aptitude.” [Grimes et al]
  • This is what Grimes et al calls, “corrective technologies insofar as they attempt to fix undesirable behaviors.” [Grimes et al]
  • “That work which has been done has focused primarily on the problems that people have planning meals and preparing and consuming food.” [Grimes et al]

o   Examples:

o   “Kalas supports decision making by allowing users to leverage information such as others’ recipe choices, comments and ratings as they decide which recipe to choose.” [Grimes et al]

o   “Cook’s Collage captures a visual record of cooking activity and thus if the cook is interrupted he or she can view this record and be reminded of what step in the cooking process they have reached.” [Grimes et al]

o   “…U-kitchen system, smart devices communicate with each other and share the context via a kitchen server, including RFID tags in appliances so the system can identify appliances being used, and ubiquitous services which help the user with the grocery management, cooking and give healthy dining advice.” (CoDine)

o   “The Ambient Kitchen integrates data projectors, cameras, RFID tags and readers, object mounted accelerometers, and under-floor pressure sensing, to construct a supportive environment for food planning, preparation and cooking.” (CoDine)

o   “Playful Tray is embedded with an interactive game play over a weight-sensitive tray surface, to recognize and track the natural eating actions of children in real time, thus the children’s eating actions are used as game inputs for reducing their poor eating behaviours.” (Food Media)

  • Has element of playfulness but it is still there to correct behavior
  • But food isn’t just about the corrective experience.
  • “Socially, food is something that brings people together – individuals interact through and around it.” – Andrea Grimes
  • …points to the possibility and necessity to see technology and design interventions in this space as more than simply corrective.”  – Rob Comber
  • “…HCI community can begin to imagine another, much neglected path of research: one in which individuals’ current experiences with food are seen not as undesirable, but as positive, productive, even delightful. “ [Grimes et al]
  • “We certainly agree that individuals do encounter problems in their interactions with food, but…they enjoy their food, relish the practice of making it, and above all celebrate the sharing of it.” – Andrea Grimes et al
  • Human-food interaction should design for this positive experience.
  • Grimes et al calls this, “celebratory technology; technology that celebrates the positive and successful aspects of human behavior.” – Andrea Grimes et al
  • “By drawing from social science research on how people live with, consume, and conceive of food, we come to suggest six positive aspects of human-food interaction that can be designed for… creativity, pleasure and nostalgia, gifting, family connectedness, trend-seeking behaviors, and relaxation.”  – Andrea Grimes et al
  • I’ll explain each section
  • This is a framework that can be used to look at design, help design for positive experience
  • Many designers in this space are beginning to emphasize this positive experience in their design.
    • Examples:
    • “NetPot takes on the challenge of creating a communal cooking experience for remotely located participants. This project recognizes that the sensory experience is impoverished in mediated group experiences. The traditional communal nature of cooking around a Chinese hotpot is incorporated with gaming.” (Barden)
    • “The Netpot brought the focus of the participants on the pot for cooking.” (Barden)
    • LiveForm: Telekinetic projects (Barden)
    • “They performed a telematic dinner party between Amsterdam, Netherlands and Toronto, Canada.” (Barden)
    • “The dinner was comprised of interactive devices: networked wine glasses, saltshakers, and tabletop video projections.” (Barden)
    • “While this performance was situated around food, it was more of a celebration of the technological feats than an attempt at supporting the guests in sharing a dining experience.” (Barden)
    • “‘Mamagoto’ is an interactive and context-aware dining system which encourages small children to “play” with food, using their curiosity towards food to expand their sensory experience while eating.” (Food Media)

Projects that want to design for experience (Critiques if they succeeded or not, why)

  • Now I will present two projects with goals of designing “celebratory technology”.

o   Food Media/CoDine

o   Telematic Dinner

  • Both want to achieve playfulness, connectedness, and an experience with their amazing show of technology but with varying degrees of success.

o   Project’s goal, how match 6 positive aspects of HFI

o   Project’s process

o   Did they achieve goal?

o   If not why? [mostly because of process, they didn’t allow for the design of experience before the technology was made]

Food Media/CoDine is concepted as a celebratory tech but fails at it through the process of its creation (celebratory framework eval throughout, look at process to see why did or did not achieve)

  • What is this
  • Goal: how much of 6 positive aspects they want to achieve
  • Process
  • “Food Media” is “an intuitive multimodal interaction platform to engage remote people into social communication and entertainment within the telepresent family dinner context.” – Jun Wei et al
  • “…CoDine system, a dining table embedded with interactive subsystems that augment and transport the experience of communal family dining to create a sense of coexistence among remote family members.” – Jun Wei et al
  • “CoDine connects people in different locations through shared dining activities: gesture-based screen interaction, mutual food serving, ambient pictures on an animated tablecloth, and the transportation of edible messages.” – Jun Wei et al
  • “Rather than focusing on functionality or efficiency, CoDine aims to provide people with an engaging interactive dining experience through enriched multi-sensory communication.” – Jun Wei et al
  • They are two different papers about the same design
  • They want to create an experience with their prototype but their process was not best way to design for experience
  • Reasons why: prototype, test prototype, assume target audience will feel the way they want them to feel, next step is user study to make sure they feel the way they feel (lots of quotes and annoyed critiques about this)
  • “Compared to interacting in a virtual environment, we believe these physical movements of plates or cups physically on dining table convey more delicate human emotions and stronger feeling of warmth, which contributes to the enhanced sense of co-presence when user take the served dish from their remote dining partner, even though they do not share the same physical dining table.” – Jun Wei et al [My comments: They did not test this on their audience to see if they really do think this, it is them speculating.]
  • [prototype first than see if your users will feel the way you want them to feel, they built elaborate hi-fi prototype, how much are you willing to change if people don’t feel the way you want to? Does not acknowledge others.] “While we have conducted prototype tests during the implementation to verify the CoDine modules function, our next step is a user study to assess whether CoDine enhances engagement between fellow co-diners.” – Jun Wei et al
  • [the design is not everyday habit, design not shown how people react to it in home] “Our research explores how interaction with familiar but intelligent everyday environment and artefacts can be used to enhance meaningful interactions in dining situation, going beyond ambient sensing and computing, to the level of subconscious connection between human beings.” – Jun Wei et al
  • [more features = people feel more connected, that is what this says to me] “In the future, more interaction channels can be included to increase the feelings of connectedness, awareness and playfulness, to enhance the shared social entertainment experience beyond verbal or video communication.” – Jun Wei et al
  • Why didn’t actually achieve “celebratory design”

Telematic Dinner Party is a celebratory tech but still lacked some experience they wanted to achieve (celebratory framework eval throughout, look at process to see why did or did not achieve)

  • What is this
  • Goal: how much of 6 positive aspects they want to achieve
  • Process
  • Both of these designs are critique through the lens of design experience
  • Both, the technology should be mediators to bring diners and family members closer to each other
  • “Here we consider, among the others, the creativity, togetherness, pleasure and playfulness, associated with food and mealtime.” – Pollie Barden et al
  • “The Telematic Dinner Party (TDP) aims to support remote guests in experiencing a sense of togetherness, and playfulness and sharing in a dinner party.” – Pollie Barden et al
  • Their process better than above
  • They tested with their audience
  • They held activities with audience to see if they get the goal experience
  • They were iterative: traditional dinner party, pilot study, hi-fi prototype
  • Still found issues with experience and how people felt with prototype that they have to address
  • They built it all but some experience they wanted to achieve didn’t work
  • “Our observations of the TDPs and guest feedback indicate that the social structure is central in creating a sense of social presence between participants, and that this cannot be achieved by the quality of the technology platform alone.” – Pollie Barden et al
  • Why closer on track than previous design, Why still off

To get the experience right, the process needs to focus on the experience and getting that right first before the technology.

  • “Human-food interaction requires much more attention to the people and the ways in which they engage with food than efficiencies and novelties new technologies may provide.”  – Rob Comber

There are many ways of achieving this but I would like to propose the usage of achieving positive experience through low-fidelity prototypes first before creating high-fidelity prototypes.

o   Sketches, low-fidelity paper prototypes are low cost

o   If it fails, it is easy to change something quickly and test again

o   Sometimes if the features look too complete or work too much like a final product, further ideation and changes to the design will be less likely to happen

o   It doesn’t have to be used only for testing usability, this can also test what kinds of experience your user will have

o   Since the focus should not be emphasized on the technology, it is the concept that makes the experience and that is what we should test

o   The low-fidelity prototype can be used to simulate, make sure people are having the positive

Example of a process that used low-fidelity prototype to achieve positive experience: Food Journey (Capstone): a way to design for experience first

  • Want to “support relationship-building activities and extend them to distant dining situations… support [couple] bonding, communication, and social togetherness.” (CoDine, 23) Minus the remote participants
    • See how people act together collocated first before remote
  • What: design for the experience
    • Focus on the positive experience instead of technology
  • Tech mediator

o   aim for overall positive experience

o   make sure it is there before higher fidelity

o   couples are unique and will interact and respond different

  • Why: technology is just the mediator [unremarkable computing (Grimes)]
  • Concept

o   people grow up with different preferences and tastes

o   relationship together

  • bring their backgrounds together
  • possible to explore their preferences together
  • try new things
  • fun experience together

o   Food Journey helps initiate this experience to bring two people closer together [celebratory technology]

  • 6 postive aspects
  • don’t know where journey take them
  • aim, prompt conversation, expand horizons, develop positive food practice
  • Five parts: exploration, Adventure: The Hunt, Adventure: Create, Adventure: Eat, Keeper
  • How: low fidelity prototype, paper prototype with post its

o   simulate the journey

o   so far with three young couples (various status, various pickiness and control)

  • young couple already use smart devices like smartphone on regular basis

o   Allow focus on how couple interact with each other and engage with activities, how felt throughout the experience

o   Less focus on technology breakdown

o   Next step would be higher fidelity prototype to look at UI

Hey everyone, I’m in the process of working through the draft of my argument for my paper, and would love to get some feedback. This is all very rough, so feel free to ask for clarification on anything that doesn’t make sense. As a point of reference, I plan to take the ultimate findings from the process of writing this paper (namely the schema and/or persuasive patterns I uncover from my research) to inform the latter half of my capstone project on Dark Patterns.


Transactional trust towards a charity is earned over time, not inherently given, and is a byproduct of interactions that occur within the context of a user’s donation experience. (THE WHAT)

  • Trust is built through the fulfillment of promises. This includes the promises you’ve actually made to someone explicitly (e.g., contracts and commitments) as well promises that that are assumed or implicit (e.g., “this website isn’t selling my data”). (van Gorp and Adams, p107)
  • Principle of Earned Credibility: Credibility can be strengthened over time if computing technology performs consistently in accordance with the user’s expectations. (Fogg, p137)
  • The building and maintenance of transactional trust should be considered a pivotal stepping stone to increased donation compliance within an online donating framework. Instead of considering trust and donation compliance as mutually exclusive concepts, commercially driven issues of donation generation should be considered alongside the psychological concept of transactional trust. (Burt, C.D. and Gibbons, S. p192)

The trailing of charity websites to adopt modern e-commerce practices, coupled with the rapid rise of moral commodification of charitable giving has resulted in a unique set of problems of persuasion with respect to interface design. (THE WHY)

  • [G]iving to charity has been characterised as ‘the monetary purchase of moral satisfaction’ undertaken for the egoistic reason of wanting to feel better…The gift conveys a symbolic statement about the person that fits in with his or her self-identify. (Bennett, p120)
  • Overall the findings indicated that there was a lack of strategic intent to harness the potential of online social networks and evidence that charities are not mirroring the adoption of digital media that has occurred in the external environment in which they operate (Slater et al., 2010). There exists a lack of consumer orientation because charities have not embraced digital communications to the same extent as either their target audiences or for-profit based businesses. (Quinton and Fennemore, pp 44-45)
  • In the USA, internet donations for tsunami relief in 2004 accounted for more than a third of the total amount raised. Half of all the donations received following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were given online (NFG, 2006). It follows from the above that charity managers have become increasingly interested in the website designs and online fundraising tactics that are most likely to maximise the frequencies and levels of online donations. (Bennett, p117)
  • …[I]t is recognized by some (but perhaps not all) that charities are not businesses and therefore reading across and imposing private sector governance frameworks to the charity sector may not be appropriate, and indeed may be counter-productive. (Hyndman and Jones, p153)
  • A needs-based change, animated through a problem-solving approach, assumes that the right outcome is known from the start…Desire is the destabilizing trigger for transformational change, which facilitates the emergence of new possibilities and realizations of human “being.” (Nelson and Stolterman, p110)

A semiotic analysis of the design patterns used in charity websites will yield greater insight into their functions of address, and how the emotive modalities of a website (i.e. its interactivity) can establish a relationship between the donor and the charity. (THE HOW)

  • The ability to use various modalities enables technology to match people’s preferences for visual, audio, or textual experiences. Technology can also create a synergistic effect by combining modes, such as audio, video, and data, during an interaction to produce the optimum persuasive impact. (Fogg, p9)
  • Wider information, particularly relating to performance, is probably paramount in discharging accountability to donors; and this will require the telling of ‘the story’ of the charity (often from the perspective of beneficiaries—if it is possible to operationlize such a perspective. (Hyndman and Jones, p152)
  • Principle of Surface Credibility: People make initial assessments of the credibility of computing technology based on firsthand inspection of surface traits like layout and density of ads. (Fogg, p135)
  • As Forlizzi and Battarbee (2004, p. 264) put it, “emotions affect how we plan to interact with products, how we actually interact with products, and the perceptions and outcomes that surround those interactions.” (van Gorp and Adams, p39)

A framework is needed to better understand the user cognitive patterns that emerge in context, resulting in effective emotive persuasion. (THE CONTRIBUTION) 

  • Principle of “Real-World Feel”: A Web site will have more credibility if it highlights the people or organization behind the content and services it provides. (Fogg, p156)
  • [There are] four developmental stages of organisational websites: contact, interact, transact and relate. At the ‘contact’ level, websites are largely about promoting an image and providing general levels information; at the ‘interact’ level, there is evidence of of targeting specific audiences; at the ‘transactional’ engagement level, websites facilitate online purchasing; and at the ‘relational’ level, sites develop two‐way consumer relationships. (Burt and Gibbons, p192)
  • [There are] strong positive correlations between rated transactional trust and donation compliance ratings…consistent with the idea that building transactional trust in an aid agency is likely to lead to more productive fundraising outcomes (Burt and Gibbons, p191)


I’ll post more about my influential sources and such later…but this is where I’m at right now.



I’ve really struggled with choosing something to write about for the final paper. I tried a collection/survey approach with my prewriting as practice for the type of paper I thought I wanted to write later in the semester. The prewriting was a total botch job, and I’ve been in a holding pattern since then. Thankfully, Jeff’s diagram in class today helped me put the pieces together of something else that’s been floating around my mind for a while. This paper might be a chance to dig into it further.

I’d like to make the claim that digital learning applications, services, and technologies represent the means to begin thinking about new ways to approach education at all levels. I cite Khan Academy, Duolingo, Wikipedia, & Glerb as examples. These are also the interactions/designs I’m interested in exploring in my paper – specifically, their educational components (more obvious in Khan, Duolingo, & Glerb than Wikipedia, perhaps).

Based on my survey of these designs, I’d use the paper to propose one possible “new way” to think about education. While I’m sure my thinking will evolve once I’ve done a more careful analysis of the designs, my existing knowledge of this space suggests that I may be able to reference the same Monroe Beardsley quote Jeff shared in Foundations, and that served as early inspiration in my Capstone problem framing:

“We must be careful not to lose sight of our main purpose, which is not primarily to increase our knowledge of the arts, but to improve our thinking about them.”

I think digital learning tools may give us the means to restructure the role brick and mortar schools and universities play in education. How can we use the very different but equally valuable strengths of modern technology and physical classrooms in concert to improve education?

Some readings I’d leverage off the top of my head: Bardzell IC paper, the recent Barnard reading, perhaps ‘Cinema as Skin & Touch’, probably Carroll, and probably the Design Way.

I’m having trouble focusing my thinking, but I also only put all this together myself a few hours ago. What do you think? How can I scope down the discourse I’ll need to work through? What frameworks of analysis might you recommend to help understand the value, educational or otherwise, of a design within the scope I’ve defined here? Is this a bad idea for a paper?

I was reading Erik’s blog and saw his review of Nigel Cross’ “Design Thinking”. Erik’s critique would have fit right into our class discussion, he is quite impartial.

What I found most interesting was Nigel Cross’ rebuttal! He talks about what the publishers wanted and what he thought of Erik’s post.


Check it out:

Not entirely sure what the question I have here is, I’ve re-written this a few times,and it’s not entirely concrete yet.

But based on something Jeff mentioned offhand – “Our field has struggled with adopting phenomenology for sometime”, I want to question either who’s doing it right, or rather what the best way to do it is?

We instinctively categorize in order to make sense of… well anything. The very phenomenological readings we’ve had have still introduced metaphors or models as a way of making sense of our felt lives. In many ways these separations are important for the author to even make their point at all. Dewey’s idea of experience is, while phenomenological, still dualist! It’s Feeling of Experience vs. “That other non-experience stuff that’s not as interesting”.

And this gets at the issue of language reinforcing this dualist way of thinking – but if you have to, say, write an academic paper, how do you construct a good phenomenological argument without a) breaking things down into disparate categories, or b) basically saying “Well, everything is holistically important, guys.”

In some ways choosing a focus or topic at all seems… against the belief. and yet building it up like this is a straw-man. Help me, I’m going in circles!

For the final paper, I am thinking of doing an introduction and sort of a “reason why” for the concept I would like to showcase for my capstone. This concept is called the Food Journey and the idea behind it is that people have different backgrounds and preferences. In the case for my capstone, the focus is on food, people can have different tastes in food. When they are in a relationship, exploring their tastes and doing activities related to food creation and eating can help expand horizons, prompt conversation, and allow the two to grow closer. That is what my concept sets out to do. I have the concept down and am currently doing a proof of concept to see how couples react and interact with each other and the app and what kinds of experience do they get out of it.

Anyways, why am I doing this? That is kind of why I would like to right my paper on. I have a pre pre very basic outline that is helping me organize my thoughts a bit:

  • Intro: Human-Food Interaction, what is it, needs more experience design (basically from new papers I found for my capstone)
  • Experience design is part of the third wave of HCI
  • Third Wave of HCI, what parts of it is important for interaction design and people
  • Food Journey app, description, how it fits into above

That is what I have now. I am currently looking through the old papers to find things that fit. Let me know if something needs more explanation.

JEFF: Is this direction OK? Are there any other suggestions of directions I can take or things I can add before I get too into this route?

“We not experience any movie only through our eyes. We see and and feel films with our entire bodily being, informed by the full history and carnal knowledge of our accultured sensorium.”‘; Even if the body is often forgotten or not consciously experienced by spectators while watching a film, it nevertheless represents the irreducible condition of the possibility of sensory and aesthetic experience.” p 116 (Cinema as skin and touch)

The quote above really resonated with me as it relates to my capstone. Through my pre-writing I became aware of this idea of the “Sensorium”, and a book called Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art, where the main argument is that embodied experience through the senses (and their necessary and unnecessary mediations is how we think” (p5)

In particular these 2 quotes:

“The making of subjects through psychological discourses and pharmacology, I argue, is part of what Foucault so provocatively termed “technologies of the self.” Our bodies do not allow us to “escape” from technological mediation – they are themselves mediating apparatuses, without which there can be no knowledge of the world.” (p 2) Our current yearnings for materiality, for thingness, for the concrete stuff of the physical world are here located in the body’s desiring negotiations with the virtual and the mediated – ever more intimately naturalized as the sensory technological envelope in which we live.” (p 4)


“In conjunction with the visuality historians have charted as characteristic of the modern, we should begin to reckon the auditory, the olfactory, and the tactile as similarly crucial sites of embodied knowledge. The resulting set of experiences can be called a sensorium: the subject’s way of coordinating all the body’s perceptual and proprioceptive signals as well as the changing sensory envelope of the self.” (p 8)

(Arning, B., Farver, J., Hasegawa, Y., Jacobson, M., Jones, C. “Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art”. (2006), MITPress)

I think this is extremely relevant to our roles as designers, in particular when it comes to creating digital experiences. I feel we have been neglecting the rest of our bodies when it comes to designing digital experiences. We are designing for people that move around in the world, who think, feel, see, hear, and smell, not just see. So how can we leverage the ideas exposed in this cinema as skin and touch article? Even if the interactions we craft are not tangible in some way?

Alternatively, with the hype that is surrounding the Internet of Things, and ubiquitous computing, there is definitely room for embodied interactions.

What is more interesting to me is this idea of thinking through our senses, and how we make sense of the world, or an experience, and how we can index the “carnal knowledge”, and through that, communicate with others… How much richer could our interactions be if we leveraged other senses? Where is the balance between overwhelming the senses and crafting an out of the ordinary sensorial experience?

I think this also yields itself very well to third wave approaches (not just first wave approaches of information processing from different senses), but in the sense that by designing contingent designs, for contingent individuals, we cannot ignore the physical world. So how does contextual experiences vary from individual to individual?  Can we facilitate physical states through our experience and interaction design?

What do y’all think?

During Tuesday’s class Jeff talked about how HCI messes up the notion of the User. We didn’t really go into it all that much, but it really piqued my interest. I think Jeff was bringing up the User as being defined as Addressee or Receiver, and the effect of understanding the User in each office.

The Thwaite reading defines Addressee and Receiver as the following:

“Sender and receiver are actual people. Addresser and addressee, on the other hand, are purely constructions of signs. They are like fictional characters in that they have no existence other than in signs, and they may bear very little resemblance to the actual sender and receiver.” (p.17)

To me, what Jeff was talking about, although briefly, is this struggle between constructing fictional characters (The User) and responding to the actual people who use the design in the real world. The idea that these fictional characters as users can be highly different or “bear little resemblance” to the actual users (receivers) of the design is problematic on a fundamental level. In current HCI discourse and practice, it seems more likely to encounter design for User as Addressee than it is User as Receiver.

What is problematic about this, to me, is that activity of constructing the fictional character that represents the User. This sounds an awfully lot like a persona, something against which I have been preaching since day one in IDP. Constructing an idea of a person is no simple task. I will go as far as to say that anyone trying to accurately portray a person through a fiction or persona will get things wrong, leave things out, and do this by bending to normative notions and stereotypes. This creates false ideas of who people are and who people ought to be. More, we become further and further removed from the real person with everything we design in this way.

This post will largely be about the role of intention in Design, whether on the part of the author, critic, or audience.  More, the notion of intention is necessarily relied to the meaning making that occurs when participating in design in any of the three roles (designer, critic, audience). Because design’s project is about proposing a new world, a world found to be new by the rethinking of moral systems, emotional responses to stimuli and greater emotional capacities, or the Beautiful, no one person or group of people can provide an argument that hinges upon truth value. Rather, design aims for the plausible, the new, the better, or the unexamined. If design’s project was similar to finding the hardest rock in a box full of rocks, agency and truth value would not be contentious. It is because design wrestles with the fundamental questions of what it is to be a person in this world, that design cannot obey truth value. In this way, design escapes (as Jeff said) the attraction of demonstrating some objective truth, but rather supplies a plausible interpretation of what it is to be human or how life can be lived.

“Design, too, is far more about changing the world than representing it, though certainly it makes heavy use of knowledge representations (e.g., market data, user studies, and social science) to do so.” (p.619)

If Design is said to be about future-making, in the quote as “changing the world”, then design’s main project begs an important question: what, if anything, can we really know about the future? That is, what can we say we know, here engaging Knowledge in a philosophical tradition, about the future. The conditions under which we subscribe something to knowledge don’t exist for future-thinking. At best, all we have for the future are predictions or fantasies we create. This idea is encapsulated by David Hume:

“That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition and implies no more contradiction than the affirmation that it will rise.” – David Hume

Because future-building is the project of design, there is a certain sense of arrogance in the intentions of a critic or designer, if these intentions are characterized by only their truth value.

“Criticism, as I argued earlier, is committed to raising our perceptual ability, our ability to notice and make sense of the relationships between the formal and material particulars of cultural artifacts and their broader socio-cultural significance. ” (p.619)

Here the notion of audience agency is central. All of us, together, have an operator’s role in the meaning making of our future worlds. I forget which author said this but its the idea that we all create mini-Utopias rather than obey some authoritative notion of a utopian world. But this only works if we restrict Criticism to the role of finding value in relation to future-building. In this way, Criticism can improve our perceptual abilities — here making it a possibility for audiences to supply their own perspective on topics of moral systems, the Beautiful, emotional capacities, and other parts of life that have successfully evaded truthful definition for millennia. When it comes down to it, making a normative claim about any of these things limits the agency of audience (users for HCI).

Now, there are limitations to this. I am not saying intentions are valueless. Indeed artistic or designerly intention is vital to understanding a horror film as something enjoyable rather than a seriously disturbed perspective on the way life should be.

Many ideas came to my mind today at class… Here there are two of them.

* I think that art might be a form of control… how can the artist create art that really leverages society? It you’re educated on criticism and to do critique, you may get critical about your role as a designer and about your work… Therefore, you won’t be able to ignore the degree of “commodified dreams” that your work might represent, your work environment might represent, and your work context (micro-world/business world) might represent.


* When students start learning about design, they go easily à la “Dieter Rams” way. I believe that as “older” as you get, and as better “knower” as you get (regarding Design), you may observe that design is a) richer and b) there’s no right or wrong design.