The Fifth Dimension

5th Dimension ?

No not that Fifth Dimension – the Fifth Dimension of the Language of Interaction Design. (if you’re too young to get the joke, please visit their Wikipedia page immediately)

So Gillian Smith states that we’ve mastered the 4 dimensions of previous creative modes:

  • 1D = words
  • 2D = painting
  • 3D = sculpture
  • 4D = film/animation (time)

I’d like to go “up and away” and add a 5th dimension, then apply that dimension also to Interaction Design:

  • 5D = interaction with the world

This is to say that the 5th dimensional languages of film, for example, would deal with how it interacts to the world around it. Affects on groups of people who view it. Its interactions with other media forms. The lines of force which emanate from a film as a result of the other 4 dimensional languages. Clearly this 5th dimension is an important one where a film has a dialectical relationship with the world. As a simple example, if a nationally-released film, through the other 4 dimensions strongly communicates that a) it is a “family flick” and that it is b) fun to watch as a group, then this 5th dimensional language would deal with how the film relates to the family unit.

To apply this to Interaction Design, it is clear that 5th dimensional languages would be equally important. For example, in a simple critique of MySpace Interaction Design:

  • 1D = The copywriting encourages users to favor quantity over quality of friend connections
  • 2D = The visual design has a highly “unfinished” and therefore approachable appearance that may lower the perceived bar of participation
  • 3D = (this is a stretch, but..) The information architecture (and therefore the cognitive model it tends to evoke in the user) of the site privileges a user’s most recent friends
  • 4D = Over multiple login sessions, MySpace gradually draws the user deeper into creation of a friend network
  • 5D = As a result of the first 4 dimensions, members of the MySpace community tend to develop more transitory friendships both online and offline (i don’t necessarily agree with this – just an example of fifth-dimensional language)

Still thinking this through (it’s no dawning of the Age of Aquarius or anything), so critique away, but please be gentle.

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4 Responses to The Fifth Dimension

  1. Tyler Pace says:

    Your 5th dimension may be the enabler of the deeper identity play in games that I mentioned in my previous post.

    Also, if you renamed dimensions as elements, you could have opened yourself up to much better cultural references.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fifth_Element

    Interaction design needs more long buried temples that hold the secrets to mankind!

  2. shahrani says:

    If we were to emphasize sensual experience, we might define more categories based on the classical senses of hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste with unique spectra for each category. But the 4 dimensional model presented focuses on limitations based on traditional physics, and the senses have already been included as existing within the realm of the 4-d physical model (e.g. An auditory and visual response system has been used an example for the 4th dimension of time).

    4 dimensions are suggestive of a 5th dimension. I also searched for a 5th dimension elaborating upon “interaction with the world” before this post. But before that, we might ask ourselves “what is meant by dimension here?”

    These dimensions are meant to categorize languages of creative models in relation to interaction design. I evaluated the similarities with with physical dimensions of the universe to see if a fifth dimension would really be appropriate using the ‘dimensional’ naming convention.

    1-D: Length may be used as an analogy to describe words and poetry. We can define a line in a one dimensional “length” universe which we cannot perceive in our realm of existence. It is only something that we “conceptually” give meaning to. Similarly, words and poetry here refer to linguistic semantics, which are pertinent only to embodiments that may interpret “concepts”.

    2-D: Width and length are used to define planes of existence. Paintings, typography, diagrams and icons may all be interpreted as 2-dimensional representations by the human mind. They are also digitally stored as two dimensional representations.

    3-D: The third dimension completes the dimensions of physical space, permitting depth, and thus physical and sculptural forms.

    4-D: Like the 2nd and 3rd dimensions, the fourth dimension clearly overlaps with traditional 4-D time-space dimensional definitions.

    These dimensions depend on each other and collaboratively define our time-space model. The emphasis does not seem to depend so much on whom we are designing for, but on physical constraints.

    Gillian Smith mentions that the 4th dimension is what we use to accomplish a plot, emotion , anticipation and action in film. This already encompasses interaction, and simply discerning relationships of interaction with the world might not be enough to define a 5th category.

    If we were to define a 5th category, we might want to focus on drawing an analogy with quantum mechanics for which ‘interaction with the world’ sounds appropriate. But this is still a very broad field not understood well enough to be limited to something like just one dimension.

  3. Adam Shahrani says:

    If we were to emphasize sensual experience, we might define more categories based on the classical senses of hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste with unique spectra for each category. But the 4 dimensional model presented focuses on limitations based on traditional physics, and the senses have already been included as existing within the realm of the 4-d physical model (e.g. An auditory and visual response system has been used an example for the 4th dimension of time).

    4 dimensions are suggestive of a 5th dimension. I also searched for a 5th dimension elaborating upon “interaction with the world” before this post. But before that, we might ask ourselves “what is meant by dimension here?”

    These dimensions are meant to categorize languages of creative models in relation to interaction design. I evaluated the similarities with with physical dimensions of the universe to see if a fifth dimension would really be appropriate using the ‘dimensional’ naming convention.

    1-D: Length may be used as an analogy to describe words and poetry. We can define a line in a one dimensional “length” universe which we cannot perceive in our realm of existence. It is only something that we “conceptually” give meaning to. Similarly, words and poetry here refer to linguistic semantics, which are pertinent only to embodiments that may interpret “concepts”.

    2-D: Width and length are used to define planes of existence. Paintings, typography, diagrams and icons may all be interpreted as 2-dimensional representations by the human mind. They are also digitally stored as two dimensional representations.

    3-D: The third dimension completes the dimensions of physical space, permitting depth, and thus physical and sculptural forms.

    4-D: Like the 2nd and 3rd dimensions, the fourth dimension clearly overlaps with traditional 4-D time-space dimensional definitions.

    These dimensions depend on each other and collaboratively define our time-space model. The emphasis does not seem to depend so much on whom we are designing for, but on physical constraints.

    Gillian Smith mentions that the 4th dimension is what we use to accomplish a plot, emotion , anticipation and action in film. This already encompasses interaction, and simply discerning relationships of interaction with the world might not be enough to define a 5th category.

    If we were to define a 5th category, we might want to focus on drawing an analogy with quantum mechanics in which ‘interaction with the world’ sounds appropriate. But this is still a very broad field not understood well enough to either be labeled as a physical dimension or be limited to just one.

  4. chmbrigg says:

    Great comments, Adam. My quick post was not rigorous enough to support such a thorough critique. I very much agree with your thinking, and perhaps what did not come out in my initial post is that i was considering the 5th dimension to be one of what is in other fields called “many-bodied interactions.” That is to say that my original post, where i mentioned “Effects on groups of people who view it” was a bit misleading (and misspelled in my original post), in that it might suggest that the effects on one person in the group might be representative of its effect on the whole. In other words, most HCI folks currently (implicitly) seem to be stuck in the mindset that the effects of an interactive system on an entire culture is merely the sum of the effects each of the members of that culture. Where the 4th dimension deals with the individual’s meaning-making around a particular artifact, the 5th dimension, in my mind deals with an entire culture’s meaning making – of the artifact, of each other, of their group.

    I suppose what i’m suggesting is that, where the 4th dimension deals with a dyadic interaction between the artifact and the viewer, the 5th dimension would add another “adic” to encompass the triadic interactions between the artifact, the viewer and another viewer (lots of them, actually). I’m also suggesting that there may be sorts of “phase changes” in the effects of the “language of interaction” when this third “ad” is, um, added. As a simple very imperfect example: Yelling “fire!” in my house might only create one possible simple interaction: “Be quiet you idiot, there’s no fire here,” whereas yelling it in a crowded theater might create an entirely different set of interactions, because not only does the medium (in this case air or speech) allow the message to reach one person, but it also allow it to reach lots of them, who then pass the message between each other and eventually start stampeding toward the door, getting me arrested.

    In the MySpace example i provided earlier, the key to the 5th dimensional analysis would be the system of interactions that are possible or fostered in, around, with and as a result of, the MySpace system.

    As a classic example of the limitations of 1st-4th dimensional thinking in this space, i was contacted last year by researchers at Forrester Research who were getting requests from their big clients (Fidelity Investments in particular), who were wondering why MySpace had been so successful (and wanting to apply some of the principles to their own social networking efforts). Their initial analysis included a user-based usability study, which, of course, quickly yielded exactly zero insights into the site’s growth and popularity. This is because, in a sense, usability looks at what Smith would call the 1st, 2nd and (perhaps) the 3rd and 4th dimensions. One of the big keys to the growth of MySpace, however (and this is why they contacted me) is in my opinion this 5th dimension – the “many-bodied interactions” that occur between the users, as encouraged or facilitated by the “language” that the design used, which seems to communicate to users that quantity is more important than quality in friend connections (among other things). A 5th dimension study might look at how the “culture” of MySpace developed as a result of all of these people coming to adopt this attitude toward digital friendship in MySpace.

    Ooh this is a great topic!

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