Inspired by Erik Stolterman’s guest lecture, many bloggers this week have discussed that interaction design concerns itself with the “material without qualities.” As mentioned in lecture, all designers work with materials and the qualities of those materials have a profound effect on the product. Many have commented on the growing struggle within the field to identify the materials of interaction design.
Yen-ning’s post summarizing the thoughts of McLuhan and Aarseth on the effects of the medium on the message poses the idea that the products of interaction culture require users to highly engage with our designs and generate their own meaning. Users have more power over the medium than ever before and this inherently changes how they interact with it. You might say that user’s engage with interactive media through a series of choices. However, these choices are largely capable as a result of a designer’s intentions. This leads me to believe that choice may be a “material” of interaction design. The level and complexity of choice offered are the “tools” of the designer and the product is the series of actual choices made by the consumer.
Choice might explain some of the previous concepts we’ve discussed regarding interaction culture. Distinctions between early adopting hobbyists and late adopting consumers correlate to their choices within the product and medium. Hobbyists make more detailed choices, perhaps based on a richer set of experiences with the medium, while consumers make simpler choices based on their more limited experiences. Perhaps consumers increase their experiences through increasingly complex choices which lead to a forward movement along the diffusion curve to hobbyists? (or a move to the next cycle as prosumers).
My previous post on reflective learning in interaction culture identifies interactive products (primarily video games) as major contributors to reflective practice. Interactive products promote reflection because of their ability to support and promote choices by the consumer. As you might expect, video games offer more choice than most prior mediums. A great discussion has recently broken out regarding choice as the key design factor in the most successful and memorable games.
So, can choice be a quality of the material of interaction design?