What Is Interaction?
A response to:
- Bret Victor’s “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design“
- Chris Crawford’s “The Art of Interactive Design”, Chapters 1 & 2
I suppose that’s a great question to address in the first post for this blog…
Unfortunately I struggle with it because it’s a language question, and as language is a changing fluid thing, it can always be argued. As far as physics is concerned, I interact with books. Crawford disagrees. For the purpose of this, I would say an “interaction” would be an action or exchange that occurs between two entities. One acts, and the other responds appropriately. It should feel like a conversation or a dance. And while I certainly agree with Crawford’s thought that interaction exists on a scale, I think we need to differentiate between something being interactive, and the act of interacting. A rock has very little to offer me, but if I kick it, it moves. One interacts with objects, but those objects are not necessarily interactive themselves.
A “good” physical interaction is one in which you can actually feel deeply engaged, one in which there is valuable feedback and response. I agree with Victor, there is a lack of this feedback when interacting with just a screen or only using gesture. For example – I often read on my iPad, but I also often fall asleep while doing so. When reading the same thing in an actual book, I can read for hours. The very physical acts of page turning, corner pinching, finger tracing, etc allow a person to be more involved than simply swiping. I also used to be able to text without looking, I can’t anymore because a screen lacks the physical cues necessary. While things are technically being made more functional, the smoothing out of our world and devices is robbing us of the tactile signals our bodies are built to respond to.
As far as good uses of digital tech that aren’t actually interactive – Light Box is an event space in Manhattan in which your content can be projected onto all of the surrounding walls. It’s an awesome space! But those projections are not interactive (or I’ve never been there when that was the case). So it’s just an experience. I think many uses of projection actually fall into this category. We experience them, we can respond to them, but they take nothing from us.