Final blog post

What has Scaredy Cat taught us?

Picture of our group at the exhibition

In my first post on this blog, I wrote my expectations for the course. I wrote: 
“1) Interaction design on the previous semester was a lot of fun, and went through the thoughts behind design that I am most interested in. 
2) The course description sold it, as I read that it would be a more practical course with a focus on
learning Arduino, which I really want to learn.”

I can definitely say, that my expectation no.1 has been met, as it has been fun and I have gained insight into the design field that interests me the most; interaction design. I’m a bit more hesitant on expectation no.2, as I’ve gotten acquainted with Arduino as a coding/sketching/experimentation tool, but I don’t feel as experienced using it as I had hoped to become, so I plan to continue with Arduino through online tutorials.

Brief recap

We were given the design challenge to make a lamp. We brainstormed our way into magical interactions and in the end we focused on children’s rooms — and the feeling of being afraid of the dark and how to be comforted in said situation.

This became the context we have worked with since. Some may argue, that we settled on a context too quickly and that this has limited our experimentation in the form-giving and coding part of the task. 
I say this because as soon as we came up with the idea of the scared lamp, we also settled on the interaction to comfort it. And so, we were very early to decide that the lamp had to afford (Norman, 2013) being comforted, and this leading to a soft material. The soft material has been the dominant actor throughout our process and has limited us in multiple ideas such as how to use any other sensors than the soft button.

Final concept video

Final concept video of ‘Scaredy Cat’

Scaredy Cat as seen through two interaction design lenses

To evaluate Scaredy Cat I will now articulate some of the qualities of our lamp by going back to relevant interaction design lenses. This will work as a way to articulate the interactivity in our lamp in different interaction design paradigms.

To evaluate on the specifics of the interaction itself as a stand alone lamp I will articulate the lamp’s qualities through ‘Interaction Frogger’ by Wensveen et al. (introduced in previous post, “Articulating Interactions I”) But as we also have given a lot of thought into the context of the lamp I will also use ‘Designing Behaviour in Interaction’ by Ross & Wensveen (introduced in previous post, “Designing Behaviour Interaction + Show & Tell II”) to place it into social situations.

Interaction Frogger

To briefly recap; Wensveen et. al. presents a framework to articulate interaction which tries to “give six practical characteristics for coupling action and information, i.e., time, location, direction, dynamics, modality and expression.” (Wensveen et. al., 2004: 177)

  • The action of hugging Scaredy Cat in relation to it’s reaction can be explained by the notions of direction, modality and dynamics. The tender action of hugging (i.e. comforting) Scaredy Cat fits well with the slow fading reaction. And the direction in which you hug Scaredy Cat, towards your heart, fits well with the emotional response we would like the lamp to awaken in the user.
  • This fits with the expression characteristic, that the reaction of the lamp being a calm fade fits with the action of hugging. It also fits with the intended result of a calmer user after he/she has interacted with the lamp.

Designing Behaviour in Interaction

The interesting notion, through this paradigm, in relation to Scaredy Cat is the ability to put the lamp into context and not just look at the lamp as a single artefact.

“Aesthetic experience also involves our emotional sensitivity and state. The experience of beauty can change our emotional state, but its emergence also depends on it.” (Ross et. al., 2010: 5)

In our group we wanted to have a context and an intended user, which is the child that is afraid of the dark. Being afraid is a very strong emotion, and thereby the child would be in a very dominant emotional state when using our lamp. Our goal with the lamp is for it to have the ability to change the child’s emotional state by transferring his/her fears into the lamp. Psychologically we would like for the child to feel it has a sort of responsibility for the lamp, to comfort it and then forget the fears were once his/her own. We want the child to evolve and mature, regarding fear, through a comforting experience.

Scaredy Cat being held (photoshoot)

“Not everyone will find the same things beautiful.” “The experience of aesthetics depends on a broad range of socio-cultural factors, such as people’s values, personality, situation and history” (Ross et. al., 2010; 4)

At the exhibition, a girl, about 10 years old, happened to come by. It was like she was our fictious intended user come to life. And she absolutely loved Scaredy Cat. She came by multiple times during the exhibition to give the lamp a hug. She also just sat and cuddled it for a bit. She even said it was her favourite lamp by far at the exhibition. 
She found it beautiful. 
So while our lamp in our own eyes seem less aesthetically pleasing than a lot of the other lamps that’s been made throughout the course, our intended user found our lamp to be NO. 1! Seeing her love for the lamp, made me see the lamp as more beautiful as well, and my own experience of aesthetics was affected by the situation and the girl’s values. 
(The girl can be seen in the end of our final concept video included in this post.)

On a concluding note, my own sense of beauty and design has been challenged on this course, and I’ve hated Scaredy Cat and it’s qualities a few times throughout the process. But in the end it has taught me valuable lessons, both in practical terms such as getting to know Arduino, but also in Interaction Design paradigms such as viewing interaction design as an aesthetic, but relevant, coupling of an action, a reaction and a function. (Wensveen et. al., 2004)

Litterature

  • Norman, Donald A. The design of everyday things: Revised and expanded edition. Basic books, 2013.
  • Ross, P. R., & Wensveen, S. A. (2010). Designing behavior in interaction: Using aesthetic experience as a mechanism for design. International Journal of Design, 4(2).
  • Vallgårda, Anna. “Giving form to computational things: developing a practice of interaction design.” Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 18.3 (2014): 577–592.
  • Wensveen, Djajadiningrat, & Overbeeke,. (2004). Interaction Frogger: A Design Framework to Couple Action and Function through Feedback and Feedforward.
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