IxD Seminar: Note and Reflection

MDes Fall 2017

What I though interaction design is.

What is interaction design?

I think INTERACTION DESIGN is the expansion of traditional industrial and graphical design territory. It leverages the traditional design knowledge and transfers them to the digital world.

In the past, the way objects are designed provides affordance and constraints for people to use it in a way that the designer designs. However, when we step into the digital era, situation becomes more complex. Object starts to behave in a way that its shape not longer provide any clues. Only the software built inside matters now. This is what interaction design about: designing interaction between physical and digital world.

Week 1 Introductions


Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices
Design Thinking Comes of Age / Service Design 101

Class Note

Week 2 Origin Myths


Tara McPherson, “Operating Systems at Mid-Century” / Muriel Cooper, “Computers and Design”

Class Note

In her article, Tara McPherson argued that the concept of modularity which was developed in computer field had large impact on our society. I do believe that “computer are themselves encoders of culture” (quote from her article). Facebook, Google, Apple or Amazon are part of human society now. But back to 70’s, it is hard to say that society are unconsciously affect by the concept in technology field. I would say that technology now become a black box that we can’t access what’s inside but only input and output due to the modularity and the development of AI evolves from relationship rather than the meaning.

The second article from Muriel Cooper talks about how digital affect on physical. One interesting example is that people starts to have idea about “when you are going to die, you might feel like your life is flashing by” only after the film technology appears. To a more holistic view, digital do change human and our perception of the world.

Week 3 What’s at Stake with algorithms?


What’s at stake / Artificial Intelligent and Algorithms

Class Note

This week, we talk about algorithm and AI. From the readings, we know that AI which is built on the bias data inherit the bias. (With its own complex history, data is less likely to be neutral) The google search automatically correct “she” to “he” in certain query. The facial tracking on HP laptop can’t track black men’s face and be called as racist. There are also many data brokers (link) who collect you shopping habits, health information and so on.

The big question here is as a designer how to create transparency and measurement in this situation? Is it measurable or even possible to create transparency? There is no doubt that as a human, bias is built deeply inside us. Ideally, internet should play the role to make information flow more easily but it turns to be vice versa. Now we have a even more polarized society. Not to mention that our major information sources such as Google and Facebook are woven with advertisement.

Class Note 2nd

We tried to development a arguemtn for our 750 wordsl essay due next week. Molly first introduce a structure so that we could follow. It includes claim, reasons, example, alternative fact and warrant. (link) We practice it by seeing through a previous reading from Kate Crawford to identify these elements. Then we development our own arguement and take to each other in both positive and negative way.

Week 4 Data Humanism


Class Note

Today, we have class with other students from urban design and watch Mimi’s talk about missing data set on Eyeo festival 2017. Why data collecting become such a evil words for now? I believe governments and many international corporations should take responsibility for that. But something I have been never think of is what is missing? With such large power, data could definitely do something good for us. But as Mimi talked on Google SPAN last week: “Those with incentive lack resources and those with resources lack the incentive to collect”. How could we empower those who lack of resources to collect data that could do better good? I think that is the question we need to think of.

Class Note 2nd

“If you don’t have secret, there is nothing to hide.”

Before we have our peer review of our 750 worlds essay, we discussed about the reading, Dragnet Nation. I would say that global monitoring from government or massive data collection from international corporations is not new to me. I just can’t believe how powerless we are to protect us from being harmed. When Equifax leaked 140 millions personal data few weeks, most people even don’t know what that company is and how they could legally own these data. People might argue that if sacrificing some privacy could improve safety, they are willing to be monitored. We always hear “If you don’t have secret, there is nothing to hide.”


Week 5 Information Architecture

Is Architecting (not) a real word? Is Information Architecture (IA) a profession? Today we talked about the construction of early web was a total disaster. While architecture aim to make a place inhabitable for human, emerging information architecture could play the same role in digital world. I guess my first question would be what exactly is the discipline of an architecture? It seems that architecture care more about the environmental context than other design disciplines. (I would argue that interaction designer also care about context but it is true that architecture pay more attention on natural elements such as water, light and wind)

Information Architecture (IA) reached its peak at 2004 and then start to emerge into other term. Now the buzz word becomes User Experience (UX) design. It makes sense now but who knows what will happen 10 years later?

Week 6&7 What AI has to do with design?

This week, we went to see the exhibition Imaging Computational Design at Miller Gallery in CMU. The reading is also related to this exhibition.

CAD (Computer Aided Design) is not a familiar topic for but when I saw the work from Architecture Machine Group (AMG) in 80’s, I was shocked. Take “Sketchpad” for instance. Composed by stylus, touch screen, knobs and keyboard, the interaction is so intuitive that even a kid can manipulate the shapes on the screen. This was invented 35 years ago.

In today’s standard, the power of computer at those days was very small and many project failed. However, many of their imaginations are still available today.

In the following week, we have class at the same place. Each group choose some related exhibits and present. My group talked about Sketchpad. A device which user could use stylus and knob to draw line and shape. It was invented in 1963 but until now the interaction still innovative and even more intuitive than some drawing program on the PC. In its later patch, 3D perspective function was added. This is the first time, people could really see how shape represent in 3D world rather than using 2D drawing to mimic perspective. This project was done 50 years ago. It is incredible.

Week 8 Live the Question Now

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. — Rainer Maria Rilke

This week, we have lecture from our new professor Stuart Candy in school of design. He is a futurist and a PhD in futurism.To sum up what futurist do, it is “Help people to think about things haven’t happen yet.”

In certain design practice (ex. design fiction, speculative design), designers create an imaginable object from the future to make people think about the future. However, experintial future (XF) is more about creating the context in order to have some conversation about it.

If you see global CO2 emission prediction report and what things really happen on the ground, you will find out there is a experiential gulf between how we narrate the future (statistically macro level report) and what situation happens on the ground (sever natural disaster, sea level raising …) But future is inherently remote. As a result the affective system (the elephant) always win the analytical system (the rider) when it comes to uncertainty. We need to parse uncertainty to sensible things in order to change the trajectory from probable future to preferable future.

Situation Lab

Possible, probable and preferable future

Week 9 Social Construction of Technology

Class Note

We talk about socio-technical study this week. This topic is quite familiar to me since we read some of these materials during design thinking seminar and transition design seminar.

Do artifacts have politics?
Overpass in Wantagh State Parkway

This is a interesting question to ask. Author argues that there is value hidden behind the design artifacts. Take Wantagh State Parkway near New York city for example. Architecture intentionally created low overpass which does not allow bus to pass through. It implies that you must own a car to use the road.

To take this argument even broader. A nuclear power plant is not just a way of generating electricity but requires centralized organization to run and maintain it. Nuclear power plant implies centralized management, while solar energy implies decentralized approach. Technology is about building order in order world. It is neither good nor evil but it is inherently political and create unexpected consequences. We need to think about what to measure to justify what is available.

Another article is also very interesting, it challenges Mark Weiser’s though about seamless in ubiquitous computing. Mark Weiser imagines a world with technology embedded in daily life and people could seamlessly live within. However, the author is interested about the seamfulness and argues that seamfulness is the way people achieving their task. This argument actually quit fit into today’s scenario. Imagine you are having a video conference, what tools do you use? One for visual elements, one for video/audio, one for file sharing and so on, each tool has its own inclusion and exclusion and people align these tools manually to complete as a whole. Sometimes, you might get online to communication and offline to finish task or talk in small group. None of these could be achieved in seamless world where everyone is always online.

Week 10 Value-Sensitive Design and Designing Ethically

Reflective design and Value in design
Value sensitivedesign

Class Note

We talked about value in design and value sensitive design this week. In transition design, Terry talked about designers unconsciously embed their own value into their design but not mentioned about how to unfold the value or deal with value from the the first stage. When we talked about value sensitive design, value is what people consider important in life.

During our current studio project, we were asked to redesign kiosk for parking experience. Our team struggled with the idea that mobile app can literally do everything for parking so why bother to design a kiosk? I think the unconscious value here is about tech-oriented efficiency but not consider other perspective of parking experience. (more)

In the reading, the paper talks about the example of informed consent which is defined as ability/capability to consent. The example is about the cookie feature for website/browser. So website will save some information from people in order to provide more suitable content. This is the practice for a while. But only until recently, browser start to notify user such behavior or even provide easier tool for user to manage the cookie. This could be only achieved through a value of informed consent in the mind of designer/engineer.

We also do an activity in class. We pretend to be insurance company and think about their attitude toward personal health tracking device to identify their value.

Class Note 2nd

Today’s topic is about reflective design. I think the interesting point is that designer could identify the current value and marginize it in order to solve the same problem with radically different value embedded. For example, technology used in museum are about either talking something about art or art itself. If you marginized these two concepts, the new opportunity emerge. In the reading, it discuss about a design that help visitor communicate with each other in the museum.

Week 11 From Bias to Inclusive Design

Class Note

The topic of this week is inclusive design. To further understand the topic, we need to first understand the cognitive bias: how biases develop and how can we do about it? In general, bias is kind of human nature. When human species evolve, our brain develops ways to deal with overloaded information. It is inevitable but designers should always keep bias in check. (Tool kit from Airbnb).

In 1980, the definition of disability is not context dependent. People treats disability as physical, personal attribute. Now the disability has been recognized as context independent and socially constructed. You could be totally healthy but somehow excluded from certain product, service being provided. Furthermore, temporal situation could be considered as well. A man with one arm, a man with injured arm and a man holding a baby will have similar situation. It is a mismatch between human and interaction.

Microsoft Inclusive Design (link)

There are three steps could be followed.

  1. Recognized exclusion: Exclusion happens when we solve problems with our own bias.
  2. Learn from diversity: Human beings are expert in adapting to diversity.
  3. Solve for one and extend to many: Focusing on what’s universally important to all humans.

In the final part, we have some discussion about our previous kiosk project. What are the mismatches? What could do about them? The first intuition is to add new features trying to include as much diversity as possible. Then we think it will become a giant monster with endless features which are not beneficial to anyone. Besides adding new features, what are other approaches we could do for diversity? I think that is the interesting question to ask.

Week 12 Design & Imaginaries

When people don’t know how a things work, we made it up.


Today Prof. Dan Lockton gives a talk about people’s imaginary/metaphor and how does it imply to interaction design. People can only trust something if we think we know how it works. If people don’t know how a things work, we made it up. Heat is very good example. You think turning the knob to higher temperature mean faster to heat up but it might be only means higher temperature in the end (Not affect to the speed). Once we find something unfamiliar with, we link to things we know.

For younger generation, cassette slot looks like iPhone dock.

So how about even larger, complicated topic such as climate change, social equity, AI automation, …etc. Historian Yuval Noah Harar once said “Any large-scale human cooperation — whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe — is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination.”

So What does all this mean to design? Can we create metaphors for people to act on? Can we leverage metaphors to persuade people to share common finction?

Dan conducted a metal model workshop in UK about air condition in a government office building. There is always people complaining about the air condition is either too hot or too cold. In workshop, people is encouraged to draw how they think the air condition system works. The result is very interesting. Most of people imagine an non-exist person whose is in charge the temperature in the building and he tries his best to control the temperature but fail. (At least, people thinks he has good will)

Mental Landscape Workshop

We have a mental landscape workshop and the prompt is “What does the past and future look like as a landscape?” Our group creates a landscape about polluted earth and mankind migration to Mars. It is interesting to see that when someone talked about this imagination and all people agree on it very soon. (Maybe we all be persuaded by this science-fiction future by Hollywood)

The final landscape is not the point. The point is that we create tangible landscape so people could feel it and talk about it. We might able to come to a mutual understanding from it.

Week 14 Speculative and Critical Design

Pecha Kucha talk for final

Today, Molly quickly go through her general impression of our paper and talk about Pecha Kucha talk for next week. The rule is simple: 5min, 20 slides, each has 15 seconds (wiki).

Series of Tubes by Molly Steenson

In order to shorten the idea our 12 pages paper, we practice to pitch our idea to each other and see what other gets from the pitch. (Mine works out to be fine) Then we try to simplify the idea into one sentence.

Gamification could be better used to teach people sustainable practice, rather than persuade people to make sustainable decision.

Talk by Deepa Butoliya

“Facts [are] uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.” from Post-normal science

Today, we talk about speculative critical design (SCD) which is the last topic of the seminar course this semester.

SCD starts from Italian Radical design (1960–80). Many architectures argued that design is lack of social perspective. The work of coninuous monument by superstudio is one the most famous example.


When designer see conceptual design beyond just a style option, it becomes crtitical. Below are two examples of critical. One is Teddy Bear Blood Bag. “The idea behind it is to serve as a comfort for children in the hospital. Why do kids get the coolest things? I want a horse shaped bloodbag … not that I really want a bloodbag.” (link). The other one, which is designed by Hiromi Ozaki, focuses on transgender topic. (link)

Critical Design practice

  1. Outside in: Using method from other field to question design and its practice.
  2. Inside out: Using design to critique the status quo and wilder social inequalities.

Critical Jugaad

Deepa also mentions about her research topic: critical jugaad. Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi means an innovative fix or a simple work-around, a solution that bends the rules, or a resource that can be used in such a way.

In the perspective of design, jugaad is a Darwinian argument of evolution for design neccessity as the mother of improvisation. Since one the criticism about critical design is that it only focuses on “white man’s problem”, how does critical design tackle the problem for minorities or their daily problem for survival? That’s critical jugaad all about.