“Tangled Interaction”

“…On the Expressiveness of Tangible User Interfaces”

by Johan Redström

  1. “…aesthetic potential of overloading the object’s surface by adding several layers of interaction.”
  2. “…how through a certain design we aim to make a computational thing express what it can do through the way it presents itself to us through use over time.”
  3. Differences between designing for efficiency in use versus the experience of use.
  4. The Argument: Tangible interaction aims to create a strong relation between surface and functionality, between appearance and potential.
    1. Close coupling between the way the object appears and what we can do with it.
    2. However, this is not the same as saying that we should immediately understand how to use the thing.
  5. The Counterargument: With the miniaturization of technology, the relation between internal and surface complexity has been lost. (observations by Maeda:)
    1. A small object corresponded to a simple function, whereas a larger object was associated with a proportionally more complex function.
    2. Sacred Promise #1: the user would be able to construct a priori impressions of an object before actually using it (sizing it up by first glance).
    3. Sacred Promise #2: industrial designers would have a suitable amount of visual and tactile design space… in which to express that functionality.
  6. (Fitzmaurice, Ishii, and Buxton):
    1. “Space-multipexed input”: each function to be controlled has a dedicated transducer, each occupying its own space.
    2. “Time-multiplexed input”: one device to control different functions at different points in time.
  7. “Humans are inherently good at managing physical space, by ordering and sorting artifacts in their environment.” (Holmquist)
  8. Issue: “…we are dealing with a ‘surface’ incapable of expressing everything that is, or could be, going on ‘inside’ the object.”
  9. “…we rather try to expand the expressiveness of the surface by creating several layers of interaction. In other words, we try to overload the surface by adding different layers of meaning in such a way that, for example, performing a certain action might mean several different things.”
    1. Overloading will not be unproblematic.
    2. Introduce layers at conflict with each other.
    3. Layers that introduce something interesting “in-between” the layers: tangled interaction.
    4. Layers continuously present, not a set we can browse or sequence through.

My thoughts:

  • I found a lot of inspiration in this paper. Many of the concepts, ideas, and concerns, I can directly relate to the idea of “stacking inputs”.
  • Upon first looking at a TRKBRD, you would never guess that you could glide your finger over the keys to move the cursor. (#8) The design does not have a powerful affordance.
  • I like his idea of “tangled interaction”. I see his paper as helping to define my own concept of “stacking”. He gave multiple examples in the paper, and they all had one thing in common: if you remove a “layer”, the design is no longer valid or possible. The tangled layers are interwoven and necessary to each other. Whereas, “stacking” introduces layers, but as wholly independent layers that are not interwoven or necessary to each other.
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