About the project
I’ll be talking with interaction designers at IDEO’s SF office about interaction design and performance. Here’s a brief blurb:
What makes some interaction design projects go so smoothly, and some…not? Drawing from ethnographic observation at three design consultancies in San Francisco, Elizabeth Goodman will argue that physical performance activities are central to successful projects, from clustering Post-Its to make priorities visible, to acting out scenarios with wireframes, to identifying and assembling the right audience for presentations. We’ll use this presentation to kick off a conversation about teaching and practice: How might we improve our own performance skills? And how might we teach them to others?
With Andrew Lovett-Barron and Maryanna Rogers, I taught a pop-up studio workshop called “The Decay of Digital Things” at Stanford’s d.school this May. Using examples from iPhone operating systems to aged and eccentric artificial intelligences, we made speculative prototypes exploring future deaths and afterlifes for computational objects.
Interaction design is the definition of digital behavior, from desktop software and mobile applications to components of appliances, automobiles, and even biomedical devices. Where architects plan buildings, graphic designers make visual compositions, and industrial designers give form to three-dimensional objects, interaction designers define the digital components of products and services. These include websites, mobile applications, desktop software, automobiles, consumer electronics, and more. Interaction design is a relatively new but fast-growing discipline, emerging with the explosive growth of the World Wide Web. In a software-saturated world, every day, multiple times a day, billions of people encounter the work products of interaction design.
Given the reach of their profession, how interaction designers work is of paramount concern. In considering interaction design, this dissertation turns away from a longstanding question of design studies: How does interaction design demonstrate a special form of human thought? And towards a set of questions drawn from practice-oriented studies of science and technology: What kinds of objects and subjects do interaction design practices make, and how do those practices produce them?
Based on participant observation at three San Francisco interaction design consultancies and interviews with designers in California’s Bay Area, this dissertation argues that performance practices organize interaction design work. By “performance practices,” I mean episodes of storytelling and narrative that take place before an audience of witnesses. These performances instantiate — make visible and tangibly felt — the human and machine behaviors that the static deliverables seem unable on their own to materialize. In doing so, performances of the project help produce and sustain alignment within teams and among designers, clients, and developers.
In this way, a focus on episodes of performance turns our concerns from cognition, in which artifacts assist design thinking, to one of enactment, in which documents, spaces, tools, and bodies actively participating in producing the identities, responsibilities, and capacities of project constituents. It turns our attention to questions of political representation, materiality and politics. From this perspective, it is not necessarily how designers think but how they stage and orchestrate performances of the project that makes accountable, authoritative decision-making on behalf of clients and prospective users possible.
I use in-depth research to describe the design of new interactions and technologies, not only in theory but in practice. By gaining a better empirical understanding of design teams and design stakeholders, we can help educators work with students, tool makers improve design tools, and professionals extend their own practices of creation and communication.
I’m giving a guest lecture at Expressive Motion in Art and Design, a graduate class in UC Berkeley’s Architecture dept.
Featured image excerpted from Louis Kahn’s map of traffic flow in Philadelphia. From Alison Smithson (ed.), Team 10 Primer (The MIT Press: Cambridge, 1968), p. 53.
Goodman, E. 2012. How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Deliverable. interactions, September/October 2012.
Goodman, E. 2011. Handwaving and the Real Work of Design. interactions, 18(4): 40 – 44.
Goodman, E. and Rosner, D. 2011. From Garments to Gardens: Negotiating Material Relationships Online and ‘By Hand.’ In Proc. CHI ’11: 2257-2266.
Goodman, E., Stolterman, E., and Wakkary, R. 2011. Understanding interaction design practices. In Proc. CHI ‘11: 1061-1070.