Saffer, Chapter 1

Saffer’s first chapter gives a thorough and yet concise overview of interaction design–its  definitions, its history, its current state, and its potential future.

The field or discipline itself, Saffer notes, only really came into sharp-ish focus and relative prominence in the mid-1990’s, as “[o]ur gadgets became digital, as did our workplaces, homes, transportation, and communication devices. Our everyday stuff temporarily became unfamiliar to us” (p. 3). Today, there are three ways of looking at interaction design: a technology-centered view, a behaviorist view and a Social Interaction Design view. All these three view s, however, share an approach that assumes that ‘“[i]nteraction design is by its nature contextual: it solves specific problems under a particular set of circumstances using the available materials” (p. 4).

Saffer also traces some of the potential significances of interaction design for society–the ways (big and small) it can make human lives better, easier, more productive and more helpful. These efforts are and must be shaped and driven by a wide range of influences–from psychology to ergonomics to economics to art (p. 8). The discipline is, broadly speaking, defined by collaboration–both in the creating of its products and in the aims for the uses of those products.

His “(very) brief” history of interaction design provides a concise and fascinating view of human’s interaction with the technology they create. We have grown closer, more intimate, with our computers over the past seven decades–in ways that today we likely mostly take for granted (and thanks to ideas–e.g. the mouse, touch screens–that have been around for at least a couple of decades longer than I, for one, had assumed). In our present moment, with the rise of the Internet, the potential–and, in fact, Saffer argues, the need–for interaction design is greater than ever, and one way in which he envisions the field developing is into service design.

One question that came to mind:

  • With ever-increasing numbers of people accessing the Internet on mobile devices (as opposed to, say, desktop computers), has/hasn’t interaction design had to undergo a shrinking, of sorts–a need to find ways to design effective and rewarding interactions that are fairly stripped down? Is this process more like turning a piece of prose into an outline or into a poem?
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