Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice
The Collective Process of Design
This book is meant for anyone whose work involves shaping new digital artifacts and the systems of behavior in which they are embedded, not just for those with designer in their job title. It aims to complement expertise in related fi elds such as graphic design, industrial psychology, or programming by providing lead designers and other team members with a set of common principles and a common design vocabulary to aid in the collective design process. Unlike other useful books in HCI ( human – computer interaction ) or interaction design , this book is written from a humanistic rather than a social science or industrial design perspective. One of the most important characteristics of humanistic inquiry is that it accommodates multiple frameworks of interpretation, a habit of mind that is a good fi t for the design process, which never has a single right answer and is strengthened by an expanded palette of possibilities.
From a humanities perspective, the design of digital objects is a cultural practice like writing a book or making a fi lm . Culture is the name we give to the infi nite web of meaning that human beings have been weaving for millennia. We participate in culture when we imitate one another ’ s behaviors, adopt common values and practices, share symbolic codes like language, music, or the latest dress style. To see any artifact (i.e., any human-made object) as part of culture is to understand how it becomes meaningful through the social activities, thoughts, and actions of the people who engage with it. Humanists understand that cultural objects and practices can be meaningful in many ways. For example, a digital telephone can be understood as a neutral piece of business equipment, a stylish status symbol, an intrusive disruptor of family rituals, or a lifeline between an isolated individual and a distant community. The humanist designer aims to see as much of this larger web of meaning as possible in order to understand the context and connotations of particular design choices. This book provides a method for invoking this wider view of design possibilities, a vocabulary for identifying and characterizing design elements, and a set of principles for making choices within this expanded decision space . In referring to this practice as “ inventing the medium ” I am asserting three foundational design principles:
All things made with electronic bits and computer code belong to a single new medium, the digital medium , with its own unique affordances .
Designing any single artifact within this new medium is part of the broader collective effort of making meaning through the invention and refi nement of digital media conventions .
When we expand the meaning-making conventions that make up human culture, we expand our ability to understand the world and to connect with one another.
This book is an effort to support the creation of an expanded range of meaningful cultural artifacts by clarifying the task and providing a unifying framework for many disparate but related efforts.
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