How would you define physical interaction?

In the “Art of Interactive Design,” Chris Crawford defines interaction as a cyclic process that requires two actors who alternately listen, think, and speak.  Crawford considers physical interaction to be a kind of a two-way conversation, a reciprocal process.

In “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design,” Bret Victor talks about how technologists are so stuck on the visual, the “Picture Under Glass,” as he calls it, that fail to take advantage of the myriad capabilities of the human hand. He argues that human capabilities should be amplified through technology and not just become more passive and numb.

I like Bret Victor’s stance that we move away from a future vision that is largely “Pictures Under Glass” and instead, design interactions that engage the human body’s capabilities. Sometimes, we tend to forget that our bodies are such expressive devices that constantly give us feedback of our environment. Before reading this essay, I had never realized what a large human potential has been left untapped in tech!

What is good physical interaction?

Crawford touches upon an interesting point when he talks about the different levels of interaction. He defines what makes a “high” or “low” interaction by what basically makes a good conversation: listening well, thinking well and speaking with each other. On the other hand, Victor talks about what makes a “high quality” physical interaction and conveys the idea of our senses being triggered by each physical interaction.

Another element that I believe contributes to creating a “high quality” interaction, is an interaction that is engaging and feels relevant to each participant or actor personally.  In addition, what I would add makes for a “high quality” physical interaction is how much the actors are affected or manipulated by this interaction. Just like a conversation isn’t static or predictable; it changes according to what each participant says in return.

What about non-interactive tech?

Finally, I agree with Crawford that there are many experiences we think of as “interactive” that are mostly one sided. For example, when one uses Google Search he/she just types a search on the search engine and the computer is simply responding. It is not a two way conversation; It doesn’t push our human potential forward but, instead, limits our physical interactions and consciousness of the physical world we live in.

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