Time, motion and touch

Touch

The rhetoric of ‘mobile life’ is that technology will make motion more possible, easier, and that having access to information will make our lives easier, transcending time and space. This spectacular notion of global mobility has been around since the mobile phone became an essential business tool. Indeed mobile telephony, mostly voice and SMS has had a great impact on many of our daily lives.

But our conception of the internet hasn’t yet accounted well for the meanings of time, motion and touch. In a recent post Julian Bleecker begins to think about these semantics ways of approaching ‘the internets’ that involves a greater appreciation of context:

“It might be interesting to consider time, motion and touch as idioms whose characteristics should not be mitigated against, at least for the purpose of reflecting up on what digital life would be like if we operated in a middle ground between eliminating time delays, for instance, and having some dependence upon it.”

Look at for instance how the mobile internet has stumbled and failed in so many ways as it attempts to take the ‘fixed internet’ and apply it to mobile devices. In some respects this is a usability problem, where the newness of the devices are hindering our understanding of how to design well. But in most cases there is a lack of understanding of the way that our digital and physical selves overlap, how the chronology of our daily existence should be complemented, subverted, interrupted or engaged. How do we design for people in motion with routines and behaviours, in particular contexts where notions of interaction, interruption and engagement differ?

Working with touch we constantly brush up against these issues: How does the gesture of touch define our relationship to things, places and other people? How do particular interactions relate to places or contexts? These are difficult design issues. In the end we think it comes down to designing things in context, usually within very narrowly defined contexts. Using tools like design probes, rapid prototyping and self-ethnography becomes critical.

Julian is working towards some specific goals with his project:

“The interaction semantics I’m angling at is this idea of creating an application syntax based on establishing a sense of Durable Affinity between a person, a lively designed object, and the expression in a digital, online form that these two can create through time, motion and touch based activity.”

This approach of building and making in order to discover how these issues play out in practice should lead to interesting results.

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