Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Posts Tagged ‘ubiquitous computing

Contextualizing interaction via paradigms of the computer

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Bill Verplank’s fantastic framework of paradigms for understanding the computer provides a solid start point to setting the context for a particular interaction design project or study. 

Bills grounds his approach in the dominant ‘styles’ that human beings use in perceiving computers, and the resultant spectrum of paradigms that such styles generate. Some of the important ones he mentions are:

1. Style: Dialog/Language/Intelligence; Paradigm spectrum: Person – to – Life
2. Style:  Direct Manipulation/Control; Paradigm spectrum: Tool – to – Infrastructure
Style: Expression/Browing/Engagement: Paradigm Spectrum: Media – to – Fashion.

Bill Verplank - Paradigms of the Computer

Bill Verplank - Paradigms of the Computer


As a psychologist I have a deep interest  in paradigms, which are fundamentally perceptual entities. A paradigm is our understanding of something in a way that contextualizes it among other things. And the fact that Bill uses the word ‘styles’ to communicate the above modes of understanding a computer, is striking.

 The design interest in a project or research area could be centered in any one or more of these styles. I think the complexity of the undertaking will increase with the number of  paradigms the final design solution intends to address. In an earlier post, ‘Emotional Considerations in Ubicomp’, I raised the question of  considering the emotional in designing ubiquitous computing solutions. Even at the level of a theoretical problem, this issue seems an extremely slippery matter to grasp. I see a good deal of that complexity arising from the fact that at the level of usage, solutions need to reconcile an awning gap between two very different paradigms of the computer for users – i)the computer as ‘tool-infrastructure’ (ubiquitous environments essentially characterized by a lack of centeredness/de-personal space) with ii) the computer as ‘person-life’ (the intuitive, the emotional, the responsive – characteristics we essentially consider embodied/centered).

Using the paradigm framework to reframe design problems this way has apparently solid value.

More of Bill’s lecture material here on the Stanford website.


Written by Ashwin Rajan

December 7, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Emotional Considerations in UbiComp

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Mark Weiser’s seminal article has proved to be sweeping in title as well as consequence. It is widely argued today that “The Computer for the 21st Century” was the first of its kind to effectively capture the essence of the idea about what is today known variously as ..ahem – pervasive computing/ubiquitous computing/ambient intelligence/physical computing/the internet of things/things that think/haptic computing and so on and so forth. And why not? I love loaded words, especially those that also mean something!

But the point here is that this space gets more and more real all the time. Its serious enough now to prompt such long-term projects such as the, again, quite sweepingly titled “The Disappearing Computer” initiative, while figures such as Bill Gates have made efforts in the past to publicly address this emerging domain.

Needless to say, I am excited about this stuff, and before jumping headlong into the embedded, gesturally-triggered world, its probably also worth asking (as Gwen Floyd brought up in class the other day): what technologies should be allowed to disappear, become hidden? And what artifacts should stay external, be apparent, tactile? Which interactions provide those intrinsic emotional connections we love to have with the world of things around us? And what extrinsic behaviors exhibited by our products enrich our everyday experience in yet unnoticed and un-researched ways? How come some people want to pay all their bills with one flick of a wrist, only so they can go back to building that IKEA bookshelf one shelf at a time?