Reading: What is interaction?


In ‘The Art of Interactive Design’, Chris Crawford defines interaction as “a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak.” From his point of view, interaction consists in flows of information between two actors (two people, two machines, or a person and a machine). However, these data flows shouldn’t be in only one direction otherwise it is just ‘reaction’.

In ‘A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design’, Bret Victor provides an approach about the quality of physical interaction between people and machines,  encouraging designers to explore all the potential of human capabilities instead of just the use of one finger over a flat screen.

Linking the ideas from these two authors, I believe that the key for good interaction is to stimulate the body capacities to encourage innovative interfaces, and to create new systems capable of engaging communication between the actors in the system in order to provide meaningful experiences.

For example, when you whitdraw money from an ATM machine, the process is plain and unidirectional because after pressing some buttons, it gives you exactly what you expected. If you imagine what occurs when you do the same process with another human being, even when the goal is the same there is a possibility of entering into a conversation about particular issues related or not with that specific goal, which may evolve in time if we get to know the other person through our repeated visits to the bank. In the first case, input and output are totally predetermined by the designer of the system. In the second scenario, the interaction is open to other more constructive possibilities.

Although this may be more difficult to achieve with machines, I can imagine for example systems that could evolve from each input in order to provide new outputs, according to data provided and determined together with each particular person. This could allow that person to obtain useful and unexpected responses depending on how they interact with tools, triggering new behaviours and even emotions.

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