Category Archives: week2

on interaction design, pt. 2

(a follow-up on our discussion last week.)

What is interaction?

I don’t feel like I fully answered this question in post #1, and I had many new thoughts by the end of class last week.

To start, I really liked Jason’s point about transformation. To me, interactivity is scoped by a relationship between entities that listen and respond. When these entities interact over time, changes in behavior, memory, physicality, etc seem inevitable.

When I think about human to human interactions, I can always remember some kind of emotional response—whether that’s joy, frustration, interest, boredom. And I’m often being exposed to new information via this person interface. Whether or not it feels significant, an interaction with a new person will change me, either in a subtle way or a really palpable way.

Interactivity is not a binary definition by any means, but a continuum. For instance, how does interactivity change when it’s no longer 1-to-1, but it’s 1 to a large group?

// How does interactivity feel limited by direction and size?

For instance, a single person might speaking to a crowd. Maybe someone in the crowd might respond to the main speaker, but is only dialoguing with that single person. There might be potential for multitudes of connection/interactivity, but our context asks that the interaction happen in one direction.

// How might noise change interactivity?

I mean noise in a literal sense— like signal losses and distractions—but also lossiness of information. I found it very difficult to express certain ideas in Chinese when I was in China this summer, and gave up on certain communications. Things get lost in translation, for humans and computers.

// How do things feel more interactive if they display a multitude of behaviors?

I don’t feel like a light switch is particularly interactive; I find a furby to be slightly more interactive. A person contains multitudes, and the fact that this person is programmed with far more behaviors than a furby makes me more interested in interacting with them.

Things that are highly interactive are more conducive to building relationships. Long-term relationships, whether with people, machines, or things, lead to trust and mastery. Ideally, both “actors” begin to transform in response to one another, which happens most often with humans, and to various degrees with machines and other things.

So not only can things be more or less “interactive” on first impression, but how does that interactivity change with time?

Is something more deeply engaging on the 100th try than on the 1st, or do we start to feel emotionally detached?

(This writer has some thoughts about this, using chatbot UI as an example.)



frog furby switch (& other switch thoughts)

This week’s homework, “build a switch,” struck me with many exciting ideas.

Because of shaky time management, I was only able to execute a much more simple, straightforward design. Still, I would like to share two other ideas I would have liked to execute.

1. rube goldberg switch

I was immediately drawn to models of rube goldberg machines, which are poetic and funny as non-electrical pathways for directional energy flow.

I imagined a switch which could only be turned on, could not be turned off. A one-way switch—which, once it lost all its potential energy, would need to be laboriously and manually reset. A switch which privileged one state over the other, basically.

Can you imagine an entire room’s worth of beautiful chaotic interaction, which only resulted in a single light turning on?

There’s something lovely about expending so much energy for its own sake, with very little return in the end. (thinking: mindfulness practices, privileging processes)

I would do something much simpler, like copper-coated dominoes that all made contact with each other after falling.

I would really love to execute this idea still if I have the time.

2. slooooow switch

We often imagine a switch as something that happens instantaneously. Well, there are many ways the energy can be transformed in our physical world in ways which require patience.

Heat is an interesting one that we’re all familiar with. Our dinner warming in the oven, or crystals forming on a window.

What if it took three hours for the lights to come on?


Here’s an idea for a slow switch, where an ice cube is suspended on a platform. It would be a salty, more ionized solution which would conduct electricity better.

As the ice cube melts, it fills a narrow container with salty water, which will connect the current between two wires.


process: frog furby switch

I found this fellow in the junk pile.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.09.32 AM.png

There’s something about connecting with something tangible that feels so different from simply touching two pieces of metal together. It doesn’t take much for us to anthropomorphize something.

I used to have one of these ghastly things as a kid:

Quite an amazing vestige of the 90s, isn’t it? I remember feeding it with a spoon; it would bark, “Yum yum” when you put pressure on its plastic tongue.

I had this idea to feed the frog to make it speak, or to make a light blink at least.


I first started out getting a single LED to turn on. I calculated the current in order to find the right resistance; I didn’t want my 3.5V LED to burn out.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.04.19 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.04.01 AM.pngScreen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.15.58 AM.png

I found two 47ohm resistors which seemed to do the trick, since my circuit needed approx. 75ohms of resistance. This seemed much more approximate than I thought; my meter measurements were a little shaky but it all seemed to work none-the-less.

I found a mysterious electronic component which I bent to look like a bug and attached to the “feeding” wire.


It’s not easy being green!