IxD and the Resistance of the Material

25 Aug 2008 - 5:50am
6 years ago
33 replies
977 reads
martinpolley
2007

A while back I heard an interview with cellist and author Richard Sennett,
in which he spoke about the importance of the struggle against the *resistance
of the material* when learning a craft.

What, then, is the resistance of the material in *our *craft?

--
Martin Polley
Technical writer, interaction designer
+972 52 3864280
<http://capcloud.com/>

Comments

24 Aug 2008 - 1:12am
martinpolley
2007

A while back I heard an interview with cellist and author Richard Sennett,
in which he spoke about the importance of the struggle against the *resistance
of the material* when learning a craft.

What, then, is the resistance of the material in *our *craft?

--
Martin Polley
Technical writer, interaction designer
+972 52 3864280
<http://capcloud.com/>

26 Aug 2008 - 12:07am
martinpolley
2007

A while back I heard an interview with cellist and author Richard Sennett,
in which he spoke about the importance of the struggle against the *resistance
of the material* when learning a craft.

What, then, is the resistance of the material in *our *craft?

--
Martin Polley
Technical writer, interaction designer
+972 52 3864280
<http://capcloud.com/>

26 Aug 2008 - 1:00am
Anonymous

Hi Martin,

That's a great topic.
I'd say the "materiality" of "time" and its multiple dimensions
"time" matters

Best,

Alok NANDI
designer.writer.director
aloknandi.net
design.architempo.net
pechakucha.architempo.net
designbrunch.architempo.net
indiainflux.architempo.net

isThatAt 08:07 26/08/2008, Martin wrote:

>A while back I heard an interview with cellist and author Richard Sennett,
>in which he spoke about the importance of the struggle against the *resistance
>of the material* when learning a craft.
>
>What, then, is the resistance of the material in *our *craft?
>
>--
>Martin Polley
>Technical writer, interaction designer
>+972 52 3864280
><http://capcloud.com/>
>________________________________________________________________
>Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
>To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
>Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
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26 Aug 2008 - 6:05am
Dave Malouf
2005

Can you talk more about this resistance concept? I'm not familiar
with it. Can you give other examples from other design disciplines?

-- dave

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26 Aug 2008 - 7:03am
.pauric
2006

Thats a great perspective Martin.

Aspects of 'resistance' that immediately come to mind are the
principles of;
1) Starting on paper/sketching before moving to computer forces the
designer to freeform and explore potential solutions outside those
given by a chosen application
2) Multiples, similar but different to 1. creating many throwaway
designs before going down a chosen route avoids going down the wrong
path.

There is always the desire to get the job done quickly & efficiently,
however introducing Resistance will slow the designer down and allows
for better end results.

thanks /pauric

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26 Aug 2008 - 8:01am
Fredrik Matheson
2005

Heck, I'd say that the greatest resistance I get from IxD work is that there
is no material whatsoever, so I'm not really held on track by a material's
inherent limitations. Sketching on paper is nice, but it's merely a proxy.
When working with industrial design and physical products, there's so much
you can learn over time about what works and what doesn't because there is a
certain fixedness in the materials, the manufacturing processes and the
domains. Over time, certain things just get worked out; it's great.

With interaction design, you *can* do just about anything, and the elements
of your design will exhibit total neutrality about where and when they are
shown, placed and hidden, how they're combined and what they're meant to do.

The only material that offers useful resistance is a working prototype. Once
you have that, you can experience the result of your work/imagination and
figure out what isn't working.

- Fredrik

26 Aug 2008 - 8:48am
.pauric
2006

I would argue that to arrive at a working prototype from 'material
neutral IxD concepts' one needs to apply and reflect upon increasing
degrees of resolution.

Jumping from concept to implementation without checks & balances is a
leap of faith a carries significant risk of failure

Applying Resistance, slowing the design process down, allows the
brain to digest problems, leading to associative thinking...

"What scientists have only recently begun to realize is that people
may do their best thinking when they are not concentrating on work at
all. If you've ever had a great idea pop into your head while you
were washing your car, walking your dog, or even napping, you already
know what a team of Dutch psychologists revealed last month in the
journal Science: The unconscious mind is a terrific solver of complex
problems when the conscious mind is busy elsewhere or, perhaps better
yet, not overtaxed at all.

This brings us back to Archimedes, whose "Eureka!" moment in the
bath -- or, to cite another example, Isaac Newton's discovery of
gravity while loafing around under an apple tree -- was a classic
example of a kind of creativity known as remote association, or
associative thinking. As the name implies, it's a knack for seeing
connections among things that appear on the surface to be unrelated
to each other."

I'd argue that sketching and creating throw away work is far, far
more than merely proxies. They're mind hacks. Taking your time
with a design, applying Resistance, enables the subconscious deep
cogs of the mind to make connections & solutions not otherwise
obvious to the filtered conscious perspective.

thanks /pauric

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26 Aug 2008 - 9:14am
martinpolley
2007

Hmm. The podcast does not seem to be available from the BBC any more. But I
have a copy, so I have posted it
here<http://capcloud.com/files/TA_Craftsmanship.mp3>.
Just don't tell the BBC :)

Cheers,

Martin

On Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 5:29 PM, Chris Hunter
<chunter at wondertwinpowers.net>wrote:

>
> Although I'd love to hear the interview to have a better idea of what Mr.
> Sennet was framing the "resistance of the material as" (hint, hint -- post a
> link)...
>

26 Aug 2008 - 9:54am
martinpolley
2007

It's been a while since I listened to the podcast, but that phrase has
stuck with me. The way I understood it, Sennett meant the physical
difficulty of making the cello make the sounds that you want it to. Or
of using your tools to fashion a piece of silver into the shape you
want. Together with the resistance of your own body.

So the concept is from traditional crafts, but I think it could be
useful in thinking about design too.

So in interaction design, I think it maybe has to do (among other
things) with the tools we use, their limitations, the time and effort
it takes to master them, and so on, whether they be pen and paper,
Visio, Axure, Flash, HTML/CSS/JS, or whatever.

Cheers,

Martin

On Tue, 26 Aug 2008 05:05:55, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> Can you talk more about this resistance concept? I'm not familiar
> with it. Can you give other examples from other design disciplines?
>
> -- dave
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=32320
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Martin Polley
Technical writer, interaction designer
+972 52 3864280
Twitter: martinpolley
<http://capcloud.com/>

26 Aug 2008 - 9:56am
Dave Malouf
2005

Pauric, I really agree w/ you about the importance of sketching as
more of an associative ideation action than meerly one of proxy
models.

Now that I think I understand this idea of resistance embedded in
materials. It sounds like understanding what I have alluded to in the
past as "your canvas". Some of these are physical properties in
"the medium" and others are quite human in quality.

What I see in interaction design are similar resistances that come
out of the contexts of use, but also just human limitations, no?
It's what Bill Buxton called "G-d's Law" ("-" is mine). This
is why cog psyc and HF are so important to what we do.

But I also wonder if there isn't resistance in culture. I.e. the
differences between Japanese uses of NFC and other Industrialized
nations has been spoken about in terms of cultural acceptance around
privacy "fears". Would this also be a material resistance? A
cultural one?

Am I generalizing resistance too much beyond the intention?

-- dave

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26 Aug 2008 - 10:34am
Jack L. Moffett
2005

For me, it brings to mind the resistance we face in our
collaborations: the technical, budgetary, and time-based constraints,
even political and organizational resistances. These are the types of
resistance I most often find myself "struggling" against.

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.459.0310 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

In our society,
the scarce factor is not information,
it is time to attend to information.

- Herb Simon

26 Aug 2008 - 3:20pm
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

I've used a quote from Paul Graham (an %u2028essayist, programmer and
language designer) in some of my recent presentations about IxD
practice. The quote is:

%u201CIdeas get developed by explaining them to the right kind of
person. You need that resistance, just as a carver needs the
resistance of the wood.%u201D - Paul Graham

For my IxD practice, this concept of the resistance of the medium
plays out (as Jack suggests for himself) in my collaborations with
other individuals. Particularly, my experience with the Cooper method
where the design team comprises two people is one that I find
tremendously rewarding. Two people can be even greater than the sum
of their parts in a close design relationship. And the dialogs that
surround design ideation and analysis represent the pull and tug of
ideas being crafted into soundness.

Cheers,
Liz

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27 Aug 2008 - 1:01am
martinpolley
2007

Do you think, then, that *all *resistance is good? Or is there "good"
resistance and "bad" resistance?

Cheers,

Martin

On Tue, Aug 26, 2008 at 5:48 PM, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:

> ...
>

> Applying Resistance, slowing the design process down, allows the
> brain to digest problems, leading to associative thinking...
>

> ...
>

27 Aug 2008 - 6:34am
.pauric
2006

Dave, I'm not 100% sure I see cultural and material resistance as the
same thing. I would tend to think the NFC example you gave is
something I'd categorise as an external design
requirement/constraint that we build towards. Material resistance
being something we connect with on the build path, something that is
a part of us as we work through the design. However, I strongly
suspect I did not fully understand what you wrote.

The conversation in the BCC interview linked by Martin above touches
on something I have experienced many times as a carpenter. When
building a table or similar I zone out as I perform motor memorised
tasks on the materials. My thoughts start to fall half way between
the task in focus and an ethereal connection with the medium. I
could produce work more quickly with automated tools but then it
would lose character, I'd have fewer 'happy mistakes' and I would
have learned little as a craftsperson.

I've posted the following link before but keep coming back to this
short video... specifically the analogy David Dabner makes with
music... 'When playing Jazz, you've got to learn the instrument
first, otherwise its going to sound bloody aweful'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xg5O0l7ybY

He goes on to talk about the difference between the results tools
produce and the identifying the results you need to produce.
Focusing on the tool can inhibit your ability to think deeply &
broadly. Only through time spend spend practicing/learning can we,
as craftspeople, achieve the semi-meditative states where creativity
bubbles up from our subconscious.

Resistance causes you to pause and think, in thinking you can delete
the non-essential.

Martin asked if all Resistance is good. It Depends!(tm)

regards /pauric

p.s. Another theme in the linked BBC conversation that resonates with
my understanding of Resistance as it applies to IxD is concept of
Artistry versus Craft. The conversation highlights the issue of the
importance placed on the 'big Idea' in the art world and the
dismissal of the craftperson as a lesser caste. I do not think its a
stretch to say we have a similar problem with Innovation versus basic
well crafted design in our domain (another topic though!)

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27 Aug 2008 - 12:05pm
ldebett
2004

>
> Only through time spend spend practicing/learning can we,
> as craftspeople, achieve the semi-meditative states where creativity
> bubbles up from our subconscious.

In other words... "Only through practice can we achieve
*Flow*<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csiksczentmihalyi#Flow>."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mihaly_Csiksczentmihalyi#Flow)

~Lisa

27 Aug 2008 - 12:20pm
.pauric
2006

yes! thats not to say there arent other times when creative ideas come
forward. But yes, Flow pretty much captures what happens when one
masters the tools of their trade.

Thanks Lisa!

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27 Aug 2008 - 12:27pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

so i guess the next logical question is: what are the tools of our
trade? surely it's not the many different pieces of software that we
use... what are the -real- tools of IxD? how do you experience flow
in our type of craft?

On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 2:20 PM, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:
> yes! thats not to say there arent other times when creative ideas come
> forward. But yes, Flow pretty much captures what happens when one
> masters the tools of their trade.
>
> Thanks Lisa!
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=32320
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
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--
Matt Nish-Lapidus
work: matt at bibliocommons.com / www.bibliocommons.com
--
personal: mattnl at gmail.com
twitter: emenel

27 Aug 2008 - 1:10pm
.pauric
2006

Matt, great question, I guess its different for everyone, some things
that come to mind...

Trait 'tools'
* Pattern Recognition: The ability to see the wood for the trees,
recognise & understand design patterns.
* Workflow feng shui: The ability to build & refine the path of least
resistance within the given constraints.
* Practice IxD in a different forms; web / hardware / crafting /
hacking.
* Understanding needs versus desires of users & stakeholders.
* Related, strong empathic ability

Some tricks to enabling flow
* Work in a space that you are comfortable.
* Listen to music with tempo appropriate to the task at hand
* Switch tasks when you're running out of steam
* Red wine
* Understand when you are not going to get-it-on, dont force flow,
and switch over to administrative tasks like email, research,
personal hygiene etc.

regards /pauric

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27 Aug 2008 - 1:25pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Ok, so I listened to the BBC piece and it was amazingly inspiring and
the piece on material resistance is really the short of it for me.

The basic theme that I got from this is that before you are a
musician you must first master the instrument. Only after mastery
will expression follow.

The other great piece was about architecture and how CAD has killed
the analog nature of architecture. It has become void of emotion due
to the preciseness created through CAD.

Oh! another great point, and this goes out to Andrei, was that
mastery is a process of learning adjacency to that which you intend
on mastering. I loved that.

But back to "resistance".

I think people have been speaking of great examples in other areas,
but I think at the crux of the issue (as Matt sorta alludes to) is
what is our Craft? Are we even craft people, or are we simply the
directors of craft people? (oh and not we in the sense of "my job",
but as interaction design -- ers in the pure sense. Many of us wear
multiple hats and do a ton of craft.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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27 Aug 2008 - 1:37pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

Maybe Pauric is onto something with his list of our "tools" .. maybe
the craft of IxD is a cognitive craft ... the ability to see things in
a certain way and express/communicate our thoughts clearly to those
with a different perspective.

On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 3:25 PM, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> Ok, so I listened to the BBC piece and it was amazingly inspiring and
> the piece on material resistance is really the short of it for me.
>
[snip]
>
> I think people have been speaking of great examples in other areas,
> but I think at the crux of the issue (as Matt sorta alludes to) is
> what is our Craft? Are we even craft people, or are we simply the
> directors of craft people? (oh and not we in the sense of "my job",
> but as interaction design -- ers in the pure sense. Many of us wear
> multiple hats and do a ton of craft.

--
Matt Nish-Lapidus
work: matt at bibliocommons.com / www.bibliocommons.com
--
personal: mattnl at gmail.com
twitter: emenel

27 Aug 2008 - 1:38pm
martinpolley
2007

For anyone who is interested, the BBC show in question is called Thinking
Allowed <http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/thinkingallowed/>. You can
subscribe<http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=261548752>to
it in iTunes.

Cheers,

Martin

On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 10:25 PM, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:

> Ok, so I listened to the BBC piece and it was amazingly inspiring and
> the piece on material resistance is really the short of it for me.
>
> The basic theme that I got from this is that before you are a
> musician you must first master the instrument. Only after mastery
> will expression follow.
>
> The other great piece was about architecture and how CAD has killed
> the analog nature of architecture. It has become void of emotion due
> to the preciseness created through CAD.
>
> Oh! another great point, and this goes out to Andrei, was that
> mastery is a process of learning adjacency to that which you intend
> on mastering. I loved that.
>
> But back to "resistance".
>
> I think people have been speaking of great examples in other areas,
> but I think at the crux of the issue (as Matt sorta alludes to) is
> what is our Craft? Are we even craft people, or are we simply the
> directors of craft people? (oh and not we in the sense of "my job",
> but as interaction design -- ers in the pure sense. Many of us wear
> multiple hats and do a ton of craft.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=32320
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

27 Aug 2008 - 2:06pm
.pauric
2006

Dave: "Are we even craft people, or are we simply the directors of
craft people?"

I cannot let that one go as I sit here reviewing a clickable
wireframe pdf I'm finishing up ready for a team to digest. We may
not create tangible artifacts that an end-user can point to and say -
I like the way that was Interaction Designed. Our craft is the
formulation, capture, review and dissemination of ideas & principles
where the end result is a better implementation.

I did not simply throw some ideas down on paper with this wireframe,
it is a multi-faceted artifact and is a form that I'm always trying
to improve.

While we wear multiple hats and do a little code, a little drawing,
etc. Resistance specific to our craft applies within
* formulation: Ideation, brainstorming & research
* capture: translation of ideas from concept through prototype to
specification
* review: Peer review of capture artifacts
* dissemination: The communication of ideas & principles in an
effective manner appropriate to the given situation

regards /pauric

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27 Aug 2008 - 2:06pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Hmmm? I agree that those are all good things for IxD, but they are not
limited to IxD, right? I mean if I was a carpenter, the physical tasks
of manipulating and combining wood would be the makings of the craft,
right? Now you could say that a wheeler and barrel maker have to work
with wood too, but in my mind they are specialist carpenters that also
have to do blacksmithing as part of their total artisanship. but the
metaphor goes on ...

I think when I first read Matt's take on Pauric's post, I was like,
"Ok, I can buy this." But when I read the actual list (i'm very
multi-linear with this list sometimes) I was lost.

So what I was thinking was an analog. What would be our "muscle
memory" where for the musician floating through scales is
unconscious in nature. I don't see "pattern recognition" as
analogous to anything like that.

When I think of my "flow" moments as an IxD, it is mostly about
"pixel" and "type" in some way. Basically, how well I can move
the keyboard &/or mouse against the virtual spaces I'm working in.
My tools are indeed my OS, Adobe whatever and MS whatever. My mastery
of these tools is in the end where I think I'm beginning and ending.

To go back to Pauric's notion is there a "savant" like ability for
pattern recognition that someone can obtain? Is that "enough"?

As a non-maker designer (and I know many of don't fit this bill), I
really do feel more and more like a director of craftspeople and less
like a craftsperson myself.

-- dave

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27 Aug 2008 - 2:32pm
Jeff Howard
2004

I don't have the answer, but Malcolm McCullough's book _Abstracting
Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand_ immediately comes to mind as a
source that could shed some light on the subject. He doesn't use the
phrase "resistance of the material" but he talks quite a bit about
the constraints of the medium and other aspects of craft.

http://www.amazon.com/Abstracting-Craft-Practiced-Digital-Hand/dp/026263189X

// jeff

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27 Aug 2008 - 2:49pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

<rant>
This discussion actually brings up a point that I'm constantly arguing
about with designers at interactive advertising agencies... the need
to understand your medium.

Working in marketing/advertising agencies I've encounter far too many
designers working on websites that haven't the slightest clue about
the web.. how it's made, how it's used. They want to use graphics for
text because it looks better.. flash for everything... decoration
rather than design.

This to me signals a deep fundamental ignorance of the medium.. and
it's a pervasive problem in the interactive agency world.

If you're designing for the web, the final medium is html/css/js etc..
and to design for that you should understand how it works, its
strengths, limitations, quirks...

We, as a group, spend so much time thinking about what our craft is as
designers, the larger design landscape, history, technology... but a
large part of the industry doesn't seem to care.
</rant>

ah, that feels better :)

On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 4:32 PM, Jeff Howard <id at howardesign.com> wrote:
> I don't have the answer, but Malcolm McCullough's book _Abstracting
> Craft: The Practiced Digital Hand_ immediately comes to mind as a
> source that could shed some light on the subject. He doesn't use the
> phrase "resistance of the material" but he talks quite a bit about
> the constraints of the medium and other aspects of craft.
>
> http://www.amazon.com/Abstracting-Craft-Practiced-Digital-Hand/dp/026263189X
>
> // jeff

--
Matt Nish-Lapidus
work: matt at bibliocommons.com / www.bibliocommons.com
--
personal: mattnl at gmail.com
twitter: emenel

28 Aug 2008 - 1:14am
Uday Gajendar
2007

This all reminds me of something from CMU, during our mid-year thesis
progress presentations for the master's interaction design grads.

Almost everyone spoke at length about some lofty grand service design
or interaction design or system design problem, and then Dick Buchanan
would interrupt bluntly and sternly ask, "So what are you making??" He
did that repeatedly even to me ;-) Even for a deep reflective
philosopher about interaction design as Dick, he understood that IXDs
manifest something material (a website, diagram, game, device, etc.),
that expresses in sensorial terms the nobler pursuits of the
immaterial concerns/problems and somehow shapes a person's way of life
(tasks, activities, goals) in a substantial and real way.

What makes (ha!) it perplexing for IXD of course is that there is this
wonderful (yet frustrating) spectrum of material and immaterial
problems, tools, artifacts, and solutions from the physical to the
digital and beyond (services, organizations, cultures, policies, etc.).

But at the end of the day you gotta make (or manifest) something!
There's a rich fascinating blend of conceptual and physical/digital
tools then lend to the crafting of a compelling interaction and
interface, as Malcolm elucidates in his Abstracting Craft and also
Digital Ground to some extent.

hope this helps...

Uday Gajendar
Sr. Interaction Designer
Voice Technology Group
Cisco | San Jose

On Aug 27, 2008, at 1:06 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> Hmmm? I agree that those are all good things for IxD, but they are not
> limited to IxD, right? I mean if I was a carpenter, the physical tasks
> of manipulating and combining wood would be the makings of the craft,
> right? Now you could say that a wheeler and barrel maker have to work
> with wood too, but in my mind they are specialist carpenters that also
> have to do blacksmithing as part of their total artisanship. but the
> metaphor goes on ...
>
> I

28 Aug 2008 - 9:23am
Michael Micheletti
2006

I've been thinking about this conversation quite a bit overnight. My
perspective as a life-long musician:

Many musicians learn Bach pieces on their instruments. At any one moment,
there may be thousands of musicians practicing Bach pieces on our planet.
For all I know, you're reading this on your iPhone in an elevator where Bach
is playing over the speaker. The music is well-known, playable, practically
a commodity. So how was I to know that Janos Starker in recital, playing
Bach unaccompanied on a cello, would carve a permanent wound in my soul? I
had no idea that anyone could push through the resistance in that familiar
material to reach such a place.

We, as interaction designers, don't often push through our material
resistance. Our performances are more like musicians at weddings: show up on
time, wear nice clothes, don't play too loud, play what the bride requests.
The wedding party isn't looking for any more emotion - they've got plenty.
They want Wedding Bach, not Starker Bach. Or perhaps we're more like the
road-builders of our design world: not too many potholes? nice and smooth?
good clear signage? won't wear out too soon? Ship It! That's a usable road!

Right now, at this stage of our evolution, our materials resist us
powerfully. Think quickly of how many rich web applications work well in all
different browsers and mobile devices, are powerful enough to grow into but
instinctive enough to grasp without reading instructions, and are accessible
to disabled users? I'm sorry, but somewhere there will be a compromise to
technical capabilities, schedule, finance, usability, beauty.

There are levels that we can aspire to, but we will need to build our craft
and advance our materials. Because right now our materials are crude,
brittle, and frustrating compared to what musicians have to work with. Or
even road-builders, who every so often create a bridge of such great beauty
that you want to do a U-turn and cross it again a couple more times.

I for one am very pleased that we have this community that celebrates the
good roads and pushes through the materials, little by little, as we can. It
may be a while before we reach that happy place on the far side. But I
follow these conversations, hoping for glimpses, and am happy to celebrate
small steps in the right direction.

Michael Micheletti

On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 12:25 PM, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:

> ...
> But back to "resistance".
>
> I think people have been speaking of great examples in other areas,
> but I think at the crux of the issue (as Matt sorta alludes to) is
> what is our Craft? Are we even craft people, or are we simply the
> directors of craft people? (oh and not we in the sense of "my job",
> but as interaction design -- ers in the pure sense. Many of us wear
> multiple hats and do a ton of craft.
>

28 Aug 2008 - 9:44am
Dave Malouf
2005

Are there Starker IxD's?
Who are they?

My guess is that due to our youth we aren't there yet.
BTW, this brings up an interesting comparison if we want to stick w/
the music metaphor (I usually go to dance), but I often ask the
question ... Are we the Bernstein or are we the Pearlman?

While Bernstein is an accomplished musician, his role and fame is
around composition & orchestration which are very different skills
(noted in an earlier thread). I think I said in that thread that
people like Mozart and Chopin were masters of many instruments but
seldom the best of their time and might not even chair in many of the
instruments they took up, but they did take them up and to a level
that would be far superior than the "wedding" musicians of their time
(I love that as a metric level). But what they did even better, was
compose and orchestrate and direct true masters towards performances
that could bring you to weep.

Are we Bernstien (in our highest aspiration of composer/orchestrator)
or are we Yo-Yo Ma (musician and master crafts person)?

Any American Idol fans out there? For the last 2 years (the time frame
that I've been following) I realized that I am attracted to those
people that can do both well. David Cook, this year's idol in the US
took a Lionel Richie song and catapulted from the 80's into this
milennium. He reconceived it expressing his creativity and and sang it
beautifully expressing his craft of manipulating his voice and other
aspects of his performance.

So moving away from Bernstein & Yo-Yo Ma for a moment, are the best of
us Prince? An amazing master of many instruments who can conceive of
musical narratives, melodies, and poetics (arguably according to your
taste).

This speaks to what I think is at the crux here. We argue this point
all the time ... Do you have to be an expert in the craft of the media
we work in (web, desktop, embedded, voice, NUI, spatial, etc.) or is
just having an understanding of its intricacies and how those who are
expert/masters need to work leading to a requirement of partnerships
like Rogers & Hammerstein or Elton & Bernie.

Maybe there is no answer here, but it provokes a lot in me personally
when I think about my future and the types of people I want to
surround myself with as mentors, students, and peers.

-- dave

On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 11:23 AM, Michael Micheletti
<michael.micheletti at gmail.com> wrote:
> I've been thinking about this conversation quite a bit overnight. My
> perspective as a life-long musician:
>
> Many musicians learn Bach pieces on their instruments. At any one moment,
> there may be thousands of musicians practicing Bach pieces on our planet.
> For all I know, you're reading this on your iPhone in an elevator where Bach
> is playing over the speaker. The music is well-known, playable, practically
> a commodity. So how was I to know that Janos Starker in recital, playing
> Bach unaccompanied on a cello, would carve a permanent wound in my soul? I
> had no idea that anyone could push through the resistance in that familiar
> material to reach such a place.
>
> We, as interaction designers, don't often push through our material
> resistance. Our performances are more like musicians at weddings: show up on
> time, wear nice clothes, don't play too loud, play what the bride requests.
> The wedding party isn't looking for any more emotion - they've got plenty.
> They want Wedding Bach, not Starker Bach. Or perhaps we're more like the
> road-builders of our design world: not too many potholes? nice and smooth?
> good clear signage? won't wear out too soon? Ship It! That's a usable road!
>
> Right now, at this stage of our evolution, our materials resist us
> powerfully. Think quickly of how many rich web applications work well in all
> different browsers and mobile devices, are powerful enough to grow into but
> instinctive enough to grasp without reading instructions, and are accessible
> to disabled users? I'm sorry, but somewhere there will be a compromise to
> technical capabilities, schedule, finance, usability, beauty.
>
> There are levels that we can aspire to, but we will need to build our craft
> and advance our materials. Because right now our materials are crude,
> brittle, and frustrating compared to what musicians have to work with. Or
> even road-builders, who every so often create a bridge of such great beauty
> that you want to do a U-turn and cross it again a couple more times.
>
> I for one am very pleased that we have this community that celebrates the
> good roads and pushes through the materials, little by little, as we can. It
> may be a while before we reach that happy place on the far side. But I
> follow these conversations, hoping for glimpses, and am happy to celebrate
> small steps in the right direction.
>
> Michael Micheletti
>
> On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 12:25 PM, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>>
>> ...
>> But back to "resistance".
>>
>> I think people have been speaking of great examples in other areas,
>> but I think at the crux of the issue (as Matt sorta alludes to) is
>> what is our Craft? Are we even craft people, or are we simply the
>> directors of craft people? (oh and not we in the sense of "my job",
>> but as interaction design -- ers in the pure sense. Many of us wear
>> multiple hats and do a ton of craft.
>
>

--
David Malouf
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixda.org/
http://motorola.com/

28 Aug 2008 - 8:42pm
Jeremy Yuille
2007

riffin' on the music thang: don't forget the D word.

Mozart, Yo-Yo Ma, Bernstein, Prince, Stalker etc are all fine.. but lets
also keep in mind people like Water Murch, and the fact that a great sound
design is often one you don't consciously hear ... but you'd notice if it
wasn't there

(turn the sound off next time you watch a horror flick)

29 Aug 2008 - 12:59am
Jonas Löwgren
2003

> Are there Starker IxD's?
> Who are they?

Yes, we are a young field, but my personal impression is that there
are ixd experiences closely resembling Michael's description of his
Starker recital.

The first example that comes to mind is We Feel Fine by Jonathan
Harris and Sep Kamvar (www.wefeelfine.org).

Working from at least two kinds of resistance in the digital
materials (1. Internet trawling intricacies; 2. User-interface design
conventions and idioms) to break through into a somewhat magical place.

The work captures something vital about participatory media, perhaps
not as they are but certainly as we like them to be. It may be
idealistic, but never naively so.

(OK, a "permanent wound in the soul" may be a little exaggerated. But
it is certainly one of the ixd pieces that has left the clearest and
most persistent marks on my view of the canon of interaction design.)

Note, though, that I think it makes more sense to talk about
interaction design pieces than interaction designers. We Feel Fine
is, to me, comparable to Michael's Starker-Bach-recital, but I am not
saying that Jonathan Harris is Janos Starker. To be sure, he tends to
work in a way that illustrates how the resistances of the digital
materials can spark innovation, but not all his works are as
successful as We Feel Fine.

/Jonas Löwgren

29 Aug 2008 - 6:07am
Michael Micheletti
2006

Hi Jonas,

Thanks for sending this link, I didn't know about We Feel Fine before. The
idea of an art project based on datastreams that has an API is somehow very
deviously appealing to me. Might have something to do with the Processing
language books on my bookshelf, demanding I read them. Or with the Java
communications API I'm currently documenting (volunteered to help out in
between design projects). But yeah, these guys are good, and their
project makes me think. Like it a lot.

Digg labs http://labs.digg.com/ has a somewhat similar project with their
screensavers that scrape postings and display them graphically in various
ways, but those aren't as emotive or personal somehow. Thanks again for the
WFF link,

Michael

On Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 11:59 PM, Jonas Löwgren <jonas.lowgren at mah.se>wrote:

> Are there Starker IxD's?
>> Who are they?
>>
>
> Yes, we are a young field, but my personal impression is that there are ixd
> experiences closely resembling Michael's description of his Starker recital.
>
> The first example that comes to mind is We Feel Fine by Jonathan Harris and
> Sep Kamvar (www.wefeelfine.org).
>
> ...

30 Aug 2008 - 8:08am
Al Selvin
2006

Another thinker with plenty to say on this topic is John Dewey,
particularly in Art as Experience. I found his ideas about "the
particularity of the medium", in which he talks about working
through resistance of the materials (among other things), very
helpful and highly readable.

A blog entry relating these ideas to our work with the Compendium
hypermedia approach is at
http://knowledgeart.blogspot.com/2006/12/particularity-of-medium.html.

Al

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=32320

30 Aug 2008 - 8:11am
Al Selvin
2006

I put a link to Amazon's page for "Art as Experience" in my post
(which I did from ixda.org), but it seems to have disappeared when
published. Here it is:
http://www.amazon.com/Art-as-Experience-Johy-Dewey/dp/0399500251
(don't know why his name is "Johy" here).

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=32320

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