This spring’s New Ecology of Things course in the Media Design Program had the theme of animism, and explored how interaction design can utilize the natural tendency to imagine that inanimate objects and spaces have motivation, intention and/or consciousness.
In particular, I encouraged my students to design the project behaviors to indicate animism through kinetic expression. They created working, interactive projects with rich materiality, sensors, motors, and light.
The projects were quite evocative, and came at animism from many different directions. Some seemed primarily reactive to interactions, others seemed to be doing their own thing, and yet others were curious in a shy kind of way. A common theme among the projects was the use of fictional back-stories, some quite elaborate, which gave the projects a more full character, suspension of disbelief, and space for imagination.
Reflections on the project, as well as links to details and videos of the interactions below. As a followup to this project, this summer I’ll be leading further research on Animism in a project funded by the Santa Monica based Nokia Research group headed by Sean White.
Through discussion and critique, the class found patterns in these speculative projects that seemed to make the animism work well, summarized in this table.
|Appearance of inner life
||Lifelike behavioral characteristics that were succesful
|Creation of a dialog
Student Project Documentation - Click on links for details and videos
|Bora Shin’s Curious Mailbox – Watches and emotes about your email||Dee Kim & Chiao Wei Ho’s Future Particle Lab – Scientific research into live nano particles|
|Link Huang’s Velit – Wishing machine and its minions||Mike Manalo’s Animism: Material Research – Textures and Architecture|
|Jayne Vidheecharoen’s Botanical Autonoma – Human Spirit Interaction (HSI vs. HCI)||Rubina Ramchandani’s Stonaloid – Traumatized rocks in recovery|
|Sal Orara’s Tonalis Luminous – A field of tonal, light-sensitive flowers||Joshua McVeigh-Schultz’s Mobile interface devices in their natural state|
|Aarti Vashisht’a Doodler – A companion that reacts to your writing, and gets bored|