Add Me!Close Menu Navigation

Interaction Design Courses, Workshops, and Resources

Add Me!Show Navigation

Due weeks 8,10,12,13:

As part of this project, students will research and report on Animism, ubicomp, and how they might connect.

For the Spring 2012 final project, we’ll be investigating how The New Ecology of Things can utilize the natural tendency of people to think of their surroundings as if they were animate – that is, objects and spaces have motivation, intention and/or consciousness. Furthermore, the projects will explore how this idea of animism plays out across a heterogeneous ecology with multiple designed systems, where objects and spaces have distinct “personalities” expressed through their behavior as they communicate and interact with one-another and with people.


Typical interactions with computational systems tend to be functional, task oriented, utilitarian, even minimalist  – despite this approach, people still relate to their digital things as if they are alive and have intentions and feelings. One prays to the computer gods that their hard drive does not crash before a deadline, or we scream at our phone when it does not do what we wanted. This natural tendency to think of objects as alive is called Animism.

Perhaps there is a way to engage this natural tendency to create a new kind of interaction, given that pervasive networks and embedded computation afford new, more complex and expressive kinds of interactions that aren’t best addressed through the traditional notions of how computational systems behave.

The brief for the project is to create experimental systems that accept and leverage the human tendency towards animism, thereby creating new modes of interaction and communication.

Your NET project should rethink how systems and people interact by designing behaviors and applying the ideas of NET, including productive, embodied, and mythological interaction. The project must incorporate some kind of distributed computation, where there are multiple, interactive objects and/or spaces and the interaction of the multiple systems define the project.

Issues the project can explore include:

  • How do productive, mythological and embodied interactions play out in the New Ecology of Things?
  • What are the implications of having multiple, heterogeneous, networked objects and spaces, especially when used in concert for a single activity?
  • What kinds of animism are appropriate for different kinds of systems?
  • How useful are the various ideas of animism such as intention, motivation, consciousness, spirits, souls, and auras? How can they be applied?
  • What is designed behavior and how can it enhance interaction and communication?
  • How can kinetic communication be used as a way to enhance the expression of the animism through physical behavior? What other roles can kinetic communication play?


  • Week 8 – Present an approach to animism you wish to pursue, and show exploratory sketches (video, hardware, or other) of 3 different ways you might approach the problem in the context of The New Ecology of Things.
  • Week 10 – Present a working prototype, version 1, of your project
  • Week 12 – Present a working prototype, version 2, of your project
  • Week 13 – Present a final version of your project

References on Animism

A few links, but do your own research as well. When you present your ideas for your project you must refer to readings you’ve done on Animism.

Previous projects