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“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

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By phil

Inner Lives, Outer Expressions – An Exploration of Object Animism

On 15, Dec 2010 | In Blog, ideas | By phil

Nokia Research recently gave me a small grant to conduct a research project in Summer, 2011. Here’s the basic description:

This project explores the design opportunities in objects that seem to have inner lives through their expressive behavior.

As Piaget and others have noted, people tend to imagine that inanimate objects are alive – why not leverage this to create more interesting, playful, expressive, desirable, and useful systems?

Creating apparent intentionality for objects offers the potential for fitting more easily into the narrative of daily life, as well as making it easier for people to understand the sometimes complex function and role of digital systems in our lives.

The research would be conducted in summer 2011, in Philip van Allen’s New Ecology of Things Lab (NETLab) at Art Center’s Media Design Program. Professor van Allen will work with Nokia Research staff, as well as engaging select graduate Media Design Program and upper term undergraduate Product Design students to explore the potentials of Object Animism. The project team will create a series of experiments and design speculations that investigate the roles that animism might play, both in how the objects perform their “behind the scenes” tasks, as well as how they express themselves through sound, kinetic motion, and visual displays.

A range of contexts will be selected for the work, such as sensing and reporting, simple affordances for complex tasks, and subtle communication. The project will use and further develop the NETLab Toolkit rapid prototyping system.

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