Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Seams, beautiful and otherwise

UK artist Jess Loseby explores "borderlands and 'beautiful seams' between the ubiquitous worlds of computing and the 'real' (domestic)". After Weiser, ubicomp became more about seamlessness than seamfulness, although Matthew Chalmers has further explored these "beautiful seams" from a range of perspectives in computer science, phenomenology, neuroscience, semiotics, hermeneutics, CSCW and gaming. (His perspective, sometimes more successfully than others, combines embodied interaction with a world-as-text/code.)

But what are these seams? And how are they beautiful?

Chalmers writes:

"In good MR and AR (and ubicomp) design, according to Weiser, interaction using heterogeneous media is so tightly coupled in user activity that the obvious differences and boundaries—what he called ‘seams’—between the parts of a system become less significant than the quality of interaction with the whole. The seams are perceivable—the technology is ‘seamful’—but we can call the whole system a single, hybrid object because coupled use of the parts is so unproblematic in users’ interaction i.e. interaction is non–rationalised and seamless..."

He advocates seamful design:

"One of our responses has been to explore seamful design, a less well–known
concept that involves understanding and accepting ‘seams’ such as gaps and breaks in functionality, and the limits of sensing, communication and representation. Seams in interactive system designs and infrastructures show through in users’ interaction, but we can design for such seams. We can help users understand and adapt our systems and their activity, with design that weave transparent use and more analytical use together into what Weiser called ‘the fabric of everyday life’."

[Note to self: Chalmers and his colleagues have dropped the "beautiful" part of "beautiful seams". I should ask why.]

But back to the seams, those "obvious differences and boundaries" between things, or the gaps, breaks and limits of technology. Is a seam a liminal space? Hybridity is found only at system/macro scale. A seam is not a fold (also next month).

More later.

Update 18/05/05 - Ubicomp 2005 Workshop: The Spaces in-between: Seamful vs. Seamless Interactions


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