【 inTouch 】
The histories of HCI used to thrash out two major intellectual waves. One orients from engineering and human factors and concentrates on optimizing the functionality of a product; the other stems from cognitive science and lays its emphasis on theory and the mental activities of human. However, according to “The Three Paradigms of HCI” written by Steve Harrison in 2007, the third paradigm has come with the tide of fashion. Its specialty in phenomenology has made creators to think about the importance of meaning making which is mutually defining and subjects to various interpretations. Above all, instead of disproving the old two paradigms, the emersion of the third paradigm leads to a brand new choice of viewpoint to design. That is, researchers have an alternative way of viewpoint.
Since each paradigm in HCI is a different metaphor of interaction, we may then analyze products by different paradigms. The following case is a project named inTouch, which aims at conveying something vague but poetic such as human temperature, interactions between people and flow of time.
The purpose of inTouch focuses on perceptual crossing, ambiguity, ludic design and the implicit social meaning. Merlean argues that the whole world is a field for perception, to which we can assign meaning through human consciousness. Therefore, the perceptual crossing happens in inTouch when users see the color changes and know that it represents the contact with others since the color changes from blue to red only when users press the soft material with LED inside and trigger the button; without the touch, the color fades back to blue as time goes by. This enthralling device is mainly composed of Arduino, multi-color LED light, heat conduction material, thermoelectric cooler and the network connect to Internet. With all this stuff, the ludic value may be induced by ambiguous metaphor of interaction, and perceptual crossing also brings out the implicit social meaning.
Hence, researchers may assay products by the three paradigms we mentioned before. Take inTouch as example:
The theme that underlies the first paradigm concentrates on functionality and reduction of error. inTouch, nevertheless, has little practical utility enhancing our daily lives. It only provides quite simple information of whether there is someone beside his inTouch or not. Each section represents a communication link with others.
On the other hand, the second paradigm espouses cognitive science, human interaction and efficiency. We can merely infer that people is capable of knowing whether or not the person who shares his existence through inTouch is still keeping in touch with them.
In contrast, meaning making is of the essence to the third paradigm. What kind of meaning inTouch makes depends on users’ own past experience. In my view, inTouch leaves a message of accompany. People are colonial animals; as a result, whenever and whatever we encounter, we tend to share this message and feeling with others. That is why twitter, facebook, and all kinds of social websites are so popular nowadays. inTouch creates great meaning on this point.
In conclusion, the three paradigms actually co-exist. However, I argue that inTouch is mainly designed to have similar intention as the third paradigm does. This artifact reflects the importance of being with people you care and appropriately display your existence even though you guys are not actually together.