The development of the discipline of Interaction Design has been summarised earlier in this paper, but Moggridge from the beginning strove for giving “aesthetic pleasure as well as lasting satisfaction and enjoyment” (2007, p14) in the work that was to be designed. Interaction designers Jon Kolko and Dan Saffer reflect upon this. Saffer summarises the scope of his discipline by detailing what it was not,
“It wasn’t product design exactly, but they were definitely designing products. Nor was it communication [graphic] design, although they used that discipline’s tools as well. It wasn’t computer science either, although a lot of it had to do with computers and software” (2006, p3).
Kolko sees the discipline as designing a person’s physical and emotional dialogue with an interactive artefact or system, leading to both a satisfactory emotional experience and a satisfactory engagement with the content. Once used, the experience should result in a form of behavioural change that is positive, and enjoyable. In my intention to reposition Visual Communication’s influence earlier in the Interaction Design process, it is crucial also to look below the aesthetics of the surface, the visual interface or form, into what Dunne describes as the ‘aesthetics of use’ (1999). To explore and drill-down below the surface of an interaction, into what Nake describes as the ‘subface’ (2008) and Lim et al. term the ‘interaction design space’, an interaction designer needs to gain knowledge about the nature of the interaction; the intent, needs and desires of the user; and the material attributes that can be manipulated to iteratively develop the design. The materials interaction designers use differs from the materials used within Product or Graphic Design (Lim, 2007) and are more ‘flexible, ungraspable, and phenomenal’ (ibid. p245). It is in understanding these attributes of design and their manipulation that creates an interactive experience greater than the attributes used (ibid. p239).
But as Interaction Design’s materials are not tangible, non-qualitative critics have argued that it cannot formalise a design process that is procedurally executable or repeatable. Kolko sees a need for Interaction Design to position itself into a duality that “emphasizes the human side of technology.” (2010, pp11-13). This physical and emotional dialogue is synonymous with McCarthy and Wright’s (2004) underdeveloped ‘emotional-volitional’ component of the relationship between the human and the technology. They discuss users now becoming active consumers who are no longer passive in the relationship with technology, but through their imaginations and emotional attachment to their chosen technology. This quality of experience is a “felt and sensual quality” (p13) within a situated moment that is more than an instrumental exotelic experience. It is what Dewey (1980) describes as an aesthetic experience, a refined form of everyday experience that is satisfying and creative.
Dewey, a pragmatist philosopher, describes aesthetic experience as the “conversion of resistance and tensions, of excitations that in themselves are temptations to diversion, into a movement toward an inclusive and fulfilling close.” (p58) Csikszentimihalyi in his psychology research on FLOW lists eight major components to an aesthetic experience. He describes a phenomenology of enjoyment that can frame an autotelic experience that Dewey would describe as aesthetic. Csikszentimihalyi’s eight components that may all feature together (or in cases only one) are: a chance of completing a task; concentration on actions; action has clear goals; immediate feedback on actions; a deep but effortless involvement; a sense of control over own actions; concern for the self disappears (yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger afterwards); and the sense of the duration of time is altered (p49).
McCarthy and Wright argue that it is the dynamic involving “cumulation, conservation, tension and anticipation” (p64) within a user that is always moving toward a fulfilment where the diversion away from natural obstacles, resistances and tensions are overcome leading toward an outcome that Dewey describes as a close that is both fulfilling and inclusive. This instrumentality of means-end is not exclusively functional but emotionally felt. It sits within a existential situation where the event is always becoming, conditional on the context and the temporality of the situation. The aesthetic experience emerges from the lived experience, where the self can be lost in the moment but can return, feeling nourished and contented. McCarthy and Wright’s perspective on the implications of a ‘emotional-volitional’ component goes beyond a subjective state to the “irreducible totality of people acting, sensing, thinking, feeling, and making meaning in a setting, including the perception and sensation of their own actions” (p85). This is to draw the distinctions between an intrinsic and extrinsic understanding that meaning fluctuates between autotelic and exotelic experience: for both its own sake and for exterior purpose. Dourish (2004) suggests that meaningful experiences are situated within, and shaped by a person’s immersion within the experience.
McCullough develops the argument that actions are shaped by their contexts and that opportunities for participation become available through cognitively encountering them in a situated way. The embodied interaction is resultant from the surrounding possibilities for participation, but the interaction emerges and is shaped peripherally from possible affordances rather than directly imposed choices. The experience is cognitively embodied, with the meaning of it changing through interaction with the system or artefact through its creation and manipulation (McCullough, 2005, p126). The situated action from where the understanding of the experience emerges is at once cognitive, temporal, physical and social (Anderson, 2003). This shifts the focus of an interaction away from the control of the designer and onto a user’s experience of the artefact or system they are using (Gajendar cited in Kolko, 2010, p120). This McCullough sees as a shift of design values “objects to experiences, from performance to appropriateness, from procedure to situation, and from behaviour to intent” (2005, p50). This experience framed within a ‘emotional-volitional’ perspective leads towards a phenomenological approach to understanding and interpreting it. Reframing an experience of an interactive artefact, system or service within such a framework allows for the experience to begin to be understood by the interaction designer as close as possible through the eyes of the user. In doing so new insights in how to design a better user experience can be made through interpretations on human’s real lived useage. In the next section of the literature review this new paradigm will be discussed.