Design of Everyday Things, Tech Journal

Reflection on The Design of Everyday Things

This reading packed a lot into it, and there were lots of things that stood out.

I found it really interesting how it overlapped with last week’s reading by fleshing out in lots of detail the ways in which computing has and continues to be shaped by a machine-first orientation. We’re trained to blame ourselves if we fail to use a tool correctly, rather than blaming the design. It’s so ingrained we don’t even give it much thought anymore, and the reading did a great job of bringing the concept back to the fore. He does a great job of advocating for a more human-centered orientation to design.

I’ve explored positive psychology as a thing to a great extent (I’ll bring a great book on it to class this next week!), but never thought about it in relation to design and technology. I’m a HUGE advocate of the sort of orientation shift the author talks about in transforming the concept failure into learning experiences. As designers and as humans, failure is part of the process and of life. It’s so easy to let failure break our morale and motivation to continue down a certain path, but by reconsidering the role failure plays in the larger picture, we can start to use it as fuel for the opposite.

I also really liked the example on page 43 of the drill and the hole. It’s a powerful metaphor to describe the complexity that needs to be navigated in the creation of successful design. People don’t need a drill, they need a hole. But what do they need the hole for? What do they need what they need the hole for? And so it goes back, with each iteration allowing the designer to better understand the problem and, from there, to design a better solution.

Tech Journal

The technologies I used over the week, and descriptions of the mind and body contexts involved in their use.

tech journal

Week 1 Reflections

On Class

I enjoyed class a lot. Though I think the material of the course will be very different from typical ITP fare in a lot ways, at its core it seems to reflect the values of ITP better than most.

As ITPers, we have the power to design the future in many ways, and that means we have the power to influence the future through our designs (a terrifying thought when you consider the responsibility that comes with that!). To me, ITP as a whole is about bringing interaction and engagement to the fore of design considerations, and Muscle appears to be a course with a parallel mission.

The sign circle was an interesting alternative to the typical introduction. It provided insight into each of us not only through what our own sign looked like, but how we performed each other’s signs as well. It helped me get comfortable with the class and my peers in it very quickly, which is a plus.

The exercise in which we broke down our own movements as we prepared for the day was awesome, especially when I thought about how many sub-movements were involved in each larger one. Insane!

Finally, the 10 minute speed learn-a-movement-style exercise showed me just how complex a lot of systems of movement are. It was almost like learning a new language!

On the Reading

The way Dourish traces the history of the development of computation as it relates to human capability is really great. There were a lot of moments where points were made that weren’t necessarily the main argument, but which stuck out to me nonetheless.

One was the discussion of computer time vs. user time, and the durability of privileging computer time even as computers have become much faster. As Dourish mentions, this is indicative of a design process that is disconnected from the user. I found it interesting because computers are already fast; changing this would mostly just require a shift in the way we think about designing.

Another tiny piece of the reading that stuck out to me was how much computational innovation arrived to the greater public by way of the military. This is incredibly problematic, and is a small part of larger issues about what we prioritize as a country. I find it tragic that technological development and cutting edge research is so often being focused in the military realm, and constantly wonder what sorts of amazing things could come from so much time, talent, and money being devoted to other spaces.

Understanding the past and why certain decisions were made is crucial to making better ones moving forward. As much as past innovators were trying to improve how humans work with computers (and they did accomplish this in a lot of ways, I don’t mean to minimize their work), they limited themselves in how they saw what computers could and should be. I would hope we can do a better job in our future work.