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******Interaction Gestalt And The Design Of Aesthetic Interactions [Lim, Y.]

February 9, 2010

Taken from: Interaction Gestalt And The Design Of Aesthetic Interactions
LIM, Y., STOLTERMAN, E., JUNG, H., AND DONALDSON, J. (2007) Interaction Gestalt And The Design Of Aesthetic Interactions. In Proceedings of the 2007 Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and interfaces (Helsinki, Finland, August 22 – 25, 2007). ACM, New York, NY, pp239-254

Bibliographical Annotation

Lim builds upon the work of Petersen and Fiore attempting to align, or at least draw from, more qualitative design disciplines’ use of Aesthetics. Lim et al identifies a gap in practical knowledge in designing for the Aesthetics of Interaction. Attributes of design, in their argument, are a way to re-address this lack of practical knowledge by manipulating them to explore and shape the ‘interaction design space’. This manipulation is through a gestalt framework where the sum of the manipulations creates an interactive experience greater than the attributes (p239). This gestalt is experiential, as both Petersen and Fiore have argued based upon the Pragmatist philosophy of Dewey and Shusterman. Lim identifies that what is lacking in this ‘interaction design space’ is designers’ ability to explicitly shape interactions in an aesthetic way, rather than in an implicit way. HCI is striving for a quantified hermeneutical advance, for something that is qualitatively defined through personal experience and critique (pp239-240). Ideally Lim hopes that Interaction Gestalt can become a conceptual tool (p241), to create a framework upon which the internalized knowledge of aesthetics that graphic and interior designers work from (and to an extent product designers and architects,) can be appropriated into Interaction Design. The material used to create the designs in IxD is not the same they are distinctively different (p441 & p245).

Using Norman’s suggested three levels of perceiving beauty (visceral, behavioural, and reflective), Lim positions Interaction Gestalt as a framework to achieve the first, surface, visceral level of perception of aesthetics; whereas they position Petersen at the higher levels of behaviour and post-experience reflection (p244). In saying that, Lim still follows Dewey’s pragmatism as aesthetics as a holistic, whole experience (p234). Therefore, they argue, the attributes of Interaction Gestalt are contingent into being shaped by, and translated into the properties of the interactive prototype. Only then can users perceive and experience them. This relies upon a designer anticipating how an eventual user will experience the Gestalt. The designer then enters an iterative cycle to shape the gestalt (pp245-246). The attributes that form the interaction are descriptions of the shape of the interaction and not qualities of the experience (p249). This separation is akin to the Modernist design maxim of Form and Function. Two different parts, that when in relationship or flow, in a way creates a design Gestalt.

Where I begin to have reservations about this informative paper is, unfortunately, in its comparisons to the ‘visual’ design (graphic design by yet another term). The attributes of an interaction and the designer’s manipulation of them, is by Lim, equated to the manipulation by a [graphic] designer of a margin within page layout (p250). My problem is not one of fundamental disagreement but more that I currently perceive this as a tenuous link. I think I would have less of an issue if Lim et al had identified what the attributes of interaction are first. Then the comparison would be more transferable.

In my own research into repositioning VisCom into IxD, this paper is useful in presenting a possible theoretical and conceptual framework I can build upon. The term coined by Lim of “interaction design space” in which the attributes are manipulated is conceptually useful. Their positioning of the Interaction Gestalt only to Norman’s lower level of aesthetic appreciation is disappointing, as this would mean that VisCom influence could be restricted to the ‘visceral’ surface again.

Useful Quotes

Although there has been a drastic increase in the research of aesthet-ics of interaction, we still lack well-defined practical knowledge of how to design aesthetic interactions. In order to develop such knowledge, we adapt three important ways of thinking in designing interactions influenced by traditional design disciplines, namely, 1) understanding what it is that is designed—i.e. interaction, 2) knowing what is possible to be manipulated when designing interactions—i.e. attributes of interaction, and 3) mastering how to manipulate the attributes to shape the interactions.” (p239)

Although these directions of research are crucial to understand the role of aesthetics in HCI design, it is still not clear how practical and useful such approaches are in terms of designing aesthetic interactions.” (p239)

We argue that any interaction takes on a gestalt, a composition of qualities that “creates a unified concept, configuration or pattern which is greater than the sum of its parts”[A]. In this paper, we argue that this way of thinking about interaction as an interaction gestalt better invites designers to more concretely and explicitly explore the interaction design space to create aesthetic interactions, especially when comparing to current approaches that blur the relationships among user experience, interaction and an interactive artifact. In any interaction, the interaction gestalt is experienced by a user and evokes the user’s subjective experience of the quality of the interaction [B,C]. However, only thinking about the user experience cannot fully guide design-ers to explore a design space of possible aesthetic interactions in a concrete way. This means that designers should have knowledge of how to shape aesthetic interactions in a more visible, explicit, and designerly way. This is a kind of knowledge we are currently missing in HCI.” (pp239-240)
(A) Wiktionary, Wikipedia.org (25 February, 2007)
(B) Löwgren, J. and Stolterman, E.: Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2004)
(C) Svanæs, D.: Kinaesthetic Thinking: The Tacit Dimension of Interaction Design. Computers in Human Behavior. 13, 4 (1997) 443 – 463

The basic principle guiding our re-search is that we want to adopt and adapt certain ways of thinking through the use of a design language1, similar to what can be found in established design disciplines. This language includes: (1) a good sense of what it is that is designed—i.e. a design target—in our case the interaction itself which we call interaction gestalt, (2) a good sense of what is possible for a designer to manipulate when designing the design target—in our case, the attributes of the interaction gestalt, and (3) a good sense of how to manipulate these attributes in order to shape a specific design—the interaction gestalt.” (p240)

shaping the gestalt involves both imaging how the gestalt should be manifested in an interactive artifact as well as anticipating how users will experience the gestalt.” (p241)

When we discuss aesthetic aspects of interactions, we are not concerned with the aesthetics of everything. We focus solely on interaction, and how aesthetics can be understood in relation to that. To that end, our research is not about arguing the importance of aesthetics. What we are proposing is a conceptual tool that can practically guide and inspire designers in their design of interactions.” (p241)

When we look at traditional design disciplines—e.g. product design, visual design, interior design, and architecture, the knowledge similar to what we are proposing has been established, educated, and discussed for a long time. For example, visual designers know that they should be able to manipulate key attributes of visual products such as margins, shapes, typefaces, and spatial layouts in order to design the gestalt of the visual product. In a similar way, a skilled carpenter has intimate knowledge of his material and how to manipulate that material. However, the carpenter usually has no theoretical knowledge of use experience in any research manner. The carpenter trusts his or her deep internalized knowledge of what can be done and how it can be done with the material at hand in order to create something that is both beautiful and functional. The knowledge about materials for design has been a core part of training and education in traditional design fields [A]. We claim in our research that we need this kind of (internalized or internalizable) knowledge for interaction design as well. However, interactive artifacts are not the same kind of artifacts that are primarily tackled in traditional design disciplines. The dynamics, flexibility, and intelligence enabled by computing technologies embedded in interactive artifacts make the characteristics of such artifacts distinctive from other types of non-computing technology artifacts.” (p241)
(A) Ashby, M. and Johnson, K.: Materials and Design: The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design. Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, MA (2002)

In the special section on aesthetics in HCI in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Journal, Volume 19(4) published in 2004 [A], Norman started the introduction to the section by describing the significant contrast between psychologists’ view and art historians’ view on aesthetics—beauty. The psychological perspective views and analyzes aesthetics through the objective and scientific account of how people perceive it—i.e. through which mechanisms people perceive beauty, or think that they perceive beauty. For example, Norman suggested three levels of perceiving beauty including visceral which is the most “surface” level that is tightly related to human sensory perceptions, behavioral which is the second level where people perceive aesthetics through operation- and action-based perceptions, and reflective which is the deepest level in which people go beyond their immediate perceptions of beauty and form their own meaning of beauty through intellectual judgment [B].” (p242)
(A) Norman, D. A.: Introduction to This Special Section on Beauty, Goodness, and Usability. Human-Computer Interaction. 19, 4 (2004), 311-318
(B) Norman, D. A.: Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. Basic Books, New York, NY (2005)

Although these studies have helped designers understand that there are different types (or levels) of users’ perceived qualities when they interact with products, and also have helped to see that these qualities relate to different aspects of artifacts, this knowledge does not yet directly provide usable knowledge for designers to creatively figure out how to embody aesthetic qualities into their design ideas.” (p243)

In this line of research, aesthetics is instead viewed as a holistic experiential outcome which cannot be separately treated as one type of component in addition to others. Aesthetics is equal to the most desired fulfilling whole experience. This view is much influenced by Dewey’s pragmatism [A]. The approaches dominated by psychological perspectives described in the previous sub-section do not deeply consider or discuss the holistic notion of aesthetics as a whole as experience.” (p243)
(A) Dewey, J.: Art as Experience. Perigee Trade, New York, NY (2005)

Petersen et al. [A] emphasize the importance of aesthetic experience as interdependency between mind and body experiences, and claim that the aesthetic interac-tion is not to be found in the artifacts but is what “emerges from the personal and interpersonal sensations, experiences, and reflections that is connected to the system […]. [A, p.271]” This perspective supports our perspective of interaction, which is that interaction is not something inherent only to the artifact but something that emerges through the inter-plays between people and artifacts. However, our proposal in this paper focuses more on the design of the immediate level of interactions and less on the high-level experiences that encompass lengthy socio-cultural contextual experiences over time. We also claim that these high-level experiences can only be formed by the collections and integrations of such immediate levels of interactions.” (p244)
(A) Petersen, M. G., Iversen, O. S., Krogh, P. G., and Ludvigsen, M.: Aesthetic interaction: a pragmatist’s aesthetics of interactive systems. In Proc. of DIS 04. ACM, New York. (2004) 269-276

To develop such insights about material properties is not easy, especially when it comes to interaction. The material we deal with is not tangible like plastic, metal, wood, or visual elements that constitute familiar building blocks in traditional design fields. The material we need to understand for interaction design is flexible, ungraspable, and phenomenal.” (p245)

it is essential to define and research what the shape of interaction is, which we call interaction gestalt, so that we can help designers articulate and manipulate this unusual type of phenomenon which does not have tangible shapes, and is flexible, ungraspable, and easily changeable [A].” (p245)
(A) Löwgren, J. and Stolterman, E.: Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2004)

The pragmatic perspective of aesthetics especially works well when we try to explain the aesthetics of interaction that does not have tangible properties because it emphasizes that the aesthetics is not intrinsic to the artifact itself, but to the way people experience it. As we emphasized before, interaction is basically viewed as a phenomenon that emerges in-between people and digital artifacts. It is not inside of the artifact. It is continuously going on and changing over time. Unlike physical and tangible gestalts, interaction gestalts are dynamic and difficult to grasp.” (p245)

The interaction gestalt also has its own types of attributes which can be used to shape, describe, and analyze the interaction gestalt. (…) The interaction gestalt is shaped by a set of interaction attributes that must be translated to and manifested in the interactive artifact properties in order to be communicated, perceived, and experienced by users. The interaction gestalt also has to be designed in a way that will evoke the desired user experiences. The designer has to anticipate how a certain gestalt will be experienced by a user, and that anticipation has to be translated back into ideas on how the gestalt should be shaped.” (p246)

Traditionally in HCI, interactions have been described by languages of 1) interface styles such as WIMP (widows, icons, menus, and pointing device), 2) forms of interface devices such as tangible interfaces and graphic user interfaces (GUIs), 3) actions that are supported by interfaces such as instructing, conversing, navigating, and browsing [A], and 4) object-based concepts such as spreadsheet applications designed following traditional ledger sheet forms [A]. Although all these approaches have helped conceptualizing and shaping interface designs, they have not directly supported the aspect of aesthetics when designing interactive artifacts. Major approaches for supporting aesthetics in interaction design have primarily focused on providing indirectly influential techniques such as storytelling [B]” (p246)
(A) Preece, J., Rogers, Y., and Sharp H.: Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York, NY (2002)
(B) Fiore, S., Wright, P., and Edwards, A.: A pragmatist aesthetics approach to the design of a technological artifact. In Proc. of the 2005 ACM Decennial Conference on Critical Computing: between Sense and Sensibility. ACM, New York. (2005) 129-132

The concept of interaction gestalt will lead us and hopefully other interested researchers in near future to contribute to develop an interaction design language as with, for example, visual designs—visual literacy [A]—which has been established, educated, and significantly contributed to shape aesthetics of visual designs.” (p247)
(A) Wilde, J. and Wilde, R.: Visual Literacy: A Conceptual Approach to Graphic Problem Solving. Watson-Guptill, New York, NY (2000)

We distinguish the dynamic aspect of the interaction gestalt as the nature of interaction from other types of gestalts. In Löwgren and Stolterman [A], a gestalt for interactive artifacts is defined as “dynamic gestalt” which “emerges in the interaction with the user over time (p.137).” This dynamic aspect of interaction has been emphasized by many researchers in different ways such as kinetic aesthetics focusing on bodily movement [B,C] and speed of artifact behaviors with a notion of “slow technology” introduced by [D]—i.e. creating a slow movement and transition of technologies which give time for reflections in order to create more aesthetic experience. All of them have emphasized the notion of time when describing the nature of interaction. The importance of the time aspect of interaction is also emphasized by [E,F,33]. The concept of the “dynamic gestalt” with the emphasis on time has influ-enced our definition of the interaction gestalt.” (p247)
(A) Löwgren, J. and Stolterman, E.: Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA (2004)
(B) Moen, J.: Towards people based movement interaction and kinaesthetic interaction experiences. In Proc. of the 2005 ACM Decennial Conference on Critical Computing: between Sense and Sensibility. ACM, New York. (2005) 121-124
(C) Svanæs, D.: Kinaesthetic Thinking: The Tacit Dimension of Interaction Design. Computers in Human Behavior. 13, 4 (1997) 443 – 463
(D) Hallnäs, L. and Redström, J.: Slow Technology – Designing for Reflection. Personal and Ubiquitous Comp. 5, 3 (2001) 201-212
(E) Davis, M.: Theoretical foundations for experiential systems design. In Proc. of SIGMM03. ACM, New York. (2003) 45-52
(F) Hallnas, L. and Redstrom, J.: From use to presence: on the expressions and aesthetics of everyday computational things. ACM TOCHI. 9, 2 (2002) 106-124
(G) Petersen, M. G., Iversen, O. S., Krogh, P. G., and Ludvigsen, M.: Aesthetic interaction: a pragmatist’s aesthetics of interactive systems. In Proc. of DIS 04. ACM, New York. (2004) 269-276

three key factors of interaction emerged as fundamental, namely time, space, and information. Time is already proved to be an important factor of interaction as we discussed above. Space is another key factor of interaction which we believe is critical. Although space is an important factor in any types of artifacts we design, we think that the way of conceptualizing space for interactive artifacts is quite unique comparing to other types of artifacts. It often connects physical and virtual spaces at the same time, and, even within a virtual space, the way of creating and feeling space is very different from what we do with physical artifacts. When virtual elements in an interactive artifact are combined with the concept of time—for example, movement, it also creates a kind of spatial perception even though it is only an illusion.” (p247)

An important character of these attributes is that they are not experience qualities. They are simply descriptions of the shape of the interaction, and not emerging experience qualities. Experience qualities are, as we discussed earlier, connected to personal judgment such as fun, engaging, comfortable, pleasant, excited, and etc., which do not describe the interaction shapes, but describe overall qualities of user experience.” (p249)

Our approach leads designers to think about interactions themselves without even thinking about the artifact properties. For example, if a designer considers movement as one attribute of an interaction gestalt he or she tries to design, he or she will explore a design space for the interaction gestalt from static to dynamic movements that can be shaped as an interaction both by a user’s input behaviors toward the artifact as well as by the artifact’s output behaviors shown to the user. Designers basically apply the attributes to manipulate both ‘input’ behaviors from users and ‘output’ behaviors through interactive artifacts. This process corresponds to visual designers’ manipulating the margin value from small to large, which is one attribute they deal with in the design of a 2-dimensional visual artifact.” (p250)

The most significant benefit of introducing this concept for aesthetics of interaction is that it enables designers to understand the effects of interactions themselves as their design target when exploring a design space. We believe that it will open up designers to think more clearly about the dynamic nature of interactions, and to explore various different forms of emerging behaviors over time through interactions.” (p250)

What designers explore with the idea of interaction gestalt is the space of emerging shapes of interactions; it is not about how interfaces look like or what features need to be implemented.” (p250)

fine the ideation of interaction gestalts. But attributes guide the conceptual directions of the intangible phenomena of interaction gestalts the designer wants to realize by manifesting them through the actual interactive artifacts. It is important to understand that the attributes are not supposed to be used individually. As the original meaning of gestalt tells us, the sum is different from the whole. The ways of combining attributes should be constantly explored and examined to establish useful interaction design principles, as we see from traditional design examples—e.g. various visual design principles such as juxtaposition, symmetry, contrast, and harmony.” (p251)

• Implementing design cases that apply these attributes for actual interaction design projects,
• Establishing a deeper understanding of the meaning of interaction itself from the design perspective.
” (p251)

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