Workshop: Designing dynamic interfaces for mobile devices

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 | Design and research, Events, General | No Comments
Apple iPhone Cover Flow

Are you compelled by the rapid development of mobile devices and their graphically sophisticated screens?

Have you noticed the increasing employment of visual motion in screen-based interfaces?

Are you interested in the possibilities and challenges for designing such interfaces?

Jørn Knutsen and I will arrange a full day workshop at the NORDES conference Engaging Artifacts in Oslo, August 30 – September 1, 2009. We will introduce participants to theoretical concepts and design techniques for prototyping screen-based interfaces that make use of visual movement. Participants will work hands-on in groups, exploring techniques for developing simple prototypes. The workshop ends with a general discussion in which we address theoretical as well as practical issues.

Full workshop description (PDF).

Conference program. NB: early registration until August 1.

UPDATE: The workshop was cancelled.

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To be presented: Social Navimation

Monday, May 4th, 2009 | Design and research, Events, General, Theory | No Comments
Social navimation: Urørt Maps

I will present a full peer-reviewed paper on the Nordic Design Research conference NORDES’09: Engaging Artefacts, which will take place in Oslo in the end of August this year. The paper is called ‘Social Navimation: Engaging Interfaces in Social Media’, and explores how visually dynamic interfaces can enhance social media applications. This potential is investigated through experimental design production, followed by a textual analysis of the resulting interface prototypes. The term ‘social navimation’ is introduced and applied in the analysis, in which I investigate how semiotic resources from navimation are connected to features of social media. Hopefully, the paper will be of interest for both theory and practice of interface and interaction design, and new media studies in general.

UPDATE: The conference program and all papers are now available here. Download the full paper: Social Navimation: Engaging Interfaces in Social Media (PDF).

UPDATE 2: See the presentation.

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Seminar: Research by design

Friday, December 5th, 2008 | Design and research, Events, General, PhD school | 1 Comment

The Research by Design seminar was arranged yesterday as part of the PhD school at AHO. It was a rather long day of presentations, more or less relevant to my project. The image below is from the last presentation, many had left at this point.

Research by design seminar

Chris Rust (webpage) presented A Hopeful Marriage: Artistic Inguiry in the Academy 1993-2008, and shared experiences from the UK on practice-based research. Some key points: good research practice is the one important criteria, avoid excess of theorizing, don’t create a monster, build theory through practice, own your research and argue for it, a thesis must be visible and permanent, research should be a single inquiry.

Timo Arnall & Einar Sneve Martinussen presented Touch: Designing an Internet of Things, and gave a general overview of the Touch project at AHO, described through a series of themes.

Birger Sevaldson was Being Specific about Practice Based Research in Design: An Attempt at Mapping the Field, and is in the process of mapping the field of Practice Based Research. A difficult but important task.

Michael Weinstock gave a presentation on Forms and Process in Nature and Civilisation, and showed how we can understand the emergence of cities, civilisation and information systems by looking at processes of metabolism and evolution in nature.

Michael Hensel is Constructing a Research Programme: Performance-Oriented Design along a Biological Paradigm. He is investigating the possibility of going from a function-oriented architecture to a new paradigm inspired by biology, where performativity is a key issue.

Mick Eekhout presented an example of Designing and Prototyping of a New Generation of Composite Sandwich Structures for Free Form Architecture. We got to see how technological research may be carried out in real world projects.

Børre Skodvin (Jensen & Skodvin) gave insights From Architectural Practice, on the relationship between practice and research seen from a practitioner.

Pattie Bell Hastings (webpage) presented The Misuse Manifesto, related to her artistic work in progress, with ideas related to technology and mobile misuse.

The seminar was a bit long, and except of Chris Rust and Birger Sevaldson’s presentations, there were few attempts to discuss and problematize the concepts and practices of ‘research by design’. We saw many examples that were interesting in themselves, but without being placed in a theoretical context it is hard to see how they help us to develop better theories or practices of ‘research by design’.

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Workshop: Mieke Bal on case study

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 | Events, General, Theory | 2 Comments

Monday and Tuesday afternoon this week I attended a two-day workshop at HIO with Mieke Bal, a cultural theorist and critic based in Amsterdam. The theme of the workshop was the case study, and “how to move beyond the particularity of single-object studies”. The problem of the case study is that of generalisation from one single event, as the specific can never be generalized. The case study should not be the only type of study in a discipline. However, it can be used as a tool for polemics: it can challenge the discipline, the repetitive work, and our prejudices and ideas. I suspect this is a rather unconventional view of the case study. Here are some of the core concepts that were discussed:


Abduction is an alternative to generalisation. Mieke described this as “abducting a work for another purpose”. Rather than generalizing from one case, we go back and forth between different cases. Going from the case, the observable fact, we end up with a possible cause, a hypothetical explanation. This is different from deduction (going from cause to consequence) and induction (going from the particular to the general). Abduction is also a space for creative thinking, and knowledge is seen as provisional rather than fixed.

Theoretical object

As an alternative to the notion of the case, Mike proposes the concept of theoretical object. This is an artwork or something else that obliges to do theory. The theoretical object poses theoretical terms, it produces theory through triggering people’s minds, and it necessitates reflection on theory itself. As the work exists in time, it is always in becoming. The theorizing is therefore dynamic and ongoing. The becoming of the work surpasses the moment of making, so that the intentions of the artist or designer are irrelevant. When we look for an object to analyse, we must therefore look for one that raises questions. We should also remember that the theoretical object is another subject to which we are responsible, even though (or precisely because) it doesn’t speak back.

Choosing a theoretical object does not have to mean choosing only one object in isolation. Rather, it is fruitful to dynamically juxtapose different objects in a series, so that they complete each other, and constitute a field for discussing certain general concepts. In research by design, this would mean including the result of my own design production as a work amongst other works, and reflect on how they all relate to the concepts.

The singular vs. the particular

The particular has a one-to-one relationship between the individual and the event. Consequently, it is not necessarily relevant beyond the particular situation. The singular however, has a relation to generality, and can be shared. The particular can be transformed into the singular, and the singular can transform into another singularity. The case study should focus on the singular, not the particular.

Subjectivity vs. intersubjectivity

In research, there is a need to move beyond the subjective, as we need to know that what we do is  relevant not only for ourselves. However, according to Mieke, the opposite of the subjective is not the objective, but the intersubjective. The intersubjective is what is shared by more than one conscious mind, as we are all subjects involved in culture. As culture continuously expands and changes, there is no end to this kind of knowledge.

Performance vs. performativity

According to Mieke Bal, performance and performativity are two distinct concepts, still they are not separate as they are always an aspect of one another. Performance is the act of executing something from memory, as a skilled and thoughtful production, playing a role. Performativity is the unique occurrence of an act in itself, here and now, in the unique present. In her book Travelling Concepts in the Humanities (2002: 183), she writes, “the elements of present and past in memory are what specifically distinguish performance and performativity”.

Bal, Mieke (2002) Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide. Toronto, Buffalo and London: University of Toronto Press.

Why am I blogging this? The seminar gave me new insights that will be relevant to my work, and I believe some of these concepts could be interesting for others doing design research as well.

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Presentation: Bouvet

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 | Events, General | 2 Comments

Today I presented my project for the Norwegian company Bouvet, which describes itself as “a provider of consultancy and development services within information technology”. About 20 people with background from dissimilar fields such as graphic design, information architecture and anthropology attended the session.

My presentation (in Norwegian): Grensesnitt i bevegelse

The reactions to my presentation were quite diverse. Someone argued that navimation is technologically difficult, expensive and time consuming to develop, while others argued that the technological constrains are not the real problem: rather the problem may be in our heads, related to attitude.

It was interesting to hear about the relationship between the design/development consultancy and the business customers. Naturally, the customers do not want to spend money on anything that appears “useless”, and this often results in rather conventional solutions. On the other hand, companies with plenty of resources are not afraid of taking some chances, and are thereby more willing to explore new types of interfaces.

However, Navimation is not useless or superficial styling, but can be used for functional as well as communicative purposes. I was happy to get good feedback at Bouvet, and also pleased to get some interesting links and tips to follow up in my research.

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