Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Transdisciplinary Design Approach to Building an Interfaced World: A smattering of ideas, food for further thought

I've noticed that number of research and commercial projects incorporate ideas from a variety of disciplines, and this trans-disciplinary approach has been the topic of a recent assortment of articles, presentations, and blog-posts:

Transcending Disciplinary Boundaries in Interaction Design
Eli Blevis and Erik Stolterman,  Indiana University at Bloomington, Human Computer Interaction Design Group

In this article, Blevis and Stolterman, both  discuss "issues of and distinctions between notions of disciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, and interdisciplinarity.", and explain why  Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and interaction design are transdisciplinary.

"HCI and interaction design are in a unique position to make a real change and to address some of the most urgent issues of our time.  We can't let issues of collaboration and disciplinary complications stand in the way of our attempts to serve these societal goals".

The Transmedia Design Challenge:  Co-Creation
Don Norman

"There is another side of this new transmedia: co-development, co-creation, co-ownership. In this new world, we all produce, we all share, we all enjoy. Teacher and student learn together achieving new understanding. Reader and writer create together. Game player and game developer work together. This is the age of creativity, where everyone can participate. Everyone can be a designer. Everyone can be involved."

"The new design challenge is to create true participatory designs coupled with true multi-media immersion that reveal new insights and create true novel experiences. We all participate, we all experience. We all design, we all partake. But much of this is meaningless: how do we provide richness and depth, enhanced through the active engagement of all, whether they be the originators or the recipients of the experience?"

Adam Greenfield, author of Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, recently wrote a blog post on a somewhat related note, Toward urban systems design. Although Adam speaks of urban design,  Don Norman's ideas about encouraging the active engagement of everyone in the design process hold true.

Included in Adam's lengthily post is the abstract of one of his upcoming talks:

"The networked objects which are increasingly populating our lives and our cities already generate torrential, unceasing volumes of data about our whereabouts, activities, and even our intentions. How can we ensure that this data is used for the equal benefit of all? What provisions regarding such objects should citizens demand of their municipal governments? How might the juridical order respond most productively to the presence of these new urban actors?"

Adam goes on to describe what he's conceptualizing:   "’s an attempt to use the appearance of networked informatics in our cities to argue a much larger point: that our times and circumstances call for a conscious art and craft of urban systems design."
Urban systems design.  Who owns this domain?

Urban planners?  Architects?   The mobile phone companies? The Digital Out of Home folks?  Google? Clear Channel?

Adam explains that his vision of urban systems design "....would have to be able to model the role of all the interdependent actors involved in producing urbanity: from institutional and technological to climatological, animal and microbial. (The networked informatic systems I’m most personally concerned with would of course be numbered among these actors.)"

An example of a company that fits Adam's vision is Stamen Design "Big ideas worth pursuing" Stamen focuses on interactive design and data visualization projects.  It was founded by Eric Rodenbeck in 2001, and later added partners Michal Migurski and Shawn Allen.  They address a the needs of a very broad range of clients, and their transdisciplinary approach supports their ability to see the big picture and the details, and all of the relationships in-between.

Adam also mentions the work of Paul M. Torrens, who is an associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, at Arizona State University. Dr. Torren's work is featured in the video below.  The video + text was taken from BlipTV.  The presentation was part of the 2008 O'Reilly Where 2.0 conference.

Modeling crowd behavior

"Paul Torrens (Arizona State University)--Ambient crowds are the new distributed computing platform. Smart mobs are fashioning new architectures for social networking. Armed with cell phones and mobile gaming devices, they are the new business model for location-based services. Seditious crowds are creating havoc in urban theaters of war and at global economic forums. Crowds of shoppers, endowed with smart chip credit cards and RFID tagged merchandise are trailed by long-lasting data shadows that follow them ubiquitously. Embedded in urban infrastructure and in the very products we consume, new technologies are emerging to enable cities to think about—and process—the people that pulse through them, with a burgeoning code-space being developed to capture the actions and interactions of individuals within large dynamic crowds. This presentation will focus on our recent research work in developing models of crowd behavior and their application to theory-building and scenario evaluation in the contexts just described. We have developed a reusable modeling platform for constructing large simulations of individual and collective behavior in dense urban environments. The simulations are developed with individual agents, equipped with geospatial AI that allows them to perceive and react to their evolving surroundings with an incredible level of behavioral realism. These agents are also capable of social and antisocial interactions. The simulation architecture is coupled to Geographic Information Systems, allowing for a suite of geospatial analytics and data-mining to be performed, across a wide array of scenarios. Moreover, the models have been developed as realistic 4D immersive environments with unprecedented levels of graphical realism."

At any rate, I haven't digested all that I've put out here in this post.  I will return to this topic in the future.


Transdisciplinary Design Approach:  An Experimental Model to Project-based Teaching and Creative Problem Solving pdf   Tatjana LeBlank

Rethinking Interdisciplinarity Helga Nowotny


O'Reilly Where 2.0 2009
Location-based services, a historical view: "Look! A Map"

(I especially like the interactive map.)

Geography of the Stimulus Package -- from Stat to Stories
John Frank and John Seratts, from MetaCarta

The Emerging Geo-Web (video)


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