Cambridge University Design / UX group

Is interaction necessary?

Sarah Humbert, Librarian, Dept of Earth Sciences

Lately, on my bus journeys home, I’ve been listening to a lot of the podcasts from the IA Summit 09 (available at boxes and arrows and slideshare) . One which has particularly struck me, and spurred me on to further reading is Karl Fast‘s talk which asks ‘Is interaction necessary?’ ( )

In this talk, Fast takes us on a journey that challenges what he calls our assumptions on interaction. For instance, we tend now to think of the use of a mouse as natural, intuitive almost. Fast argues that this is wrong, we only think of it that way because of the mouse’s prevalence and ubiquity. Drawing heavily on the work of Kirsch and Maglio in the field of Cognitive Science, he explores the two types of actions; pragmatic and epistemic.

The former, pragmatic action, changes the world around us, brings us closer to a given goal. While the latter; epistemic action, changes the nature of our mental tasks, it allows us to work out the best way to carry out a task in the physical world.

Although short the talk covers a lot, which certainly made me think and read further. In the end he answers his own question with a resounding yes, however, he turns this into a two part query by adding: ‘to what purpose?’. Perhaps we think the days of dreadful websites are over, but are we sure we’re not committing similar crimes against the user but with 2.0 rounded corners?


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