Syllabus: Interaction and Service Design Concepts, 2018
Seminar One (51–701) | School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University | Professor Molly Wright Steenson, PhD
Tools to Think With*
What is interaction, what is design, where did these notions come from, and where are they going? This seminar aims to give us tools to think with* (the with on the end is a dangling preposition, I realize) in the form of readings, discussions and activities. Through this grounding, you will return to questions of what kind of designer you are and wish to be, what you believe in, and how that will extend to your research and practice. You will also develop your own critical take on the material in the class and sharpen your voice and arguments about your perspectives.
Interaction design wasn’t invented from scratch as a singular, monolithic practice. It was born out of the intersection of a number of disciplines from within design and human-computer interaction, and also from art, media, architecture, politics, and philosophy, and beyond. There are many different definitions of what it is and where we fit into it, and no two people we meet in this class will likely have the same definition. And that’s the way it should be.
Through my suggestions and yours, we will also turn to design questions in digital culture, film, tv, fiction, gaming, music, art and beyond as we together frame our understandings. You will be writing continually throughout the class as you grapple with questions in the readings, answering writing prompts on Medium throughout the semester, and developing argumentative papers that explore and argue points. As you read, discuss, and write, you’ll put a stake in the ground on what matters to you in design and find ways to apply it in your work—developing your own tools to think with and your own perspectives on design.
This syllabus page is a living document. I will be updating it continually, outlining your missions and dropping in images, links and videos. We will use Slack to update you for course communication: sign up here with your andrew.cmu.edu address.
Week 1, 8/27: Introductions & what is interaction design?
We’ll start with perspectives on interaction design. Please read/watch the following pieces for Wednesday 8/29 and bring to class your own definition of interaction design (see below).
Readings (all by CMU grads):
- Dan Saffer, Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices, 2nd ed. (Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2010), Introduction & Chapter 1. [Box]
- Jon Kolko, “Design Thinking Comes of Age,” Harvard Business Review, September 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age. [Online]
- Lauren Chapman Ruiz, “Service Design 101,” interactions blog, July 21, 2014, http://interactions.acm.org/blog/view/service-design-101. [Online]
- First mission: First, introduce yourself. Start a Medium profile (if you don’t wish to tie it to your personal social media, you may start a new account and use that). Use images, video, sound, whatever you would like. Please, however, make your piece public and allow for highlighting and annotation so that we can all make comments. Please send me and Hajira your Medium profile page. [To clarify: please introduce yourself in a post on Medium separate from the second mission.]
- Second mission: Based on your own experience and your own values, answer the following: what is interaction design? In a Medium post separate from your introduction, write a headline, write no more than 250 words, and include a sketch or diagram to help us know what you mean. This sketch does not need to be beautiful and can, in fact, be quick, dirty, and ugly. You may do it on a whiteboard, or on paper, or with some of the make tools you’ll find in the Grad Studio kitchen‚ photograph it, and then incorporate it in your Medium post. Print out your post, write your name (if it’s not apparent), and bring it with you to class on Wednesday, 8/29.
Throughout the semester, we will return to these statements to see how they — and you — change (or don’t).
Week 2, 9/3: Learning from architecture
(Monday, no class.) Interaction designers often turn to architects and architectural metaphors for their work. Accordingly, some of the most influential and enduring texts in interaction design are about architecture. Yet interaction designers have different concerns than architects do.
- Stewart Brand, How Buildings Learn: What Happens after They’re Built, Ch. 1–2 (“Flow” and “Shearing Layers” — heavily photographic & illustrated), p. 1–23. Numerous interaction designers say that they keep coming back to this book, written by the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog.
- Mark Weiser, “The Computer of the 21st Century,” Scientific American, September 1991. [Box] Weiser coined the term “ubiquitous computing” and popularized it in this article. (Focus on the big ideas here and less on the old technology.)
- Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Stephen Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas. (Most of this text is images and charts; the essay is brief. Pay attention to the text at the very beginning between p. 3–8; flip through the images, make your way through the rest of the text to p. 34 and through the rest of the book to p. 72. If you’re interested, the second half of the book is important in architectural history but not required for this class.)
Assignment: The three pieces we’ve read this week deal with how buildings, or technology, or a city relate to people and vice versa. Choose one (or more) models to think through how a person might relate to something that an interaction designer might create.Your response should be between 250–500 words and be posted on Medium. Include images(s), drawings, or video—Learning from Las Vegas & How Buildings Learn are very visual; “Computer for the 21st Century” is artifactual.
Update: Tithi mentioned the 99% Invisible piece on Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown. Give it a read and a listen. You might also want to know about the controversy of Robert Venturi winning a Pritzker (architecture’s highest prize) but not Denise Scott Brown. There’s been protest.
Week 3, 9/10: Affordances
We’ll look at how the built environment acts upon us in terms of what it affords, and read part of Don Norman’s classic, The Design of Everyday Things. We’ll look at real life provocations to affordances from an activist perspective with our guest Francis Carter, PhD Candidate, CMU School of Design, who will discuss his work on urban-scale design interventions and affordances.
- James Gibson, “Affordances,” in The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception
- Donald Norman, Design of Everyday Things, (preface to 2nd edition, Chapter 1 & 4—you may read more if you like.). Read strategically: capture the main ideas in his text.
Your mission: There are affordances all around you. First, define what an affordance is, using the ways that James Gibson and Don Norman (p. 13 is a good passage) write about them. Then: find a specific affordance and write about it in great detail. Describe what you see, what you feel when you touch it, how it feels. Bring it to life by focusing on it. Provide a photograph. This should be one specific example of one affordance in one location (in Pittsburgh) to which you have access. Please post by Sunday at 7 pm.
Week 4, 9/17: Problems and Possibilities of Platforms at Scale
What are the implications of digital design decisions at a massive scale—millions, if not billions of people? What possibilities are there for humanitarian intervention and for good? Nick Inzucchi, a product designer at Facebook who works on projects for social good, will be our guest. He’ll talk about blood donations coordinated through the platform.
Readings, listenings, watchings:
- Tega Brain, “The Environment is Not a System,” A Peer-Reviewed Journal about Research Values, 2018. She is a professor at NYU, an artist and environmental engineer.
- Post No Evil, Radiolab (listen)
- Margaret Gould Stuart, “Able, Allowed, Should; Navigating Modern Tech Ethics,” Medium.com, May 7, 2018
- Otto von Busch & Karl Palmås, “Social Means Do Not Justify Corruptible Ends: A Realist Perspective of Social Innovation and Design,” Sheji, 2016 .
This week, Hajira provides the prompt: The readings this week bring attention to the complexity of real-world wicked problems, highlighting the ways in which technology can be reductive, unpredictable, and ultimately corruptible. In Social Means do not Justify Corruptible Ends, authors von Busch and Palmas argue that design focuses too much on processes and not enough on outcomes, and is essentially idealistic and neglectful of the messiness of reality. Do you agree or disagree with this argument, and how does your own stance impact how your approach design and your own practice? Give an example from your own work or projects you have done in the past. (If you can’t think of examples from your own work, give a real-world example to support your position).
First paper due Saturday 9/22, 10 am
Based on what we’ve read and discussed till now, make an argument for the role of the designer—and what its boundaries are. Where does it stop? If everything is design, then perhaps nothing is design. What are the boundaries of a designer’s purview?
Write 4 pages, 1000–1250 words. Do not do external research. You may only refer to texts we have read in class. Due 9/22 at 10 am. Final paper due 10/5 at 5 pm.
On the page Reading & Writing for the Grad Student, you will find information about APA Style. Please review the ifnromation there.
Week 5, 9/24: Transition design
Transition Design acknowledges that we are living in ‘transitional times,’ takes as its central premise the need for societal transition (systems-level change) to more sustainable futures, and argues that design and designers have a key role to play in these transitions. This kind of design is connected to long horizons of time and compelling visions of sustainable futures and must be based upon new knowledge and skill sets.
- Horst Rittel & Melvin M. Webber, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” Policy Science 4 (1973), 155–69. This is where the notion of wicked problems comes from: problems that are too big to solve, for which every solution can touch off another problem.
- Terry Irwin, “The Emerging Transition Design Approach,” DRS2018 [Box]
- Cheryl L. Dahle, “Designing for Transitions: Addressing the Problem of Global Overfishing,” Cuadernos 73 (2018): 213–33. [Box]
9/26: Peer review in class.
Take a look at this piece, “How I Manage to Give my Students the Finger Every Semester, and Why It Made Me a Better Designer” outlines the aspects of an argument — and ties them back to design (there’s a little swearing in it). The author also provides a description of how this works in practice, whether in writing or in design projects.
You should buy or otherwise find a copy of the newest edition of Craft of Research (4th edition 2018) (it will set you back $10–$14.50). It is a very useful book for everything related to writing. In the meantime, there’s a PDF in Box for Week 5 of the previous edition.
Writing is a design process in which we map, write, respond, communicate and iterate. While actually writing texts tends to happen alone, reading and writing happens in a community. That’s where you come in.
You will read and respond to two or three of each other’s papers — Molly & Hajira will tell you what group you are in. You should spend about 20–30 minutes at a minimum per paper in preparation and then you will spend about 20 minutes per paper in class discussing each paper. This is meant to be a generous and thoughtful process, one that will improve your papers and give you a chance to learn from each other. It can sometimes feel a little scary, but remember that everyone feels that way when they share their work.
FOR EACH AUTHOR:
Share your paper with others in your group. Make sure your name is on it! Print out the paper. Have a conversation in the margins of the paper with the author in your own written comments. Some things to consider:
- What’s your favorite part of the paper? What are the 2–3 biggest strengths of the paper?
- What arguments is the author making? What questions do they raise for you? How might they be improved? Is there enough evidence and examples to support it?
- How clear are the claims that the author is making?Are they specific enough?
- How does the structure flow? Might it work better if it were rearranged differently?
- How does it use images (or how should it use images)? What would make it clearer?
FOR YOUR OWN PAPER:
- What are you most certain about with your paper? What do you feel it is contributing?
- Where do you think you most need feedback? If you could ask your fellow authors one question about your paper, what would it be?
Week 6, 10/1: Plans & Situated Actions
We will be holding this class in conjunction with Daniel Cardoso Llach’s Master’s of Computational Design seminar on Wednesday.
Janet Vertesi’s piece draws on the (very fundamental) framing of Lucy Suchman’s work—indeed, Suchman is absolutely fundamental for how we think about the framing of interactivity and the ways that we conceive of human-computer interaction. The first edition of Suchman’s book was published as Plans and Situated Actions in 1987; she was a researcher at Xerox PARC (where Mark Weiser, author of “The Computer of the 21st Century,” was chief scientist). You’ll notice that some of the examples are old but the ideas are as sound as ever. Suchman will take some attention—it’s not fast reading. But it’s important for this class and our shared discussion on Wednesday.
Your mission: Lucy Suchman distinguishes between plans and situated actions. In your post, first note that distinction—define both. How does it play out in Vertesi’s characterization of “seamfulness” in the work of NASA’s scientists? And how do you see plans and situated action playing out in another example that you want to bring to bear?
- Lucy Suchman, Human Machine Configurations, p. 25–84
- Janet Vertesi, “Seamful Spaces: Heterogeneous Infrastructures in Interaction,”Science, Technology and Human Values 39.2: 264–284.
Week 7 , 10/8: Experience Design & Service Design
Guest: Prof. Jodi Forlizzi
- Forlizzi, J. and Battarbee, K. (2004). Understanding Experience in Interactive Systems. Proceedings of DIS04. New York, NY: ACM Press, 261–268.
- Forlizzi, J. (2010). All Look Same? A Comparison Of Service Design And Experience Design. interactions, 17/5, September+October 2010, 60–62.
- Forlizzi, J. and Zimmerman, J. (2013). Promoting Service Design as a Core Practice in Interaction Design. Proceedings of IASDR13. http://design-cu.jp/iasdr2013/papers/1202-1b.pdf
Week 8, 10/15: Mid-semester touchbase. How’s it going?
No readings this week. No class Monday due to studio deadlines.
On Wednesday, we’ll take a look at what we’ve done so far and see how things are going. We can use this class to tie up any loose ends we might have.
Week 9, 10/22: What are we talking about when we’re talking about AI?
What exactly do we mean by artificial intelligence? It’s a buzzword everywhere, and yet it’s something that’s been around since the 1950s. We’ll look at its history and its present, and in the weeks to come, we’ll look at the implications of AI and computation.
Tbe Paola Antonelli & Graham Dove (et al) articles this week deal with the idea of artificial intelligence (and its related methods and approaches) as material for design and UX. What does that mean, exactly — AI as material for design? What might you draw from the Cardoso Llach & Steenson readings (historically) and/or other contemporary examples? It’s always good to include images or video where they make sense.
- Molly Wright Steenson, Architectural Intelligence: How Designers & Architects Created the Digital Landscape (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017). (Required reading: Chapter 6, p. 165–190 and p. 221–22; additional optional reading: pp. 191–220 and if you wish, the whole of chapter 6).
- Daniel Cardoso Llach. 2015. Builders of the Vision: Software and the Imagination of Design. London, New York: Routledge 2015. (Required reading: pp. 1–4 and pp. 49–72; additional optional reading: whole chapters 1 and 3).
- Graham Dove, Kim Halskov, Jodi Forlizzi, John Zimmerman, “UX Design Innovation: Challenges for Working with Machine Learning as a Design Material,” CHI ’17 Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, p. 278–288. [Box]
- Paola Antonelli, “AI is Design’s Latest Material,” Google Design. A quick Q&A with the Museum of Modern Art’s Senior Design Curator.
Week 10, 10/29: Data Collection and Algorithmic Bias
Please do the readings this week, even though the mission will be of a different sort. On Monday, we will be focused on the Hurley & Courtland articles. On Wednesday, we will talk about Noble and Onouha’s pieces.
Your mission… ties into last week—a week in which we tried to learn more about what AI means, where it came from, different approaches to it, and so on. Have you noticed how bad the visuals are for AI? Here’s my Google Image Search page results. The images are terrible clichés! Go see for yourself.
Here’s your mission. Design a different cliché for AI. What would happen if you used a totally different palette? No blues and blacks? No translucency? What happens if you use a different strategy? What if its materiality were more like wool? Or a cup of tea? Whatever it might be, play with it a little and then make one image that expresses AI and explain your choices. If we like the results, we’ll do something public with them.
Paper #2 assignment: You will have your second paper due on Sunday, 11/4 at 6 pm, and you’ll be taking into consideration the Allegheny Family Screening Tool (the AFST).
In your paper, you will make your own assessment of the AFST and argue how (or whether or not) it should be used. You should use readings and frameworks from the whole semester: our discussions of wicked problems and transition design (Cheryl Dahle & Terry Irwin), biases and algorithms, in-class lectures, and our readings on the AFST—among others. You will need to structure an argument with claims, reasons, and evidence. Finally, you will also diagram or map the problem (in a static or — if you want — dynamic visualization).
Readings (the Hurley and Courtland are about the AFST):
- Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression, 2018, chapter 1
- Dan Hurley, “Can an Algorithm Tell when Kids Are in Danger?” New York Times, January 2, 2018.
- Rachel Courtland, “Bias detectives: the researchers striving to make algorithms fair” Nature, June 20, 2018
- Mimi Onouha, “The Point of Collection,” Medium.com, 2016
Week 11, 11/5: The Question of Labor in the Digital Age
- Karl Marx, Capital vol. 1, Chapter 7 [Box]. A surprising thing about Marx is that he’s sometimes funny and pretty snarky. We’re reading this to situate a conversation on labor-process and use-value so that we can talk about it in a digital sense.
- Lilly Irani, “Difference and Dependence among Digital Workers: The Case of Amazon Mechanical Turk,” South Atlantic Quarterly, 2015.
- Michel de Certeau, “‘Making Do:’ Uses and Tactics,” The Practice of Everyday Life, 1984. Pay attention to the difference between strategy and tactics. You may find yourself returning to this differentiation as we talk about the organization of things between top-down and bottom-up.
Wednesday, 11/7: Peer review of paper #2. FINAL PAPER DUE WEDNESDAY, 11/14.
Week 12, 11/12: Values & ethics
Guest: David Danks, Head, Department of Philosophy (Wednesday, 11/14)
- Cory Knobel & Geof Bowker, “Values in Design,” Communications of the ACM54: 7 (July 2011): 26–28. Very short. Introduces the idea of values in design.
- Batya Friedman, Peter H. Kahn, Jr., and Alan Borning,” “Value Sensitive Design and Information Systems,” in: Human-Computer Interaction in Management Information Systems: Foundations, 2006. This piece is longer and more academic in tone. Focus on sections 1–3, then skip to p. 15, to “Practical Suggestions for Using Value Sensitive Design,” then go back to read the case studies that start on page 4. (Friedman’s research in this area goes back some 25 years, and it’s more relevant than ever.)
Week 13, 11/19: Final paper project brainstorm/Thanksgiving
We will meet on Monday, November 19 but there is no class on November 21. Happy Thanksgiving! In this class, we will brainstorm our final publication and you’ll make commitments to the paper you will research and submit to the final publication on Medium.
Week 14, 11/26: Speculative & Critical Design
- Paola Antonelli, “States of Design 04: Critical Design,” Domus 949 (July/August 2011).
- Anthony Dunne, Fiona Raby, Speculative Everything, excerpts (ch. 1–3). [Box]
- And please take a look at this debate that took place around the Republic of Salivation (Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta) project in the Design and Violence exhibition at MoMA. It sparked a debate about elitism, classism, anti-subalternism, north vs. south, racism, and more. This debate is also very much alive in our school—and has led to alternative modes of conceiving of speculative and critical design.
Week 15, 12/3: Conclusion: what is interaction design?
In this week, we will return to where we started: with your definition of interaction design. We will also use the week as an editorial and project meeting for the final project presentations. During Design Week (date TBD, sometime between 12/10–12/14), you will present the work in a 5-minute lightning presentation. The final Medium publication, complete with graphics and title, will be published on 12/14.