Just finished reading the Crawford and Victor for this week, and I am kind of tickled by both. Particularly lolling at the “things that aren’t interactive” section in Chapter 1 of Crawford. I think, like a lot of philosophy, it seems blindingly obvious once you read it, but is an interesting reexamination of the way the word “interactive” is sometimes used. Not because things that aren’t interactive can’t spur meaningful experiences, but because interactive has become a kind of catchall term. By which I mean, yeah, on another day I might have called that sweet highway rug thing interactive, but I guess technically unless that rug is processing and outputting it’s two steps short of that distinction (I mean, even the roots “inter” sort of implies two entities… “acting”). Does that mean that we as speakers don’t know the difference? I certainly think we do, so in a way he’s just being a linguistic stickler, though I think he made some other good arguments as a result. Anyway, to get to the assigned response:
After this class’ discussion and exercise, and reading Chris Crawford’s definition and Bret Victor’s rant, how would you define physical interaction? What makes for good physical interaction? Are there works from others that you would say are good examples of digital technology that are not interactive?
I generally agree with both writers’ arguments, that interaction is an input-processing-output cycle between two entities and that compelling interaction is bodily (even as I’m typing this I’m thinking about why I much prefer typing on my keyboard [has a physical response] versus on a touch screen ["picture under glass"]. I’m kind of an argumentative person so agreeing with them so totally is kind of annoying. But what can I say? I think they both have it right. Though, it’s also possible for me to make a kind of snooty-anti-Crawford-I’m-an-ex-literature-student type of argument that the life of the text (or work of art, or whatever) actually exists pitted between the work and the reader, and so there is kind of a balance between the reader, the interpretation of the work, and the work itself (this model could also be looked at as a conversation between the reader and the author via the work). Does that make it interactive? To me in my senior year of undergrad? Yes. To me at ITP? Not so much. Which kind of opened me up more to paying closer attention to what I thought was the best part of Crawford’s argument: that each rung in the chain is of an equal importance or the interaction feels flat (the speaking trope).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Victor’s rant was actually the section in which he knocked the Minority Report/ Kinect version of future technology, hand waving, and equates it to something similar to voice, which he also says is best used only for things that voice is best used for (ie, asking questions, issuing commands). This is, I think, because touch is simultaneously an input and output, which is especially interesting considering how that speeds up the whole Crawford input-process-output model. So, voice(for example) and sight are kind of inversions for that reason, since voice is solely output and sight is solely input. Do we have other senses that can do both jobs simultaneously? Not really, unless your nose also emits powerful coded odors (Insert bad “your nose smells” pun).
Anyway, I digress. Digital technology that’s not interactive? Maybe I don’t understand this question, but, I guess?! A non programmable digital clock, um, and, an LED that blinks at random, an mp3 player that only plays one pre-programmed song and has no on and off switch? “Works”? Is that New York for “artworks”? How about this? That isn’t interactive beyond being a website that I chose to go to.