A list of readings and sources of information.


Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction, Paul Dourish. MIT Press, 2001. An excellent introduction to the idea that interaction is necessarily embodied, because we, and the devices, with which we interact, have bodies. Dourish positions interaction design’s philosophical foundation in phenomenology, and discusses it in relation to Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and other 20th century philosophers.

The Design of Implicit Interactions Wendy Ju. Morgan and Claypool,  2015. A version of Ju’s Ph.D. thesis written for a broader audience. She introduces an implicit interaction framework, and discusses the difference between implicit and explicit interactions. The reference section is also a valuable resource.


Interaction Design Sketchbook, Bill Verplank. Self-published on the web, 199?.. An introduction to physical interaction design from the man who coined the term. This brief and very readable paper gives every designer more structured way of thinking about interaction.

Design research & tangible interaction – Elise van den Hoven, Joep W Frens, Dzmitry Aliakseyeu, Jean Bernard Martens , Kees Overbeeke, Peter Peters, 2007. A paper from one of the early TEI Conferences on applying design research methods to tangible interaction. Does a good job explaining a little of the thinking behind the idea of Tangible User Interfaces (TUI) and its shortcomings.

Knob Feel – a YouTube channel that reviews tangible interfaces entirely in nonverbal sounds. It can be useful for getting an idea what kinds of interfaces are available.

How-to Resources

ITP’s Fab site, maintained by Ben Light, is an excellent source of how to make things. For this class, the post on enclosures is one you might want to return to several times.

The Intro to Physical Computing site has videos, lab tutorials and topic notes that are useful for this class as well.

The ITP Networks site has information on networks and the devices that run on them.

The ITP Understanding Networks class site has information on networked devices.

The ITP Connected Devices & Networked Interaction class site has more information on networked devices

Tom’s physical computing blog has many explanations and examples as well.

Tom’s gitHub account has a few useful repositories:

Sparkfun’s accelerometer, gyro, and IMU buying guide


Examples of tangible interfaces and related design research.

Comparing Pictorial and Tangible Notations of Force Image Schemas Jörn Hurtienne, Diana Löffler, Patty Gadegast, and Steffi Hußlein. ACM, Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction conference, 2015. In the paper/demo, the authors show various models of Force-Image Schemas, or how we think about quantities and their controllers as forces.They suggest that the behavior of a knob, not just the look or the direction of movement, can indicate something about the property it was controlling. For example, a knob might resist turning past a particular range, might be attracted to default values or repelled by impossible values, and so forth. The video shows a series of knobs they built to demonstrate all of these different behaviors.

Hayeon Hwang’s ITP thesis, Expressive Tactile Controls, shows design research put into practice to explore tangible interaction dynamics. Her in-progress blog posts contain some valuable production information, including how to use a linear actuator, pushbutton and slide pot prototypes, motorized potentiometers, and more.  

Seth Kranzler’s wavetable synthesizer shows motorized potentiometers in an interface.

Control– A collection of control panel examples, mostly nostalgic. – a big USB knob.