An Anthropological Move Towards Tangible Interaction Design

Mads Vedel Jensen


User interaction design has for many years been concerned with the skills required in operating computers and machines. For keyboard and mouse operated, screen-based user interfaces the main focus has been on the cognitive skills of humans. This article takes as a basic preamble that a shift from keyboards to tangible interaction design requires one to study the skills built through bodily movement. The emerging field of Anthropology of Movement can help in studying and understanding human movement. With inspiration from anthropology, philosophy and sociology, I have analyzed a short video sequence of a plant operator operating very tangible machinery. Tangible interaction can be regarded as a series of discrete actions, but based on the analysis I will argue that the movements in between the hands-on actions are crucial to understanding skilled user interaction. Possibly designing with respect to the in-betweens - when the body adjusts towards the next action - holds great promise for making tangible interaction design a success.

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