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Category: interaction design

Random thoughts on consciousness and physical experience, coming together

I just had one of those wonderful moments where a bunch of ideas that had been floating around in my head for a number of years came together and made sense, thanks to a section of Alva Noë’s book Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness. In Chapter 4, he challenges the common metaphor for the brain as the “Mission Control”  of the body — the place where all stimulation comes in and is noted, processed, and responded to. Instead, he says, our perception, and even our reaction, is distributed throughout our body and even through our environment.  To counter this, he offers the example of a snail’s response to being touched. At first touch, the snail will recoil, but with repeated touches, the snail becomes habituated to the touch, and doesn’t recoil. The sensory neurons in the snail’s nervous system are linked to the motor neurons, and the response to the initial touch is to cue the motor neurons to move the snail away.  As repeated touches occur, the snail’s nervous system learns the pattern as “normal” and the connection between the motor neurons and the sensory stimulus is lessened over time.  There’s no central brain managing this — the change is a result of the connection between the neurons and the patterns of action in the environment in which the snail is embedded, argues Noë. It’s not just about the changing in the coupling between the sensory neurons and the motor neurons, because that change would not occur without the repeated pattern of touch that the snail encounters.  It all happens without a “mission control” brain to process it.

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Lumens

This summer I got to assist on a project by artists Matthew Belanger, Sean Riley,  Ven Voisey, and producer Marianne Petit on a neat project called Lumens.  Actually, they did all the work, I just offered a little guidance to get things started.  It’s an installation of 160 networked lamps situated in two galleries in the towns of Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts, and the online arts organization turbulence.org.  The lamps in each gallery react to visitors walking through the space, as well as responding to movements in the other space. In addition, visitors online can turn on the lamps as well.

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Michihito Mizutani

Michihito Mizutani is a researcher at School of Design at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, Finland.  His interaction design work is worth checking…

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Physical Computing’s Greatest Hits (and misses)

There are certain project themes that recur every year in physical computing classes. Many of them are ideas that lend themselves to multiple interesting variations, and are valuable ways to learn about physical interaction through doing. Others don’t offer only limited interactive possibilities, but capture the popular imagination because they’re simple and quite often pretty to look at. What follows is a review of some of the themes I see frequently. These are by no means the only themes that come up, nor are they the only things you can do with physical computing. Many physical computing projects feature two or more of these themes.

Sometimes when people learning about physical computing hear that a particular idea has been done before, they give up on it, because they think it’s not original. What’s great about the themes that follow here is that they allow a lot of room for originality. Despite their perennial recurrence, they offer surprises each time they come up. So if you’re new to physical computing and thinking to yourself “I don’t want do to that, it’s already done,” stop thinking that way! There’s a lot you can add to these themes through your variation on them.

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Wordle

Wordle is awesome. I want a poster of this.Thanks, Clay for the link.

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