The design materials of the Internet of Things are hybrid. Physical properties such as texture and weight are combined with digital properties including behaviour and responsivity. This ‘new’ material is a challenge for interaction designers.
In a recently published paper, Jonas Löwgren proposes a design strategy for designers working with hybrid materials: To build prototypes and do material experiments in a way that foregrounds immediate sensate feedback and externalizes responses that are normally not perceivable.
It is quite common in interaction design theory to talk about design as a conversation with the situation and the materials, following the seminal work of Donald Schön. In my experience, however, the conversation metaphor is great for retrospective accounts of the design process but it is not very generative. In other words, it usually doesn’t help much in a teaching situation to ask students to engage in conversations with the materials – the idea is somehow to abstract to be actionable.
The paper Beyond conversation: Palpating the hybrid materials is published under a CC:BY license and was presented at the Research Through Design conference. The conference proceedings, with a general emphasis on making and materiality in design research, are available under Open Access.
How people can interact with hybrid things and materials is an issue explored in the Interaction Technology research area at IOTAP.