The Ubiquitous Turn and Interaction Design

A paradigm-shift away from virtual reality, which “attempts to make a world inside the computer” was confirmed by the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) with the launch of their publication “Ubiquity” in 2000, and a plenary conference “After Cyberspace” . This is a significant change of concepts about the role of technology in creation and mediation of space. Once envisioned as a tool to ‘depict’ the non-existent environment and ‘immerse’ a person in it, computing is now tuned onto processing the environment. “Instead of pulling us through the looking glass into some sterile, luminous world, digital technology now pours out beyond the screen, into our messy places, under our laws of physics;” . The key aspect of this change is that technology is situated in a physical environment, operated by people on the move. Location becomes important. The physical experience is augmented, rather than “cut off” by technology.

Because of the increasing saturation of the environment with computing, we are easily blinded by over-information. Weiser recognised this problem and suggested a new way of focusing on computing, which gave way to ubiquity. We cannot pay attention to all processes at once, but we can easily switch focus. This focus-switching became the key aspect in design of the interaction with the environment, and mediation of everyday experiences. With different degrees of interactivity, “the disciplines of architecture and interaction design both address how contexts shape action…. These processes are ambient.” . New interfaces are emerging to embed information processing into the physical realm. They are mobile, networked and intuitive. Thus, “architecture has acquired a digital layer.” . Computing happens in the periphery, but includes physical architecture which literally gives space to different levels of accessibility and makes interaction more intuitive.

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