This is a lamp. If you want to switch it on, you should braid its tassels! This soft-circuit lamp challenges the seamlessness of our everyday interactions. It reimagines the materiality of a ‘seamful’ interaction with meaningful design frictions to enrich the experience.
As fast technology becomes more ubiquitous we need to rethink our speed of engagement with the world. Along with creating tools that are fast, efficient and cater to a specific task, we need to create technology that encourages the right rhythm for experiencing life. The aim of this case study is to rethink the efficiency-driven values embedded in the current design practice. The increasing availability of technology in environments outside of the workplace requires interaction design to be expanded from creating tools for making people’s lives more efficient to creating technology that could be embedded in everyday environments over long periods of time while supporting experience beyond productivity and efficiency.
This arc of work started with a discomfort that perhaps technology is rushing us. Instead, how might we design for reflection, vulnerability, intuition, dialogue, curiosity & not just efficiency? What would be the materiality of such an interaction? By drawing from the Slow Technology framework, this interaction enhances people’s relationship with other people and the world around them.
Until recently, the main purpose of technology has been to make people more efficient. As computers are increasingly woven into the fabric of everyday life, interaction design may have to change – from creating only fast and efficient tools to be used during a limited time in specific situations, to creating technology that surrounds us and therefore is a part of our activities for long periods of time. Hallnäs and Redström’s presented Slow Technology as an answer to this call with a design agenda for technology aimed at reflection and moments of mental rest rather than efficiency in performance. I delved into this framework, to create an artefact that can support a range of experiences beyond mere efficiency.
Design frictions, a term found in popular media articles about user experience are points of difficulty encountered during users’ interaction with a technology. Today there is a pervasive emphasis on minimizing design frictions for effortless, efficient interactions. However, this seamlessness can often result in mindless forms of interaction. This is not to advocate design frictions in the most traditional sense but to induce micro-friction intentionally for a more ‘seamful’ interaction.Design frictions can disrupt ‘mindless’ automatic interactions, prompting moments of reflection and more ‘mindful’ interaction.
Hence in this lamp, the interaction beckons you to play with the material by braiding it. The lamp was created by constructing soft circuits with conductive thread on a plain muslin fabric. Today’s technological objects obscure materials and complexities with their hidden circuitry and untouchable insides. Instead of hiding the circuit, I chose to incorporate it as a part of the lamp aesthetic. The softness of the material informs the interaction of ‘braiding’ to switch the lamp on.
To understand the object it its domestic setting, I conducted a small design workshop where the lamp was used as a provotype (provocative prototype). The participants were asked to interact with it. This was followed by a set of prompts and a worksheet that asked the users to write about their interaction with the object.
One of the participants said –
“This makes me examine the way I interact with objects today and how impersonal and devoid of care those interactions are”
By optimizing for feelings over efficiency, this interaction allows for joy and surprises. I hope to push the boundaries of interactions from being purely utilitarian and efficiency-focused to being subtly serendipitous.