Making Visible: Mediating the Material of Emerging Technology
In this thesis I outline how interaction design may engage in the exploration and understandings the material and mediation of new interface technologies. Drawing upon a design project called Touch, that investigated an emerging interface technology called Radio FrequencyIdentification or RFID, I show how interaction design research can explore technology through material and mediational approaches. I demonstrate and analyse how this research addresses the inter-related issues of invisibility, seamlessness and materiality that have become central issues in the design of contemporary interfaces. These issues are analysed and developed through three intertwined approaches of research by design:
1. a socio- and techno-cultural approach to understanding emerging technologies,
2. through material exploration and
3. through communication and mediation. When taken together these approaches form a communicative mode of interaction design research that engages directly with the exploration, understanding and discussion of emerging interface technologies.
I find that rfid interface technology can be explored through a combination of multi-mediational visual investigations, both analytical and productive, that construct new perspectives on the technology. These new views challenge existing views of the technology as a ‘seamless’ and ‘immaterial’ phenomena, showing that it has both cultural meanings and material phenomena. The main contribution of this thesis is a range of concepts that offer cultural, material and communicative perspectives on emerging technologies. The study builds a body of knowledge about rfid and related emerging technologies, that demonstrates potential of these concepts and approaches.
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