Theory

Norman is famous, but also disputed for his use of Gibson’s affordances in understanding use (and design) of human-computer interaction. Gibson, in contrast to Norman, strongly emphasized that affordances are action possibility not properties that dictate correct use. Bærentsen & Trettvik point out that activity theoreti­cal HCI, rather than affordances, better bridge conceptually between understanding and doing, be­tween individual and shared practices and between history and change, motivating also largely the choice to work with activity-theoretical HCI where objects in general and interactive objects in particu­lar are the central foci of analysis and understanding. Bødker & Klokmose have provided a detailed understanding of IT-based medi­ation through the Human-Artifact Model. This takes its starting point in how technology aug­ments human activity, whereas CIO proposes to more radically switch perspective to inter­ac­tive objects. This is because objects offer a better ap­proach to sharing and boundaries. This analytical and conceptual richness of objects need to be brought into play in building and sharing objects

Robinson pointed out that having and holding in common means to have access to and use, without using spe­cifically together all the time and for the same purpose. He introduced the idea of the common artifact to help understand what it means to share artifacts or objects. Common interactive ob­jects, accordingly, do not stand alone. They exist in ecologies with other objects, used by people, not in sin­gular and isolated activities, but together in webs of activities and as boundary objects across activities.

Common interactive objects have a history, and change over time. Change happens through use, and with interac­tive objects also through tailoring and re-programming. Versioning of programs as well as of office docu­ments are familiar examples of this. Hollan et al.’s talk about ‘history enriched (digital) objects,’ ad­dressing elements of a richer historical understanding of interactive objects, and Benford et al. address ‘accountable arti­facts’ in a similar vain. Time and reuse pre­sent challenges of control: In shared program repositories, the sharing of objects is largely dependent on human intervention and media­tion and at times these objects take a life of their own and are under nobody’s control.

Recently a focus on materiality and a ‘material turn’ has happened in human-computer interaction. Digital materials may be without (physical) prop­erties (Lövgren & Stolterman), lack properties, or are entangled with physical properties (Pierce & Paulos). In particular, the focus on physical materials and embedding computation into ma­teriality is important for CIO so as to address interactive objects as providing materiality to design, pro­gramming and use, inspired by Kay’s notion of ‘the clay of computing.’ Conceptually this overlaps also with embedding and exploring computational materiality in physical objects, be they big screens, mobile technol­ogies, or the likes. Research on blended interaction (O’Hara et al; Jetter et al., Bødker & Klokmose) point in a useful direction: It seems that blended interaction can be understood and provided with a better conceptual and technological basis through object-thinking as outlined in CIO. Looking back on past experiences and mak­ing active use of these in building new objects, has a large, underdeveloped potential for empowering users. Objects play a central role in interaction design, as they are open for multiple interpretations, e.g. cultural probes. A framework would need to put common interactive objects on center stage to bridge between theory, design method, and use/interaction.

While designing/building and using interactive objects are two different modes of human activity, they go hand in hand: We use while building, and build while using, as many recent developments in web technolo­gies exemplify. This understanding is recursive and structures need to be developed for activating the many ways in which interactive objects get (re-)appropriated and (re-)used over time. Objects have many roles in interaction design at large: The idea of the future project is an ideal object at the same time as the future project has many manifest forms in the design process, in various representations and prototypes, in­dependent of the future outcome of design. Objects furthermore offer specific hands-on possibilities for users  hence empowering users by connecting to their past prac­tices while helping them get hands on the new possibilities. Fundamentally common interac­tive objects may provide better ways of empowering users to understand, apprehend and develop technolo­gies.

Participatory design (PD) is a long tradition in which direct and indirect future users are involved in the design of IT. The theme of empow­ering users is as old as PD itself. Users combine multiple technologies with overlapping ca­pacities, and transfer experiences between them. CIO will offer better possibilities in terms of malleability and control.