What is Interaction?

Interaction, or interactivity, could be a complicated term which takes a long way to explain, however, a picture from Bret Victor’s post “A Brief Rant on the Future of Tool2.pngInteraction Design” has perfectly explain the term.

In the picture we see one of the simplest tool in the world, a hammer. Yet, the design captures all the essence for an interactive instrument. It has a handle that is easy for human hand to grab on to, it has a hard and heavy head for us to hammer the nail, and by feeling the resistance from the nail, we are able to tell how deep the nail is in the wall. 

So why is interaction so important to us?  As Chris Crawford wrote in his book, “The Art of Interactive Design”, “The greatest movie in the world can lose our attention to the sound of munching popcorn; our involvement with a great book will surrender itself to a buzzing fly.” Interactivity will always has a greater involvement and requires greater attention compare to passive observation. Movies or music are great examples of digital technology that generate great excitement or emotions for us, but they will never be as involved as video games since we don’t possess any interactions over them.

The next important question will be what makes a good interaction. In my opinion, the best interaction requires no instruction, which means the design is entirely based on our human intuition, which is developed on our interaction with the society. One of the best example I could think of is the hand gesture for scrolling pages on a touch screen. This technology requires no further instructions since it’s exactly the same as if we would to scroll real papers up and down.


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