Designing for sociability
Interactive technologies like smartphones have been with us long enough to become familiar and find their present dominant designs. The explosion of the mobile Internet and location based services have added the potential of connectivity for objects, places and services in ways that very few companies still grasp. There is a new design dimension to everything: designing for sociability.
Most of us are aware of the direct effect we have on our friends and relatives. Our actions can make them happy or sad. But we very rarely consider that things we do or say can spread beyond the people we connect with. Conversely, our friends and family serve as conduits for us to be influenced by people we don’t know. We can be deeply and surprisingly affected by events we don’t take part in, that happen to people we don’t know.
It may not be appropriate to think about (digital) action only in terms of spatial metaphors: spaces and walls. Things happen and develop in time.
Focusing attention on the temporal processes of relating between people encourages us to take a special view to what interaction design might mean. Organizations are processes, not things. People are processes, not things. They are reproduced and transformed in interaction.
It is about how we continuously experience being together. The outcomes of organizational interaction are not within the powers of any single individual to choose. Both the outcomes and the dynamics producing the outcomes emerge in the very interaction! You cannot take away the uncertainty and the surprises.
When we shift the focus from spatial to temporal metaphors, the ethics of participation become more important than ever. The experience of being together results less from the technical and functional aspects of interaction and more from the purposes and values of the people taking part – in ways that are very hard, or impossible to predict.
Perhaps temporal processes and iterative designs are the new dominant ways of designing for sociability.