Inventing the Medium

Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice

by Janet H. Murray

ISBN: 9780262302791 | Copyright 2011

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Digital artifacts from iPads to databases pervade our lives, and the design decisions that shape them affect how we think, act, communicate, and understand the world. But the pace of change has been so rapid that technical innovation is outstripping design. Interactors are often mystified and frustrated by their enticing but confusing new devices; meanwhile, product design teams struggle to articulate shared and enduring design goals. With Inventing the Medium , Janet Murray provides a unified vocabulary and a common methodology for the design of digital objects and environments. It will be an essential guide for both students and practitioners in this evolving field.

Murray explains that innovative interaction designers should think of all objects made with bits—whether games or Web pages, robots or the latest killer apps—as belonging to a single new medium: the digital medium. Designers can speed the process of useful and lasting innovation by focusing on the collective cultural task of inventing this new medium. Exploring strategies for maximizing the expressive power of digital artifacts, Murray identifies and examines four representational affordances of digital environments that provide the core palette for designers across applications: computational procedures, user participation, navigable space, and encyclopedic capacity.

Each chapter includes a set of Design Explorations—creative exercises for students and thought experiments for practitioners—that allow readers to apply the ideas in the chapter to particular design problems. Inventing the Medium also provides more than 200 illustrations of specific design strategies drawn from multiple genres and platforms and a glossary of design concepts.

Inventing the Medium gathers humanistic insights from Murray's pioneering scholarship, demonstrates how they apply to a wide range of digital design problems, and invites readers to begin using these conceptual tools themselves in an engaging and broadly accessible manner. I've already seen it have a powerful impact on my students.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin Computer Science Department, University of California, Santa Cruz; author of Expressive Processing

Janet Murray has built a practical theory of digital design that centers around the four affordances of networked media: encyclopedic, spatial, procedural, and participatory. Asserting that successful design endeavors are human-centered and help shape the medium, Murray asserts that design is ethical and aesthetic as well as instrumental. There is no book quite like this. Students and educators are sure to embrace it.

Ellen Lupton curator of contemporary design, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and author of Thinking with Type

Inventing the Medium is an epic accomplishment, one which we will all be mining for years to come.

Henry Jenkins Confessions of an Aca-Fan
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Contents (pg. ix)
Acknowledgments (pg. xi)
Introduction: A Cultural Approach to Interaction Design (pg. 1)
The Collective Process of Design (pg. 1)
Designing the Unfamiliar (pg. 3)
How (Not) to Talk about Design (pg. 8)
Part I. Changing Technologies, Lasting Innovations (pg. 23)
Chapter 1. Design in an Evolving Medium (pg. 25)
Design as Framing and Reframing (pg. 25)
Design Explorations: Exploring Design in a New Medium (pg. 46)
Chapter 2. Affordances of the Digital Medium (pg. 51)
The Four Affordances (pg. 51)
The Computer Is a Procedural Medium (pg. 51)
Draw on Computer Science Concepts and Conventions (pg. 52)
The Computer Is a Participatory Medium (pg. 55)
Draw on HCI Concepts and Conventions (pg. 59)
The Computer Is an Encyclopedic Medium (pg. 66)
Draw on Information Science Concepts and Conventions (pg. 68)
The Computer Is a Spatial Medium (pg. 70)
Draw on Visual Design Concepts and Conventions (pg. 75)
Design Explorations: Exploring the Affordances of the Digital Medium (pg. 80)
Chapter 3. Maximizing the Four Affordances (pg. 87)
The Grid of Affordances (pg. 87)
Shaping and Satisfying Interactors’ Expectations (pg. 96)
Designing for Agency and Immersion (pg. 100)
Design Explorations: Explorations for Maximizing Digital Affordances (pg. 103)
Part II. Designing Expressive Procedures (pg. 105)
Chapter 4. Computational Strategies of Representation (pg. 107)
Computation as Symbol Manipulation (pg. 107)
Abstraction of Processes into Flow Charts and Pseudocode (pg. 112)
Scripting Behaviors (pg. 119)
State (pg. 123)
Modularity and Encapsulation (pg. 127)
Design Explorations: Computational Strategies of Representation (pg. 132)
Chapter 5. Building Procedural Complexity (pg. 137)
Objects, Classes, Methods, Inheritance (pg. 137)
Substitution Systems (pg. 138)
Simulations of Complex Systems (pg. 141)
Emergence (pg. 147)
Computational Procedures Reflect Cultural Values (pg. 148)
Design Explorations: Strategies for Procedural Complexity (pg. 155)
Part III. Spatial Design Strategies (pg. 159)
Chapter 6. Defining and Navigating Spaces and Places (pg. 161)
Lists, Tables, and other Containers (pg. 161)
Landscapes (pg. 166)
Maps (pg. 170)
Places versus Spaces (pg. 172)
Abstract Space (pg. 182)
Analyzing Real Spaces and Places (pg. 189)
Chapter 7. The Library Model for Collocating Information (pg. 191)
Aggregating Information, Preserving Knowledge (pg. 191)
The Catalog and the Shelf (pg. 194)
Labels as Identifiers, Descriptors, and Pointers (pg. 201)
Classification Schemes (pg. 203)
Information Organization as a Taxonomy of Knowledge (pg. 209)
Designing for Navigation with Appropriate Labels (pg. 212)
Design Explorations: Collocation in the Emerging Digital Library (pg. 218)
Part IV. Designing Encyclopedic Resources (pg. 221)
Chapter 8. The Database Model: Strategies for Segmentation and Juxtaposition of Information (pg. 223)
Semantic Segmentation (pg. 223)
Flat File Database (pg. 226)
Relational Databases (pg. 230)
Navigating and Visualizing Large Databases (pg. 237)
From Tables to Objects (pg. 240)
The Persistence of Ambiguity (pg. 242)
Design Explorations: The Database Model (pg. 247)
Chapter 9. The Structured Document Model: Using Standardized Metadata to Share Knowledge (pg. 253)
Structured Documents Are the Basis of the World Wide Web (pg. 253)
Making Meaning with Metadata (pg. 258)
Searching the Web with Metadata and Social Networks (pg. 263)
Structured Wikis and the Social Creation of Knowledge (pg. 274)
XML and the Semantic Web (pg. 278)
Design Explorations: Documents Structured with Metadata (pg. 283)
Part V. Scripting Interaction (pg. 289)
Chapter 10. The Tool Model: Augmenting the Expressive Power of the Hand (pg. 291)
Pointing, Grabbing, and Expressive Gestures (pg. 291)
Efficiency, Learnability, Transparency (pg. 302)
Expressivity and Virtuosity (pg. 306)
Design Explorations: The Tool Model (pg. 315)
Chapter 11. The Machine Model: Visibility and Control as Design Goals (pg. 321)
Designing for Visibility (pg. 321)
Empowering Interactors with Control Structures (pg. 329)
The Appliance Model: Widgets and Applets Sharing Information (pg. 334)
Toward More Expressive Machines (pg. 337)
Design Explorations: The Machine Model (pg. 340)
Chapter 12. The Companion Model: Helpful Accompaniment as a Design Goal (pg. 345)
The Computer as a Social Presence (pg. 345)
Synchronization (pg. 347)
Politeness (pg. 354)
Conversational Structure (pg. 356)
Fantasies of the Magical Servant (pg. 363)
Responsive Anticipation (pg. 369)
Design Explorations: The Companion Model (pg. 372)
Chapter 13. The Game Model: Scripting Interaction as Structured Play (pg. 379)
Game Patterns as Building Blocks for Interaction Design (pg. 379)
Playing with Media Conventions (pg. 390)
Playing with Cognition (pg. 397)
Replay as Repetition with Variation (pg. 400)
The Mechanic Is the Message (pg. 402)
Patterns Make Reality (pg. 404)
Design Explorations: The Game Model of Interaction (pg. 405)
Glossary (pg. 409)
Bibliography (pg. 445)
Image Credits (pg. 455)
Index (pg. 467)
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