Last month (March 18th to 21st) I attended the Twelfth International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction (TEI) in Stockholm. This year’s conference theme was Post-digital Design and was dedicated to presenting latest results in Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction. Its overarching goal as described in the call for papers was to equalize the status of digital and analog, both in terms of material and practices. The conference had around 200 attendees.
Being a student volunteer, I had a rather busy schedule, however, it was a fulfilling and exciting experience. Meeting people from different backgrounds and countries, learning their stories and perspectives towards HCI and design; also the synchronicity with which people worked and helped each other often under high pressure of the conference.
My work, Post food: Looking at sustainability through design futures was a part of the student design challenge at the conference and I was presenting a post-food, fictional artifact. The speculation rooted from the conference’s theme of imagining the post-digital world and my Ph.D. topic revolving around future of food in cities lead to the imagination of such a material. The patch/artifact was true to the opening keynote, Mikael Wiberg’s perspective of interaction design where the physical and the digital becomes one, transcending the divide of analog and digital to a singular material – the ‘material centered approach’.
The fiction was a means for people to reflect on their present food practices and speculate on the future trajectories of technology that will affect the future of food. The artifact (a representation of the device) was displayed at the conference with an explanatory poster and a narration/movie explaining the scenario. The purpose of the entire setting was to help people imagine possible capabilities of the artifact and why it came into being and what is it to live with a device that helps you survive without eating. I received the award for best presentation in the student design challenge.
Of the talks, I really liked the talk by Mikael Wiberg which was the opening keynote. He spoke on materiality in interaction design that moves beyond representation and metaphor to focus on the material manifestations of interaction. He explains it as a combination of digital and analog materials, these hybrids, he calls them are increasingly focusing on materiality, for example, smart watches, smart cars, the Internet of things, 3D printing.
The conference was single track, there were talks followed by demo sessions and art events. It had a mixture of art, digital craft, research, early work and finished prototypes. Of the works on display I liked were work by Christine Dierk – HäirIÖ: Human Hair as Interactive Material; work by Irene Posch – Integrating Textile Materials with Electronic Making: Creating New Tools and Practices; Alwin de Rooij work – Augmented Metacognition: Exploring Pupil Dilation Sonification to Elicit Metacognitive Awareness. The best paper award was given to Beyond LED status lights – Design requirements of privacy notices for body-worn cameras work by Marion Koelle.
Within the arts track Opto-Phono-Kinesia(OPK): Designing Motion-Based Interaction for Expert Performers, performance by Steve Gibson from Northumbria University was very impressive, being a mix of sound and images controlled by body movements; Susan Kozel’s work – The Bronze Key: Performing Data Encryption; work by Piyum Fernando – Tracking, Animating, and 3D Printing Elements of the Fine Arts Freehand Drawing Process; Young Suk Lee’s work – Thou and I: Exploring Expressive Digital Interaction with Interactive Characteristic Wigs were some of the works I appreciated.
There was a performance, Op 1254: Music for Neurons, Networks, and Solenoids using a Restored Organ in a Nuclear Reactor. The performance was controlled live from Stanford University and was performed in an abandoned and cleaned nuclear reactor at KTH. The mix of mechanical sounds and the ambiance was quite intriguing, something I had not experienced before. It was a mix of austerity, art, code, mechanical sounds, and interpretation.
TEI has widened my horizons while considering interaction design and HCI, it’s multidisciplinary approach integrates a lot of people from digital arts and crafts as well which makes it less heavy on the technical and academic. I met and spoke to interesting people, got feedback on my work and reflections from people about their own experiences.
As a city, Stockholm is very high on human-centered and democratic design. Simple things and everyday objects seem to have a deep thought and practical associating with a high aesthetic quality. The city is welcoming to tourists, I enjoyed the museums, a night walk in the old city, the metro rides, an archipelago boat tour in the freezing cold and lots of ‘Fika’ obviously. The experience is a heady mix of the new and past, severity of existence and creativity of coping, lastly the utmost enjoyment of the human spirit.