Between the Tag and the Screen - Arkitektur- og designhøgskolen i ...

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Between the Tag and the Screen - Arkitektur- og designhøgskolen i ...

3 B C H A P T E R 1 : I N T R O D U C T I O NMaterials are important in all disciplines. However, what are consideredmaterials and how these are thought of and manipulated in the process ofmaking something varies significantly. For instance, an industrial designerand a carpenter may have very different approaches to wood. The carpentersees it in light of crafting a specific product. The industrial designer,however, may never touch the wood and is more oriented toward the processof conceptualising new products. In both cases wood is the material at hand,but the carpenter and the industrial designer have different tools, expertiseand goals related to its use.This example shows how the meaning of a material depends on the personusing it. Different people will have different history, knowledge, tools andskills related to the material, and because of this, they experience itdifferently. This makes it relevant to ask whether technologies used to createartefacts may also be identified, analysed and better appropriated as materialsdirectly oriented toward particular design approaches. By studying designers'information needs related to their selection of physical materials, Kesteren(2008) argues for such a view. Then designers’ material-related activitiesmight need particular types of knowledge. In this study, I suggest that suchknowledge is neither trivial nor readily available. This raises the question,how may we create conceptual frameworks that help us analyse and redesignnew technologies so as to make them more efficient as design materials?COMPUTATIONAL TECHNOLOGY AS MATERIALIn industrial design, materials have been closely linked to physical matter,such as wood or metals. However, the introduction of interactive systems hasmade an exclusive link between matter and materials questionable. Althoughpartly immaterial, computational technologies such as sensors and screens arealso shaped by people with the intention of producing designs.My work supports the emerging tradition of seeing materials in a wideperspective that also embraces computational technologies as materials. Suchperspectives are taken up by Löwgren and Stolterman (1998), who describeinformation technology as a material without qualities, and by Hallnäs andRedström (2002, 2006), who discuss how computing as material needs to bemediated through some kind of spatial material.Analysis of computational technology as material is not straightforward.First, the intangible characteristics of computational technologies make themmore abstract than physical materials. Where the properties of physicalmaterials may be more or less static, the main properties of computationaltechnologies are dynamic.Secondly, computational technologies are always constructed with manydifferent components. They may be seen, therefore, as complex composites.Vallgårda and Redström (2007) have coined the term computational5

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