Designer: Elaine Froehlich
Location: Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Award: Student Runner-Up
Motion for Interface
I'm studying motion in order to understand and use it as a component in the design of digital interfaces. New computing environments need new strategies for interaction, including motion. My research explores motion into a taxonomy that describes motion within a screen, resulting in a language for motion in interface.
What's the latest news or development with your project?
This research shows the tip on an iceberg of possibility. I deeply believe that interfaces need to move, and that the motion should be part of the information system. Ted Nelson, technological visionary who coined the term "hypertext," had a similar idea. He said that making software is like making movies from both conceptual and sensory perspectives.
Many times in the course of pursuing this topic I was confronted with the idea that there is a limit to the amount of motion that can go on a screen but I contend that it's a matter of how that motion is articulated that will determine its appropriateness. Rather than literal animations illustrating this or that process, motions can indicate levels and types of changes taking place, especially when looking at flowing data.
The challenge is to understand the symbolic messages in different kinds of motions and use them to make a point. In collecting my ideas and creating the taxonomy, I encountered a couple of topics that are as opaque to me now as the whole idea of motion was in the beginning: moving texture and pattern. In these areas enormous potential waits to be uncovered.
What is one quick anecdote about your project?
From the very beginning, thinking about the problem of harnessing motion into a visible language overwhelmed me. It seemed enormous and complex beyond possibility. Motion exists in time, the uni-directional, temporal coordinate of space-time we humans find impossible to perceive. I was both intensely interested and completely out of my depth. Most of the areas I investigated were new to me. I was learning new technologies at the same time that I was trying to work out how we understand through motion in life. Finding ways to build relevant projects that would yield insight was pretty haphazard much of the time. I created simplistic investigations trying to isolate bits of motion into discrete elements. Imagine the scenario where I stood up in front of my entire program and pronounced, "Look, it's moving left." Multiple times.
On nice days I used to take my beach chair to India Point Park in Providence, RI to work. It's a little strip of grass that sits between route 195 East and the northernmost point of Narragansett Bay. One sunny day I sat on my blue and white canvas chair under a tree with the bay lapping in front of me and read this quote by Atistotle: "Motus est actus entis in potentia secundum quad in potentia est; (motion is the actuality of that which is potentiality, viewed from the standpoint of potential being)." The beauty, simplicity, and poetry took my breath away. Truthfully, it made me cry.
After many semesters of thinking about motion—researching, reading and trying to understand it by making studies based on little more than hunches—the impact of the quote was staggering. I had stumbled upon it as I was preparing to write the text for the thesis document. At that point I was in darkness. I had no idea how to link my seemingly haphazard projects together to make any conclusions about motion in my thesis. Aristotle's quote was the first piece to click. One after another the pieces fell into place during the rest of the summer and into the fall. All of the strange paths I had wandered down showed their relevance. Like a lens getting steadily more and more focused, my journey took me from deep confusion to ever more clear ideas on how to organize definable aspects of motion into a taxonomy.
Read on for full details on the project and jury comments.