Dare we say beautiful?

Our reading for the seminar today is “Two Selections by Brenda Laurel,”  and I am eager to hear what some of the experts in our group have to say about her insights on human computer interaction. My own thoughts about her conception of agency are here, but I’m wondering if they might change a bit after today’s session.  We will have visitors who will surely prompt us to think about, and maybe even experience, human-computer interaction in a whole new way.

Re-reading Laurel’s “The Six Elements” just now, I was struck by this passage:

The notion of beauty that drives Aristotle’s criterion of magnitude is the idea that things, like plays, can be organic wholes — that the beauty of their form and structure can approach that of natural organisms in the way the parts fit perfectly together…..If we aim to design human-computer activities that are — dare we say — beautiful, this criterion must be used in deciding, for instance, what a person should be required to do, or what a computer-based agent should be represented as doing in the course of the action.

Laurel’s focus on organic beauty reminded me of Bill Viola’s holistic conceptualization of data space.  The whole is already there, just waiting to be discovered, engaged, or enacted. In a recent interview with Laurel, Henry Jenkins noted that over the last decade or so, the emphasis in human-computer interaction has shifted from a focus on interactive design and the relations between humans and computers to a focus on participatory design and the social interactions between users.  Laurel sees social media as being more narrative than dramatic, but remains committed to the ideals of the six causal elements of classical drama… which is good, because I need to stay tuned to the whole and the beautiful on a day that came with a good measure of fracture and loss.

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