Designers often refer to people as users, or sometimes as consumers. In Design Interactions, we prefer to think of both users and designers as, first and foremost, people. That is, we see ourselves as complex individuals moving through an equally complex, technologically mediated, consumer landscape. Interaction may be our medium in this department, but people are our primary subject, and people cannot be neatly defined and labelled. We are contradictory, volatile, always surprising. To remember this is to engage fully with the complexities and challenges of both people and the field of interaction design.
Today, many design disciplines are incorporating elements of digital interaction in their work, and this is all to the good. As different electronic and computing technologies increasingly pervade our lives, there is a growing need for products and systems that are approachable and enjoyable, as well as useful. It is such concerns that informed the initial development of this department, and we still focus on the expressive and communicative possibilities of digital technologies. At the same time, however, we are broadening our horizons, and beginning to apply our methods and tactics to a wider range of issues. For instance, we are keen to explore the design potential of biotechnology and nanotechnology, both of which are now moving out of the research laboratory and into everyday life. We also aim to design interactions (or frame debates) of a different kind – between people and possible futures, and between design and other fields of art and science.
In Design Interactions, then, we are not simply concerned with acquiring or refining a specific set of skills. Essentially, we are interested in the social, cultural and ethical consequences of emerging technologies, and this means asking probing questions through design. To this end, we encourage students to consider the implications, as well as the applications, of new technologies, and thus to seek fresh approaches to interaction design – approaches that are meaningful and relevant today. In short, we see this field of design as a fertile way of thinking about the life around us, within us, and in the future beyond us.