One of the most critical ideas advocated at CMU via Dick Buchanan’s seminar was that of “interaction” as extending beyond mere websites and software forms towards…well, lots of things: products, services, systems, processes, even entire environments.

Indeed, going further, “interaction” is most powerful as a perspective, set of methods, and the core basis of human-centered principles. This is what really adds to the depth and richness of true “interaction design” and what I think many members of the IxDA community (at least in the US) are struggling to come to terms with, but having trouble putting a finger on it or vocabulary to articulate it. When people are arguing over “interaction design”, is it at the level of essential principle, or digital-specific craft, or evolving multi-disciplinary profession? I suspect much of the definition/job title “holy wars” on IxDA’s discussion forum (and elsewhere online) are predicated on this confusion of interpretation. What is truly meant by “interaction”?

** Interaction as perspective: Refers to a particular viewpoint, of viewing a design situation as exactly that–a contextual situation, shaped by interconnected relationships among person/activity/task/objects/goals, a meaningful dialogue between a person and “an other”: a device, an interface, a process, a brand, etc. It’s simply a specific way of examining design problems, in all their multi-layered glory with an empathetic, culturally/socially framed manner. There’s an undeniable ecology of consequence of evolving priority and impact to be considered in assessing the problem space.

** Interaction as a set of methods: Refers to approaches to unpacking a problem and exploring potential solutions, as usually associated with digital interaction design (HCI, UX, etc.). Involves scenarios, personas, taskflows, mapping/diagramming, storyboarding and prototyping, to tease out various nuances and subtleties, in an iterative fashion of course. All of which, of course, focuses attention on the relationship between people and objects and goals, etc. What are perhaps the inherent dependencies and assumptions? How can they be accommodated for or improved upon in a given situation?

** Interaction as humanistic principles: Refers to the inherently human-centered aspect to designing good products/services, based upon core principles of humanity: trust, dignity, beauty, empathy, emotion, story, delight, etc. A product’s interaction is its own value because truly good interactions resonate with and build upon what enables humans to thrive in their day-to-day living/working/playing (ie, lifestyles).