Dourish, P. (2004) Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. Chapter 1. History of Interaction

In the first chapter of the book Dourish presents the history of human-computer interaction from the perspective of human experience of computation. This viewpoint gives a nice background for the book’s vision, embodied interaction.

Dourish sees the development of human-computer interaction or user interfaces through the changes in human skills the interfaces have been designed to exploit. The historical phases so far have been: electrical, symbolic, textual and graphical forms of interaction. There is some resemblance to Grudin’s view presented in “Computer reaches out” (1990).

Electrical phase happened during the birth of computers. During that time, the using of a computer required understanding of it’s electronic design. Symbolic interaction period happened when assemblers and programming languages where introduced. The using of computers did not any more require understanding of electronics and users were able to utilize more wider range of skills (visual and cognitive). The next phase was more sophisticated form of symbolic interaction, written language and text. Period of text based interaction is also the starting point of “interactive” computing. Graphical interaction meant widening the utilization of people’s skills from working with language to managing space. New themes relating to people’s abilities were: peripheral attention, pattern recognition and spatial reasoning, information density, and visual metaphors.

Based on this historical continuum Dourish recognzes tangible and social approaches as next steps in development of user interfaces and human-computer interaction and to this prediction and vision the hyphothesis of the book is based. Dourishes hyphothesis has four parts: 1) tangible and social computing have a common basis, 2) embodiment is the core element they have in common, 3) embodiment is not a new idea, but has been a primary topic for phenomenology, 4) phenomenology and related investigations of embodiment can provide material for developing a foundation for embodied interaction.

The blog posts of chapter two is here.