Dourish, P. (2004) Where the Action Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction. Chapter 5. Foundations. pp 127-154.

The fifth chapter aims to turn the so far quite abstract and academic discussion to more concrete and design oriented one. The chapter aims to open up the notion of embodiment, explore what it brings together, and relate it to design (or begin to relate since the next chapter continues this).

Chapter begins with revisiting the three aspects of meaning touched so far in the book: ontology, intersubjectivity, and intentionality. After these approaches a new concept, coupling, is introduced. While ontology, intersubjectivity, and intentionality describe meaning from different perspective, coupling means ways of building relationships between entities (and breaking them up). Building and breaking up relationships is important, since it allows us to both employ objects “seamlessly” into our actions and to focus our attention to the objects (e.g. when inventing new usages for them). According to Dourish, building and breaking relationships, i.e. coupling, can be done to both physical objects and abstract representations. In interaction design, the core question is how to allow the coupling or assembling of the range of computational components.

“Coupling is a more complex phenomenon through which, first, users can select, from out of the variety of effective entities offered to them, the ones that are relevant to their immediate activity and, second, can put those together in order to effect action.”

The key message of the chapter is that in order to support embodied interaction, i.e. acting through technology instead of on it, the technologies need to manifest in multiple ways how they are coupled to the world and also allow and afford the users to recouple them in new ways.

Post about the previous chapter is here.