Qualitative Interfaces and Metaphor

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We largely live and think and act and feel in response to, and in dialogue with, the perceived qualities of people, things and phenomena, and the relationships between them, rather than their number. Much of our experience of—and meaning-making in—the real world is qualitative rather than quantitative.

And yet, quantification has become the default mode of interaction with technology, of display of information, and of interfaces which aim to support decision-making and behaviour change in everyday life: quantified self, personal informatics, data, data, more data.

There is somehow more experiential information contained in watching a windsock move, hearing and watching raindrops falling on a puddle, seeing water trapped in a railway carriage door window sloshing around just as we are also jostled by the train’s movement, feeling how a spoon has worn with use, or seeing how worn the “You Are Here” marker is on a map at a tourist attraction, then we can get from a set of numbers, however engagingly presented they might be.

A metaphor is just a way of expressing one idea in terms of another. This project is a nightmare. The city is a playground. You’re a gem. Interaction design often uses metaphors to introduce people to new ways of doing things, by relating them to familiar ideas, from desktops, files and windows, to the net, web, websites and browsers, cloud storage, even blockchain. Many of these are so familiar now that we perhaps no longer even think of them of as metaphors. But they are not inherently ‘right’; they can be and are being challenged by designers and researchers exploring new approaches—including creating novel metaphors, which can persuade us to think differently and accept new ideas, or help us reframe the ways we think at present.

The potential of novel metaphors as a way of helping people understand big concepts differently—in science, society and politics, global issues, economics and environmental matters.

(It’s worth noting here that assuming “Thing 2 is a metaphor for Thing 1” is the assumed structure, but there are also situations where the reverse might also be interesting: tree bark [Thing 2] might work as a metaphor for insurance [Thing 1], but could insurance work as a metaphor for tree bark? Probably, yes, in this case—but in others, the metaphor might break down.)

One simple reason for metaphors’ prevalence is that by mapping features of an existing or familiar situation onto a new or unknown one, we are enabled to grasp and (be more confident that we can) understand it more quickly.


November interview:

Could              be a metaphor of data?

Could data be a metaphor of           ?


Define the outcome:

qualitative interfaces:positive emotions vs negative emotions

Inviting audiences to type.
邀请观众来打字 有一个词库可以选 都是情绪上的词 观众要选几个当下的心情(积极或消极)
电脑屏幕模拟重力 drag and drop letters into type in box (rethinking the weight of type in 打字不那么容易)
看哪个重咯,重的会下沉(数量多,10% happy = 0.1 happy)
(Even with a quantitative display, how aperson interprets it may have a qualitative dimension)
quantitative calculations help build qualitative interfaces

The purpose of this project to help people explore their own and each other’s thinking, and specifically to help people understand relationships between data and emotions.