Intro to Physical Computing “Talk to Me” + Reading Response

It was interesting to read Crawford’s definition of interactivity as juxtaposed to that of reaction. It made me question the true level of interactivity of some of the Talk to Me pieces. For example, the piece that I was initially really impressed by was the Wilderness Downtown/Arcade Fire/Google Creative Labs one, where the user would input the address of their childhood home and Google Maps would incorporate that scenery into the interactive music video mashup. But what is interacting with what in this case? I tried the website out and my three childhood locales did not have enough map data for the video to work with, so I had to put in my current Brooklyn address. In this case, I was inputing information into the computer/website and it responded, so the computer and I were actors having a conversation, it seems. But when the video commenced, there was less interaction, it seems, because it proceeded to present the video and go through its choreography without any further input from me. What at first seemed like something that presented itself as a design with high-level interaction because of its amazing graphics and aesthetic qualities left me just watching. So I wonder if Crawford would say that this piece was not much more interactively designed than his example of the refrigerator door/light.

I would have to say that the reading made me really question the overall interactive-ness of a lot of the Talk to Me pieces. But I think it is because I am struggling with the definition a little bit: interaction: a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak. Many of the pieces de-emphasized at least one of these three requirements for this definition. The very nicely designed Monome Grayscale 64 might be the one that, to me, seems like it has all of the requirements. The device listens to the certain keystrokes or combinations of keystrokes the user puts in to produce a certain outcome relative to the open-source programming chosen, and the device responds/speaks by lighting up after thinking about what it should display. But I would say that perhaps this, too, is a low level of interaction.

I think that some of the data/infographics were also low-level interaction. I think the problem with trying to categorize the pieces in the show into Crawford’s definition of interaction is that, like he says in the beginning of chapter 1, that interaction is one of those things that can’t be fully grasped in black and white terms, that its nuanced nature and thought-provoking qualities are what make it one of the more exciting fields to be part of right now.


Here is some documentation of my lab project. The photos are of the LED lighting up in the first exercise. The video is of my “creative” interpretation of the basic concept.


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