Book review: dsocial: Interactive Design Environments

4dsocial.jpg4dsocial: Interactive Design Environments (Architectural Design), by Guest Editor Lucy Bullivant (Amazon UK and USA.)

Editors‘ blurb: A new breed of public interactive installations is taking root that overturns the traditional approach to artistic experience. Architects, artists and designers are now creating real-time interactive projects at very different scales and in many different guises. Some dominate public squares or transform a building’s facade others are more intimate, like wearable computing. All, though, share in common the ability to draw in users to become active participants and co-creators of content, so that the audience becomes part of the project.

Investigating further the paradoxes that arise from this new responsive media at a time when communication patterns are in flux, this title features the work of leading designers, such as Electroland, Usman Haque, Shona Kitchen and Ben Hooker, ONL, Realities United Scott Snibbe. While many works critique the narrow public uses of computing to control people and data, others raise questions about public versus private space in urban contexts; all attempt to offer a unique, technologically mediated form of self-learning’ experience, but which are most effective concepts in practice?

eskyiu.jpgChinatown Work, Eskyiu

The installations and projects presented in this book are exactly those i used to cover back in the good old days, the days when my readers were happy because i was writing about merry interaction design, big and playful screen-based installations, etc. I cannot remember when exactly i started to realize that i was much more moved by what i was seeing at the Venice Biennale than by the Transmediale programme. Now all’s been going down the drain, it’s mostly bioart, non-tech art and more bioart on wmmna. Well, i do intend to keep on following the wrong track, guys but i haven’t turned my back on interactivity (yet!)


Now the book! How about 96 pages written by smart people we all admire?

Lucy Bullivant, a renowed critic, curator and author (among the book she published recently is Responsive Environments: Architecture, Art and Design) has curated 4dsocial and written several of its chapters. One of them details the way the digital has transformed London’s museums and galleries exhibition practice; elsewhere she talks with Scott Snibbe about shadow play, cinema narration and bodily inhibition; and interviews Eskyiu and Antenna Design about their latest projects, respectively in Chinatown and Battery Park City.

0aashonakit.jpgDatanature, Shona Kitchen and Ben Hooker

Techno fashion authority Despina Papadopoulos gives the lowdown on wearable devices and their potential to change fashion and our everyday life; Usman Haque has a must-read 8 pages on the terms used to refer to interactive design (what exactly does it mean to be “interactive”, how to deal with the issues raised by the translation of Open Source concepts to interaction design, etc.) and another chapter dedicated to the legacy of relevance of cyber-dandy Gordon Pask; there’s a spotlight on the works of Electroland and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer but also on particular installations or facades such as SPOTS by Realities United and Colour by Numbers by Krikortz, Laven and Broms. That was just an appetize, the full menu is here.

If you’re into interactive anything you will love that book, if you feel like an old dog who is tired of seeing how much unimaginative interactivity is being added these days to any object and any location -from your breakfast rolled oats to the office bathroom, you might very well regain some interest in the field. As far as i am concerned 4dsocial is the most inspired and most accessible book on interactive design environment i’ve read so far. You won’t find new names though, just the usual suspects. If you’re a student the booklet is a must; if you’re a practitioner, you might want to get your hands on it and see where you stand and what is the sate of the art right now in interactive design environment.