The basis of the visit was a workshop in interaction design. The workshop contrasted a model of conversation, represented by Conversation Theory of Gordon Pask, and the pragmatics of conversation, in the form of chat apps such as iMessage, What's App, and countless other systems with chat features. Through a deeper understanding of what conversation is and how it works—the theory—we can start from the human side (rather than the tech side) of interaction and thereby design for better conversations. Students considered a wide range of features from apps they knew and critiqued them for their strengths and limitations. They reviewed each others' chats, thereby experiencing an informal type of user research, and iterated their designs accordingly.
After the workshop's first day, I gave a lecture, "It Depends on Whom I'm With", whose title expresses what I consider the cardinal goal of interaction design: to create conditions such that each participant can be whom they want to be—or become.
On the 5th day of the workshop, after a series of iterations and crits, they presented their designs in terms of naming and branding, problems and requirements, screenshots and scenarios. While the depth of their designs was limited by time and the newness of the process, these graphic design students began to experience a user's interaction challenges, such as simplicity versus flexibility and rich features versus difficulty of learning. They gained a better understanding of designing for interaction while creating a novel entry for their portfolios.
Paul Pangaro’s career spans research, consulting, startups, and education. He relocated to Detroit in 2015 to become Chair of the MFA Interaction Design at the
College for Creative Studies. He has taught systems and cybernetics for design at School for Visual Arts, New York, and at Stanford University in Terry Winograd’s Human-Computer Interface program. His most recent startup is General Cybernetics, Inc., dedicated to new ways of reading and writing in digital media. He has worked with and within startups in New York and Silicon Valley, in product and technology roles. Paul was hired by Nicholas Negroponte onto the research staff of the MIT Architecture Machine Group, which morphed into the MIT Media Lab. With Gordon Pask as his advisor, he was awarded a Ph.D. in cybernetics from Brunel University in the UK.