Concerning three concepts: Physical Computing, Interaction Design, Tinkering

The course is over… and summer starts… During this year I’ve been taken awareness about different concepts and ideas that are becoming more and more important in my thoughts and projects. I want to bookmark these three words and concepts for further study and reference: Physical Computing, Interaction Design and Tinkering. I’ve found very usefull a small booklet introductory to arduino: Getting Started with Arduino, from where I take the quotes.

Physical Computing

Physical Computing involves prototyping with electronics, turning sensors, actuators and microcontrollers into materials for designers and artists. It involves the design of interactive objects that people can interact with using sensors and actuators controlled by a behaviour implemented as software running inside a microcontroller.



Interaction Design

Interaction Design is about the design of any interactive experience. It also applies to the creation of meaningful experiences between us (humans) and artefacts. It is also a good way to explore the creation of beautiful and maybe even controversial relationships between us and technology. Interaction Design attempts to encourage design through an iterative process based on prototypes of ever increasing fidelity. This approach, also part of some types of more traditional design fields, can be extended to include prototyping with technology and particular with electronics. This particular type of Interaction Design is called Physical Computing.


  • Programming Interactivity book


We believe it is essential to play with the medium, exploring different possibilities directly with hardware and software, sometimes without a definite goal. We call this process tinkering.

Tinkering is what happens when you try something you don’t quite know how to do, guided by whim, imagination and curiosity.

When you tinker, there are no instructions – but there are also no failure, no right or wrong way of doing things. It’s about figuring out how thinks work and reworking them.

Re-using existing technology is one of the best ways of tinkering. Getting cheap toys or old discarded equipment and hacking them to make them do something new is one of the best ways to get to great results.

329 In the previous post I was talking about Physical Computing, Interaction Design and the Tinkering way to discover and do things and projects. These four books that I quote represent a nice starting point to dig inside these concepts.

  • Programming Interactivity: A Designer’s Guide to Processing, Arduino and OpenFrameworks. O’Reilly (2009). Joshua Noble. Amazon reference
  • Make: Electronics. Learning Through Discovery. O’Reilly (2009). Charles Platt. Amazon reference
  • Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects. O’Reilly (2007). Tom Igoe. Amazon reference
  • Physical Computing. Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers. Thomson Course Technology (2004). Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe. Amazon reference. This book doesn’t make any reference to arduino because it’s year of publication: 2004.