Curious Displays
Julia Y. Tsao

Exercies in thinking around the implications of a swarming, organism-like display system immediately brings up very strong imaginings about what this thing might look like, or might behave like. Immediately, questions begin bubbling up about the display system. How would we live with it? How would it behave? Woult it be friendly? Would it be annoying? How would you control it? What if I stepped on one? Could I anger it, and if so, what are the reprecussions to that? These questions, though very grounded and practical in the sense that they're very real and valid questions for anything, product, pet, or otherwise, that we bring into our homes. It's almost to the point that we taken these questions for granted when designing for more typical consumer products and experiences. Often times, the "thing" has been defined already, it's something that already exists, that has an identity, a set of expectations, behaviors, and perceptions already associated with its function and purpose. However, while working on this project, I realized that designing for something like Curious Displays, something that is so far off and so foreign as an idea to your audience, that an element of fiction tends to naturally creep into the discussion and to the conversation, and that this tenedency toward the fantatastical was actually invaluable for gaining a critical insight into very grounded and functional questions about day to day life.

The notion of fiction was central to developing Curious Displays. When presented with the idea, people would almost immediately go into a wildly imaginative state, trying to visualize what a display system as such would be like to live and interact with. I found that in communicating the project and the product, this seemingly natural inclination to let the imagination run with the idea worked very much as both a knowledge-sharing tool, and as a form of research, as well--I simply had to plant the seed of what it is, and people would really fill in all the necessary blanks in their heads. Often times, people would think of applications or details that I had never even considered. Most notably, however, is that the fictional apsect of thinking and making in this way really lends itself to the creation of an understanding of not just the "thing" that you are designing for, but all the complicated and highly contextual, unexpected situational events that we face in our lives everyday. In no way do we live in a perfect world, and we should design with a hyperawareness of that fact, knowing that things will break, will go out of control; screens will crack, batteries will fail, and rather than glossing over that very real fact, it's arguably much more interesting and relevant to design with an awareness of these imperfections, knowing that these very imperfections are often times what keeps things interesting, and keeps things moving forward.


CURIOUS DISPLAYS.  Copyright 2009.  Media Design Program, Art Center College of Design.  About Julia Tsao.  Acknowledgements & Thanks.