January 15, 2019

Three Questions With the University of Texas Team

“In designing with the public — including ourselves — in mind, we are influencing how the social landscape takes form.”

What is your process for creating experiences that engage people with technology?

Our design process embraces the idea that we do not design for a public — as if we, as designers, are somehow outside of or separate from the public. Rather, we recognize that those who design are also members of the public; we belong to the public, we participate in public transactions. This means that the design process is a social process. In designing with the public — including ourselves — in mind, we are influencing how the social landscape takes form.

How do you come up with innovative ways to engage end users and how do you decide what technology to use?

In designing public interactives, we never put technology first. We consider audience and content first and then turn our attention to technology — and technological solutions. For us, innovation does not necessarily map onto the digital or the technically sophisticated. In fact, much of our thinking about how to engage a public begins with lo-tech experiments. How do lo-tech solutions have impact? How might we learn from the analog in order to shape more compelling and productive interactive experiences with and through technologies of various sorts?

What are some new ways you’ve seen audiovisual and interactive technologies used to create a sense of a “destination”?

We are less interested in creating a sense of “destination” than evoking in people a “shared attention” (Janet Murray, Georgia Institute of Technology professor) to how their interactions on site via technologies produce shifts in understanding about the particularities of place. For example, what happens when a geo-locative app pushes to the touchscreen interface an archival image of the place on which a person stands? What new understandings of one’s surroundings are possible? What kinds of conversations take place? In this regard, we focus on cultivating atmosphere and experiment with scale of public spaces. We take seriously how, not only individual, but also collective interactions on site take shape and change in relation to the particularities of place.

UT Dallas

Photograph 1: AIDS Quilt Touch Table in use at 2017 Grand opening of NAMES Visitor Center Atlanta, GA. Pictured: Jon Winet, Anne Balsamo, unknown. Photographer: Leticia Ferreira DeSouza

Photograph 2:  On-site demo of Ghosts of the Horseshoe on the historic Horseshoe campus at the University of South Carolina. Pictured: Susan Courtney and Andrew Ball. Photographer: Brian Harmon