Category Archives: Interaction Design

Talking about The Future of Cybernetics

Cybernetics is often confused with robotics and AI, chip implants and biomechatronics, and more. Don’t want to disappoint you but cybernetics is none of those things (though it has a lot to say about all of them). Cybernetics is not freezing dead people, neither. (I’m hoping that’s less of a surprise. Maybe not.)

worlds fair nano

Worlds Fair Nano – March 2018 – San Francisco

Hoping to clear up all that confusion in 20 minutes, I’m giving a talk on Saturday, March 10th, 2018, at 2pm at Worlds Fair Nano in San Francisco. One thousand attendees expected (wow).

To speak about the future of cybernetics (as in this short video) is to speak about its past and present (requiring another short video). In an era that vacillates between rampant AI utopianism and rampant AI dystopianism, what does cybernetics have to offer our future? Read more…

Remaking COLLOQUY – Progress Update #1

Colloquy as imagined and situated in staging space

Colloquy as imagined and situated in staging space

(See introductory post here.)

No, our replica of The Colloquy of Mobiles is not yet real—this is only a photoshopped image of how it will look in our staging space in May at College for Creative Studies in Detroit (CCS). But the photo speaks our intention and hints at our progress.

The CCS MFA Interaction Design (IxD)‘s Colloquy 2018 Project— to remake Gordon Pask‘s original installation at London’s Institute for Contemporary Arts in 1968—is well under way.

CCS students have been mining the historical materials on The Colloquy and building a repository of understanding to share with the world.  Read more…


Gordon Pask's COLLOQUY OF MOBILES 1968


(Project introduction follows below; see later update here.)

Imagine walking into a gallery and seeing these larger-than-life mobiles hanging from the ceiling — they rotate, blink, squawk, and sometimes synchronize with each other, completely without human intervention. You walk among them, blocking their interactions, using a flashlight to attract their attention, wanting to get in on their conversation.

This was Gordon Pask’s COLLOQUY OF MOBILES at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London, part of an exhibition called Cybernetic Serendipity in 1968. Yes, 50 years ago in 1968 — an exploration of machine-to-machine and person-to-machine conversations in an interactive, immersive environment, perhaps the first of its kind. Frequently praised for its originality and influence, Pask’s COLLOQUY is a precursor to practices of contemporary art and design, as well as a prescient vision of our future with machines that may choose to act on their own.

Read more…

Cybernetics, Design, and Society


The Cybernetics Conference, held in New York City on November 18, 2017, was an extraordinary gathering of passionate individuals interested in design, media studies, art, and the future of society.

At the conference opening, Michael Yap and I held a keynote conversation titled “Now What: Cybernetics, Design, and Society.” The livestream of this keynote is available, as well as a PDF of the slides (thanks to Michael and Pooja Upadhyay).

The entire conference livestream is available here.

We want to acknowledge the fabulous arrangements from all of the organizers, especially Sam Hart, Melanie Hoff (who also did program and website design), and Francis Tseng. Special thanks to Joly McFie who ran the webcast and was the only person at the conference who was present at Cybernetic Serendipity in 1968 in London, mentioned during our talk.

I personally hope The Cybernetics Conference, New York City, becomes a yearly event, perhaps a resurgence of the Macy Meetings, that were the foundation of the breadth and depth of cybernetics, held in the 1940s and 1950s. It is time.

Alan Kay gives lecture to CCS IxD


From Alan Kay’s “A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages”, 1972

It would be tl;dr for a blogpost to explain the originality and contributions that Alan Kay has made to interaction design. We’re fortunate that he delivered an extended real-time lecture by video on October 9, 2017, to grad and undergrad students, hosted by the Interaction Design Evolution course, a.k.a. Studio III in the MFA Interaction Design program at CCS.

Alan has been deeply influencing interaction design from the time he conceived what we now call the iPad—though his concept went much further and was explicitly a learning tool. And he named it more descriptively: the Dynabook (1968-1972). He had a relationship with Steve Jobs and famously said that he thought the original Mac from 1984 was “the first personal computer good enough to be criticized.” Wait… what? Yup.

Read more…

Designing Our World

4xsquares design=as=conversation tallerTo “design our world” has been the goal of every human generation. Every day we wake up to an invitation to become whom we wish to become. I believe the role of design is to help all of us to achieve that goal for ourselves — that is, to be designers of our own world.

Ambitious, I realize. As is trying to tame wicked problems through design.

But what is “design” anyway? Why isn’t “design thinking” enough? And what’s this got to do with cybernetics, anyway? I offer viewpoints in my Heinz von Foerster ’17 Lecture, entitled Designing Our World: Cybernetics as Conversations for Action. See the abstract, video, and supporting materials here.

My First iPhone

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 11.31.40 PM

Not an iPhone but an architecture of services that it inspired for a report for Samsung in 2010.

I remember June 29, 2007, as if it were yesterday (almost). I bought my first iPhone from the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City on the first day it came out. I had worked all day on a typical consulting gig from my apartment, which was a 10-minute walk to the flagship Apple store. Around 4pm I had done enough so I figured, What the hell? — yes, it was that casual — I’d stroll over to see what was up. What I found was a party. I hadn’t intended to, but I got on line to buy. Read more…