Curious Rituals design project, of how we interact with our technology

Curious Rituals: A Digital Tomorrow from Near Future Laboratory on Vimeo.

A team from the Southern California Art Center College of Design, led by Nicolas Nova, Katherine Miyake, Nancy Kwon, and Walton Chiu, had a project called “CURIOUS RITUALS | Gestural Interaction in the Digital Everyday.”

It focuses on how interaction designers might think of people’s relationships with, and use of, different technologies through the lens of rituals. It produced a 72 page book exploring these ‘curious rituals’ of how people gesture and move with tech.

With beautiful illustrations and a funny sense of humor, the designers document how people, most likely subconsciously, are interacting with tech — how they move, interact, and position themselves with these things in their lives.

This research project is about gestures, postures and digital rituals that typically emerged with the use of digital technologies (computers, mobile phones, sensors, robots, etc.): gestures such as recalibrating your smartphone doing an horizontal 8 sign with your hand, the swiping of wallet with RFID cards in public transports, etc. These practices can be seen as the results of a co-construction between technical/physical constraints, contextual variables, designers intents and people’s understanding. We can see them as an intriguing focus of interest to envision the future of material culture.

The aim of the project is to envision the future of gestures and rituals based on:

  1. A documentation of current digital gestures
  2. The making of design fiction films that speculate about their evolution

For more information, please contact nicolas (at) nearfuturelaboratory (dot) com

“Curious Rituals” was produced as part of a research residency in the Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

The final passage of the Curious Rituals book lays out  a vision for the future, that would have us explore futures through rituals:

“The curious habits described in this book can be seen as ingredients with which technological objects are domesticated by people, integrated into their own daily routines. Fixing strategies, nervous tics, device juggling or courtesy postures, to name just a few, are not only peculiar interaction habits, they reveal how people normalize so-called “futuristic technologies” or what seemed magical and complex at first. They highlight the ingenuity users employ to repurpose and adapt digital technologies to their own context. One should see these insights as constant design patterns in the evolution of technological products and services.

Our speculations about the future of digital gestures, either in the form of a text or film, are not just meant to envision the “future” or the evolution of technology. They can also be seen as a “B-side” to future scenarios produced and promoted by high-tech companies. The “curious rituals” are really about the gaps and junctures glossy corporate videos on the “future of technology” do not reveal; possible alternative scenarios where some of these devices could be adopted, mis-used, re-appropriated.

The questions we asked and the possible implications we arrived at on the project, should be relevant to anyone who is interested in envisioning the future. These are starting points, first questions on how technology could be domesticated, repurposed, recycled in interesting ways outside normative technological discourse. In turn, we hope the answers we come across during the project would lead us to alternative paths not yet explored. “


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