What do we think about Adam Greenfield's challenge to us?
"The ahistoricity of interaction design – the notion, implicitly held or otherwise, that rich interactivity is an entirely new topic in design for human experience, perhaps with the Doug Engelbart demo as Year Zero – has always driven me nuts. When even an old-school HCI stalwart like Don Norman fails to deliver useful insight, perhaps it’s time to start looking further afield for inspiration.
Let’s face it: brighter and more sensitive people than us have been thinking about issues like public versus private realms, or which elements of a system are hard to reconfigure and which more open to user specification, for many hundreds of years. Medieval Islamic urbanism, for example, had some notions about how to demarcate transitional spaces between public and fully private that might still usefully inform the design of digital applications and services. By contrast, the level of sophistication with which those of us engaged in such design generally handle these issues is risible (and here I’m pointing a finger at just about the entire UX “community” and the technology industry that supports it).
A bookshelf that runs no deeper than John Maeda, in other words, isn’t going to get you very far, or help you in the true crunch, and nothing makes me sadder than coming across someone engaged in the design of user experiences whose blogroll or Twitter follow list extends no further than the usual UX names...my feeling is that there are better and deeper sources of insight available if you dig a little in the history of adjacent design disciplines.
You can learn to do a decent card sort (excuse me: “content affinity analysis”) in ten minutes, and work competently with Arduino in a good solid month of effort, but if you’re genuinely concerned with improving the quality of interactive experience, I believe you owe it both to yourself and to the people downstream from you who’ll be using the things you make to gain a richer acquaintance with the thought of other, older design traditions."