Category Archives: II Expressive Procedural Design

Design Exercise: Displaying State

Complex systems like the stock market  or election results, and gameworlds like The Sims or World or Warcraft or a fantasy football league have many variables, some of which may be changing in realtime. Some systems that affect our lives profoundly like changes in global climate or the  global finance transactions that created a world-wide financial crisis or the health care system of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, government organizations, and multiple categories of patients are hard to sum up so that the cause and effect relationships are clear.  The challenge for designers creating interactive models of  dynamic and complex systems is to display the  state. Displaying the state may involve creating a readable summary  of the general current condition that can be examined more closely to make clear the individual states of system components. Ideally it should also provide a way for interactors to explore the causal connections that make up the system, providing visibility for the rules by which the system operates.

Choose an example of a digital display strategy for any such complex system and with a well-focused image and no more than 200 words make clear why it succeeds or fails in conveying the overall state of the system, the state of key components,  and the cause and effect relationships among them.

Design Exercise: Agency in an Interactive Model

Choose one of the interactive models below or another of your choosing, and play  through multiple turns. If possible, replay it with different settings. Post an illustrative image and short description of how well or badly the model creates the experience of agency.

When you approach the model do you  have specific expectations of the kinds of outcomes it can have and the kinds of decisions you will be able to make? If so, where did these come from? Does the model draw on these expectations? How does the model communicate to you what actions you can take? How does it communicate the connection between your actions and the outcomes the systems produces?  Are there other ways the same system could be modeled? How would the interaction be structured in a model that reflected a different interpretation of the same real world system?

Note that agency does not mean ease of accomplishing a particular goal within the scenario.  Making some outcomes difficult or even impossible to achieve can create the experience of agency if the obstacle represents a meaningful interpretation of the system being modelled.


Lemonade Stand  or any other version of it or any similar  “Tycoon” game


Kabul Kaboom

Sim City

What do non-programming designers have to know?

There is a  continuing controversy over whether or not digital media designers  should know how to program.  As someone who learned to program a long time ago but does not actively program, I have taken the position that if everyone only designed what they could personally program we would have much lamer artifacts. For one thing we would not have anything designed by Steve Jobs who worked with the most skilled computer wizards but did not feel the need to code himself. Continue reading

Lord of Lisp

While digital culture around the world was mourning the untimely death of Steve Jobs this month, another  towering innovator slipped away unnoticed. John McCarthy’s, who deserved the “genius” designation at least as much as Jobs did, was a professor at MIT  in the 1950s when he invented the now obscure LISt Processing programming language (LISP), which laid the conceptual basis for the representational power of computation as we know it today. 

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