The Things About Design: Of Ghosts, Spirits and Material Practices

Elisa Giaccardi, Chris Speed, J Grossen, Philip van Allen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Living in a digital world where human beings, everyday objects, and digital services are increasingly interconnected is a fundamental challenge for interaction designers today. In response to these concerns, research in HCI and interaction design has for some time focused on bringing the physical and the digital closer together (Wiberg et al. 2012; Giaccardi et al. 2013). Yet, we do not have appropriate concepts to frame what social and ecological role a material object can play in a digital network, or to design the qualities of interaction with a physical artifact that links to social data. Even more important: we do not have a vocabulary to design for interaction in a world where digital data, material objects and social practices are connected and interdependent.

And so, like ancient explorers, one strategy is to use the familiar to describe the unfamiliar and performatively explore our dependencies with the material practices that are needed to live in the physical world. Data attached to physical surrogates become ghosts waiting to be exorcised (Speed 2011), digital objects are imbued with inner personality (van Allen et al. 2013), mundane and innocent objects turn into alien creatures spying on us, and material objects are instrumented to mingle with each other like mythical creatures and articulate impossible design spaces (Giaccardi and Speed, 2014).

This conversation aims to expose and discuss the references, metaphors and imaginative structures currently used to talk about ‘things’ in the design of the connected everyday, and to discuss the critical design approaches that are needed in a space and time that still resists full articulation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2014
EventDesign Research Society 2014 - Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
Duration: 16 Jun 201419 Jun 2014


ConferenceDesign Research Society 2014


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