I’d loosely define physical interaction as a reciprocal activity that establishes or defines a relationship or engagement between more than one element in a space.
Breaking down Chris Crawford’s interpretation in my own words in the following steps:
- Collecting a perspective
- Interpreting or processing
- Generating outcome dependent on input/perspective collected
The degree by which the interactivity is enhanced is dependent on the quality of the first 2 steps (collecting and interpreting a perspective) and the speed of the last (producing an outcome).
Good physical interaction is intriguing and stimulating – successful interaction might make someone see/think/hear/interpret/smell/feel/imagine things in a new way, as its feedback provides an additive or transformational layer.
I appreciate the important distinction between user interface and interactivity. breaking off the term “inter” of each, leaving “face” and “activity” brings to mind Bret Victor’s rant on the limitations of a screen/facade vs. the Chinese proverb, “I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.”
An example of digital technology that isn’t interactive is a surveillance camera – although the visual outcomes depend on the collection and processing of images, there is no reciprocation. the camera is merely reacting to its surroundings and is not aware to modify its behavior based on anything it captures.
- “The Art of Interactive Design” by Chris Crawford
- “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design” by Bret Victor