Objective 3: People's Experience

As described in the previous two objectives, collections of artefacts represent a ‘radical distribution’ of computing and information processing that can inter-work to deliver new functionality and lead to new patterns of behaviour.

It is the integration of these concepts with real-world settings and with real objects, that offers opportunities for new ways of supporting people’ s everyday activities - ways that go above and
beyond what the personal computer (pc) can offer today.

In this respect, one can imagine groupings of artefacts could substitute some of the functions that the pc can perform today, however in a more distributed fashion and based a more natural form of interaction.In other cases, one can imagine groupings of artefacts designed to take advantage of the new context and support people’s activities in a completely different ways.

It is therefore necessary to address ways in which people’s activities can be supported or enhanced in such new environments. The basis for this is to consider how to design artefacts or how to design for collections of them. Furthermore it is important to see how they can lead to coherent experience in real world settings and how people can participate in them.

Designing and Prototyping Artefacts

The nature of information artefacts, as described in objective 1 and objective 2,pose a number
of challengesas regards how artefacts should be designed. This includes for example:

  • How to design an individual artefact, and how to integrate utility design with software/hardware constraints.
  • The design of the functionality of an individual artefact and how this can be combined with that of others.
  • Research on how to design for collections of interacting artefacts and how to design in the context of a collective and emerging functionality.
  • The use of iterative prototyping and new evaluation methods.


A world full of interacting artefacts could easily confuse people. Research is needed in order to make sure that environments are coherent and understandable. This could include for example:

  • Ways to integrate artefacts with real places and locations.
  • The use of metaphors, cognitive or semantic models, to guide the design of environments.
  • Approaches that ensure ‘seamless interaction’, for example, for an activity that takes place across different locations and different stages in time.


In contrast to concentrated engagement in one location (as with a pc), the distributed nature of a collection of artefacts in real locations leads to a range of research issues on how to support people’s activities in this context, for example:

  • The ways in which both individuals and groups of people can participate in such environments.
  • The design of engagement that is appropriate to an activity. This includes active engagement that requires concentration, through to relaxed participation that is ‘laid-back’, enjoyable or fun.
  • The ways in which sequences of interaction and experience can be structured. For example, the use of ‘interactive narratives’, that can guide or engage people in space and time, and the ways in which such narratives can encompass pre-scripted elements as well as emergent, or unexpected events.


The Disappearing Computer Initiative © 2002