[ISEA2010] Paper: Leah Buechley – Technology, Materiality, and Aesthetics


In technology design, aesthetics happen on the surfaces of objects; an elegant computer is a computer with an elegant form and an elegant skin, typically a form and a skin that is rectangular, smooth, and hard. There are good reasons why this is the case – the components that make up interactive devices (circuit boards, processors, sensors, and screens) are hard and rectangular themselves, and, perhaps more importantly, they’re fragile. They can’t be bent, they can’t get wet, and they’re sensitive to light, dust, and static electricity. Given these constraints, is it possible (or desirable) for aesthetic design to move away from the surface of interactive devices? What might this mean and what would it entail? This paper briefly examines three opportunities for rethinking the aesthetic and material design of interactive objects. We explore how three simple but critical components of such devices – connectors, sensors, and actuators – can be realized in unusual ways in a wide range of materials, thus expanding the aesthetic and expressive palette of technology design.

  • Leah Buechley (US) is an Assistant Professor at the MIT Media Lab where she directs the High-Low Tech research group. She is a well-known expert in the field of electronic textiles (e-textiles). She holds MS and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA in Physics from Skidmore College. web.media.mit.edu/~leah/

Full text (PDF) p.  82-84