[ISEA2011] Paper: Natalie Erika Ebenreuter – Designing a way to visualize the invisible through the dynamic illustration of conversations


This paper discusses the creation of a multi-modal data driven prototype application called the Conversation Viewer. Designed to visually represent the evolution of a conversation through a dynamic touch based graphical interface, it illustrates various elements of participants’ email, text and voice messages as they seek to find a mutual agreement around a meeting date. The basis of this research was designed to explore the manner in which visualizing the invisible relationships between various individuals and the information they wish to communicate could enable meaningful relationships to develop. It also takes into consideration the ever-changing schedules and situations that directly impact the nature of agreements in dynamic communities.

Managing the elements of this exploration and the design of the prototype application required the reexamination of the Conversation Viewer’s functionality, usefulness, usability, visibility and resulting form, which departed significantly from the way in which interactive products are commonly envisaged. The approach taken is indicative of a shift in design thinking that marks a clear difference between designing a product that fulfils a distinct purpose or is determinate in its facility, to one that carefully considers its design and utility for diverse ways of thinking and acting. For that reason the intended purpose of the Conversation Viewer, was not simply to send and receive digital communications, but to facilitate a contextual understanding of dynamic interactions and different forms of agreement that are illustrated throughout the evolution of a conversation.

This research highlights a necessity for designers to carefully consider the dynamic treatment of a product’s content with respect to the form of design outcomes because of the consequences that can arise from a narrow conception of the purpose of products or services. By way of example this design case study highlights the difference between designing for determinate products that follow standardized rules and innovative products or services that support the changing conditions of long lasting design situations.

  • Natalie Erika Ebenreuter is a Fulbright scholar who is currently working as an interaction design researcher at Alcatel Lucent Bell Labs, France and as a lecturer in Service Design and Interactive Media at Parsons Paris, School of Art and Design. Her experience includes lecturing in design at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, Swinburne University of Technology’s Faculty of Design and Gobelins l’école de l’image. Natalie has also disseminated various aspects of her research through publications and presentations in Australia, The United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. ne.portfolio.free.fr

Full text (PDF) p. 750-755