Exploring ‘Immaterials’: Mediating Design’s Invisible Materials
Timo Arnall


This article explores the related issues of invisibility and material in interaction design, and argues that there is a need to consider ‘immaterials’ as a frame to explore and mediate invisible technological systems. Contemporary visions of technological development often focus on invisibility and ‘seamlessness’ in interface technologies, while the methods of building knowledge about designing with these technologies or issues of agency and control over these invisible interfaces are overlooked. I approach this in two related ways. First, I investigate the context of invisible interfaces and the issues of immateriality in computing, and argue for a renewed investigation of materials in interaction design. Second, I present an exploratory design research enquiry in which an invisible interface technology called Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) was discursively revealed. Drawing on these foundations, I show how design approaches can create new material knowledge by making technical exploration apparent through visualisation, photography, animation, and filmmaking. Overall, this enquiry illustrates a communicative, mediational design research practice that I call discursive design, that constructs language, new narratives, and communicative material that may translate between complex technical subjects and broader audiences and discourses.

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