The Interaction-Attention Continuum: Considering Various Levels of Human Attention in Interaction Design
Saskia Bakker, Karin Niemantsverdriet


Interactive systems are traditionally operated with undivided attention. Recently, such systems have begun to involve autonomous system behavior that takes place outside the user’s behest and attentional field. In everyday life, people perform actions with varying levels of attention. For example, we routinely wash our hands in our periphery of attention while focusing on having a conversation, or we might consciously focus on washing our hands if trying to remove paint from them. We argue that interactive systems currently cover only two extreme ends of a full spectrum of human attention abilities. With computing technology becoming ubiquitously present, the need increases to seamlessly fit interactions with technology into everyday routines. Inspired by influential early visions on ubiquitous computing (Weiser, 1991; Weiser & Brown, 1997), we believe that interfaces should facilitate interaction at varied levels of attention to achieve this, these being focused interaction, peripheral interaction and implicit interaction. The concept of the interaction-attention continuum presented here aims to support design researchers in facilitating Human-Computer Interaction to shift between these interaction types. We use four case studies on the design of interfaces for interactive lighting systems to illustrate the application of the interaction-attention continuum and to discuss considerations for design along the continuum.

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