Going beyond the tangible

The first ‘UI’ I thought of after reading Fishkin’s article was an interactive art installation. I visited the PACE gallery in Menlo Park earlier this summer and witnessed a beautiful exhibit titled “Flowers and People – Dark”. In this exhibit, the computer powering it is continually rendering blossoming flowers in real time. What makes this work a TUI is that the interaction between the user and installation drives the animation. As the user approaches the wall, flowers will begin to blossom in greater quantities in front of them. As a result, the animation is always unique.

This is a atypical TUI as it is not tangible. Yet according to Fishkin, it would be considered an environmental form of embodiment. It was only after reading his four levels of the embodiment characteristic that I realized the installation was in fact a TUI, helping me rethink my entire interaction with it.

His explanation of metaphor where he asks “is the system effect of a user action analogous to the real-world effect of similar actions” (p. 349) also added to the fantasy of what I experienced in the exhibit. Approaching a flower and it blossoming is something fantastical, but when thinking of it in terms of metaphor, it managed to further enhance the work. The artist has pushed beyond what is real and expected, and crossed over into whimsy and fairy tale. By thinking of how the work fits into Fishkin’s taxonomy and recognizing the elements of metaphor and embodiment, I was able to better appreciate it and the artist.

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