On the clash between design and engineering

15 April 2013

Driven by a critique of Ishii et al’s recent vision of Radical Atoms we call for a debate on the different conceptual paradigms underlying the TEI community and its activities. TEI was initiated to share and connect different perspectives, but we feel conceptual debate is lacking. To fuel this debate, we start with comparing two paradigms by examining the Radical Atoms proposal and balance it from our design-led perspective. Our aim with this paper is to revive the richness of TEI’s multidisciplinary approach.

[…] a professional (engineer, researcher, etc) seeks new technological solutions for human problems. Within that context the main focus is on the properties and qualities of technological innovation itself: what can we do with the technology? RA combines digital processing and nanotechnology and then presents this as a new opportunity for solving problems. As designers, instead, the central question we are confronted with is drastically different: our main challenge (≠ problem) is to orchestrate social, human and technological resources towards a best fit-for-purpose intervention (≠ solution) in a real-world context. Our main focus is first and foremost on human values and practices. At this point the reader may object that these are just two sides of the same coin. We could not agree more! But let us discuss that coin. And let us see what the coin is made of and what it buys us.

[van Dijk, J., Moussette, C., Kuenen, S., and Hummels, C. (2013). Radical Clashes: What Tangible Interaction is Made of In Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, pages 323–326. ACM.]