Chapter 3 Reading Reflection

    For this week’s reading my interest was definitely piqued by all the different ways in which movement and form can inject meaning, beauty, and even personality into pieces of design. I also wanted to touch on one of the principles of “inventing artificial constraints”, and an interesting perspective on the idea.

    One of the first things that I immediately thought of when discussing different types of expressive movement and the idea of ‘strange design loops’ is the movement of the triple pendulum. 

via Gfycat

In contrast to the single pendulum’s fixed, consistent back and forth movement, the triple pendulum’s movement is seemingly random, and even the slightest change in the initial conditions of the pendulum can create wildly unpredictable changes. It feels incredibly interesting to me that we can seemingly ‘create’ random unpredictable motion through the combination of predictable ones, which definitely feels like a strange design loop (Of course, I understand that this is not ‘truly random’, but that’s a discussion for another time). It also got me thinking about how we characterize and anthropomorphize certain movements. The brush strokes in Yellowtail, just by nature of their imperfect motion, feel like a ‘moving, writhing, slithering organic thing’, whereas I think most people would find the audio spectrum visualizers from sndpeek to be clearly robotic, even though its motions are a bit random and shaky and imperfect. Where are the limits for where motions and form feel ‘alive’? Is there even a limit? 

    On the principle of “inventing artificial constraints”, when we create rules and specify how a user might engage with a system, is it possible that the true constraints on something are not the same as the communicated constraints? Does the user need to know all the ways they are supposed to engage with the system? For example, certain games communicate certain boundaries and constraints, yet actually leave room for the player to push past them slightly. This is actually the primary driving mechanic of “The Stanley Parable”, a game in which a narrator describes the actions that should move the story forward, yet the player can choose to go against this and explore different branching paths. There are dozens of potential paths the game can end up taking, depending on what choices the player makes, but many of these are ones that seem to strictly go against the conventional constraints placed within a game – ignoring the narrator, going into closed off areas (which under conventional video game signals and language means there is a level boundary), and even “breaking the game” itself. Is this type of experience of ‘constraint pushing’ or ‘constraint breaking’ still part of our invented constraints? And how can we design for experiences like these?