Framing Embodiment in General Purpose Computing

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

M.A. Thesis, 94 pages

The last thirty years have presented us with technology that has had a profound impact on
how we produce, socialize with others, and consume culture. Today most of these actions are
linked to a computational setup which involves a screen representing our options in two
dimensions and a hand-operated controller for manipulating the screen environment, a
hardware setup that has not changed considerably the last 50 years. The dominant interface
for personal computers—the graphical user interface—is highly ocularcentric, where only
parts of the body apparatus (eyes and hands) are addressed in the interface directly. As an
increasing amount of information, life experience and human contact is channeled through it,
the desktop computer system, becomes increasingly inadequate to fully represent these
actions. Any prosthesis added to or used in conjunction with the body and any part of the
sensory apparatus neglected will define our interaction with information. Information
gathered by the somesthetic—the touch and proprioceptic senses—constitute a significant
component in the way we form hypotheses about what an object is, and how it can be
manipulated. By addressing the somesthetic senses in computer interfaces, we can achieve
richer and more intuitive interactive experiences.

This paper aims to identify the key components of a general purpose computational
environment that foreground multimodal interaction by 1) investigating the significant
qualities of the somesthetic senses from a phenomenological and neurophysiological point of
view, 2) pointing to successful principles of human computer interaction (coupling), and tools
for designing embodied interactions (physical metaphors, interface agents, affordances, and
visual and haptic feedback), 3) evaluating the components of current mobile phone
technology, surface computing, responsive environments, and wearable computing.

(Source: Author's abstracts)

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Elisabeth Nesheim