In Embodying Design (on sale March 22, 2022 from the MIT Press), author Christopher Baber looks to rethink design. Baber—who serves as Chair of Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham—uses embodied cognition as a lens through which to view both how designers engage in creative practices and how people use designed artifacts. This view of cognition as enactive, embedded, situated, or distributed, without recourse to internal representations, provides a theoretical grounding that makes possible a richer account of human interaction with technology.
This understanding of everyday interactions with things in the world reveals opportunities for design to intervene. Moreover, Baber argues, design is an embodied activity in which the continual engagement between designers and their materials is at the heart of design practice.
“In writing this book, I am attempting to pull together many threads that have been gathered during thirty plus years investigating what it is that people do with digital technology,” writes Baber. “In equal measure, this book reflects my journey from understanding human behavior in terms of cognitive psychology (as “information processing”) to an appreciation of the significance of embodied cognition.”
Baber proposes that design and creativity should be considered in dynamic, rather than discrete, terms and explores “task ecologies”—the concept of environment as it relates to embodied cognition. He uses a theory of affordance as an essential premise for design practice, arguing that affordances are neither form nor function but arise from the dynamics within the human-artifact-environment system.
Anthony Chemero, a Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Cincinnati, writes, “in this exciting new book, Christopher Baber rethinks the nature of design and creativity in terms drawn from 4E cognitive science. Baber brings together extraordinarily subtle understandings of design and the cognitive sciences in a way that enriches both fields.”
Embodying Design explores agency and intent of smart devices and implications of tangible user interfaces and activity recognition for human-computer interaction. The author proposes a systems view of human-artifact-environment interactions—to focus on any one component or pairing misses the subtleties of these interactions. The boundaries between components remain, but the borders that allow exchange of information and action are permeable, which gives rise to synergies and interactions.
About the author:
Christopher Baber is Chair of Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham.
Learn more about the book at the MIT Press website here: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/embodying-design