2011: OBJECT ANIMISM, Philip van Allen

Faculty Research

Object Animism explores the design opportunities of objects that seem to have inner lives through their expressive behavior. As Piaget and others have noted, people tend to imagine that inanimate objects are alive—why not leverage this to create more interesting, playful, expressive, desirable, and useful systems? Creating apparent intentionality for objects allows them to fit more easily into the narrative of daily life. It also makes it easier for people to understand the sometimes complex functions and role of digital systems in our lives.

Following the summer research project on Animism as a Design Metaphor sponsored by Nokia Research, the work has strongly influenced van Allen’s approach to Interaction Design. It is the subject of his 2013 SIGCHI paper, “AniThings: Animism and Heterogeneous Multiplicity.” It became the theme of his New Ecology of Things course, and is changing his commercial and research design projects.

Student Research Assistants: Brooklyn Brown, Hye Mi Kim, Daniel Lara, Salvador Orara, Bora Shin
Funded by Nokia Research

Philip van Allen is an interaction designer and creative technologist on the Core Faculty of Media Design Practices: Lab Track