A response to “You are What you Carry”

In Chapter 4 of Jan Chipchase’s “Hidden in Plain Sight,” Chipchase discusses our habits and tendencies that we’ve developed in relationship to our every day products and how these concepts change as we transition into the digital realm. Chipchase defines two key concepts: the center of gravity, which are the places “where portable objects tend to cluster”, and the range of distribution, which is the distance people are willing to let objects stray when they are out and about. These ideas are useful in thinking about how people relate to their objects that they carry with them, such as their keys and their wallets, and these ideas are connected to how we perceive risk and convenience. He then expands these ideas into the digital realm, discussing how digital technology has made it easier for us to be connected to multiple objects at a time, transcending time and space; now we can be connected to our music libraries, our banking information, and so on. Technology also now affects how we navigate the world; by giving us a heightened sense of security in navigation, GPS affords us the ability to explore an area without having to do prior research.

These concepts, especially applied in the digital realm of the world that we inhabit, are interesting in that they seem more applicable now that we have high-powered smart phones. Digital maps existed in the earlier days of the web, but now that we can carry technology in our pockets, it expands our need to understand how technology and the experience beyond are intertwined. In the professional realm, I’m curious about why terms such as user experience and digital product design are increasingly becoming ubiquitous even in more traditional contexts such as basic web design. User experience is of course an important concept to always keep in mind in the design of anything, but Chipchase’s concepts give us more facets of design to think about. Should we be reserving the term user experience for design that has a larger set of considerations?

Chapter 1: The Design of Everyday Things

Thinking of affordances as a relationship between two properties is an interesting point that Norman mentions. Prior to reading The Design of Everyday Things, I have thought of objects and their affordances only within the context of one particular user. For example, a car affords a person with the ability to drive. But thinking of it as a relationship between two properties forces me to think of the user as more than one person. What is the relationship between someone who is shorter and the car compared to the relationship between a person who is taller and a car? The affordances change.