Last summer Bristol decided to introduce a ‘make Sunday’s special’ campaign. The first of these fun Sundays was the park street water slide dubbed ‘park and slide.’
This meant closing off Park Street, a steep hill in Bristol’s city centre and construct a giant water slide down it.
I love this idea and went a long to watch. I didn’t take part though as I didn’t win the lottery that was run to decide the sliders. It was a very weird experience as this road which is usually quite busy with traffic was transformed into this area for fun. It got me thinking about the interactions between people and the city.
Travel: The usual way to travel up and down Park Street is either by walking (boring and slow) or driving (still boring and sometimes slower). This interaction got interrupted with the waterslide and the cars replaced with lilos.
The city: There is a certain way to behave whilst in the street. This is challenged with the waterslide and it was nice not being sure how to act. The road, for one day, was converted into a playground.
Each other: This made the way people interacted with each other a little different as well. People tended to be more sociable than usual and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.
I think what’s so nice about the park street waterslide is what makes it so interesting. Its not trying to solve any big world problems. Its not trying to make a political statement. Its just trying to spread a little joy and to make that day a little more fun.
Here’s my reaction to http://worrydream.com/ABriefRantOnTheFutureOfInteractionDesign/
This rant does make a lot of sense and as a bit of an apple fan boy anything that mocks Microsoft I generally agree with.
For example I agree that the lack of interaction except ‘sliding a finger on glass’ seems unfulfilling. I also agree that everyday objects in the real world give a sense of tactile feedback that has yet to be matched by what most would call modern technology.
However I do think that the video was made for the purpose of showing off and not as a proposal of what to do and where interaction design should go.
The interactions in the video do seem to not be meeting potential for example the lack of actual talking. A few years ago I had a conversation with my friend about technology and communication. Her view was that technology was hindering communication specifically on public transport. I argued that most people on their phones and iPads are communicating, it just happens to be with people not on the bus/ train. She did not believe me and we dubbed this phenomenon the iPhone effect. She did not believe me because my argument lacked conviction. There is little talking to each other on public transport but I do not believe it is technology that is hindering these interactions. I believe it’s the environment itself. Rows of seats facing forward and a noisy diesel engine is not the type of setting that lends itself to socialising and meeting people. So we search for something else to do. In 2014 it’s Facebook and Twitter but in the 20th century interaction was substituted by a different kind of handheld device… The newspaper.
The idea that rich on screen visuals and tactile feedback using the hands are opposite ends of the spectrum is something I’m not sure about. I mean yes, until now we have had to make this trade off however, it may not be the case for much longer. I read an article that they are working on screens that can charge the screen through static to give the user a bit of a tingle when using it. This can be perfected into mimicking texture. Imagine running your finger across a picture of an orange on your phone and being able to feel the indentations of its skin.
The current neglect of touch interactions in our ‘touch screen’ world is, I agree, a shame. However there is no reason that we can’t have both. I think that as many senses as possible should be considered when designing an interaction. What places sight above touch. And why is touch more important than smell with regards to interaction? Maybe its just because the technology to create these isn’t here yet.
Hands are great. But so are noses.