Interaction Design


Nathan Shedroff (2000) contends that interaction design is essentially story-creating and telling. It is, therefore, both an ancient art and a new technology. This is because, while media have always effected the telling of stories and the creation of experiences, currently new media offer capabilities and opportunities not yet addressed in the history of interaction and performance. Shedroff notes that, “the emphasis in interaction design is on the creation of compelling experiences.” This is a characteristic emphasis in the design of narrative environments also.

It is the character of the interaction which determines the kind of agency an inter-actant can have within the framed experience. In the design of narrative environments the term actant is used for the participant, while the overall interaction creates a field of actantiality or potential agency, but agency which is of a networked, distributed or systemic kind. The participant-actant has limited capacity to control, shape or direct the interaction.

Participant, or participant-actant, is a term which extends beyond the usual understanding of the ‘user’ of a design. It posits an active involvement of participants in the generation of the work, at a profound level, through interaction with, arrangement of, or even production of, its elements.

For examples of such participation, see the work of Usman Haque, particularly Open Source Architecture and Reconfigurable House

In interaction design in the context of human-computer, human-machine or human-technology interaction, the interaction is a two-way exchange which may be person-to-person, machine-to-machine or person-to-machine. It is typified by this mutual responsivity but also by being characterisable as a sequence of discrete exchanges.


Shedroff, N. (2000) ‘Information interaction design: a unified field theory of design’, in Jacobson, B. (ed.) Interaction design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 267–292.

Other Resources

Dag Svanaes, Philosophy of Interaction. In The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed. Available at