An almost explosive growth of complexity puts pressure on people in their everyday doings. Digital artifacts and systems are at the core of this development. How should we handle complexity aspects when designing new interactive devices and systems? In this article we begin an analysis of interaction complexity. We portray different views of complexity; we explore, not only negative aspects of complexity, but also positive, making a case for the existence of benign complexity. We argue that complex interaction is not necessarily bad, but designers need a deeper understanding of interaction complexity and need to treat it in a more intentional and thoughtful way. We examine interaction complexity as it relates to different loci of complexity: internal, external, and mediated complexity. Our purpose with these analytical exercises is to pave the way for design that is informed by a more focused and precise understanding of interaction complexity.
Erik Stolterman is Professor of Informatics and Director of the Human Computer Interaction Program at the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, Bloomington. He is also co-Editor-in-Chief for the ACM Interactions magazine and an Editor for the Design Theory book series for MIT Press. Stolterman’s main work is within interaction design, philosophy and theory of design, information technology and society, information systems design, and philosophy of technology. Stolterman has published a large number of articles and five books, including “Thoughtful Interaction Design” (2004, MIT Press) and “The Design Way” (2nd Edition to be published in 2011, MIT Press). Stolterman was, before coming to Indiana University, Professor and Chair at the Department of Informatics, Umeå University, Sweden. Apart from his scholarly work, Stolterman is engaged in consulting, seminars, and workshops with organizations and companies.