On MoMA’s website, the first sentence to describe their Talk to Me exhibition is that it “explores the communication between people and things.” And then further down: “The exhibition focuses on objects that involve a direct interaction, such as interfaces, information systems, visualization design, and communication devices, and on projects that establish an emotional, sensual, or intellectual connection with their users.” Based on Chris Crawford‘s definition of interactivity in The Art of Interactive Design, I think he’d take issue with MoMA’s definition. Many of the works that were on display at the Talk to Me exhibition were objects of amusement, made to illicit a reaction. They did not however, listen, think and respond to the user. They were no doubt creative and definitely deserved a spot in the gallery, but it had me asking “how is this interactive at all?” In some cases it was the way in which a piece was presented: some pieces that were certainly interactive by Crawford’s definition were housed in glass cubes with no power to them. Sometimes a video would show what the piece does. I would have hoped that, in true spirit, the exhibit itself would be fully interactive.
My definition of physical interaction would be: a device capable of two-way communication and reaction. Communication covers Crawford’s requirement for listening and speaking and the reaction comes from thought (Crawford’s other requirement). I added that it must be a device to put the definition in the context of the course.