Molly Wright Steenson

Strategic Boredom

Boredom is a key provocation for interaction. But what kind of provocation is it?

It's definitions over the last 2000 years include acedia, dejection, depression, sloth, laziness, immobility. We characterize it in the same manner as melancholia, tristesse, ennui, annoyance and wearisomeness. It has its own typology: situative boredom (waiting for someone or taking a train), the boredom of satiety (too much of the same thing), existential boredom and creative boredom (in which someone is forced to do something new or different). Situative boredom, the momentary ennui presented by a certain state of things, can be shaken off by action.

In this talk, we'll look at how designers, architects and cyberneticists play with boredom to spur people to action: Gordon Pask's 1953 Musicolour Machine, Cedric Price's proposed Fun Palace and Generator, and contemporary architects and interaction designers like Usman Haque. We'll see how to strategically deploy boredom as impetus for interaction.


Jared Spool

Molly Wright Steenson is a design researcher and architectural historian who studies interactivity and responsiveness in architecture. She cut her teeth on the web in 1994 and continues to conduct research and develop design strategy for mobile, web and urban projects.

Molly was an Associate Professor of Connected Communities at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in architecture at Princeton University. She is the force behind girlwonder.com and conceptualdevice.com.


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