Academic journal article International Journal of Design

The Interaction-Attention Continuum: Considering Various Levels of Human Attention in Interaction Design

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

The Interaction-Attention Continuum: Considering Various Levels of Human Attention in Interaction Design

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over two decades ago, Weiser (1991) set out his influential vision for the 21st century in which computers of all sizes and functions are integrated in the everyday environment. In recent decades, the presence of computing technology in everyday environments has rapidly increased and much of Weiser's vision has turned into reality, seeing digital technology integrated into many devices from door knobs to mobile touchscreen enabled devices. Nowadays, the digital world is omnipresent and available to be interacted with at any time. Perceiving and interacting with this digital information usually requires the user's undivided attention, e.g., when looking at a smartphone screen or controlling a tablet through a graphical user interface. Alternative to these focused interactions, many interactive systems are currently being developed that act autonomously based on sensor data such as smart thermostats that adapt to users' routines (Nest., n.d.). Compared to attention demanding, focused interactions, these interactive systems rely on implicit interactions (Ju, 2015; Ju & Leifer, 2011; Schmidt, 2000) that do not require any attention from the user and happen outside the user's behest or intention.

When comparing focused and implicit interactions with computing technology to the way people interact with everyday physical environments, a remarkable difference can be observed. People can easily perceive and interact with the physical world without consciously thinking about it. For example, we do not have to consciously look outside to have an impression of the weather or time of day and we can easily tie our shoelaces while having a conversation. These actions and perceptions happen on a routine basis and neither require focused attention nor take place entirely outside of the attentional field; we can easily focus our attention on them whenever this is desired or required (e.g., when it unexpectedly starts to rain or when our shoelaces are entangled such that we need to focus to untangle them). These activities take place in the background or so called periphery of attention (Bakker, van den Hoven, & Eggen, 2010).

Weiser's discussion of ubiquity in the computer for the 21st century (Weiser, 1991) also broached the need for computing devices to seamlessly blend into everyday life by operating in the periphery of attention (Weiser & Brown, 1997). This vision of 'calm technology' (Weiser & Brown, 1997) inspired many researchers in the domain of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) to study digital information displays that can be perceived at the periphery of attention (Hazlewood, Stolterman, & Connelly, 2011; Heiner, Hudson, & Tanaka, 1999; Ishii et al., 1998; Matthews, Dey, Mankoff, Carter, & Rattenbury, 2004; Mynatt, Back, Want, Baer, & Ellis, 1998; Pousman & Stasko, 2006). Recently, the focus of such research has shifted towards studying both the perception of and interaction with digital information at the periphery of attention, enabling peripheral interaction with computing technology (Bakker, van den Hoven, & Eggen, 2015b; Edge & Blackwell, 2009; Hausen, Tabard, von Thermann, Holzner, & Butz, 2014; Olivera, García-Herranz, Haya, & Llinás, 2011). Despite these efforts, barely any computing devices enable peripheral interactions.

With the increasing ubiquity of technology, we believe that the vision of making interactive systems available in people's periphery of attention is of growing relevance in order to seamlessly integrate computing technology into people's everyday lives and environments. To achieve this, we argue that calm technology or peripheral interaction should not be seen as an alternative to focused or implicit interaction, but as a part of a continuum of interaction possibilities corresponding with varied levels of human attention. If interactive systems could seamlessly shift between focused, peripheral and implicit interaction, users would have the flexibly to choose the level of attention they wish to devote to the interaction depending on their context, goals and desires. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.