A Naïve Understanding of Electronics

Abstract by Kristina Andersen, for Test_Lab: Fleshing Out.

Objects augmented with electronic sensing capabilities require us to develop new intuitions or ‘naïve‘ understandings about both the resulting hybrid-object and the specific affordances of the sensor itself. These naïve understandings can be seen as an extrapolation of Hayes’ ‘naive physics’, which refers to people’s knowledge of the everyday world. Or as the physicist would put it: “Naïve physics or folk physics is the untrained human perception of basic physical phenomena.” This can in turn be directly related to the attitude to electronics expressed in Nick Collin’s 16th rule of hardware hacking: “If it sound good and doesn’t smoke, don’t worry if you don’t understand it.”

A series of speculative projects are working to explore these understandings:

"colour-by-numbers" is a method of introducing art and performance students to electronics through a process of soldering up key-chains of circuits that you don’t understand.

"the blue box" is a series of simple input/output boxes using light, sound and touch/vibrate. The boxes are explored by children who are asked to determine what they are and how they work.

"ensemble" makes sensors available to children in dressing up clothes and observes how they use and interpret them.

The results of these experiments are an odd array of boundary objects and investigative tools that can amuse or surprise and occasionally offer insight into our intuitions and understandings of electronic devices.

Kristina Andersen, 2006


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