Physicality 2007 workshop logo

Physicality 2007 was a two-day multi-disciplinary international workshop which ran in conjunction with the HCI 2007 conference at Lancaster University on the 2-3 September 2007.

The workshop gave participants from diverse disciplines – from product designers, interaction designers to researchers in ubiquitous computing, tangible interface and cognitive, social and philosophical fields – an opportunity to explore and discuss the issues of physicality that affect interaction. The workshop included invited talks, short individual presentations, group design activities, demos and poster presentations.

Keynote Speakers

Julie Jenson Bennett

Head of Research and Human Sciences, PDD

Talk abstract

At PDD we design products, packaging and services for clients all over the world in industry sectors ranging from confectionary to industrial equipment, kitchen appliances to IV pumps. In my talk, I shall show examples of how PDD has explored and addressed physicality in our projects and process, particularly in the context of inclusive design for medical and pharmaceutical devices and highlight some of the challenges we perceive moving forward. In particular, there are large gaps in the types of dynamic anthropometric data designers and ergonomists need to create design for niche populations outside the traditional mass market and “average consumer.”

Michael Wheeler

Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling

Talk abstract: Minds, Things and Materiality

In recent years attention has increasingly been focussed on the subtle ways in which human intelligence and human experience are determined at a fundamental level by the details of our physical bodies and by the enabling material web of natural, social, cultural, and technological scaffolding in which we are evolutionarily, historically, developmentally, and here-and-now situated. In some circles this attention has been aimed at helping us to design innovative technological products. As a result of all this intellectual activity, movements with names such as situated cognition, embodied-embedded cognitive science, distributed cognition, enactive cognitive science, the interactive mind, and the extended mind now loom large on the contemporary research scene. Nevertheless the precise shape of this new understanding of human-world relations remains frustratingly unclear. In this talk I shall attempt to disentangle some of the issues.

My springboard will be a rich and thought-provoking paper by the archaeologist Lambros Malafouris, entitled The Cognitive Basis of Material Engagement (Malafouris 2004). In this paper Malafouris argues that taking material culture seriously means to be ‘systematically concerned with figuring out the causal efficacy of materiality in the enactment and constitution of a cognitive system or operation’ (Malafouris 2004, 55). On Malafouris’ s view, then, taking material culture seriously involves accepting the claim that items of material culture (the physical objects and artefacts in which cultural networks and systems of human social relations are realized) are often partly constitutive of some cognitive system or operation. The bounds of cognition are thus recast so as to include things located beyond the skin. Malafouris (2004, 58) writes that ‘what we have traditionally construed as an active or passive but always clearly separated external stimulus for setting a cognitive mechanism into motion, may be after all a continuous part of the machinery itself; at least ex hypothesi’. This is the position that, in philosophical circles, is known as the extended mind hypothesis (Clark & Chalmers 1998), henceforth EM.

I shall spell out what I take to be the only plausible reading of EM, and argue that, on this reading, the distinctive EM conclusion, that things-beyond-the-skin may sometimes count as proper parts of a cognitive system, is purchased using a currency of what I shall call implementational materiality. I shall then submit evidence that Malafouris would judge such implementational materiality to be an inadequate basis for capturing the distinctive causal efficacy of the materiality of material culture. This puts pressure on the link that Malafouris finds between his vision of what it is to take material culture seriously and EM. This pressure becomes decisive once we realize that the enactive aspect of Malafouris’ approach – recall that we are concerned with the causal efficacy of materiality in the enactment and constitution of a cognitive system or operation – is plausibly in tension with EM. If this is right, then taking material culture seriously in the way that Malafouris urges us to will actually require us to reject EM.

Crucially, this critical response to Malafouris’ s paper has some important wider lessons. There is an increasing tendency in current discussions to run together certain rather different contemporary styles of thinking about thinking. Indeed, while the fans of the various movements mentioned earlier are wont to march together against the common enemy of a residual Cartesianism in our understanding of cognition, this unity against the shared foe serves to obscure certain critical differences between the fundamental commitments that define those movements. It is time to recognise and to debate those differences. My discussion of Malafouris’ s paper suggests that some of these differences turn on how the causal contribution of the physical/material is to be understood.


Clark, A. & Chalmers, D., 1998. The extended mind. Analysis 58 (1), 7-19.

Malafouris, L., 2004. The cognitive basis of material engagement: where brain, body and culture conflate, in Rethinking Materiality: the Engagement of Mind with the Material World, eds. E. DeMarrais, C. Gosden & C. Renfrew. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 53-61.

Paper Contributions

Physical Affordances considered Harmful!?
Eva Hornecker

The Role of Inverse Actions in Everyday Physical interaction
Masitah Ghazali and Alan Dix

Adapt or to be Adapted
Bart Hengeveld, Caroline Hummels, Kees Overbeeke, Riny Voort, Hans van Balkom & Jan de Moo

BodyPaint: a physical interface
Cecily Morrison & Alan F. Blackwell

Kinesthetic Empathy Interaction – Exploring the Possibilities of Psychomotor Abilities in Interaction Design
Maiken Hillerup Fogtmann

Embodied interaction in authoring environments
Pablo Romero, Judith Good, Benedict du Boulay, Henry Reid, Katherine Howland & Judy Robertson

Multimodal Interface for Ambient Edutainment
Mitja Kostomaj

Physicality and Digitality: Parallelisms at a Material Level
Tony Gjerlufsen & Jesper Wolff Olsen

Mutable Matter – Exploring the Physicality of the Nanoscale
Angela Last

A Model-based Approach to Describing and Reasoning About the Physicality of Interaction
Emmanuel Dubois, Philip Gray & Andrew Ramsay

Physical Interaction: The Basis of Human-Computer-Interaction
Johann Habakuk Israel

Sketches, Drawings, Diagrams, Physical Models, Prototypes, and Gesture as Representational Forms
Eva Hornecker

The role of physical artefacts in agile software development team collaboration
Helen Sharp

Enabling prediction in virtual environments: lessons learnt from the physical world
Roger Whitham

Instantiating Your Imagination: Creativity across different levels of reality
Lorna McKnight

A Place-theoretical Framework for the Development of Ubicomp in Urban Places
Maria Lucia Malard & Renato Cesar

Physicality of Domestic Aware Designs
Fernando Martinez & Chris Greenhalgh

Translating experience
Cathy Treadaway

Art on the Physical-Digital Border
R.T. Jim Eales & Dharani Perera


Mixed Reality Jockeying & Social Media
Leon Tan, Amanda Newall & Antti Sakari Saario

Programme Committee

Monika Buscher, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, UK
Prof. Hans Gellersen, InfoLab21, Lancaster University, UK
Prof. Gabriella Giannachi, Performance and New Media, University of Exeter, UK
Dr Masitah Ghazali, Information Systems Dept., Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia
Dr Eva Hornecker, Pervasive Interaction Lab, Open University, UK
Dr Caroline Hummels, Department of Industrial Design, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Dr Simon Lock, InfoLab21, Lancaster University, UK
Dr Gareth Loudon, National Centre for Product Design & Development Research, UWIC, UK
Ann Morrisson, Information Environments Program, School of ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia
Dr Mark Rouncefield, InfoLab21, Lancaster University, UK
Paula Alexandra Silva, InfoLab21, Lancaster University, UK
Dr Jennifer Sheridan, BigDog Interactive, UK
Prof. Lucy Suchman, Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University, UK
Dr Steve Viller, Information Environments Program, School of ITEE, University of Queensland, Australia