Fabulous link-packed post from Anne Galloway, around various adaptive design ideas: enabling users to build out of recombinable modules and abstract blocks with basic properties; leaving systems open to creative misuse/serendipity etc. Lots of echoes of Tom Moran's adaptive design presentation at DIS2002, and some of my follow up thoughts.
Moran noted Alan McClean's work - "Buttons" (citations here) which sounds like the thing closest to what Anne is looking for. I'm still looking for more on McClean's work. Anne's pointer to the Programmable Bricks project looks to be the closest to these ideas.
In my presentation around Adaptive Design I pulled a few more ideas together - including Anne's notion that game mod communities get this stuff. Afterwards I also pointed to both Tom Coates's Universal Adaptive Machines and Andy Otwell's notion of modular code in this post - both of which contribute useful thoughts in this area.
"The more technically-inclined call this end-user configuration. Other people say we can get there by designing with ambiguity in mind. The more poetic simply don't want to lose chances for serendipitous use."
That latter phrase is a tangential link to Adam Greenfield's fabulous article on serendipity and the city - it doesn't really apply here, but it was nice to read that again. Very interesting in the context of recent discussions around tunA.)
I imagine something like themed boxes containing open-source materials and code. For example, the SUBVERSION box might contain a selection of tactical media tools that people can put to use in whatever ways they wish. What I want is to make it easier to afford new technologies and learn how to use them. I want to encourage counter-applications, personal and collective engagement. I want people to gain a sense of ownership and authorship over new technologies. And I want non-designers to teach designers something about creativity, design and use.
Really really interesting, yet I can't help myself reacting a bit to that last sentence, tho. There are many designers who are aware of this stuff - and in fact leading these ideas. We're not all closed system or control freaks! But most designers do need more exposure to this way of thinking, for sure.