Mike Kuniavsky

Co-founder and Principal, ThingM

The Coming Age of Magic
37 minutes, 17.1mb, recorded 2007-03-28
Mike Kuniavsky

Embedded information processing has become a cost-effective competitive advantage, much as new kinds of materials have. Like any fundamentally new material, when added to the design of an object, information processing and wireless networking fundamentally change the capabilities of the object.People perceive these objects with super-normal computing capability as animist. What’s interesting about how animism relates to ubicomp is not that it literally represents people’s relationship to embedded information processing, but that it may represent at a gut level how people relate to all objects that exhibit behaviors which go beyond basic action-reaction physics. But we can’t design animism. It’s an effect, not a design guideline. There must be an existing metaphor for objects that sense, analyze, communicate and act.

Yes, 'magic', meaning enchanted objects. "I do not advocate that we pretend that technology is a kind of magic, but that we use our existing cultural understanding of magic objects as an abstraction to describe the behavior of ubiquitous computing devices,", says Kuniavsky.

Information processing is integrated into everyday objects, and themetaphor 'desktop' is obsolete. This post-desktop model of computing isknown as 'Ubiquitous Computing', or UbiComp, in the Human ComputerInteraction (HCI) jargon. Mike Kuniavsky, the co-founder and Principal of ThingM, a design and research firm, and the author of Observing the User Experience, alludes to 'magic' as being the new metaphor for ubiquitous computing in his novel perspective.


Mike Kuniavsky is the co-founder of Adaptive Path and ThingM. Previously, he founded the Wired Digital User Experience Lab for Wired Magazine's online division, where he served as the interaction designer of the award-winning search engine, HotBot. He has worked as a consultant and designer for companies such as PacBell, Crayola, National Public Radio, McGraw-Hill, Cypress Semiconductor, Whirlpool, Macromedia, Corel, Qualcomm and Yamaha.

In 1994 he was the design and production director of the team that developed HotHotHot, the second ecommerce website, which launched two months before Amazon.com. He is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), and the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). He serves on the advisory boards for QBOX, Rosenfeld Media, and the Long Now Foundation's Rosetta project. In 2006, he served as co-chair of the International Symposium on Electronic Art/ZeroOne San Jose art festival, for which he curated a cafe of technologically augmented objects.

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