Conceptual Designing and Technology: Short-Range RFID as Design Material
Kjetil Nordby


Short-Range Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an emerging technology that interaction designers are currently embracing. There are, however, few systematic efforts to utilize the technology as a tool for the development of new design concepts. This article focuses on technology as a design material and its role in the formative process of conceptual design. My approach involves the use of activity theory and the concept of motives, used to analyze short-range RFID technology when considering the field of design. I employ practice-based research where qualitative design and research methods are used to scrutinize the use of this technology in design. A design material perspective frames the short-range RFID technology as a composite consisting of near-fields and the computational. This material is coined near-field material and is further described through six form-making qualities: Tap and Hold, Multi-Field Relations, Multi-Field Distribution, Field Shape, Context Sharing and Mediation Type. I propose that the near-field material and thus the six form-making qualities cited above, offer designers engaged in creating user-oriented experiences, a morphology of form types. I argue that by synthesizing and analyzing emerging technology in relation to designers’ motives for using them, we may further support research and practice by placing technology inside design discourse and culture.

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