“Focusing on the digital world makes us forget about the physical. We have to be careful. You can not translate the physical into the digital”, I said in a work Zoom meeting with an architect and a web designer. “At least not literally.”
Today, the physical consequences and bodily connections to the digital are what people are interested in focusing on. While building up a parallel world is intended to mimic a supposedly inclusive reality, there is still so much to be solved.
In relation to the physical world, we talk about “Inclusive Design” with the intention of addressing a wide range of people and making the world more accessible. “This concept only functions on paper,” says designer Tal Erez. His wife Ayelet, an architect herself, had an accident a few years ago where a tree in a park fell on her back and disabled her for life. “The further you are from home, the world out there turns into a jungle,” he continues. Suddenly, the curbstones are too high. Suddenly, the entrance door is too heavy. And suddenly, the way people park their cars, affects you differently than ever before. “Your world narrows down, because it was made impossible for you to venture out,” says Tal. It’s wild.
In the digital world we talk about “Immersion”. Even if it's just a programmed environment, our brains and senses act as if this world was real. In its cultural sense it stems from Virtual Reality, describing the sensation of moving around seamlessly and effortlessly, as if we were swimming in liquid.
"Design is always exclusive, serving one public, addressing certain kinds of people. This is true not only for the physical but also the digital world."
“I have been coming here every week for years since I was young. I understand what they want from me, but I just don't know how to buy a ticket online.” I overheard an elderly person saying at the entrance of Prinzenbad, a public swimming pool in Berlin. During the first lockdown one could not go for a spontaneous swim, but had to book a time slot in order to go to the pool. Whenever I went, I found myself at the entrance and witnessed helpless elderly people negotiating with the staff. I could hardly figure out the interface of the website myself.
Design is always exclusive, serving one public, addressing certain kinds of people. This is true not only for the physical but also the digital world. The difference is that you can not reset and start anew, like in a VR game, when you encounter obstacles in real life. That is why I think of our daily environment as an immersive interface: the streets, the alleys, all urban structures and machines — basically everything. In both digital and physical worlds, which eventually become one, we should think about care(lessness) and the role of dissolving obstacles.
On occasion, I gave away my tickets to the elderly in front of Prinzenbad in return for a warm and thankful smile of relief, resonating with the roaring of the U-bahn, children yelping in the water and the city transforming in the background.
Things Might is a column about the designed environment and how it sometimes becomes, often hurts, occasionally explodes and usually takes by Matylda Krzykowski, CEO of Total Space Global.
(c) Dan Handel, Wild boars invading Haifa, Isreal, a response to human expansion into their natural habitat. November 2020