Ambiguity as a resource for design

Gaver, William; Beaver, Jacob and Benford, Steve. 2003. 'Ambiguity as a resource for design'. In: ACM Special Interest Group on Human Computer Interaction (CHI 2003). Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States 5-10 April 2003. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This 7,500-word refereed conference paper is a conceptual piece arguing that ambiguity, traditionally considered anathema in work on Human Computer Interaction, can be a positive resource for Interaction Design. The paper reflects collaboration across Design, Literature and Computer Science. It differentiates three kinds of ambiguity – of information, context and relationship – with illustrations from the arts (e.g. Duchamp's Fountain; Atelier Van Lieshout's Bais-ô-Drôme), and these forms of ambiguity are used to analyse recent interaction design examples. Finally, the paper offers a series of tactics (e.g. “implicate incompatible contexts to disrupt preconceptions”) for creating useful ambiguity in design. This paper represents a step towards recasting interaction design as providing resources for user interpretation and exploration rather than solutions to articulated problems.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


human computer interaction; ambiguity; design

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Design > Interaction Research Studio


1 April 2003Published

Event Location:

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States

Date range:

5-10 April 2003

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 Mar 2008 15:39

Last Modified:

25 Sep 2023 10:09


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