I finished Sam Shepard's latest book this weekend and started Consequential Strangers this morning before getting out of bed. I came downstairs into the kitchen, where I've had these comments about snow and beer posted for a couple of months on my freshly-painted blackboard wall. And what do I notice but a new comment ("Think Spring!") posted by Matt, our dog walker. A consequential stranger whom I have met in person, but mostly who I know via notes and checks made out in his name left on the counter, mostly correspondence between him and my husband, Will. And sometimes, via short text messages between him and me now and then.
Anyway, this whole urban informatics/Urban User Interface™/consequential stranger thing is getting more and more interesting. For me, this is how urban informatics will enrich our lives: i.e., it will increase our consequential stranger quotient.
That's part of what makes Twitter so compelling. I've "met" people on Twitter initially, then actually met them in person. I now have several consequential strangers in New York, even though I'm only there every few months. Without urban informatics (isn't that basically what Twitter really is?) and other social technological platforms, I wouldn't have these contacts in a city that far away. One would have to live there to make those kinds of connections. Well, actually, you may not even make them even if you did live there. Because online taxonomies and frameworks for meeting people are less intimidating than face-to-face ones. I'm gregarious and don't generally have qualms about walking up to someone I don't know to say hi, but I still find it easier to do this via an electronic platform.
So now I'm thinking about interaction design and its role in facilitating these types of relationships. I'm also thinking about the aesthetics of interaction design; i.e., what makes interaction design beautiful since it's not strictly a visual design discipline? If you could define and condense interaction design elements in the same way design elements have been defined for graphic design or architecture, quality of interactions would be among them. Interaction design that leads to consequential relationships is beautiful indeed.