Skip to main content Skip to main navigation


Embodiment, Immediacy and Thinghood in the Design of Human-Computer Interaction

Fabian Hemmert; Gesche Joost
In: Proceedings of the Design Research Society Conference 2010. Design Research Society International Conference (DRS-2010), July 7-9, Montreal, Canada, ISBN 978-2-9811985-2-5, DRS, 2010.


This paper is concerned with the design of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). It criticizes the position that proposes ‘Embodied Interaction’ to be the underlying principle of the transition from textual, to graphical, to tangible interfaces. Firstly, it is hypothesized that it is not the level of embodiment that has increased, but the level of immediacy. It is furthermore proposed that the concept of thinghood, as described in the works of Heidegger, is a fruitful starting point for the design of human-computer interfaces. In the second part of this paper, the recent history of HCI practice is reviewed, with regard for its involvement of embodiment, immediacy and thinghood. It is then argued that embodiment has always been there unchangedly, while immediacy and thinghood have changed – not only in degree, but also in kind. In the third part, three projects are reported. Each of the projects researches, through design, the physical display of digital entities. The projects do so by picking up Heidegger’s characteristics of thinghood: extendedness, substantiality, and proximity. It is concluded that making digital entities physically graspable can help us to make the immaterial accessible and, in doing so, ready-to-hand.