In my last post, I wrote about the book, The Design of Everyday Things, and how the ideas of affordances and signifiers related to the materials that we are using for the chain reaction activity. I wanted to follow up with one more observation that I made while facilitating the activity last week that I think really speaks to why some materials work so well for tinkering.
In this table, our simple wooden block from the marble machines set, was used in four completely different ways. These blocks afford many different interactions and really allow each builder to imagine how to use them to accomplish their goals.
In the chain reaction activity these blocks afford multiple uses which allows each builder to test and tweak as they go through building their board. I think this quality is what separates the tinkering process from step-by-step projects. As each visitor discovers and imagines new and different ways to use the materials, they are able to pursue their own ideas and create a personally meaningful contraption.
This week we are starting to construct a few more "special parts" for the chain reaction. I think these present more of a challenge to design so that they can be used in many ways depending on the ideas of the builders.