As our devices like to remind us, we spend a huge portion of our lives in digital worlds. The interfaces we use to access them—from Zoom to FaceTime, WhatsApp to Discord, Roblox to Fortnite—are visual and tactile manifestations of code that both connect and separate us, and shape the way we behave and perceive others. Yet like other ubiquitous tools, interfaces are seldom recognized as design. This exhibition brings together notable examples of interaction design, a field that considers the points of contact between objects—whether machines, apps, or entire infrastructures—and people.
The exhibition, drawn from work in MoMA’s collection, ranges from the iconic and universal @ sign, a symbol dating back to the Middle Ages, to an ad hoc device that allows a graffiti artist with ALS to tag city walls from their bed. Games range from global staples such as Tetris and Pac-Man, to immersive explorations of the natural world, like Flower, or records of indigenous traditions and culture, like Never Alone, to forays into the absurd like Everything Is Going to Be OK. These works remind us that while the digital realm has different, and often untested, rules of engagement, interaction design can transform our behaviors—from the way we experience and move our bodies to the ways we conceive of space, time, and relationships.
Image: Bennett Foddy, Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, 2018, Video Game software / courtesy of MoMA