HCI: Humans, Computers, and Improv

HCI: Humans, Computers, and Improv

How could pretending to be at a funeral as a scuba diver with the last spartan* make for better user experience design?


The last few months I’ve been taking improv classes at End Games Improv. I really really love it even though (or especially because) I’m not that good at it (yet). But really, what’s not to love about playing make believe other adults for 3 hours every week? This is a great (sort of long) video about improv as described by one of my favorite teams, Upright Citizen’s Brigade:

The first minute probably explains a lot about why I’m particularly drawn to it. Describing improvisors, they use the words: nerds, not the loudest, asocial or socially awkward, adult children, collaborative people, good listeners, nice, hyper intellectual, goofy, and comedy nerds.

That’s pretty much me though I wouldn’t call myself a comedy nerd (yet). But I would call myself a collaboration nerd. For me, the fact that it’s funny is sort of the awesome end product, but I think the ultimate draw is in this bit at the end of the video:

You make something much better with the group mind that you could never create on your own and I think that’s what you’re always chasing, that high… that magic moment when it happens, it’s very satisfying.

Improv Off-Stage

A lot of people talk about the connection between improv and collaborative group work and that sort of thing. You know, sitting around a table with post it notes and whiteboards doing the “Brainstorming Design Thinking” stuff. Or coming up with story ideas at Pixar. Because obviously it’s helpful if co-workers aren’t always shooting down each other’s ideas and suggestions.

But for me, the fun part is seeing this connection between improv and interaction design. But what is the connection beyond the “yes, and” rule? As I’ve been learning these past few months a good scene involves A LOT MORE than just saying yes to everything, so how can we use these other elements of improv as a frame for creating new experiences?

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