Chapter 2. The History and Future of Emotional Design

IMAGINE IT’S A FRIDAY afternoon a few years in the future. Your voice assistant provides a few restaurant suggestions based on not just your past experiences, positive and negative, but also on the emotional climate of current customers. Each movie review you scan is accompanied by an emotional graph showing the rise and fall of audience feelings. As you head out, your car senses that you’re a little tense and takes over the drive.

As technology is calibrated to become more sensitive to emotion, design must become more attuend to emotion, too. Designing for emotion, despite its relatively recent entrance into our repertoire of techniques, has evolved in the past decade. Even so, the driving assumption is that people start in some state of unhappiness which we “solve” through a series of shared conventions. Delight is a momentary blip, a saving grace for an awkward moment. If we’re lucky, repeated exposure to delight accrues in layers to form a bond that lasts.

In this chapter, we consider emotional design. affective computing, and the latest, sometimes conflicting, theories of emotion. Then, we look at how the new wave of emotionally intelligent machines might move our field toward a more complex and nuanced consideration of emotion and design.

All the Feels, in Theory

William James asked the question “What Is an Emotion?” in 1884, and we still don’t have an answer. In everyday life, we know what we experience, of course. ...

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