Ambiguity as a resource for design

W.W. Gaver, J. Beaver, S. Benford

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

796 Citations (Scopus)
152 Downloads (Pure)


Ambiguity is usually considered anathema in Human Computer Interaction. We argue, in contrast, that it is a resource for design that can be used to encourage close personal engagement with systems. We illustrate this with examples from contemporary arts and design practice, and distinguish three broad classes of ambiguity according to where uncertainty is located in the interpretative relationship linking person and artefact. Ambiguity of information finds its source in the artefact itself, ambiguity of context in the sociocultural discourses that are used to interpret it, and ambiguity of relationship in the interpretative and evaluative stance of the individual. For each of these categories, we describe tactics for emphasising ambiguity that may help designers and other practitioners understand and craft its use.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings
Place of PublicationNew York, NY, United States
ISBN (Electronic)9781581136307
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes

Research Group keywords

  • Interaction Research Studio


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