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Published: 2021-03-03

The end of the television - Will the digital wall revolutionize our homes?

NEWS In his research, Morteza Abdipour has explored how a major roll out of the so called digital wall might influence how we arrange our future households and the impact it could have on our everyday behaviour. He will present his licentiate thesis on March 10 at Umeå University.

Text: Jens Persson

Few cultural events have inspired a revolution in our homes more than the introduction of the television in the 1950s. The social dynamic and the interior setup of the living room had forever changed. Now, we might be at the precipice of a similar transformation. Enter, the digital wall. Imagine our living room walls covered by digital e-paper, rather than wallpaper. It’s a home makeover that would undoubtedly affect our daily lives in a big way.

But what would the actual implications be? In his licentiate thesis, Morteza Abdipour tries to find out.

The main bulk of his research efforts was spent observing participants interacting with a fully equipped digital wall, set up in a unique exploratory space called the ‘Design Research Lab’ at Mid Sweden University. Here, he was able to prototype all aspects of the digital wall and carry out design experiments using multiple methods to collect data while people were experiencing the new technology.But what would the actual implications be? In his licentiate thesis ‘Arrangement Design Studies – the introduction of the digital wall in domestic environment’, Morteza Abdipour tries to find out.

“The Lab was really useful as a platform to understand user experiences and the barriers for interactions created in this simulated space of a domestic environment. The experiments resulted in some interesting findings regarding the visible and invisible impact the digital wall might have in our future homes”, says Morteza Abdipour.

The visible and invisible impact of the digital wall

The immediate visible impact, witnessed during initial observations, saw participants reduce the number of domestic products in the room: such as furniture, bookshelves and the television. People also expressed a need for new types of furniture that were better adapted to the digital wall and the body positions that resulted from interacting with it. Other participants voiced the need for curved walls to further the interactive experience.

The invisible impact of the digital wall was mainly discovered during the final stages of the research when Morteza revisited the video recordings of the sessions. Here, he realized that the digital wall creates an unseen gravitational pull towards the center of the room. He could see that the digital content seemed to carry an invisible weight and volume of its own that occupied the room and greatly impacted the people in it. It affected how they moved around and also shaped their interactions with each other.

“The power of the technological content appears to push things a certain distance from the wall, toward the center of the room. It almost creates an invisible matter or substance between participants and the digital wall. While the television has a similar effect, a room with three out of four walls being digital radically multiplies that impact”, says Morteza Abdipour.

Adapting to the digitalization of our everyday lives

The digital wall is likely to be one of the big next steps in the continued digitalization of our everyday lives. Today’s digital devices - smartphones, digital wearables and virtual home assistants - are already getting increasingly intertwined with all facets of life, and as such they have begun influencing human behaviour on a deeper level.

According to Morteza Abdipour, a heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of designers and design researchers to explore different scenarios in order to understand the far-reaching consequences of something like the digital wall, a potentially transformational product in our future homes.

“My objective here is to create awareness for future designers, producers and people. By bringing the digital wall into our living rooms, it will gradually start to form us and our day-to-day behaviour, like the smartphone has. With such powerful technology in our homes, we are going to start changing so many things, not just objects but behaviour and even, by extension, perhaps values. The goal of my research is to make these potential invisible changes visible so that we can adjust and adapt in the best way”, says Morteza Abdipour.

Morteza Abdipour holds a Master of Art & Science in Industrial Design from Mid Sweden University with a focus on 'Design for All'. After his studies he worked as a research assistant to develop the concept of the ‘Design Research Lab’ at the Mid Sweden University. The aim of the Lab was to set up various design scenarios to assist researcher and designers identify the impact of design solutions on users’ behavior in design evaluation process. His PhLic study, ‘Arrangement Design Studies’, is the first PhD study collaboration between Department of Industrial Design at Mid Sweden University and Umeå Institute of Design at Umeå University. 

Read the dissertation

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About the dissertation:

On Wednesday 10 March, Morteza Abdipour, Umeå Institute of Design and Mid Sweden University, will defend his dissertation entitled: Arrangement Design Studies - introducing of the digital wall in domestic environment.

The licenciate thesis presentation takes place at 14:00 in the Project Studio, Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University

Supervisor: Erik Stolterman