13 September 2007

The ultimate user experience: technologically-mediated sex, erotica and BDSM

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Pony girl
Joanna Bawa of Usability in the News reports on the most emotional, creative and play-oriented state of mind to consider when designing user experience: human sexuality.

At HCI 2007 two papers addressed this development, the first being Bardzell and Bardzell’s fascinating insight into the BDSM (bondage, discipline and sadomasochism) subculture on Second Life. In this paper the researchers reported from a two-year study, combining virtual ethnography and artifact analysis with recent HCI theories of experience design to understand how and why the complex phenomenon of BDSM subculture emerged from Second Life users.

The researchers show that participants view virtual BDSM not as a sexual practice, but rather as a full-blown aesthetic, and that its sexual practices are a part of that aesthetic.

Less exotic, perhaps, but no less important, Bertelsen and Graves Petersen presented research on the impact of home-located technology on ‘everyday erotica’.

The researchers studied eroticism and sexual practice as aspects of everyday life where technology impacts massively in the private and intimate sphere. Sometimes the effect of the new technologies is positive, but most often it seems that intimacy is jeopardised as these workplace-centric technologies invade private life. In combination with an intensified working life, these can be significant factors in making a sexual life difficult for many couples today.These adverse effects should be counterbalanced by deliberate ‘design for erotic life’.

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