We’re reading Plato to explore the fourth mode of interaction: person and cosmos. I’m sure most people would not understand why we’re reading Plato to learn about design. It’s possible there are those in my class that feel the same way.

I find it extremely interesting to approach Plato and Aristotle—his Poetics was the previous reading—with the intent of learning about design. It’s truly amazing that Dick Buchanan has pulled together all the texts that we have read as a study of interaction design. It’s amazing because there are actually lessons to be learned by reading the texts.

Right now we’re reading Phaedrus, which is a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus. Part of the reason I like reading some of the assigned texts is that there are some good ideas in there, design-related or otherwise.

For instance, I found this particularly interesting:

But whoever has no touch of the Muses’ madness in his soul approaches the gates of poetry and thinks that he will get into the temple by the help of art—he, I say, is not admitted, and the poetry of the sane man is utterly eclipsed by that of the inspired madman.

At times I have felt like an inspired madman, though I’m not sure my poetry reflects that. So perhaps I like Plato because he reminds me of poetry, which I do not have much time for these days. I believe my muse is tucked away in the closet like a forlorn toy, waiting in the dark while I play with my newest infatuation, grad school.

But I digress…

Unlike previous texts, we’re spending two classes on Phaedrus. So I am not yet privy to the full enlightenment of how Plato fits into interaction. But even if I did, I’m not sure I could explain the connection. For I still cannot adequately explain to people what I’m studying.

Just tonight someone asked me, and I said “interaction design,” and I could immediately see the information was not being processed. So in acknowledgment of Warren Weaver, I repeated myself in a slightly different way. Still I could see a lack of understanding. Out of politeness or perhaps to maintain the conversation for a bit longer, I tried to explain, but to no avail. So I found an excuse to exit the conversation and took my leave.

If you understand what I just explained, then you must also be reading Plato right now. Though, of course, I was not speaking of Plato’s mode of interaction.

At any rate, Plato knows interaction. Who knew?