AniThings: animism and heterogeneous multiplicity

P.A. van Allen, Joshua Mcveigh-schultz, Brooklyn Brown, Hyemi Kim, Daniel M Lara

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


This paper explores the metaphor of animism as a methodological framework for interaction design and, in particular, advocates for a form of animism the authors term 'heterogeneous multiplicity.' Animism can make valuable contributions within ubiquitous computing contexts, where objects with designed behaviors tend to evoke a perception that they have autonomy, intention, personality and an inner life. Furthermore, animism that supports heterogeneous multiplicity offers unique opportunities to stimulate human creativity through embodied engagement with an ecology of things. To demonstrate the concept of heterogeneous multiplicity, the authors present a speculative design project, AniThings, that intertwines multiple animistic collaborators to position activities of digital resource discovery and curation beyond the narrow domain of recommendation engines and personal feeds. The project illustrates an ecology of six tangible, interactive objects that, respectively, draw from a variety of digital resources and inhabit a range of variously positioned stances towards their human collaborators and each other. This diversity of behaviors, resources, and positionality makes AniThings ideal for supporting open-ended ideation and collaborative imagining activities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI '13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • animism
  • heterogeneous multiplicity
  • Ubiquitous Computing
  • speculative design
  • design fiction
  • creative collaboration
  • ecology of things


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