What are environments?

Introductions: Peter, Austin, and Tracy.

Discussion from your experience: What are environments? What are not environments?

What is an environment? According to the Oxford dictionary: The surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.

Synonyms of environment in English:


  • 1 birds from many environments

habitat, territory, domain;

surroundings, environs, conditions

  • 2 the hospital environment

situation, setting, milieu, background, backdrop, scene, location;

context, framework;

sphere, world, realm;

ambience, atmosphere

  • 3 (the environment) the impact of pesticides on the environment

the natural world, nature, the earth, the planet, the ecosystem, the biosphere, Mother Nature;

wildlife, flora and fauna, the countryside

Definition of milieu in English:

noun (plural milieux pronounced same, or milieus)

A person’s social environment: he grew up in a military milieu

Definition of context in English:


1The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed: the decision was taken within the context of planned cuts in spending

Definition of terroir in English:


1The complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.

Environment may refer to:

  • Environment (biophysical), the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism
  • Environment (systems), the surroundings of a physical system that may interact with the system by exchanging mass, energy, or other properties

William McDonagh in Upcycle distinguishes NUTRIENT CYCLES

“As we discussed in Cradle to Cradle, they key is that everything exists within one of two nutrient cycles—biological or technical. Once we treat things as nutrients. It was the early 1990s when I first started saying “away has gone away.” I am delighted by the prospect of endless resourcefulness of energy, things, and people. Short sighted design thinking can result in intergenerational remote tyranny. Good design is a human right. There is no more delightfully serious function in life and in business that to create joy. Houston, we have a solution.” http://www.mcdonough.com/speaking-writing/the-upcycle/#.VQrvgGZzAqg

Quite simply and environment is something that people can enter into literally or figuratively. For example, through presence



noun: presence

  1. the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.

“her presence still comforts me”

synonyms: existence, being there More

In virtual environments, people feel like they are present in the media space.

The first journal for serious investigators of teleoperators and virtual environments, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments is filled with stimulating material applicable to these advanced electromechanical and computer systems.
Incorporating perspectives from physics to philosophy, Presence appeals to a wide audience, particularly mechanical and electrical engineers concerned with teleoperators; computer scientists, high-tech artists, media people, and others interested in virtual environments; and psychologists involved in the study of human-machine interfaces and sensorimotor/cognitive behavior.


Definition of existence in English:


1The fact or state of living or having objective reality: the plane was the oldest Boeing remaining in existence the need to acknowledge the existence of a problem

To recap, an environment is something that people can enter into.

What environments make up a museum?

People dwell in environments.

An environment is defined by a context. The context is a container for an environment. We have natural environments, artificial environments, and hybrid environments combine the two. Landscape is often an artificial landscape. Think of Cinque Terre, in Italy: an anthropic landscape made with much human effort.

photo credit wikipedia: Vernazza

Terraced grapeyards in Cinque Terre: what is natural and what is artificial?

Why are environments an interesting topic to study? Why study environments now?

ZIP CRIT :: What are some interesting examples of environments? (Peter, Austin, Tracy)
(1) Apple Retail Environments 

Begin online 

Schedule appointment online, 
Download to calendar, 
Use phone gps to get to store....

Pick a store

In-store experience begins with:  
(a) Greeted at the door
(b) Checked into the Genius bar through a mobile device 
(c) Your name appears on list on large display
(d) Warned when the "Genius" is ready
(e) Meet with your Genius at the bar....
(2) Nest https://nest.com/
    Purchase device
    Download app to smartphone
    Control temperature from anywhere there is internet signal
(3) Internet of Things for smart homes 
(4) ITTT (If this then that)  
What kind of environments might you explore in the environments track (and electives at CMU)?
 * Body Environments (e.g., Quantified self)
 * Learning Environments (e.g., physical, digital, hybrid).
 * Domestic Environments (e.g., Internet of Things, Responsive)
 * Mobility Environments (e.g., transit - travel experiences)
 * Workplace Environments (e.g., Responsive, Flexible)
 * "Natural" Environments (e.g., Landscape, installation, contextual)
 * Online Environments (e.g., Mobile, augmented, immersive)

Does the School of Design own the Environments topic? No, there are many other departments on campus that offer great courses and electives that you should try to take (Architecture, Art, IDEATE, Drama, HCII, etc). However, in the School of Design Environments Track you will learn a different skill set that will make you very valuable on teams when collaborating with people from other disciplines.

Environments Materials

What are some of the defining characteristics of environments? What materials   shape an environment?

What are the boundaries of environments? entry points into an environment? What are exit points to an environment?

What keeps one immersed in an environment? What interferes with immersion in an environment?

In Class Activity Explore Hybrid Environments

CMU Shuttle environment: https://www.cmu.edu/police/shuttleandescort/

Tartan Express https://www.cmu.edu/dining/locations/tartan-express.html

Public Art @ CMU (PACMU) https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pacmu/id1003059534?mt=8

Sketching & Wire-framing UX Hands-On

• Sampling the real world (p. 44 -45)

• The Vanilla Sketch (p. 91-94)

• Share your sketch with others (p. 243-245)

• Sampling the digital infrastructure: e.g. Human Powered Computer

Workshop Link
In-class deliverables: Show pictures, sketches, wireframes of online components (Apps, websites, etc).


Wireframes (UX flow of a digital site).

Brown, D. M. (2007). Communicating design: Developing web site documentation for design and planning. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press/New Riders.

Bill Buxton (2007). Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers Inc., San Francisco, CA, USA