Disciplines/fields: Human-Computer Interaction

Duration: 4 sessions

Course Content

In this course, we will cover multimodal interaction with dynamic interactive systems with a focus on ephemeral user interfaces. Ephemeral user interfaces are interfaces that incorporate elements that change over time and are intentionally created to last for a limited time only.

The course will start with an introduction to novel forms of human-computer interaction (i.e. „interaction beyond the desktop“ including natural interaction, tangible interaction, gestural interaction, embodied interaction and interactive surfaces). In this context, we will address the increasing role of more and more diverse physical materials in current user interface design. Based on these foundations, the focus of the course will then lie on ephemeral user interfaces that can incorporate a wide variety of materials, including natural materials like water, plants, fog, soap bubbles, food or fire. Ephemeral user interfaces have been studied in art, design and research for several years. We will explore this interesting class of interfaces from many angles, e.g., by looking at examples, by understanding the design space and by discussing important concepts such as ephemerality, decay and time-based aspects for user interfaces. Furthermore we will address and explore different ways how ephemerality and material aspects can be integrated into user interfaces (i.e. by considering physical and digital representations).

The course will integrate small practical explorations in groups, such as designing concepts for ephemeral user interfaces from materials provided in the course.


  • To get an overview about current prevailing strategies and terminology in multimodal user interface design with a focus on tangible and embodied interaction.
  • To understand the concept, design space and underlying ideas of ephemeral user interfaces.
  • To understand opportunities and challenges when designing interactive systems with physical (everyday) materials.


Tanja Döring, Axel Sylvester, Albrecht Schmidt: Ephemeral User Interfaces: Exploring the Aesthetics of Interface Components that Do Not Last. In: ACM Interactions Juli/August 2013, ACM, 2013, pp. 32-37.
Tanja Döring, Axel Sylvester, Albrecht Schmidt: A Design Space for Ephemeral User Interfaces. in: Proceedings of TEI 2013 (Barcelona, Spain,10.-13. Feb 2013), ACM 2013, pp. 75-82.


Tanja Döring studied computer science and art history in Hamburg (Germany) and Valladolid (Spain) and graduated with a (German Diplom) degree in computer science from the university of Hamburg in 2007. From April 2008 to October 2011, she was a member of the research group “Pervasive Computing and User Interface Engineering” at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Since November 2011, Tanja is a research associate in the Digital Media Group at the University of Bremen. Her research focuses on multimodal human-computer interaction, including tangible interaction, gestural interaction, mobile interaction and interactive surfaces. In her PhD dissertation, she explores the role of materiality for human-computer interaction, including physical and digital materials, and, amongst others, defines the field of “ephemeral user interfaces“ that incorporates transient and natural materials into user interfaces.