Lins Derry Designs the Movements That We Use to Interact With Technology

December 2, 2021

As a principal at metaLAB (at) Harvard, Lins Derry thinks through how humans and emerging technologies work with one another. She is one of the world’s foremost experts on the design of choreographic interfaces: the practice of using carefully designed bodily motions (think: using “pinch-to-zoom” or swiping right or left on your mobile device) to bring humans and computers into productive dialogue. “I take choreographic models and think about how they apply to different design processes,” says Derry. “How can interactive systems penetrate proprioception, and how can the body relay information back to those systems?”

Lins Derry dances barefoot on a wet concrete outcropping, surrounding by seagulls as waves crash behind her. Her eyes are closed as she raises her right arm and leg, both bent at ninety degree angles.
Lins Derry


Stephen Texeira, Courtesy Derry

Her history in dance powerfully animates her work. Derry has danced with Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre and TAKE Dance in New York City, José Navas/Compagnie Flak in Montreal and Hope Mohr Dance in San Francisco. For five years she ran her own company, Linsdans, as a platform for her solo performance work.

Now, through metaLAB, Derry has been experimenting with technologies of machine vision and machine learning to interpret audience movements at Harvard Art Museums, allowing visitors to interact with screen-based projects. She is also in the process of creating Data Sensorium, a transmedia performance piece that translates her movements into a projected visualization.

“As a dancer, I liked tinkering with things in my head, not just with my body,” Derry says. “Now, I’m a choreographer, not in the dance world.”

Derry, shown in profile, tips her head to the left. The image is labeled "time" and "algorithmic." Below, text reads, "release the weight of your head to the left until you have zoomed in to your desired perspective."
Documentation from Lins Derry’s choreographic interfaces design research; Courtesy Derry