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Putting People First

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March 2006
22 March 2006

What’s wrong with serious games? [CNET News]

Serious games
Serious games usually have a message promoting education, science, health care or even the military. They’re meant to educate people by simulating real-world events and are often created with the best of intentions.

Problem is, education, science and health care aren’t exactly the stuff of exciting entertainment, let alone video games. While the military provides plenty of fodder for gamers, cosmologists like Carl Sagan or famous physicians like Jonas Salk aren’t exactly the stuff of the multiverse. So what to do about it?

Read full story

21 March 2006

The art of spurring creativity [Wall Street Journal]

MacDowell colony
By bringing people together in an unconventional setting, reducing distractions and promoting exchanges across disciplines, the MacDowell Colony, the US’s oldest and most famous artist colony, has spawned remarkable creativity. Aaron Copland worked on "Appalachian Spring", Thornton Wilder wrote "Our Town", Leonard Bernstein composed "Mass" and James Baldwin penned "Notes of a Native Son" during MacDowell stays.

Some management experts believe MacDowell’s approach could be useful in business. "Managers typically tap only a small portion of workers’ creative capabilities," says Richard Florida, a public policy professor at George Mason University and the author of The Rise of the Creative Class. Successful companies increasingly "will look more like an artist colony or inventor’s laboratory than the office of today." [...]

Some bigger businesses have also embraced policies that echo aspects of MacDowell’s approach. Google Inc. engineers and technical staffers can devote 20% of their time to any projects they choose. The arrangements helped give birth to news and social-networking products, among others.

[Full story not available online without newspaper subscription]

(via Business Innovation Insider)

20 March 2006

The multitasking generation [Time Magazine]

The multitasking generation
They’re e-mailing, IMing and downloading while writing the history essay. What is all that digital juggling doing to kids’ brains and their family life?

It has become routine for kids to conduct six IM conversations, watch American Idol on TV and Google the names of last season’s finalists all at once.

But what’s the impact of this media consumption? And how are these multitasking devices changing how kids learn, reason and interact with one another?

Social scientists and educators are just beginning to tackle these questions, but the researchers already have some strong opinions.

Read full story

20 March 2006

London Business School studies experience economy

London Business School
Professor Chris Voss of the London Business School is leading a team of researchers to study the emergent field of the ‘Experience Economy’. The agenda includes: the nature of experienced-based services with particular focus on emerging models of destinations, measurement of experience outcomes, evaluation of experience investments and definition of experience management practices.

Key hypotheses include that building-in experiences into services will lead to competitive advantage, that experience is an emerging mechanism for communication with customers, that customer satisfaction is an inadequate measure in experiential environments. These and many other hypotheses are emergent and raise issues of definition and measurement.

Recent research developments are outlined in the report ‘Trends in the Experience and Service Economy: The Experience Profit Cycle’. The report by Chris Voss gives the results of research that set out to identify some of the key management and business trends in the realm of experience.

To obtain an electronic copy of the report, please email fhusson@london.edu.

Read full synopsis

(via Lex Dekkers)

20 March 2006

Creative communities: a bottom-up perspective on welfare and local development

emude
An international seminar on design, welfare and local development takes place in Milan on 28 March.

The event concludes the two-year Emude (Emerging User Demands for Sustainable Solutions) project that explored social innovation in 10 European countries. The research suggests possible links between the emergence of creative communities and new ideas on welfare – active welfare.

The seminar will present the main findings of the research plus a discussion of enabling platforms for active welfare, and their implications for European R&D policies. (An online book about the 56 cases at the centre of Emude will be published in April).

The Emude consortium includes
- Politecnico di Milano, INDACO Department, Italy
- National Institute for Consumer Research, Norway
- Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, Netherlands
- Strategic Design Scenarios, Belgium
- Doors of Perception, Netherlands
- Philips Design, Netherlands
- Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Belgium
- Central European University, Budapest Foundation, Hungary
- Consumers International, UK
- United Nations Environment Programme, USA / Kenya

Milan, 28 March, 09.30-13.00h. Politecnico di Milano, Campus Bovisa, Via Durando 10, Aula CT46.

Download invitation (pdf, 321 kb, 1 page)

Also listed on Eventful calendar on experience design

(via Doors of Perception)

20 March 2006

Arup’s trend cards

ARUP's Drivers of Change cards
What will our world be like in 2050?

The Institute for the Future reports that the Foresight & Innovation team at Arup has devised a set of 50 cards which identify some of the leading trends affecting the future of the world — what they call ‘drivers of change’. The drivers are arranged and presented within societal, technical, economic, environmental and political domains, with each two-sided card depicting one driver.  As well as vibrant visual record of research, these cards can be used as a tool for discussion groups, as personal prompts for workshop events or as a ‘thought for the week’.

Arup is a global design and engineering firm and a leading creative force in the built environment.  It was founded 60 years ago by the engineer and philosopher, Sir Ove Arup (1895-1988), who instigated the concept of ‘total design’, in which teams of professionals from diverse disciplines work together on projects of exceptional quality.

In keeping with Arup’s holistic approach to problem-solving, the design of these cards aims to encourage deeper consideration of the forces driving global change and the role that all of us can play in creating a more sustainable future.  The cards have been published by the Spanish architecture and design publishing house, Editorial Gustavo Gili. Email foresight@arup.com for more information.

UPDATE (7 April 2006)
Arup has meanwhile launched a website dedicated to these foresight cards and they can also be ordered online for £19.95.

20 March 2006

Nike, Google kick off social-networking site [Business Week]

The sporting goods giant and the Internet search king have teamed up to create Joga.com and connect soccer fans around the world

Nike and Google, hoping to take social networking to a new realm, have quietly launched the first invitation-only Web site for soccer-mad fans around the world. Joga.com went live late last week and will soon be running in 140 countries and 14 languages.

Joga.com is a free network where members will be able to create Web sites and send e-mail, photos, and video clips, as well as access Nike content related to its sponsored athletes such as Brazilian superstar Ronaldino or U.S. soccer prodigy Freddy Adu, according to Nike officials who confirmed the new initiative.

Read full story

19 March 2006

African mobile phone subscribers hit 100 million mark [Mobile Africa]

The number of mobile telephone subscribers in Africa has risen from 8 million, five years ago, to 100 million, Kenya`s information and communication minister Mutahi Kagwe said Tuesday.

He said one in every nine Africans subscribes today to a mobile phone, and noted that Kenya was one of the fastest growing markets in the world in the telecommunications industry.

Speaking during the official opening of the Nokia Kenya office, the minister said mobile telephony was “not a luxury anymore in the African context”, and had become “a prerequisite” for the economic development of the region.

“Recent studies have found a link between mobile phone penetration and economic growth in developing countries, especially where fixed-line networks are sparse,” he said.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

19 March 2006

Peter Morville presentation on ambient findabilility at SXSW

At the crossroads of ubiquitous computing and the Internet, the user experience is out of control, and findability is the real story. Access changes the game. We can select our sources and choose our news. We can find who and what we need, when and where we want. As society shifts from push to pull, findability shapes who we trust, how we learn, and where we go.

In this thought-provoking talk, best-selling author Peter Morville explores the future present in mobile and embedded devices, GPS and RFID technologies, search algorithms, findable objects, evolutionary psychology, and the long tail of the sociosemantic web.

HIGH Quicktime    MED MPEG-4 (best for ipod)   LOW MPEG-4

A conversation with Peter Morville (by Liz Danzico)
HIGH Quicktime    MED MPEG-4 (best for ipod)   LOW MPEG-4

16 March 2006

The shape of robots to come [The New York Times]

As robots increasingly migrate from heavy industrial tasks, like welding automobile chassis on assembly lines, to home uses as restless toys and venturesome vacuum cleaners, a fetching personality and appealing appearance become critically important.

Many of the robotic toys shown at the American International Toy Fair last month in New York were engineered to conceal their joints and metallic jowls beneath furry pelts and cute doll faces. Even traditional robots were packed with more personality than previous models.

The article goes on to talk about the emotional attachment some people feel for their Roomba vacuum cleaners and Scooba floor washers.

Featured robots:

Read full story

16 March 2006

“The next big thing is us” or Time Magazine’s take on what’s next

Business Innovation Insider reports on the cover story in this week’s TIME Magazine which looks at cutting-edge developments in nearly every sphere of human endeavor, including politics, technology, sports, medicine and fashion:

There’s one unifying theme here: "We are on the verge of the greatest age of creativity and innovation the world has ever known," thanks to revolutionary advances in the way that we approach innovation. Call it "open-source innovation," or "open innovation" or "collaborative innovation" or anything you want, but it’s clear that something very interesting is happening in the innovation space:

"Things, broadly speaking, used to be invented by a small, shadowy élite. This mysterious group might be called the People Who Happened to Be in the Room at the Time. These people might have been engineers, or sitcom writers, or chefs. They were probably very nice and might have even been very, very smart. But however smart they were, they’re almost certainly no match for a less élite but much, much larger group: All the People Outside the Room.

Historically, that latter group hasn’t had much to do with innovation. These people buy and consume whatever gets invented inside the room, but that’s it. The arrow points just the one way. Until now it’s been kind of awkward getting them involved in the innovation process at all, because they’re not getting paid; plus it’s a pain to set up the conference call. But that’s changing. The authorship of innovation is shifting from the Few to the Many. Take as an example something called the open-source movement…"

16 March 2006

Gadgets and the consequences of their design

The July-August 2006 issue of Interactions, the human-computer interaction magazine published by ACM, will  focus on gadgets in all their glory, and the challenges and consequences faced by HCI professionals in making ever-smaller and ever-more-powerful devices both usable and desirable.

In an announcing article in the current issue of the magazine, Fred Sampson asks a number of interesting questions, and attempts some answers:

"Is gadget design driven by user requirements, or by novelty?"
"Are researchers and designers focused on usability and user-driven functionality?"
"Does any of the Mobile HCI research make it into real products that real users need or want?"
"Do designers of gadgets try to anticipate or control the uses to which users will put their devices?"
"Do they design for unintended consequences, positive or negative? Should they?"
"Can they encourage innovation after the device has left the manufacturer?"
"What’s the best design for any gadget when you don’t know the range of eventual creative uses?"
"What does HCI have to say about designing for unintended consequences, and about encouraging modifications and novel uses?"

16 March 2006

Design Studies journal has user focus

The March issue of Design Studies (Volume 27, Number 2), the International Journal for Design Research in Engineering, Architecture, Products and Systems, has a user focus.

Articles include: "Towards user design? On the shift from object to user as the subject of design" by Johan Redstrom and "Architect and user interaction: the spoken representation of form and functional meaning in early design conversations" by Rachael Luck and Janet McDonnell.
ScienceDirect gives free access to abstracts and charges for the full paper.

The next issue in May 2006, will be a special issue on Digital Design, guest edited by Rivka Oxman. The papers for this issue (and others already in accepted proof) are also now available online.

Design Studies prides itself on providing a forum for the development and discussion of fundamental aspects of design activity and experience, from cognition and methodology to values and philosophy. It is
published in co-operation with the Design Research Society.

(via Usability News)

14 March 2006

Man versus machine in newsreader war [Wired News]

Wired News
Man vs. machine stories are an old standby in journalism.

Think back to John Henry racing a steam drill and forward to Garry Kasparov trying to outmaneuver IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997 to the Onion tweaking the genre with its accountant battles Excel story.

But the latest twist on the meme takes it to the meta-level by raising the question: in the future, will you find your man vs. machine story relying on a human-edited source or from an algorithm?

Wired News argues that the smart money is on automated news readers soundly defeating human filters in the years to come.

Read full story

14 March 2006

Going off the beaten path for new design ideas [The New York Times]

IDEO spaces
When most other design firms were still using the same old focus-group techniques, IDEO invented the unfocus group, in which side conversations among participants are also recorded — to hear what they were really thinking. Finding out not just what people really think, but also how they really live, is the lifeblood of IDEO’s innovative design work.

The firm made its name in designing products, including the Palm V hand-held organizer, but it has been turning its attention to spaces, or environment design.

IDEO, founded in San Francisco in 1991, is delving into the psychology of space and coming up with unusual approaches for companies like  Marriott International and Forest City Enterprises, two of the largest real estate businesses in the country.

Read full story

14 March 2006

The future of television [The Guardian]

BBC
The BBC recorded its lowest ever peak-time rating last week; ITV has admitted that viewers are turning away in droves; and a recent survey by Google said that we now spend more time on the internet than we do watching television.

With a major report on the BBC’s future due out tomorrow, David Smith and Alice O’Keeffe of The Guardian look at what the next decade holds for the box in the corner.

Read full story (The Guardian)
Related story (New York Times)
Download report "A public service for all: the BBC in the digital age" (pdf, 819 kb, 76 pages)

13 March 2006

Europe losing education race, study shows

Europe is falling behind Asia in terms of education and skills, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and released today by the Lisbon Council.

It blames France and Germany which are criticised for mediocre education systems and their inherent class bias.

“France and Germany, which make up 35 per cent of the European Union’s economy, are no longer among the world’s leaders in developing knowledge and skills,” the study said.

China and India, on the other hand, are starting to deliver “high skills at low costs and at an ever increasing pace”.

The report’s author, Andreas Schleicher, makes five main recommendations.

He said countries must set up a network of diverse, high-quality institutions free to respond to demand and accountable for their results.

Access to schools which are better and fairer has to be improved, and public and private funding must be encouraged.

Universities must also evolve in a way that matches their strategies to those of modern enterprises, the report said, recommending that they be governed by bodies other than just academic ones.

- Read full story: BBCToday Online.com Singapore
- Download press release (pdf, 52 kb, 4 pages)
- Download policy brief (pdf, 460 kb, 20 pages)

13 March 2006

How the masses will innovate [Business Week]

In an interview with Business Week, Frank Moss, the newly appointed head of MIT’s Media Lab, shares his thinking on the future of technological innovation which he believes is in the "societal business model."

"Companies are now paying attention to some of the major socioeconomic problems in the First and the Third World. We have a billion people using computers in the First World. It is still limited to wealthier societies."

"In the next 20 years we will see the adoption (increase) to 5 billion to 6 billion. And the kinds of killer apps that are important in that world are not those necessarily centered on communication and commerce."

"I think as we experience the problem of aging populations we will need to supply different ways to educate, and traditional schools are not the way to go. We will see technology dramatically change the way kids learn. We will see health care without hospitals. That is where the action will be. Just another tweak to a telephone or a handheld device will happen, but it will not be a major source of growth. That is becoming a commodity."

Read full interview

13 March 2006

Designing for Stanford’s d-school

Design is not just about solving technical challenges. Stanford’s multidisciplinary d-school teaches students to change human behavior, including markets, with empathy and creativity.

For nearly 30 years, product design has been taught at Stanford University through the School of Engineering. Today that topic has been expanded via an organization nicknamed the d-school , which through its multidisciplinary approach brings together seven core faculty members from the Business School and the departments of computer science, mechanical engineering, and management science and engineering in the School of Engineering to help graduate students from across the University address design issues in new ways. In October the d-school formally became the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, named for the co-founder of the business-process software giant SAP who provided a $35 million gift.

“We do not see design as a discipline, but as a way of life,” said David Kelley, chairman emeritus of IDEO, the design firm that gave us the computer mouse. A professor of mechanical engineering, Kelley heads the Institute. “We hope we can teach our students to have confidence in a methodology of how to innovate routinely.”

Read full story

11 March 2006

Bruce Sterling on the internet of things

Bruce Sterling’s opening speech at the eTech 2006 conference is impossible to summarise. Let’s say it is rich, thoughtful and provocative for the mind.

Just an apetiser:

"The primary advantage of an Internet of Things is that I no longer inventory my possessions inside my own head.  They’re inventoried through an automagical inventory voodoo, work done far beneath my notice by a host of machines. So I no longer to bother to remember where I put things. Or where I found them. Or how much they cost. And so forth. I just ask. Then I am told with instant real-time accuracy.

"I have an Internet-of-Things with a search engine of things. So I no longer hunt anxiously for my missing shoes in the morning. I just Google them. As long as machines can crunch the complexities, their interfaces make my relationship to objects feel much simpler and more immediate. I am at ease in materiality in a way that people never were before."

Just read it (and enjoy)