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Putting People First

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November 2007
21 November 2007

Book: Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research

Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research
Doing Anthropology in Consumer ResearchPatricia L. Sunderland; Rita M. DennyLeft Coast Press, Inc.352 pp.Nov, 2007

Abstract

Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research is an essential new guide to the theory and practice of conducting ethnographic research in corporate consumer environments. Patricia Sunderland and Rita Denny argue that, while the recent explosion in the use of “ethnography” in the corporate world has provided unprecedented opportunities for anthropologists and other qualitative researchers, this popularization has also too often divorced ethnography from its foundations, resulting in distortions in its use as a method of research as well as the concept of culture. In response, they reframe the field by re-attaching ethnography to theoretically robust and methodologically rigorous cultural analysis. The engrossing text draws on decades of the authors’ own eclectic research—from coffee in Bangkok and advertising in New Zealand to technology and boredom in the United States—using methodologies from focus groups and in-situ interviews to semiotics and visual ethnography. Four provocative discussion pieces by leaders in anthropology and consumer research further push the boundaries of the field and challenge the boundaries of academic and applied work. In addition to reorienting the field for academics and practitioners, this book is an ideal text for students, who are increasingly likely to both study and work in corporate environments.

Book page | Amazon page

19 November 2007

Bruce Tognazzini on human-computer interaction

Bruce Tognazzini
Bruce Tognazzini was Apple’s 66th employee, developing the company’s first usability guidelines and founding its Human Interface team.

Almost thirty years later, he’s a principal at Nielsen Norman Group and still making his feelings known when companies commit design errors.

In this interview n E-Consultancy, ‘Tog’ gives us a variety of thoughts on interface design, freedom, the future of computing, the iPhone’s place in world history and why he [unecologically] travels around in a 400 sq ft motorhome while towing a 4×4 and two Segways.

Read interview

(via Usability News)

17 November 2007

A slow approach to innovation

Slow Innovation
Using the Slow Food Movement as a metaphor, innovation and creativity expert Derek Cheshire suggests a slow approach to innovation.

“There is immense pressure to innovate quickly or to rush to market, but does this bargain of speed versus quality really benefit a company?”

In a business manifesto for the Change This site, lauds the goal of creating “an innovative company whose structure and culture are conducive to long-term growth and sustainability.” Just a small quote:

“In the world of slow, there will be less waste as there’s time to be more resourceful and to use the materials already available. Because we are in complete control, we are more likely to meet the needs of our diners especially when ingredients can be in or out of season. Finally, we can also use slow dining to improve social interaction within families or other social groupings.”

Download manifesto (pdf, 600 kb, 9 slides)

(via Endless Innovation)

17 November 2007

Ethnographic research highlights educational value of MMO games

Jezabelle
At the first keynote of Toronto’s Future Play 2007 conference for game educators and developers, Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, assistant professor in the Educational Communication & Technology program for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, argued that MMOs and online worlds are good “push technologies” for education, rather than threats to it.

Her presentation (audio file) was titled “Massively Multiplayer Online Games as an Educational Ethnology: An Outline for Research,” a deceptively straightforward talk about Steinkuehler’s [ethnographic] research findings on what constitutes gameplay in MMOs and virtual worlds, and how that research might be applied to education programs.

Read full story

17 November 2007

Vodafone’s Receiver magazine on communities

Vodafone Receiver magazine
The 19th issue of Vodafone’s Receiver magazine is devoted to communities.

Receiver is Vodafone’s magazine for future thinkers, attracting a wide range of influential writers and industry leaders. It is conceived as a neutral space, where pioneer thinkers challenge readers to discuss exciting and future-oriented aspects of communications technologies.

The current is issue is “all about tracking the miscellaneous connections between individuals turned into ‘familiar strangers’ through mediated communication.”

It includes contributions by Nokia’s Stephen Johnston on web 3.0; David Weinberger, author of Everything Is Miscellaneous, on what the web is for; Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, co-authors of ‘Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything’, on harnessing collaboration outside and inside the corporation; MIT researcher Joshua Green on the shifting way social relations are structured via media content and technological devices; Charles Leadbeater, author of ‘We-Think: You are what you share’, on mass creativity and the arrival of a society in which participation will be the key organising idea; Laura Forlano on her research into the communities that form around WiFi hotspots and the emerging mobile work practices of “Generation Mesh“; Edward Castronova and Mark Bell‘s look at the fun, the money and the friendships synthetic worlds have to offer; Ekkehart Baumgartner on the consumer revolution; and Dan Phillipslook at social networks and playfulness – or in his own words “how is technology changing what we mean by friendship and what does it hold in the future?”.

13 November 2007

Peter Morville interview on Web 2.0

Peter Morville
An interview with Peter Morville, widely recognised as a founding father of information architecture, on the topic of Web 2.0 was just published in Shanghai Talk, a city lifestyle magazine published in English in China. The article, also picked up by Beijing Talk and Macau Talk, will reach a nationwide audience of millions.

According to Morville, “the distinguishing features of Web 2.0 applications include user participation, co-creation, tagging, syndication, mashups, and rich interfaces that enable us to venture beyond HTML and beyond the page.”

But, he says, “it is as much about attitude as technology. It’s about relaxing control over the data, the interface, and the experience. It’s about taking risks, admitting mistakes, and continuously improving with the help of your users.”

Peter Morville co-authored the best-selling book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, and has consulted with such organizations as Harvard, IBM, the International Monetary Fund, Microsoft, the National Cancer Institute, and Yahoo! Peter is president of Semantic Studios, co-founder of the Information Architecture Institute, and an adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. His work has been featured in many publications including Business Week, The Economist, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal. Peter’s latest book, Ambient Findability, was published in 2005. He blogs at findability.org.

Read interview

12 November 2007

Book: ‘Processing’ — and the design critics rave

Social network
Processing is an open-source programming language that can be used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and anyone who wants to program images, animation, and interactivity. There were many people involved in making Processing to what it is now, but at is origins were two people – Casey Reas and Ben Fry.

Casey and I were both involved at the meanwhile defunct but very well known Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. I got to know Casey as a warm, humble and brilliant interaction designer and a very strong artist.

Now MIT Press has published a book by Casey and Ben on Processing and the recommendations it goes with are worth quoting:

“Processing is a milestone not only in the history of computer software, of information design, and of the visual arts, but also in social history. Many have commented on the pragmatic impact of the open source movement, but it is time to also consider Processing’s sociological and psychological consequences. Processing invites people to tinker, and tinkering is the first step for any scientific and artistic creation. After the tinkering, it leads designers to their idea of perfection. It enables complexity, yet it is approachable; it is rigorous, yet malleable. Its home page exudes the enthusiasm of so many designers and artists from all over the world, overflowing with ideas and proud to be able to share. Processing is a great gift to the world.”
Paola Antonelli, Curator, Architecture and Design, MOMA

“This long-awaited book is more than just a software guide; it is a tool for unlocking a powerful new way of thinking, making, and acting. Not since the Bauhaus have visual artists revisited technology in such a world-changing way. Ben Fry and Casey Reas have helped a growing community of visual producers open up fresh veins of expression. Their work proves that code is open to designers, architects, musicians, and animators, not just to engineers. Providing a powerful alternative to proprietary software, Processing is part of a new social phenomenon in the arts that speaks to self-education and networked engagement.”
Ellen Lupton, Director of the graphic design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and Author of D.I.Y: Design It Yourself

“A whole generation of designers, artists, students, and professors have been influenced by Processing. Now, a handbook is published that goes far beyond explaining how to handle the technology and boldly reveals the potential future for the electronic sketchbook.”
Joachim Sauter, University of the Arts, Berlin, Founder, Art+Com

(via Bruce Sterling)

11 November 2007

Rapid communication networks less likely to shape individual’s behavior

Social network
Our increasingly interconnected world has made it easier for information and disease to spread.

However a new study from Harvard University and Cornell University, entitled “Complex Contagions and the Weakness of Long Ties” shows that fewer “degrees of separation” can make social networks too weak to disseminate behavioral change. The finding that “small world” networks are limited in their power to shape individual behavior could have implications for health care policy and the treatment of epidemics.

Source: Harvard University news release, November 5, 2007

Read full story

(via Smart Mobs)

11 November 2007

‘Semantic’ website promises to organise your life

Twine
From the New Scientist:

“Making sense of an ever-increasing number of emails, web pages, feeds, and social networking contacts is a tough job for even the most organised person. But now a new website can organise your life like a personal assistant, say its developers.

Radar Networks, a company based in San Francisco, US, is betting it can make sense of your information, by getting its website to learn to tell the difference between people, places, companies, and more.

Its website called Twine, which is currently in beta testing, harnesses the philosophy at the core of a discipline called the “semantic web”.

The semantic web is an extension of the current web, but where information is stored in a machine-readable format. It should allow computers to handle information in more useful ways, by processing the meanings within documents instead of simply the documents themselves. To an extent, some web tools, such as tags, already tap into this philosophy.

Although only available to only about a 100 testers, Twine has caused a stir among web experts because it is one of the first few commercial ventures to try harnessing the semantic web.”

Read full story

7 November 2007

Inhabiting places: User values in the built environment

Places
Theorists have long argued that two distinct concepts of value drive the production of the built environment: exchange value and use value.

In this article Joost Beunderman, a researcher at the UK think-tank Demos argues that, “if we would wish to favour the use value of places to the public over the financial value that space generates, then we cannot be satisfied at our current ways of planning towns and cities. Inhabiting places implies an active, creative and constantly changing relationship of the user to his or her environment – a more diverse category than shopping or buying a house. There are urgent reasons why we should put this enriched concept of use central, and make tangible steps to empower people’s relation to places.”

“In public services, the past period has seen a slow but steady trend towards ‘user-led design.’ It aims to spread new ‘operating systems’ for services such as social care, allowing people to become participants in shaping, commissioning and delivering the services they use, rather than passive and dependent recipients of what the system routinely provides. There is much that that we can learn from such concepts. The Demos study People Make Places showed how public spaces, in order to be successful, need to encourage people’s participation, rather than merely providing set-piece designs.”

Read full story

6 November 2007

Witty customer experiences

Silver pills
Design, Wit, and The Creative Act is a half day conversation, organised by Core77, about leveraging the power of humor towards great customer experiences.

In the run-up to the event, Randy J. Hunt did a short interview Allan Chochinov of Core77 about the event’s aims, and how designers employ wit, irony—even subversion—in the service of making a connection with their audience.

The biggest issue, in my mind, is that humor is so culture specific and culturally bound. Americans, Italians and Brits have a very different sense of humor, and there are many variations within these countries as well. So it is an extremely complex issue and not at all easy to standardise and implement in design.

Read interview

6 November 2007

Bob Jacobson sees DUX 2007 conference as fundamentally off the mark

DUX07
Bob Jacobson, design consultant and editor of the anthology Information Design (MIT Press, 1999), is on a roll these days. Today the focus of his provocative commentary is the DUX 2007 conference, which he thinks is “ideologically discomforting” and “fundamentally off the mark”.

“The DUX 2007 conference begins today in Chicago. Thematically, content-wise, and in terms of approach, this is the consummate conference on cutting-edge design. The speakers are top-notch, too. But ideologically, DUX is discomforting. For all its virtues, DUX embodies a set of values that, while commendable, are incomplete and off-kilter. It’s user-centric, not human-centric. And experience, if it is anything, is human.”

Go Bob, I think you are absolutely right.

Read full story

5 November 2007

Does sustainable product development require user-centred design?

Design is the Problem
Nathan Shedroff, the new programme chair of the MBA in design strategy at California College of the Arts (see also this post), gave a very powerful talk entitled “Design is the Problem” at the recent Connecting ’07 congress on the topic of sustainability and design.

His presentation (pdf, 2.7 mb, 81 slides) provides an overview of the various sustainability frameworks and provides insight on what sustainable product development actually means, or could/should mean.

Far down in the presentation, new words pop up to describe the sustainable design process: “user-centric design”, “iterative prototyping”, and experience”.

Nathan clarifies: “More meaningful products as well as ones that better meet our needs don’t require us to buy more and more things (in order to fill those needs and desires). Fewer, more meaningful, effective, and sustainable products will be more fulfilling and more sustainable than more and more less fulfilling, effective, and meaningful ones. In addition, devices that adequately meet our needs, especially technological ones, often have the effect of not only dematerialising competing products but also products in other categories (like the iPods and iPhones are doing).”

According to Allan Chochinov of Core77, Nathan is now working on a new book which has the same title as his Connecting ’07 lecture. I am already looking forward to it.

5 November 2007

Bob Jacobson on ‘composing for experience’

(user) experience design
Bob Jacobson, design consultant and editor of the anthology Information Design (MIT Press, 1999), was a keynote speaker last month at the 3rd International Conference on Information Design (ICID), Curitiba, Brazil.

His talk which deals with “information design, user experience design, designing for experience, and the composition of memorable experiences” is simply excellent and very thorough, and I suggest you indulge in it. Here is just one quote to wet your appetite:

“The natural next step will be for designers of experience to integrate and apply the methods of scoring and wayshowing concurrently. Thus creating places, not only in the physical world but also in the virtual worlds of knowledge and understanding, that reveal themselves in the same way that a musical composition is heard. this is composing for experience.

Halprin and Mollerup describe a new role for the information designer turned a designer of experience: not a tour guide dispensing partial, predigested informaton, but rather as a co-explorer of knowledge with the “experiencer” of knowledge, of situation, or of place via the medium of designed experiences.”

Read full story

5 November 2007

The role of consumer experience at P&G

P&G
According to an article in Adweek magazine, P&G’s efforts to reinforce consumer perception of quality in its brands will be a key to the company’s success.

“Historically at P&G we looked at product performance. We didn’t pay as much attention to product experience,” says Claudia Kotchka, vp, design innovation and strategy at P&G. “Obviously the product [the P&G Gain detergent] cleans fabulously, but this is all about joy. When consumers open the bottle, they like the smell. The bottle itself is much more whimsical. It’s about taking the elements people wouldn’t think are important and having them add up to the overall brand experience.”

The article goes on to discuss the role of design in the company:

“Design at P&G is not a centralized function,” says Kotchka. “All of the designers are in the business units. We have them sitting with our R&D working on innovation from the beginning, sitting with our marketing folks, working on branding from the beginning. That’s a big change from the historical approach of handing it over the wall at the end. … Looking at design as part of the total consumer experience is critical.”

However, design is just “one piece of the overall product development and marketing challenge—albeit an important one”.

“If you look at design as part of the entire consumer experience, it’s critical,” notes Kotchka. “But we don’t try to quantify design as something different from something else; we measure what is the total consumer experience with this brand and this product. It’s very holistic.”

Read full story

3 November 2007

Power to the people

Ready Nas
Riyad Emeran wrote a thought piece in Trusted Reviews on what matters to people:

“The thing about technology is that the vast majority people out there don’t really care about it. Despite the fact that those same people wouldn’t leave the house without their mobile phone and iPod in their pocket, they don’t care how those devices work, they just care about what they can do. And it’s that ubiquitous nature that makes a technological advancement great – the fact that people don’t see the technology, they just see the benefit.”

The writer then makes a case that NAS, Networked Attached Storage, is the next big thing:

“A RAID enabled NAS appliance is the type of device that the average consumer will never understand, and never want to understand. But one thing’s for sure, the benefits that such a device brings is obvious even to a tech novice, and if more consumers knew about those benefits, consumer NAS boxes would be flying off the shelves.

Will NAS appliances actually be the next killer convergence technology? I think so, and so do some big companies like HP, Acer and Netgear who are trying to make NAS technology more attractive and accessible to consumers. After all, consumers want technology to make their lives easier, not more complicated – something the tech companies forget all too often.”

Read full story

3 November 2007

Simplicity tomorrow

The Simplicity Event
Last week Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken attended the Philips Simplicity Event in London. It was a mixture of a vision presentation, a prototype exhibition, a networking event, and a marketing opportunity. The prototypes on show were conceptual designs for social care environments five years into the future. Developed by Philips Design, they represent the direction of the company’s thinking for future product development.

Everything was driven by a vision worded by Stefano Marzano, CEO of Philips Design, as follows: “There is no good design that is not based on the understanding of people”.

From the Philips press release:

“At the three-day event, Philips [showcased] to a select group of customers, business partners, healthcare professionals and public sector representatives its vision of how in five years the clever use of technology married with intuitive, personalized design can lead to unexpected approaches to caring for people’s well-being at home, in the hospital and on the move.

Philips approaches caring for people’s wellness from three perspectives – caring for guests, caring for families and caring for patients – a focus that reflects Philips drive and commitment to creating concepts and products that are designed around people. [...]

The theme at the 2007 Simplicity Event of “caring for people’s well-being” builds on ongoing societal trends that Philips has been tracking closely: populations are getting older, healthcare is increasingly consumer-driven and business travel is now more extensive and hectic. In light of these trends, Philips employed the creativity and expertise of anthropologists, sociologists, designers, engineers and business leaders to come up with design concepts that address these converging trends. The result: concepts that take a holistic approach to healthcare, in which health and wellbeing touch on all aspects of a person’s daily life. Focusing on relaxing, healing and providing enjoyment, design concepts at the show explore the role of simplicity in Philips three core businesses – healthcare, lighting and consumer lifestyle.”

Design concepts were demonstrated in “real-life” scenarios. One trend Philips is exploring is the growing prevalence for couples to start families later in life. In the “Celebrating Pregnancy” design concept, Philips showcased how through advanced technology and a creative approach to design, prospective parents can experience “the wonder of a view inside the womb”.

Ambient Healing Space“, offering patients the ability to make their hospital stay more comfortable while allowing hospital staff a method of involving patients in their own care and “Daylight“, a hotel scenario suggesting that travel to different time
zones can be refreshing rather than exhausting.

- Press release | Background information
- More information about the concept collection
- Press release: Philips introduces simplicity to the hotel experience
- Videos: Simplicity Event | The Making Of | Megawhat.TV coverage

Several other sites have written about the London event, including AV Review, Design Taxi, Engadget, Geeks Are Sexy, I4U News, Pocket Lint (Wellness concepts, Hospital concepts, Daylight window, and Megawhat live), Tech.co.uk, and Trusted Reviews (Part One, Part Two, Showcase)

Some older concepts can be seen on the Simplicity Event website.