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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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February 2008
7 February 2008

Sixteen hours of video to enjoy

bbc
Over the last few weeks, I have been watching five documentary series. All of them deeply thought provoking and none of them directly related to the topic of this blog (although three of them deal with psychology and people’s behaviours – the other two focus on the future of technology). I think they are really worth spending your time on and they are can all be found on Google video.

Three of the series are by Adam Curtis, a brilliant British television documentary maker who works for BBC Current Affairs. He is noted for making programmes which express a clear (and sometimes controversial) opinion about their subject, and for narrating the programmes himself.

The Century of the Self consists of four one-hour films examining “how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” It tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society in Britain and the United States. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests? [Google Video]

The Power of Nightmares consists of three one-hour films that explore how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. The films compare the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. More controversially, it argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in many countries—and particularly American Neo-Conservatives—in an attempt to unite and inspire their people following the failure of earlier, more utopian ideologies. [Google Video]

The Trap also consists of three, one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically “how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom.” [Google Video]

The two other programmes are narrated by Michio Kaku, an American theoretical physicist, specialising in string field theory, and futurist.

Visions of the Future is a three-part BBC series, exploring the cutting edge science of today, tomorrow, and beyond. The first part is dedicated to the intelligence revolution, the second to the biotech revolution, and the third to the quantum revolution. [Google Video]

2057 is the only non-BBC programme. It is made by Discovery Channel and attempts to predict what the world will be like in 50 years based on current trends. The show takes the form of a docu-drama with three separate episodes, each having informative stories ingrained into the plot. [Google Video]

5 February 2008

Where technology meets anthropology, conservation and development

kiwanja.net
Kiwanja.net is a very interesting initiative, led by anthropologist Ken Banks, helping local, national and international non-profit organisations in developing countries (mostly in Africa) make better use of information and communications technology in their work.

The Kiwanja website also has a very good photo section and a blog that I strongly recommend.

(via textually.org)

5 February 2008

Book: Subject to Change

Subject to Change
Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World
Adaptive Path on Design
By Peter Merholz, Todd Wilkens, Brandon Schauer, David Verba
First Edition February 2008 (est.)
Paperback, 184 pages
O’Reilly Media, Inc

To achieve success in today’s ever-changing and unpredictable markets, competitive businesses need to rethink and reframe their strategies across the board. Instead of approaching new product development from the inside out, companies have to begin by looking at the process from the outside in, beginning with the customer experience. It’s a new way of thinking-and working-that can transform companies struggling to adapt to today’s environment into innovative, agile, and commercially successful organizations.

Companies must develop a new set of organizational competencies: qualitative customer research to better understand customer behaviors and motivations; an open design process to reframe possibilities and translate new ideas into great customer experiences; and agile technological implementation to quickly prototype ideas, getting them from the whiteboard out into the world where people can respond to them.

In Subject to Change: Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain World, Adaptive Path, a leading experience strategy and design company, demonstrates how successful businesses can-and should-use customer experiences to inform and shape the product development process, from start to finish.

Chapters:

  1. The experience is the product
  2. Experience as strategy
  3. New ways of understanding people
  4. Capturing complexity, building empathy
  5. Stop designing “products”
  6. The design competency
  7. The agile approach
  8. An uncertain world

Publisher’s page | Amazon page

(via Adaptive Path)

4 February 2008

Is our blog “Putting People First” still of value to you?

Putting People First
Experientia’s blog “Putting People First” has been going for three years now and contains several thousand posts.

Lots of things have changed in those three years. The term “experience design” has become mainstream and is sometimes even over-used; industry has become more open to our ideas; people are increasingly asking for simplicity and usability; and our company has grown quickly and is now very much on solid footing. Meanwhile, some themes have become much more dominant, such as sustainability (first and foremost), ubiquitous technology, mobility, presence, virtual worlds — to name just a few.

So what is the value of this blog for you now? Does it have more or less relevance than a year ago? Which stories do you like and which not? What should change and what not? Should we continue with this at all? Please comment widely and identify broadly who you are or what type of organisation you work for, so that we can understand the context of your comments. You can also write me directly at info – at – experientia – dot – com.

4 February 2008

Africa’s portal to the internet

Cell phones keep Kenyans in touch
Nicole Ferraro investigates in a long article in Information Week if cell phones and other inexpensive wireless devices can close the digital divide in the world’s poorest countries.

“For the developing world, the Internet experience is going to be a wireless experience,” says Susan Schorr, the head of the International Telecommunication Union’s Regulatory and Market Environment Division. Sixty-one percent of the world’s 2.7 billion mobile phone users are in developing countries, compared with 10% of the world’s 1 billion Internet users, Schorr says.

Online communities and markets are emerging in Africa, which accounts for more than half of the world’s poorest countries, with people using low-cost cell phones rather than PCs for connectivity. They’re providing vital data and information to community-based workers, connecting farmers with trading networks for their crops and commodities, and more broadly, providing access to political and social information that’s changing people’s lives.

Read full story

The article seems to be a synthesis of a longer article “The Internet and the Developing World” that was published on InternetEvolution, as part of a series of eight articles assessing the future of the internet.

2 February 2008

Interactions Magazine now fully available online

Interactions
In a previous post I wrote how it would be a good idea for the publishers of Interactions Magazine to make the magazine content available online. It just happened.

Here is the announcement by Scott Delman, ACM Group Publisher:

ACM is pleased to announce a new innovation for subscribers to interactions, the leading magazine publication for the Human Computer Interactions community. As from the January-February 2008 issue, ACM will be offering a digital edition of each issue of the magazine as an added benefit to subscribers. This new offering is provided in addition to the current print edition of the magazine and articles posted in the ACM Digital Library. The magazine’s new digital edition will serve as an additional service that will enable members to view a true digital representation of the entire print magazine from cover to cover in an easy to use digital format.

Digital editions are becoming increasingly available because they provide the reader with increased usability of digital content, including enhanced navigation, search, linking, and browsing features. Our digital editions will give readers the feel of thumbing through the pages of interactions, as well as the ability to zoom in on particular paragraphs, instantly check particular references or advertisements, or search an issue for particular content markers, and then store these editions on their PC or laptop for long term archiving or sharing of interesting articles with friends and colleagues.

Specific features available in the digital edition of interactions include the ability to:

  • page through articles online or download the issue to your computer
  • click on links for direct access to online source materials, advertiser web sites, or author e-mail addresses
  • conduct keyword searches of the current issue or all issues in the digital archive
  • print articles or forward them to colleagues
  • use digital editions without the need to download plug-ins

Although the above announcement message is aimed at subscribers only, the online version of the January-February edition of the magazine is really available to all – and I sincerely hope it is not a one off thing. Communications, the ACM flagship publication on computing research, is also going online (press release).

2 February 2008

Jan Chipchase of Nokia on mobile phone sharing

Shared phone practices
Jan Chipchase, the well-known Nokia anthropologist, has just published a blog post, an executive summary, and a paper (ppt, 7 mb, 70 pages) that explores mobile phone sharing in emerging markets and how it works.
“Much of the growth in the telecommunications industry is coming from emerging markets – places like India and Africa and for many new consumers their first mobile phone experience is a shared one. This essay uses the term sharing in the sense of primary usage orientated around borrowing and lending rather than ‘let me show you the photos I took at last night’s party’. Mobile phone sharing is not just limited to personal use – from the streets of Cairo to Kampala kiosks are springing up with little more than a mobile phone and a sign advertising call rates. What happens when people share an object that is inherently designed for personal use? And based on how and why people share in what ways can devices and services be redesigned to optimise the shared user experiences? Indeed, should they be re-designed?”

2 February 2008

Australian research on user led innovation

user led innovation
Darren Sharp of the Smart Internet (Australia) contacted me about the new research ‘User-led Innovation: A New Framework for Co-creating Business and Social Value,’ that he co-authored with Mandy Salomon.

Abstract

The sources of innovation are shifting rapidly from the traditional 20th century model of commercial R&D labs, elite universities, private companies and government agencies to user-led innovation. Today’s users have much greater input into the creation and dissemination of the media, knowledge and culture they consume. Open Source software, virtual worlds and media-sharing communities are at the forefront of new modes of user-led innovation that challenge established boundaries between producers and consumers.

This new CRC report reveals the major drivers of user-led innovation and explores how it is affecting organisations’ relationships with key stakeholders. It investigates how user-led practices generate business and social value through a major case study of the virtual world Second Life. The report canvasses a number of pathways for organisations to leverage the participation of their audiences, customers and citizens in the interest of co-creating new products, services and platforms.

The research draws on extensive interviews with some of the world’s leading thinkers on the social, economic and legal aspects of user-led innovation including: Eric von Hippel (MIT), Yochai Benkler (Harvard), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Siva Vaidhyanathan (Virginia), John Howkins (Adelphi Charter), Michel Bauwens (P2P Alternatives) and Mitch Kapor (Linden Lab).

Download study (pdf, 2.4 mb, 57 pages)

2 February 2008

The New York Times on Slow Design

Slow Design
Ever since I live in Italy, I have always seen the Slow Food movement as one of Italy’s most interesting innovations of the last decades. In late 2006, they started developing a Slow Design concept – that I also interviewed a Slow Food spokesperson about.

The New York Times has now delved into the issue:

“Slow [Design ...] is run on the tenets of the Slow Food movement, which essentially challenges one to use local ingredients harvested and put together in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Above all it emphasizes slowness in the creation and consumption of products as a corrective to the frenetic pace of 21st-century life. “Good, clean and fair” is the Slow Food credo, and it has — rather slowly — begun to make its way out of the kitchen and into the rest of the house.”

Read full story