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Putting People First

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April 2008
17 April 2008

The restless mind

The restless mind
Mark Ury contacted me the other day. He is the chief experience architect for Blast Radius and has a very good blog, entitled “The Restless Mind“, that features the kind of “slow” insightful writing that I really enjoy.

Take a look at some of his latest posts:

  • The design of everyday relationships
    MIT Professor Donald Schön [observed] that design is a “conversation with materials.” In many ways users have become “materials” as much as participants. We not only engage them explicitly through interaction design to create discrete features, but also in aggregate as social systems and platforms amplify their implicit actions to create value.
     
  • The siren call of the system
    Well-designed systems are not, in fact, designed. They are the product of evolution. [...] Systems, like narratives, take time to reveal themselves to their authors. Changes in technology, consumer preferences, and markets take years to play out. It’s not clear from day one where the system will go or how it will adapt. [...] Systems are so rarely produced because they take time and time is one resource companies don’t have. Most die long before the system is revealed.
     
  • Apple and the enigma of innovation
    What makes Apple special isn’t design. Or process. Or talent. It’s fear. Fear of the man who is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. (And sheathed in titanium.)
    An engineer slaving away on the iPhone SDK isn’t concerned about the industry, his peers, or his boss. His relentless pursuit of “system elegance” is simply an animal’s instinct to avoid pain, manifested largely during the senior management review.
     
17 April 2008

Jared Spool: user-centred design is dead?

Jared Spool
As keynote speaker at the IA Summit 2008, Jared Spool puts his foot in it:

Jared Spool, the IA Summit 2008 keynote speaker, posited the idea that UCD was an out-dated methodology that should be retired by the UX community. Why? According to Spool , in the last 30 years, there has not been one website or other digital innovation that can point back to UCD as the defining factor for its success. He floated the idea that design dogma, methodology and formal process were inferior to a well understood shared vision, frequent user feedback and a robust tool box of design tricks & techniques.

Read full story (with Jared Spool presentation)

17 April 2008

CHI ’08 – a bite-size review

CHI 2008
Joanna Bawa, editor of Usability News, has published a short review of the CHI conference.

She appreciated that the main feeling of the conference was more closely allied to design, as clearly expressed by Irene McAra McWilliam and Bill Buxton.

But it was hard to meet people: “My editorial gripe: no way to find out who was there or how to contact them, except by chance – immensely frustrating when so many great minds were within a few minutes’ walk. Surely we can find a way to make available a delegate list without compromising anyone’s privacy? Or just a simple internal messaging system?”.

Read full story

(Later this month, I will post my own reflection on the conference and on some books that I was given).

17 April 2008

Transport informatics

Helsinki tram
City of Sound has published an excellent overview of new informational approaches to transport, hinging on individual behaviour and engagement via public data.

“Data, transported and shaped by the internet, is increasingly becoming a primary way that people expect to engage with public transport in particular. Engage, as in access and navigate through transport service information, but also explore and understand the transport service itself.” [...]

“So, here are transport systems where usage data has become available – or could become available – and is then built upon, as a way of exploring whether various ‘live dashboards’ of transport across a city will engender new levels of engagement with transport. And whether this will increase awareness of personal behaviour and impact on emissions accordingly.”

His long survey is divided in a number of sections depending on the type of transport: holistic, cars, scooter, cycling, bus, rail, taxi, aircraft, maritime and walking.

Read full story

13 April 2008

Videos online of Share Festival 2008 conferences

Share Festival
All videos of the conferences at the Bruce Sterling curated Share Festival that recently took place in Turin, Italy, are now online.

Aside from Bruce Sterling, exhilarating discussants were Massimo Banzi, Julian Bleecker, Donald Norman and Marcos Novak, to name just a few.

Manufacturing: From Digital to Digifab
– Bruce Sterling, Share Festival guest curator, writer
– Stefano Boeri, architect, publishing director of Abitare magazine
Share Festival conferences start – Sterling and Boeri discuss about digital manufacturing. As Bruce Sterling says “on the map there’s more than on the territory”, but it is certainly true that “in materiality i feel confortable as never before”.

Manufacturing Cultural Projects
– Montse Arbelo and Joseba Franco, artists
– Katina Sostmann, researcher
– Kees de Groot and Viola van Alphen, GogBot Festival direction
The development of digital technologies have led to new themes for art and design. Three different European projects present their production processes concerning digital art and design: ArtTechMedia, project to promote digital art, digifab activity of university department of design at Akademie der Kunste Berlin, GogBot Festival, Ducth event focused on creative applications on Robots.

Manufacturing the Streets
– Gianni Corino, researcher at Plymouth University
– Hugo Derijke, artist
– Chiara Boeri, artist
How can artists contribute to design public space and re-define the social sphere? Being part of the shared social network system, art and digital communication are the driving forces behind urban transformation, especially in public areas as museum, galleries, squares and shopping centres.

Dramatic Manufacturing
– Motor, artist
– Mauro Lupone, sound designer
– Andrea Balzola, media theorist and play writer
– Anne Nigten, managing director V2_Lab
Presentation of theatre and research projects concerning the post dramatic patterns of digital storytelling. The theatre is conceived as stage machinery where the actor is the performer and technologies play as characters.
Patching Zone: Manufacturing Interdisciplinary Collaborations
The researcher from V2, Rotterdam, shows us the way electronic art is integrating electronic art studio as a meeting table to enter into new agreements among different subjects.

Manufacturing Intelligence
– Luigi Pagliarini, artist and neuropsychologist
– Franco Torriani, critic
– Pier Luigi Capucci, university professor Università di Bologna
– Gordana Novakovic, artist
– Video by Stelarc, artist
Which is the physical, intellective and emotional relationship between man and machine? A new definition of “mind” that is finally able to be free from the prejudice that intelligence is exclusively belonging to human being, or more generally biological beings, thus assessing that artefacts can take part in this new procedure.

Manufacturing Robots
– Stefano Carabelli, university professor Politecnico di Torino
– Pietro Terna, university professor Università di Torino
– Owen Holland, university professor University of Essex
– Giampiero Masera, Turin Chamber of Commerce
The synthesis is in the title of panel, with “manufacturing robots”, looking at robots, from industrial intelligent machines to androids and to mobile applications of artificial intelligence techniques, as expression of industry, creativity, innovation and art. A perspective perfectly represented by the creative idea of the “Marinetti’s Orchestra“, as a key visiting card for the future of our area.

Manufacturing FIAT 500
– Roberto Giolito (Advanced Design Fiat)
Roberto Giolito, designer of the FIAT 500, tells how is borned the design of this vehicle symbol of the italian industrial manifacture.

A Manifesto for Networked Objects
– Julian Bleecker, professor at University of Southern California
Now objects are on-line too – blogjects , blogging objects. Once “things” are connected to the Internet, they immediately become part of the relational system, thus improving and boosting the connections in the social network, and they finally define a new relationship between presence and mobility in the physical world. With a pervading Internet network objects are now “citizens” of our space, with the possibility to communicate and interact with them.

Manufacturing Digital Art
– Massimo Banzi, Arduino co-founder
– Fabio Franchino and Giorgio Olivero, artists
In the 90s digital art was referring to immateriality, now the society has a more natural relationship with technologies, thus letting what is immaterial to become real, and experimenting new interaction processes between man and machine, that has completely become part of everyday life in the meantime. Manufacturing is also referring to digital art, where such equipment as Arduino and the explosive advent of 3D printers and devices for digital manufacturing led to integrate what is digital into what is real.

Manufacturing Future Designs
– Donald Norman, Director of the Institute for Cognitive Science
– Bruce Sterling, writer
– Luca De Biase, publishing director of Nova24- Sole24Ore magazine
– Gino Bistagnino, university professor Politecnico di Torino
Donald Norman presents his latest book, “Design of Future Things”, where objects, agents of an operating macrosystem, are inter-connected within a pervasive network where relation is more important than function. Relation must be focused on sustainability as well, since a harmful element can infect the whole system.

Manufacturing Consent
– Janez Jansa, artist
– Paolo Cirio, artist
– Antonio Caronia, theorist
Recent facts in contemporary society, dazzled by consumer offers and information pollution – people can experience forms of collective hypnosis, created by a communication system whose cultural machines are turning alienation and difference into agreement, thanks to “emotional” strategies that can mould people’s consciousness: where does communication finish and propaganda start?

From Land Art to Bioart
– Ivana Mulatero, critic
– Gianluca Cosmacini, architect
– Franco Torriani, critic
Presentation of the book “From Land Art to Bioart”, edited by Hopefulmonster Press, by Ivana Mulatero.

Is Life Manufacturable?
– Franco Torriani, critic
– Luis Bec, artist
– Nicole C. Karafyllis, biologist and philosopher
Life is now part of the manufacturing process that may produce hybrid examples widely including the two different aspects: natural living entities and technical products. Biofacts, Zootechnosemiotics, Nanotechnology: a new “parallel biology” is rising, where artificial organisms can count on some living beings’ peculiarities?

Two Architectures: Atoms and Bits
– Marcos Novak, architect
– Bruce Sterling, writer
The architecture theorist Marcos Novak and Bruce Sterling discuss about Novak’s concepts such as “trans-vergence”, “trans-architecture”, “trans-modernity”, “liquid architecture”, “navigable music”, “habitable cinema”, “archimusic”. Architectonic explorations into expanded, mixed and alternative virtual reality.

Share Prize Ceremony
The jury:
– Bruce Sterling
– Anne Nigten
– Stefano Mirti
Winner: Delicate Boundaries by Christine Sugrue

13 April 2008

IT is not about the technology

Tom Austin
Fast Company interviews Gartner researcher Tom Austin on why your head of IT should be a cultural anthropologist and why you should think twice before you block YouTube.

“A new species of Information Technologist is emerging from the primordial ooze of Web 2.0 — social scientists and humanists who focus on human behavior more than software code. So says Tom Austin, a researcher with Gartner, Inc., an information technology research and advisory firm. Austin believes that social sciences will become more important to IT Departments than IT itself. As computer systems become ever more automated and transparent, attention will shift to how to use these tools as social lubricants in the workplace. Here he explains why companies should worry less about blocking social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace and more about using social networking to enhance collaboration and productivity.”

Read full story

13 April 2008

April 2008 issue of UXmatters

UXmatters
The April issue of UXmatters just came out:

Winning content persuades, not manipulates
by Colleen Jones
Elements of persuasion are important to creating winning content. To help safeguard content from becoming manipulation, we need to understand its distinction from persuasion.

Designing ethical experiences: some practical suggestions
by Joe Lamantia
Unresolved conflicts between stakeholders’ values or perspectives frequently manifest themselves as ethical challenges for designers. Therefore design must find effective ways of managing conflict, encourage the creation of ethical experiences, and avoid ethically unsatisfactory compromises.

Defining experience: clarity amidst the jargon
by Dirk Knemeyer
A definitional model for the fields of experience and guidelines for the use of various terms.

Experience partners: giving center stage to customer delight
by Greg Nudelman
Nudelman proposes the concept of experience partners [as opposed to users] as a whole new way of thinking about our customers as partners in holistic product experiences.

13 April 2008

Cellphones save the world

Jan Chipchase
Daniel Lende wrote a good annotated summary of the New York Times magazine feature of Jan Chipchase, on the “Neuroanthropology” blog.

He thinks the “world is going to see a transformation through the convergence of four factors: people-driven processes, change for the rest of us, human-centered science, and emerging methods”.

Read full story

12 April 2008

ZIBA Design founder: “It’s all about experience”

Sohrab Vossoughi
Sohrab Vossoughi, the founder and president of ZIBA Design, argues in an article for Business Week that companies are flourishing when they try to create holistic experiences by emotionally engaging their consumers.

“Advances in manufacturing technology and the global reach of the Internet have leveled the playing field in the product marketplace. It wasn’t long ago that time-to-market was two years, then 18 months, and then 12 months. Now, a competitor can knock off your “innovation” in six months or less. Many businesses understand that being “new” or “different” is no longer a differentiator. Countless companies are elbowing their way to the top with designs that are also “feature-rich” or “patent pending.” Innovation in product design has lost its meaning and, therefore, its value.

There is still one frontier that remains wide open: experience innovation. This is the only type of business innovation that is not imitable, nor can it be commoditized, because it is born from the specific needs and desires of your customers and is a unique expression of your company’s DNA. Yet the design of an experience is often overlooked in the rush to market.

Companies intending to be relevant today must learn the art of creating experiences that genuinely engage their customers. Choice-fatigued consumers are not looking for another product that hasn’t taken their true needs and desires into consideration. They are looking for companies in which to believe and give their allegiance. They are looking for experiences that cater to their deep-seated desires. This type of engagement requires much more than the latest technological breakthrough: It requires emotional engagement.”

Read full story

12 April 2008

Julian Bleecker joins Nokia’s Design Strategic Projects Studio

Julian Bleecker
Julian Bleecker has decided to join Nokia’s Design Strategic Projects Studio.

Julian and (LIFT conference‘s) Nicolas Nova are the co-founders of the Near Future Laboratory where client work focuses on developing emerging and conceptual design-technology for new interactive experiences. Jan Chipchase and Duncan Burns are his colleagues in the studio.

In a long post on his blog, he explains why he made this decision:

“Time for the next chapter. Shortly, I’ll be officially joining a fantastic little studio within Nokia Design called Design Strategic Projects. It’s a studio of very clever, insightful and thoughtful designers and researchers. It’s a playground of big ideas, and plenty of support to work them through. There are some big questions and even bigger opportunities to continue the work I’ve been doing in the gaps between creative practices, technology and critical analytic thinking.”

Julian was recently in Turin, Italy, as a guest of the Bruce Sterling curated Share Festival, and I met him at a small party organised by the Turin-based participatory planning firm Avventura Urbana.

In his post, Julian also gives some background on the Studio:

The studio was formerly called Insight and Innovation. The work they did in that guise is pretty much exactly the sort of work I should be involved in. It combines analysis, visual storytelling, probes about new interaction paradigms, and speculative near future inquiries into new interaction rituals. One project that recently bubbled up to the public spotlight is called Remade, a phone made entirely from upcycled and recycled materials. It’s actually one central theme in a larger network of principled design projects that are incredibly exciting. What’s more, we’re going beyond talking the talk — appearance models and styling are well and good, but this is a design studio that will be making objects that function, turning their design principles and theory and coupling it tightly to everyday practice. There’s been some recent press about the studio and its people if you want some more insight. In the near future, there’ll be more of a public voice to the studio’s work. This was one of my central discussion points when we started late last summer chatting about my joining the studio, and every rung of the ladder up the leadership, across several international borders has indicated that this is indeed part of the mission.”

12 April 2008

Chipchase featured in New York Times Magazine

Jan Chipchase
The Chipchase hype has hit the New York Times Magazine.

Nokia’s user anthropologist Jan Chipchase is becoming very popular. Just a day after the Economist, now one of the world’s top newspapers has published a 6,000 word feature on him, in its highly regarded Magazine of all places.

“Chipchase is 38, a rangy native of Britain whose broad forehead and high-slung brows combine to give him the air of someone who is quick to be amazed, which in his line of work is something of an asset. For the last seven years, he has worked for the Finnish cellphone company Nokia as a “human-behavior researcher.” He’s also sometimes referred to as a “user anthropologist.” To an outsider, the job can seem decidedly oblique. His mission, broadly defined, is to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company — to the squads of designers and technologists and marketing people who may never have set foot in a Vietnamese barbershop but who would appreciate it greatly if that barber someday were to buy a Nokia.”

Jan, congratulations!

Read full story

11 April 2008

The Economist website features Jan Chipchase video

Digital Nomads
The Economist asked Nokia’s “user anthropologist” Jan Chipchase to self-document his nomadic life in Tokyo and Seattle, taking pictures and leaving phone messages.

The video is part of The Economist special report on mobility and “digital nomads”.

Watch video

11 April 2008

France Telecom goes to the movies

Orange
On Apr. 9, France Telecom’s Orange mobile, Internet, and TV unit unveiled a service ["Orange Cinéma Séries"], set to be introduced in the fourth quarter of this year, that will let subscribers get premium movies from Warner Brothers and HBO and swap them among their PCs, TVs, and all manner of portable devices, including mobile phones.

Consumers “want to access all of their content on all three of the screens with the same user experience, the same interface, and the same quality of service,” Didier Lombard, chairman and chief executive officer of France Telecom (FTE), told an audience of TV and film producers on Apr. 9 at MIPTV, an international audiovisual conference in Cannes. [...]

In his Apr. 9 keynote speech—the first ever given by a telecom CEO to the assembled TV and media executives in Cannes—he asserted that without their content, his network risked becoming a “dumb pipe” that merely carries traffic for other people who skim off the profits. At the same time, he said, “I am certain that my network can give far greater value to your content.” The telecom infrastructure, he said, is better suited than alternatives such as cable or satellite to respond to the increasingly personalized and interactive expectations of customers.

Read full story

10 April 2008

Videos online of Potsdam interaction design conference

Videos
Last year’s conference “Innovation Forum Interaction Design” focused on all aspects of interface and interaction design: mobile telephone and media interfaces, problem solutions and product visions, web pages and virtual worlds, art and commerce, business and science.

Speakers included Gillian Crampton Smith, Anthony Dunne, Tim Edler, Frank Jacob, Gesche Joost, Bernard Kerr, Patrick Kochlik, Kristjan Kristjansson, Bill Moggridge, Dennis Paul, Mike Richter and Bruce Sterling.

The videos are now online.

(via Bruce Sterling)

10 April 2008

Experience design and authenticity – is there a connection?

Authenticity
Idris Mootee, a business and innovation strategist, explores in a very casually written post the relevance of authenticity in experience design.

How about everyday experiences? Often these little experiences (digital or real world) are not engineered to be great, but somehow they find a way to us and we feel comfortable with it. They don’t appear to be great at first and somehow we get used to it. They may not be places for special occasions but they represent a third place we spend our time. People are friendly not because they are trained to act that way but they are simply who they are. It is called authenticity. We can tolerate those long waits or any human errors because we know they are like us – being humans. The questions why we do we tolerate these service hiccups in those places and get mad when it happens as a result of a service breakdown in a large company whether it is hotel, airline or retail chain? I think it has to be with authenticity.

Read full story

10 April 2008

The future of Europe lies in email

Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations (see also these posts), argues in a short essay that the future of Europe lies in email:

“The EU is the test case for the effects of the Internet on government. No other multi-national region of the world has gone so far to dismantle national broders. Within the EU there are no passport checks, no customs checks at internal broders, and no barriers to work – any citizen of any of the 12 EU countries can work in any other EU country without needing a visa. Things that Americans take for granted, like being able to move 3000 miles for a job, are available to the citizens of the EU for the first time. In other words, the EU has most of the trappings of a country except the citizens, and the citizens are being produced at places like easyEverything. The people sending their email there are Europe’s first post-national generation, its first Internet generation, the first group of people who can move from one country to another if they hear that life is better elsewhere. The willingness of this generation to ignore national identity is going to confound their elders, the people who have grown up convinced that sentiments like ‘The Germans are efficient and humorless, while the Italians are undisciplined and fun-loving’ have an almost genetic component. Nationality matters less than economics – the Internet generation is going to behave more like customers than citizens.”

Read full story

10 April 2008

Economist special report on mobility

Nomads
The Economist newspaper has published a special report on mobility, wondering what the social effects will be.

Sources are some of the top people in the field (many of whom are frequently written about on this blog).

Our nomadic future [leader article]
“Prepare to see less of your office, more of your family—and still perhaps be unhappy” or “nomadism promises the heaven of new freedom, but it also threatens the hell of constant surveillance by the tribe”.

Nomads at last
Wireless communication is changing the way people work, live, love and relate to places—and each other, says Andreas Kluth.

Labour movement
The joys and drawbacks of being able to work from anywhere.

The new oases
Nomadism changes buildings, cities and traffic.

Family ties
Kith and kin get closer, with consequences for strangers.

Location, location, location
It matters.

A world of witnesses
When everybody becomes a nomadic monitor.

Homo mobilis
As language goes, so does thought.

10 April 2008

Last three CHI 2008 interviews

CHI 2008
Luca Chittaro (blog) of Il Sole 24 Ore’s Novà just published his last three CHI 2008 interviews:

Talking cars
A collaboration between Toyota and Stanford University is experimenting a talking car interface that does much more than navigation, providing safety advice to drivers. Ing-Marie Jonsson is one of the authors of the paper that describes the experiment.

Accessibility
Vicki Hanson (IBM) received this week at CHI 2008 the Social Impact Award, for her 30-years work concerning people with disabilities (for example, deaf children, dyslexic kids, and more recently older adults).

GPS and the perception of the world
Is the widespread use of GPS changing how we perceive the world? A research group at Cornell University has studied GPS users to answer this question (and more). Chittaro discusses this with one of the authors (Gilly Leshed).

10 April 2008

Interview with Peter Coughlan, Transformation Practice Lead at IDEO

Peter Coughlan
Henning Fischer of Adaptive Path recently had an email conversation with Peter Coughlan, Partner and Transformation Practice Lead at IDEO.

They discussed IDEO’s transformation practice and his team’s processes to create a more human-centered design.

Read interview

10 April 2008

MIT Media Lab and Bank of America announce Center for Future Banking

Future of banking
The MIT Media Laboratory and Bank of America today announced the creation of the Center for Future Banking, a five-year collaboration to which Bank of America has committed $3-5 million annually.

The new research center, which will be located at the Media Lab on the MIT campus, will [...] explore new ideas in banking by inventing technologies that reveal and leverage insights across a wide range of physical and social scales, from one-on-one customer interactions to global transactions. Researchers will address such questions as:”“How can every customer be empowered with the knowledge and tools to take better control of their financial futures?” “How will banking interactions evolve as a customer’s physical and virtual worlds become completely intertwined?” and “How will social networks and mobile platforms transform customers’ banking experiences, making it easier, more convenient, and better integrated with their daily lives?”. [...]

Professor Deb Roy, Chair of MIT’s academic program in Media Arts and Sciences and a pioneer in cognitive modeling, communication theory, and human-machine interaction, will serve as the Center’s Founding Director and Principal Investigator. “The Center sets the stage for potentially path-breaking research that will tap into core Media Lab capabilities and extend them in exciting new directions,” says Roy. “We will create a focus of intellectual energy that brings together researchers with radically different perspectives, including behavioral economists, social scientists, computer scientists, psychologists, designers, and others who share a passion for innovative thinking. It’s a recipe for producing unexpected new ideas that will trigger significant innovations in the world of banking.”

Read full story

(via a thousand tomorrows)