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Putting People First

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April 2008
10 April 2008

Another batch of CHI 2008 interviews

CHI 2008
Luca Chittaro (blog), who covers the CHI 2008 conference in Florence for Novà, the innovation supplement of Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business newspaper, continues with his gruelling pace of interviews. Here is another batch:

Technology among the homeless
We tend to believe that technology is improving everybody’s life, at the workplace as well as at home. But what about those who have neither a job nor a home? Christopher A. Le Dantec, together with his colleague W. Keith Edwards, carried out a study on the use of technology among the homeless and will present the results tomorrow at CHI 2008. The paper that describes the study was one of those that received the conference Best Papers awards.

Attractiveness on-line
What does it make an on-line user profile attractive to members of the opposite sex? Andrew T. Fiore and his colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley have selected 50 user profiles on the Yahoo! Personals web site and studied the perception of these profiles on a sample of users in the 19-25 age range

On-line friendship
Imagine you have to move to a distant city. What would happen to the relationships you have with your friends? Which telecommunication tools would you use to try to maintain friendship? A research collaboration among three universities in the US (California Irvine, Carnegie Mellon e Duke) has followed 900 persons who moved to other cities. The interview is with Irina Shklovski (Univ. California Irvine).

Friends and enemies in social networks
Who’s in the list of your friends on social networking sites? True friends? People who you don’t know much? Total strangers? Should those sites offer a richer way of describing your relationship with each of them? A research group at HP Labs has studied the effects of a richer classification on users. Chittaro interviewed Michael Brzozowski (HP Labs).

What do people do with Facebook?
Facebook is definitely a popular site, but what do we know about how people use it? Adam N. Joinson (University of Bath) is studying Facebook users to learn more about it.

Interaction with future cars
Industry is working at cars that will talk more and more to their drivers and some researchers are even working at car interfaces that automatically adapt to the specific user who is driving. David Krum, project manager at Bosch Research, is one of the organizers of the special interest group “Interaction in the Automobile” which met at CHI 2008.

Driver distraction
What human factors issues should future car interfaces take into account? The need to monitor the driver and to mitigate driver distraction and inattention came out often in talking with Brian Lathrop (Volkswagen Electronic Research Lab), Brian is one of the organizers of the special interest group “Interaction in the Automobile” which met at CHI 2008.

Phishing the common user
How do common users react to a phishing attack? To know better, a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (including Serge Egelman) has carried out phishing attacks on a sample of users and studied their behaviors. They have presented their results at CHI 2008, and the picture that came out is not reassuring from the security point of view. For example, 97% of the users believed the phising e-mail and went to visit the phishing site. At that point, 87% of the users which received passive warnings (and 21% of those who received active warnings) believed also the phishing web site and entered their data.

Graffiti-covered desktop
Do users keep their software updated to prevent security attacks? What could the interface do to make users’ more aware of the need to install security updates? A research group from the Georgia Institute of Technology has proposed a new interface to this purpose at CHI 2008. When a security update is available, graffiti appear on your desktop. The more security updates you have not installed, the more the desktop becomes graphically degraded (and graffiti also mask open windows, to make work more annoying). One of the authors (Kandha Sankarapandian) explains the research.

8 April 2008

New ISO usability standard defines “user experience”

ISO
According to Tom Stewart, the new version of ISO 13407, the International Standard for Human Centred Design (which will be called ISO 9241-210 to bring it into line with other usability standards), will use the term “user experience”.

Stewart is the Chair of the sub-committee of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) which is responsible for the revision of ISO 13407, and argues his case in an article on the website of System Concepts, where he is the managing director.

“The study of the relationship between people and technology has been called a variety of names over the years from computer ergonomics, human computer interaction and usability to, more recently, human-centred design and user experience.

The term user experience is now widely used, especially by major players in the industry including Apple, IBM and Microsoft. However, in many cases, the term is contrasted to usability which is often depicted as a much narrower concept focusing on systems being easy to use.

Other exponents explain that user experience goes beyond usability by including such issues as usefulness, desirability, credibility and accessibility.

Personally, I do not really care what this area is called but I have had to face up to it in my capacity as Chair of the sub-committee of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) which is responsible for the revision of ISO 13407 – the International Standard for Human Centred Design.

The ISO concept of usability is much closer to this definition of user experience than it is to the concept of ‘easy to use’ so we have decided to use the term user experience in the new version of ISO 13407 (which will be called ISO 9241-210 to bring it into line with other usability standards).”

Read full story

(via UsabilityNews.com)

8 April 2008

Icon Magazine on video ethnography (and its ethics)

Video ethnography
Architecture and design magazine Icon has published a 4 page article on video ethnography in its latest issue.

“The video ethnographers’ findings are gold dust to their clients and video ethnography has become one of the fashionable research techniques that any forward-looking design company now offers. The technology of closeup, real-time observation, using lightweight digital equipment, plays an increasingly significant role in the design process. If you want to find out about the people who will use a product or service, or to explore the potential for creating new products, call in a video ethnographer to film your subjects where they live or work. [...]

Video ethnography is an extremely powerful technique so it is disturbing that, at a time when surveillance cameras watch us around the clock, designers seem largely unconcerned by the ethical problems it raises. The outcome of a video ethnography research project might, of course, be entirely altruistic, yielding an understanding of human needs that can only be a gain. On the other hand, the findings might provide companies with insights into our motivations that could be used to prompt us to buy their products and select their services, without ever knowing how or why we took their bait. If subtle forms of persuasion turn out to be video ethnography’s most usual purpose, then is it a technique that a responsible design community should support?”

The article is quite concerned with the ethical implications of using video ethnography for market research and ends as follows:

“Despite the new rhetoric of empathy and inclusiveness, of involving the user and understanding people’s needs, the person pointing the camera still occupies a position of authority in relation to the subject. This is no less real just because it is concealed beneath a soft blanket of warm feeling. When the research outcome is socially beneficial, as it is in healthcare, few would find any reason to object to the technique. The problem lies in the very 21st-century confusion between understanding people better to help them and understanding them better to manipulate their behaviour as consumers.”

Read full story

7 April 2008

Monday’s interviews at CHI 2008

CHI 2008
Luca Chittaro (blog), who covers the CHI 2008 conference in Florence for Novà, the innovation supplement of Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business newspaper, continues his hectic schedule of interviews:

It’s all about the (digital) money
Interview with Scott Mainwaring (Intel Research)
Be they US dollars, Euros or Yens, paper bills are becoming anachronistic, as we use more and more credit cards, smart cards or even completely virtual currencies such as Linden Dollars in Second Life. But is this increase in the type and form of payments confusing for people? How do designers should approach topics like digital payments and virtual currencies?These and many other issues concerning digital money are being investigated by a collaboration among different researchers which include Scott Mainwaring and Wendy March (Intel Research), Bill Maurer and Yang Wang (University of California, Irvine), and Hsain Ilahiane (Iowa State University). They are presenting two papers today at CHI 2008.

Digital memories and lifelogging
An interview with Daniela Petrelli (University of Sheffield)
New technologies have made it possible to “lifelog” our existence, collecting and storing digital pictures, videos, text, copies of Web sites, and so on… But will this be as meaningful as the traditional process of keeping tangible memories of our life?Daniela Petrelli (Sheffield University) and her co-authors discuss about it in the paper they have presented this morning at CHI 2008.

Sustainable interaction design
An interview with Eli Blevis (University of Indiana)
The electronics industry has an increasing responsibility in the production of toxical components and e-waste. Careless strategies are leading to irresponsible designs such as the growing number of products which are sealed to deliberately prevent the user to change the battery. As a result, when the battery needs to be replaced, the user is forced to throw away the product and buy a new one.One of today’s sessions (called Green Day) at CHI 2008 has been devoted to sustainable design and users’ perception of sustainability. To understand the latter Kristin Hanks and colleagues (including Eli Blevis) at the University of Indiana has studied more than 400 students in the 18-21 age range, belonging to the so-called Net generation, a significant producer of e-waste. The results of the research, presented during the afternoon at CHI 2008 are not encouraging.

7 April 2008

Better than free

Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired Magazine, has written a long post about making sense of value in a world in which many digital goods are available for free.

“The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

Our digital communication network has been engineered so that copies flow with as little friction as possible. Indeed, copies flow so freely we could think of the internet as a super-distribution system, where once a copy is introduced it will continue to flow through the network forever, much like electricity in a superconductive wire. We see evidence of this in real life. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can’t erase something once it’s flowed on the internet.

This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports — that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.

Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?

I have an answer.”

He goes on to describe eight generative values that add value to free copies, and therefore are something that can be sold. They are: immediacy, personalisation, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage and findability.

Read full story (also available in Chinese, French and Italian)

7 April 2008

Conference: Innovation through inclusive design

Inclusive design
The Norwegian Design Council is organising a European Business Conference on Inclusive Design, 5-6 May in Oslo, Norway.

Would you like to know how inclusive design can help you create new products and services? How design methods can take you closer to the customer and give you an innovative edge? Learn how leading brands create new products and services through user focused innovation.

Speakers include Maria Benktzon, Professor/Industrial Designer, Ergonomidesign, Sweden; Julia Cassim, Senior Research Fellow, Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre, UK; Jeremy Myerson, Director/Professor, Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre (Keynote speech: “Discovery Through Design: How design methods take you closer to the customer at the front end of innovation”); Akihiro Nagaya, General Manager Design Development Division, TOYOTA, Japan (Keynote speech: “Aiming at a sustainable society”); Rama Gheerawo, Innovation Manager and Research Fellow, Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre, London; Alison Wright, Managing Director, Easy Living Home Ltd, UK (on creating and marketing inclusively designed kitchens and bathrooms); Matthew White, Design Manager, B&Q, UK (on inclusive product innovation); Jarmo Lehtonen, Design Research Manager, Design for All, Nokia, Finland (on design for all); Clive Grinyer, Cisco Systems/Orange, UK (on inclusive service design); and Toshimitsu Sadamura, President/Director GA-TAP, Japan (on the inclusive design project of the Fukuoka City Tube Nanakuma Line).

(via the product usability weblog)

7 April 2008

New David Report bulletin about consumer culture

Shop
The latest David Report bulletin, called “I shop therefore I am”, looks into the world of consumer culture from different point of views; ethical, social, political, economical and humanistic.

Shopping has turned into a lifestyle. We consume as leisure and a way to pass time. But at the same time many are realising that the power of consumption is stopping us from finding true and sincere happiness; and that shopping often works as a substitute for something that we’re missing in life. At what point does the accumulation of material goods become less fulfilling and more stressful and overwhelming?

Our consumption grows in the same pace as our economic growth. Studies shows that in hundred years we consume eight times as much per capita as today. Can our globe take such a strain? The power of consumption is being questioned and there´s a change in attitude and way of life. We don’t want to be consuming goofs, we want to be considered aware and responsible. It is all about WHAT we buy and WHAT we choose to invest in, the world we live in will be the result of those choices.

In the future consumption will be more about experiences and services than things. Perhaps giving will be more important than having. Are the companies, who survive on our consumption, prepared for this transition?

The David Report bulletin no 9 “I shop therefore I am” also offers insight on the subject from strategist Kristina Dryza and Zen-Buddhist Sante Poromaa. On top of this an interview with Mathilda Tham, guest professor at Beckmans school of Design.

Read report

7 April 2008

Mobile services boom in India

India mobile phone resale
Business Week reports on how Indians are using their cell phones as a “one-stop shop” for everything from e-mailing to banking.

A growing group of Indian consumers who want more from their phone than just talk time. [...] Indians spent some $250 million on extra services for their mobile phones last year—including text messaging, music, wallpaper for phone screens, cricket scores, games, and Web surfing—and that number is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2010.

Why is demand for such services particularly great in India? For starters, there are just 30 million PCs in the country, so e-commerce on the Internet still has a long way to go. Cell phones, on the other hand, are becoming pervasive. Nearly 300 million Indians now have phones—making it the No. 2 mobile market on earth—and some 8 million new subscribers sign up every month.

These young, mobile-savvy folks have high aspirations but are underserved in everything from banking to entertainment. Getting to them via their cell phones is the best way to provide much-needed and valued services.

Read full story

6 April 2008

Interviews at the CHI 2008 conference

CHI 2008
Luca Chittaro (blog), a professor at the University of Udine, covers the CHI 2008 conference in Florence for Novà, the innovation supplement of Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business newspaper.

He is already at the pre-conference workshops where he is publishing interviews faster than we can read them:

Playing with brain-computer interfaces
Operating machines or playing videogames just with our thoughts is not science fiction anymore. And Anton Nijholt (bio), full professor of computer science at the University of Twente, is one of the researchers working at building so called brain-computer interfaces for these purposes. At CHI 2008, he is one of the organisers of the workshop on Brain-Computer Interfaces for HCI and Games that took place yesterday.

The disappearing desktop
How often do you feel that computers and mobile devices are not helping you as they should (and could) in managing your personal information? What can research and new applications do to improve this situation? Luca Chittaro spoke about this with two experts: Jaime Teevan (Microsoft Research) and William Jones (University of Washington). William and Jaime have edited the book “Personal Information Management“, and William is the author of the book “Keeping Found Things Found“. At CHI 2008, they are organising a workshop entitled The Disappearing Desktop: Personal Information Management 2008.

Intercultural interaction design
How should we approach interaction design when the applications are meant for foreign countries? And what if those countries belong to the developing world? John Thomas is very concerned with these topics. He is in the Research Staff at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center, and has worked in the area of Human-Computer Interaction for 30 years, publishing over 150 papers. At CHI 2008, he is one of the organisers of the workshop HCI for Community and International Development.

Exertion interfaces
We are going to soon carry out sports activities with our friends even when they are not in the same physical place as we are. More generally, computers will be increasingly used to persuade us to physically exercise and to make exercise more fun. At CHI 2008, Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller and Stefan Agamanolis have organised the workshop on Exertion Interfaces.

Computers for mental health
Will computers ever help us to get better when we are depressed or could they more generally be employed to help treating the numerous existing mental illnesses? At CHI 2008, Gavin Doherty (Trinity College Dublin) has organised a specific workshop on Technology in Mental Health. Chittaro talked with him to learn why and how computers can do good to our mental health.

6 April 2008

A conversation with Dopplr’s Matt Jones

Matt Jones
Matt Jones used to be director of user-experience design at Nokia. Now he is the co-founder of Dopplr, a social networking site for frequent travellers.

Ryan Freitas of Adaptive Path recently had a long conversation with him that you can read a summary of on the Adaptive Path blog and in full on Freitas’ personal blog.

6 April 2008

New UK report on children and new technology

Byron Review
The UK Department for Children, Schools and Families launched last week its eagerly anticipated Byron Review into Children and New Technology.

It contains a comprehensive package of measures to help children and young people make the most of the internet and video games, while protecting them from harmful and inappropriate material, and sets out an ambitious action plan for Government, industry and families to work together to support children’s safety online and to reduce access to adult video games.

The report has led to a huge amount of press coverage and debate.

BBC News summarises the report and provides an overview of the reactions to it.

DK of MediaSnackers is rather lukewarm in his reaction and identifies three areas the report fails to tackle:

  • children vs young people—very different demographics in terms of their internet/technology use and expectations. There is a danger of trying to develop strategies which cater for both groups here;
  • internet or playing video games—surely these are two very different activities but in the report they are often ‘lumped’ together;
  • social networking regulation—any plans to regulate these online spaces will be near impossible to enforce let alone coordinate (due to the amount of platforms plus their international approaches—check this out).
6 April 2008

The rise of the emotional robot

Dressing up the Roomba
Paul Marks examines in the New Scientist how far people are prepared to go in accepting robots as social partners.

“Duke is careering noisily across a living room floor resplendent in the dark blue and white colours of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He’s no student but a disc-shaped robotic vacuum cleaner called the Roomba. Not only have his owners dressed him up, they have also given him a name and gender.

Duke is not alone. Such behaviour is common, and takes myriad forms according to a survey of almost 400 Roomba owners, conducted late last year by Ja-Young Sung and Rebecca Grinter, who research human-computer interaction at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.” [...]

“Sung believes that the notion of humans relating to their robots almost as if they were family members or friends is more than just a curiosity. “People want their Roomba to look unique because it has evolved into something that’s much more than a gadget,” she says. Understanding these responses could be the key to figuring out the sort of relationships people are willing to have with robots.” [...]

“Figuring out just how far humans are willing to go in shifting the boundaries towards accepting robots as partners rather than mere machines will help designers decide what tasks and functions are appropriate for robots. Meanwhile, working out whether it’s the robot or the person who determines the boundary shift might mean designers can deliberately create robots that elicit more feeling from humans. “Engineers will need to identify the positive robot design factors that yield good emotions and not bad ones – and try to design robots that promote them,” says Sung.”

- Read full story
View video

3 April 2008

Firefox 4 will push out the edges of the browser

Prism
Firefox 3 hasn’t even launched yet, and the talk is already moving to Firefox 4.

Mozilla Lab’s push is to blur the edges of the browser, to make it both more tightly integrated with the computer it’s running on, and also more hooked into Web services. So extended, the browser becomes an even more powerful and pervasive platform for all kinds of applications.

At the moment, these are two separate projects Mozilla is running to push out the edges of the browser: Prism and Weave.

Prism is Mozilla’s shot at busting apps out of the browser, turning it into an app that can run directly from the desktop.

Weave extends the browser in the other direction: Not toward the desktop, but instead into the Internet. Mozilla wants an individual’s browsing experience to stay with them no matter what machine they are on. That means synchronizing bookmarks, home pages, favorites, and passwords to an online service that the user can attach to when he or she fires up the browser.

Read full post

3 April 2008

Status stories: helping consumers tell status-yielding stories to other consumers

Amiens
Trendwatching published a feature post about status-yielding stories. Their central thesis:

As more brands (have to) go niche and therefore tell stories that aren’t known to the masses, and as experiences and non-consumption-related expenditures take over from physical (and more visible) status symbols, consumers will increasingly have to tell each other stories to achieve a status dividend from their purchases. Expect a shift from brands telling a story, to brands helping consumers tell status-yielding stories to other consumers.

Read full story

3 April 2008

Live reporting from CHI 2008

CHI 2008
Luca Chittaro will keep a running blog (in English and Italian) during CHI 2008 where he promises “news, interviews with internationally-known researchers, and the latest trends and discoveries in human-computer interaction”.

Chittaro, who is a professor at the University of Udine, also writes for Novà, the innovation supplement of Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s business newspaper, and keeps a blog on the Novà site.

I will also be at the conference, and look forward to post some updates as well.

2 April 2008

Microsoft Research and the future of human computer interaction

Being Human
“By 2020 the terms ‘interface’ and ‘user’ will be obsolete as computers merge ever closer with humans,” is the first sentence of a short article on the BBC News site.

According to the BBC, “it is one of the predictions in a Microsoft-backed report drawn from the discussions of 45 academics from the fields of computing, science, sociology and psychology.”

It predicts fundamental changes in the field of so-called Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). By 2020 humans will increasingly interrogate machines, the report said. In turn computers will be able to anticipate what we want from them, which will require new rules about our relationship with machines.” [...]

Our “digital footprint” – the sharing of more and more aspects of our lives through digital photography, podcasting , blogging and video – is set to get bigger and this will raise key questions about how much information we should store about ourselves.

The ever-present network will channel mass market information directly to us while disseminating our own intimate information.

The report dubs this the era of so-called hyper-connectivity and predicts it will mean a growth in “techno-dependency”.

This ever more intimate relationship between humans and computers will be a double-edged sword, it suggests.

The report compares the widespread introduction of the calculator – widely blamed for a fall in the standard of mental arithmetic – with what may happen as computers become more intelligent and take on new responsibilities.
“Without proper consideration and control it is possible that we – both individually and collectively – may no longer be in control of ourselves or the world around us,” the report warns.

Read full story
(The video is not too impressive though, as all examples are technology-driven rather than people-driven).

The report the BBC refers to are the proceedings of HCI 2020, a forum organised by Microsoft Research, that brought together leading lights in computing, design, philosophy of science, sociology, anthropology and psychology to debate, contribute to, and help formulate the agenda for Human Computer Interaction (HCI) in the next decade and beyond. It can be downloaded here (pdf, 3 mb, 100 pages).

Moving into the 21st century, there are murmurings in the research and design communities signalling the need for a change: a change that puts more emphasis on placing users –people—front and centre in that agenda; a change that is less about pervasive, “smart” computing and more about technology that enables and recognizes human values.

This new agenda raises all kinds of key questions: What is the role of technology in the 21st century, or what would we like it to be? How as researchers, designers and practitioners should we orient to this role? What are the key questions for Human-Computer Interaction as we move forward? What are the new paradigms and research agendas that emerge as a result? What are the human values we are designing for, and what does this mean for the evaluation of technology?

Speakers at this invitation-only event that took place in Seville, Spain, were Barry Brown (Glasgow University), Matthew Chalmers (University of Glasgow), Thomas Erickson (IBM, T.J Watson Research Centre), David Frohlich (Digital World Research Centre), Bill Gaver (Goldsmiths College), Adam Greenfield (New York University, Interactive Telecommunication Program), Lars Erik Holmquist (Swedish Institute of Computer Science), Kristina Höök (Stockholm University), Steve Howard (Melbourne University), Scott Jenson (Google), Matt Jones (Swansea University), Sergi Jorda (University of Barcelona), Rui José (University of Minho), Joseph Kaye (Cornell University), Wendy Kellogg (IBM, T.J Watson Research Centre), Boriana Koleva (University of Nottingham), Steven Kyffin (Philips), Paul Luff (Kings College), Gary Marsden (University of Cape Town), Tom Moher (University of Illinois), Kenton O’Hara (HP Labs), Jun Rekimoto (Sony, Interaction Lab), Tom Rodden (University of Nottingham), Yvonne Rogers (Open University), Mark Rouncefield (Lancaster University), Wes Sharrock (University of Manchester), John Thomas (IBM, T.J Watson Research Centre), Michael Twidale (University of Illinois), Alessandro Valli (iO), Geoff Walsham (Judge Business School, University of Cambridge), Steve Whittaker (Sheffield University), Adrian Woolard (BBC Future Media & Technology), Peter Wright (Sheffield Hallam University), and Oren Zuckerman (MIT), as well as Christopher Bishop, A.J. Brush, Jonathan Grudin, Richard Harper, Andrew Herbert, Shahram Izadi, Abigail Sellen, Alex Taylor, Jian Wang, and Ken Wood of Microsoft Research.

On the website of Microsoft Research Cambridge you can read a really good interview with Richard Harper, the conference organiser. Here are a few quotes:

About the conference: “We were surprised how both excited and apprehensive participants were about the prospects of designing for human values. That’s good and bad news. It means the burden of doing things well and properly is greater than it used to be. But part of the problem we have in designing for values is that we need to make our preferences and values clearer, and in some cases, differences between values are not clear-cut and can’t necessarily be objectively ascertained. Sometimes, there are profound differences in peoples’ values, and both sides have good reasons for those differences. As we move forward in HCI research, accounting for differences of opinion and differences of desire requires bigger shoulders for the researchers to lift the arguments—and the design possibilities—all the way to solutions.”

About developing technology: “For many years, technology has been developed, and then society shapes it and polishes it. Now, society’s hopes and goals and people need to be involved in the process of developing technology from the outset, because it makes a big difference to what the technologies end up becoming. There’s no longer a line between technology and invention and development and society, no longer a line between what the technology might do and what the user can do. What human endeavor might be and what social endeavor might be must be considered from the very bottom of the firmware in devices and in the infrastructures that link different devices right through to the GUI on the outside.”

(also via Adam Greenfield)

1 April 2008

Milan to host 2015 Expo

Expo 2015
It’s all over the Italian press (the winners) and the Turkish press (the losers), and on a small number of international news outlets: Milan will host the 2015 Universal Exposition (a.k.a. “Expo” or “World Fair”).

In a day and age when Universal Expositions are no longer the top international events they used to be one hundred years ago, Milan is nevertheless totally excited about the nomination.

I am not yet, but then these events tend to galvanise people and decision makers, and can push things forward quickly. Since Italians are famous for pulling their act together at the very last moment — faced with the prospect of otherwise making a “brutta figura” (a rather poor showing) — I wouldn’t underestimate the power of the 2015 Expo either.

World Fairs have over the last decades become platforms for nation branding:

“From Expo ’92 in Seville onwards, countries started to use the world expo more widely and more strongly as a platform to improve their national images through their pavilions. Finland, Japan, Canada, France and Spain are cases in point. A large study by Tjaco Walvis called “Expo 2000 Hanover in Numbers” showed that improving national image was the primary participation goal for 73% of the countries at Expo 2000. In a world where a strong national image is a key asset, pavilions became advertising campaigns, and the Expo a vehicle for ‘nation branding’. Apart from cultural and symbolic reasons, organizing countries (and the cities and regions hosting them) also utilize the world exposition to brand themselves. According to branding expert Wally Olins, Spain used Expo ’92 and the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in the same year to underline its new position as a modern and democratic country and present itself as a prominent member of the EU and the global community.

The quote above is from Wikipedia, and the current Fair at Zaragoza, Spain is a case in point. I presume the same nation branding thing will happen when Shanghai gets the honour in 2010.

The 2015 Expo will surely be an opportunity to help crystallise a discussion of the future direction of Italy (which is already starting with the Italy 150 celebration in 2011) – and this in itself is a good thing.

Here some lines from the Reuters story on the nomination:

Italy’s fashion and financial capital Milan won the race on Monday to host the 2015 Universal Exposition, a welcome victory for a country that has been buffeted by a food scandal and political feuding.

Officials for the Paris-based International Bureau of Exhibitions (BIE) said Milan defeated the western Turkish city of Izmir by 86 votes to 65, dashing Turkish hopes of hosting the world’s biggest fair for the first time.

Read full story

1 April 2008

Next week at CHI 2008 in Florence, Italy

CHI 2008
Next week on 8 and 9 April I will be at CHI 2008, the international conference that this year is taking place in Florence, Italy.

On Wednesday afternoon you can find me in the panel on Interactions Magazine, that Richard Anderson invited me on.

If one of you is attending the conference on those days, please drop me a line at mark at experientia dot com.

1 April 2008

Online chat, as inspired by real chat

Meebo founders
The New York Times writes about a new wave of Silicon Valley companies that are bringing live socializing into online social networking Web sites:

Compared with other forms of human interaction, online social networking is really not all that social.

People visit each other’s MySpace pages and Facebook profiles at various hours of the day, posting messages and sending e-mail back and forth across the digital void. It’s like an endless party where everybody shows up at a different time and slaps a yellow Post-it note on the refrigerator.

Now a new wave of Silicon Valley companies is bringing live socializing back into a medium that has, in the parlance of the technologists, grown overly asynchronous.

The article covers Vivaty, TokBox and Meebo.

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1 April 2008

WorldChanging interviews Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky
Last week I wrote about Clay Shirky’s new book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations. Now WorldChanging has published an extensive interview that Jon Lebkowski did with him:
Clay Shirky is an influential writer, consultant, and teacher focused on the Internet as a social platform. He’s one of the smartest thinkers I know about how people live, love, and work online. His new book, Here Comes Everybody:The Power of Organizing without Organizations, was just published by The Penguin Press. As an intro to Chapter 11, on “Promise, Tool, and Bargain,” he says “There is not recipe for the successful use of social tools. Instead, every working system is a mix of social and technological factors.” Clay and I had the following conversation early in March. We’ll follow up with an asynchronous conversation on the WELL for two weeks starting May 28.

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