counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


June 2008
30 June 2008

New consumption patterns in telecoms services in Europe

Eu
Some interesting data illustrate the emergence of new consumption patterns in telecoms services in Europe:

An EU-wide survey of 27,000 households has revealed the emergence of new consumption patterns in telecoms services in Europe. Technological progress and competition have brought more choice to European consumers; 24% of households have given up their fixed telephone in favour of mobile phones while 22% of them are using their computer from home to make phone calls over the Internet. In an increasing number of Member States, European households are using wireless access to connect to the Internet, via mobile or satellite networks. Meanwhile, 29% of European households buy bundled telecoms and media packages, an increase of nearly 10% since last year. Nevertheless, the top priority for consumers in this fast evolving environment remains the quality of services.

Read full story

30 June 2008

Demos presents international survey of public service co-design

Co-design
Today Demos, the UK think tank on everyday democracy, launched a new discussion paper Making the most of collaboration: an international survey of co-design, produced in association with PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Public Sector Research Centre.

In 2006 Demos published Journey to the Interface – an impassioned advocation of the value of collaborative design principles in public services. In the intervening years, co-design has caught hold as an ideal for transforming services – promising to make them more responsive, fit-for-purpose, and efficient. More broadly, co-design provides an avenue for building social capital, and addressing a disengagement from politics and democracy.

Their new discussion paper takes stock of co-design’s progress. It is based on a ground-breaking international survey of 466 public service practitioners. The survey confirms that co-design is an international movement, gaining enthusiastic support across the globe. However, while this enthusiasm is clear, equally so are the challenges those responsible for implementing co-design are facing.

Their key finding is that we should not simply be asking: ‘How can we do more co-design’. Instead, we are faced with more complex issues. What kind of co-design works, and in what contexts? What kind of organisational cultures support greater, more successful co-design?

Download survey (pdf, 53 pages)

25 June 2008

Book: Nudge

Nudge
WorldChanging book review:

“Authored by two Univeristy of Chicago heavy-hitters, Economist Richard Thaler and Law Professor Cass Sunstein, Nudge explores the policy implications of behavioral economics, a field describing the irrationalities of human behavior. Taking findings from psychology (e.g. people procrastinate; they’re averse to losing money), Thaler and Sunstein propose policies to help us make the best decisions, in light of our irrational tendencies. In a classic example, they suggest we design 401k plans to require “opting-out” rather than “opting-in,” thus encouraging people to save by default. [...]

Nudge goes beyond psychological research to suggest concrete ways to improve public policy in light of experimental findings.

Humans are bad at long-term planning: but what if cars came with stickers tallying the monthly cost of gas over the next five years: sticker shock might lead buyers to a more efficient car? Or what if we “nudged” people to conserve energy by showing how their energy use stacks up with that of neighbors?”

Read full story

24 June 2008

Conversation with Raphael Grignani of Nokia Design about Homegrown

People First
Rachel Hinman, mobile design strategist at Adaptive Path, has conducted an interview with Raphael Grignani of Nokia Design about “Homegrown”, a long term research project looking at how Nokia can help people make more sustainable choices (see also here).

A short excerpt:

“With Remade, Andrew Gartrell (Homegrown project lead and Remade father) pushed design beyond skin deep aesthetics. He considered covers, key mats, and displays but also engine, connectors, and other components. We discovered that a typical mobile phone contains around 44 of the 117 elements currently known to science. Andrew’s approach was to de-construct everything and rebuild it from scratch using recycled materials and sustainable technologies — from the inside out.

Another aspect of Homegrown that is really interesting is the work we did around prototyping. Andrew designed in CAD over 100 versions of Remade and prototyped 36 — which could be considered obsessive — but it was through that constant consideration and iteration that we were able to arrive at something that was great. Prototyping allowed us to confront our designs — asking ourselves, “Is this the best we can do? What can we reduce? Have we found the essence? What can we make better or what can we make differently?” We questioned every bit of the concepts throughout the prototyping process. Now we can explain every bit of the design; we can rationalize every aspect of it.”

Read interview

24 June 2008

From Business to Buttons presentations

From Business to Buttons
Many presentations of Malmö University’s “From Business To Buttons” conference, held last week in Malmö, Sweden, are already available for download.

They include talks by Alberto Knapp Bjerén (The Cocktail, Spain), David Cuartielles (K3, Malmo University, Sweden), Brendan Dawes (magneticNorth, UK), Daniel Fällman (Umeå University | Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden), David Fore (Cooper, USA), Martin Granström and Linda Tolj (SonyEricsson, Sweden), Clive Grinyer (Orange Telecom, UK) Hampus Jakobsson and James Haliburton (TAT, Sweden), Björn Jeffery (Good Old, Sweden), Patrick W Jordan (UK), Kim Lenox (Adaptive Path, USA), Mattias Mårtensson and Sara Rutgersson (Antrop, Sweden), Lene Nielsen (Snitker & Co, Denmark), Kristian Norling (VGR, Sweden), Don Norman (Northwestern University, USA), Marko Skoric (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Sofia Svanteson (Ocean Observations, Sweden) and Harry van der Veen (Natural User Interface Europe AB, Sweden)

Presentations download page

24 June 2008

European Council of Ministers approves 600m euro project for new digital solutions for the elderly

Ageing
Now also Europe’s Council of Ministers approved a major €600m for development of new digital solutions for Europe’s elderly people.

“By 2020, 25% of the EU’s population will be over 65. To respond to this growing demographic challenge, the Council of Ministers approved today a Commission plan to make Europe a hub for developing digital technologies designed to help older people to continue living independently at home.

The proposal, presented by the Commission on 14 June 2007 [see earlier post], will provide some additional €150 million funding to a new European Joint Research Programme, resulting in a total investment of over €600 million.

Through this new programme companies will be able to develop highly innovative digital products and services to improve the lives of older people at home, in the workplace and in society in general. Smart devices for improving security at home, mobile solutions for vital sign monitoring and user friendly interfaces for those with impaired vision or hearing – all of which will improve the quality of life of elderly people, their careers and families. [...]

20 EU Member States, as well as Israel, Norway and Switzerland will participate in this Joint Research Programme.”

Read full story

24 June 2008

Critical SAP report on CHI 2008

CHI 2008
The SAP Design Guild has published a long and quite critical report on the recent CHI conference by Gerd Waloszek, a user experience professional at the business software company SAP.

The SAP Design Guild is a site maintained by SAP User Experience, where SAP AG offers its public user interface design resources.

“Unlike my colleague Janaki Kumar, who also attended the conference (see her report), I felt that the CHI’s motto “Art. Science. Balance” – although well suited to the city of Florence – had been somewhat artificially imposed on the conference. All in all, I did not find that this motto reflected the central theme of the conference. The “Renaissance panel” (see below) appeared to be a somewhat weak justification for the motto, even though it was very interesting and deserved much more attention. Despite the fact that the CHI conference had such a universal motto and was held in Europe, I had the impression that it was more a U.S.-centric than ever, even though some well-known faces, such as Jakob Nielsen, Don Norman, and Ben Shneiderman, were missing from the conference.”

Read full story

24 June 2008

Videos online of Mx presentations

Mx
Adaptive Path has posted a couple of videos of user experience related presentations given at this year’s MX Conference.

Matt Jones (Dopplr) – “Battle for the Planet of the Apes: A Perspective on Social Software and Social Networks”
Matt Jones is one of the founders/lead designer of Dopplr and former creative director for the award-winning BBC News Online and Sapient’s London studio in the first boom. From 2003, he joined Nokia in design research, then as a Director of UX Design.
In his talk he cites examples from the development of Dopplr and other services, as he discussed recent trends in social software, object-centered sociality, the beginnings of social infrastructure (opensocial, xfn, hcard, openID), personal informatics, and approaches for baking social ettiquette into the design.

Margaret Stewart (Google) – “The Manager as Tailor”
Margaret Stewart is manager of the User Experience Team for Consumer Products at Google Inc. Her team is comprised of nearly 30 top practitioners in the fields of user experience design and research.
Margaret discusses the traits that make some managers particularly effective, how she has customised her management style over the years to both corporate context and the individuals on the teams she has led, plus some specific tactics and tools she uses to refine and improve her management practices.

24 June 2008

Mito Akiyoshi: the digital divide does not vanish with the mobile

Mito Akiyoshi
The great people at the splendid French blog InternetActu have conducted an interview with the Japanese sociologist, Mito Akiyoshi. Since InternetActu is published in French, and I have been pushing them time and again to make the rich contents of their blog also available in English, they have offered us to co-publish this interview in English — the language it was conducted in. It was not difficult to accept the offer and I thank Hubert Guillaud in particular for this opportunity. If you read French, go read it here.
 

Mito Akiyoshi (blog) is a Japanese sociologist at Senshu University. She also collaborates with sociologist Izumi Aizu on a NTT research programme on privacy and identity. The interview provides us with an opportunity to take a unique look at what is happening in Japan: it allows us to not focus on the technology, as is so often the case, but on how this technology is used, which is often more varied and complex than one might think.
 

DIGITAL DIVIDE IN JAPAN?

InternetActu.net: You have worked on the digital divide in Japan. We in the West often have the impression that the digital divide does not exist in your country where the mobile phone is so pervasive. But is that really so? Do all people really have equal access?

Mito Akiyoshi: There is a growing consensus among researchers in Japan as well as abroad that the digital divide is not just about having Internet access or not. It is also about the type of use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) and the goals of that use. In order to understand the implications of the mobile phone on the digital divide, we have to start with a broader definition of the digital divide itself, which needs to encompass all activities mediated by technologies. Due to the mobile phone we are now facing a mixed reality: it is a glass that is both half-full and half-empty.

Japan is indeed a global leader in mobile telephony: the mobile phone has brought ICT to those who would otherwise not have used technology. Yet the mobile phone has not eliminated the digital divide at all. My research shows that existing patterns of inequality strongly influence the type of technology and technology use certain kinds of people exhibit. Generally speaking, there are three types of ICT users in terms of access to hardware: “Literati” are those people who use both computers and mobile phones. A second group consists of a fairly large number of people who use mobile phones but rarely use PC’s. The third group are those who use neither. The last group is obviously decreasing now because of the pervasiveness of the internet, but even the second group could be considered on the wrong side of the digital divide — unable to make the most of ICT.
 

UNIVORES AND OMNIVORES

All of that would be OK if the choice was just that: a matter of choice. But often it isn’t. Web contents accessed on a computer are quite different from those accessed on a mobile device. For example, my research shows that respondents use a PC for professional reasons and to access government services. The use of a mobile phone however is mainly limited to entertainment related activities. Those who use mobile phones and not the PC tend to be less educated, less wealthy, and/or female. So, their reliance on their mobile phone and their non-use of the PC could also be interpreted as perpetuating a less privileged status.

I am still looking for good labels to identify these different types of users, and in particular those who use the mobile but not the PC. The distinction between “univore” and “omnivore” as used in cultural sociology could be useful. The “univores” refer to people with limited cultural resources who consume just one type of genre, e.g. hip-hop. The “omnivores” on the other hand are endowed with rich resources: they enjoy multiple genres. According to this view, the distinction between middle class and working class is not based on their preference for particular genres, but rather on their ability to consume a wide range of cultural products. So based on this logic, I could probably use the term “mobile univore”.

InternetActu.net: What does the mobile phone prevent that the combination of internet and mobile enables?

Mito Akiyoshi: Studies have shown that PC Internet users acquire new ICT skills as they become more familiar with the web. It is a virtuous circle. Initially you go online to address a particular need, but then you discover other services and applications and you do a lot of “learning by doing”. The PC Internet encourages people to explore. The mobile Internet on the other hand provides only basic internet related services, which are often limited to entertainment and leisure activities. The mobile internet is rarely a channel for serious, productive activities. Even the content and service quality differs. Although you can read news on both the computer and the mobile phone, news items on the mobile tend to be brief and sketchy, because of space limitations. If you read news and opinion stories in the newspaper or on a PC, you can learn a lot. But if you read news summaries on the mobile phone, you miss out on this learning opportunity.
 

A POLICY ISSUE

InternetActu.net: How to promote passing from mobile tools to internet tools, when uses are not really the same?

Mito Akiyoshi: First of all, I think we should acknowledge both quality and quantity of contents and services are of the utmost significance. Access to them are legitimate global, national and local policy issues, but are hardly recognised as such. For example if you know that mobile users do not get information of equivalent quality to those on PC internet, you could modify the way you present the information. If you would like to mobile phone use for productive activities, you can improve the design, the interface, and the services. Mobile Internet has been entertainment-driven because mobile internet service providers saw entertainment related services as the most lucrative business. But policy makers can intervene and encourage technology development that contributes to wider social inclusion and participation.
 

THE JAPANESE FASCINATION WITH THE MOBILE

InternetActu.net: The West has a certain image of the use of technology in Japan: omnipresent, very focused on the mobile, with a population fond of everything innovative. Does this picture correspond to reality?

Mito Akiyoshi: Well, the Japanese are fond of certain innovations. But one should also note that Japan lagged behind other industrialised countries with respect to basic Internet connectivity during the 1990s. So my short answer to this question is yes and no. The explosion of mobile telephony must be put into perspective, rather than being taken as a sign of general enthusiasm for all innovations. Some innovations take root at a phenomenal speed while others are sadly abandoned.

But Japan’s fascination with mobility may be peculiar to them. The obsession with mobility, cuteness, and miniaturisation are repeatedly brought up in popular discourse as part of the essence of Japanese culture. But as a social scientist, I want to explain them. The fascination with mobility is a consequence of our lifestyle. Tokyoites spend long hours commuting by train with plenty of time to play around with their mobile phones. Unlike people in Europe and the U.S., the majority of Japanese have not experienced a smooth transition from the typewriter to the computer. Some users actually prefer the mobile phone simply because they are not comfortable working with a keyboard. Those people use their mobile phones for reasons that have little to do with their portability. The popularity of the mobile phone in Japan is actually quite a complex phenomenon.

That said, their quirky tastes might help discover and popularise certain innovations in an unexpected manner. The camera/video mobile phone is one example that comes to my mind. At first, the idea appeared strange. But the Japanese loved camera phones for whatever reasons and have made them popular in other parts of the world.
 

THE FUTURE OF MOBILE

InternetActu.net: Japan seems ahead because consumers already use the mobile to access online contents, and this will become the future everywhere. But you seem more sceptical.

Mito Akiyoshi: Japan is indeed one of the leaders in mobile Internet services. Although I raised some issues about the causes and current use of mobile Internet, there are lots of reasons to believe that a wider use of mobile and ubiquitous technology will create better communicative environments in Japan and elsewhere. But it is simplistic to assume that the mobile phone in and of itself can solve the deep-rooted problem of digital inequality. But it does help people to get online and to maintain their social networks. The Japanese have enthusiastically taken up the mobile Internet when it first became available in the late 1990s, because they thought it would fulfill their needs.

Now we have to redefine those “needs” or “demands” in the light of the future society we intend to create. Up until now there has been little discussion about the basic values ICT should focus on. Mobile technology holds a key to the realisation of fundamental social values, such as human captial development, equality, sustainable development, democracy, etc., but it does not automatically make it happen.

I am not sceptical, but rather cautiously optimistic because we need a better understanding of the existing problems and a better vision for the future to fully realise the communicative possibilities offered by mobile technology.
 

OUR UBIQUITOUS BUT LOCALLY EMBEDDED LIVES

InternetActu.net: There is a lot of talk these days about geolocation as the future of the mobile, allowing a synthesis of social networks and mobility. Did geolocation use explode in Japan and why?

Mito Akiyoshi: There are some interesting uses of mobile geolocation technology in Japan, such as the otetsudai network which is basically a job search service accessed via a mobile phone, allows people to find a job or an employee “on the spot”. Geolocation services enable micromanagement of time, space, a job slot, and even a worker. Even in the age of globalization, our day-to-day life is locally embedded and mobile technology serves locally embedded needs quite well.

InternetActu.net: In terms of government action, the focus seems to have evolved from e-Japan (a fairly classic approach to Internet access and use) to u-Japan, seen as a more futuristic plan focussed on ubiquitous information availability. What is the reality of this programme now?

Mito Akiyoshi: To answer such a question, the first thing one might want to do is to go to a government website to do some research on the u-Japan project. But if you do that, you realise that the search functionality on government websites is a real mess. Search information on any specific issue on a Japanese government website and you will share my frustration. One cannot get the information one is looking for. This very fact affects my evaluation of the u-Japan project.

U-Japan was successful in providing the nation fast Internet connection and improving government services. In areas such as tax preparation and business filings, great progress was made and the u-Japan project should be given due credit.

But there are some goals still to be accomplished as illustrated by the mediocre search functionality.

Let me give you another example: When I consult government statistics, I often get a lot of Excel tables. I rather need a decent query system so that I can combine variables and create the tabled results I need.

Ubiquity is all fine, but ubiquitous solutions must be user-friendly solutions as well.
 

THE DIFFICULTY OF COMPREHENDING THE PRIVACY AND IDENTITY CHALLENGES

InternetActu.net: You work with Izumi Aizu on a NTT research programme on privacy and identity. Can you tell us more about the objectives of this programme and its first results?

Mito Akiyoshi: NTT is a very interesting organisation. They do not ask us to do research to maximize their profit on a short-term basis. They came to us with no specific agenda and asked us tell them “something interesting about privacy and identity.” So we devised our research objectives on the fly.

We investigated national identity projects as well as business identity management projects. I like to think that the fact that we didn’t find strong trends is one of our major findings. Not that we came back empty-handed: there is a huge information asymmetry between the various parties involved. For example, I contacted a recruiting company for my research, but they could not come up with good interviewees because the issue is too technical. Only one interviewee I talked with said he was interested in the issue of identity management.

The issue of privacy and identity is very relevant to everyone but it is difficult to bring home to everyone its relevance when it involves so many technical details. Unfortunately many decisions that have real social implications are removed from the public discourse and are reduced to technical matters. How do you explain the notion of search engine privacy to your grandma or even to your boss for that matter? Or the possible privacy breach with the introduction of IPv6 due to its addressing mechanism? They may not comprehend the issues, although they are relevant to them. We found that there is no common language to start a productive discussion about the way those issues are handled by governments, businesses, researchers, and community leaders.

InternetActu.net: You point the finger at strong concerns about privacy issues, even though we in France tend to believe that these issues do not have the same impact in Japan, because of cultural differences. So are privacy concerns similar in Japan and in the West?

Mito Akiyoshi: This is an interesting question. Of course France and Japan are culturally quite different, but France is also quite different from the UK, the US, Germany, and other countries that supposedly constitute “the West.” I do not want to ignore differences between countries, but I would like to balance “between-country” differences with “within-country” differences. I do not know if it is appropriate to bring privacy concerns back to “cultural differences,” but the issue of privacy does manifest itself differently in different societies. For example, racial profiling is a big issue in societies with diverse minority populations. I do not say that it does not exist in Japan. But it is less central there than in the US, for example.

One way to address cultural differences is to look for social problems that affect a society in particular. If the Japanese have reservations about a national identity card system, it may be because their trust in the government’s handling of personal information is low. The national pension system is mismanaged and its failure is a huge scandal here right now. Those who are entitled to pension money were not given their money because the agency in charge did not handle the records properly.

What kind of attitudes prevail in France regarding the issue of privacy and what kind of factors — cultural, social, political, or economic — may explain those attitudes? I think I have more questions than answers to this question.

22 June 2008

Ten principles that contribute to a Googley user experience

Googley UX
The Google User Experience team aims to create designs that are useful, fast, simple, engaging, innovative, universal, profitable, beautiful, trustworthy, and personable. Achieving a harmonious balance of these ten principles is a constant challenge. A product that gets the balance right is “Googley” – and will satisfy and delight people all over the world.

The ten principles that contribute to a “Google User Experience” are:

  1. Focus on people – their lives, their work, their dreams
  2. Every millisecond counts
  3. Simplicity is powerful
  4. Engage beginners and attract experts
  5. Dare to innovate
  6. Design for the world
  7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business
  8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind
  9. Be worthy of people’s trust
  10. Add a human touch
20 June 2008

Bridging communities via interactions

Elizabeth Churchill and Mark Vanderbeeken
Richard Anderson reports on a discussion session that Elizabeth Churchill and Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken participated in, held at the recent CHI conference in Florence, Italy, that dealt with the role of interactions magazine in bridging communities – “something essential for “user experience” to play the role it should be playing in business”.

“Jon Kolko facilitated an important discussion between Elizabeth and special guest Mark Vanderbeeken about the concept of open access to intellectual content and its relevance to interactions magazine. (Sorry that Mark’s head is largely obscured by Elizabeth’s in the nearby photo.) One might argue that open — i.e., free — online access to interactions magazine content would in and of itself help to bridge the communities for which interactions magazine is of relevance. However… (Portions of and extensions to the CHI 2008 discussion will appear in Elizabeth’s column and in “interactions cafe” in the September+October issue; both of those articles will be made available via the interactions website to all, facilitating everyone’s opportunity to respond and share his or her perspective.)”

Read full story (with SlideShare presentation)

17 June 2008

The doobly, the podger, the twitcher or the melly?

Home tech
The remote control seems to have inspired a great creative flowering of new words in colloquial UK English:

“The English Project cites “doobly”, but there are an awful lot more, including “podger”, “blipper”, “twitcher” and “melly”. A friend of mine calls it the “ponker”. Someone in the Guardian office says “didge”. My mother used to call it “the clicker”, although that was back when they actually did click, and “controller” is our family term, with “fat controller” being a variant for the larger Freeview clicker, which is covered in packing tape because somebody – not me – lost the little door that holds the batteries in.”

“According to web forums, “clicker” is extremely common, as is “flipper”, “changer” and the rather charming “the buttons”. “Zapper” is often used, while “Frank” (geddit?) is a by no means isolated derivative.”

Read full story

I wonder if a similar research was done in the USA.

15 June 2008

Involved observational research

Basi
I always appreciate unusual perspectives so when Dr. Tina Basi, who consults with Intel’s Digital Health Group, contacted me about her research on power dynamics in ethnographic research, I was intrigued.

She recently presented a paper on the matter, entitled “Identity at Work and Play: Conducting Ethnography for Commercial Enterprise” at the London Business School in a seminar that dealt specifically with gender and power issues within the larger context of a seminar series on emotions and embodiment in research.

Here are some excerpts from a longer story she sent me:

The seminar brought together academics and practitioners with an interest in ethnographic research perspectives to the material generated in research.

Dr. JK Tina Basi, Director of Mehfil Enterprise and freelance researcher with Intel’s Digital Health Group in Ireland, discussed the role of identity in shaping the research process and outcomes. Her talk, entitled, ‘Identity at Work and Play: Conducting Ethnography for Commercial Enterprise’, looked at the way in which research design could better include and make space for the co-construction of both the researcher and the research participants’ identities. Drawing upon a range of feminist academics (Haraway, 1991; Stanley and Wise, 1993; and Wolf, 1996), Dr. Basi pointed towards the feminist epistemological critique of positivism and ‘value free’ research, which argues that the subjective/objective dichotomy is false, and that objectivity is simply a name given to male subjectivity.

“Interviewing is the art of construction rather than excavation; thus the task is to organize the asking and listening so as to create the best conditions for constructing meaningful knowledge (Mason, 2002). Research cannot be ‘hygienic’, and knowledge is best created as a co-production between the interviewer and interviewee (Collins, 2000), as two intersecting dialogues: dialogue number one is the ethnographer’s interviews with informants or the observations of people’s lives; dialogue two is between the ethnographer’s written work and the readers (Smith, 2002: 20) or the clients. Such an approach paves the way for greater reflexivity, which isn’t just about presenting the self and being reflexive about the self, it is about exposing power relations and the way in which these relations shape knowledge – a much more authentic way to conduct research, yielding sharper insights and deeper meanings.”

Dr Basi presented two examples from Intel’s research in the healthcare sector to show the strength of a dialogic approach to data collection. Intel’s research work on transport and mobility in rural Ireland was designed in part by the Rural Transport Programme and the research on social care services in England was heavily influenced by the experiences of elderly people using the services provided by Age Concern.

“Ethnography is just as much about the interview as it is about the setting, it is about building a rapport, yet you do more than just talking. You see things that people cannot articulate, what they don’t know they are trying to articulate. Ethnographic research provides a view of the rituals, practices, markers, and triggers in intimate settings and important environments – the situatedness of ethnography however, calls upon the researcher to become vulnerable in the process too.”

Download slides

Check out the LadyGeek blog too

15 June 2008

Technology giants join forces to fight communications clutter

IORG
Firms including Microsoft, Intel, Google and IBM have formed an Information Overload Research Group to help workers cope with the digital deluge and improve productivity.

“Some of the biggest technology firms, including Microsoft, Intel, Google and IBM, are banding together to fight information overload.

Last week they formed a nonprofit group to study the problem, publicize it and devise ways to help workers – theirs and others – cope with the digital deluge.

Their effort comes as there is mounting statistical and anecdotal evidence that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

Personally I am glad to notice that Prof. Gloria Mark, with whom I once studied at Columbia University, is part of the team.

Read full story

15 June 2008

Google’s Joe Kraus on how to make the web more social

Kraus
Wharton legal studies professor Kevin Werbach spoke with Joe Kraus (weblog), director of product management at Google, recently about the increasing socialisation of the Internet.

Kraus believes every killer app on the web — instant messaging, e-mail, blogging, photo-sharing — has succeeded because it helps people connect with one another. For Kraus, this means the Internet has an inherently social character, but it can be enhanced further — an area he continues to explore through Google initiatives such as Open Social and Friend Connect.

“Today, people think of social as social networks – a set of sites that I go to where I establish relationships with friends. And it’s in the context of those sites that I do stuff with them.

Our view at Google is that’s a transitory phase in the development of the whole social web, and that those friend relationships that you create on these sites should be usable and portable and allow you to get benefit no matter where you go on the web. [...]

So, the idea is, how do you take these relationships that you’ve built in these pilot sites and make them useful across the web. And I think, the transition that we’re going through of social being something that you do in sites to something that you do across the web is very similar (or feels similar at least to me) to the way we looked at user generated content maybe six or seven years ago.”

Read interview

(via Smart Mobs)

15 June 2008

Interview: the cellphone anthropologist

Chipchase
The New Scientist has published an interview with Nokia user researcher Jan Chipchase:

“Most of us take mobile phones for granted. Not so for Jan Chipchase, a design researcher for Nokia, who travels the globe exploring how people use their mobile devices, discovering how to make them better, how to reach the billions of people who don’t own a phone – and learning a whole lot about people along the way. Jason Palmer caught up with him in Japan – by phone of course – and found that nothing about the mobile phone is as straightforward as it seems.”

Of English and German parentage, 38-year-old Jan Chipchase grew up in London and studied economics at London Guildhall University, going on to do a master’s in user interface design in 1992. He then worked at the Institute for Learning and Research Technology at the University of Bristol. In 1999 he moved to Japan, where he still lives, and joined Nokia’s usability group. He became a member of the Nokia design group last year.

Read interview

(via Usability in the News)

14 June 2008

Is Google making us stupid?

Internet Patrol
Nicholas Carr, the author of “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google” and “Does IT Matter?” wrote an article for The Atlantic Monthly on what the internet is doing to our brains: it is chipping away our capacity for concentration and contemplation, and replacing it with something he calls “Taylorism of the mind”.

“In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.”

Read full story

14 June 2008

Cluster #7 “Transmitting Architecture”

Cluster
The upcoming issue of Cluster, the bilingual (Eng/Ita) innovation magazine is entitled “Transmitting Architecture“. It is made in collaboration with XXIII UIA World Congress of Architecture 2008, to be held in Turin, Italy in a few weeks.

Two years on from the Olympic games, Torino is the first World Design Capital and also the arena of the 23rd edition of the World Congress of Architecture, to be held for the first time in Italy following the past edition in Istanbul 2000 and prior to the next in Tokyo 2011. A prestigious event which every three years reunites thousands of professionals and experts to cover a theme analyzing the future prospects of the profession and its relationship with the social and cultural problems of the moment.

From June 29 until July 3 over eight thousand professionals will meet beneath the Mole to discuss the concept of “Transmitting Architecture”, the main theme of the XXIII Congress 2008.

Cluster will dedicate a monographic edition to this event, introducing the work of the Congress and featuring reviews, interviews, articles and analysis organized around the main themes of the event, concentrating particularly on cities built from zero and slums. But not only.

Other sections of the Cluster issue will include contributions from Tokyo; host city of the next World Congress of Architecture and Flexibility; main exhibition and leitmotif of the Torino 2008 World Design Capital.

Special mention will be given to INDEX: Design to Improve Life, a Copenhagen based, worldwide non-profit organization that focuses on Design to Improve Life. Index is a global network that incorporates design experts and opinion leaders from all over the world. Initially conceived in 2000 and granted financial support by the Danish Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs, Index has become a network that consists of designers, businesses, organizations and design institutions who collaborate in disseminating and applying the latest knowledge in design that substantially improves important aspects of human life, Since March 2008 Cluster has become regional ambassador for Index.

The Index award exhibition takes place biannually in Copenhagen presenting the best examples of design to improve life and transforming Copenhagen into an international centre for the cutting edge of contemporary design and design thinking by presenting a series of events and the Index:Award, the biggest design award in the world. The winning designs are chosen by an international jury consisting of leading designers, design researchers, design writers and design thinkers from Europe, Asia and the U.S. The 2007 award was divided into the following five life categories Body, Home, Work, Play and Community.

Going back to the Congress, Cluster will be distributed to all of the eight thousand participating professionals that will meet in Turin and therefore will be an active protagonist and stimulant for the week of discussion on “Transmitting Architecture”. A theme that deals with the dialogue that architecture must hold with all aspects of society; politicians, economists, communicators and citizens in its contribution to transforming territories with the aim of asserting citizen rights to the quality of life and the environment.

Transmitting Architecture is about architecture’s ability to convey the meanings behind its actions, both as design creation and in terms of deep social involvement. One of the main goals is in fact to highlight the active role it plays in perceiving positive energies and society’s emerging phenomena.

The concept “architecture is for everyone” will be the common denominator for «Culture», «Democracy» and «Hope», the three subdivisions of the Congress that will be broadly covered in the Cluster edition while at the same time giving space to images and graphic design.

Firstly «Culture», because architecture tells and passes down traditions and transmits the peoples’ history and culture over time preserving and improving the context for future generations.

Secondly «Democracy» because architecture concentrates on building a present of urban democracy with other subjects involved in dynamic processes in order to find effective solutions and solve the tangible problems that affect everybody.

Last but not least «Hope» because sustainability and environmental protection as an architect’s ethical duty and so is the search of the future for a world which is still habitable. The legacy we will leave to our children is at stake!

One of the articles is already online: it is an extensive and in-depth interview with John Thackara and Sunil Abraham on future democratic cities and the role of design in shaping them.

14 June 2008

Spain’s national obsession with mobiles, texting

Spain
Jennifer Woodard Maderazo reports on PBS’s Mediashift blog on the Spanish relationship with the cell phone and “how it has evolved differently from the one in the US for reasons that are clear and others that remain a mystery”.

“Because Spain seemed so much ahead of the U.S. in using mobile for something more than just calls, one would think that media consumption on phones would be the next logical step, but that hasn’t been the case. In 2002, Americans didn’t know what SMS was but in 2008 we are texting, watching videos, reading RSS feeds and even using VOIP on our cell phones. In Spain, most people are doing none of that — but you will see a grandmother shoot off text messages like a teenager.”

Mediashift is a weblog that tracks how new media—from weblogs to podcasts to citizen journalism—are changing society and culture.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

13 June 2008

China and the next billion customers

Attention
The second article in Vodafone’s newly updated Receiver Magazine is about China and the next billion customers.

Author Jared Braiterman seeks to understand mobile phones play in China’s fast-paced development and explores why China become a centre of passionate technology usage.

Braiterman claims there are two cultural explanations for the intensity with which the Chinese have adopted the internet and, even more so, mobile phones: the single child policy of nearly thirty years, and the dearth of communication and entertainment alternatives.

Jared Braiterman is a Harvard and Stanford-trained anthropologist (PhD 1996) who has worked for twelve years as a human technology consultant and educator in Silicon Valley, Europe, Asia and the Americas. With his San Francisco-based research and creative studio Giant Ant he recently led a public research study on youth culture and technology called “Mobile China”. Now in its fourth year, the project has examined mobile phones, virtual life and mixed reality in the world’s biggest emerging market.

Read full story