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Putting People First

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October 2008
31 October 2008

Nokia Open Studios as a design research method

Nokia Open Studios
Nokia Open Studios are a design research method for engaging communities in shanty towns.

According to Nokia’s senior design manager Younghee Jung, they were set up as a community design competition with the theme of ‘design your ideal mobile phone’, hosted in 3 communities of Dharavi (Mumbai, India), Favela Jacarezinho (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and Buduburam (Accra, Ghana).

“It’s a method that we have been developing through several projects over years. my pursuit is to find a way to meaningfully engage and understand people in the design research phase when the research topic does not provide coherent anchor points to real-world behaviors. That’s why we call this work exploratory design research: often starting with a guiding theme but not knowing the full extent of what we will learn and discover.”

Or in the words of Nokia’s user anthropologist Jan Chipchase: “Despite what you might assume for a studio, the most valuable output of the Open Studio is not the designs, but in providing an alternative way for people to articulate their wants and needs – within the context of their community.”

- Presentation (SlideShare | PowerPoint)
Research paper

31 October 2008

Technology can best enhance learning when learners are involved in its design

Opening Education
The latest report by UK education innovator Futurelab introduces to the concept of social justice and practices of user-centred design in learning and education, and looks at how theories for changing the world marry up with methods to implement these changes.

The best way to ensure that learners from all sectors of society have real access, without barriers, to a technology-enhanced education is to involve them in the design of educational technologies, suggests a new report from education innovator Futurelab.

The report, ‘Designing for Social Justice: People, Technology, Learning’, raises fundamental questions about who is best placed to make decisions in the design process and questions whether current technologies for learning are meeting the needs of all learners. Instigating debate about the importance of collaboration between learners, educators and technology developers, the report explores the role that digital technologies can play in reducing inequality in education.

Read full story

31 October 2008

Nokia on somebody else’s phone

Somebody else's phone
Somebody else’s phone is a new Nokia campaign advertised in London that does a great job of depicting the life of an early to mid twenty year-old through their text messages, MMS and pictures.

(via Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)

31 October 2008

Book: Designing universal knowledge

Designing universal knowledge
The World as Flatland – Report 1
Designing universal knowledge
Gerlinde Schuller
Lars Müller Publishers, 2008
ISBN 978-3-03778-149-4

Knowledge is power. If one possesses a collection of the ‘universal knowledge’ of the world, one has ultimate power. Establishing comprehensive, global collections of knowledge already fascinated mankind thousands of years ago. Today, modern communication and information technologies offer quick and prompt collecting, high memory capacities and wide-ranging access. In addition, globalization and the Internet advance a mentality which moves away from the local and regional towards the international and universal. Collections of knowledge, such as archives, encyclopaedias, databases and libraries, also follow this trend. They are engaged in a race against time in both the technological and creative area. Their clearly formulated aim is to establish for us a complete and up-to-date collection of ‘universal knowledge’.

Who is collecting the world’s knowledge?
How are knowledge archives structured and designed?
Who determines the access to this knowledge?
What knowledge entails power?

These questions formed the starting point of the research, which resulted in a report exploring the meaning of ‘universal knowledge’ as well as the process of collecting, structuring, designing, and publishing it. Designers and researchers from different fields have set standards for the classification and design of complex data collections and thus exerted an enormous influence on how knowledge is communicated.

Along with these aspects, the report also explores the possibilities of ‘universal design’ and presents new approaches to visualize complex information.

The systematic and professional collection of knowledge has always been influenced by economic and political interests and presented as a social and society-changing act. The report critically elucidates these aspects as well as the forms of manipulation and censorship which knowledge storages have never been able to completely evade.

Gerlinde Schuller investigated the subject in interviews with Richard Saul Wurman (USA), John Maeda (USA), Nigel Holmes (USA), Wim Crouwel (NL), Paul Kahn (F), Jean-Noël Jeanneney (F), Rop Gonggrijp (NL), Marion Winkenbach (D), Hannah Hurtzig (D) and Martin Alberts (NL).

The book also includes essays by Alex Wright (USA), Willem van Weelden (NL), Markus Frenzl (D) and Femke Snelting (B).

The book is part of The World as Flatland – Reports, a series of three books on the systematic design of complex information.

(via InfoDesign)

31 October 2008

Designers challenged to include disabled

Universal toilet
CNN reports on how Donald Norman wants designers to be more inclusive:

The future of design could see the divide between able-bodied and disabled people vanish.

Don Norman , design Professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, and the author of ”The Design of Future Things,” is issuing a challenge to designers and engineers across the world: Create things that work for everyone.

“It is about time we designed things that can be used by ALL people — which is the notion behind accessible design. Designing for people with disabilities almost always leads to products that work better for everyone.”

Once the champion of human-centered design — where wants and needs of individuals are the primary consideration in the design process, Norman now believes accessible activity-centered design is a better approach.

Read full story

29 October 2008

Network Citizens

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
The latest publication of the UK think tank Demos looks at the future of social networks and the civil implications they are bringing about:

Humans are social animals, spinning intricate webs of relationships with friends, colleagues, neighbours and enemies. These networks have always been with us, but the advance of networking technologies, changes to our interconnected economy and an altering job market have super-charged the power of networking, catapulting it to the heart of organisational thinking.

Social networks are providing tremendous opportunities for people to collaborate. But until now, thinking has focused only on how organisations can respond to and capitalise on networks. This report argues that we have to look equally at how networks use organisations for their own ends. That is where the new contours of inequality and power lie that will shape the network world. We have to face networks’ dark side, as well as their very real potential.

Bringing together in-depth case studies of six organisations, Network Citizens maps the key fault-lines that people and organisations will have to address in the future world of work. Not doing so puts at risk the very qualities we had invested in them: openness, innovation, collaboration and meritocracy. Since networks can act for good or ill, incubating the talents and ideas of the many, or promoting the interests of the few, the need for a new set of responsibilities is growing. If we are network members, we must be network citizens, too.

Download publication

29 October 2008

Tinkering as a way of knowing

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has written a long reflection on tinkering as a way of knowing following a recent conference on the same topic. It is highly recommended reading:

“You can define tinkering in part in contrast to other activities. Mitch Resnick, for example, talks about how traditional technology-related planning is top-down, linear, structured, abstract, and rules-based, while tinkering is bottom-up, iterative, experimental, concrete, and object-oriented.”

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a research director at the Institute for the Future, a think tank in Silicon Valley. He is also an Associate Fellow at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, and a Senior Research Scholar in the Science Technology and Society program at Stanford University.

Read full story

(via IdeaFestival)

29 October 2008

Renting is the new buying

Ulla-Maaria Engeström
Ulla-Maaria Engeström (Mutanen) of Social Objects, maker of entertaining & educating services such as Thinglink, a free product code for creative work, argues that renting is a much more sustainable concept for luxury than owning:

“The idea of luxury typically infers ownership, but perhaps renting is really the practice that embraces the idea of sustainable luxury. To consume more ecologically, we need a large-scale renting revolution. Renting quality should be the next disruptive innovation that shakes up the market of buying cheap.”

Read full story

28 October 2008

The store of YOU

Murphy Burch shoes
A long article in US News & World Report describes the current popularity of mass customization:

“While retailers have long made money by selling multiple copies of the same pair of pants or mass-produced sneakers, we’re on the verge of a world where every individual merits his or her own production line—call it the Store of You.”

Driven by increasingly demanding consumers empowered by the Internet and new technology such as digital printing and online ordering systems, the shift to personalized production represents such a departure from tradition that the retail industry has been forced to come up with new terminology to describe it. Consumers are “information omnivores” who like “überobscure” products in the new “meconomy.””

Read full story

(via MadeForOne)

28 October 2008

The intelligent fridge is neither useful nor desirable

Central Park Fridge
Hubert Guillaud has written again a short analysis on why it makes no sense at all for companies to create something like intelligent fridges.

His main argument is that nobody has any need for such a device.

Although the article itself is in French, much of it was written based upon English-language materials, including this overview of intelligent fridges currently on the market by Mike Kuniavsky, a short article by Nicolas Nova, and the study entitled “User acceptance of the intelligent fridge: empirical results from a simulation” by Matthias Rothensee.

28 October 2008

Simultaneous environments – social connection and new media

The Big Sort
Kazys Varnelis, director of Columbia University’s Network Architecture Lab, has written a very nice essay for Vodafone’s receiver magazine that explores how mediated communication has changed our notion of place, created non-places and now has us darting between simultaneous environments.

“A century of modernity was undone as fast as it came, as new technologies supported new ways of relating between individuals. Networking is now not just marked by the flow of media from the top down – it is, above all, a vast social phenomenon. This is our world, and it is a radically different place from the condition we once knew as modernity (or postmodernity for that matter).” […]

“We live in a state of simultaneous environments. We are here and there, in multiple places at once. For many of us, this is our condition almost all the time.

The intimacy of the family is now replaced by the “telecocoon”. Coined by anthropologist Ichiyo Habuchi, a telecocoon refers to the steady, ambient conversation over SMS that keeps us together even when we are apart. Providing intimacy at a distance, the telecocoon provides the shared feeling of what Mizuko Ito calls “co-presence”.”

In his essay, Varnelis highlights some dangers though: the fact that we have collectively given up our right to privacy, the splintering of the web in micro publications and micro publics, the tendency to associate ourselves with increasingly homogeneous communities (pictured: The Big Sort: why the clustering of America is tearing us apart, by journalist Bill Bishop).

Within this experimental department of the university’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Varnelis investigates the impact of computation and communications on architecture and urbanism. Together with Robert Sumrell, he runs the non-profit architectural collective AUDC; their first book, “Blue Monday“, was published in 2007. In 2005/06 Varnelis was a visiting scholar with the “Networked Publics” program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication. This fall, MIT Press will publish the results of this program as “Networked Publics“, edited by Varnelis.

Read essay

27 October 2008

Microsoft goes far afield to study emerging markets

Microsoft India
The New York Times reports on a nine-person team at Microsoft Research India that assesses whether quirky ideas can make technology useful to those who have heretofore lived without it.

“A nine-person team at Microsoft Research India […] approaches the technology of emerging markets in unconventional ways. These computer scientists say they have the freedom to forget about PCs and software altogether as they tackle problems. Most often, they rely on a mix of sociology and empirical testing to see whether quirky ideas can make technology useful to those who have heretofore lived without it.”

Read full story

26 October 2008

Timo Arnall on design directions for physical interfaces

The web in the world
Timo Arnall, a designer working with interactive products and media, runs a design research project that looks at emerging technologies at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

In a new presentation he explores the current shift in technology from screen-based interaction to physical interaction with the world around us.

In the same way as the web is quickly extending onto the mobile platform, we are starting to see the web moving further into the physical world. Many emerging technologies are beginning to offer physical-world inputs and outputs; multi-touch iPhones, gestural Wii controllers, RFID-driven museum interfaces, QR-coded magazines and GPS-enabled mobile phones.

These technologies have been used to create very useful services that interact with the web such as Plazes, Nokia Sports Tracker, Wattson, Tikitag and Nike Plus. But the technologies themselves often overshadow the user-experience and so far designers haven’t had language or patterns to express new ideas for these interfaces.

This talk will focus on a number of design directions for new physical interfaces. We will discuss various ideas around presence, location, context awareness, peripheral interaction as well as haptics and tangible interfaces. How do these interactions work with the web? What are the potentials and problems, and what kinds of design approaches are needed?

25 October 2008

Genevieve Bell: “The next Internet revolution is already happening!”

Genevieve Bell
Yesterday Genevieve Bell, a highly respected anthropologist and Director of User Experience within Intel’s Digital Home Group, gave a lecture at Indiana University’s School of Informatics. One of the university’s doctoral student reports:

Bell used an ethnographic lens to examine what the Internet might look like in 10-20 years from now. She began by noting that the internet is not just about technology: it a social product; it is ideas; it is a set of forces. In other words, the internet comes with cultural baggage wrapped around it. And now, the internet, according to Bell, is fragmenting into a series of technologies.

Bell outlined six different signs that the next internet revolution is currently underway.

  1. The internet is “feral” and on the move.
  2. Language on the web. (“not just a translation problem”)
  3. Infrastructure and the range of upload and download speeds. (“the costs associated with participation is likely to increase not decrease, and the concept of a free and open internet is unrealistic.”)
  4. Regulation of the internet.
  5. Porn, trolls, and social regulations. (“Everyone lies on the internet”)
  6. Socio-technical concerns. (“Today, we worry about authenticity, ownership of information, digital literacy, and the identity of ‘Big Brother.'”)

Read full story

23 October 2008

EPIC 2008 draft proceedings available

EPIC
The fourth annual international Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) took place in Copenhagen, Denmark last week.

As described by Lucy Kimbell, EPIC “brings together those working in organizations for whom ethnography is central to their practice. They might be called designers, design anthropologists, ethnographers, or simply researchers. They might work in product development, in marketing, in strategy/futures, or in usability testing, depending on the organization, its industry practices and its maturity. EPIC brings these practitioners together with academics like me who are interested in the kinds of data that are gathered, or rather created, in the pursuit of organizational goals. As well as ethnographers from Intel, Microsoft and Yahoo, there were many from the (Danish) public sector and from design and research consultancies such as IDEO, live|work, and ReD Associates.”

The draft proceedings are now online and contains a rich treasure trove of materials:

Opening Keynote Address: The corporate gaze: Transparency and other organizational visions
Christina Garsten (Stockholm University)

SESSION 1: WORKING AND PLAYING WITH VISIBILITY

The rise of the techno-service sector: The growing inter-dependency of social and technical skills in the work of ERP implementers
Asaf Darr (University of Haifa)

Now you see it and now you don’t: Consequences of veiling relational work
Lisa Kreeger (IBM) and Elizabeth Holloway (Antioch University)

The invisible work of being a patient and implications for health care
Kenton T. Unruh and Wanda Pratt (University of Washington)

The secret life of medical records: A study of medical records and the people who manage them
Nathaniel Martin and Patricia Wall (Xerox Corporation)

The translucence of twitter
Ingrid Erickson (Stanford University)

Contact lists and youth
Matthew Yapchaian (Intel Research)

(In)visible partners: people, algorithms, and business models in online dating
Elizabeth F. Churchill (Yahoo! Research) and Elizabeth S. Goodman (UC Berkeley)

SESSION 2: REPRESENTATION IN PRACTICE: UTILIZING THE PARADOXES OF VIDEO, PROSE, AND PERFORMANCE

Beyond walking with video
Jonathan Bean (UC Berkeley)

Video utterances: Expressing and sustaining ethnographic meaning through the product development process
Meg Cramer, Mayank Sharma, Tony Salvador and Russell Beauregard (Intel Corporation)

Verfremdung and business development: The ethnographic essay as eye-opener
Anne Line Dalsgaard (Aarhus University)

Design rituals and performative ethnography
Joachim Halse (Danish Design School) and Brendon Clark (University of Southern Denmark)

SESSION 3: NAVIGATING PEOPLE AND PRAXIS ACROSS SPACE AND TIME

All that is seen and unseen: the physical environment as informant
Lisa Reichenbach (in-sync Consumer Insight) and Magda Wesolkowska (Anthropology in Design)

The space between mine & ours: Exploring the subtle spaces between the private and the shared in India
Ashwini Asokan (Intel Corporation)

Drawing from negative space: New ways of seeing across the client-consultant divide
Michelle Frances Chang (ReD Associates) and Matthew Lipson (Orange / France Telecom)

Putting mobility on the map: researching journeys and the research journey
Simon Roberts (Intel Corporation)

The QAME of transdisciplinary ethnography: Making visible disciplinary theories of ethnographic praxis as boundary object
Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall (University of Illinois at Chicago)

SESSION 4: IN SIGHT ON SITE; REVEALING AND SUSTAINING VALUABLE KNOWLEDGE FOR CORPORATIONS

Tracing the arc of ethnographic impact: Success and (In)visibility of our work and identities
Donna Flynn and Tracey Lovejoy (Microsoft Corporation)

Now you see it, now you don’t: selective visibility and the practice of ethnography in the technology sector
Laura Granka and Patrick Larvie (Google, Inc.)

Sustaining stories: The versatile life of sustained in-house ethnographic practice in a global software company
Natalie Hanson and Johann Sarmiento (SAP)

Design anthropologists’ role in SME’s – unveiling attitude & aptitude
Mark Asboe (University of Southern Denmark)

Strangers or kin? Exploring marketing’s relationship to design ethnography and new product development
Sarah Wilner (York University)

Politics of visibility and when Intel hired Levi-Strauss
Rogerio De Paul (Intel Corporation) and Vanessa Empinotti (University of Sao Paulo)

Closing Keynote Address – Reassembling the visual
Lucy Kimbell (Saïd Business School)

23 October 2008

Donald Norman on the design of future things

Donald Norman
On April 23, Donald Norman gave a talk at the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago on the “Design of Future Things”.

A few weeks ago Jeff Howard published a transcript of this talk.

Video (678 mb) and audio (64 mb) are also available.

Don Norman is a professor emeritus of cognitive science at UC San Diego and a Professor of Computer Science at Northwestern University, where he also co-directs the dual degree MBA + Engineering degree program between the Kellogg school and Northwestern Engineering. He is the co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group and former Vice President of Apple Computer. Norman serves on many advisory boards, including Encyclopedia Britannica and the Industrial design department of KAIST, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. He was awarded the Benjamin Franklin medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. He has honorary degrees from the University of Padova (Italy) and the Technical University Delft (the Netherlands) and is the author of “The Design of Everyday Things” and “Emotional Design.” His newest book, “The Design of Future Things,” discusses the role that automation plays in our everyday lives.

22 October 2008

The Interaction-Ivrea legacy

Interaction Design Institute Ivrea
In a long post on Core77 today, we researched what the Interaction-Ivrea legacy entails.

Quite a lot actually, with former staff and graduates now working throughout the design spectrum.

Former Ivreans founded no less than 26 new companies (and counting…), including Experientia. They also created new schools and study programs, work for famous design consultancies and with the design and innovation departments of major multinational companies, and are involved in teaching and research.

21 October 2008

Science fiction and HCI/interaction design

Star Wars
Nicolas Nova has posted some quick pointers about the relationships between science-fiction and HCI/interaction design on his blog:

Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies by Michael Schmitz surveys the different kind of interaction design sci-fi movies envisioned during the past decade. It also interestingly describes how the film technicians made prototype possible and legible.

Make It So: What Interaction Designers can Learn from Science Fiction Interfaces by Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel is a nice presentation from SxSW08 that looked at sci-fi material as well as industry future films to show design influences sci-fi and vice versa.

The upcoming paper by Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell entitled ““Resistance is Futile”: Reading Science Fiction Alongside Ubiquitous Computing that investigates how ubiquitous computing is imagined and brought into alignment with science-fiction culture.

Julian Bleecker’s presentation from Design Engaged and SHiFt 2008 also addressed that topic.

Personally I would add Bruce Sterling’s work in general, as a major direct and indirect inspiration for interaction designers all over the world.

20 October 2008

How mobile is changing our society

Teemu Arina
Teemu Arina, who will speak at the upcoming Mobile Monday event in Amsterdam, has put a lengthy essay on his blog on the topic “how mobile is changing our society.”

“I have a feeling that the question we pose today is wrong. It’s not about mobile anymore. For some people, mobile means the devices that we carry around as we move, usually hooked up to a cellular network. The truth is, the activities we go through online with computers and what we do with our “mobiles” cannot be seen as separate anymore. This convergence means our language needs to change or our culture will never understand its future.

As ordinary physical items enter the same network, it’s not going to be about virtual or physical activities anymore. Both will be different faces of the same coin. It’s not going to be about context or not. Context will be the primary component of everything. The primary device will no longer be a “mobile”, but more like something that interacts with the network in a highly contextual way. Ideas, people and physical objects will be part of the same network in a very literal sense.”

Read full story

(via Smart Mobs)

20 October 2008

Hassenzahl on UX, pleasure and beauty

Marc Hassenzahl
Marc Hassenzahl is Junior Professor for Economic Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Koblenz-Landau. He is also a freelance usability consultant, president of the German Chapter of the Usability Professionals’ Association, and the author of over 30 journal papers / book chapters.

Two recent ones caught my attention:

User Experience (UX): Towards an experiential perspective on product quality
This paper presented my personal view on UX and related phenomena and research. Instead of providing a one-size-fits-all-definition of UX, I emphasize its subjectivity, present-orientedness and dynamics, and the central role of pleasure and pain. In addition, I provided an approach to explain, where the pleasure and pain comes from, namely from the fulfilment of basic human needs.

Aesthetics in interactive products: Correlates and consequences of beauty
The present chapter focuses on the judgmental approach to the study of aesthetics/beauty. It starts with an attempt to define beauty in a way, which lends itself to its empirical/quantitative study in the context of HCI. This is followed by a review of research addressing correlates of beauty, primarily focusing on the relation between beauty and usability. After this, three consequences of beauty are considered in detail, namely beauty as added value, beauty as a way to accomplish self-referential goals and, finally, beauty as a way to work better. The chapter ends with a summary and conclusion.