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Putting People First

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October 2008
20 October 2008

Toward a more human interface device

UXmatters
Jonathan Follett of Hot Knife Design is a prolific writer. His latest article in the October issue of UXmatters addresses the integration of the physical and the virtual in digital input devices:

As we create our digital lives—communicating and socializing with others, collecting content for business and pleasure, building objects with software, buying products—we understand that, despite its moniker, this existence is only half virtual. While it’s a given that engaging in our digital experiences requires physical devices, it may be less obvious that the input method affects the way in which we communicate with our computers—particularly, the way we feel about the experience.

In the physical world, we don’t have to think about manipulating an object—we just do it. Turn a photograph around on a table? Pick it up to take a closer look? Put it into a file folder? All of these are purely automatic actions.

Read full story

20 October 2008

Vodafone Receiver Magazine on location and geowebbing

Vodafone_receiver_red_bg
The current edition of Vodafone Receiver Magazine is devoted to location and geowebbing, or as they write: “annotating real space digitally and using the world itself as our interface”.

Two authors have already contributed on the theme, and more articles are still to come:

A digital geography manifesto
by Jonathan Raper (Professor at the City University London)
What should you write on an academic blog? If news, trivia, detail and narcissism are all out, then what’s left? When I started my blog “The Digital Geographer” in early 2006, I decided to sidestep these sins by writing a manifesto. My digital geography manifesto was a tongue-in-cheek statement of some of the challenges that we faced in designing and implementing a new generation of “egocentric” mobile applications that will bring the power of location technology to mobile devices everywhere. As I write this, two and a half years have passed and it is instructive to revisit the manifesto’s ten principles and see which of them captured an enduring issue – and which of them has already been solved.

Creating maps for everyone and network effects for the data driving them
by Sean Gorman
Mapping was once the domain of professionals. Cartographers and geo-scientists trained in universities for several years to learn the best techniques for accurately displaying data on maps. The public often saw the end product of the map creation process, but was largely limited to scribbling on paper when it came to creating maps of its own. Beginning in 2005, this paradigm turned upside down. The last three years have fundamentally changed the way people understand their location and geography.

20 October 2008

Wanted: a few good mobile developers

Nokia
According to Internet News, handset makers are seeking skilled developers for interactive networking devices and the rise of social networking applications on a smaller screen.

Mobile handset makers are on the trail of the next hot smartphone, with features such as online social networking interaction capabilities.

A glance at some tech job boards shows the kind of skillsets in mobile development companies such as Nokia and Motorola are seeking: mobile social application expertise and Android platform knowledge, for starters.

Read full story

17 October 2008

From individuals to the collective

ArchiTech
Jeff Parks of Boxes and Arrows just posted a lot of material from the recent IDEA Conference (Chicago, 7-9 October), including a 41 slide presentation (pdf) by Aradhana Goel, the service design strategist at IDEO:

When we look through the lenses of society (how we connect), mobility (how to move) and sustainability (how we consume), we realize that the world has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. Aradhana Goel discusses connections between these emerging trends, design thinking, and service innovation.

You can also find audio files of the presentations by David Armano (vice-president of interaction design at Critical Mass), Alberto Cañas (co-founder and associate director at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition), Chris Crawford (Storyton author and inventor), Bill DeRouchey (senior interaction designer at Ziba Design), Jason Fried (co-founder and president of 37signals), Jesse James Garrett (co-founder and president of Adaptive Path), Dave Gray (XPLANE founder and chairman), Andrew Hinton (lead information architect at Vanguard), Jason Kunesh (independent design professional), Elliott Malkin (artist and information architect), and Edwina von Gal (author and landscape architect).

IDEA 2008 materials

16 October 2008

User testing the Philips intimate massagers

Intimate massager
A month ago I posted about Philips new intimate massager product range.

It turns out there was quite a bit of qualitative user testing involved, as you can read in this background article and this interview.

16 October 2008

ArchiTech’s special section on experience desin

ArchiTech
The September edition of the American architecture magazine ArchiTech contains a special section on experience design.

The section, which sees experience design as “a new way of thinking, designing, engaging that uses media and architecture to produce immersive spaces”, is I think quite problematic. Experience design is all about entertainment and communications. Nothing really about addressing people’s needs or providing relevant contextual solutions. Nor does the section contain much about interaction design, or about the relation between people’s use of technology (e.g. through mobile devices) and the architectural environments that surround them. More innovative, experimental projects that are redefining architecture through their reinterpretation of the relation between people and the built environment are not even mentioned.

Although it’s a take on experience design which I don’t endorse or care much about, it is one which is quite prevalent, and therefore worth mentioning. The section contains three articles:

Building fiction: the architecture of experience design
by Tali Krakowsky, director of experience design at Imaginary Forces, a multidisciplinary entertainment and design agency based in Hollywood and New York
“Architecture has always been the home of storytelling. […] By infusing architecture with digital media, the discipline of experience design hopes to transform static environments into kinetic, cinematic, informative, and interactive spaces that offer an endless anthology of stories. […] Experience design is the process of creating such storytelling in space.”

Experience as material: transforming architecture into communications media
by Don Richards, creative director at Foghorn Creative, a San Francisco-based company that provides creative direction and coordination for immersive communications projects worldwide
“The tools we have today in show production and immersive communications are simply phenomenal. There is no longer even a clear distinction between R&D and implementation. We write code and modify gear on-site to respond to opportunities. The digital display tools that architects are using today (such as LED display, digital playback, and pixel mapping) all evolved from technologies initially developed for theatrical and entertainment design.”

Convergence: blending the digital and physical
by Jesse Seppi and Vivian Rosenthal, founders of Tronic, a New York City-based design, directing, and animation studio
“The intersection of digital and physical design opens up new realities of form and experience. Whereas in the past the digital process was merely a means to represent a structure, today’s digital tools now inform the architecture itself, allowing for innovation and experimentation in the built form.”

(via Stephen Rustow at SRA Consultancy)

11 October 2008

Congratulations to the Ahtisaari family

Ahtisaari
On this blog, we have repeatedly featured the insights of Marko Ahtisaari, the former director of design strategy at Nokia and now director of brand and design at the advertising-supported phone company Blyk, and earlier this year we had the pleasure of working with him on a small project.

Yesterday Marko’s father Martti Ahtisaari, the former president of Finland, was honoured with the Nobel Peace Price.

Our warmly felt congratulations to the Ahtisaari family.

(The photo, which comes from the Guardian website shows Marko and his father in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 2 1973. Ahtisaari was then the Finnish ambassador in Tanzania.)

8 October 2008

Carphone Warehouse publishes latest Mobile Life Report

Mobile Life
Carphone Warehouse, the British mobile phone retail chain, in conjunction with the London School of Economics, has released its fifth Mobile Life report, a comprehensive study into the technology usage habits of children and adults in the UK and US.

While the press release stresses online safety concerns for children, with a significant difference between a parent’s understanding of their child’s online activity and the reality of content being accessed, the report itself is much broader in scope.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Mobile replaces TV as the most essential technology
  • Holidays are incomplete without some online interaction
  • The internet plays a central role in planning free time
  • Nearly one in three young people prefer chatting to friends online than face to face
  • One in three UK kids and one in four US kids argue with their parents about how long they spend online
  • The internet is crucial for maintaining networks of family and friends
  • One third of adults admitted checking their partners’ email
  • 14% of kids have found themselves in a situation which made them feel uncomfortable
  • Only 2% of UK adults still uses letters to stay in touch with friends
8 October 2008

Teens, video games and civics

PEW_logo
This US survey by Pew Internet with the support of the MacArthur Foundation finds that teens’ gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interaction and civic engagement.

The main conclusions:

  • Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day. Game playing experiences are diverse, with the most popular games falling into the racing, puzzle, sports, action and adventure categories.
  • Game playing is also social, with most teens playing games with others at least some of the time and can incorporate many aspects of civic and political life.
  • Another major finding is that game playing sometimes involves exposure to mature content, with almost a third of teens playing games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are.

- Read more
Download report

7 October 2008

Between a rock and an interface

Jupiter
Designers and developers should be consulting their psychologists, says BBC columnist Bill Thompson.

“Major sites like Facebook are constantly being redesigned on the basis of little real understanding of how people engage with their computers.

Vast amounts of work have been done in our attempt to understand human psychology, and the investigation of how we can use computer systems for co-operative work has been going on for decades. Yet few of today’s user interface designers seem to make use of the things we already know.

The research carried out by psychologists is important because it involves proper experiments, with control groups, null hypotheses and statistical analysis – all the things that focus groups and usability labs don’t have.

Making use of the results in the real world is not easy, but it is very worthwhile, despite the temptations to skip the hard stuff and just get on and build the website or launch the computer.”

Read full story

7 October 2008

The New York Times on design thinking

Magnetic paint
Janet Rae-Dupree of the New York Times explores the latest about design thinking:

“The word “design” tends to conjure up images of crisp graphics, nicely arranged interiors or pleasing packaging. But a growing cadre of advocates say the world of design has much more to offer corporate America.

They are proponents of “design thinking,” which focuses on people’s actual needs rather than trying to persuade them to buy into what businesses are selling. It revolves around field research followed by freewheeling idea generation that often leads to unexpected results. […]

While definitions vary, design thinking usually involves a period of field research — usually close observation of people — to generate inspiration and a better understanding of what is needed, followed by open, nonjudgmental generation of ideas. After a brief analysis, a number of the more promising ideas are combined and expanded to go into “rapid prototyping,” which can vary from a simple drawing or text description to a three-dimensional mock-up. Feedback on the prototypes helps hone the ideas so that a select few can be used.”

Read full story

7 October 2008

Recent reports from the Nokia Research Center

Nokia Research Center
The Nokia Research Center has recently published some technical reports that could be interesting for some of our readers:

User perception and usability of MyNet concepts
Advances in Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and web technologies have recently enabled P2P personal and social networking. The key to the success of such systems is middleware and tools that will allow non-expert consumers to manage their networks and share their resources easily and intuitively. This is the motivation behind MyNet, a P2P platform that enables non-expert users to easily organize their resources and share them in their immediate social neighborhood. MyNet was designed based on a user-centered approach: using real-world metaphors in the core system, leveraging NFC-based touch to mirror human behavior models, and involving actual users in the design process.
Report download

Homebird – task-based user experience for home networks and smart spaces
Contemporary wireless networks in people’s homes are already enabling consumer electronics devices to communicate with each other. Standards like Universal Plug and Play are being developed for interoperability between devices from different manufacturers. For example, a digital media player device is able to display video clips from a home PC or play music from portable devices. Development of the user experience is also needed to have devices perform tasks in concert. Homebird is a demonstration of a task- based user experience on a mobile phone. It discovers features of other devices automatically and suggests to the user that certain tasks can be performed together with those devices.
Report download

4 October 2008

Mobile Revolutions

Mobile revolutions
Mobile Revolutions is a great blog about mobile phones, youth and social change by Lisa Campbell, that I discovered via Mobile Active. What’s more, she has actually taken the time to write a lengthy, seriously researched and in-depth paper to dwell on the subjects that are dear to her (and important to us).

“In this paper I outline the transformative power of new media technologies in Latin American contexts as tools for social change, comparing examples of youth digital activism from both Costa Rican and Panamanian contexts. Focusing on two types of Social Media, both Social Networks and Mobile Communication are examined as tools for Central American youth activists. In my conclusion I summarize the effects of national media policies, the situation of the digital divide and its effect on media democracy. The powerful nature of Citizen Media illustrates how overcoming the digital divide can produce democratic access to the media and societies’ larger institutions for social change.”

You can read it in one go, or split out over four chapters:

4 October 2008

The Internet of Things by Rob van Kranenburg

The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things. A critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID
by Rob van Kranenburg
Network Notebook #2, September 2008
Report prepared by Rob van Kranenburg for the Institute of Network Cultures with contributions by Sean Dodson

The Internet of Things is a critique of ambient technology and the all-seeing network of RFID by Rob van Kranenburg. Rob examines what impact RFID and other systems, will have on our cities and our wider society. He tells of his early encounters with the kind of location-based technologies that will soon become commonplace, and what they may mean for us all. He explores the emergence of the “internet of things”, tracing us through its origins in the mundane back-end world of the international supply chain to the domestic applications that already exist in an embryonic stage. He also explains how the adoption of he technologies of the City Control is not inevitable, nor something that we must kindly accept nor sleepwalk into. In van Kranenburg’s account of the creation of the international network of Bricolabs, he also suggests how each of us can help contribute to building technologies of trust and empower ourselves in the age of mass surveillance and ambient technologies.

The Internet of Things is the second issue in the series of Network Notebooks and features an introduction by journalist and writer Sean Dodson.

Rob van Kranenburg currently works at Waag Society as program leader for the Public Domain and wrote earlier an article about this topic in the Waag magazine and is the co-founder of the DIFR Network.

Free download

(via Bruce Sterling)

2 October 2008

Writing for Core77

Core77
Just in case you don’t know, Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken also writes for Core77, the online design magazine. He takes a somewhat different angle there and post items on “Core” that do not really fit with the Putting People First themes.

His latest post is about a new Milan-conceived desktop concept (which actually is also quite relevant for Putting People First). Earlier posts can be accessed from this archive page (which still sports Core77’s old logo).

1 October 2008

“Resistance is Futile”: reading science fiction alongside ubiquitous computing

Crucible
The Crucible/Microsoft HCI Reading Group at Cambridge University is a journal-reading group dedicated to review and critique of recent theoretical developments in human-computer interaction.

In early August, the group discussed a draft manuscript from Paul Dourish (UC, Irvine) and Genevieve Bell (Intel) that is currently under review, entitled “‘Resistance is Futile': Reading Science Fiction Alongside Ubiquitous Computing”.

Abstract
Design-oriented research is an act of collective imagining – a way in which we work together to bring about a future that lies slightly out of our grasp. In this paper, we examine the collective imagining of ubiquitous computing by bringing it into alignment with a related phenomenon, science fiction, in particular as imagined by a series of shows that form part of the cultural backdrop for many members of the research community. A comparative reading of these fictional narratives highlights a series of themes that are also implicit in the research literature. We argue both that these themes are important considerations in the shaping of technological design, and that an attention to the tropes of popular culture holds methodological value for ubiquitous computing.

Download paper (pdf, temporary available at this url)

(via Nicolas Nova)

1 October 2008

Interview with Nathan Shedroff

Nathan Shedroff
Nik Baerten, partner of the Belgian foresight consultancy Pantopicon, recently conducted a long interview with Nathan Shedroff, chair of the Design Strategy MBA programme at CCA, information designer, experience strategist, author of Experience Design and Making meaning, and many more things.

What do futures studies & design have in common? How does he look at the power of experiences as catalysts for communication and learning? What are his views on the role of design in our current and possible future societies?

Read interview

1 October 2008

LIFT Asia 08 vides online

LIFT09
The first LIFT Asia 08 are online. My favourites:

Mobiles and the urban poor – Bruce Sterling

Bruce Sterling’s talk at LIFT Asia, about how the poor are moving to cities, using mobile technologies to access services like payment, was impressive.

But what made it simply brilliant was his discussion on how the future collapse of North Korea will present South Korea with a challenge of enormous proportions, and how mobile technology and mobile payment can be part of the solution:

“When you are working on cell phones, when you are working on the web, when you are working on electronic money and payment systems, you need to think: What if my user is a North-Korean? How would I do this differently if I knew my user was from Pyongyang, that his regime had collapsed, that his economy had collapsed, he was completely bewildered, and he had never seen a cell phone or a computer in his life, and I intended to make him a productive and happy fellow citizen in ten years, what kind of technology would I give that person, what kind of trading system, economic system?”

According to LIFT organiser Laurent Haug he moved a large part of the audience, leaving a strange silence in the room as they came out for the break.

The Long Here, the Big Now, and other tales of the networked city – Adam Greenfield

Adam Greenfield, head of design director at Nokia, talks about the emotional aspects of living in a networked city. What happens when the choices of action in the city are not only physical, but also influenced by an invisible overlay of networked information?