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Putting People First

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December 2008
8 December 2008

Visualisation and design – new tools to help with information overload

Refugee visualisation
Alice Rawsthorn, design critic at the International Herald Tribune, writes this week on visualisation design, which uses advanced software to illustrate complicated data so that we (that’s the 99.99 percent of us without doctorates in applied mathematics) can understand it.

“Visualization comes in the form of still images, moving ones and three-dimensional models that depict elusive, often abstract phenomena such as the movement of Internet traffic, scientific theories or a city’s emotional landscape.” [...]

“There’s one simple reason why visualization is becoming so important, and that’s our desire to understand what’s happening in the world at a time when it’s becoming harder and harder to do so.”

The article is in part based upon conversations with Paola Antonelli (MoMA), as well as Ben Fry and Casey Reas (Processing).

[Casey was a former colleague of mine at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea].

- Read full story
View slide show

7 December 2008

Experimenting with Facebook groups

Facebook
As an experiment, we created two new Facebook groups today:

Interaction Design Institute Ivrea
This group is open to all who ever worked, studied, consulted or visited Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and liked what happened there. It complements an existing and popular email list.

Putting People First
This new Facebook platform for Putting People First readers grew out of the need some of you sometimes feel to post things quickly and share it within our professional community. This new Putting People First space is yours. Use it to share, to announce, to post, to plug.

Let me know on Facebook itself if this is something that you find useful.

7 December 2008

Mobiles for advocacy

Moiab
The Tactical Technology Collective, an international NGO helping human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximise the impact of their advocacy work, has just released “Mobiles in-a-Box“, a collection of tools, tactics, how-to guides, and case studies designed to help advocacy organizations use mobile technology in their work.

Included are sections on conducting surveys and petitions, mobile fundraising, creating a mobile website, setting up an SMS hub, and more.

(via ShareIdeas)

7 December 2008

Johannesburg conference showcases African bottom-up innovation in mobile phone use

MobileActive08
If you are interested in bottom-up innovation within emerging markets using mobile phones, the recent MobileActive08 conference (more here) in Johannesburg, South Africa generated a wealth of materials. Below are some videos:

Mobiles and news gathering at Al Jazeera
Safdar Mustafa, head of Al Jazeera’s mobile media unit, describes some trials where mobile phones were used for news gathering in Chad and the Sahara.

Money, mobiles, micro-business
Jonathan Donner, from Microsoft, talks about the transformation that has been brought upon the way small/informal businesses function using mobile devices (specifically mobile phones). He provides an anecdote on one businessman he knows – a baker, whose business flourished due to the use of a mobile phone he acquired. Included in this video are examples of how this technology enhances the efficiency of product/service delivery by informal businesses.

No difference in how Zambian men and women use mobile phones
Here Kutoma Wakunuma discusses whether women how women are using mobile technology including what are the barriers and social implications. Dr Kutoma revealed that there is no difference in how men and women use cellular phones and also no difference in the socio-economic potential of mobile usage. She unveiled that mobiles phones decrease isolation among women in society and provide easy and fast communication, especially as the price of mobile phones is becoming cheaper by the day. She added that cellular phones encourage job creation for women who sell airtime and those who run public phone stations. They help in emergencies and danger and have made a major impact in health information as some people access counselling through mobile phones on an anonymous basis.

Measuring social impact of mobiles
Dr Peter Benjamin, the General Manager at Cell-Life, together with Patricia Mechal, the Millenium Villages Project advisor hosted a workshop at the MobileActive08 conference. The workshop, on Mobile Metrics and Evaluation explored the importance of investigating the social impact of initiatives that introduce mobiles into societies expecting the impact to be an inherently positive one. The workshop also dealt with how such initiatives tend to be ignorant of the negative repercussions such projects may have.

Microsoft launches ‘Midas’
Microsoft representatives Fredrik Winsnes and Ian Puttergill talk on the MIDAS prototype, a mobile survey application for developing contexts.
MIDAS is based on a Microsoft driven research initiative based in India, to develop an SMS application for improving the farmer’s access to timely and critical information.
The MIDAS prototype allows farmers to send an SMS query pertaining to details about the local crop market, and an almost immediate response is sent back with the appropriate details.
The project is about making farming efficient, and increasing availability.

Mobiles and citizen media
David Sasaki and Juliana Rotich discuss the role of Global Voices online and Ushahidi.com in leveraging citizen media during the post-election violence in Kenya.

Banking the unbankables
Jesse Moore of GSMA development fund facilitated a workshop at mobileactive08 which evaluated mbanking and mpayment and the evolution of these services within the market. The social impact these services could have on people who are not banking, how mobile banking and payments would work and the future of this service were topics addressed in the workshop.

Mymsta – a loveLife conception
Trina DasGupta, loveLife Mobile Marketing Specialist shares the process that went into creating mymsta.com. A youth website geared at guiding the youth towards making their move. Mymsta is about mobilising young people towards positive change. Its about giving them a forum to share their views, on everything from relationships to employment.

Gary Marsden, mobile interaction designer
Interview filmed at MobileActive08 in Johannesburg, featuring Gary Marsden from the University of Cape Town.

Social SMS gets message across
Activists are boosting their social campaigns by piggy backing on “please call me’s”, flashes and beeps.
Please call me’s are free messages that cellphone users send to get friends and loved ones to call them back.
Jonathan Donner (Microsoft Research India) and Robin Miller (Praekelt Foundation) tell how to use please call me’s to maximise social campaigns and call-centre traffic.

Erik Hersman of whiteafrican.com
Interview with Erik Hersman from whiteafrican.com, shot at MobilActive08 in Johannesburg.

Freedomfone’s fresh look at radio
Mobile’s answer to radio is the Freedomfone. Freedomfone gives users access to dial-up information and services over their mobile. Dubbed ‘dial-up radio’, the service will be invaluable in societies where many people own cellphones but draconian governments have restricted access to newspapers and the airwaves.

Save sea-life with your cell
eMobile phones are becoming the latest gadget used for environmental activism. iVeri payment technology has developed a mobile system for the Southern Africa Sustainable Seafood Institute (sassi)where the public can text a query. The system then sends back a prompt short message reply informing the consumer who is about to make a seafood purchase about the sustainability of the sea life product and other health parameters.

Burma’s GenX activists
Digital Democracy 2.0’s Emily Jacobs and Marc Belinsky show how Burmese (Myanmar) youth use cellphones to communicate with the outside world on political issues that are suppressed by the government.

Mobile’s ‘Dark Side’
“What are the real risks of mobile surveillance?” Al Alegre, executive director of the Foundation for media alternatives has conducted research in 5 Asian countries to investigate the dark side and vulnerabilities in digital interactions and discovered there are threats both internal and external.

Mobile use in low income areas
The use of mobiles in South Africa has increased over the years in low income areas. Tino Kreutzer a masters student at UCT conducted a pilot study into how the youth in low income areas are using mobiles, what this data means and where can researchers go now that they have this data available.

Mobile phones in rural development and agriculture
Ugo Vallauri, David Newman and Jonathan Campaigne discuss small farm productivity issues which are key to economic growth and poverty reduction. They discuss how farmers are not effectively linked to the larger industry and therefore how mobiles phones can be used to help with this area. Farmers use these phones which allow people to enter markets and improve access to partners thereby improving their likelihoods and food security.

Here is the full list of videos

7 December 2008

Audio interview with Nokia’s Adam Greenfield

Adam Greenfield
Podcamp Barcelona’s Chris Pinchen interviewed Nokia’s Adam Greenfield at Visualizar ’08 (Madrid, Spain) the day after the US elections.

Their conversation ranged widely over subjects including corporate Situationism, fear of ubicomp, the technological disparity between everyday life in the US and that in other parts of the world, and the odd and occasionally uncomfortable freedoms afforded anyone living in a culture to which they are not native.

Listen to interview: part 1 | part 2

(via Adam Greenfield)

7 December 2008

Design revolution or social revolution?

Saint-Etienne
Over the last week, I have been helping out Marcia Caines with editing her thoughtful review of the Saint-Etienne design biennial (She helped me out before on editing my piece on the Turin design policy conference).

Take a look, it is a very insightful write-up with some provoking questions at the end.

7 December 2008

Human Centered Design for small holder farmers

Small holder
A team at IDEO led by Tatyana Mamout and Jessica Hastings has been working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently to develop a toolkit to help NGO’s apply human centered design methodologies to the work they do with small holder farmers.

IDE, one of the NGO’s supported by Gates, collaborated closely with the team and co-developed the toolkit and tested it in the field.

The toolkit can be downloaded here and while it would need to be adapted for use in other categories it may be a useful starting point for others who are working on design problems for the poor and under served.

(via Tim Brown)

7 December 2008

Interview with Microsoft UX designer Ruth Kikin-Gil

Ruth Kikin-Gil
Ruth Kikin-Gil is the UX Design Lead at Microsoft’s Office Labs, a Microsoft innovation group which focuses on the future of productivity and information work, and an alumnus of the acclaimed Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

In this 20-minute audio interview, Qixing Zheng, a UX advisor at Microsoft Canada, talks with Ruth about her work and the Office Lab in general.

3 December 2008

Getting real about agile design

Agile
Very good and long article by Cennydd Bowles on the relation between design and agile development.

“For many designers, Agile is already a fact of life (and for those less accustomed, some recommended reading follows at the foot of this article). We are reaching the point where we must either acclimatize or risk being bypassed. The good news is that Agile does allow us to still do the things we hold dear—research, develop a vision, and test and improve our designs—we just need new techniques. Now is the time to get real, and prove design can adapt, if we want to stay relevant in these increasingly unreal times.”

Read full story

1 December 2008

The many futures of our digital lives

Genevieve Bell
We all live in a digital world, although it means different things to different people. In her inaugural public lecture as Adelaide’s Thinker in Residence, Intel’s Genevieve Bell will explore how digital technology is shaping our lives, our culture, and our future.

Dr Genevieve Bell is an anthropologist and ethnographer with both an academic and industry background. Her research has provided considerable insight to the importance of culture in the adoption and adaptation of technology. She is currently the Director of User Experience in Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group in the United States.

Listen to lecture (mp3, 48 min, 16.5 mb)

1 December 2008

Book: Grown Up Digital

Grown Up Digital
McGraw-Hill is pitching me books and now and then I request a copy because the subject matter interests me greatly.

Don Tapscott’s “Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World” is such a book. It explains how digital technology has affected the children of the baby boomers, a group he calls the Net Generation, and how these kids are poised to transform society in a fundamental way.

What’s more, Tapscott (who also co-authored Wikinomics) drew for his book on a $4 million research project that undertook more than 11,000 interviews with Net Geners, along with scientific studies, input from academics and leaders in business, education and government.

Since I am not a professional reviewer, book reading is an extracurricular activity that takes me somewhat more time. I am only a third done, and on the whole the balance is positive. So this is an in-between observation — provoked by a few other reviews that I don’t want to withhold you from — yet I am likely to come back to the book once I am done with it.

Although the book’s descriptive pieces tend to be a bit non-surprising for an astute observer, the analysis is first class. Tapscott has a knack for condensing his insights in strong synthesis that is just excellent.

Here is a short excerpt:

THE EIGHT NET GENERATION NORMS
If Wonder bread builds strong bodies in 12 ways, this generation is different from its parents in 8 ways. We call these 8 differentiating characteristics the Net Generation Norms. Each norm is a cluster of attitudes and behaviors that define the generation. These norms are central to understanding how this generation is changing work, markets, learning, the family, and society. You’ll read about them throughout the book.

  • They want freedom in everything they do, from freedom of choice to freedom of expression. [...]
  • They love to customize, personalize. [...]
  • They are the new scrutinizers. [...]
  • They look for corporate integrity and openness when deciding what to buy and where to work. [...]
  • The Net Gen wants entertainment and play in their work, education, and social life. [...]
  • They are the collaboration and relationship generation. [...]
  • The Net Gen has a need for speed — and not just in video games. [...]
  • They are the innovators.

A recent Economist review provides a very good summary of the book and underlines the two things that Tapscott worries about:

“One is the inadequacy of the education system in many countries; while two-thirds of Net Geners will be the smartest generation ever, the other third is failing to achieve its potential. Here the fault is the education, not the internet, which needs to be given a much bigger role in classrooms (real and virtual). The second is the net generation’s lack of any regard for personal privacy, which Mr Tapscott says is a ‘serious mistake, and most of them don’t realise it.'”

Tapscott himself meanwhile has done his own bit to promote the book, not in the least through his eight (!) part article series for Business Week:

  • Net Geners come of age
    A new generation of Americans that has grown up digital are poised to make history on Election Day, if the polls are right.
     
  • How digital technology has changed the brain
    By their 20s, young people will have spent more than 30,000 hours on the Internet and playing video games. That’s not such a bad thing.
     
  • Net Gen transforms marketing
    The author of Grown Up Digital explains how Web savvy among the Net Generation (the boomers’ kids) will change how goods are bought and sold.
     
  • How to hire the Net Generation
    Hiring the under-30, digitally savvy young workers who will be the next generation of managers requires adapting recruitment strategies to fit the demographic.
     
  • How to teach and manage ‘Generation Net’
    The sage-on-stage model no longer works. To reach the Internet Generation’s members, engage them in conversation and let them work in groups.
     
  • Supervising Net Gen
    Forget top-down management. To harness the potential of young employees, you’ll need to collaborate and give them lots of feedback.
     
  • Focus on the Net Gen family
    The kids who grew up digital are closer to their parents than the previous generation. And they’ll bring new attitudes into the workplace.
     
  • The Net Generation takes the lead
    Enabled by the Web and digital technology, the Net Generation is transforming media, politics, and culture. Will older generations stand in the way?