Putting People First

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July 2009
14 July 2009

danah boyd on new habits in a connected world

danah boyd
danah boyd, a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard University Berkman Center for Internet and Society, got incensed at an Italian conference and bites back:

“I’m 31 years old. I’ve been online since I was a teen. I’ve grown up with this medium and I embrace each new device that brings me closer to being a cyborg. I want information at my fingertips now and always. There’s no doubt that I’m not mainstream. But I also feel really badly for the info-driven teens and college students out there being told that learning can only happen when they pay attention to an audio-driven lecture in a classroom setting. I read books during my classroom (blatantly not paying attention). Imagine what would’ve happened had I been welcome to let my mind run wild on the topic at hand?

What will it take for us to see technology as a tool for information enhancement? At the very least, how can we embrace those who learn best when they have an outlet for their questions and thoughts? How I long for being connected to be an acceptable part of engagement. “

Read full story

(via The FASTForward Blog)

14 July 2009

Personal transformations in the Internet Age

In a BoingBoing guest blog, Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, discusses the personal transformations everyone goes through as they age, and how in the new age of connectivity, these former selves sometimes come back to haunt us.

“How will personal transformations be achieved in this era of persistent and vivid reference points from the past? I see these transformations as an integral and necessary part of going through life, a part of creating new selves as one matures, learns, and acquires new life experiences. What tools and practices will we develop to shed the old reference points as a part of such transformations? In other words, what is the new equivalent of the old shoebox or cobwebbed attic in the Internet era?”

Read full story

14 July 2009

Playful innovation and simplicity by Philips

In an exploration into how games can add value to the innovation process, Philips Design has created ‘Spark’, a board game that stimulates creativity and innovative thinking.

To play Spark, the players move counters representing different characters around the board, with each space along the way describing a certain situation. By considering the potential outcomes for the particular character and situation, a lot of genuinely creative and even ‘out of the box’ ideas are generated. These are used to enrich insight generation during the workshops. The game has proved so successful that there is talk of developing versions for other regions (at the moment it is targeted specifically at Europe) and also using it in other sectors within Philips.

Read full story
Download backgrounder (pdf)

Related info:

  • Video interview with Birgitta ten Napel, Director Market Driven Innovation at Philips Consumer Lifestyle, on how ‘Spark’ adds value to the innovation process
  • Essay by Slava Koslov, Senior Consultant Strategic Futures at Philips Design, on how serious games can generate new ideas and future scenarios

Philips Research meanwhile has created SimplicityLabs as a testing ground for upcoming technologies and applications. It is a place where users can see, evaluate and contribute to new interaction concepts. It allows the company to get user feedback early on, and to improve their applications to suit user needs, well before they hit the market.

(via uselog)

13 July 2009

Nokia patents gestural phone controls

Nokia sleeve
A promotional video earlier today, and now a patent application — too much of a coincidence:

“We know that Nokia is looking into more areas than just buttons and touchscreens for phone controls, and a recently revealed patent has shed light on an option the Finnish phone manufacturer is considering.

The patent looks at wearable electronics as a way of controlling handsets and appears to be one possible physical implementation of gesture control, something Nokia has admitted to be looking into previously.

The patent sees embedded sensors in fabric that react to the movement of human skin. As the skin stretches, the fabric would work out what kind of gesture your hand was making and wirelessly send the command to the phone.

As well as phones, this kind of input could also be adapted for game consoles, media players and laptops and alternatively the wearable electronics transmitting the commands might take the form of glasses or jewellery.”

Read more

13 July 2009

Nokia’s Younghee Jung on mobile gesture design

Gesture design
The Nokia Conversations blog reports:

Designing gestures to help you interact with your device in intuitive ways is a challenge that Nokia is grabbing with both hands and welcoming with a respectful bow. Younghee Jung is one of Nokia’s explorative designers, and she’s keenly leading the design investigation process into what makes a gesture work in real life and what it means to real people from different countries and cultures.

In this video Younghee explains more about what goes into designing gestures for Nokia devices, and conducts some live research on the streets of London, speaking to local people and equipping them with a plastic mono-block phone prop, to find out how they would use gestures for certain tasks.

13 July 2009

Craiglist founder on the changing balance between authority and the crowd

Craig Newmark
In a short video interview on Nokia’s IdeasProject Craigslist founder and customer service expert Craig Newmark says Internet connectivity is adjusting the balance between centralized expertize and the power derived from online consumer reviews, networking and other forms of user feedback, lending weight to our existing system of grass roots democracy.

Watch interview
– Related content: Wired videoHuffington Post article

10 July 2009

Augmenting Venice

The MIT Mobile Experience Laboratory has just published a recent project about location-based media, focusing on how the future of mobile contents are related to the physical environment. The project, Locast, was made in collaboration with RAI New Media in Italy.

Locast is an innovative platform for sharing and discovering location-based user-generated videos and production quality multimedia content provided by RAI New media. It consists of a combination of Mobile and Wearable Computing elements supported by a distributed Web application.

Locast seeks to shift the innovation from the wide-spread concept of Web 2.0 to the promising framework of Space 2.0 that keeps the physical and social characteristics of the Italian cities and augment them with the potential offered by pervasive computing.

MIT MEL ran a user test in Venice (Italy) during the days between July 2 and July 10, 2009.

10 July 2009

Book: Mobile Communication

Mobile Communication
Mobile Communication
by Rich Ling and Jonathan Donner
Polity, 2009
200 pages

With staggering swiftness, the mobile phone has become a fixture of daily life in almost every society on earth. In 2007, the world had over 3 billion mobile subscriptions. Prosperous nations boast of having more subscriptions than people. In the developing world, hundreds of millions of people who could never afford a landline telephone now have a mobile number of their own. With a mobile in our hand many of us feel safer, more productive, and more connected to loved ones, but perhaps also more distracted and less involved with things happening immediately around us.

Written by two leading researchers in the field, this volume presents an overview of the mobile telephone as a social and cultural phenomenon. Research is summarized and made accessible though detailed descriptions of ten mobile users from around the world. These illustrate popular debates, as well as deeper social forces at work. The book concludes by considering three themes: 1) the tighter interlacing of daily activities 2) a revolution of control in the social sphere, and 3) the arrival of a world where the majority of its inhabitants are reachable, anytime, anywhere.

Rich Ling is senior researcher at the Telenor Research Institute in Norway.
Jonathan Donner is researcher for Microsoft Research India.

10 July 2009

Privacy requires security, not abstinence

Internet privacy
In a long essay on Technology Review, Simson Garfinkel reflects on what protecting an inalienable right might mean in the age of Facebook.

“Privacy matters. Data privacy protects us from electronic crimes of opportunity–identity theft, stalking, even little crimes like spam. Privacy gives us the right to meet and speak confidentially with others–a right that’s crucial for democracy, which requires places for political ideas to grow and mature. Absolute privacy, also known as solitude, gives us to space to grow as individuals. Who could learn to write, draw, or otherwise create if every action, step, and misstep were captured, immortalized, and evaluated? And the ability to conduct transactions in privacy protects us from both legal and illegal discrimination.

Until recently, people who wanted to preserve their privacy were urged to “opt out” or abstain from some aspects of modern society. Concerned about having your purchases tracked by a credit-card company? Use cash. Concerned that E-ZPass records might be used against you in a lawsuit? Throw coins at that toll booth. Don’t want to show your ID at the airport? Drive. Don’t want your location tracked minute by minute? Turn off your cell phone. And be in a minority: faced with the choice of convenience or privacy, Americans have overwhelmingly chosen the former. Companies like TJX haven’t even suffered from allowing their customers’ personal data to be leaked.

Now, however, abstinence no longer guarantees privacy. Of course, it never really did. But until the past two decades it was always possible to keep some private information out of circulation. Today, although you can avoid the supermarket savings card, the market will still capture your face with its video cameras. You can use cash, but large cash transactions are reported to the federal government. You can try to live without the Internet–but you’ll be marginalized. Worse, you won’t be able to participate in the public debate about how your privacy is wasting away–because that debate is happening online. And no matter what you do, it won’t prevent your information from being stored in commercial networked systems.”

Read full story

(via InternetActu)

10 July 2009

The rating game

The spread of Internet rankings and reviews is freeing consumers to focus on the decisions that matter, writes Kevin Maney in the current issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

“The more technology can help with decisions, the better life will be. Guided by ratings and personalized suggestions, I’ll more likely end up doing things I enjoy and using professionals who do their jobs well. On the other end, I won’t waste so much time or money trying to find the right kickboxing class or financial adviser. I can then devote my brain cells to higher-level problems the Web can’t yet solve, like how to get my teenagers to clean their rooms.”

Read full story

(via InternetActu)

10 July 2009

Introduction to service design

Introduction to service design
Culminatum Ltd – Helsinki Region Centre of Expertise has published a great online tool, entitled Introduction to service design.

“The purpose of this digital communications tool is to establish a common ground and a starting point for discussion on service design. By publishing this tool we wanted to make it possible for any service sector professional to become aware of service design and to gain better understanding of service design in practice.

‘Introduction to service design’ gives you an overview on service design process. Some of the most commonly used tools and practices are also introduced.”

The online tool, which was financially supported by the City of Helsinki and Laurea University of Applied Sciences, consists of four chapters — Why service design?, Customer journey, How to design the service experience? and Is service design for you? — and also contains a helpful terminology section.

The main authors were Maisa Kuha, Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences (Chapter 2), Birgit Mager, University of Applied Sciences Cologne (Chapter 3, 4 and key terms section) and Markku Nurminen of Zone Interactions Ltd.

Unfortunately the interface is entirely in Flash, which makes copying text or printing it out virtually impossible. No pdf version seems to be available.

10 July 2009

Rural India

Rural India
The Wall Street Journal and India Knowledge@Wharton present a unique mix of reporting, analysis, interviews and video on life and business in rural India. The Rural India reader resource combines specially-commissioned material with recent articles.

A selection of articles relevant to the topics of this blog:

Vikram Akula: mobile banking could be the future of microfinance
In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, Vikram Akula, founder and CEO of SKS Microfinance, spoke about emerging trends in microfinance.

India’s rural poor: why housing isn’t enough to create sustainable communities
The real story of rural India must be told with more than five hundred million characters who live on less than a dollar a day, most of them in terrible living conditions.

The poor deserve world-class products and services
C.K. Prahalad has long championed the notion that business — rather than government handouts — represents the most effective solution to poverty.

Rural India Snaps Up Mobile Phones
India’s cellphone industry continues its steady growth, led by demand from rural consumers, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Doing well by doing good?
The mobile phone is now one of the hottest development tools world-wide, with corporations eyeing untapped rural markets in the hope that new mobile-phone services can boost rural incomes and corporate revenue at the same time.

10 July 2009

Personas, devices, enterprises and diaries to illustrate life in 2020

Life in 2020
Wired UK reports on a new foresight project by Ericsson:

Ericsson, the company that, with Sony, gave birth to Sony Ericsson in 2001, has unveiled its Life in 2020 project, which involved 450 experts from inside and outside the company coming together to predict how technology will be used in the future.

Erik Kruse, from Ericsson, headed up the project. His team included people from the consultancy firm McKinsey, as well as the Institute for the Future in California and the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies.

They were asked to draw together information on socio-economic trends, consumer buying patterns and the sustainability of certain technologies to determine how life will have changed in the next decade. This included whether social attitudes towards green products will have changed, what new industries may be providing employment, and whether issues like a growing elderly population may have been addressed.

The team then created 15 personas from 2020, including a 37-year old space engineer from New Zealand, a Brazilian farmer and a 22-year old computer specialist from Indonesia. On the 2020 website, you can see each of these people and then click on them to explore what technology, including specific gadgets, they use in their daily lives.

There are a total of 70 hypothetical mobile devices and services for these characters, delivered by 22 hypothetical companies.

Read full story

9 July 2009

Google on designing useful mobile services for Africa

Africa post
Last week Google announced a suite of SMS services in Uganda. In a follow-up post on the main google blog, the company explains that it is the result of more than a year of true user-centred research and design.

“We knew we wanted to build useful mobile services tailored to the needs of people in sub-Saharan Africa, but how could we find out what people want from the Internet when they don’t have access to it already? What would people who had never used search before want to search for if we gave them a mobile phone and said “Ask any question you like”?

In early 2008 we set out with colleagues from, Grameen Applab and MTN (a network carrier in Uganda) with this challenge in mind. Our research needed to be able to assess the feasibility of delivering information via mobile in Uganda as well as evaluate the content “appetites” of local people. Since no search engine existed for testing, we did the next best thing: We decided to mimic the experience of using a search engine using human experts.”

Read full story

You can find more background information on the Africa Gathering site.

9 July 2009

Supportive relationships are key to tackling social ills

State of loneliness
The [British] government’s new public services reforms focus on rights and entitlements, but, argues Charles Leadbeater in this piece for The Guardian, supportive relationships are key to tackling social ills.

“Radical public services innovation will only come from a markedly different starting point. The key will be to redesign services to enable more mutual self-help, so that people can create and sustain their own solutions. The best way to do more with less is to enable people to do more for themselves and not need an expensive, professionalised public service. Enabling people to come together to find their own, local solutions should become one of the main goals of public services. Services do a better job when they leave behind stronger, supportive relationships for people to draw on and so not need a service.”

Read full story

9 July 2009

The Generation M Manifesto

Umair Haque
Umair Haque has a message for the G8:

“Dear Old People Who Run the World,

My generation would like to break up with you.

Everyday, I see a widening gap in how you and we understand the world — and what we want from it. I think we have irreconcilable differences.”

Read manifesto (and check the links)

9 July 2009

Book: Social by Social

Social by Social
Social by Social – a practical guide to using new technologies to deliver social impact
by Andy Gibson, Nigel Courtney, Amy Sample Ward, David Wilcox and Professor Clive Holtham
ISBN 978-1-906496-41-8

“New technologies are changing the way we engage communities, run companies, deliver public services, participate in government and campaign for change. These new technologies are available to all of us. And they offer us an amazing opportunity to change our world.”

“Social by Social is a practical guide to using new technologies to deliver social impact. It makes accessible the tools you need to engage a community, offer services, scale up activities and sustain projects. Whoever you are, it shows you how to take technology and turn it into real world benefits.

We want to help people in the public and third sectors do more good, by showing them the power of these technologies and how to access them. In the process, we hope we can also educate funders and policy workers about the huge shift of mindset and expectations needed to commission these projects successfully, to give the innovators more space to work.

Whether you’re a small charity wanting cheap web tools to support your work, a large organisation seeking to engage more effectively with your community, a civil servant charged with making public services more efficient, or just a concerned citizen on a personal mission, we hope there’s something here for you.

If you’re coming to this for the first time, you may just want to read about successful projects or get a view of the direction we think things are moving. Others of you may just want to skip to the practical bits and use the resources and tools we’ve collected to help you through the tricky bits in your project. Or you might just want to put the book on your coffee table to impress your friends. Throughout though, we’ve tried to signpost related content that you might find relevant to you so wherever you start, we’ll steer you in the right direction.”

Commissioned by the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), the book is available for free online, and you can buy a semi-colour version via digital print-on-demand.

9 July 2009

Service design tools

Service design tools
Service design tools – communication methods supporting design processes” is an open collection of communication tools used in design processes that deal with complex systems.

Compiled by Roberta Tassi for her thesis at the Politecnico di Milano, the 45 tools are displayed according to the design activity they are used for, the kind of representation they produce, the recipients they are addressed to, and the contents of the project they can convey.

“The thesis investigated the relation between communication design and service design, starting from the observation of the existing practices in the field of service design. The critical points and the opportunities concerning the use of communication tools during a service design process also emerged.

The aim of this website is to share with the (service) design community the results of the research and to build an open platform of knowledge: any comments and suggestions are appreciated.”

(via Design for Service, InfoDesign and Choosenick)

9 July 2009

Civic apps could redefine the way citizens interact with cities

Will smartphone connectivity become the new measure of civic engagement? Can the app replace the neighborhood association?

“While some might feel that engaging communities through handheld devices may erode civic bonds, apps that connect citizens to civil servants and elected officials could play an important role going forward. […]”

“Though not necessarily heralded as a hotbed of technological innovation, the City of Boston is plunging headlong into what may be the future of civic engagement by debuting an iPhone app connecting residents to city hall. The app, known as Citizen Connect, is the brainchild of a handful of mayoral aides and will allow residents to file complaints with the city by snapping a photo of a problem–a pothole, a fallen tree limb, a neighbor’s overgrown lawn–and sending it to city hall, complete with a geo-tag so city officials can find and fix the problem.”

Read full story

More info also here.

9 July 2009

Why designers need to focus on focus groups

Focus groups
Today, market research is a $19 billion industry and focus groups are one of the most expensive types of market research. The question is, asks Ravi Sawhney, founder and CEO of RKS, in Fast Company, what role should design play in the process?

“Long before our design concepts are tested, consumers are watched and engaged through everything imaginable, all in pursuit of the holy grail of profound market insight. But here’s the problem: What consumers do and what they say they do are very different things. Even what consumers think they do and what they actually do are different. This is where market research is greatly aided by including designers in the research process. Being involved during all stages of research triggers something in designers that would otherwise simply be lost in translation, no matter how it’s communicated.”

Read full story