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Putting People First

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October 2009
31 October 2009

Implementing digital TV in Italy: the other side of the digital revolution

Decoder
Italy is in the process of switching to digital TV, and the implementation is pretty much a disaster, as far as I can tell from the reactions in the region where I live (Piedmont). Many of the problems are technological, but not all. A volunteer force of ‘angels’ is doing what it can:

Here is quick translation of an article from today’s Repubblica newspaper:

“TRENTO – You can take everything away from them, but not the television. Put yourself in the shoes of Mrs. Livia, 78 years old, who lives in the middle of the mountains of the splendid Trentino region, doesn’t come out of the house from November to April, and has her television on all day long. When she was no longer able to watch the TV programs, she picked up the phone and called the ‘decoder angels’. “Help, my television doesn’t work anymore”. She soon became one of 6,000 elderly in the Trentino region who received personal assistance in setting up a digital TV decoder at their home. These are people who cannot (or do not want to) count on the help of children or other family and are already getting into trouble with wiring or the new remote control, let alone the now required channel tuning, which they sometimes have to do several times due to the various repetitor stations in the Trentino valleys.

This is the other side of the digital revolution – the one that after Sardinia and the Aosta Valley has now reached Piedmont and Trentino Alto Adige, with a slew of problems, complaints, doubts, protests, and threats not to pay the television tax any longer. Even when everything is fine on a technical level, the work inside the homes is just starting. The elderly are the most vulnerable, as shown by a research done by the Department of Sociology of the University of Trento. The study is based on the work done by the ‘decoder angels’, young people who have been installing decoders for free at the homes of those over 75, on a program subsidised by the local government.

Anxiety, anger, impatience: that’s what you get when you take away the television of an elderly person who is used to have that voice always in the background. It is a trauma for them. And then there are the technical problems: unable to adjust themselves to the double remote control, some elderly get confused, use the tv remote control to change the decoder settings, and vice versa, and then complain because the channel doesn’t change or the volume doesn’t go up. Elderly men, who tend to be more proud than women, try to make do. But it is not easy to connect a television set from the 70’s (yes, the angels also found those) to a decoder from 2009. And that’s if the antenna on the roof is fine and there is a free electrical outlet behind the television.

Panic strikes when an interactive menu appears during channel surfing: better then to turn everything off. Probably those in charge of the switch to digital didn’t think of the fact that those in charge of the implementation would often be the immigrant caretakers of the Italian elderly, who are not always able to read manuals in Italian. “It’s easy to say ‘digital’, but the real challenge is to bring the digital into the real lives of people,” explains Pierfrancesco Fedrizzi, who is in charge of communication for the project. The sociologist Carlo Buzzi, who authored the study, is more critical: he speaks about a revolution that is misunderstood, at least by the elderly users: “They are only interested in watching their usual channels. They don’t know nor understand the digital world, let alone anything interactive. “

30 October 2009

Nov-Dec 2009 edition of Interactions magazine online

Interactions
The November-December edition of Interactions Magazine is online and some articles are available without subscription.

Unfortunately, the main menu page doesn’t say which articles are publicly available (although without images) and which aren’t (what about ‘affordances’ in web design?), so I have selected the six that are:

interactions: social, authentic, and interdisciplinary
Jon Kolko

Catalyzing a perfect storm: mobile phone-based HIV-prevention behavioral interventions
Woodrow W. Winchester, III

Implications of user choice: the cultural logic of “MySpace or Facebook?”
danah boyd

On authenticity
Steve Portigal, Stokes Jones

When security gets in the way
Don Norman

The authenticity problem
John Kolko

A seventh one, by my business partner Michele Visciola, can be downloaded in a pre-publication version from this blog.

30 October 2009

Experientia partner Michele Visciola on people-centred innovation as culture evolution

Michele Visciola
Experientia partner Michele Visciola, who is also the president of Experientia, has written an article entitled “People-centered innovation or culture evolution?” that got published in the November-December edition of Interactions magazine.

Here is the abstract:

“The biological theory of evolution and its applications to cultural anthropology (Cavalli Sforza, 2006) create an interesting framework with which to regard user research practices and innovation strategies. Mutation (i.e., a significant abrupt change in a given value system) is a rare event but can occur in any culture. Natural selection is the pressure that operates on a given system of values and beliefs in order to select those behaviours that fit to the environmental conditions of use. Migration is the meshing of behaviours and attitudes that can lead to a change of values. Finally, Drift is the barrier to the entrance of new values in a given cultural system. A deep understanding of these forms of cultural evolution will allow companies to better frame innovation models. Whether it is based on participatory and voluntary shifts in usage conditions (i.e. mutation), or on integrating new services and features into existing products (creating conditions for migration and drift), innovation should favour the natural selection of people’s idea selection so that it can resist and endure.”

The full article is available for subscribers only, but you can download a pre-publication version here.

30 October 2009

The golden age of infinite music

Rock
John Harris has written an excellent article on the BBC News site on the social and cultural consequences of music being always available online in free and seemingly unlimited quantities:

“Not long ago, if you wanted music, you had to save up your pocket money, take a trip to the local record shop and lovingly leaf through its racks.

Now, it’s almost all free, instant and infinite. And our relationship with music has changed forever.”

Read full story

30 October 2009

Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels speaks at IxD Fall Summit

IxD Fall Summit
On 6 November Experientia partner Jan-Christoph Zoels will be speaking at the IxD Fall Summit 2009 organised by the Umeå Institute of Design.

Other speakers are German Leon (Vodafone User Experience, Germany), David Rose (Vitality, USA), Karsten Schmidt (PostSpectacular, UK), Reto Wettach & André Knörig (Potsdam, Interaction Design Lab and Fritzing, Germany) and Clive Van Heerden (Philips Design, The Netherlands).

30 October 2009

Videos of keynote speeches at Seoul design research conference

IASDR
Last week, the IASDR 2009 conference (International Association of Societies of Design Research) took place in Seoul, South Korea, and all videos of the keynote speeches are already available.

Donald A. Norman: Science and Design
I start with three contradictory views: First, that a science of design is already here; Second, that a science of design is possible, but not yet here; Third, that a science of design is neither possible nor appropriate. How can all three views be true? Because each speaks to a different aspect of the complex set of activities we lump together as design.
Three examples make the point: Engineers design, and for many, there already exists a science of design based upon rigorous methods of optimization, perhaps governed by critical axioms. Practitioners of interaction design, such as the human- or activity-centered approaches that I espouse, are active in the creation of a robust, repeatable science base. And finally, design has its creative and artistic side, developing novel solutions to “wicked” problems while providing aesthetically pleasing structures. Neither this kind of creativity nor its aesthetic sensibilities seem amenable to science, at least not yet.
But as the world grows more complex, more interconnected, with the underlying infrastructure less and less visible, hidden inside electronic and optical mechanisms, conveyed as all-powerful yet invisible information and knowledge, design more than ever needs a body of reliable, verifiable procedures. Science is the systematic method of building a reliable, verifiable, repeatable, and generalizable body of knowledge. Science is not a body of facts: it is a process. Design is the deliberate shaping of the environment in ways that satisfy individual and societal needs. Scientific methods can inform design. Designers can create a science of design.

Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders: Co-creation through generative design thinking
Co-creation is not just the next new thing in marketing. It is an alternative way of seeing and being in the world. Existing and thriving in the emerging co-creative landscapes will require the creation and application of new tools, methods and methodologies for connecting, innovating, making, telling and sharing. These generative tools must be useful and usable for all types of people. Generative design thinking provides a design language for all of us, designers as well as non-designers, to use in provoking the imagination, stimulating ideation, stirring the emotions, discovering unmet needs and facilitating embodiments of future possibilities. Examples of this generative design language in action, from projects ranging from consumer product and service development to the planning and architecture of new healthcare campuses, will be shared.
Building on the emerging co-creative landscapes will require that we hold new attitudes and mindsets about the people formerly known as ‘consumers’ or ‘users’. It will also require that designers and researchers take on new roles in addressing the rigor, relevance and sustainability needed for human-centered designing.

Kees Overbeeke: Eindhoven interaction design
The Eindhoven Industrial Design Department (ID) focuses on how to design for highly interactive intelligent systems. Our approach is shifting its research and teaching context from Human Product Interaction (HPI), mainly focused on opening up the functionality of a product, towards a broader approach to enhance dynamical aspects, interpersonal and societal values, including personal, aesthetic and socio-cultural ones, through the application of highly interactive intelligent systems.
The skills involved in designing systems are different from the skills that were needed before, (see figure 1). There will be overlap between the skills needed for ‘design for interaction’ and ‘design for appearance’ but there will also be a need for new skills.
In this talk, I expand on how far we are on this new road. What does it mean to design for systems? What does it mean for the educational system? And for practice? And for research? What sort of new (dynamical) design language will emerge? What sort of theories and philosophies can support this approach?
I give our answer to these questions. We developed a new design process, a new educational system and a new approach to research. Keyword in all this is integration: integration of disciplines, teaching and research, paradigms, technology and design etc. I strongly believe in the knowledge generation power of design as integrator. So, above all we need a new professionalism based on thinking with the hands, reflection on making.

Kazuo Kawasaki: Progressive Inclusive Design for the BOP
The capitalism has already ended.
When socialism was over, the capitalism also died.
However, because of having just dead capitalism system, we have faced the current global deceptions.
We, designers, have a duty to create new economic system, international political system, and a construction system of the information culture globally by design method.
The design is a possess to force innovation in every world system as business technique.
The design has been considered and treated as only the professional ability in developed, capitalism economy so far.
However, our design must be the leading role as methodology to solve the various problems which current Earth has.
Therefore, I will speak the logic to the focus of the design area.
Aiming of the design should innovative the evolution called Progressive Inclusive Design as the business studies-like method.
The Inclusive design can support the logic basis characteristics as logic from of the grammar in the human talks called the first person, the second person, and the third person as the national audiologies verification.
I will show my design works about the utility and the effect in the example which regards this Progressive Inclusive Design as design object for reverse the Bottom of the Pyramid in the world.
My expression is in this concept for the Bottom of the Pyramid, and businesses are required to overcome the current global deceptions.

Kyung-won Chung: “Caring for Citizens”: The New Value System of Seoul Design Excellence
I will start with how the meaning and roles of design have changed as the term is increasingly used in diverse fields in recent years. Traditionally, design used to refer to ‘fashion’ or ‘styling’ in close relationship with visual art. It, however, is frequently used in other disciplines such as engineering, management, even politics. Design can be categorized into three distinctive areas: visible design mainly for hardware; invisible design for services and hybrid design that is both visible and invisible. Design also deals with various issues such as green (sustainable, eco-friendly), universal (trans-generational) and others.
I will explain how Seoul City has performed various design initiatives since June 2006 when Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s took office as Mayor of Seoul City. Mayor Oh fully understands the importance of good design and set up the Seoul Design Headquarters (SDH) in April 2007. Under the new vision of “Caring for Citizens” and strategy of “Citizen-First Design”, I am directing the SDH that is composed of about 100 public servants who are undertaking 55 projects with about US $ 80 Million for implementing principles of public design, green design, and universal design in various activities of subsidiary headquarters, bureaus, and 25 autonomous districts in Seoul. SDH is also developing city’s design DNA such as the Seoul’s symbol Haechi (an imaginary animal that protects human beings from demons), Seoul fonts, Seoul colors, and Design Seoul guidelines.
I will discuss how Seoul city has pursued design initiatives in order to upgrade the quality of citizens’ lives and enhancing the competitiveness of the city through its new value system.

(via InfoDesign)

29 October 2009

Migropolis: Venice /Atlas of a Global Situation

Migropolis
In winter 2006, under the aegis of philosopher Wolfgang Scheppe, a collective of students from theIUAV University in Venice (including Experientia collaborator Miguel Cabanzo) fanned out to subject the city of Venice, Italy to a process of forensic structural mapping.

Out of this field work, conducted in the Situationist tradition, there developed a three-year urban project that produced an enormous archive comprising tens of thousands of photographs, case studies, movement profiles, and statistic data.

In this archive, Venice, the place of longing at the junction of three migration corridors, emerges as a front-line European city and an exemplary prototype of the increasingly globalized city in which a decimated inner-city population meets armies of tourists and a parallel economy supported by illegal immigrants.

In a map cleverly branching out into essays, visual arguments, data visualizations, and interviews, the globalized territory of Venice is microscopically dissected and defined as an urban metaphor: the city becomes an “atlas of a global situation.”

Migropolis is two things in one: A survey on the global city using the urban territory of Venice as an exemplary paradigm that makes it possible to anticipate urban escalations to come. And: An experimental investigation of the means and measures of the spectacle to find out if visual media allow an understanding of society.

Migropolis is a book consisting of two volumes, a series of exhibitions and this webpage as a tool that will continuously be updated.

The book

Migropolis
Venice / Atlas of a Global Situation

Wolfgang Scheppe & the IUAV Class on Politics of Representation

Essays by Giorgio Agamben, Valeria Burgio and Wolfgang Scheppe
Foreword by Angela Vettese

1,344 pp., 2078 ills., 17 x 24 cm, hardcover, 2 volumes in slipcase
2009, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern

Buy the book: from the publisher / on Amazon

The exhibition

Migropolis
Venice / Atlas of a Global Situation

Wolfgang Scheppe & the IUAV Class on Politics of Representation

Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa
Comune di Venezia

Galleria di Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
October 8 – December 6, 2009
10:30 – 17:30
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

29 October 2009

Computerworld New Zealand on user-centred web design

Computerworld
Computerworld New Zealand introduces user-centred web design.

Introducing user-centred web design
The first article in this series introduces the idea of User-Centred Design (UCD) — a design process that concentrates on designing websites for the people who will use them; rather than to embody the latest trends in web technology, or to simply please the senior management in the company.

User experience: What it is and how to get some
The second article in this series looks at the concept of user experience. As well as explaining user experience in more detail, the article outlines what skills are needed to embody it in good web design.

User experience in action
This article looks at some of the methods that can be used to implement UCD in real websites. It considers some case studies drawn from the experience of Wired Internet Group, a Christchurch-based company striving to promote the principles of UCD in the local web industry. These case studies will reveal some of the “real world” usability issues that may be encountered, and the sometimes simple steps that you can take to remedy them, and give your site the user experience your customers deserve.

27 October 2009

Irene Cassarino: A reflection on energy efficiency and behaviour

Energy and behaviour
Irene Cassarino, an Experientia collaborator, reports on the First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour, which took place in Maastricht last week:

What role do objects play in our life and culture? It depends on their embedded scripts. Like actors on-stage, they tell us a story, influence our feelings, enrich our knowledge and at the end play a social and even political role in our society, somewhat like movies and plays do. They share the power to influence our behaviours with other individuals, their socio-cultural context, and routines, in a dialogical way. Too abstract?

Hal Wilhite from the University of Oslo and keynote speaker at the First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour in Maastricht a week ago (20-22 October 2009), shared with attendees the defining story of the refrigerator in India: keeping leftover food used to be associated, in India, with stupidity. What the refrigerator as a functional object was suggesting to Indians was not enough to overwrite their routines and beliefs, so at first, they refused it. Then the refrigerator kept ‘saying’: it’s good to store raw food in a cool environment before cooking. With this new message, customs in Indian houses changed to include storing of raw food in the refrigerator, and slowly but firmly, the habits and beliefs of local people changed to eventually include storing cooked food as well. A side note – people using refrigerators also increased the country’s CO2 emission by 20%.

This story is quite simple, but it does give an idea of how complex it is to design tools, services and practices to trigger behavioural change in people’s lives. This is particularly true in respect to energy saving. Behavioural research in energy saving was born as a discipline 20 years ago in the university departments of environmental psychology, and a lot of experiences and case studies have been collected so far, but despite this, the issue is still widely debated and suffers from a lack of interdisciplinary cross-fertilisation.

Some objects, for instance, are introduced to market with an explicit script (the refrigerator to store raw food) and with potential scripts to change people’s attitudes (refrigerator to store cooked food). Scripts have to be taken into account and leveraged by designers in a positive way, but few designers have been ready to participate in the dialogue.

From supply to demand management

All speakers acknowledged that the climate change challenge is addressed so far with a strong emphasis on the supply side (as much energy as we want, but greenly produced and smartly distributed), while there is barely no systematic approach on the demand management front. A considerable amount of research has been done though by universities and research centres, especially in the household sector, while few efforts have been devoted to studying behavioural change in business organisations.

Many conceptual approaches and methodologies have been presented: this is not a signal of disciplinary confusion at all, because -– as Charles Vlek from the Groningen University pointed out — the more they are combined and tailored, in specific interventions, the more effective they become. Paul Stern from the US Research Council reworded this recommendation as the “full court press” approach. The audience waited with anticipation for his scientific estimations on opportunities for emission reduction in 5 to 10 years, but he was unfortunately unable to share much about his paper because it was under embargo from his editor.

Irmeli Mikkone from Motiva, Finland, presented the European Energy Network programme (EnR), a voluntary organisation that since 1992 has gathered 22 members from the whole of Europe, operating in 8 different working groups (from behavioural change, to labelling and eco-design, monitoring tools and common databases).

Methodological challenges

A common issue in several research papers was that results on energy use and percentages of reductions were just calculated –- that is deduced from information collected by users themselves and delivered to the researcher through questionnaires. This was criticised as a highly unreliable methodology. Although it is understandable from the point of view of budget constraints, the use of energy smart meters in research could be a valuable alternative. Similar issues refer to the fact that people often volunteered in these studies, while a professional recruitment system –- which also implies financial reward for participants –- would have led to more reliable results.

Discrepancies between attitudes and behaviours also introduce bias into research: meaning that it is not enough to ask people to what extent they support the environment and related policies. The change in their actual behaviour is the issue, and this holds true also for government and administrations. As Shane Fudge from the University of Surrey noticed, although the UK government has a strong strategy for behavioural change (the Enable, Encourage, Exemplify, Engage diamond), actual results are quite disappointing: emissions of CO2 continue to increase, as well as the rate of car use and air travels.

Leveraging people

“I want to change but I don’t want to be changed by others!”; the challenge is to leverage people’s intrinsic motivations, a member of the audience pointed out. How to do it? According to Gerjo Kok from the Department of Psychology and Neurosciences at Maastricht University -– in order to plan a successful intervention to foster behavioural change, the designer should concentrate on assessing needs, defining specific programme objectives (in terms, for instance, of target groups, performance objectives and desired energy saving behaviour), and choosing the right mix of methodologies, applications, development channels and continuous evaluation of programme steps.

Sible Schoone, Director of the Climate Campaign Office (Heir, Netherlands), shifted the attention to the importance of involving the consumer in climate policy: as a citizen (moral/knowledge level), as a neighbour (social level), and eventually as a customer (price/quality/easy-to-get level). Communication initiatives at citizen level involve celebrities, events and free publicity, while if you want to involve the consumer at a social level it is better to organise local events like the climate street party (competition over streets in taking energy saving measures, ending with a big party with celebrities). At customer level, it’s worth mentioning tikkie terug -– the most successful consumer campaign of the year in the Netherlands, which offered people advice and tips on energy friendly and saving behaviours via TV.

“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new tools, but when it adopts new behaviours”
Clay Shirky

Employing this famous quotation, Karen Ehrhardt Martinez from ACEEE –- the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy –- reminded the audience that technologies are tools. Interventions must not be biased by technologies: people are the centre. Just by adopting easy to apply energy saving behaviours and measures, she calculated that it’s possible to potentially reduce carbon emissions by 9%. For big countries like United States, it is a huge amount. In order to underline the relevance of the motivational factor with respect to the enabling technologies, she recalled the episode in a US town, where people were told that the power infrastructure was partially broken. Citizens achieved a 30% reduction in 6 weeks and after having ‘repaired’ the problem, they maintained a 10% reduction!

Addressing the gap between research and practice

C.F.J. Feenstra was representing the Changing Behaviour Programme (CBP), a demand side management programme of the EnR (see above). Such and similar programmes are led by governments, NGOs and utilities, but most of times they are not successful due to the gap between theory and practices. The aim of the CBP is to close the gap that lies between researchers and practitioners.

Is it possible, for instance, to develop a standard toolkit for similar programmes? Steps in this direction are: creation of a public database (so far there are 27 programmes), collection of case studies, close collaboration with local practitioners as cultural mediators, identification of guidelines, identification of pilot projects to implement those guidelines (6, so far). Finally, results of pilot projects will be exploited to create the toolkit.

Identified success factors, so far, are: good understanding of the context (target groups, intermediaries) and taking advantage of ongoing similar projects (to be considered as allies and not at all as competitors since they make people more open to welcome/accept/join similar initiatives).

Examples on the ground

The aim of Sustainable Everyday, a private agency from Belgium represented by Francois Jégou, is to design affordances of embedded user scripts toward 4 kind of appliances: lighting systems, heating thermostats, washing machines and PCs.

The process went through 4 entertaining steps: casting (recruitment) of a group of friendly users; happy hours (guided tours) in user’s homes, with card games; co-design sessions in homes and design studio, with maps and “play-mobiles”, and delivery and installation of new products (prototypes) in homes.

Each member of the family was involved and design guidelines emerging from the project are: (1) provide semi-manual interfaces; (2) reset default principles, e.g.: the washing machine with preset functions easily accessible at every washing cycle; (3) favour eco-conscious artefacts and energy smart meters.

In short

These are just few notes from a much richer conference programme (more detailed notes can be requested at info at experientia dot com). Next time, the organisers will maybe manage to publish abstracts and/or presentations from the many parallel sessions, if not streaming videos! Let’s see.

The First European Conference on Energy Efficiency and Behaviour has been an initial opportunity for psychologists and sociologists to step out of their disciplinary bubble and open themselves to the debate with practitioners and operators. We were there, indeed, and it was extremely useful for us.

Unfortunately operators came mostly from public agencies, consumer associations and utilities, while designers, architects and engineers were not well represented. But this was just the first time for Europe: we are sure that next time we will find more colleagues there.

Next appointment? The Behaviour, Energy and Climate Change Conference, 15-18 Nov. 2009, Washington DC — save the date! And for those not being able to attend, there is good news: most of the presentations there will be webcast live on the conference website.

27 October 2009

Arianna Huffington and Peter Thiel on the digital revolution

Digital revolution
And still two more video rushes on the site of Digital Revolution.

Arianna Huffington interview – USA
Arianna Huffington is the co-founder of the influential news blog The Huffington Post. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution programme one team met with Arianna to discuss the rise of blogs and citizen journalism, and the effects the web is having on politics and political activism. She also discusses the development of hierarchies and ‘trusted editors’ for online content.

Peter Thiel interview – USA
Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution programme one team met with Peter to discuss the development of the web from its early libertarian beginnings, to its current effects upon nations, communications and the future of nation states.

Digital Revolution (working title) is an open source documentary, due for transmission on BBC Two in 2010, that will take stock of 20 years of change brought about by the World Wide Web.

27 October 2009

Tim Berners-Lee and Einar Kvaran on the digital revolution

Digital revolution
More video rushes on the site of Digital Revolution (working title), an open source documentary, due for transmission on BBC Two in 2010, that will take stock of 20 years of change brought about by the World Wide Web.

Tim Berners-Lee interview – Ghana
Tim Berners-Lee is best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He travelled to Ghana with the Digital Revolution programme one team and presenter Aleks Krotoski to see the online advances being made in Ghana, and the ways in which the Ghanaian people are utilising the connections the web provides. During this visit, Tim discussed his past and the adventures in tech at CERN that led him to create the web.

Einar Kvaran – Wikipedian interview – USA
Einar Kvaran is a dedicated Wikipedian who contributes articles to Wikipedia (mainly) on the subject of American sculptural art. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution team met and interviewed Einar to discuss his views of Wikipedia, democracy in an online collaborative environment, and the emergence of hierarchies in online communities.

With the Digital Revolution, the BBC intends to tell the story of the web in four one-hour programmes. Programme one — Power on the web — will illustrate the explosion of user-generated content on the web of the early to mid 2000s. Programme two — The fate of nations — looks at the relation between the web and the nation state. The cost of free is the title of programme three which asks if we are trading our privacy for a ‘free’ web. Finally programme four — The web and us — explores what impact the web is having on who we are.

27 October 2009

A Synchronicity, a book by Julian Bleecker and Nicholas Nova

A Synchronicity
A synchronicity:
Design Fictions for Asynchronous Urban Computing

by Julian Bleecker and Nicolas Nova

Available as a print-on-demand book from lulu.com. Click here to order.
Available as a free download here.

The Situated Technologies Pamphlets series, published by the Architectural League, explores the implications of ubiquitous computing for architecture and urbanism. How are our experience of the city and the choices we make in it affected by mobile communications, pervasive media, ambient informatics and other “situated” technologies? How will the ability to design increasingly responsive environments alter the way architects conceive of space? What do architects need to know about urban computing and what do technologists need to know about cities?

In the last five years, the urban computing field has featured an impressive emphasis on the so-called “real-time, database-enabled city” with its synchronized Internet of Things. In Situated Technologies Pamphlets 5, Julian Bleecker and Nicholas Nova argue to invert this common perspective and speculate on the existence of an “asynchronous city.” Through a discussion of objects that blog, they forecast situated technologies based on weak signals that show the importance of time on human practices. They imagine the emergence of truly social technologies that through thoughtful provocation can invert and disrupt common perspective.

Situated Technologies Pamphlets will be published in nine issues over three years and will be edited by a rotating list of leading researchers and practitioners from architecture, art, philosophy of technology, comparative media studies, performance studies, and engineering.

27 October 2009

Data mines and ideas of time

BERG
The boys at design consultancy BERG are prolific this week:

Toiling in the data-mines: what data exploration feels like
by Tom Armitage

“There are several aspects to this post. Partly, it’s about what material explorations look like when performed with data. Partly, it’s about the role of code as a tool to explore data. We don’t write about code much on the site, because we’re mainly interested in the products we produce and the invention involved in them, but it’s sometimes important to talk about processes and tools, and this, I feel, is one of those times.”

“All the time in the world” talk at Design By Fire 2009, Utrecht
by Matt Jones

“What I wanted to talk about today is how we, as human cultures – CONSTRUCTED time, and as a resulted how we, as designers, can DE-CONSTRUCT it and RE-CONSTRUCT it.”

26 October 2009

Stop your search engines

offline
Peggy Orenstein forced herself offline, and reflects in the New York Times Magazine whether this is the path to true knowledge:

“Not long ago, I started an experiment in self-binding: intentionally creating an obstacle to behavior I was helpless to control, much the way Ulysses lashed himself to his ship’s mast to avoid succumbing to the Sirens’ song. In my case, though, the irresistible temptation was the Internet.”

Read full story

26 October 2009

Memory and forgetting in the digital age

Unforgettable
Yadin Dudai writes in the New Scientist on two books on memory and forgetting in the digital age — Total Recall: How the e-memory revolution will change everything by Gordon Bell and Jim Gemmell, and Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger — and concludes:

“For the human condition, forgetting is at least as important as remembering – sometimes more so. Without it, we are all bound to lead the miserable life of A. R. Luria’s patient Solomon Shereshevsky, who was crippled by his boundless, indelible memory, or his fictional counterpart, Jorge Luis Borges’s Funes. No forgetting implies no generalisation, no real present time, no amelioration of trauma, and no weaving of meaningful life narratives.”

Read full story

22 October 2009

The mad dash toward touch technology

Watches
True innovators need to know as much about when, why, and how not to use trendy technology as when to use it, says Microsoft Research principal scientist Bill Buxton.

“Rather than marveling at what someone else is delivering today, and then trying to copy it, the true innovators are the ones who understand the long nose, and who know how to prospect below the surface for the insights and understanding that will enable them to leap ahead of the competition, rather than follow them. God is in the details, and the details are sitting there, waiting to be picked up by anyone who has the wit to look for them.”

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22 October 2009

Human behavior: the key to future tech developments

Ka-torchi
As trained observers of how people in a society live, ethnographers can help companies figure out what people need and then work with designers to meet those needs with new (or more often tweaked) products and services. CNN reports.

“Microsoft and many other companies realize that since it is, after all, people who use technology, it’s critical for the company to understand how people adapt to technology,” notes Kentaro Toyama, who leads the Technology for Emerging Markets research group at Microsoft Research India.

That helps explain why, as [Professor Michael] Wesch [, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University] notes, digital ethnography is increasingly being integrated into other majors at universities.

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22 October 2009

On security, programming, privacy, and… people

Communications
Three articles in the latest issue of Communications of the ACM are quite relevant for the readers of this blog:

Usable security: how to get it
Why does your computer bother you so much about security, but still isn’t secure? It’s because users don’t have a model for security, or a simple way to keep important things safe.

“A user model for security deals with policy and history. It has a vocabulary of objects and actions (nouns and verbs) for talking about what happens. History is what did happen; it’s needed for recovering from past problems and learning how to prevent future ones. Policy is what should happen, in the form of some general rules plus a few exceptions. The policy must be small enough that you can easily look at all of it.

Today, we have no adequate user models for security and no clear idea of how to get them. There’s not even agreement on whether we can elicit models from what users already know, or need to invent and promote new ones. It will take the combined efforts of security experts, economists, and cognitive scientists to make progress.”

Scratch: programming for all
“Digital fluency” should mean designing, creating, and remixing, not just browsing, chatting, and interacting.

“[With Scratch] we wanted to develop an approach to programming that would appeal to people who hadn’t previously imagined themselves as programmers. We wanted to make it easy for everyone, of all ages, backgrounds, and interests, to program their own interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations, and share their creations with one another. [...]

The core audience on the site is between the ages of eight and 16 (peaking at 12), though a sizeable group of adults participates as well. As Scratchers program and share interactive projects, they learn important mathematical and computational concepts, as well as how to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively: all essential skills for the 21st century. [...]

In this article, we discuss the design principles that guided our development of Scratch and our strategies for making programming accessible and engaging for everyone. But first, to give a sense of how Scratch is being used, we describe a series of projects developed by a 13-year-old girl with the Scratch screen name BalaBethany.”

Four billion Little Brothers?: privacy, mobile phones, and ubiquitous data collection
Participatory sensing technologies could improve our lives and our communities, but at what cost to our privacy?

“Mobile phones could become the most widespread embedded surveillance tools in history. Imagine carrying a location-aware bug, complete with a camera, accelerometer, and Bluetooth stumbling everywhere you go. Your phone could document your comings and goings, infer your activities throughout the day, and record whom you pass on the street or who engaged you in conversation. Deployed by governments or compelled by employers, four billion “little brothers” could be watching you. [...]

How can developers help individuals or small groups launching participatory sensing projects implement appropriate data-protection standards? To create workable standards with data so granular and personal, systems must actively engage individuals in their own privacy decision making. [...] We need to build systems that improve users’ ability to make sense of, and thereby regulate, their privacy.

[...] As the first steps toward meeting this challenge, we propose three new principles for developers to consider and apply when building mobile data-gathering applications.”

20 October 2009

Clay Shirky and Stephen Fry on the digital revolution

Digital revolution
The people behind Digital Revolution (working title), an open source documentary, due for transmission on BBC Two in 2010, that will take stock of 20 years of change brought about by the World Wide Web, have posted some more rushes online:

Clay Shirky interview – USA (rushes)
Clay Shirky teaches, consults and writes on the social and economic effects of the internet. The Digital Revolution Programme One team met and interviewed Clay to discuss the phenomenal changes that have occurred to the world since the advent of the web. He discusses the difficulties of attaching terms such as ‘democratisation’ to the web, and the reduction of ‘strong tie’ relationships, as ‘weak ties’ increase.

Stephen Fry interview – London (rushes)
Stephen Fry is a writer, comedian, actor and technology enthusiast – and a man very much online. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution team met and interviewed Stephen to discuss the web, the changes it has brought to the world, its benefits and its possible dangers.

With the Digital Revolution, the BBC intends to tell the story of the web in four one-hour programmes. Programme one — Power on the web — will illustrate the explosion of user-generated content on the web of the early to mid 2000s. Programme two — The fate of nations — looks at the relation between the web and the nation state. The cost of free is the title of programme three which asks if we are trading our privacy for a ‘free’ web. Finally programme four — The web and us — explores what impact the web is having on who we are.

20 October 2009

Trust in digital life

Kim Cameron
Denise Deveau, technology writer at The Globe and Mail speaks with Kim Cameron, Microsoft’s identity guru, about what it will take for consumers and businesses to feel secure sharing information online.

How much do you trust your digital life? Has the fear of identity theft or bank card fraud dampened your trust in digital services? You’re not alone. As the digital world permeates more and more aspects of our lifestyle, protecting our digital lives is more important than ever.

Researchers at Microsoft, Nokia, Philips and digital security company Gemalto recently announced the launch of a new initiative that aims to set out how consumers and businesses can do just that. Called Trust in Digital Life Partnership, their vision is to address “the fundamental societal issue of trust in new and emerging digital services.”

One of the founding members of Trust in Digital Life is Kim Cameron , chief architect of identity with the Identity and Security division at Microsoft. Mr. Cameron is a firm believer that the need to animate interest in the area of digital trust is key. In a recent Q&A interview with the Globe and Mail, Mr. Cameron outlines what steps need to be taken to secure digital identity.

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