counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


December 2009
25 December 2009

Designing for social innovation: an interview with Ezio Manzini

Ezio Manzini
User experience strategist Steve Baty interviewed Ezio Manzini, Professor of Design at the Politecnico di Milano and one of the keynote speakers at Interaction 10, about designing for social innovation and his work with the DESIS network.

“Social innovation is a process of change where new ideas emerge from a variety of actors directly involved in the problem to be solved: final users, grass roots technicians and entrepreneurs, local institutions and civil society organizations. The main way in which it differs from traditional “garage” innovation is that here the “inventors” are groups of people (the “creative communities”) and the results are forms of organization (the “collaborative services”).

Looking attentively to the complexity of the contemporary society shows many cases of these worldwide (for more, see the Sustainable Everyday project). While the stories are diverse, they have one clear (and expected) common denominator: they resulted from the initiatives of people who collaboratively invented new ways of living and producing and who have been able to enhance them, solving specific problems and, at the same time, making concrete steps towards sustainability happen.”

Read interview

25 December 2009

The Journal of Information Architecture

Relationship
The Journal of Information Architecture, a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, is now at its second issue — and all the content can be downloaded:

Issue 1 (Spring 2009)

  • Editorial: Shall We Dance? – by Dorte Madsen
  • Connecting the Dots of User Experience – by Gianluca Brugnoli
  • Towards an Architectural Document Analysis – by Helena Francke
  • The Machineries of Context – by Andrew Hinton
  • On Uncertainty in Information Architecture – by James Kalbach

Issue 2 (Fall 2009)

  • Editorial: Open 24/7 – by Byström, Pharo & Resmini
  • Card Sorting, Category Validity, and Contextual Navigation – by Stefano Bussolon
  • From Prediction to Emergence – by Brigitte Kaltenbacher
  • Mediation as Message – by David Walczyk & Cedomir Kovacev
25 December 2009

When professionals get culture shock

Culture shock
Nokia user researcher Jan Chipchase reflects on the issue of culture shock, a condition that can even affect professionals whose livelihood depends on being able to travel the globe and decode the nuances of what they experience.

“I’ve seen first hand and have on occasion experienced the symptoms of culture shock include: increased irritability; becoming hypercritical of locals and local practices; withdrawal – in particularly spending long time resting or in bed; physiological reactions; and excessive eating, drinking or drug use.”

Read full story

25 December 2009

The fable of the user-centred designer

Fable
David Travis has written a fable that “follows a young man’s journey as he discovers the three secrets of user-centred design”.

“Many years ago, I read a book by Kenneth Blanchard & Spencer Johnson called The One Minute Manager. The book is an allegory about good versus bad management. It describes the journey of a young man who wants to learn how to become an effective manager.

Sitting at home one day, I found myself musing on what Blanchard & Johnson would have to say about user-centred design. Like management, user-centred design is ostensibly simple, yet when it comes to great user experiences many people do it incorrectly. And as with management, there are some simple but powerful rules.

This fable is the result of my thinking. I’ve retained the narrative structure of The One Minute Manager and if you know the book there are some other similarities you’ll discover. But above all, it’s a simple description of the secrets of user-centred design. I hope you en- joy it, apply it and pass it on.”

Download the booklet

19 December 2009

Slaves of the feed

Bottleneck
Thomas Petersen, co-founder and partner of Danish digital creative agency Hello, reflects on the experience and design implications of the exponential growth of information.

“Constantly checking our feeds for new information, we seem to be hoping to discover something of interest, something that we can share with our networks, something that we can use, something that we can talk about, something that we can act on, something we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It almost seems like an obsession and many critics of digital technology would argue that by consuming information this way we are running the danger of destroying social interaction between humans. One might even say that we have become slaves of the feed.

Read full story

18 December 2009

How “social” is your bank?

Social bank
The banking industry is missing out on a huge opportunity to transform itself from a transactional model to an engagement model, writes social media strategist Jay Deragon on AlwaysOn.

“Think about what lies within the system of banking: people and businesses. Now, do banks do anything to “connect” people and businesses to facilitate transactions amongst and between people and businesses? When was the last time your bank actually helped you do the following:

  1. Solve a problem not having to do with a transaction
  2. Introduced you or your business to others who may need your product or service
  3. Provided you with new information or knowledge that helped you or your business be more productive
  4. Helped you or your business grow revenue, besides lending money for you to do it yourself
  5. Helped you find relevant and relative resources that you need

The answer to these questions is a bank simply doesn’t do any of these things, at least not consistently and as a regular part of their relations with customers.”

Read full story

18 December 2009

The future of collaboration begins with visualising human capital

Venessa Miemis
Venessa Miemis, a Master’s degree candidate in Media Studies at the New School in New York City, contributed a user idea to Nokia’s Ideas Project website, anticipating a system whereby collaboration facilitated by social networks will supplant competition as the mode by which society is able to realize its true potential.

The Nokia people liked it. In a subsequent video interview on the site she affirms her belief that we are at the beginning of a time during which we will learn how to leverage the power of social dynamics to find a new potential in human capital. Our ability to assemble in real-time on the Web allows us to exchange information and act on ideas in ways that were previously impossible.

“I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface yet of understanding how to leverage the power of these social dynamics, but I think a key to unlocking the potential is going to be through developing better tools to visualize our human capital, which would be a combination of our strengths, our skills, and our social connections.”

Watch interview

17 December 2009

The challenge of co-production

The challenge of co-production
A new discussion paper by NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, argues that the key to reforming public services is to encourage users to design and deliver services in equal partnership with professionals.

Co-production as a new way of thinking about public services has the potential to deliver a major shift in the way we provide health, education, policing and other services, in ways that make them much more effective, more efficient, and so more sustainable.

This paper provides the basis for both a better understanding and a stronger evidence base for co-production.

Given the current diversity of uses of the term, this paper also explains what coproduction isn’t and demonstrates why co-production looks set to create the most important revolution in public services since the Beveridge Report in 1942.

The paper also diagnoses why public service reform is stalled, and why a radically new approach – sharing the design and delivery of services with users – can break this logjam and make services more effective for the public, more cost-effective for policymakers, and more sustainable for all of us.

Download paper

17 December 2009

Mag+, a concept video on the future of digital magazines

Mag+
Bonnier R&D, the research unit of Bonnier, the publisher of Popular Science, invited the designers from BERG London on a corporate collaborative research project into the experience of reading magazines on handheld digital devices.

“The concept aims to capture the essence of magazine reading, which people have been enjoying for decades: an engaging and unique reading experience in which high-quality writing and stunning imagery build up immersive stories.

The concept uses the power of digital media to create a rich and meaningful experience, while maintaining the relaxed and curated features of printed magazines. It has been designed for a world in which interactivity, abundant information and unlimited options could be perceived as intrusive and overwhelming.”

Watch video prototype

17 December 2009

Ubiquitous computing bridges devices and services

ThingM
Mike Kuniavsky of ThingM was a speaker at XD Forum, Intuit’s internal user experience design conference, last week. His half-hour talk focused on the relationship between ubicomp devices and services.

The talking points and slides can be downloaded from his blog, Orange Cone.

15 December 2009

As we consume Apples and BlackBerrys, natural world beats a sensory retreat

Blackberry meeting
Technology has drawn us into our interconnected webs, in the office, on the street, on the park bench, to the point that we exist virtually everywhere except in the physical world, argues Adrian Higgins in the Washington Post, who writes about us being “digital zombies” and “symbionts” [i.e. an organism living in a symbiotic relationship, here evidently with an electronic world].

“Walk the streets of downtown Washington and you will see many people, a majority perhaps, plugged in to a two-dimensional world. Peer into the vehicles, and tally a scary number of drivers on hand-held cellphones, even texting. This may be illegal in the District, but the temptation is too great. We have become digital zombies.

Actually, we have become symbionts, says Katherine Hayles, author of “How We Became Posthuman.” Just as a lichen is the marriage of a fungus and an algae, we now live in full partnership with digital technology, which we rely on for the infrastructure of our lives.”

Read full story

13 December 2009

Anthropology Matters

Anthropology Matters
The latest issue of Anthropology Matters contains an interesting article on the use of mobile phones in Africa:

Being cool or being good: researching mobile phones in Mozambique
Julie Soleil Archambault
Drawing on my fieldwork experience in Inhambane, southern Mozambique, where I conducted research on mobile phone use amongst youth, my paper tackles issues of acceptance and rejection. As I sought to gain acceptance amongst youth I found myself participating in various controversial and, at times, dangerous activities that made me the victim of intense gossip and outright rejection by some. The fact that I came to the field accompanied by my husband and daughter only made matters worse. In this paper, I present the challenges of “being cool”, while also “being good”, and the repercussions of my research choices on my social standing. I then discuss how, instead of compromising my research, this predicament had a positive outcome by revealing social dynamics that might otherwise have remained hidden, namely the importance of concealment and the ambiguous role mobile phones play in deceit.

12 December 2009

Presentations of the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference

BECC
Presentations are now available of last month’s Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference, which took place in Washington, DC.

The BECC conference focused on understanding the behavior and decision making of individuals and organizations and using that knowledge to accelerate our transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future.

The conference brought together people from the US and around the world to share the latest insights, research, and experiences pertaining to behavior, energy and climate change.

The 2009 Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference was the 3rd annual conference to focus on accelerating our transition to an energy-efficient and low carbon economy through an improved understanding and application of social and behavioral mechanisms of change. This year’s conference built on the overwhelming success of previous BECC Conferences in which participants discussed successful program strategies, shared innovative research findings, and built dynamic new networks and means of collaboration. This conference brought together a diverse group of energy experts, social scientists, and policymakers to discuss the social and behavioral basis for, and practical implementation of, reducing energy use through the adoption and application of more energy-efficient technologies, energy conservation activities, and lifestyle changes.

Download presentations

Related materials:
New York Times article on the conference
Reuters article on the conference
Article by Energy 2.0 Community
– Conference report by attendee Philip Johnson: Day 1Day 2Day 3
– Conference report by attendee Douglas Fisher: Part 1Part 2
Conference report by attendee Scot Holliday
– A review by Experientia’s Irene Cassarino on a similar conference in Europe

12 December 2009

iPhone users are delusional, consultants say

iPhone
Strand Consult suggests that iPhone users are suffering from a form of Stockholm Syndrome–the condition in which the kidnapped begin to show loyalty to their kidnappers.

“Apple has launched a beautiful phone with a fantastic user interface that has had a number of technological shortcomings that many iPhone users have accepted and defended, despite those shortcomings resulting in limitations in iPhone users’ daily lives.”

“When we examine the iPhone users’ arguments defending the iPhone, it reminds us of the famous Stockholm Syndrome–a term invented by psychologists after a hostage drama in Stockholm. Here, hostages reacted to the psychological pressure they were experiencing by defending the people that had held them hostage for six days.”

Read full story

12 December 2009

Book: Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter

Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter
Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter
Reflections on Research in and of Corporations
Edited by Melissa Cefkin
Berghahn Books (July 2009)
Hardcover, 253 pages

Businesses and other organizations are increasingly hiring anthropologists and other ethnographically-oriented social scientists as employees, consultants, and advisors. The nature of such work, as described in this volume, raises crucial questions about potential implications to disciplines of critical inquiry such as anthropology. In addressing these issues, the contributors explore how researchers encounter and engage sites of organizational practice in such roles as suppliers of consumer-insight for product design or marketing, or as advisors on work design or business and organizational strategies. The volume contributes to the emerging canon of corporate ethnography, appealing to practitioners who wish to advance their understanding of the practice of corporate ethnography and providing rich material to those interested in new applications of ethnographic work and the ongoing rethinking of the nature of ethnographic praxis.

Melissa Cefkin is a cultural anthropologist with experience in research, management, teaching, and consulting for business and government. Currently based at IBM Research in the area of services research, she earned her PhD from Rice University and remains dedicated to pursuing a critical understanding of the intersections of anthropological practice within business and organizational settings.

Chapters
1. Introduction – Business, anthropology, and the growth of corporate ethnography – Melissa Cefkin
2. “My Customers are Different!” – Identity, difference, and the political economy of design – Donna K. Flynn
3. Participatory Ethnography at Work – Practicing in the puzzle palaces of a large, complex healthcare organization – Christopher Darrouzet, Helga Wild, and Susann Wilkinson
4. Working in Corporate Jungles – Reflections on ethnographic praxis in industry – Brigitte Jordan with Monique Lambert
5. Writing on Walls: The materiality of social memory in corporate research – Dawn Nafus and Ken Anderson
6. The Anthropologist as Ontological Choreographer – Françoise Brun-Cottan
7. Emergent Culture, Slippery Culture – Conflicting conceptualizations of culture in commercial ethnography – Martin Ortlieb
8. Insider Trading – Engaging and valuing corporate ethnography – Jeanette Blomberg
9. Emergent Forms of Life in Corporate Arenas – Michael M. J. Fischer

11 December 2009

Augmented Reality is overhyped and abused

USPS
Augmented Reality is overhyped and abused, writes Matthew Szymczyk in Advertising Age, and we’re in danger of killing off a rather useful technology.

“As web-based augmented-reality applications have exploded, it’s more important than ever to remember AR is a technology based on utility and not gimmicks.

Unfortunately, as with most new and emerging technologies, it’s quickly becoming overhyped and abused. Usability and user experience have been thrown under in the stampede of agencies and brands saying “Hey, look — me too!” Even more disturbing is that most marketers are overlooking the most unique aspect of AR itself: that it’s a technology that can create innovative and sustained engagement between a brand and its target consumer through utility.”

Read full story

11 December 2009

User-centred design for energy efficiency in buildings

TSB competition
The UK’s Technology Strategy Board is calling for individuals to take part in a five-day interactive workshop (‘sandpit’) to explore the challenge of reducing the demand for energy in non-domestic buildings, through human factors research and user-centred design.

The focus of the sandpit is to create ideas for projects that have the potential for commercial value. The five-day sandpit will be held at Bailbrook House near Bath on 15-19 March 2010.

The challenge of reducing the amount of energy used in buildings requires an innovative and multidisciplinary approach. The aim of this sandpit is to bring together a varied group of up to 30 individuals from industry and academia — in particular experts in human factors and user-centred design — to work together to develop collaborative research proposals.

The sandpit will result in the Technology Strategy Board committing funding ‘in principle’ for consortium research projects developed by the participants. The Board has allocated up to £2m to fund industry-led collaborative research arising from the sandpit.

Deadline for application: 17 December 2009

Read more

(via Dan Lockton)

10 December 2009

Microsoft social media researcher Danah Boyd in the news

Danah Boyd
Danah Boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research, is quite in the news these days, including a very nice profile in The Guardian:

The Guardian – 9 December 2009
Danah Boyd: ‘People looked at me like I was an alien’
Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd talks about social networking, young people and how the web is more private than your home.

There’s one cliche in particular that annoys Danah Boyd: the “digital native”.

“There’s nothing native about young people’s engagement with technology,” she says, adamantly.

The Microsoft researcher, who has made a career from studying the way younger people use the web, doesn’t think much of the widely held assumption that children are innately better at coping with the web or negotiating the hurdles of digital life. Instead, she suggests, they’re pretty much like everyone else.

“Young people are learning, they’re learning about the social world around them,” she says. “The social world around them today has mediated technologies, thus in order to learn about the social world they’re learning about the mediated technologies. And they’re leveraging that to work out the shit that kids have always worked out: peer sociality, status, their first crush.”

ReadWriteWeb – 10 December 2009
Says Danah Boyd, Leverage the Web’s Most Disturbing Content
Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd took a decidedly different approach when considering social networking at today’s LeWeb conference [and made] the point that negative and disturbing web content can also serve as a vehicle for change.

“Boyd explains how those who monitor online profile information, tend to have something to gain from it in a negative way. For example, oppressive governments often monitor the web for signs of criminal activity in order to enforce laws or suppress certain activities. Nevertheless, Boyd believes the visibility of violence, drug use and criminal activity can also be used by regular netizens for constructive purposes.”

On her blog, Danah links to the crib of her talk, and to the LeWeb video and the Supernova video (where she presented the same talk).

10 December 2009

Latest Donald Norman essay started a big debate

Donald Norman
Donald Norman ‘s recent essay Technology First, Needs Last, in which he argues that “design research is great when it comes to improving existing product categories but essentially useless when it comes to new, innovative breakthroughs,” has started a big discussion.

Steve Portigal started the debate with a piece which intends to “to reframe rather than refute” Norman’s argument.
Read article

Nicolas Nova thinks that Norman’s piece reflects “a narrow understanding of what field research about people can convey”. Nova also takes issue with the “distinction between improvement and breakthrough (or what [Norman] calls “revolutionary innovation”).” Perhaps, Nova says,” it’s a framing issue but the notion of a “breakthrough” seems a bit weird when one think about the whole history of technologies. This terms seems more appealing to the marketing/business people than observer of how objects evolved over time.’
Read article

Todd Zaki Warfel writes he “couldn’t disagree more with the content of the [Norman] essay. He singles out both “how Don defines design research” and Norman’s claim that innovations “are invariably driven by the development of new technologies.”
Read article

Nikos Karaoulanis argues that that Norman’s essay “really lends to the argument that design research and especially design thinking is absolutely crucial, if not critical to designing in our time.”
Read article

Adam Richardson says: “I actually agree[s] with much of what he says, though I see the definition of design research he’s using as overly narrow.”
Read article

Check also the comments on each of these pieces.

9 December 2009

Does technology need personality?

Personality
Cennydd Bowles, a user experience designer at Clearleft in Brighton, England, writes about interaction design, behavioural change, and the design of emotions.

“If interaction design really is the business of behaviour change I believe this must apply two ways. While it’s true that design can influence users and engender cultural change, this is always a product of our more tangible work: changing the behaviour of technology. As a user-centred designer of technology my goal is simple: to make its behaviour humane. But how should I approach this?

Humanity implies emotion and, beneath that, personality. These areas lie beyond the frontiers of classical HCI and usability. Fortunately, as often happens, we view the distant summit and see others have already planted the flag. Toymakers, for instance, have explored the art of bestowing personality on products for years. The results are fairly crude, but I defy anyone to watch the torture of a Pleo and successfully suppress a twinge of guilt. Even in its moments of crisis, Pleo has a distinct personality; that is to say, it conveys emotional information.”

Read full story