Putting People First

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January 2010
7 January 2010

Design for relevance

Harald Lamberts
Harald Lamberts, Head of User Experience for Internet Services & Handsets at the Vodafone Group, wrote a thoughtful viewpoint article on DMI on the issue of relevance in design, in an era of technology overkill.

“With new social-networking communities popping up continuously, 100,000 apps in the iPhone Appstore, 500+ contacts in multiple places, two to three email accounts per user, Internet feeds from multiple sources, and different end-user credentials to remember for each service, can people still manage their digital lives? If on top of this, a text message notifies you of a new voicemail and an email notifies you of a new status update, something is wrong and the burden to manage it all is on the end-user.

There have been several efforts to bring the consumer’s content, contacts or information conveniently in one single place. Think instant messaging aggregators such as Adium or Nimbuzz, or a social-networking feed aggregator such as Tweetdeck. However, aggregators tend to only provide simultaneous access to multiple competing services, they usually don’t hide the service boundaries or add value by integrating with other content types or services.

The core of these problems is not accessibility or usability but relevance.”

Read full story

6 January 2010

‘When I was growing up': ethnographic research on ageing in Ireland published

ERU booklet
The Trill Centre is a project by Intel, Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and academic partners including Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland Galway, focused on technology research for independent living (TRIL).

In essence, the centre coordinates research projects addressing the physical, cognitive and social consequences of ageing, all informed by ethnographic research and supported by a shared pool of knowledge and engineering resources. It aims to discover and deliver technology solutions which support independent ageing, ideally in a home environment, based on the assumption that this will improve the quality of life of older citizens while reducing the burden on carers and on the healthcare system.

As part of the initiative, an ethnographic research unit (ERU) was established within the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway. Since its inception the ERU has conducted ethnographic research with individuals across Ireland – from inner city Dublin to remote areas of Counties Roscommon, Cork and Kilkenny. This research has been used to support clinically oriented work, to shape the direction of research projects and to learn how new technology was used in the homes of older people.

Looking back after nearly three years of multi-disciplinary work, the ERU felt that it would be worthwhile to bring together in one accessible volume a sample of their interactions and perspectives. The objective is to showcase some of their achievements and highlight the collaborative nature of their endeavours.

Download booklet

4 January 2010

Latest issue of Interactions Magazine now available

The January-February edition of Interactions Magazine — exploring the evolving nature of experiences, people and technology — is online and some articles are available without subscription.

interactions: information, physicality, co-ownership, and culture
Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko
From tangible computing, to societal problem solving, to the trials and tribulations of user reserach – this issue explores the evolving nature of experiences, people and technology.

Tangible interaction = form + computing
Mark Baskinger, Mark Gross
The ability to merge physical and digital interactions has long been the goal of designers; the ubiquity of technology is now making that goal a reality. This piece from Mark Baskinger and Mark Gross explores that melding of physical and digital.

Why marketing research makes us cringe
Dan Formosa
What separates design research from marketing research is a core but elusive principle: There is a phenomenal distinction between evaluating a product before it is finalized, the focus of design research, and evaluating consumer response after a product is finalized.

Why designers sometimes make me cringe
Klaus Kaasgaard
Why is it that user experience design-often hailed on the covers of major contemporary business magazines as the creative savior of everything from product innovation to business operations-seems to prefer to paint a picture of itself as a misunderstood, misapplied, and unrecognized profession; a victim of ruthless market forces and incompetent business managers?

The transmedia design challenge: technology that is pleasurable and satisfying
Don Norman
I agreed to give a keynote address at the 21st Century Transmedia Innovation Symposium. Traditional dictionaries do not include the word “transmedia,” but Wikipedia does. Its definition introduced me to many other words that neither I nor my dictionaries had ever before heard (for example, “narratological“). Strange jargon aside, I do believe there is an important idea here, which I explore in this column.

The art of editing: the new old skills for a curated life
Liz Danzico
This age is not about writers learning new tools, nor is it about readers sift through content; it’s about editors experimenting and making meaning of stories for themselves and for their new audiences-whether those are small or large.

interactions cafe: on designers as catalytic agents
Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko

4 January 2010

Race shapes teen Facebook and MySpace adoption, says danah boyd

danah boyd
Two years ago, ethnographer danah boyd had the blogosphere abuzz with her look at class-based divisions between teens on MySpace and Facebook, writes Dana Oshiro on ReadWriteWeb. The esteemed Microsoft researcher found that Facebook’s collegiate origins encouraged a group of slightly more educated mainstream community members.

Meanwhile, MySpace encouraged self-expression and the organizing of subcultures. boyd’s latest paper entitled, “White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook” suggests that those same origins also propel race-based divisions. She likens the mass teen migration from MySpace to Facebook to “white flight”.

Read full story

3 January 2010

The Apparatgeist calls

Digital map
How you use your mobile phone has long reflected where you live. But the spirit of the machines may be wiping away cultural differences, claims The Economist.

The article, that quotes design researchers Mizuko Ito and Younghee Jung, describes at length the cultural differences in mobile phone use, but then asks if “such differences between cultures [will] persist and grow larger, or will they diminish over time?”

Companies would like to know, because it costs more to provide different handsets and services in different parts of the world than it would do to offer the same things everywhere.

A few years ago such questions provoked academic controversy. Not everybody agrees with Ms Ito’s argument that technology is always socially constructed. James Katz, a professor of communication at Rutgers University in New Jersey, argues that there is an Apparatgeist (German for “spirit of the machine”). For personal communication technologies, he argues, people react in pretty much the same way, a few national variations notwithstanding. “Regardless of culture,” he suggests, “when people interact with personal communication technologies, they tend to standardise infrastructure and gravitate towards consistent tastes and universal features.”

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3 January 2010

Now even medical doctors are launching design firms

Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, is a doctor in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who uses his experience in both clinical and preventive medicine to design consumer experiences and business opportunities that create health.

He was trained at Johns Hopkins in preventive medicine and pediatrics. He realized just what a mess the health care system is, with messy delivery processes and frustrating experiences. He figured it could be simpler. So Jay co-founded Hello Health, a novel way of experiencing healthcare via a Facebook-like platform that uses office visits, email, instant messaging and video chat to restore the traditional doctor-patient relationship.

Now Jay has a design firm, The Future Well, focused on creating the future of health and well-being.

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3 January 2010

Free yourself from oppression by technology

Oppression by technology
That new phone or laptop may be giving you a warm glow, but beware a stealth attack on your happiness, warns Yair Amichai-Hamburger in The New Scientist.

“Our lifestyles are increasingly driven by technology. Phones, computers and the internet pervade our days. There is a constant, nagging need to check for texts and email, to update Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn profiles, to acquire the latest notebook or 3G cellphone.

Are we being served by these technological wonders or have we become enslaved by them? I study the psychology of technology, and it seems to me that we are sleepwalking into a world where technology is severely affecting our well-being. Technology can be hugely useful in the fast lane of modern living, but we need to stop it from taking over.”

Read full story

3 January 2010

Mobiles offer new view of reality

The BBC thinks that Augmented reality (AR) “is set to explode” this year.

“Futurologist Ian Pearson predicts an explosion of such services next year.

“I’m surprised we haven’t got there yet. But it makes a lot of sense if a friend is a street away then you can meet up for coffee,” he said.

And it won’t end there as the physical and virtual worlds increasingly blur, he says.

“Instead of seeing people as they are you might well be able to see their Facebook profiles appearing as bubbles above them,” said Mr Pearson.”

Read full story

3 January 2010

Seeing customers as partners in innovation

Visteon and 3M
A freelance writer reports for the New York Times on 3M Company’s customer innovation center at its headquarters.

“As a company, 3M is at the forefront of a movement that appears to be gaining traction: customer innovation centers, typically located near company research facilities, that provide a forum for meeting with corporate customers and engaging them directly in the innovation process. […]

The idea behind the centers is to foster innovation by combining a richer understanding of customer needs with creative links among 3M technologies. “Being customer-driven doesn’t mean asking customers what they want and then giving it to them,” says Ranjay Gulati, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “It’s about building a deep awareness of how the customer uses your product.””

Even though travel and accommodation was paid by 3M, against New York Times policy, the article is worth a read.

Read full story

3 January 2010

A thank you to our web service provider Aventure Host

On December 31st 2009 we finished the process of moving our websites and our mail services to Italy.

Since the beginning of our company, we had hosted our websites and mail with Aventure Host, a United Kingdom based webhosting company, that has provided us with excellent service allowing our company to grow from an idea to a 20 member organisation, with complicated web hosting demands.

For a variety of reasons (Italian privacy law, an inhouse server investment, a new tech person who is not proficient enough in English, and a need for more direct control), we recently decided to move our web services to Italy, and some of them even to our own office.

When we informed Aventure Host of this, they were obviously sorry to see us leave as a customer, yet even in the last few weeks, when it was clear that things were ending, Aventure Host kept on providing its loyal support. And more than that: they actually went beyond the call of duty by e.g. helping us to transfer our domain name in two hours, whereas they legally had ten days to do so.

So we decided to let our readers know about AventureHost. If you are looking for a reliable web provider, that is fast, diligent, professional and trustworthy in any requests you may have, or in addressing any problems that may arise, you should consider Aventure Host.

We recommend you to speak with Richard Kennedy, the Operations Manager of AventureHost, who can advise you on what package can best suit your needs. He is very good at helping you decide on the best solution, also taking into account your budget constraints.