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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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February 2010
28 February 2010

New media and its superpowers

Mimi Ito
Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist and associate researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, co-led a MacArthur Foundation-funded three year ethnographic study, the Digital Youth Project (DYP), which looked at how young people interact with new media at home, in after-school programs, and in online spaces-and found much to celebrate in the learning they observed.

But many adults don’t see it that way-yet. During a talk at a recent US educational conference, Ito projected an image of a newspaper article that appeared after DYP issued its first press release. The researchers reported that kids are engaging in diversified and valuable dimensions of learning online. The banner headline reporting their findings proclaimed, “Chill Out, Parents.”

“That outtake focused more on inter-generational tension than on our findings,” Ito said. “The headline assumes that parents are uptight, or should be, about kids’ online activity.”

Today’s kids are growing up in a radically different media environment than their parents-and teachers-did. They are connected 24/7 to peers, to entertainment and to information. “Visceral, interactive, immersive experiences are available when and where kids want them,” Ito said.

The availability of all that compelling entertainment and information has created a gap, Ito says, between in-school and out-of-school experience. Schools need to figure out how to leverage the power of kids’ engagement with media for learning in school as well as outside it.

- Read presentation transcript
- Read article about Ito’s presentation

28 February 2010

When American and European ideas of privacy collide

Liptak
An Italian ruling against Google highlights the clash between Europe’s love of privacy and America’s of free speech, writes Adam Liptak in the New York Times.

“Last week’s ruling from an Italian court that Google executives had violated Italian privacy law by allowing users to post a video on one of its services [...] called attention to the profound European commitment to privacy, one that threatens the American conception of free expression and could restrict the flow of information on the Internet to everyone. [...]

“The framework in Europe is of privacy as a human-dignity right,” said Nicole Wong, a lawyer with [Google]. “As enforced in the U.S., it’s a consumer-protection right.” [...]

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” The First Amendment’s distant cousin comes later, in Article 10.

Americans like privacy, too, but they think about it in a different way, as an aspect of liberty and a protection against government overreaching, particularly into the home. Continental privacy protections, by contrast, focus on protecting people from having their lives exposed to public view, especially in the mass media.”

Read full story

26 February 2010

Content strategy – the next big thing?

Content strategy
Content strategy is more or less on the same trajectory as social media was three years ago, argues Kristina Halvorson (of Brain Traffic).

“I think it’s because the reality of social media initiatives—that they’re internal commitments, not advertising campaigns—has derailed more than a few organizations from really implementing effective, measurable programs. Most companies can’t sustain social media engagement because they lack the internal editorial infrastructure to support it.”

Couldn’t agree more.

Read full story

(via InfoDesign)

26 February 2010

Streams of content, limited attention

Streams
Danah Boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research, wrote a long piece for UX Magazine on “what it means to be ‘in flow’ in an information landscape defined by networked media”, based on a talk she gave at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Expo last November.

Her focus on alignment – rather than attention – is an idea worth exploring.

“The goal is not to be a passive consumer of information or to simply tune in when the time is right, but rather to live in a world where information is everywhere. To be peripherally aware of information as it flows by, grabbing it at the right moment when it is most relevant, valuable, entertaining, or insightful. Living with, in, and around information. Most of that information is social information, but some of it is entertainment information or news information or productive information. Being in flow with information is different than Csikszentmihalyi’s sense, as it’s not about perfect attention, but it is about a sense of alignment, of being aligned with information.”

Read full story

Also check the Economist’s Special Report on Managing Information.

26 February 2010

Women and mobile

Women and mobile
Women & Mobile: A Global Opportunity is a study on the mobile phone gender gap in low and middle-income countries.

Mobile phone ownership in low and middle-income countries has skyrocketed in the past several years. But a woman is still 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man. Closing this gender gap would bring the benefits of mobile phones to an additional 300 million women. By extending the benefits of mobile phone ownership to more women, a host of social and economic goals can be advanced.

The Women & Mobile report is the first comprehensive view of women and mobile phones in the developing world. This report, sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, explores the commercial and social opportunity for closing the mobile gender gap. The report builds off of a survey conducted with women on three continents to show their mobile phone ownership, usage, barriers to adoption and preferences. The report shows how mobile phone ownership can improve access to educational, health, business and employment opportunities and help women lead more secure, connected and productive lives. It also includes ten case studies highlighting the strategies and tactics that both mobile network operators and non-profit organizations across the globe are implementing to increase the usage and impact of mobile phones around the world.

The study report was launched at the 2010 Mobile World Congress by Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association (GSMA), Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Brooke Partridge, CEO of Vital Wave Consulting.

Download study

25 February 2010

Why can’t PCs work more like iPhones?

Online newspaper ads
Why not use the iPhone interface as the basis for a new round of Apple computers? What if Microsoft scrapped the front end of Windows 7 and the troubled Vista OS and moved to the new, elegant interface it is using for its Windows Phone 7 Series mobile phones?

“In an effort to win over less technical users, both Apple and Microsoft dumped that command-line interface for personal computers more than two decades ago, replacing it with visual icons for files, folders and applications. Over the years, they added animations and search technology and other features to make navigating a Mac or Windows PC even easier.

Yet all of the gloss and glitter doesn’t hide the fact that both operating systems are still pretty geeky and difficult for many computer users to navigate.”

Read full story

25 February 2010

For newspapers to survive, they must put users first

Online newspaper ads
If publications continue to rely on selling advertising to support their costs, how does that serve the audience’s needs? Fast Company provides three ideas for how newspapers can refocus on readers.

“If it’s true that readers perceive traditional brands with less trust or care, and they’re looking at content as a simple commodity, then publishers will have to give their audiences something new to keep them coming back: An experience that puts user needs front and center. This doesn’t mean getting rid of the ads. It means making all content–including ads–more relevant to readers.”

Read full story

25 February 2010

The Netherlands’ drive to build a service economy

Innovation is served
Focusing on improving and innovating services is a smart way to foster economic growth. Jeneanne Rae reports from the Netherlands.

“Recognizing the need to steer the typical conversation about innovation away from technology and products toward services, Minister of Economic Affairs Maria Van Der Hoeven—a power woman if I ever met one—recently focused the country’s prestigious annual Innovation Lecture on this topic.”

Her lecture was entitled “Innovation is Served“.

Read full story

Downloads
- Presentation by Jeneanne Rae, co-founder and president, Peer Insight
- Innovation is Served video
- Innovation is Served report

25 February 2010

Article series on futures thinking

Crystal ball
Jamais Cascio, who covers the intersection of emerging technologies and cultural transformation for Fast Company, is in the process of publishing an ‘occasional’ series of articles “about the tools and methods for thinking about the future in a structured, useful way”.

Futures Thinking: The Basics
Overview of how to engage in a foresight exercise

Futures Thinking: Asking the Question
Detailed exploration of setting up a futures exercise and “how to figure out what you’re trying to figure out”

Futures Thinking: Scanning the World
On gathering useful data

Futures Thinking: Mapping the Possibilities (Part 1)
Broad overview of creating alternative scenarios

Futures Thinking: Mapping the Possibilities (Part 2)
The nuts & bolts of creating scenarios

Futures Thinking: Writing Scenarios
What scenarios actually look like

25 February 2010

Diabetes Innovation Fair videos online

Diabetes
Videos of the November 23, 2009 Diabetes Innovation Fair at the IIT Institute of Design are now on the web.

Graduate students presented design innovation proposals from three courses: Platform Strategy, Persuasive Technology, and Wellness Experience. Each presentation was followed by open dialogue for taking our common concerns to address diabetes and obesity into action for transformative behavioral and social change.

Session 1: Platform strategy for diabetes innovation

Session 2: Persuasive technology for diabetes & obesity

Session 3: Wellness experience research: diabetes in Chicago’s Latino communities

24 February 2010

Millennials – a portrait of generation next

Millennials
This report on the values, attitudes, behaviors and demographic characteristics of the Millennial generation was prepared by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.

It represents the Pew Research Center’s most ambitious examination to date of America’s newest generation, the Millennials, many of whom have now crossed into adulthood.

“Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials – the American teens and twenty-somethings currently making the passage into adulthood – have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and receptive to new ideas and ways of living.

They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults. The Great Recession has set back their entry into the labor force, but they are more upbeat than their elders about their own economic futures and the overall state of the nation. And they are the first “always connected” generation, steeped in digital technology and social media.”

- Read summary
- Download report

24 February 2010

Google’s bad day

Google
Luca De Biase, the journalist I translated this morning, continues to add interesting commentary:

Excerpts from this post (translated into English):

“The Italian sentence on Google says fundamentally that the judges do not consider the [YouTube] platform to be an editor (Google was not sentenced for defamation) but they consider it responsible when there are violations of privacy legislation, in particular with regards to the sharing of sensitive data related to a person’s health. It might be that the problem that could simply be resolved by adding a button to the platform, so that the user, when about to publish something, has to declare that the uploaded contents are not in violation of the privacy legislation. We shall see. [...]

One cannot ignore the fact that the motivations for the ruling are currently lacking. Once the judge will publish them, it will become obvious whether he did indeed take all this correctly into account, pointing out simply that in Google’s terms and conditions at the time, not all precautions were taken to avoid that users would upload materials that damages privacy – in which case the whole thing would be a lot less worrisome and platforms, in order to comply with the law, would just need to be more clear in asking users to pay attention to privacy matters.”

A second post provides some further reflection:

“The right to freedom of information and the right to privacy are increasingly in conflict. And all those who want to reduce the first can appeal to the second. [...]

And even if it all leads to the fact that the platform needs to ensure that those who publish contents have all the rights to do so, even by asking first third parties before going on to publication, all this will generate enormous complications for any platform that deals with user-generated content. If it is just a matter of a better description of the terms and conditions, then it could be resolved rather easily.”

24 February 2010

Google Video: Italian law is complicating the world

Google
This Italian reflection on the Italian Google sentence, written by journalist Luca De Biase (in charge of the Nòva24 insert of “Sole 24 Ore” business newspaper), is highly pertinent and therefore worth to be translated:

Google Video: Italian law is complicating the world

“So now those platforms that allows users to publish online content have become responsible for possible violations by those same users? That’s what an Italian judge just decided. And this will have global legal consequences.

Judge Oscar Magi – the same one [who dealt with the CIA kidnapping] of Abu Omar – has condemned several
Google Italy executives for violating Italian privacy law, because they allowed the publication of a video showing a teenager with Down’s Syndrome being bullied. The judge absolved the three of a defamation accusation.

In practice it seems to state that Google would have had to obtain obtain a consent of all the parties involved – directly or indirectly – to the publication of these images.

This lower court decision is not final [and can be appealed]. But it opens a very complicated future scenario for all internet access providers and most of all for platforms that allow informational and other video content to be published by users directly.

Taken to its logical consequence, this sentence means that before publishing anything whatsoever about third parties on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, or Facebook, users need to first obtain a consent from those third parties, and if not, also the platforms themselves are responsible. The platforms therefore need to supervise everything their users are publishing.

That could be a very serious blow to the world of user-generated content. This sentence should be carefully looked at by all those people and entities who care about the web as a place for freedom of information – with all its good and bad, its risks and opportunities.”

In fact, according to the BBC, Google’s lawyer “questioned how many internet platforms would be able to continue if the decision held.”

I wonder if judge Magi has written consent from his 47 friends, listed with full names and photos on the judge’s entirely public Facebook page

In any case, here is Google’s answer. And yes, they are going to appeal.

Further analysis:
- Guardian
- Guardian editorial
- Fast Company
- ReadWriteWeb
- Spiked

23 February 2010

Mass Localism

Mass Localism
A new report by NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, shows “how we can work better with communities to unlock ingenious solutions to complex social challenges.

Abstract

Policymakers increasingly recognise that many of the solutions to major social challenges – from tackling climate change to improving public health – need to be much more local. Local solutions are frequently very effective, as they reflect the needs of specific communities and engage citizens in taking action. And they are often cost-effective, since they provide a conduit for the resources of citizens, charities or social enterprises to complement those of the state. Given the growing pressure on government finances, these are important benefits.

But localism presents a dilemma. Government has traditionally found it difficult to support genuine local solutions while achieving national impact and scale.

This report offers a solution: an approach by which central and local government can encourage widespread, high quality local responses to big challenges. The approach draws on the lessons of NESTA’s Big Green Challenge – a successful programme to support communities to reduce carbon emissions.

Download report

19 February 2010

The Internet in 2020

Room with a view
A new report on the future of the internet, based on interviews of nearly 900 internet stakeholders and critics, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University, created wide interest.

“The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers. It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. In this report, we cover experts’ thoughts on the following issues:

  • Will Google make us stupid?
  • Will the internet enhance or detract from reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge?
  • Is the next wave of innovation in technology, gadgets, and applications pretty clear now, or will the most interesting developments between now and 2020 come “out of the blue”?
  • Will the end-to-end principle of the internet still prevail in 10 years, or will there be more control of access to information?
  • Will it be possible to be anonymous online or not by the end of the decade?

Fast Company focuses on privacy:

Experts were nearly split down the middle, with 55% agreeing that Internet users will be able to communicate anonymously and 41% agreeing that, by 2002, “anonymous online activity is sharply curtailed.” Not only are there divergent opinions on whether online anonymity will be possible in the future, there isn’t even a consensus on whether anonymity is universally desirable.

ReadWriteWeb takes a broader view and highlights some key quotes from the report.

MSNBC instead focuses on literacy:

A decade from now, Google won’t make us “stupid,” the Internet may make us more literate in a different kind of way and efforts to protect individual anonymity will be even more difficult to achieve, according to many of the experts surveyed for a look at “The Future of the Internet” in 2020.

Download report

19 February 2010

How evidence-based design leads to better patient outcomes

Room with a view
Barbara Pantuso, director of healthcare innovation at frog design, reports on health outcomes and financial implications of Evidence-Based Design (EBD).

“It’s similar to how healthcare professionals make treatment decisions and how insurance companies determine coverage. They are heavily influenced by patient outcomes. If there is systematic evidence of statistically significant improved outcomes, then doctors will more likely prescribe certain treatment regimens (medication, lifestyle, devices, etc) and insurance companies or the government will more likely cover the costs. This is called evidenced-based medicine or evidenced-based treatment.”

Read full story

19 February 2010

Who needs banks if you have a mobile phone?

Mobile money
Cellphone-based money transfer is transforming the prospects of people who live without bank accounts or ATMs – and they don’t need a smartphone. The New Scientist reports.

“It works like this: you pay cash to your local agent – often at the nearest corner shop, if you live in a city – who then tops up your mobile money account using a secure form of SMS text messaging. That money can be transferred to another person by sending an SMS to their cellphone account. People without mobile money accounts can receive payments in the form of a text code which can be forwarded to their local agent, who exchanges it for cash.

The system relies on what is known as the unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) system that is built into the GSM cellphone network. It is USSD that allows pay-as-you-go customers to find out their credit balance, for example.”

Read full story

18 February 2010

Design bugs out

Hospital design
The Design Council and the Department of Health partner to combat the spread of infection in U.K. hospitals. David Sokol reports in Metropolis Magazine.

“Patients go into hospitals to be cured of what ails them, but the ugly truth is that some get sick from being there. In 2007, around 9,000 people in the United Kingdom died from hospital-borne infections. Though the National Health Service has implemented procedural changes that have halved the number of antibiotic-resistant staph infections, or MRSAs, in the last three years, the agency is not content to stop there. [...]

In July 2008, the DH turned to the Design Council for solutions. The resulting program, called Design Bugs Out, began with a team conducting interviews for a month with patients and caregivers in NHS hospitals in Huddersfield, Manchester, and Southampton. From that research, health-care experts determined 11 categories of products in which redesigns could drastically reduce infection-related fatality rates.”

Read full story

17 February 2010

BBC’s director of future media on our mobile future

BBC Online
During a keynote address at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Erik Huggers, the BBC Director of Future Media and Technology, shared his plans to make BBC Online even more accessible on mobiles, and what the industry can do collectively to further open up the huge potential of mobile for the benefit of the audience.

“Today’s mobile audience primarily falls into four groups. “Mobile first” – people who use mobile as their primary access point to the internet. “Mobile lifestyle” – those who love the convenience of mobile services when they’re on the move. “Addicted devotees” – the gadget lovers on their phones all the time, even in the internet connected home, and “social animals” – people particularly driven by social networking.

It’s with these people in mind we focus on today’s mobile propositions.”

Read full story

17 February 2010

English via your mobile

Tiger
The BBC reports on Janala, a service that is revolutionising the teaching of English in Bangladesh using simple mobile technology.

“Janala – it means Window – is a service run by the BBC World Service Trust and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development which launched in Bangladesh last November [and[ has already served up one million English lessons over mobile phones.

Here’s how it works. Bangladesh’s 50 million mobile users simply dial 3000 and get access to hundreds of three-minute audio lesson and SMS quizzes. The classes range from Essential English for beginners to How to tell a story for more advanced learners.

Now, as with any mobile service, plenty of people will try this once and not return but the figures show that English-by-phone is proving more compelling than just about anything else. 39% of callers return to the service, compared to an average 5% return rate for other mobile information products in Bangladesh, and the content for beginners gets a 69% repeat rate.”

- Read full story
- Watch video