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Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
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April 2010
30 April 2010

Design driven prison development in Belgium

prison
Flanders InShape, the Flemish/Belgian competence centre for product development and industrial design, is supporting a new research project on the development of a requirements programme for future prison design in Belgium.

On 25 March Flanders InShape organised the “Towards a 21st Century Prison” conference in collaboration with the architecture department of the Artesis School Antwerp. The audience of architects, policy makers, designers, lecturers and students was treated to a demonstration of the power of design driven innovation in the prison sector.

British architect Simon Henley (2008 UK Healthcare Architect of the Year) presented a research project that he conducted together with Hilary Cottam (2005 UK Designer of the Year) within the RED research unit of the UK Design Council. The audience quickly became convinced that an alternative way of looking at existing problems can lead to new solutions.

That’s how the idea came about that this should also be possible in Belgium. With the planned construction of seven new prisons in mind, a research programme on the matter was created within Flanders InShape. The currently running Artesis School research on new prisons provided a healthy starting point.

Flanders InShape is currently looking for additinal participating companies [disclosure: Experientia has also been contacted]. In exchange for participation, the companies obtain limited project influence by being part of the user committee. They also have a strategic advance by sitting at the forefront when new opportunities for their companies are being developed. Because we want to keep the group limited and workable, we ask you to react quickly. We have three slots open still.

Architects, construction companies, furniture builders, suppliers, caterers and service providers of all sorts are are welcome to contact Flanders InShape.

(Dutch press release)

30 April 2010

Towards a Finnish user needs based service economy

uutiskuva
Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund [disclaimer: and Experientia client] has launched a new book, After the Crisis, and a report, Finland: Wellsprings for a Vital Future, that shed light on the fundamental change Finland is going through.

“For decades, Finland’s wealth has been underpinned by an economy that is based on exports and industry. Globalisation has now changed the geography of industrial production and we are transitioning from production-based activities to a service economy focused on people and solutions. This transition requires a totally new way of thinking,” says Sari Baldauf, Chair of Sitra’s Wellsprings of Finnish Vitality development programme.

The concept of a service economy focused on people and solutions means that today’s growth engines are no longer those on which Finland’s success has been built. In order to succeed, industrial and social institutions are increasingly having to create new service solutions and products for their operations, and ones based on users’ needs.

These changes will affect how we perceive economic growth, well-being, as well as the way people live and work. The impact of the changes will be so great that it would be fair to talk of a cultural transformation.

Read press release

29 April 2010

A special report on television

Acropolis
This week’s Economist contains a special report on television. The leader article presents television as the great survivor, which has coped well with technological change:

“It helps that TV is an inherently lazy form of entertainment. The much-repeated prediction that people will cancel their pay-TV subscriptions and piece together an evening’s worth of entertainment from free broadcasts and the internet “assumes that people are willing to work three times harder to get the same thing”, observes Mike Fries of Liberty Global, a cable giant. Laziness also mitigates the threat from piracy. Although many programmes are no more than three or four mouse clicks away, that still sounds too much like work for most of us. And television-watching is a more sociable activity than it may appear. People like to watch programmes when everybody else is watching them. Give them devices that allow them to record and play back programmes easily, and they will still watch live TV at least four-fifths of the time. [...]

That box might appear to be sitting in the corner of the living room, not doing much. In fact, it is constantly evolving. If there is one media business with a chance of completing the perilous journey to the digital future looking as healthy as it did when it set off, it is television.”

Here is the rest of the report:

Changing the channel
Television is adapting better to technological change than any other media business, says Joel Budd

Beyond the box
Television rushes online, only to wonder where the money is

Ahoy there!
The perils of piracy

The lazy medium
How people really watch television

An emergency screen
Mobile television is unlikely to take off

The killer app
Television needs sport almost as much as sport needs television

Who needs it?
Three-dimensional television is coming, whether you want it or not

Here, there and everywhere
Television is spreading in new directions

An interactive future
The last remaining mass medium needs to engage with its audience and target its offerings

29 April 2010

The data-driven life

Self measurement
Gary Wolf reflects in the upcoming New York Times Magazine on what happens when technology can analyze “every quotidian thing that happened to you today.”

“Numbers make problems less resonant emotionally but more tractable intellectually. In science, in business and in the more reasonable sectors of government, numbers have won fair and square.

For a long time, only one area of human activity appeared to be immune. In the cozy confines of personal life, we rarely used the power of numbers. The techniques of analysis that had proved so effective were left behind at the office at the end of the day and picked up again the next morning. The imposition, on oneself or one’s family, of a regime of objective record keeping seemed ridiculous. A journal was respectable. A spreadsheet was creepy.

And yet, almost imperceptibly, numbers are infiltrating the last redoubts of the personal. Sleep, exercise, sex, food, mood, location, alertness, productivity, even spiritual well-being are being tracked and measured, shared and displayed.”

Read article

29 April 2010

Two new articles on RFID interaction

Touch
Timo Arnall, the acclaimed interaction designer, alerts us to the fact that Touch project PhD researcher Kjetil Nordby has just published two journal articles on interactions with RFID and NFC.

“These articles pull together concepts from ubiquitous computing and HCI, integrated with high-level interaction design practice, alongside analysis from activity theory, and come up with novel theories for the field of design research.”

In the Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing the article Multi-field relations in designing for short-range RFID analyses some of the conceptual foundations for multi-field inputs with RFID enabled artifacts.

The article Conceptual Designing and Technology: Short-Range RFID as Design Material published in the International Journal of Design unpacks RFID—or fields—as design material, and looks at designers motives around emerging technologies.

29 April 2010

Cellphone payments offer alternative to cash

Cashless
The New York Times reports on how a number of big and small companies — including eBay’s PayPal unit, Intuit, VeriFone and Square — are creating innovative ways for individuals to avoid cash and checks and settle all debts, public and private, using their cellphones.

Read article

27 April 2010

Revelation reviewed

Revelation
Tim Macer of Research reviews Revelation, an online qualitative research environment for depth interviewing, discussions and ethnographic studies.

“Online qualitative research does not need to be a pale imitation of conventional face-to-face groups and depths, and it is better not to try. Revelation is a piece of web-based software that provides a rich environment for qualitative researchers to design internet-age research projects that play to the strengths of the medium.”

Read review

27 April 2010

Innovation study: food and digital connectivity

Supermarket
Harnessing the rich detail, creativity, and individual relevance of personal narratives, Shareable.net and Latitude Research co-sponsored an innovation study to explore food information needs, information accessibility in decision-making contexts (e.g. while food shopping), and technology solutions for the future of food and offline purchasing in general.

The study (led by senior analyst Marina Miloslavsky) asked participants to tell a story about a time when they needed more information while food-shopping, and to suggest a technology solution which might have addressed their needs.

Unfortunately, as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

So if you ask for technological solutions, chances are that people will – strangely enough – provide you with technology solutions, and then you come to conclusions like this one:

“If we could use new technologies to access all of the food information we desired while shopping for groceries, suggest our findings, we’d likely be healthier, happier in our environments, and more sustainable as a society.”

Read article: part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4

26 April 2010

The interviews of l’école de design

CADI
The bilingual (Fr/En) research journal CADI of the highly respected design school L’école de design Nantes/Atlantique in the French city of Nantes is a worthwhile treat, as each issue contains four in-depth interviews with professional authorities who worked with their graduating students. A dedicated blog (also in English) provides extra materials. Here are the highlights:

CADI 2009

“Today flexibility, user-control and end-user programming are key notions in our field.”
Interview with Laurence Nigay, researcher in Computer-Human Interfaces and professor at the University of Grenoble
Laurence Nigay focuses particularly on the human, economic and social issues related to new technologies and the digital economy. She also underlines the essential role of design in the field of “tangible interfaces.

“Design could come into play prior to our activities by contributing to new views and new solutions….”
Interview with Stephen Boucher, public policy consultant
Stephen Boucher, former co-secretary of Notre Europe, a think tank specialising in European politics, and now programme director of the EU Climate Policies Programme (launched by the European Climate Foundation), talks about innovative methods for citizens to debate and make their voices heard. How can we organise information and understand trends?

“In the future techno-literate knowledge architects will be supported by knowledge designers.”
Interview with Henri Samier, researcher in business intelligence and innovation
Henri Samier, head of the Masters in Innovation programme at ISTIA (the engineering school of the University of Angers, France) points out the importance of future research, especially in the field of “economic intelligence”.

“In the food industry, design is the only way to make products stand out.”
Interview with Céline Gallen, marketing researcher
This last interview deals with the changes in our eating habits and how designers collaborate with experts in marketing and semiology in this domain. Céline Gallen teaches marketing at the University of Nantes and studies the mental models of conusmers when purchasing food products.

CADI 2008

“Our future will be shaped by teams of engineers and designers who work hand in hand.”
Interview with Frédéric Kaplan, artificial intelligence researcher
Kaplan, who researches artificial intelligence at the EPFL in Lausanne, talks about how design colludes with artificial intelligence related technologies.

“Design does not anticipate social evolutions nor customs. They start to take shape through it.”
Interview with Annie Hubert, anthropologist
Annie Hubert, an anthropologist specialised in nutrition and eating habits, delves into the topic of how design has become an integral part of our daily lives.

“Medicine that is used more appropriately, thanks to design, will be more efficient.”
Interview with Pascale Gauthier, pharmacy expert
Gauthier explores how design contributes to the evolution of parent/child relationships in pediatric care contexts.

“Even when not dealing with extreme situations, designers must be aware of potential hazards.”
Interview with Marie-Thérèse Neuilly, sociology and psycho-sociology researcher
Neuilly discusses how design can adapt to both natural and technological emergencies.

“We have to engage people to share and create a new history, a new vision of the world.”
Interview with Gaël Guilloux, eco-design researcher
Guilloux, who is a researchers and consultant in eco-design at the Rhône-Alpes Regional Design Centre, talks about how indispensable is to the achievement of sustainable production processes.

“The real challenge is not to conceive user-friendly tools, but to view them within a broader cultural context.”
Interview with Bruno Bachimont, scientific director of the French Audiovisual Institute
How can design explore the cultural and sensitive dimensions of digital legacy, thus going beyond the mere production of functional digital tools? That is the central question in the interview of Bruno Bachimont, scientific director of INA, the French Audiovisual Institute.

Increasingly French design schools like L’école de design and Strate Collège are chosing to provide nearly all its materials also in English, thereby underlining their international ambitions and outreach.

As for the Nantes school, you want to check their programmes on tangible interfaces, ethically responsible innovation, new mobility, virtual reality and “mutations of the built environment“.

Knowing the effort involved, I can only compliment those French design schools for their English language commitments.

26 April 2010

Guidebook on climate communications and behavioral change

CCBC
To address global warming there must be a shift in thinking and behavior that motivates people and organizations to engage in emissions reductions and climate preparedness activities and support new policies. Mounting evidence shows that this shift is not only possible, but an important part of a [US] national strategy. Even simple actions taken at the household and organizational levels can rapidly and significantly reduce carbon emissions. Making these changes would buy time and build public support for new policies that could spur greater reductions.

In order to motivate people to alter their views and behaviors related to global warming, leaders within all levels of government, the private sector, non-profits and communities must become aware of and utilize the fundamentals of effective climate communications, outreach, and behavioral change mechanisms.

To address this need, the Social Capital Project of the Climate Leadership Initiative — a social science-based research and technical assistance collaborative between The Resource Innovation Group and the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon — has developed this guidebook, which draws on extensive global warming, behavior change and communications research completed by our organization and others as well as from practitioner expertise. The guide distills this information into tools and recommendations that climate leaders can easily apply. It includes talking points that have been tested with the public as well as quotes from focus group participants that reflect the attitudes of many Americans about global warming.

The guide is organized into two sections:

  • Part One: The Role of Tension, Efficacy, and Benefits in the Global Warming Conversation
    This section illustrates the challenges with existing climate communication efforts and provides tips on how to frame and deliver outreach efforts in a way that motivates changes in thinking and behavior.
     
  • Part Two: Understanding and Connecting with Audiences
    This section offers detailed advice and tips on how to frame global warming communications and promote behavior change in ways that resonate with a range of audience segments.
26 April 2010

Eight interaction design and architecture videos

Architecture and UX
The disciplines of interaction design and architecture share a number of common traits—such as a focus on solving problems for people and encouraging people to interact with products and environments in new and exciting ways—and each discipline can learn much from the other.

These eight videos highlight the work of people who see and celebrate the connections between interaction design and architecture.

26 April 2010

Interactions Magazine – May/June 2010 issue

Interactions
The latest issue of Interactions Magazine is about the spread of design into new areas, write editor Jon Kolko:

“The process of design is spreading into new areas of society and business, and as it does, our work gets more complicated and more rewarding. From the details of our interfaces to the focus of our efforts, this issue describes the complexity of the changing landscape of interactions.”

Here are the articles available for free online:

interactions: Business, Culture, and Society
Jon Kolko
The process of design is spreading into new areas of society and business, and as it does, our work gets more complicated and more rewarding. From the details of our interfaces to the focus of our efforts, this issue describes the complexity of the changing landscape of interactions.

Reframing health to embrace design of our own wellbeing
Rajiv Mehta, Shelley Evenson, Paul Pangaro, Hugh Dubberly
This article describes a growing trend: framing health in terms of well-being and broadening health-care to include self-management. Self-management reframes patients as designers, an example of a shift also occurring in design practice – reframing users as designers. The article concludes with thoughts on what these changes may mean when designing for health.

Depth over breadth: designing for impact locally, and for the long haul
Emily Pilloton
In the past few years, we designers have acknowledged the imperatives of sustainability and design for the greater good, and responded by launching initiatives that are often rife with widespread cheerleading rather than deep, meaningful work. [Yet] I firmly believe that lasting impact requires all three of the following: proximity (simply being there, in the place you seek to design with and for), empathic investment (a personal and emotional stake in collective prosperity), and pervasiveness (the opposite of scattershot – involvement that has impact at multiple scales).

Solving the world’s problems through design
Nadav Savio
Design Revolution is a fantastic sourcebook of inspiring designs and creative problem solving and a deeply humanistic call to arms. Pilloton wants nothing less than for designers to focus their energy, knowledge, and talent on making people’s lives better.

Natural user interfaces are not natural
Don Norman
Gestural systems are no different from any other form of interaction. They need to follow the basic rules of interaction design, which means well-defined modes of expression, a clear conceptual model of the way they interact with the system, their consequences, and means of navigating unintended consequences. As a result, means of providing feedback, explicit hints as to possible actions, and guides for how they are to be conducted are required.

Making face: practices and interpretations of avatars in everyday media
Liz Danzico
We’re starting to see more and more experiences that weave avatar with message, pairing the expression of intent with content. How will the mix of image and message further proliferate through everyday life? Will the image stand for the message or will face work still be work? What will be socially acceptable, and will new etiquettes emerge in segments that cross personal, professional, and mixed boundaries?

The ubiquitous and increasingly significant status message
Bernard J. Jansen, Abdur Chowdury, Geoff Cook
The status message has evolved from its lowly beginnings into a multidimensional feature and service addressing numerous social needs.

Back to the future: bleeding-edge IVR
Ahmed Bouzid, Weiye Ma
The glaring disconnect between what companies aim to achieve in deploying interactive voice response (IVR) systems (better customer service) and what they actually do achieve (customer frustration) can be squarely laid on the shoulders of shabby voice user interface (VUI) design and implementation. The vast majority of today’s IVRs are, simply put, shamefully unusable, and customers detest them.

Intentional communication: expanding our definition of user experience design
Kristina Halvorson
Design and content. Content and design. It’s impossible (and stupid) to argue over which one is more important than the other – which should come first, which is more difficult or “strategic.” They need each other to provide context, meaning, information, and instruction in any user experience (UX).

Content strategy for everybody (even you)
Karen McGrane
When done the wrong way, creating new content and managing the approval process takes longer and is more painful than anyone expects. But planning for useful, usable content is possible – and necessary. It’s time to do it right.

interactions cafe: on language and potential
Jon Kolko
The more we carefully select our words, the more comfortable we’ll be in making the wholesale shift toward the emerging role of design in healthcare – and in other arenas where social responsibility is growing, and designers are able to value the whole person.

26 April 2010

How print dominates newspaper website design

ISOJ
In his presentation at this weekend’s Internional Symposium on Online Journalism, Nuno Vargas of the University of Barcelona (Spain) talked about how news and information is graphically presented online.

His paper discusses whether the design of online newspapers shows they are embracing the web fully as a new medium or whether they are they anchored to the paper metaphor.

He found that newspapers still approach the web from a paper-based concept, rather than as a dynamic medium.

Vargas said our role is to make data visible to user in the best way possible and allow them to make decisions on how they navigate this. But we are not there yet.

In his analysis on online newspapers in Brazil, Argentine, Portugal and Spain, he found there was no robust but flexible information architecture.

Vargas showed examples of the front pages of newspaper website, colour-coded to indicate multimedia. It was a powerful visual way to show how the print metaphor dominates newspaper web design.

He concluded by urging news outlets to accept that the web is a new medium, and shift away from transferring existing design ideas to the web.

Read papers:
- From the pixel to the grid and back (pdf)
- Setting guidelines on how to design the news online (pdf)

(via reportr.net and Vittorio Pasteris)

25 April 2010

Dan Ariely on predicting the irrational

Dan Ariely
Tom H. C. Anderson, founder and managing partner of Anderson Analytics, discuss the book “Predictably Irrational” and the field of market research with behavioural economist Dan Ariely.

Dan is also professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University Fuqua School of Business and visiting professor MIT The Media Laboratory.

“If the decision environment plays a big role in what people end up choosing, it’s important to model or represent the decision environment. To the extent that conjoint analysis correctly represents decision environments that people use when making particular decisions (when people consider different computers they look at the whole profile: resolution, memory, hard drive space) then it’s a good method. But to the extent that it uses different decision-making processes then it’s not accurate and can actually be misleading.”

Read interview

25 April 2010

Brains, behaviour and design

Toolkit
Over the past few decades, researchers have codified many of the patterns that describe why people behave irrationally. As researchers, how can we be on the lookout for these patterns of behavior when we go into the field? As designers, how can we use our understanding of patterned irrational behavior to help people make better choices?

A group of graduate students at IIT Institute of Design have developed tools that apply findings from the fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics to the design process. These tools provide a head start on framing research as well as developing new strategies for solving user problems.

Brains, Behavior and Design: 5 tools to understand and influence decision-making is a collection of their research and a toolkit that includes factors, short-cuts, strategies and exercises to help us understand human behaviour throughout the design process.

The students are currently testing these tools in real world design problems in domains like healthcare and sustainability.

24 April 2010

Toward a read/write urbanism

Frameworks
What might we gain, asks Adam Greenfield, if we begin to conceive of cities, for some limited purposes anyway, as software under active development?

What if we imagined that the citizen-responsiveness system we’ve designed lives in a dense mesh of active, communicating public objects? Then the framework we’ve already deployed becomes something very different. To use another metaphor from the world of information technology, it begins to look a whole lot like an operating system for cities.

Provided that, we can treat the things we encounter in urban environments as system resources, rather than a mute collection of disarticulated buildings, vehicles, sewers and sidewalks. One prospect that seems fairly straightforward is letting these resources report on their own status. Information about failures would propagate not merely to other objects on the network but reach you and me as well, in terms we can relate to, via the provisions we’ve made for issue-tracking.

And because our own human senses are still so much better at spotting emergent situations than their machinic counterparts, and will probably be for quite some time yet to come, there’s no reason to leave this all up to automation.

Read article

24 April 2010

The imitation economy

Imitation
Innovation is overrated, writes Drake Bennett in the Boston Globe. It’s time to appreciate the power of the copycat.

“Invaluable though innovation may be, our relentless focus on it may be obscuring the value of its much-maligned relative, imitation. Imitation has always had a faintly disreputable ring to it — presidents do not normally give speeches extolling the virtues of the copycat. But where innovation brings new things into the world, imitation spreads them; where innovators break the old mold, imitators perfect the new one; and while innovators can win big, imitators often win bigger. Indeed, what looks like innovation is often actually artful imitation — tech-savvy observers see Apple’s real genius not in how it creates new technologies (which it rarely does) but in how it synthesizes and packages existing ones.”

Read article

24 April 2010

Machiavelli 2.0

IT
Alexander Schellong, a senior consultant with CSC’s public sector management practice, and Philipp Mueller, director of the Center for Public Management and Governance at the Salzburg University Business School, write in the Harvard International Review on the fundamentals of network society.

“In the sixteenth-century, Machiavelli, a senior policy advisor in the city-state of Florence, Italy, became one of the first thinkers to address the new formations of political power that developed with the advent of modern society. In his seminal work, the prince, he argues for the importance of influencing public opinion. For Machiavelli, attaining the positive opinion of his subjects is the precondition for political effectiveness. Machiavelli believed in the capacity of the people to judge the public good in various settings. [...]

Networked forms of societies are becoming serious alternatives to modern societies and we need to better understand them if we want to succeed in today’s complex policy environments. So in 2010, Machiavelli would advise the prince to build her power base around open networked communities, transparency, standardized interfaces and a bold move to just sail unchartered waters to test their boundaries.”

Read article

24 April 2010

Pope Benedict: people at the centre of the web

Benedict
According to the Repubblica newspaper, the head of the Catholic Church has been arguing today for the centrality of the person on the web. We agree, but are surprised that this man who is in charge of an institution with some serious difficulties, now calls on the media to be driven by truth and goodness.

[My translation] “VATICAN CITY – Digital information is a great opportunity, also for evangelisation, but it can become a tool ‘of homogenisation and control, of intellectual and moral relativism’ if the centrality of and the respect for the person is lost. That’s what Benedict XVI said today at the Vatican to the participants of the “Digital Testimonials” conference, organised by the Italian Episcopal Conference CEI. [...]. The media have to be driven by the search of truth and the good. All commmunication professionals should be tirelessly driven by the passion of man.”

Read article (in Italian)
And here is the English version, which is more mildly worded.

24 April 2010

Psychology, climate change and sustainable behaviour

Psychology and climate
Alexa Spence and Nick Pidgeon of Cardiff University write in Environment Magazine that meeting existing and future climate change targets will require rapid social transformations that economics and technology alone cannot induce. We must, they say, also face up to the thorny question of human behaviour.

“What represents a “sustainable lifestyle,” and how might competing visions of this be reconciled? How might desirable lifestyle changes be achieved? Will existing beliefs and choices help or hinder the uptake and diffusion of particular low-carbon technologies? And what models and evidence can policymakers draw from to encourage the development of appropriate social norms and sustainable behavior?

Of all the human sciences with a potential to contribute to the key task of understanding and informing behavior change in the environmental domain, psychology, broadly defined as the study of human beliefs and behavior, has been particularly underused.”

Read article