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Putting People First

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September 2010
30 September 2010

Crowdsourcing: turning customers into creative directors

Threadless
Is turning your customers into both creative director and chief of research the ideal low-cost model for business? The BBC reports on the role of crowdsourcing in business:

“Not everyone is so sanguine about the benefits. Jaron Lanier is a US computer scientist, virtual reality pioneer, and author of You Are Not a Gadget. He made Time magazine’s 2010 list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

His concern is that by “mining” the crowd in this way, the wealth that results from the work done remains concentrated in the hands of the people who put out the call – ultimately endangering jobs and the economy. Lanier also believes that crowdsourcing threatens creativity. “

Read article

30 September 2010

Facebook exec: All media will be personalized in 3 to 5 years

Facebook
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in New York today that in the next three to five years, a website that isn’t tailored to a specific user’s interest will be an anachronism, according to coverage from media industry blog PaidContent, and reported on by ReadWriteWeb.

“That’s fantastic: a new level of subject-level sophistication, detail and efficiency will be available to a wider variety of people than ever before. Reading the news no longer means opening the local newspaper and seeing the lowest-common denominator news that the largest number of people will likely find palatable.

The other side of the coin is perhaps more familiar: the argument that personalization is an information silo. It leads to self re-enforcing political perspectives, unchecked extremism, a shortage of empathy, stunted learning about the world and a weak democracy.”

Read article

30 September 2010

Manuel Castells: Mobile internet will outstrip ‘desktop’ use by 2014

Manuel Castells
By 2014, the number of mobile internet users will surpass the number of users browsing the internet via a desktop computer, says a former adviser to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and member of technology panels on the United Nations.

Professor Manuel Castells told a conference on web science at the Royal Society this week that the internet is a “key technology of freedom” for those able to access it, predicting that the planet will achieve “quasi-universal coverage of internet access as my generation fades away”. In that time, he said, a “major disparity in the quality of connection around the world is a major issue of policy” for governments to tackle.

Read article (The Guardian)

(For more background on Castells, watch Time for Change, an excellent documentary by Bregtje van der Haak, produced and broadcast by Dutch television station VPRO.)

30 September 2010

What does the Internet of Things mean for UX people?

Design beyond the glowing rectangle
Last week, the Sixth European Information Architecture Summit took place in Paris, and all the presentations are already online. Here are a few that caught my attention:

Design Beyond the Glowing Rectangle: User experience design and research implications of the Internet of Things
Claire Rowland & Chris Browne, Fjord, UK
The key challenges we think UX designers will have to be prepared for, and some suggested ways to do things differently. Or, as Bruce Sterling said said, “It’s a good conceptual exercise to ponder “glowing screens” as a transitional technology. Just like “film” and the “boob tube.” What “film.” What “tube.” Where are they. We no longer have ‘em. We still talk about ‘em, but they don’t exist any more.

Beyond Co-Design: how open collaboration formats can enhance your design process
Johanna Kollmann & Franco Papeschi, Vodafone, UK

29 September 2010

Creating a patient-centered future for health care

Future healthcare
Minneapolis firm Worrell looked at the future of health care through the patient’s perspective. Fast Company’s Co.Design site reports.

“When it comes to designing new medical devices, most of the talk is about how easy products are for physicians to use, noted designer Kai Worrell at last week’s Body Computing conference at USC. There’s almost no conversation about the experience from the patients’ perspective, he said — a shift which could radically change the health care industry.

Worrell’s Minneapolis-based firm has spent the past few years talking with patients, visiting their homes, and getting to know the needs of these stakeholders as they’ve designed health care products. They decided that they could use those hundreds of hours of research to help more people, creating the video Design We Can All Live With to show the current problems and potential solutions.”

Read article (and make sure to watch the video!)

29 September 2010

Forrester Research: Many social networkers happy just to lurk

Social networker
Online social networks are growing, but the percentage of users uploading content to sites like YouTube and Facebook has “plateaued” worldwide, according to a report released Tuesday by Forrester Research, writes CNN.

The report, called “A Global Update of Social Technographics,” says people joining online social networks aren’t uploading videos, posting status updates and engaging in conversations like those before them.

Read article

29 September 2010

PhD: Mobile phone use by young adults in India: a case study

Mobile India
“Mobile phone use by young adults in India: a case study”, the PhD thesis of Priyanka Matanhelia at the University of Maryland, is available online.

Abstract

This study explored the use of mobile phones among young adults in India. The study used the theoretical frameworks of uses and gratifications approach from media studies, social-cognitive domain theory from human development literature and social construction of technology (SCOT) from Science and Technology studies. The main objective of the study was to examine the use of mobile phones to fulfill communication, media and age-related needs by young people in India and to investigate regional and gender differences.

The study was conducted in two phases using a mixed-methods approach. In the first phase, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 college-going young adults (18 – 24 years) in Mumbai and Kanpur in December 2007 and January 2008. In the second phase, a survey was conducted with 400 college-going young adults (18 – 24 years) in Mumbai and Kanpur.

The qualitative analysis of the data showed that young people in both the cities used cell phones for a variety of communication, news and entertainment needs. Additionally, they considered cell phones as personal items and used them to store private content, maintain privacy and have private conversations. Further, the analysis showed that they used cell phones to negotiate independence from parents and to maintain friendships and create friendships with members of opposite sex.

The quantitative analysis of the data revealed that young people in the two cities used cell phones differently due to the differences in their lifestyles and socio-cultural factors. Additionally, the study found there were only a few gender differences in the use of cell phones by young people, mainly in the use of cell phones for entertainment purposes, negotiation of independence from parents and in forming friendships with members of opposite sex. Finally, the study concluded that young people in India mainly use cell phones for private communication and needs.

Download thesis

29 September 2010

UK campaign for inquiry into “mind change” caused by computers and internet

Lady Greenfield
The potential transformation of our brains caused by intensive use of computers and the internet is a threat to our quality of life on the same scale as risks to the planet from climate change, according to an eminent neuroscientist. The Financial Times reports.

“Lady Greenfield of Oxford University has stepped up her campaign for an inquiry into “mind change” caused by computers and the internet. [...]

Lady Greenfield said the possible benefits of modern technology included a higher IQ, better memory and quicker processing of information. But she is more worried about the potential negative side. For example, social networking sites might reduce the empathy that young people felt towards others; using search engines to find facts might hinder the ability to learn; and computer games in which it was possible to start from the beginning, no matter how many mistakes were made, might make us more reckless in our day-to-day lives, she said.”

Read article

29 September 2010

US market research: Few Americans are consuming digital media

Digital devices
Connected devices are still having trouble finding a mass audience, a new report from market-research firm The NPD Group has found. But that is likely to change over time.

“According to NPD, a whopping 75 percent of all U.S. consumers did not connect to or download multimedia content, including games, music, video, or e-books, over the past three months. The majority of consumers who did search for and download such content–15 percent–did so mostly on their PC or Mac as opposed to other types of connected devices, such as video game consoles, mobile devices, or Blu-ray players.”

Read article

29 September 2010

In study, children cite appeal of digital reading

Scholastic
Many children want to read books on digital devices, while parents worry that technology will distract young bookworms, according to a survey by the publisher Scholastic. The New York Times reports:

“Many children want to read books on digital devices and would read for fun more frequently if they could obtain e-books. But even if they had that access, two-thirds of them would not want to give up their traditional print books.

These are a few of the findings in a study being released on Wednesday by Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter books and the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

The report set out to explore the attitudes and behaviors of parents and children toward reading books for fun in a digital age. Scholastic surveyed more than 2,000 children ages 6 to 17, and their parents, in the spring.”

Read article

25 September 2010

Essential interaction design essays and articles

Kicker Studio
Dan Saffer of Kicker Studio has started a list of essays and articles that he feels are important touchstones and reference points for interaction designers.

The list contains only publicly available articles. Any additions are more than welcome.

24 September 2010

Videos of Stanford’s HCI seminar

Stanford University
Below are the 2010 videos of the Human-Computer Interaction Seminar at Stanford University. Check also the full playlist.

Redesigning the programming experience
(May 28, 2010) Joel Brandt, a PhD candidate in the Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Group, discusses the roles that online resources play in creating software and examines the emerging class of “opportunistic” programmers out there today.

Interdisciplinary design for services, systems, and beyond
(May 21, 2010) Jodi Forlizzi, Associate Professor of Design and Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses two insights that she has learned from bringing design to human computer interaction research and development. Professor Forlizzi uses examples from her work and the work of her lab to show the benefits of these insights.

How we think with bodies and things
(May 7, 2010) David Kirsh, Professor of Cognitive Science at University of California-San Diego, discusses the concept of enactive thought and provides data from extensive ethnographic studies and a few simple experiments to prove that it exists.

Lifelong kindergarten: design, play, share, learn
(April 30, 2010) Mitch Resnick, Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, discusses and demonstrates how new technologies can help extend kindergarten-style learning to people of all ages, enabling everyone to learn through designing, playing, and sharing.

Designing stuff: lame gods in the service of prosthetic gods
(April 16, 2010) Harold G. Nelson, Professor of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the importance of understanding the nature of designing (agency), designers (lame gods), and designs (prosthetic gods).

The green machine
(April 2, 2010) Aaron Marcus, of Aaron Marcus and Associates, discusses how his company is leveraging mobile phone applications and their user interfaces to persuade people to save home energy usage by combining information design and persuasion design.

Anthropomorphic interfaces for the underserved
(March 12, 2010) Timothy Bickmore, Professor at Northeastern University, discusses his research with a virtual nurse that helps patients understand their medical conditions and medications when they are discharged from a hospital.

Representing earth
(March 5, 2010) Michael Naimark discusses the technologies of web applications that use photos and video to document the Earth.

Interactive art and social meaning
(February 26, 2010) Peggy Weil, adjunct professor of design at the California College of Arts, discusses the incorporation of interaction design and virtual reality into the human experience.

Driving user behavior with game dynamics
(February 19, 2010) Rajat Paharia, founder and Chief Production Officer of Bunchball, discusses participation engines and the use of game dynamics and behavioral economics to incentivize and motivate user participation on the web.

How multiplayer games will change the future of work
(February 22, 2010) Leighton Read, high-tech investor, entrepreneur, and CEO of Seriosity Inc. and Alloy Ventures discusses how multiplayer game will change the future of work.

Speaking versus typing
(February 5, 2010) Maryam Garrett and Mike Cohen of Google discuss speech and typing search functions dependent upon phone type and most particularly voice search on smart phones.

The anti-ergonomy of instruments of interaction
(January 29, 2010) Adrian Freed, from UC Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Techniques, discusses music, technology and computing and his research on intriguing new interactions within these systems.

Following #twitter
(January 22, 2010) Vik Singh, from Yahoo!, discusses his research on how search connects to real time, and how this may change the interactive space on the web.

How prototyping practices affect design results
(January 15, 2010) Steven P. Dow of the Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Group discusses his research on how prototyping practices affect learning, motivation, communication, and outcome in design. To help answer this question, he has developed creative problem-solving tasks, such as an advertisement design task where design creations are to be compared through ad campaign performance analytics.

Designing a unified experience
(January 8, 2010) Kim Goodwin, a Cooper Designer, discusses persona based research models for product development and recommends that design teams collaborate interactively from ideation in order to produce a more end-user friendly product.

22 September 2010

UX developments at Telefónica

Telefónica
Some UX developments at Telefónica, the Spanish telecommunications group.

Telefónica introduces user experience lab
Telefónica’s research and development unit has presented its user experience lab. Via the user experience lab, Telefónica R&D uses the technique of co-creation, involving users in the process of products / services design. The lab includes all the elements that can be found in an ordinary household, with three main areas – living room with kitchen, study room and focus group area. These sections enable users to interact and conduct simultaneous and multiuser tests. The lab features an observation and recording system composed of 12 cameras with x20 zoom, microphones, as well as an observation room. The laboratory carries out an average of one test per week and the profile of the participants is very heterogeneous, depending on the product or service to be tested. The facility is used both for user testing (test of products and services, discussion groups and other usability techniques) as well as for workshops (analysis of results, product creation and conceptualization).

Internet of the Future
We at Telefónica I+D envision a future in which services based on communication will make up a digital world full of possibilities and improvements to people’s daily life and capabilities. These services will support modern society’s main challenges in addition to creating a more sustainable world. This Internet of the Future will combine an Internet of People, an Internet of Things, an Internet of Intelligence, an Internet of Services, and a ubiquitous, high-capacity network.
> Download report

Telefónica leading SmartSantander
Telefónica I+D will lead SmartSantander, a European project aimed at making the city of Santander the first Smart City in Europe. The project relies upon the Telefónica network capacities, and Telefónica will provide other services beyond mere connectivity. The first practical applications of this project – which was just officially presented to the city – will become available in June 2011.

20 September 2010

Mobile Monday Amsterdam on design

MoMo Amsterdam
Every other month Mobile Monday Amsterdam organises a network event with visionary speakers and practical cases. The most recent one, on 6 September, was devoted to design and had a couple of top-level speakers. See the videos for yourselves.

Matt Webb – Managing Director at BERG (UK)
What comes after mobile
Matt Webb talks about how slightly smart things have invaded our lives over the past years. People have been talking about artificial intelligence for years but the promise has never really come through. Matt shows how the AI promise has transformed and now seems to be coming to us in the form of simple toys instead of complex machines. But this talks is about much more then AI, Matt also introduces chatty interfaces & hard math for trivial things.

Timo Arnall – Director at elastic space (Norway)
The design of networked products
Timo Arnall take us on a a very visual path where he talks about how we can use rich interaction with the world around us to create more meaningful experiences. Timo shares the most important learnings from the research work he’s done in the past years.

(via InfoDesign)

18 September 2010

The digital panopticon

Panopticon
In a three-part series Joshua-Michéle Ross explores on O’Reilly Radar a series of questions on the value and function of social media (a.k.a. social technologies).

“I will not be arguing that social technologies are a bane or should be stopped. I don’t believe the former is true and I believe the latter is impossible… I will not be arguing against technology. Rather, I will raise questions about the potential abuse of social technologies and the steps we might take to remedy them. The more discussion this prompts within the Radar community the better.”

Part 1: The evangelist fallacy, social media and the new Age of Enlightenment
Part 2: Captivity of the commons
Part 3: The digital panopticon

18 September 2010

Cutting edge sharing and bartering in Brooklyn

Bartering at Bushwick
From farming to art, practices like sharing and bartering are being revived and updated for the Twitter age. The New York Times reports from Brooklyn.

“Concepts like sharing and bartering — whether it’s fabric at Etsy Labs in Dumbo or powerboats at SailTime on the Chelsea Piers — are being revived and updated for the Twitter age.

“The groundswell of social technology today is creating unprecedented opportunities to share and collaborate,” said Rachel Bosman, an author of the new book “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.” “Farmers’ markets and Facebook have a lot in common. All around us we’re seeing a renewed belief in the importance of community, in both the physical and virtual worlds.”

Despite the lingering hippie connotations, collectives, which might be described as self-managed groups of people with similar interests working toward a common goal, are a thoroughly modern phenomenon.”

Read article

18 September 2010

Values in technology design and use: ethnography’s contribution

Tricia Wang
A couple of months ago former Nokia ethnographer Tricia Wang gave a talk at the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, CA, and she just posted the slideshow and the abstract on her blog.

“My talk today is about how I came into my research at Nokia wanting to answer the question: how can ethnographers contribute to the product design process of a mobile device? Ethnographically grounded research for technology use is a method that aims to reveal users’ values, beliefs, and ideas. Nokia was one of the first mobile companies to concertedly hire ethnographers as part of its design process, In the mid to late nineties, Nokia changed the mobile industry forever by creating affordable, user friendly phones. More than a decade later, the hardware mobile phone market is nearing saturation. With Nokia transitioning from a company that produces hardware to software, how can ethnographically driven research provide strategic insights for this shift?”

Poking around on Tricia’s site, I discovered some more inspiring and excellently written treasures to savour:

The Great Internet Freedom Bluff of Digital Imperialism: thoughts on cyber diplomacy, cargo cult digital activism… and Haystack
The Haystack Affair, like the recent Google-China Saga is just another technology that has been caught in the digital geo-politics of neo-informationalism. Neo-informationalism is the belief that information should function like currency in free-market capitalism—borderless, free from regulation, and mobile. The logic of this rests on an ethical framework that is tied to what Morgan Ames calls “information determinism,” the belief that free and open access to information can create real social change. [...] Neo-informationalist policies, such as the new “internet freedom” foreign policy to ensure free and flowing information, compliment neoliberal practices in corporate welfare to keep markets free and open to the US and all of our allies who benefit from our work. But it’s not free for all when it’s just free for some.

Check also these related posts:

  • Evgeny Morozov: Were Haystack’s Iranian testers at risk?
    Haystack is the Internet’s equivalent of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Washington’s push to promote Internet Freedom without thinking through the consequences and risks involved; thus, the more we learn about the Haystack Affair while it’s still fresh in everyone’s memory, the better.
     
  • Sami Ben Gharbia: The Internet Freedom fallacy and Arab digital activism
    This article focuses on grassroots digital activism in the Arab world and the risks of what seems to be an inevitable collusion with U.S foreign policy and interests. It sums up the most important elements of the conversation I have been having for the last 2 years with many actors involved in defending online free speech and the use of technology for social and political change. While the main focus is Arab digital activism, I have made sure to include similar concerns raised by activists and online free speech advocates from other parts of the world, such as China, Thailand, and Iran.

Three useful perspectives on technology, design, and social change (and countering the ICT4D hype)
As someone who researches the social side of technology, I am constantly trying to find new ways to talk to technologists that technology itself does not create social change, rather it’s how technology is socially embedded in a variety of institutions and cultural contexts. [...] Three resources have been very useful to me lately.

18 September 2010

All together now, to each his own sync

Anand Giridharadas
New York Times cultural commentator Anand Giridharadas reflects on the fact that as the very idea of mass culture erodes, many people are synced with themselves but unsynced with those around them.

“The digitizing, globalizing world is changing the working of culture. As some see it, cities and nations and continents are losing their common culture, their shared reference points, their zeitgeist: People can no longer count on those around them knowing or cherishing any of the same music or art or films. Others argue that a common culture is not dying so much as changing form: that it is less and less attached to particular terrain and ever more linked to dispersed.”

Read article

18 September 2010

Intel: it’s all about the experience

Genevieve Bell
The Intel announcements this week, particularly those by CTO Justin Rattner, are quite visionary. But also anthropologist Genevieve Bell’s approach is making waves in the community, such as this article by TechRadar.com.

Before the Experience Lab, [Genevieve Bell] was working with the Digital Home team; a job she jokes that she got because of her criticism of Intel’s ill-fated Viiv platform; while Intel engineers were promising to “unleash the PC in your TV” she was pointing out that people already had a screen in their living room and they didn’t want it to behave anything like a PC.

“We put up with things in PCs that we would never put up with in a TV. Imagine the first time the TV told you it needed a new driver or the first time your Tivo said it needed to defragment before you could record a programme – or the first time your TV blue screened!”

Instead, she says, Intel should have been asking “What is the essence of TV that people love so much? What is it that’s so compelling that we still organise our day, our time and our furniture around it?” The very un-PC answer is that “People love TV because it’s not complicated. It’s one button to a story they care about.”

Read article

17 September 2010

Context-aware devices that become our natural extensions

Intel inside
Much coverage on the presentation by Justin Rattner (video), Intel’s CTO at the Intel Developer Forum, where he discussed a future with so-called context-aware computers and mobile devices. (Make sure to see the full video).

PC Magazine
Rattner describes the future of context-aware computing
The real question, Rattner said, is: Is the market ready for all of this context? Intel Fellow Genevieve Bell (who also led the Day Zero events) arrived onstage to explain that all users have “ambivalent and complex” relationships with technology, and that discovering what people truly love is the key to making context-aware computing work. The process involves conceptualizing and designing potential products, validating that in the real world, integrating the changes, and repeating the process until the users are satisfied. This will involve, Bell said, talking more to users, but also helping them understand that context and life are not different contexts—watching a baseball game, seeing a road sign, or using multiple devices in a living room are all examples of context that can help devices learn more about you and what you need. Bell said, “If we get context right—even a little bit right—it propels an entirely new set of experiences.”

Wired.com > Gadget Lab
How context-aware computing will make gadgets smarter
Small always-on handheld devices equipped with low-power sensors could signal a new class of “context-aware” gadgets that are more like personal companions. Such devices would anticipate your moods, be aware of your feelings and make suggestions based on them, says Intel.
Researchers have been working for more than two decades on making computers be more in tune with their users. That means computers would sense and react to the environment around them. Done right, such devices would be so in sync with their owners that the former will feel like a natural extension of the latter.

Computerworld
Intel: Future smartphones will be assistants, companions [alternate link]
Rattner said that as devices begin to understand the way their users live their lives, they will turn into personal assistants. Within five years, smartphones will be aware of the information on a user’s laptop, desktop and tablet systems, and they will use that knowledge to help guide them through their daily activities.

Fast Company
Coming soon: mind-reading cell phones
Eventually, Intel might actually produce truly psychic cell phones. Earlier this summer, we learned about Intel’s Human Brain Project–a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh that uses EEG, fMRI, and magnetoencephalography to figure out what a subject is thinking about based entirely on their neural activity pattern. The technology won’t be ready for at least a decade–and that’s just fine with us.

And there is much more