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Putting People First

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Sustainability


October 2010
15 October 2010

Project explores human factor in ‘smarter cities’

Smart neighbourhood
Boston University is participating in a $2 million National Science Foundation-funded Smart Neighborhood project that seeks to make a Boston neighborhood more energy efficient. But rather than just install solar panels or electricity monitors, researchers are focusing on ways to get people on board and participate in what they hope will be a “living laboratory.”

One of the ideas behind the project is that there is no lack of technology to measure energy consumption, project participants said at a recent public outreach event. Two-way smart meters, for example, can be hooked up to provide a real-time display of electricity use. But more data doesn’t necessarily lead to changes in energy-related behavior, such as cutting wasted energy or shifting to off-peak hours to reduce bills.

The BU project does intend to monitor electricity in an effort to lower its carbon footprint. But it’s coupled that with community relations, financing, and even measuring the the impact from trees on the local carbon footprint.

Read article

11 October 2010

Experientia supporting Flemish applied research on mobility and sustainability

Flanders InShape
Experientia is excited to be working on two applied research projects for Flanders InShape, a Flemish design promotion agency that supports and advises small and mid-size companies in Flanders, Belgium on matters related to product development and design.

The ASSIST project, in collaboration with Enthoven Associates, is focused on improving mobility and communications for people with motor disabilities, whereas the EVENT project (conducted with FutureProofed) supports Kortrijk Xpo in becoming the most sustainable trade fair and congress complex in Belgium and one of the top five most sustainable fair complexes in Europe by 2020.

With these applied research projects, Flanders InShape aims to augment the efficiency and effectiveness of product development in Flanders and to improve the competitive position of Flemish companies through the development of products with higher added value for the customer.

ASSIST – Improving mobility and communications for people with motor disabilities

The Assist project, which Experientia conducts in collaboration with acclaimed Belgian design consultancy Enthoven Associates and care organisations Centrum voor Zorgtechnologie and In-HAM, aims to develop new concept ideas for assistive technologies for people with motor disabilities, using a people-centred design process. Although aimed at a Flemish context, the project focuses on international technological and design projects.

In the first phase of the project, Experientia has conducted a comprehensive benchmarking of current assistive device solutions for people with walking difficulties. The benchmark explores both on-body assistive devices, which are always in contact with motor disabled people, such as wheelchairs, rollators and standers; and assistive environments, including public transportation, mobile applications and accessibility.

Experientia will also contribute to the creation of scenarios for use during contextual observation to validate the design opportunities found in the benchmark. Enthoven Associates is currently conducting the user research and jointly the partners will then take the insights further, supported by a creative workshop to generate ideas, into design concepts.

EVENT – Sustainable event management project

The Event project sees Experientia team up with Futureproofed, a sustainable design consultancy, and Kortrijk Xpo, a conference and trade fair venue in Kortrijk, Belgium, to explore ways to make events more sustainable. The ambitious goal of this project is to make Kortrijk Xpo the most sustainable trade fair and congress complex in Belgium and one of the top five most sustainable fair complexes in Europe by 2020.

Trade fairs, congresses and events are key areas of concern for sustainability, because they involve a large number of diverse players both directly and indirectly (e.g. stand builders, lighting installers, textile manufacturers, etc.) and because time criteria often become more important during assembly, disassembly and transport, than any concern for sustainability.

This project will explore how impact can be best achieved, though good planning, preparation and usage of the right materials and products.

Futureproofed will carry out a carbon footprint analysis of Kortrijk Xpo, whereas Experientia will benchmark international best practice on sustainability for trade shows, expositions, and major public events. Together with Futureproofed, we will build a behavioural change framework, and conduct participatory workshops and concept development for more sustainable practices.

This exciting project builds on the themes that Experientia is currently exploring in our Low2No project in Helsinki, and is in keeping with our overall company commitment to sustainability.

10 October 2010

Ford’s design principles for automotive interfaces

Automotive interface prototype
The New York Times reports on how car designers have recognised the challenge of keeping vehicles’ controls up to date in an era when technology evolves far more quickly than automakers can move.

“Ford’s goal in establishing a set of design principles for automotive interfaces that would be consistently applied to all models was to improve what it called the cabin experience. The program was given the internal code name HAL. […]

The guidelines that resulted from the program, a sort of universal logic for all the cars’ switches and systems, helped shape the dashboard controls in the redesigned Ford Edge and Explorer. The standards will apply to future Ford models around the world.”

Read article

7 October 2010

Donald Norman on design without designers

Donald Norman
In his latest Core77 contribution, the acclaimed Donald Norman reflects on the role of testing versus creativity in design and innovation.

“There is a trend to eliminate designers. Who needs them when we can simply test our way to success? The excitement of powerful, captivating design is defined as irrelevant. Worse, the nature of design is in danger.” […]

“Design without designers? Those who dislike the ambiguity and uncertainty of human judgments, with its uncertain track record and contradictory statements will try to abolish the human element in favor of the certainty that numbers and data appear to offer. But those who want the big gains that creative judgment can produce will follow their own judgment. The first case will bring about the small, continual improvements that have contributed greatly to the increased productivity and lowering of costs of our technologies. The second case will be rewarded with great failures and occasional great success. But those great successes will transform the world.”

Read article

6 October 2010

Bruce Sterling interview by Rhys Hughes

Bruce Sterling
Last week, La Stampa newspaper of Turin, Italy published an interview with Bruce Sterling, conducted by Welsh writer and essayist Rhys Hughes.

The complete English version of the interview has now been posted on fortykey (which by the way has a very interesting collection of essays). An excerpt:

Rhys: The ‘Internet of Things’ is a truly startling concept. I seem to remember that you once described it as “inconceivable before the 21st Century”. I find the prospect of everything in the world being linked together as alarming rather than uplifting, a threat to liberty. Are my concerns naive?

Bruce: I would agree that the privacy risks are always the first issues to strike thoughtful people. As people become more engaged with the many startling possibilities of the Internet of Things, they understand that those first concerns are primitive. They are not wrong, just simplistic.
It’s like learning about the railroad, and immediately thinking that it means that foreign spies will come to your town on the railroad. That is true. Yes, foreign spies really are a threat to your liberty, and they will use railroads. But railroads are alarming for many good reasons other than mere foreign spies.
The worst concern about a railroad is this: if a rival town gets the railroad, and your town doesn’t get that railroad, then your town dies. You will live a dead town. Posed in the rhetorical terms of the Internet of Things, this would mean a frightening “Internet of Things Gap.” This would be something like yesterday’s famous “digital divide.” When no one has it, then it might be bad to have it. When others really have it and you don’t, that deprivation is terrifying, unjust, evil. This would crush all your intelligent and skeptical reservations because it would reframe the debate in a way you could not counter.
The Internet of Things is indeed startling. It is also dangerous. But that’s just theory. To to have no real Internet is worse. To have no Internet while others do have it can be lethal. The Regione of Piemonte understood that problem, and that’s why I am able to type this to you on some very nice state-supported broadband.

Read interview

6 October 2010

Is social media catalyzing an offline sharing economy?

Sharing Economy
The results of Latitude Research and Shareable Magazine‘s The New Sharing Economy study released today indicate that online sharing does indeed seem to encourage people to share offline resources such as cars and bikes, largely because they are learning to trust each other online. And they’re not just sharing to save money – an equal number of people say they share to make the world a better place.

The research was prompted by a recent surge in sharing startups driven by social technology, a generational shift, and new consumption patterns brought on by economic and environmental crisis.

Read article

UPDATE: New related articles
Study reveals big opportunities in the sharing economy
Has the business of sharing finally reached the tipping point?

5 October 2010

Depth of field: Film in design research

Depth of field
Timo Arnall and Einar Sneve Martinussen have published the article “Depth of field: discursive design research through film,” which discusses the role of film in interaction and product design research, and the use of film in exploring and explaining emerging technologies.

“This article is about the role of film in interaction and product design research with technology, and the use of film in exploring and explaining emerging technologies in multiple contexts. We have engaged in a reflective design research process that uses graphical, audiovisual, and time-based media as a tool, a material and a communicative artefact that enables us to approach complex, obscure and often invisible emerging technologies. We give a discursive account of how film has played an intricate role in our design research practice, from revealing the materiality of invisible wireless technology, to explaining complex technical prototypes, to communicating to a public audience through online films that may fold broader social and cultural discourses back into our design research process. We conclude by elaborating on discursive design approaches to research that use film as a reflective and communicative medium that allows for design research to operate within a social and cultural frame.”

Summary of key points and embedded videos
Article (pdf)

5 October 2010

What is user experience design? Overview, tools and resources UX design

UX design
Jacob Gube has published a guide on Smashing Magazine that aims to familiarise us with the professional discipline of UX design in the context of Web-based systems such as websites and applications.

Read guide

5 October 2010

Visualisations in service design

Linköping University
Fabian Segelström presented a thesis at Linköping University, Sweden, on visualistions in service design.

Service design is a relatively new field which has its roots in the design field, but utilises knowledge from other disciplines focusing on services as well. The service design field can be described as a maturing field. However, much which is considered knowledge in the field is still based on anecdotes rather than research. One such area is visualisations of insights gained throughout the service design process. The goal of this thesis is to provide a scientific base for discussions on visualisations by describing the current use of visualisations and exploring what visualisations communicate. This is done through two different studies.

The first study consists of a series of interviews with practicing service designers. The results show that all interviewees visualise their insights gained throughout the service design process. Further analysis found that there are three main lines of arguments used by the interviewees in regard to why they visualise; as a tool to find insights in the material, to keep empathy with users of the service and to communicate the insights to outside stakeholders.

The second study analysed six visualisation types from actual service design projects by service design consultancies. Four different frameworks were used to analyse what visualisations did, and did not, communicate. Two of the frameworks were based on research in service design; the three reasons to visualise as stated in the interviews in study 1 and a framework for service design visualisations. The two frameworks were adapted from other service disciplines; what differentiates services from goods (the IHIP-framework), and a framework focusing on service as the base for all transactions (Service Dominant Logic). It is found that the visualisation types in general are strong in communicating the design aspects of services, but that they have problems in representing all aspects of service as identified in the service literature.

The thesis provides an academic basis on the use of visualisations in service design. It is concluded that it seems like the service design community currently sees services as being not-goods, a line of thought other service disciplines have discarded the last ten years and replaced with a view of services as the basis for all transactions. The analysis highlights areas where there is a need to improve the visualisations to more accurately represent services.

Download thesis

(via InfoDesign)

2 October 2010

Talk by anthropologist Mimi Ito in Milan

Mimi Ito
Yesterday cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito spoke on the impact of technology on teen and youth culture at the Meet The Media Guru event in Milan, Italy. The video is available online.

Cultural anthropologist, with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, Mimi Ito co-directed the Digital Youth Project, which was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and focused on new m-Learning scenarios. The project has become an important point of reference for those studying the relationship between teens and new media.

The three-year Digital Youth Project researched kids’ and teens’ informal learning through digital media, with a particular focus on the day-to-day use and the impact of these new technologies on learning, play and social interaction.

The results of the project are encapsulated in the report, Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project, and the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media.

Mimi explored a vast range of social activities that are “augmented” by digital technology: online gaming, virtual communities, production and consumptin of children’s software, and the relationship between children and new media.

She is also specialised in amateur content production and peer-to-peer learning.

She teaches at the Department of Informatics of the University of California, Irvine, and at Kejo University in Kanagawa, Japan. She has also worked for the Institute for Research and Learning, Xerox PARC, Tokyo University, the National Institute for Educational Research in Japan, and for Apple Computer.

Her new book on Otaku culture, the Japanese term for children that have an obsessive interest in video games and manga, will be published shortly.

Mimi Ito joined the Wiki Foundation Advisory Board in June of this year.

Watch video (Mimi starts speaking at 19:30)

1 October 2010

Danah Boyd taking a pulse in roiling online world

Danah Boyd
The Boston Globe profiles Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd.

“At the center of the broader societal debate is Boyd, whose views on key issues like online privacy are followed closely by tech companies and policy makers. An opponent of “regulation for its own sake,’’ as she puts it, Boyd, 32, has become a go-to source for companies (from Google on down), government agencies, and academics seeking insight into youthful behavior in a 24/7 digital universe.

She prides herself on diving deeply into what young people think and feel about their use of social media. With her tongue stud, bracelets, and neobohemian style of dressing, she fits in seamlessly with her target demographic, even while joking that they all “think I’m an old lady.’’”

Read article

1 October 2010

Nokia building loyalty among the bankless

Nokia Money
The Register reports at length on Nokia’s move into Mobile Money.

“For a technology company, Mobile Money is remarkably low-tech. Only the tiniest amount of bandwidth is necessary for a financial transaction, and it doesn’t need to be instant – the store and forward of SMS is perfectly good enough. There are a number of technologies used in Mobile Money, including USSD, SIM toolkit, Java and plain old voice through IVR – which is great for places with an illiterate population. None of these technologies are new. The barriers to Mobile Money are business models and logistics.

So while it might seem that Mobile Money is just another ecosystem in Nokia’s service strategy, look closer and you find that Mobile Money is a peculiarly good fit.”

Read article

1 October 2010

My Twitter feed

Twitter
It is always a trade-off what to put on Putting People First, and what not. I try to make the call as best as I can.

Whatever doesn’t cut the chase, but I still find interesting to share goes on my Twitter feed. Apparently it is a little difficult to find. So here it is. Check it out and if you like it, feel free to follow me.

Mark Vanderbeeken
Senior Partner, Experientia

1 October 2010

Data visualisation as an actionable tool in our lives

Inflation
This week I watched the excellent online documentary “Journalism in the Age of Data“, which is a video report on data visualisation as a storytelling medium that Geoff McGhee created during a 2009-2010 Knight Journalism fellowship. I first didn’t write on it in Putting People First, as I considered it a media story. But I changed my mind.

Apart from the fact that this video provides great inspiration for interaction designers and interface designers of all sorts, and not just those working in journalism, it also inspires a wider reflection.

With people rapidly moving to a world inundated with data capturing devices and the resulting data streams, our challenge as UX designers is to create tools that make sense of these data, and transform this data flood into useful and actionable informational experiences that help us better conduct our lives.

Smart phone applicatins seem to me an intermediate step. Yes, indeed, one can find apps for almost any need and they are sometimes quite useful. But we cannot conduct our lives with hundreds of apps: one for parking, one for driving, one for shopping, one for dining, etcetera.

What could be the future of actionable data visualisations in a multi-sensorial world?