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Putting People First

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July 2011
17 July 2011

Izmo Summer School 2011 – Public Spaces in the City – Torino, Italy

Public spaces
Izmo, the Italian association focused on participatory process, local development, architecture, design and ICT, organizes an International Summer School in Torino from September 5th to 14th 2011 that proposes the public space as its theme.

The course is aimed at students, graduates, professionals and anyone interested in the issue of public space and urban regeneration.

The lectures (entirely in English language) will be held by professors of the Politecnico di Torino, University of Eastern Piedmont and St. John International University, as well as members of Izmo, and will face issues related to public space with the aim of providing insights in a broad and multidisciplinary manner.

In addition, participants will have the opportunity to directly experience several methods of field research (urban drift, urban missions, interviews) that will allow them to observe and make contact with the territory and its inhabitants.

Finally, the training will be enriched by a series of meetings with experts and professionals: informal moments during which students will have the opportunity to interact and engage with those who work in the public space, such as members of Izmo.

At the end of the lecture series, participants will intervene effectively in the public space, designing and implementing a series of installations, parts of an overall project for the redevelopment of District 7 in Turin.

Read more

17 July 2011

New RSA Journal out

RSA Journal
The Summer 2011 edition of the RSA Journal explores the relationship between business and social change.

Brand values
As the social, political and commercial spheres become more intertwined, firms are increasingly finding incentives to look beyond the bottom line. Colin Crouch explores the strong moral and commercial case for corporations to contribute to social good.

The cooperative renaissance
Values-based business models offer a viable alternative to the traditional capitalist approach, argues Peter Marks. What can the public and private sectors learn from these business models in today’s post-recession landscape?

Urban ingenuity
Too often accused of being a breeding ground for poverty and inequality, cities are actually a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurialism and social mobility. It is no coincidence that many of the world’s most successful businesses had their genesis in cities, says Edward Glaeser

The new frontier?
While most social enterprises have yet to become household names, they are well positioned for steady growth, as they have a role to play in public-service provision, believes Geoff Mulgan.

The 21st century prison
Rachel O’Brien outlines the RSA’s plans to build a social enterprise prison that makes it easier for ex-offenders to transition into society and return to work.

The power of proximity
In an age when digital technology connects us on a global scale, entrepreneurial success still depends largely on the networks, resources and demand found in local communities, says Barry Quirk.

Self-made in China
Linda Yueh asks what we can learn from the generation of Chinese entrepreneurs who are driving the country’s rapid economic growth.

Best behaviours
Monique and Sam Sternin discuss how the Positive Deviance approach uses people’s hidden talents to tackle widespread and complex social problems.

David Hume: 300 years on
David Hume is remembered as a thinker who has influenced the way we address social, political and economic challenges. James Harris explains why, three centuries after his birth, David Hume continues to intrigue and inspire his diverse readership.

17 July 2011

Smartphones could mean end of web

Smartphone
The proliferation of powerful mobile phones could see control of the internet pass into the hands of corporations, positions John Naughton in The Observer today.

“We are on the slippery slope towards a much more controlled, less open, internet. If these trends continue, then it won’t be all that long before a significant proportion of the world’s internet users will access the network, not via freely programmable PCs connected via landline networks, but through tethered, non-programmable information appliances (smartphones) hooked up to tightly controlled and regulated mobile networks. And if that happens then the world will have kissed goodbye to the internet’s revolutionary potential.”

Read article

16 July 2011

Exploring the shift In search behaviors with Microsoft’s Jacquelyn Krones

Jacquelyn Krones
Jacquelyn Krones, a Senior Product Manager from Microsoft, is in charge of an ongoing ethnographic research project on understanding search behavior.

“I would say the other big insight for us was around knowledge creation, which is also called “sense-making” in the information science academic discipline. We have really seen a shift over the past several years that we’ve been doing ethnography.

In 2004 people really said that knowledge lives with experts and the experts help them make decisions.

In 2007, people said that search engines actually had all of the knowledge in the world and it was just there for them to go out and pull it out. And now, in 2010, people told us that they created their own knowledge, that even though the search engine never really had all the knowledge in the world, it was linked to information.

People are much more sophisticated now in how they think about that. They say “The search engine’s a great tool for getting access to information, but I need to look at that information and contrast and compare it, and come to my own conclusion about what the right answer is for me. And when I do that, that’s knowledge, but before that, it isn’t knowledge.” People have a sense that knowledge is something that they are actively creating and that is very personal to them.”

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16 July 2011

User experience design principles

University website
During the conference “An Event Apart” (AEA) in Boston, UX designer Whitney Hess gave a talk entitled “Create design principles and use them to establish a philosophy for the user experience.”

Hess wants to create universal principals for user experience to communicate a shared understanding amongst team members and customers and to create a basis for an objective evaluation.

In this article Swedish interaction designer Björn Klockljung Johansson describes the principles suggested by Hess along with examples of how these can relate to search and search user interfaces.

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16 July 2011

Interaction designers convene in Florence

Frontiers of Interaction
Greg Williams reports in Wired UK on the recent Frontiers of Interaction conference in Florence, Italy.

“Few people need an excuse to spend time in Florence, so it speaks volumes for the organisers of Frontiers of Interaction, a two-day gathering focused on design and digital interaction, that they attracted a strong enough line-up to draw participants away from the glory of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Uffizi. Other than a thought-controlled drone emerging through dry ice and — this is Italy, after all — an excellent lunch, the highlights enjoyed by a lively, engaged crowd included [presentations by Zdenek Kalal, Lynn Teo, Chris Cunningham, Amber Case and Mark Coleran].”

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16 July 2011

The difference (and relationship) between usability and user experience

Usability and UX
In a blog post, Justin Mifsud discuss the terms usability and user experience, highlighting their differences and more importantly the relationship that exists between them.

“Usability is a narrower concept than user experience since it only focuses on goal achievement when using a web site. By contrast, user experience is a “consequence of the presentation, functionality, system performance, interactive behaviour, and assistive capabilities of the interactive system”. This essentially means that user experience includes aspects such as human factors, design, ergonomics, HCI, accessibility, marketing as well as usability. An alternative way to look at this relationship is by subdividing user experience into utility, usability, desirability and brand experience. “

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16 July 2011

How technology makes us better social beings

Social media in public spaces
Sociologist Keith Hampton (University of Pennsylvania) believes technology and social networking affect our lives in some very positive ways

“There has been a great deal of speculation about the impact of social networking site use on people’s social lives, and much of it has centered on the possibility that these sites are hurting users’ relationships and pushing them away from participating in the world,” Hampton said in a recent press release. He surveyed 2,255 American adults this past fall and published his results in a study last month. “We’ve found the exact opposite—that people who use sites like Facebook actually have more close relationships and are more likely to be involved in civic and political activities.”

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16 July 2011

Study finds that memory works differently in the age of Google

Betsy Sparrow
The rise of Internet search engines like Google has changed the way our brain remembers information, according to research by Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow published July 14 in Science.

“Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganizing the way we remember things,” said Sparrow. “Our brains rely on the Internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker. We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found.”

Sparrow’s research reveals that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet. We are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. And we are better able to remember where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself. This is believed to be the first research of its kind into the impact of search engines on human memory organization.

Columbia University research story (with video interview)
– Press coverage: CNET News | Wired UK

16 July 2011

Technology and moral panic

Genevieve Bell
Why is it that some technologies cause moral panic and others don’t? Why was the introduction of electricity seen as a terrible thing, while nobody cared much about the fountain pen?

According to Genevieve Bell, the director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research, we have had moral panic over new technology for pretty well as long as we have had technology. It is one of the constants in our culture.

“She has a sort of work-in-progress theory to work out which technologies will trigger panic, and which will not.
– It has to change your relationship to time.
– It has to change your relationship to space.
– It has to change your relationship to other people.

And, says Ms. Bell, it has to hit all three, or at least have the potential to hit them. [...]

The problem, says Ms. Bell, is that cultures change far slower than technologies do. And because the rate of technological innovation is increasing, so too is the rate of moral panic.

When a new technology comes in, society has to establish norms about how to handle it. That is a long and slow process.”

Read article

13 July 2011

UX and the design of news at BBC World Service

Content hierarchy
Tammy Gur, Head of Design, BBC World Service Future Media, explains the work of the BBC’s user experience and design team which designs and develops news sites for the web and mobile devices in 27 languages, catering for audiences across world.

“I liken the design of a news site to that of the Japanese Bento box. There is a bounding tray and small dishes in a variety of shapes and sizes that can be arranged in different combinations. This is our site design. The food they hold is the changing news content. It is the harmony between the two, the box and the food, that determines the way we will experience this meal.

The food is the main attraction to the diner. But would it be so delectable if not presented with such finesse? To achieve this presentation the box designer has to understand the food (the content) and the diner’s needs and tastes (user behaviours).”

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13 July 2011

A wearable wristband to track health, fight obesity

Jawbone's Up
Jawbone announces Up, a wearable wristband to track health, fight obesity. A combination of a sensor-infused wristband and a smartphone app will provide nudges for healthier living, based on your behavior.

“Just an hour ago on stage at TED Global, Jawbone announced the grand project they’ve been quietly working on for years: A wearable band called Up, which is infused with sensors and connected to computer-based software, allowing you to track your eating, sleeping, and activity patterns. [...]

The Up is intended to monitor your movement 24 hours a day. The connected, smartphone-based software will then be able to tell how much you’ve been sleeping and how much you’ve moved. Up will then combine that data with information about your meals, which you enter simply by taking pictures of using your smartphone camera. Then, the smartphone program will supply you with “nudges” that are meant to help you live healthier, day by day. For example, if you haven’t slept much, when you wake up the app might suggest a high-protein breakfast and an extra glass of water.”

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13 July 2011

Why UX practitioners should join the Government 2.0 movement

 
One of the most important relationships people have is with government. Cyd Harrell explores what this means for the user experience community.

“One of the most important relationships people have is with government. Whether at a local or national level, citizens interact with their governments in myriad ways, and these days those touchpoints increasingly take place via websites, phone apps, or other types of technology. Anyone applying for a business license or a building permit, paying taxes, looking up public records, or requesting benefits is participating in an interaction where they are something more than a user. These relationships aren’t exactly voluntary the way commercial relationships are, but at the same time, the public nature of these services makes the user a co-owner in a way that customers typically are not. And most citizen experiences don’t properly reflect this reality although they should, and it’s interesting to think about how they’d be different if they did.”

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13 July 2011

New handset, new life

New phone
The Mobile Work Life Project is a Ryerson university-based research project funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Its aim is to add to our current understanding of the now-ubiquitous use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The project is primarily an ethnographic investigation, taking an anthropological approach to understanding these devices and the roles they are already playing in our lives.

Sam Ladner, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, reports on some intermediate results:

“One of the key findings we’ve uncovered so far is that people tend to adopt new communication channels (e.g., text) when they purchase new handsets. This new handset/life change correlation is a symbolic ritual that leads to new ways of communicating. [...]

People buy certain items to equip themselves for the new season, but also to symbolically mark the shift from one state to the next. There are practical reasons why one would purchase a new handset when one is moving house, for example, but there is also a deeply symbolic transformation taking place. [...]

I have argued in the past that financial services providers should only ever look to life changes as triggers for new products. It’s clear that new products go hand in hand with new life events. In this case, new products and new life events correlate with new technology adoption.

Technology designers should consider what events are the triggers, and incorporate these symbolically into their mobile platforms.”

Read post

(More results on the Mobile Work Life Project blog)

11 July 2011

Red Hat sees user collaboration as the wave of the future

Red Hat
Jim Whitehurst, chief executive and president of Red Hat Inc., the only publicly traded open-source software company, sees user collaboration as the wave of the future, not only for technology companies but for the business world at large.

Mr. Whitehurst spoke to The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Wexler about the challenges of changing China’s computing infrastructure, fostering innovation, and bringing cloud computing to the world.

WSJ: Do you see information sharing and collaboration as the way of the future?

Mr. Whitehurst: This is going to radically change the way institutions are managed. The Facebook generation is used to collaborating, and they’re used to a meritocracy. It will change work structures and the nature of the corporation. Most problems can be solved by massive collaboration.

Read article

10 July 2011

Service design, a strong strategy for local authorities

Service design in Flanders
Design Flanders ["Design Vlaanderen"] and the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (both in Belgium) have just published a bilingual Dutch-English booklet entitled “Service design, a strong strategy for local authorities[Dutch title: "Service design, een sterke strategie voor het lokale bestuur"] – based on a seminar in Antwerp on 7 December 2010.

Abstract

Eighty-five percent of everything that local authorities are tasked with is in relation to service provision: personalised services such as in the Department of Civil Affairs and the Leisure Activities department, social services in the social centre or the OCMW (Public Social Assistance Centre), but also community services through the local services centre, domestic refuse collection service, services to ensure safety and so on. It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that good, customer-oriented services are a priority for every local authority.

Service Design provides a powerful strategy for improving these services. This is why the Vereniging van Vlaamse Steden en Gemeenten (VVSG, Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities) wants to put the spotlight on this relatively new discipline. This method appeals to the VVSG because of its integrated approach to service provision and the cooperative and participatory method of working together with the users and staff members of a particular service.

Service Design is a method of listening properly, while simultaneously being a method of working to reach solutions relatively quickly and in a manner that is highly visual and comprehensible for all. This is what emerged from all the statements and presentations at the seminar organised by the VVSG and Design Flanders in Antwerp on 7 December 2010, which has resulted in this report.

All articles are available in Dutch and English – here is the English table of contents:

Foreword
by Kris Peeters [Minister-President of the Flemish Government]

Foreword
by Ingrid Vandenhoudt, consultant, Design Flanders
and Jan Van Alsenoy, director, communication service, Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities

Antwerp’s single-brand strategy
by Patrick Janssens, Mayor of Antwerp

Antwerp police station reception area’s restyling
by Peter Muyshondt, chief superintendent, Antwerp Police Zone

Restyling of Antwerp district houses and city offices
by Maxime Seif, business manager, MAXIMALdesign design agency
and Paul Van Steenvoort, operations manager district and counter services, City of Antwerp

Service design toolkit
by Kristel Van Ael, creative director, Namahn design agency
and Caroline Van Cauwelaert, service design consultant, Yellow Window

Applied service design
by Bie Hinnekint, senior care department staff manager, OCMW (Public Social Assistance Centre), Ghent
and Véronique Dierinck, director of residential care centre De Liberteyt, OCMW, Chent

Det Gode Køkken [The Good Kitchen], Holstebro, Denmark
by Lotte Lyngsted Jepsen, innovation manager, Hatch & Bloom design agency
and Michael Keissner, managing director, Hatch & Bloom design agency

Authors [including all contact details]

Colofon

Download booklet [contains Dutch and English texts]

10 July 2011

Inside Google’s User Experience Lab

Marcin
Smashing Magazine author Dan Redding interviewed Marcin Wichary, Senior User Experience Designer at Google.

“Marcin Wichary’s fascination with the relationship between humans and machines began at an early age. As a boy in Poland, he was mesmerized by the interaction between arcade patrons and the video games they played. Years later, Marcin would help shape the way that millions of computer users interact with some of the world’s most popular websites. He would even recreate one of those arcade games for the Web.

Marcin is Senior User Experience Designer at Google, but his numerous roles and broad influence at the company are not conveniently definable. His fingerprints are on the code of Google products ranging from Search to Chrome. He gained publicity for his work on the Google Pac-Man Doodle, which he co-created with fellow Googler Ryan Germick. According to Ryan, “Marcin is a genius. He’s a UX designer but he’s also maybe one of the best front-end programmers on the planet.”|

Read interview

10 July 2011

Social Circles – the beginning of the intelligent social interface?

Circles
Usability consultant Frank Spillers writes that he the recent release of Google’s social circles (part of the new ‘Google +’ social network) constitutes a social interface that accounts for real-world considerations.

“Social circles are an approach to privacy user experience that takes us a step closer to the main point of social networking: To let the user have control of her social fabric in order to leverage the most from social and data effects. Ultimately the design of social interfaces should help users to communicate more effectively, be less misunderstood and increase tolerance while protecting the user’s privacy and personal situation- whatever that may be (defined by them, not the system).

If you are involved in designing a compelling customer experience with social media, social networking site or app or social software, you should pay close attention to the approach of the social circle. One of the proven benefits of conducting field studies is to extract real-world social phenomenon and accommodate for it in your interface and user experience strategy.

Google’s Social Circles if anything opens up the conversation toward what might be a better social networking user experience. It’s also a potential signal from a major player with a lackluster track record in privacy, that privacy does matter to user adoption, as a CNET analyst noted.”

Read article

10 July 2011

Smart Design’s Femme Den series on gender and design

Triumph
Smart Design’s think tank presents an ongoing discussion of how gender should be included in good design – all published in a new series on Fast Company.

The Femme Den started thinking about gender and design five years ago as an expansion of Smart Design’s commitment to understanding people.

Introduction
Smart Design’s think tank presents an ongoing discussion of how gender should be included in good design.

Women are 85% of the consumer market. But how do you reach them?
“Approach women like you do wild animals, with caution and a soothing voice.” I have to agree. Targeting a female audience requires a delicate, nuanced approach.

Why girly designs directed at women often backfire
Women don’t always take kindly to being isolated by gender or being told that they’re “different.” There needs to be a rock-solid rationale for separate, visible design solutions.

How a gadget can draw women while impressing men
Good technology doesn’t necessarily have to be overly complicated. Just look at the Flip video camera, whose intuitive UI appealed to women, while still impressing techie men.

7 July 2011

Let’s go ‘social shopping’

Mall
Jane Wakefield, BBC technology reporter, explores how the social experience of real shopping can help improve web retail, and how the online social shopping experience could become yet another threat to the high street.

“Offline retailers have long held that online shopping will never replace a visit to the shops because sitting at a computer clicking on links is just not as much fun as hanging out at the mall.

But a quick glimpse at any high street with its rows of closed-down signs, pound shops and charity outlets suggest that consumers don’t entirely agree.

Now a new phenomenon – dubbed social shopping – threatens to incorporate the missing social element in online shopping and possibly destroy even more bricks and mortar stores.

Social shopping encompasses a range of ideas, from shopping within social networks, to shopping-specific search engines that use friends recommendations to group buying sites such as Groupon.”

Read article