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Putting People First

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October 2011
28 October 2011

Book: Putting people back at the heart of cities

The Lure of the City
The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs [Paperback]
Edited by Austin Williams and Alastair Donald
Pluto Press, September 2011
224 pages

Review by Spiked:

A new collection of essays challenges both pessimists who see urbanisation as a human disaster and eco-footprint obsessives who want to corral as many people into towns as possible.

“What is refreshing about The Lure of the City is that it puts people – not the planet or the expert – centre stage. From this, the ambition – the urgent demand – to transform the world to meet the aspirations of billions of new city dwellers rightly flows.”

Read review

28 October 2011

Why Microsoft’s vision of the future is dead on arrival

PLoS ONE
A viral clip produced by Microsoft is–like almost every video on this subject–amazingly polished. It’s also inane and completely lifeless, says FastCo Design.

“Futuristic interfaces are supposed to solve problems and make life easier. What good are they–besides being eye candy–if the future around them is picture-perfect already? The Microsoft video takes that conceit of perfection and carries it so far that the concepts begin to look ridiculous: You can pick out all kinds of clever touches, such as the way the images on a computer screen can be dragged off screen to become holograms–and then can be controlled with gestures. But by that point, we’re way off in future land, where none of these clever touches feel rooted in life. They don’t address problems we understand.”

Read article

28 October 2011

Smartphones find niche in human behaviour tests

PLoS ONE
Researchers are using innovative tools to perform psychological experiments a lot faster than they used to.

Experts believe the number of smartphone users worldwide will top the 1 billion mark by 2013.

Now an international team of scientists has taken advantage of smartphone technology to examine the mental processes involved in how humans remember, think, speak and solve problems.

Presented in the journal PLoS ONE, the findings demonstrate how these tiny tools can dramatically change cognitive science research.

The study was funded in part by the O-CODE (‘Cracking the orthographic code’) project, which has clinched a European Research Council (ERC) grant worth EUR 2.2 million under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Read article

28 October 2011

BlackBerry Future Visions

BlackBerry future handset
Research in Motion seems to have commissioned a pair of videos envisioning portable technology in the not-so-distant future, writes PocketNow: specifically, they focus on interactions among employees, or between employees and customers, and how portable devices play a role in their day-to-day lives.

Chris Velazco on TechCrunch calls it “a refined extension of what we already have as opposed to a wild vision of what we could have.”

Watch videos (alternate link)

28 October 2011

Design and the social sector: an annotated bibliography

Design and the social sector
This bibliography – now published on Change Observer – was initiatied in early 2011 as an independent study project by Courtney Drake, a graudate student at the Yale University School of Management.

It overlaps with William Drenttel’s work as a senior faculty fellow at Yale SOM, where Design and Social Innovation Case Studies are published.

Winterhouse Institute is adopting this bibliography as a larger project, and is publishing it as a collborative bibliography — working closely with the participants of the Winterhouse Education Symposia.

Executive Summary

Design thinking, user-centered design, service design, transformation design. These practices are not identical but their origin is similar: a definition of design that extends the profession beyond products. The rise of service economies in the developed world contributed to this movement toward design experiences, services, and interactions between users and products. The literature about design thinking and contemporary ideas reveals common elements and themes, many of which are borrowed from product design processes. They include abduction, empathy, interdisciplinary teams, co-creation, iteration through prototyping, preservation of complexity, and an evolving brief.

The implications of the rise of design thinking are twofold. First, corporate and organizational leaders concerned with innovative prowess are recognizing design thinking as a tool for developing new competitive advantages. Design thinking considers consumers’ latent desires and thus has the potential to change markets rather than simply making incremental improvements on the status quo. Second, many organizations have encountered significant barriers to practicing design thinking internally. In some ways, design thinking runs contra to the very structure of a corporation — it is intended to break paradigms, which may mean questioning power relationships, traditions, and incentive structure, and it may require a corporation to overhaul its business model and cannibalize its success. Additionally, many corporate leaders treat design thinking in a linear manner, a process which compromises the critical elements of conflict and circularity. In many instances, designers have failed to sufficiently translate and articulate their process, and businesses tend to favor past trends over the promise of new discovery.

With corporations struggling to use design thinking effectively, where does that leave the social sector? The organizational challenges facing corporations do not necessarily transfer to nonprofit organizations: more complex systems, higher stakes for failure, limited resources, and intangible evaluation metrics. Designers may be attracted to greater complexity and more wicked problems in the social sector, but they need to prepared to adapt their process and attitudes to create positive change. Perhaps the most significant adaptation designers need to make is in their role. Where product design connotes a sense of authorship, social design demands that designers be facilitators and educators of their processes. Further, they need to recognize they may not be well equipped to solve problems, but can identify problems and co-create with local leaders and beneficiaries.

The value of co-creation is a predominant theme in the literature surveyed here, particularly for Western designers contributing to foreign communities. Another critical factor is continual presence within projects, or better, a longer-term, sustained involvement. Authors speak of the importance of evaluation and metrics to gauge success, but find many projects lacking, perhaps for the same reasons the social sector as a whole struggles with impact measurement. Scaling, adaptation, and replication are buzzwords that pervade the social sector, but are particularly difficult for the product of a design process. Because the process is founded on a deep understanding of a particular user group’s needs, the solution for one community likely does not translate directly to another. However, authors suggest that it is the design process that is scalable and should be taught to local leaders. Failed projects support this assertion; benefits flow through the process of a project as well as the end-product, which further advocates for co-creation. Finally, the literature leave us with an unsettling question: is breakthrough innovation possible in the social sector? Most veterans in this field suggest the answer is no — they recommend that designers start small and introduce incremental change because the complexity of the systems and problems they face will demand it. However, this finding does not negate the potential value of the designer. The social sector needs designers to identify problems, imagine possibilities for a better future, and facilitate problem solving processes.

26 October 2011

Energy consumption in the home

Energy consumption in the home
The Danish Alexandra Institute (see also previous post) published in 2009 an anthropological user study of needs, motivations and barriers in relation to energy consumption in the home.

It was part of the MCHA project (Minimum Configuration – Home Automation) that focused on IT solutions that help to optimise and reduce energy consumption in homes.

“This guide is a presentation of the results of a qualitative user study of patterns in user needs, motivations and barriers in relation to energy consumption and willingness to change consumption behaviour. The objective is to develop an energy control unit for the home which will help users to understand and control their energy consumption and ultimately encourage them to change consumption habits.

The guide contains a presentation of the MchA project, a project funded by the Danish Enterprise and Construction Agency, and the user involvement methods applied during the project. A result of the user study is for example the definition of four ‘user profiles’ and 11 relevant themes that are interrelated. In this guide we have decided to refer to these themes as ‘user voices’ because they express the different motivations, needs and barries that are at play in a more or less conscious inner dialogue in the users before he or she takes action. These motivations and barriers open a window of opportunity for an energy control unit. At the back of each user voice card, you will find details and recommendations for an energy control unit.

The recommendations are not exhaustive, and the intention is that different readers should contribute additional opportunities, depending on the context in which the cards are used.

The guide can be read from one end to the other. It can also be used as an easy-to-read tool that provides an insight into relevant themes in the users’ consumption behaviours. The guide is meant as an inspiration on how to respond to several user voices and user profiles at the same time and thus reflect on how these different and often conflicting user voices influence consumption behaviours in the home.”

Download guide

26 October 2011

The Internet of Things comic book

IoT Comics
The Danish Alexandra Institute has just released a comic book called “Inspiring the Internet of Things,” which explains the benefits of networking everyday objects – as well as the ethical issues – through 15 illustrated scenarios. The PDF version is available for free download.

“We need a new medium to com- municate the idea of the Internet of Things, its challenges, its problems and its benefits; encouraging people to think about this new disruptive technology.

There are few things better than telling a story with pictures.

This “comic book” is aimed at everybody. Everybody can look at the stories that are being told and form an opinion. Use them as a basis for deep discus- sions or just as inspira- tion; agree or disagree and anything in between – but talk about it.”

(via ReadWriteWeb)

25 October 2011

Audio of EPIC 2011 presentations – keynotes by Dubberly and Sterling

EPIC2011
The organisers of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry (EPIC 2011) conference have posted audio of the keynotes and most of the presentations. The conference took place in Boulder, Colorado on 18-21 September.

Keynotes

Opening keynote: On models
Hugh Dubberly, founder of Dubberly Design Office

Closing keynote: On radical evolution
Bruce Sterling, writer, provocateur, futurist, design thinker, critic, and author of Shaping Things (2005), among many other productions

Paper Session #1: Defining the value proposition
Some ways that ethnographic praxis can move closer to the heart of business

Evolving ethnographic practitioners and their impact on ethnographic praxis
Alexandra Mack, principal workplace anthropologist, Pitney Bowes
Susan Squires, assistant professor, University of N. Texas

The calculus of change: an ethnography of unlearning
Marijke Rijsberman – Design Anthropologist, Cisco Systems

‘For a ruthless criticism of everything existing’: rebellion against the quantitative/qualitative divide
Neal H. Patel, people analytics manager, People & Innovation Lab, Google Inc.; University of Chicago, Department of Sociology

Paper Session #2: An angel at my table
How ethnographers can help organizations to deal with the challenges of evolution and revolution

Ethnography as a catalyst for organizational change: creating a multichannel customer experience
Robin Beers, PhD, Wells Fargo
Tommy Stinson, Cheskin Added Value
Jan Yeager, Cheskin Added Value

Reinvention and revisioning in an Appalachian industry cluster
Christine Z. Miller, professor, Graduate Program in Design Management Savannah College of Art and Design
Stokes Jones, principal, Lodestar

The not-so-blind watchmaker: evolution by design in corporate culture
Kate Barrett, PhD, Olson

Paper Session #3: Looking beyond the individual
New sightings on service and social system

No more circling around the block: evolving a rapid ethnography and podcasting method to guide innovation in parking systems
James Glasnapp, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
Ellen Isaacs, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
> pdf paper download

Changing models of ownership
Rich Radka, Claro Partners
Abby Margolis, Claro Partners

Limitations of online medical care: interpersonal resistance and cultural solutions in the face of technological advances
Pensri Ho, assistant professor, Ethnic Studies Department, University of Hawai’i

What happens when you mix bankers, insurers, consultants, anthropologists and designers: the saga of Project FiDJi in France
Alice Peinado, design management chair / anthropologist, Parsons Paris School of Art and Design
Magdalena Jarvin, design management & critical studies sociologist/anthropologist, Parsons Paris School of Art and Design
Juliette Damoisel, design strategist, BETC Design,

Paper Session #4: The new “local”
Evolving use of theory in ethnographic research

The luminosity of the local
Michael Donovan

Shining a light on agency: Examining responses to resource constraints to uncover opportunities for design
Emma J. Rose, Anthro-Tech
Robert Racadio, University of Washington
> pdf paper download

Unclear social etiquette online: how users experiment (and struggle) with interacting across many channels and devices in an ever-evolving and fast-changing landscape of communication tools
Martin Ortlieb, senior user experience researcher, Google

Cracking representations of the emerging markets: it’s not just about affordability
Renee Kuriyan, corporate responsibility, Intel Corporation
Kathi Kitner, cultural anthropologist, Intel Corporation
Scott Mainwaring, senior research scientist, Intel Corporation
Dawn Nafus, anthropologist, Intel Corporation

Evolutionary Matryoshka: Mapping the dimensions of the evolutionary forces impacting survival of ethnographic insights within a large financial enterprise
Ari Nave, SVP
 Group
 planning
 director
, Deutsch

25 October 2011

Want to create a great product? First, forget “user friendliness”

user friendliness
User-friendliness is the inevitable result of a smart design approach, not the starting point. Robert Hoekman, Jr lists three criteria to help you develop a useful design brief that will ultimately yield a great product.

“User-friendliness is a result, not a tactic. Intuitiveness is a quality, not an approach. Neither term is tangible enough as a design objective to inspire a great product. No matter how strong your jaw, you can’t sink your teeth into vapor and expect it to taste like Apple. You’ll only hurt yourself trying.

To achieve the result of user-friendliness, the design criteria you spill out onto the proverbial page need to meet a three criteria of their own.”

Read article

25 October 2011

Intentional environments: designing a culture of co-creation

Environment
Elements such as social dynamics, communication styles, and creative inspiration deeply affect our experience of work and what we create.

While most of us don’t have the authority to change the architecture of our work places, we do have the power to affect the conditions we work within, argues Teresa Brazen.

We can, she says, create this shift through intentional environments. An intentional environment is a philosophy about how to approach the design process. Very simply, it is setting up the conditions that foster great work.

Read article

25 October 2011

Games, Life and Utopia conference

Gamification
Games, Life and Utopia is a half-day event in Pottsdam, Germany on 11 November, that is all about gamification, serious games, learning and play.

It’s a conference for service and interaction designers, for social activists, for artists, for developers and geeks, and of course for gamers.

“Gamification has garnered a lot of attention in recent years – both from academia and industry. At the event Games, Life and Utopia we will explore the potential and the boundaries of this emerging field. We will discuss the latest research results and discuss applications, not only in games, but also as tools for behavioral change. Our speakers offer a range of different perspectives on the topic – from hands-on experience with their own gamification products to a critical position based on psychological research. We will examine the operational mechanisms of games and their wondrous capabilities to produce experiences of hope, interest, enlightenment, and fascination.”

The key event organiser is Reto Wettach, a professor in physical interaction design at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam/Germany (and a former professor at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea).

20 October 2011

Philips launches ‘Microbial Home’ new forward looking design concepts

Microbial Home
Today Philips presented its latest forward looking design project ‘Microbial Home’, which includes a group of design concepts that represent an innovative and sustainable approach to energy, waste, lighting, food preservation, cleaning, grooming, and human waste management.

The Microbial Home project is a proposal for an integrated cyclical ecosystem where each function’s output is another’s input. In the project the home has been viewed as a biological machine to filter, process and recylcle what we conventionally think of as waste – sewage, effluent, garbage, waste water.

20 October 2011

Google’s ethnographic studies on device use

Matias Duarte
In a long interview, Matias Duarte, Android’s head of user experience, explains how Google conducted deep user ethnographic studies to understand how people were using their smartphones and other devices.

What is the soul of the new machine?

This isn’t a design or product question. It’s a philosophical question. What is this thing? What is it supposed to do? How will it do it? How do we get there? [...]

This question sparked deep user studies at Google on mobile phone use, what Matias described as “Serious baseline ethnographic research which hadn’t happened before.” He tells me that the company spent a great deal of time and effort watching how and why regular people used their smartphones. Not just Android phones, but all smartphones. The company even had employees “shadow” users, visiting them at their homes and workplaces to watch how they interacted with their devices. Matias wouldn’t share numbers, but intimated that the study was a significant undertaking.

“A lot of what we found confirmed what I thought for years. At Danger, we had this idea that smartphones were not for a certain kind of person. They were for everyone. Smartphones were the way phones were supposed to be.”

“What we heard from everyone we talked to in the study was that they love these things [smartphones], they are a part of their lives. They’re incredibly passionate about them. They can’t live without them. That was awesome. But we also heard a lot of things we didn’t like to hear.”

“With Android, people were not responding emotionally, they weren’t forming emotional relationships with the product. They needed it, but they didn’t necessarily love it.”

Matias says that the studies showed that users felt empowered by their devices, but often found Android phones overly complex. That they needed to invest more time in learning the phones, more time in becoming an expert. The phones also made users feel more aware of their limitations — they knew there was more they could do with the device, but couldn’t figure out how to unlock that power.

Read interview

(summary article)

20 October 2011

Metamemory and the user experience

Metamemory
When people expect to be able to access information in the future, they tend to have reduced memory for the actual information, but enhanced memory for where to find the information. A feature article on UX Magazine:

“Researchers found that when we expect to be able to access information in the future, we tend to have reduced memory for the actual information, but enhanced memory for where to find the information.

Thus, while we do measurably worse at remembering that the capital of Vermont is Montpellier, we apparently remember with greater accuracy, where on the bookshelf the atlas is located.

These findings suggest that making sites memorable as the repository of information may be the key to gaining return visitors.”

Read article

20 October 2011

Cadillac User Experience (CUE)

Cadillac CUE
Last week, Cadillac launched its new “CUE” vehicle infotainment system.

The name is an acronym that stands for Cadillac User Experience — the company’s refined and expanded approach to connected vehicles.

Electronista took an early look at the new system before it arrives in production vehicles.

“Most of the individual features in the CUE system are not technically new to vehicles, but Cadillac has worked to take inspiration from the latest mobile hardware and operating systems. The approach aims to expand connectivity and customizability, while also improving existing technologies.

CUE enables users to connect up to 10 devices, including Bluetooth-enabled phones, SD cards, USB sticks, and MP3 players. The eight-inch nav display and instrument cluster—a larger LCD—provide access to media content and other information such as e-mails, instant messages and Doppler radar. Like smartphone interfaces, CUE supports familiar multi-touch gestures.

The standard features can be found on a number of vehicles, however Cadillac’s interface presents customizable and arrangeable icons that only appear when proximity sensors detect an approaching hand. Capacitive sensors on a panel below the display eliminate the need for standard buttons, while haptic feedback provides input confirmation.”

Read article

Other reviews: Fortune / ChipChick

20 October 2011

The psychology of UX

The psychology of UX
When UX designer Vanessa Carey read Susan Weinschenk’s article “The Psychologist’s View of UX Design” (published in UXMag last year), she decided to explore each of Susan’s ten points in more detail.

“I will break down Susan’s post and further explain my understanding of each of her ten points and what this has meant to my experience of UX thus far or the direction I’d like to take my own UX practices within a professional environment. In the mean time, I will list the ten points that Susan makes in her post.”

It ended up becoming an eleven part series published on her blog and on Platformability (the effort is still in progress):

0. Introduction (alternate link)
1. Laziness (alternate link)
2. Multi-tasking (alternate link)
3. Mistakes (alternate link)
4. Memory (alternate link)
5. People are Social (alternate link)
6. Attention (alternate link)
7. Information (alternate link)
8. Unconscious Processing (alternate link)
9. Mental Models (alternate link)
10. Visual System

18 October 2011

The rise of cross-channel UX design

Virgin Atlantic
“Seamless, cross-channel experiences are the way of the future, as technology fades into the background and the personal, physical, and social context determine the methods we use to interact with information,” writes Tyler Tate on UX Matters.

But, he says, “this isn’t a problem for the distant future; designing effective cross-channel experiences is a problem that we must address here and now.”

“In the coming post-desktop era, we must reach across disciplines and think more holistically to produce not just a single, self-sufficient user interface, but to deliver context-aware search experiences across multiple channels.

Read article

17 October 2011

Data visualisation: in defence of bad graphics

Infographics
Simon Rogers asks on The Guardian’s DataBlog if there is a backlash gathering steam against web data visualisations.

“There has definitely been a shift. A few years ago, the only free data visualisation tools were clunky things that could barely produce a decent line chart, so the explosion in people just getting on and doing it themselves was liberating. Now, there’s a move back towards actually making things look, er, nice.”

Read article

17 October 2011

Service design, the most important term you haven’t heard of

Service design
James Rock, the managing director and chief business designer for Cultivar Consulting Limited, a business and services design consultancy, talks about service design, its benefits and why it’s important for your business.

“Service design is a relatively new discipline that asks some fundamental questions: What should the customer experience be like? What should the employee experience be like? How does a company remain true to its brand, to its core business assets and stay relevant to customers? It has grown as our economies have moved from being primarily manufacturing based to service based, and as our world becomes increasingly complex, networked, and interconnected via technology. It uses design methodologies, but applies new, heuristic design tools to develop service models that delight both users and employees who deliver services. A service designer isn’t just rational and analytical, but uses creative insight and inspiration to help organizations develop innovative services.”

Read article

(via InfoDesign)

16 October 2011

Consumer futures 2020 scenarios

Consumer futures 2020
Sainsbury’s, Unilever and Forum for the Future have jointly produced Consumer Futures 2020 as a practical tool to help organisations throughout the global consumer goods industry to prepare for the future. The project explores how consumer expectations and behaviour will change, allowing these brands to use these new insights to take the lead in driving forward sustainable consumption.

Leading brands need to take the initiative and work together to stimulate consumer pull on sustainability and make ‘sustainable consumption’ mainstream.

Consumer Futures 2020 aims to help them do this. It is designed as a practical tool to help organisations throughout the global consumer goods industry plan for the future. It contains four different but entirely plausible scenarios which explore how patterns of consumption and consumer behaviour may have changed by 2020.

The scenarios are not intended to be predictions or visions of desired futures. They look at how global trends may change our world and the consumer goods industry, and how sustainable products, services and business models could become mainstream.

In order to create the scenarios the team took what it saw as the two least certain trends with the greatest impact on the future of the consumer goods industry:

  • Prosperous vs Less prosperous – by 2020 will our economy be flourishing or subdued?
  • Do-it-yourself vs Do-it-for-me – will consumers take the initiative to satisfy their needs or expect brands to do this for them?

They used these to create a two-by-two matrix, which in turn enabled them to create the four scenarios – ‘My way’, ‘Sell it to me’, ‘From Me to You’ and ‘I’m in your hands’ – exploring how these trends could play out.

Read more (check the download section on the left)