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Putting People First

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December 2011
22 December 2011

Julian Bleecker: creating wily subversions

Near Future laboratory

Steven Portigal interviews Julian Bleecker about the near future, design fiction and storytelling.

Julian Bleecker is a designer, technologist and researcher in the Advanced Projects studio at Nokia Design in Los Angeles and the Near Future Laboratory where he investigates emerging social practices around new networked interaction rituals. His focus is on hands-on design and prototyping as a way to raise questions about commonly held assumptions about digital media and digital devices so as to explore possibilities for innovation. He lectures and leads workshops on the intersections of art, design, technology and the near-future possibilities for new social-technical interaction rituals.

Read interview

22 December 2011

Lego is for girls

lego_friends

In its new focus on products for girls, Lego is using quite a lot of ethnographic research:

“To develop Lego Friends, Knudstorp relaunched the same extensive field research—more cultural anthropology than focus groups—that the company conducted in 2005 and 2006 to restore its brand. It recruited top product designers and sales strategists from within the company, had them join forces with outside consultants, and dispatched them in small teams to shadow girls and interview their families over a period of months in Germany, Korea, the U.K., and the U.S.” [...]

Lego won’t say how much it spent on its anthropology, but research went on for months and shattered many of the assumptions that had led the company astray. You could say a worn-out sneaker saved Lego. “We asked an 11-year-old German boy, ‘what is your favorite possession?’ And he pointed to his shoes. But it wasn’t the brand of shoe that made them special,” says Holm, who heads up the Lego Concept Lab, its internal skunkworks. “When we asked him why these were so important to him, he showed us how they were worn on the side and bottom, and explained that his friends could tell from how they were worn down that he had mastered a certain style of riding, even a specific trick.”

The skate maneuvers had taken hours and hours to perfect, defying the consensus that modern kids don’t have the attention span to stick with painstaking challenges, especially during playtime. To compete with the plug-and-play quality of computer games, Lego had been dumbing down its building sets, aiming for faster “builds” and instant gratification. From the German skateboarder onward, Lego saw it had drawn the wrong lessons from computer games. Instead of focusing on their immediacy, the company now noticed how kids responded to the scoring, ranking, and levels of play—opportunities to demonstrate mastery. So while it didn’t take a genius or months of research to realize it might be a good idea to bring back the police station or fire engine that are at the heart of Lego’s most popular product line (Lego City), the “anthros” informed how the hook-and-ladder or motorcycle cop should be designed, packaged, and rolled out.”

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22 December 2011

Study: Millennials prefer sharing over ownership

car-sharing

The idea of sharing things instead of owning them goes against everything we’ve been taught as a consumeristic society.

Those who have spent their lives “keeping up with the Jones'” may find it hard to suddenly relinquish their death-grip on idea that owning things is the path toward happiness. But younger generations, poised to inherit the economic turmoil and environmental disaster caused by consumerism, are increasingly embracing the alternatives offered by collaborative consumption.

Findings of a recent independent study revealed that Millennials (18-34-year-olds) are more willing to used shared vehicles than individuals from previous generations.

The study, commissioned by leading car sharing network Zipcar, surveyed over one thousand adults to better understand the current generation’s attitude toward car ownership.

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22 December 2011

Design for the marginalised millions

reboot-china

Reboot, a service design firm working in the fields of governance and international development, recently spent time with three marginalized groups in China — the rural poor, ethnic minorities, and migrant workers — to research the impacts of three decades of disruptive change, and to design new services to improve their livelihoods.

Their task was to make sure that the coming mobile banking revolution — unlike too many other revolutions — is inclusive and accessible for everyone, and especially the disenfranchised populations who could stand to benefit the most.

As they work through their findings, they’ve found three key principles that will help make sure this happens:
1. Design for Trust
2. Design for Stability
3. Design for All

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22 December 2011

What makes a brand experience great?

hershey

Brian Thomas Collins has made a career out of creating brand experiences, “a few of them great”. He writes:

“A good brand experience is when a brand does what we expect of it. A great brand experience is something we tell someone else about. In short, a great brand experience is a story, in which the brand user – not the brand – is the hero. A great brand experience is direct and transformative. It’s not a stunt or a fantasy. It’s not a campaign. It’s not the idea of something. It is something, something worth writing home about – or at least texting a friend. Brand awareness and engaged consumers are happy by-products, but not the point. The test for a great brand experience is result. Something new created. Something changed. A bell that can’t be un-rung.”

In an effort to make more of them great, he used eight principles.

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22 December 2011

Why people adopt or wait for new technology

jared_spool

Jared Spool explores the key differences between “Normals” (normal mainstream users) and tech early adopters.

Instead of thinking about ‘early adopters’ and ‘normals’ as if they are two homogeneous groups, he thinks it’s better to look at the motivations that trigger someone to buy into a new technology or solution at various points in the release timeline.

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22 December 2011

Five lessons from the best interaction designs of 2011

ixd

Frog’s Robert Fabricant breaks down the themes from the 2011 Interaction Design Awards.

“Technologies like cheap sensors and cloud computing are increasingly being used to augment our daily lives in both magical and mundane ways. Everything we do is an app in the making (a million and counting). But in this environment we are also developing a new sensitivity to the thin line between enrichment and annoyance. Which is why interaction design continues to gain prominence as the discipline with the greatest potential to maintain our sanity in this brave new world of distraction. So it was with high hopes that I joined a gathering of some of the best minds in interaction design today, including Massimo Banzi, Janna DeVylder, Matt Jones, Younghee Jung, Jonas Löwgren, and Helen Walters, to judge the first annual Interaction Design Awards sponsored by the IxDA. Our job was to recognize the best examples from 2011 as well as communicate the critical role of good interaction design in our lives. While I cannot share the winners–yet– this experience was a great moment to reflect on the state of interaction design and what it might hold in the next few years.”

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22 December 2011

Video chat reshapes domestic rituals

videochat

Far-flung families are increasingly using Skype, Apple’s FaceTime and Google chat to do things together that would otherwise require a plane ticket.

“Though Skype is now eight years old, the software — and others like it, including Apple’s FaceTime and Google chat — has become a regular fixture in a growing number of American homes, providing new ways for families to stay connected in an age where generations are less likely to gather around the table on Sunday afternoons to share a meal. [...]

Far-flung families are opening birthday gifts together, reading bedtime stories and even providing brief moments of child care. And rather than just making video calls to catch up, people are using them to share experiences that would otherwise require a plane ticket.”

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22 December 2011

The Internet gets physical

internet_physical

NY Times technology reporter Steve Lohr writes on how consumer-based Internet technologies are morphing into new uses in energy conservation, transportation, health care, traffic management and food distribution.

Low-cost sensors, clever software and advancing computer firepower are opening the door to new uses in energy conservation, transportation, health care and food distribution. The consumer Internet can be seen as the warm-up act for these technologies. [...]

“We’re going to put the digital ‘smarts’ into everything,” said Edward D. Lazowska, a computer scientist at the University of Washington. These abundant smart devices, Dr. Lazowska added, will “interact intelligently with people and with the physical world.”

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22 December 2011

An evolution toward a programmable universe

larry_smarr

With a harvest of data from a wired planet, computing has evolved from sensing local information to analyzing it to being able to control it. Larry Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, explores what this means.

“As Mike Liebhold and his colleagues at the Institute for the Future have discussed, computing will have evolved from merely sensing local information to analyzing it to being able to control it. In this evolution, the world gradually becomes programmable.

At the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, we are using this vision to better understand the coming digital transformation of health, energy, environment and culture. We are experimenting with sensors to monitor electricity use in homes, buildings and data centers; the data can then be analyzed and used to control lighting, heating, cooling, appliances and computers to make them more energy-efficient.”

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15 December 2011

Towards an ethics of persuasion

Persuasion

As design becomes more sophisticated in influencing user behavior, it’s important that we start to think critically about the ethical boundary between persuasion and outright manipulation, argues Stephen P. Anderson.

“You can’t discuss a topic like seduction or what motivates people without some awareness that, no matter how playful or well-meaning your intentions are, these things will certainly be abused. So I’m often asked this question on the subject of ethics: “When is it okay (or not okay) to influence someone’s behavior?”

Here’s my simple response: Don’t take on projects that you wouldn’t personally use yourself or recommend to your friends and family.

Read article

15 December 2011

Highway to health

Carseat

Incorporating wireless technology into its newest cars, Ford prepared to roll out vehicles capable of monitoring everything from pollen counts to glucose levels.

“[Ford] started concentrating on the aging population in 1999, and a focus on health and wellness within the car is at the center of their new approach. Unobtrusive ergonomic changes like lowered door frames—much kinder on stiff joints—have already been making a quiet appearance throughout the fleet. Within the next five years Ford will be rolling out more-dramatic medical apps for its voice-controlled Sync platform, a communications and entertainment system developed with Microsoft, which was first introduced in 2007.

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15 December 2011

Nokia foresight on the future of mobile design

Ager-wick

Sondre Ager-Wick, Nokia’s Head of Design Strategy and Foresight, discusses the evolution and future of mobile design.

His new trends:
– DIY design
– Electronically enhanced senses
– The smartification of everything
– Less digital bling. More content first.
– Getting serious about play

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15 December 2011

The digital other

Nishant

In an article for DMLCentral Nishant Shah, founder and director of research for the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society, wants to explore new ways of thinking about the Digital Native.

“Based on my research on young people in the Global South, I want to explore new ways of thinking about the Digital Native. One of the binaries posited as the Digital ‘Other’ — ie, a non-Digital Native — is that of a Digital Immigrant or Settler. I am not comfortable with these terms and they probably need heavy unpacking if not complete abandonment. Standard caricatures of Digital Others show them as awkward in their new digital ecologies, unable to navigate through this brave new world on their own. They may actually have helped produce digital technology and tools but they are not ‘born digital’ and hence are presumed to always have an outsider’s perspective on the digital world order.”

“[There is] a very important distinction between Digital Others and Digital Natives. Out of necessity, Digital Others have a relationship of production, control and design with the technologies they work with. They have a critical engagement with technology, as they code, hack, design, and create protocols and digital environments to suit their needs and resources. Digital Natives, on the other hand, have a purely consumption based interaction with the technology they use.”

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15 December 2011

For the love of experience: Changing the experience economy discourse

Experience

In September 2011, researcher Anna Snel defended her Ph.D thesis, entitled “For the love of experience: Changing the experience economy discourse“, at the University of Amsterdam. It is now available for download.

The attention for experiences as economic offerings has increased enormously in the last decade. However, the lack of a clear definition of experience and the bias towards the organization’s perspective in the discourse cause much confusion. In this study experience is taken back to its basis: the encounter between an individual and his or her environment. Different concepts, effects and values of experience are defined to construct a more integrative discourse for the experience economy from the individual’s perspective. To reap the benefits that the experience economy offers, the role of organizations has to change from a directing and controlling one to a more supporting and facilitating one. A true recognition of the co-creation that takes place in experiences shows how much latent potential for creating value there is yet to discover.

Download thesis

(via InfoDesign)

15 December 2011

Yes, experience can be designed

Wireframe

Experience designers investigate the motivations behind users’ behaviors to develop skill in predicting and guiding those behaviors. A short article by designer Sorin Pintilie.

“So, yes, experience can be designed— not all experiences, but certainly some experiences. And with time, experience designers will continue to investigate the inherent motivations behind users’ behaviors. They will continue to develop and refine their tools and skills to predict those behaviors with the help of cognitive sciences, which are already mapping out predictable and reliable links between stimuli and the reactions they produce.

A structuralist approach may be key in this process. As methodologies become more and more refined, other alternatives may arise. But for now, incorporating the knowledge provided by other specialties into an integrative design practice and learning to work together can be viable solutions for real improvement.”

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14 December 2011

Women to dominate tech

Women technology

Chip maker and technology group Intel says that women are emerging as the dominant users of technology and if it continues to enhance its ease of use, the fairer sex will continue to dominate the adoption of technology.

This is the opinion of Genevieve Bell, Intel fellow and director of interaction and experience research, who noted that European women spent more time on social networks than men, sent more text messages and used more location-based services on phones.

Read article

 
14 December 2011

Philosophy of interaction

Chapter

Chapter eleven of the interaction-design.org resource is now available in preview. It was written by Dag Svanaes, Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (and former professor at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea) and deals with the philosophy of interaction and the interactive user experience.

“I will approach the question of interactivity from a number of angles, in the belief that a multi-paradigmatic analysis is necessary to give justice to the complexity of the phenomenon. I will start by defining the scope through some examples of interactive products and services. Next, I will analyse interactivity and the interactive user experience from a number of perspectives, including formal logic, cognitive science, phenomenology, and media and art studies. A number of other perspectives, e.g. ethnomethodology, semiotics, and activity theory, are highly relevant, but are not included here.”

Lengthy comments to Svanaes’ chapter were provided by Donald A. Norman and Eva Hornecker.

Read chapter

7 December 2011

Homesense final report

Homesense
Homesense was a research project that looked at how we might design smart homes from the bottom up, in an environment of open innovation.

Using open source tools Homesense brings the open collaboration methods of online communities to physical infrastructures in the home.

“The Homesense project was an open research project around the topic of bottom-up smart homes initiated by Tinker London. In mid-2009, founder Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino wrote a blog post highlighting what the opportunities were for a large-scale open source interrogation of the “smart home” concept. Often explored in closed R&D environments, it was possible to think of the results being more relevant and accurate if the participants could build their own solutions to their problems rather than operating under the assumption that most people would accept top-down design. An existing relationship with EDF R&D via Arduino workshops led to a sponsorship from EDF R&D for 50% of the projectʼs value (£58K or so at the time). Partners in the project also included two PhD students from the HighWire group at Lancaster University, Natasha Carolan and Richard Wood who helped design the packaging for the tools available to users in this experiment. The project was eventually wrapped in mid-2011 and technical tools featured at the New York Museum of Modern Artʼs exhibition on smart objects: Talk to Me.”

After almost 2 years, here is finally the final report outlining all the work & findings.

View/download report

7 December 2011

Arup: The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth

New economics of cities
Information Marketplaces: The new economics of cities
Author: Arup, The Climate Group, Accenture and Horizon, University of Nottingham
Publication date: 28 November 2011

The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth.

“Written in partnership with The Climate Group, Accenture and Horizon, University of Nottingham, this report investigates how technology can be used in cities to meet the growing challenges of expanding urbanisation.

The technology-enabled city is an untapped source of sustainable growth and represents a powerful approach for tackling unprecedented environmental and economic challenges.

By unlocking technology, infrastructure and public data, cities can open up new value chains, spawning innovative applications and information products that make sustainable modes of city living and working possible.

While smart initiatives are underway in urban centres around the world, most cities have yet to realise the enormous potential value from fully-integrated, strategically-designed smart city development programmes.

Now is the time for government and business leaders to recognise the value created by smart city thinking.”