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June 2012
29 June 2012

Low2No smart services and informatics workbook published

low2no_informatics

The Helsinki Low2No project team just released a smart services and informatics workbook that was developed by ARUP and Experientia.

Low2No is a broad project, initiated in collaboration with the Finnish innovation fund Sitra, aimed at the development of a Helsinki mixed-use city block called Airut on the Jätkäsaari peninsula, which will have low or no carbon emissions.

The 110 page booklet describes work-in-progress on the smart services and urban informatics component of the Low2No project activities.

In the words of Dan Hill, “the aspect of ‘smart services‘, also known as urban informatics, explores the potential of contemporary technologies – particularly those increasingly everyday circling around phrases like social media, ‘internet of things’, ‘smart cities’ and so on – to enable residents, workers, visitors and citizens in general to live, work and play in and around the block in new ways. These are predicated on the same low-carbon outcomes that drives the Low2No project in general, but also a wider “triple-bottom line” approach to sustainability, which might include beneficial social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental.

“Today,” he says, “we’re sharing some of the work-in-progress as it developed, in the form of the “informatics workbook” developed by the design team, as a tool in the design process.”

Hill describes that the team wanted “to use the building project as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to warrant a reason to look at this potentially powerful combination of smart technologies and services — with an emphasis on the latter — and in enabling positive behaviour change amongst the various groups who will use the block.”

“This work often involves positioning these otherwise technology-led areas in a more human-centred, and behaviour-oriented, framework — getting well beyond the hype about “smart cities” — whilst also trying to connect it to business drivers (the lack of the latter has hampered pretty much any serious progress in smart cities.),” he adds.

Arup and Experientia worked on this aspect of the project, together with partners Sauerbruch Hutton and clients Sitra, SRV, and VVO. Over a couple of years of engagement, with Experientia leading and driving, and Arup working on the informatics aspects in particular, the project’s design team produced some rich thinking about how to embed the potential of this area at the core of the project, that are now presented in the workbook.

Read more and download booklet

28 June 2012

Dr Paul Bernal on the right to be forgotten

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What is the right to be forgotten? How could it work – if it could work? Is it something to be supported or something to be feared? Why is it such a bone of contention?

An article by Dr Paul Bernal, a lecturer in IT, IP and Media Law at the University of East Anglia (UK), tries to start answering some of these questions.

A quote:

“A more fundamental [problem is] the cultural differences in attitudes to privacy and free speech in the EU and the US. In the EU, and particularly in Germany, privacy is taken very seriously, and the rights that people have over data are considered crucial. In the US, privacy very much takes second place to free speech – anything that can even slightly infringe on free speech is likely to face short shrift. The right to be forgotten has been very actively opposed in the US on those grounds – Jeffrey Rosen in the Stanford Law Review calling it the ‘biggest threat to free speech on the internet in the coming decade’.

Who is right? Neither, really. The right is not what its more active opponents in the US think it is – but neither has it been written tightly enough and carefully enough to provide the kind of practical, realisable right to delete personal data that the EU would like to see.”

28 June 2012

Ethnographic research in a world of big data – Part 3

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In her final piece on ethnographic research in a world of big data (see earlier posts), Jenna Burrell, sociologist and assistant professor in the School of Information at UC-Berkeley, seeks to answer a few remaining questions:

1. How might big data be part of projects that are primarily ethnographic in approach?
2. What do people consider to be the compelling applications of big data?

27 June 2012

UCI to lead national social computing research center, led by Paul Dourish

photo by Intel Labs

UC Irvine will anchor a new $12.5 million, Intel-funded research center that applies social science and humanities to the design and analysis of digital information.

“Technology is profoundly entangled with our everyday lives. As researchers, we can’t get a handle on what’s going on by looking at technical factors alone. We have to study them in concert with human, social and cultural aspects,” said UCI informatics professor Paul Dourish.

He and Scott Mainwaring of Intel Labs will co-lead the center, dubbed the Intel Science & Technology Center for Social Computing, along with UCI anthropology and law professor Bill Maurer.

Intel researchers will work side by side with academics in campus labs. The research is not proprietary and will be public, open intellectual property. Mainwaring, senior research scientist with Intel Labs’ Interaction & Experience Research group, has already moved into an office at UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences.

Read press release

Experientia has always been very interested in the work of Paul Dourish, and frequently featured it on its blog. This is a tremendously exciting development, and we wish Prof. Dourish all the best with this new Intel research center.

And as a pleasant aside, the building tiles featured on the directors photo are somehow strangely reminiscent of the building tiles of another educational research center devoted to the same theme: the well-known Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

26 June 2012

Book: Design and Anthropology

 

Design and Anthropology
Edited by Wendy Gunn, University of Southern Denmark and Jared Donovan, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Ashgate, 2012
Hardcover and ebook

Design and Anthropology challenges conventional thinking regarding the nature of design and creativity, in a way that acknowledges the improvisatory skills and perceptual acuity of people. Combining theoretical investigations and documentation of practice based experiments, it addresses methodological questions concerning the re-conceptualisation of the relation between design and use from both theoretical and practice-based positions.

Concerned with what it means to draw ‘users’ into processes of designing and producing this book emphasises the creativity of design and the emergence of objects in social situations and collaborative endeavours.

Organised around the themes of perception and the user-producer, skilled practices of designing and using, and the relation between people and things, the book contains the latest work of researchers from academia and industry, to enhance our understanding of ethnographic practice and develop a research agenda for the emergent field of design anthropology.

Drawing together work from anthropologists, philosophers, designers, engineers, scholars of innovation and theatre practitioners, Design and Anthropology will appeal to anthropologists and to those working in the fields of design and innovation, and the philosophy of technology and engineering.

Contents:

  • Preface
  • Design anthropology: an introduction, Wendy Gunn and Jared Donovan
  • Part I Using and Producing:
    • Introduction: the perception of the user-producer, Tim Ingold
    • The patient as skilled practitioner, Kyle Kilbourn
    • Hearing poorly with skill, Dennis Day
    • Gliding effortlessly through life? Surfaces and friction, Griet Scheldeman
    • An institutional view of user improvisation and design, Max Rolfstam and Jacob Buur
  • Part II Designing and Using:
    • Introduction: defining moments, Johan Redström
    • The time it takes to make: design and use in architecture and archaeology, Lesley McFadyen
    • Moving from objects to possibilities, Jared Donovan and Wendy Gunn
    • Emergence of user identity in social interaction, Henry Larsen and Claus Have
    • The role of supply chains in product design, Benedicte Brøgger
  • Part III People and Things:
    • Introduction: humanity in design, Peter-Paul Verbeek
    • Anthropological fieldwork and designing potentials, Mette Kjærsgaard and Ton Otto
    • Designing behaviour, Nynke Tromp and Paul Hekkert
    • Emergent artefacts of ethnography and processual engagements of design, Jamie Wallace
    • Theories and figures of technical mediation, Steven Dorrestijn
  • Epilogue: Utopian things, Pelle Ehn
  • Index
  • 26 June 2012

    Secrets about human behavior as the basis of future massive enterprises

    ordersofdesign

    Nir Eyal, lecturer in marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, believes secrets about human behavior, which provide insights into the way people act even though they can’t tell you why, are levers for creating user habits and competitive advantage. These kinds of secrets are also relatively cheap to uncover but can be the basis of massive enterprises.

    “Once, only large companies had the resources to discover monetizable secrets. Throughout the twentieth century, companies like GE, Dupont, Chrysler, and IBM specialized in discovering the optimal form of physical goods and their insights lay largely hidden in the discipline of industrial design. For these companies, uncovering secrets required massive R&D investment to find the best way to create a better, cheaper, or faster product.

    But today, as software continues to eat the world, service industries are being upended by upstarts. A new crop of companies like AirBnB, DropBox, and Square exploits secrets gleaned not from industrial design, but from interaction and systems design. These companies remedy old problems by designing interfaces to create new user behaviors.’

    Read article

    26 June 2012

    Dan Ariely on why we lie, cheat, go to prison and eat cake

    Ariely2

    Dan Ariely is a professor of behavioral economics and psychology at Duke University and the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic, both New York Times bestsellers.

    Ariely’s new book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, explores some of the surprising reasons we lie to each other, and ourselves. Raised in Israel, Ariely holds Ph.D.s in both business administration and psychology. Wired senior editor Joanna Pearlstein spoke with Ariely as part of the Live Talks Business Forums series at the City Club of Los Angeles.

    “[What] worries me is we’re moving to a cashless society; we’re soon going to have all kinds of electronic wallets. We have all kinds of esoteric financial instruments. We have lots of things that are multiple steps removed from money. We are moving to a situation which allows people to rationalize dishonesty to a much, much higher degree. And because of that whenever we have financial instruments that are further way from money, we just need to be more careful.”

    Read interview

    22 June 2012

    Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman studying hacker culture

    coleman

    As a grad student in anthropology, Gabriella Coleman was warned that studying the culture of computer hackers would make it hard to get a job teaching in a university. She went ahead anyway, becoming one of the first academics to explore the meaning and implications of the open source movement in software.

    Coleman now holds an endowed chair in scientific and technological literacy at McGill University in Montreal, and is currently researching the digital activism of the hacker collective Anonymous for a new book.

    In an interview with Fast Company, she discusses why software wants to be free, why hacker culture matters for the rest of us, and whether traditional academic disciplines are still relevant.

    21 June 2012

    The Public Domain: Surveillance in Everyday Life

     

    People create profiles on social network sites and Twitter accounts against the background of an audience.

    This paper by Alice Marwick argues that closely examining content created by others and looking at one’s own content through other people’s eyes, a common part of social media use, should be framed as social surveillance.

    While social surveillance is distinguished from traditional surveillance along three axes (power, hierarchy, and reciprocity), its effects and behavior modification is common to traditional surveillance.

    Drawing on ethnographic studies of United States populations, Marwick looks at social surveillance, how it is practiced, and its impact on people who engage in it. She use Foucault’s concept of capillaries of power to demonstrate that social surveillance assumes the power differentials evident in everyday interactions rather than the hierarchical power relationships assumed in much of the surveillance literature.

    Social media involves a collapse of social contexts and social roles, complicating boundary work but facilitating social surveillance. Individuals strategically reveal, disclose and conceal personal information to create connections with others and tend social boundaries. These processes are normal parts of day-to-day life in communities that are highly connected through social media.

    Download paper

    21 June 2012

    Context is key to making computers better conversationalists

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    When communicating, context is king. A breakthrough in modelling context in human communication could make computers better conversationalists, according to cognitive scientists at Stanford University.

    “[Michael] Frank, [head of Stanford University's Language and Cognition Lab] and colleague Noah Goodman, also a cognitive scientist from Stanford, have developed a mathematical encoding of what they call “common knowledge” and “informativeness” in human conversation. “We have a vastly powerful predictive model of the world,” says Goodman. “When somebody goes to understand a statement that somebody else has made, they’re making the best guess about the meaning of that statement, incorporating all these factors like informativeness and context.”

    By “putting numbers to” a theory of communication that dates back to the 1960s, they have come up with a model that not only describes part of the mutual understanding shared between human speakers, but also lays the groundwork for the next generation of our AI interlocutors, from pocket voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Android’s Iris to automated customer-service bots. “We’ve created a formalism for trying to predict what speakers are talking about and shown that it makes pretty good predictions,” says Frank. But the developers of Iris, for instance, also confirm that context-based understanding will give the edge in their field.”

    Read article

    20 June 2012

    Nathan Shedroff on the past and future of experience design

    anton-ego-reaction1

    Nathan Shedroff (bio), the pioneer in Experience Design, Interaction Design and Information Design, and the chair of the MBA in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, CA, is looking back on 10 years of experience design.

    “Let’s have more discussions about where we’re going. Experience design seems pretty stable, both in its scope and practice. We’re constantly adding to the knowledge and developing new tools to express the development and delivery of experiences to all involved with their creation. We’ve come a long way in ten years, sure, but every day environmental and biological sciences push forward our understanding of human behavior and the world we live in. This means we have new discoveries of how to design amazing experience still ahead of us . Designers need to learn more about designing sustainably, humanistically, and systemically. We need to further refine our techniques for design and customer research, enlarging our understanding of people past emotions and into values and meaning. We shouldn’t be afraid to go in these directions. Designing new experiences in new ways has a higher risk of failure, but also a higher risk of reward in greater impact and behavioral change.”

    Read article

    20 June 2012

    Spaniards turn to barter, alternative banks to alleviate economic pain

     

    Spanish institutions are in no shape to help struggling Spaniards, so they’re turning to alternative banks and ways of exchanging goods to get by, reports Andrés Cala in the Christian Science Monitor.

    “The quest for economic alternatives has picked up in recent months. Neighbors are organizing online and on the ground to do what banks and government institutions no longer can or are willing to do. They are repopulating the countryside with communes; they are moving savings from traditional national banks to home-grown socially responsible entities; and they are connecting those in need with those who can help.”

    Read article

    16 June 2012

    What Facebook knows

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    Deep inside the company, a team of social scientists is hunting for unprecedented insights about human behaviour, reports Tom Simonite, Technology Review’s senior IT editor. What they find could give Facebook new ways to cash in on our data—and remake our view of society.

    “Heading Facebook’s effort to figure out what can be learned from all our data is Cameron Marlow, a tall 35-year-old who until recently sat a few feet away from ­Zuckerberg. The group Marlow runs has escaped the public attention that dogs Facebook’s founders and the more headline-grabbing features of its business. Known internally as the Data Science Team, it is a kind of Bell Labs for the social-networking age. The group has 12 researchers—but is expected to double in size this year. They apply math, programming skills, and social science to mine our data for insights that they hope will advance Facebook’s business and social science at large.” [...]

    “For one thing, Marlow is confident that exploring this resource will revolutionize the scientific understanding of why people behave as they do. His team can also help Facebook influence our social behavior for its own benefit and that of its advertisers. This work may even help Facebook invent entirely new ways to make money.”

    Read article

    16 June 2012

    The user experience of Windows 8

    windows-8-ux

    Windows 8 and the art of UX compromise
    by Ryan Bell, user interface software team lead at EffectiveUI
    Microsoft is cleverly promoting Windows 8 with the tagline “no compromises.” The idea is that you get both a desktop/laptop operating system (OS) and a tablet OS in one package and a “best of both worlds” experience on any device.
    In reality, the decision to meld the traditional mouse-and-keyboard Windows with a new, radically different kind of interface designed for touch devices is itself a compromise – a choice with understandable business and engineering rationales, but one that is likely to introduce significant challenges for the Windows user experience (UX) in the months ahead.

    Why Windows 8 could be the next Vista
    by Sean Ludwig, staff writer for VentureBeat
    Thinking about Windows 8 fills me with a strong sense of unease. Whether it’s the thought of using the OS on my desktop on a daily basis or the coming backlash by consumers when the OS lands, it distresses me on more levels than it should. Windows 8 could very well be the next Vista.

    15 June 2012

    Participatory design in action at Experientia

    finnish_pd

    As a people-centred design company, Experientia® frequently uses participatory design methods in its projects.

    We believe that people are usually the best experts on their own lives, and participatory methods help us to tap into that expertise, to create an outcome that really matters to people.

    Over the years, we have used participatory workshops and co-creative activities in North and South America, Asia, Australia, and Nordic and Continental Europe, to design product and service concepts ranging from websites to public saunas, from mobile phone applications to office spaces.

    In a feature article in our spotlights section we present three examples of how using participatory design in a project has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the problem being explored, and the quality of our solutions. The examples include better service ideas for one of America’s biggest pharmacy chains, mobile phone concepts for emerging markets, and combining saunas and business in Finland.

    15 June 2012

    Book: Connected Health

    ConnectedHealth

    Connected Health: How mobile phones, cloud, and big data will reinvent healthcare
    by Jody Ranck, DrPH
    GigaOm Books, June 2012
    170 pages
    [Amazon Kindle edition]

    Abstract

    Our current healthcare system is in need of a radical reinvention. Traditional approaches have not brought the rapid change required by aging populations and the rising costs of healthcare, and government efforts too often get bogged down in partisan politics and fail to address systemic issues.

    Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon. New approaches that embrace game-changing technology — mobile networks, big data, social media, and the Internet of things — could completely disrupt the status quo and transform the healthcare system. For this change to occur, we must create new institutions and collaborative markets and promote a cultural shift in how we think about medicine, health, and the body. Only then will the path to disruptive innovation be able to overcome its many obstacles and reach a future where health strategists are conversant in the tools and technologies of cooperation.

    This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the emerging connected health ecosystem, including the startups and traditional technology players shaping the future of healthcare and innovative approaches by the government that demonstrate the need to move beyond the tired rhetoric of big government versus the market in healthcare.

    The author

    Jody Ranck, DrPH has a career in health that spans over 20 years and has worked around the world in countries such as Bangladesh, Tunisia, Haiti, Rwanda, Zambia, and Ethiopia with the UN, think tanks, and with the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank. A noted thought leader in the area of health innovation and mHealth, he has written widely on Connected Health in global settings. In 2011 he served on a committee of the Institute of Medicine that examined information technologies and global violence prevention. He is also a popular public speaker on technology and society and is a frequent commentator for a number of global news outlets including Bloomberg News.

    Although the book is written by an American writer and describes the US healthcare context, many of the emerging solutions are bound to be relevant to non-US healthcare systems as well.

    13 June 2012

    Who’s the Chief Experience Officer?

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    Method principal Reuben Steiger argues that companies need to start thinking about the holistic relationship between their brands, products, and services.

    “Crafting an experience requires design that considers these 3 elements of brand, product, and service in order to generate successful results. Any company can be analyzed through these lenses to evaluate the experience it creates for its customers. The iPhone is a product that delivers services and fulfills the promise of the Apple brand. Other examples abound: Nike Fuel, Amazon Kindle and HBO GO. Put another way, a product is an experience that occurs in the moment. A service is a relationship that extends over time and across platforms and mediums. A brand is much more than the logo; it is the pattern our brains expect based on everything we have previously heard, seen, and felt. All of these components roll up into the larger experience.” [...]

    “Ultimately, we all recognize a great experience when we encounter it, but designing your own is elusively difficult. The days of perfect plans within a top-down hierarchy are over. Instead, we need to influence our companies to embrace shared values and product principles. Then, each of us can be a Chief Experience Officer creating memorable experiences and a cohesive, engaging, and delightful brand.”

    Read article

    13 June 2012

    SAP on visualising the future

    armitage

    As visual analytics architect in SAP’s User Experience team, John Armitage is responsible for creating designs and design concepts for SAP’s analytics products. In this article he talks about new and creative ways of displaying information.

    “To demonstrate how current technological and market opportunities can transform how analytics are applied in the SAP product landscape, I launched two projects, LAVA and Pele.

    I proposed LAVA as a user experience standard for analytic content in SAP products. The project began in 2011 as a team effort with Fred Samson of the SAP Experience Team. LAVA is best described as a method for analytic consumption. It makes analytics accessible to many more end-users, filling and expanding the role of traditional dashboards in the business intelligence landscape. It can be used as a stand-alone solution or for embedding within SAP products.
    Simple and systematic, LAVA is intended to be low-cost, easily implemented, and widely applicable. State-of-the-art chart appearance, interaction, and scalability result from LAVA’s clean, practical visual language. Templates and components enable continuity of user experience and code across devices and products, and components are built to enable social collaboration, annotation, and closed loop scenarios.

    Pele is a more experimental project conducted with SAP Research, combining navigational menus with charts into a visualization environment that users can explore. Pele is also a response to the challenge to demonstrate “immersive interaction with quantitative information”, and addresses the request by Andrew Murray, general manager, SAP Mobile Analytics, for an intuitive, proprietary data exploration experience on mobile devices. The result combines semantic navigation (via words) with spatial navigation (via screen areas representing quantities) to provide a fluid, intuitive, immersive experience of exploring a data set.”

    Read article (with video)

    12 June 2012

    A social network built around giving

    impossible

    Model and actress Lily Cole’s social network, Impossible, has been designed for users to meet and help each other. Users post requests (say, “I wish to have a haircut”), and anyone in their local network can offer to help. The emphasis is on giving, rather than bartering. “Giving triggers social cohesion,” says Cole, 24. “It’s also the basis for an economy not based on money. Impossible will facilitate that via social media.”

    Impossible is in beta and is still self-funded, and its advisers include Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and economist Hazel Henderson. “Impossible is a utopian idea,” she says, “but I do believe it is possible.”

    (via Wired UK)

    12 June 2012

    Augmented sensing through smartphones

    wahoo_heart_rate_sensor

    So how are we doing to augment our senses through digital technologies?

    Here are some of the products currently on the market that allow people to augment their sensing (and sense-making) through external sensors, with result summaries visualised on smartphones and the web:

    Health and healthy living: AsthmaSense, DigiFit, FitBit, Up
    Sleep: Lark Sensor (WSJ article), WakeMate, Zeo
    Sports: Nike+ (running), Strava (cycling), Wahoo
    Home energy: Nest Learning Thermostat
    Plants (!): Koubachi

    It feels like a lot more is to come.