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Putting People First

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October 2012
16 October 2012

Human Drives card set

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Our friends at human-centered design consultancy Namahn in Brussels have created a lovely “human drive” card set to be used as a source of inspiration for ideation and co-design sessions.

The 48 cards, that have the exact size and feel of playing cards, are organised in four categories: Who Am I?, How Do I Interact With Others?, Why Am I Doing What I Do?, and What Makes Me Happy?.

An accompanying leaflet places the 48 drives in a flower-like diagram and explains that the cards were conceived – by Kristel Van Ael, we were told – as a design tool to stimulate us to think about our users and empathise with them. Here is how the Namahn team words their vision for the cards:

“People do not buy or use products and services just for the sake of it. They do it in order to reach underlying goals and fulfil deeper needs, which are what we call the human drives. While the products and services can change, these human drives are timeless and universal.

Remembering this leads to a more human-centered view of design. The focus is no longer purely on creating products or services, but more on designing ‘solutions’ that correspond to these drives.”

Namahn partners Joannes Vandermeulen and Joep Paemen gave me a set on Friday, and since the cards are not mentioned on their site, I assume they are conceived as a smart relationship management tool, so not for sale. Do contact them if you are interested.

16 October 2012

BMW’s electric experience

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Martin C. Pedersen reports in a long article for Metropolis Magazine on the 2014 BMW i3, the company’s first fully electric vehicle aimed at city driving.

The article focuses on how BMW’s new business strategy is all based on the core importance of the product experience:

“An ambitious experiment, with hefty up-front costs estimated to be as high as $200 million, the roll-out has the potential to both shift the company’s business model — from selling a product to selling the experience that product provides — and redefine the car’s role in an increasingly connected urban world.” […]

BMW has gone all-in on the urban mobility angle, taking several pages out of the car- and bike-sharing playbooks. The system uses the emerging connection between mobile devices and BMW that already exists in a nascent form in Germany. Don Norman, the noted designer and author, does consulting work for the automaker and has seen the system in action: “In Munich, when I’m with the BMW crowd, if we’re in the city and decide to drive someplace, one of the guys will take out his cell phone and open up an app that tells him where a car is located. He reserves one that’s a block away. We walk over, he waves his BMW badge, and the car unlocks. The car is not just available to BMW people. Anyone who belongs to the subscription service can do it.”

Read article

16 October 2012

Brave New City

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Metropolis Magazine asked seven visionary design teams, both established and up-and-coming, what they predict a fully accessible city might look like (and better yet, how it would function).

“We broke the city into its component parts and then, like casting directors, asked, “Who would we like to tackle this one?” The eager and inspired responses from our dream team thrilled us.”

“What follows are imaginative, practical, funny, high-tech/low-tech, humanistic design solutions that make room for everyone and, in the process, invent new ways of making cities.”

Getting Around: Transit Hub
by Grimshaw Architects
Grimshaw Architects, which designed the award-winning Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia, believes that a seamless transportation network is the key to our future. Grimshaw designed a hub that adapts to the evolving city and provides all people, whatever their needs, with a way to get around town.

Picking Up the Groceries: Public Market
by West 8
Farmers’ markets in parking lots aren’t the only solution to sustainable commerce. In 1995, the urban design and landscape architecture firm West 8 reinvented Binnenrotte Square in Rotterdam, closing it off to traffic and letting the locals take over. The firm used that experience to create our inclusive marketplace.

Sharing Resources: Community Center
by Interboro Partners
Interboro Partners has been compiling The Arsenal of Exclusion
& Inclusion (www.arsenalofexclusion.blogspot.com), to look at how cities admit or exclude people. The firm’s ideas for the community center in our new city draw upon the book, which will be published by Actar later this year.

Taking a Walk: Streetscape
by Linearscape
Linearscape have made it their mission to understand the built environment’s relationship to landscape, so they take an integrative approach to streets, applying existing technologies and reconfiguring the sidewalk for people of all ages and abilities. Linearscape’s won the 2012 Emerging New York Architects competition for imagining a future urban landscape.

Finding Your Way: Urban Navigation
by OPEN
OPEN believes in continuously reinventing itself. Yet it doesn’t always look to the future; sometimes the old way of doing things is the best. Its way finding system for our new city isn’t technological. OPEN suggests that people who are lost in the city do something unusual—ask someone for directions.

Living Together: Multi-Generational Home
by John Ronan Architects
John Ronan Architects is concerned with how a design takes into account building performance over time. So for our new city, the firm “interviewed” a 120-year-old great-grandmother in the year 2120. John Ronan Architects won a 2012 AIA Institute National Honor Award for their design of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago.

Working Virtually: Workspace
by LUNAR
The key to good design is knowing what people need. This is what the product design firm LUNAR focused on when considering how people in our new city would work. Addressing the growing number of virtual offices, the firm created products to encourage natural interactions even when people aren’t physically together.

16 October 2012

Creating behaviour change in people using mobile technology

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Rajeev Suri posted a short interview with Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt Consulting and the Praekelt Foundation, who focuses on creating behaviour change in people – particularly in emerging markets – using mobile technology.

In the interview he explains the notions of Computational Social Science, Influence and Susceptibility of an individual in a network, building on the work of behavioral scientist Sinan Aral at MIT. He also talks about the social community they built called YoungAfricaLive.

16 October 2012

The Age of User Experience Design – Infographic

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The growth of the User Experience Design field is breathtaking, but well deserved. Thanks to UX Designers all over the world, the quality of products has increased dramatically. Design really does matter now. It’s a user centric world in which there’s not only Apple on the scene anymore.

View infographic

(via InfoDesign)

16 October 2012

User experience in the age of sustainability

 

Designers, as makers of products and services, are key stewards of our planet because the products and services we design influence the ways in which people live, argues Kem Kramer in an article for Johnny Holland.

“What we design, how we design, the materials with which we design and for what purposes we design, set the pace for emerging cultural behaviours. We owe it to ourselves as stewards of our world, and as designers from all spectrum to consider the impact of each design that we create on the overall impact of not only our collective culture and cultural practices but also on the environment at large. Accordingly, for the fields of Design and User Experience to remain progressively relevant, we must begin to form a closer affinity to the Sustainability movement.”

Kramer is a UX practitioner at Research in Motion.

11 October 2012

Content and the journey: Building a good user experience for news sites

 

Discussions at recent news industry conferences have often referred to the importance of good user experience, particularly during discussions about how news outlets are reaching and interacting with their users on digital platforms.

References to user experience could cover a range of aspects, including the user’s journey through content, an app or a news website, the usability of those products and the experience of consuming a single piece of content.

For the purposes of this feature Rachel McAthy of journalism.co.uk asked managing editor of the Wall Street Journal’s digital network, Raju Narisetti, what user experience meant to him in the context of news and journalism.

Read interview

(via InfoDesign)

10 October 2012

Top 10 things still to fix in experience design

 

Here’s the view of Ray McCune, managing partner at Flow, on some of the peaks we still have to climb if experience design is to become a mainstream business discipline.

It’s quite excellent.

1. Targets and incentives within businesses must be aligned with long-term value
As long as business managers are incentivised only to deliver against short-term goals in narrow areas of business performance, companies will struggle to make significant improvements in their relationships with customers.

2. We need to stop designing experiences based on company structure
We’re already seeing a rush by individual business units within large organisations to launch their own individual mobile offerings, often with little thought for the overall experience.

3. The User Experience community needs to get out more
We are talking to ourselves more than anyone else. […] We need to seek out opportunities to speak with politicians, business owners, executives and managers on their own ground and use a vocabulary that resonates with them: tying UX to social benefit, improved business performance and new marketing opportunities.

4. Improve the user experience of boxed products
All too often the out-of-the-box experience offered by third-party products simply isn’t flexible enough to create a valuable, differentiated experience for customers.

5. Most digital agencies are charlatans
Ten years ago, few digital agencies had any user experience offering, so it should seem like progress that today the majority of agencies make the vocabulary of UX central to their pitch and their proposition. Or perhaps not.

6. Pitches are a uniquely bad way of finding a good design agency…
…but they remain a very good way of finding a bad design agency. The traditional pitch process is flawed because it requires agencies to begin the process of making decisions about creative ideas and complex interactions in the absence of insight and understanding.

7. NPS is a blunt tool
While Net Promotor Score (NPS) is good at telling a company what is happening, it’s less good at telling a company why. What influences advocacy is subtle, and NPS lacks the subtlety to help inform experimentation and optimisation of customer experience.

8. The cult of data
Even if data is infallible, the high priests interpreting the data are not. In almost every company we know, data analysts find patterns in the numbers and then guess at their meaning. That guesswork is passed up the line, sometimes to board level, but it masquerades as fact because its source is ‘the numbers’.

9. Still not enough investment in solving basic usability issues
While companies have increasingly employed usability testing to improve their sales and service processes there is still a clear tendency to act only on the issues which are easiest to fix.

10. Too much disrespect for customers
Henry Ford still gets quoted by people who want to marginalise the opinion of customers. There’s a lazy acceptance by many in business that user research is futile.

(via InfoDesign)

9 October 2012

Five new articles on UX Matters

 

Tips on Prototyping for Usability Testing
By Jim Ross, Principal of Design Research at Electronic Ink, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Because user research studies peoples’ behavior, the most effective research techniques involve observing participants doing things and talking about what they’re doing. Research that focuses on opinions and discussions of behavior in the abstract isn’t as useful, because it’s difficult for people to talk about their behavior out of context or to evaluate a design without using it. Therefore, the best way to evaluate a new design is to create a prototype and give participants something concrete to interact with and react to. In this column, Jim Ross provides some tips that can make your usability studies more successful and help you to avoid problems when testing prototypes.

Are You Still Using Earlier-Generation Prototyping Tools?
By Ritch Macefield, Owner of Ax-Stream, London UK
Given that we can now choose from a variety of fourth-generation prototyping tools, why is it that so many organizations are still creating second- or third-generation prototypes?

The Many Hats of a Usability Professional
By Rebecca Albrand, Design Researcher at Electronic Ink, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Sometimes it seems as though usability professionals need to have superhuman multitasking abilities to conduct usability test sessions. As a usability professional, you have to wear the hats of a facilitator, a consultant, a conversationalist, a note-taker, a technologist, and a psychologist. In this article Rebecca Albrand describes some objectives for each of the roles you’ll need to take on, as well as provide some tips that you should remember to help you wear each hat successfully.

Demystifying UX Design: Common False Beliefs and Their Remedies: Part 1
By Frank Guo, Founder of UX Strategized, San Bruno, CA, USA
In debunking common UX design myths, Frank Guo shows that they’re just half truths that don’t fully account for the complexity of user experience and that there are better alternatives for achieving your design objectives.

Product Review: Mobile Prototyping and Testing with Justinmind
By Afshan Kirmani, Information Architect at Global Dawn, London UK
Justinmind Prototyper supports requirements gathering, wireframe creation, application simulation, and usability testing. You can use it to create interactive prototypes of both Web and mobile applications. As a bonus, Prototyper lets stakeholders and users provide feedback on your prototypes of mobile and Web applications. Thus, it incorporates all of the features that are necessary for a prototyping project.

8 October 2012

Videos of keynote presentations at The Web and Beyond 2012

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The Web and Beyond is a bi-annual conference organized by Chi Nederland, focused on the practice and business of user experience.

On September 26, our 425 attendees saw a full-day, 3-track conference with keynotes and parallel sessions on user experience research, design, evaluation and management. The event featured both Dutch and English sessions by national and international presenters.

This year’s theme was “Momentum”, in recognition of the masses of people that are now convinced that user centered design is the best approach for designing successful interactive experiences, as well as the speed with which the field of user experience is developing.

Videos of the keynotes are now online.

Tablets and the age of comfortable computing (synopsis)
Rachel Hinman, senior research scientist, Nokia Research
Since their introduction in 2010, tablets have taken the mobile industry by storm, with sales expected to reach 120 million in 2012 alone. Whether novelty or need, tablets are clearly a big and growing part of the mobile device landscape that won’t be going away any time soon. Which begs the question: Now that these shiny new gadgets are finding their way into the world, how are people actually using them? In this talk, Rachel Hinman shared findings from her year-long study of tablet usage as well as provide design implications for designing tablet experiences. She covered:

  • Comfortable Computing: How users are seeking experiences that provide a sense of comfort and connection through tablet devices and how designers can better support these needs.
  • Mutual Reconfiguration: The impact environments and social contexts have on tablet usage and how to account for the dynamic nature of the mobile context when designing tablet experiences.
  • New Forms of Creation: Collage, curate and animate. How tablet devices are redefining what it means to create in the digital world.

Make It So: Apologizing for bad sci-fi UI (synopsis)
Chris Noessel, managing director, Cooper
Interfaces in sci-fi serve a primarily narrative purpose. They’re there to help tell the story of how a character disables the tractor beam, or hacks into the corporate database, or diagnoses the alien infection. But what would happen if we tried to build these same interfaces for the real world? Some would fare just fine. Most would need a little redesign. A few appear to be just plain stupid or broken. They couldn’t work the way they appear to. That is, until you use the technique of apologetics to discover that in fact far from being stupid, they’re brilliant.
Chris Noessel, co-author of the book Make It So: Interface Lessons from Sci-Fi (Rosenfeld Media, 2012) discussed this critical technique, showed how it works across several sci-fi interfaces, and challenged the audience to apologize for some “bad” sci-fi interfaces.

Get Lucky: How to put planned serendipity to work for you and your business (synopsis)
Lane Becker, author of Get Lucky
The world of work has changed. To keep pace with the rapidly shifting needs and expectations of the market – and stay relevant and competitive – we need to find ways to encourage and reward ongoing innovation inside our organizations. But embracing change as part of the regular process of doing business can be challenging for organizations that have learned to rely on routine and process to ensure consistent, reliable growth.
In their New York Times bestseller “Get Lucky,” authors and entrepreneurs Thor Muller and Lane Becker explore the qualities and business practices of Twitter, Instagram, Pixar, 3M, Google and other high-performing companies. In this keynote, Lane shared the secret formula behind the success of the world’s most successful organizations: “planned serendipity.”

(via InfoDesign)

6 October 2012

Making mobile phones work for the poor

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In this BBC article, David Edelstein, a leader in the mobile for development space, argues that human networks are the essential ingredient for mobile phones to improve the lives of the poorest.

“Focusing on the technology betrays a truth that must be understood if we are to get beyond this hype and harness the true potential of mobile. To truly make a difference to the lives of the world’s poor, I believe that we must complement the existing mobile networks with well structured human networks.

What do I mean by a human network? To understand what they are and the impact they can have, our network of more than 850 Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) in Uganda offers a good example.”

Read article

6 October 2012

Understanding the sensing city

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Consultant Roger Dennis, who identifies himself as “serendipity architect”, has been writing a series of posts on meetings he had related to the sensing city. Together they give a good overview of some of the most recent initiatives and thinking on smart cities.

Singapore meetings
Meetings with the MIT Sensable Cities Lab and the ETH Zurich Future Cities Lab – both part of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology

Intel meeting in London
Meeting with Duncan Wilson at Intel, who heads up the newly created Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities – a partnership with two universities. The aim of the initiative is to understand how technology can be used as a tool to create better cities.

Cosm meeting in London
Meeting with Usman Haque, who founded the company Pachube, which has since been bought and its name changed to Cosm. He also now has an Urban Projects Division that works on special projects with cities around the world.

Siemens meeting in London
Meeting with Elaine Trimble of Siemens, who works with the (relatively new) global cities team based at The Crystal. It opened a couple of weeks ago and is “the world’s first center dedicated to improving our knowledge of urban sustainability.

Arup meeting in London
Meeting with Volker Buscher, one of Arup’s smart city people. He has a massive range of experience with cities around the world.

University College London (UCL)
Meeting with Dr Andy Hudson Smith who is the director of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), a UCL research lab. Among other things the group is responsible for the fascinating London Dashboard.

Cisco meeting in London
Meeting with John Baekelmans, the CTO for the Smart Connected Communities initiative and JP Vasseur, who is a Cisco Fellow.

> See also this frog design interview with Cisco CGO Wim Elfrink on the same topic

New York meetings
Meetings with Ashok Raiji of Arup; Bjarke Ingels, founder, and Iben Falconer, Business Development Manager of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG); Naureen Kabir of New Cities Foundation; and David van der Leer, the Curator of the BMW Guggenheim Lab.

5 October 2012

An enchanted Odyssey on your iPad

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Article by Francesca Salvadori, Scuolalvento blog
Translation from the Italian

Technology is probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think about poetry and how it can be captured and transmitted. But this emotional and colourful voyage with Ulysses would not be the same on paper.

The application is based on a book with gorgeous illustrations and wise and simple storytelling, but without the diffuse backlighting of the screen that transforms even the deepest greys and blues into something lively and vibrant, the enchantment of the narration would never be as strong.

Polyphemos really walks into you, ever bigger and frightful; the captured winds in the bag of Aeolus hurl themselves on the sea; the lure of the Sirens, seated between corals and opaline jellyfish, hypnotises you; and the shining Calypso, notwithstanding her blond grace and the surrounding flowers of an eternal spring, has a broken heart due to the hero’s rejection…

It’s hard to imagine a more convincing introduction to the Odyssey. And although events have been ordered diachronically, resulting in the loss of the flashbacks and flashforwards that characterise the typical circularity of the time of Ulysses, we capture the tragedy of the shipwreck at the glance, seeing him exiled in the waves of the vast Mediterranean Sea.

This little jewel – created by the Milan publishers of Elastico – will be precious for anyone who needs to engage young people with the works of Homer, as it is full of synthetic but intelligent page scenes and narrated by an assuring, fluid and relaxed voice, while containing a coherent selection of the story’s episodes.

The simple and moving digital story allows any of us to seed the taste for literature with children and pupils, paving their way into the pages of poetry.

And hopefully they will start to love other literature as well.

The Voyage of Ulysses (available in English and Italian) cost 3.99 Euro (4.99 USD).

But even if it costed 10, it would be worth purchasing…

5 October 2012

Chris Noessel and Stefan Klocek presentation at D3

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In August, Cooper directors Chris Noessel and Stefan Klocek discussed implicit interactions at Device Design Day 2012, organised by Kicker Studio in San Francisco.

They also presented a new metaphor or mental model for thinking about emerging technology.

Check out the video of their talk.

5 October 2012

Ritual and the service experience

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The interplay between efficiency and quality in a service experience is often what separates a merely transactional interaction from a valuable and pleasurable one, writes Patrick Quattlebaum of Adaptive Path.

“The former gets the job done; the latter does so while creating a more human connection and an enduring relationship between service provider and customer. Unfortunately, in most cases efficiency wins out. Most organizations lean heavily on analytical methods to define rigid processes and procedures that are designed to reduce waste and increase predictability in service delivery. This approach views the organization as a machine to be fine-tuned and the customer as a rational actor who enters and exits processes like a rat in a well-designed maze.

Yet, customers are less rational than they would like to admit and more complicated (i.e., human) than process engineers would prefer. Much of this derives from how the unconscious mind affects behavior. […] And, the unconscious mind is not only molded by individual experience, but by societal norms and rituals deeply embedded within a culture.”

Read article

5 October 2012

I have seen the future and it’s worn

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Paul Taylor of the Financial Times thinks wearable technology lives up to its promise at last.

“For years, engineers have envisaged technology so personal that “body area networks” would have wide applications in clothing and other worn items such as earrings. So far, the reality has fallen short of this sci-fi vision, although notable tech togs have included Spytech’s ties with a built-in video camera, which are still available.”

The author thinks this is now changing. He reviews Fleece 7.0 by Scottevest, the Nike+ Sportband, and the Blacksocks Smarter Socks.

Read article

3 October 2012

How to create a cutting edge Smart City visitor experience

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A four step guide from the Milan Expo 2015:

Step 1
Ask your main sponsors (in this case Cisco, Enel and Telecom Italia) to indicate the relevant “Smart City” technologies that they already have, are currently working on, or are generally trendy.
In the Milan case these are push technology services, QR codes, smart phone apps, mapping services, RFID tags, biometric identification, security services, electronic walls, gestural interfaces, augmented reality (and eyewear), immersive virtual reality, 3D avatars, health tracking services, and foldable tablets.

Step 2
Agree with these sponsors to hire an advertising agency to develop a short video scenario of the Expo 2015 visitor experience, using all these technologies, and obviously adhering to the general vision and principles of the Expo.

Step 3 (VERY IMPORTANT):

  • DO NOT make it realistic by introducing context, such as the City of Milan, traffic, other digital services people might use, other people, or anyone who may not be familiar with smartphones, gestural interfaces, QR codes
  • DO NOT base your ideas on the actual behaviour of people – since it will be impossible to say how people might behave in 2015, any user research is distracting
  • DO NOT show any use that goes beyond what you can already do on a smartphone or website in 2012 – like navigating, browsing and communicating – and emphasize passive media consumption
  • DO NOT indicate that people (and small companies) can create their own bottom up services – as this might be a security risk

Inadvertently doing any of the above, will diminish the power of the perfect visitor experience you aim to create.

Step 4
Use this video in key presentations on your Smart City credentials and highlight how these services will resolve the key visitor experience problem that came to the fore during the recent Beijing expo: queues.

The result: Expo 2015 Smart City video (Italian version)

(I hope you capture my irony.)

2 October 2012

Anthropological study by Google on our magic relationship with mobile devices

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What is the emotional relationship people truly have with the mobile space and how they make meaning there? To answer this, Google conducted an anthropological study to gain a better understanding of how people feel about, relate to and find meaning in the mobile space, and how brands can engage their consumers in more emotionally resonant and impactful ways.

“We hired an anthropologist to interview dozens of ordinary mobile device owners and observe them as they interacted with their smartphones. The first thing we found is that the phone’s pocket size is anything but a flaw — in fact, it’s the key to understanding what it really means.

Anthropology teaches us that in every culture, miniatures possess the power to unlock imaginations. Whether it’s a dollhouse, toy truck, or some other tiny talisman, miniatures look and feel real, but their size gives us the permission to suspend disbelief, daydream, and play. Remember The Nutcracker? In between pirouettes, a toy nutcracker comes to life, defeats an evil mouse, and whisks the heroine away to a magical kingdom. That, in a nutshell, is the story we implicitly tell ourselves about our miniature computers — one of youth, freedom, and possessing the key to a much larger world.

“Because it’s in my pocket I somehow squeeze this time in for various things — and only because I think it just sits in my pocket,” one of our subjects told us.

The screens may be small, but they serve as gateways to the gigantic. We see this power manifest in insights gleaned from the anthropologist’s observations. Our mobile devices help us fully actualize our best self, or what we call the Quicksilver Self; they engage us to create a shared culture, the New Tribalism; and they help us to make sense of the physical world around us, an act we describe as Placemaking. Understanding the deeper levels at which individuals, customers, are finding meaning in mobile will enable marketers to put this powerful medium to its best use.”

Report by Think With Google

2 October 2012

Experientia at EPIC 2012

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Experientia will be at EPIC Conference, on October 14-17 2012, hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design [SCAD], Savannah, USA.

This year, Experientia president Michele Visciòla will be chairing the first (of two) Pecha Kucha session Renewals of Place.

EPIC, which stands for Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, promotes the use of ethnographic investigations and principles in the study of human behavior as they are applied in business settings.

The theme of the 2012 conference is renewal, focusing on the current turmoil in our world, and encouraging attendees to reflect on their own contribution to the field of applied ethnography and the role of EPIC in pushing communities forward.

2 October 2012

Why we are so rude online

 

Why are we so nasty to each other online, asks Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal. Whether on Facebook, Twitter, message boards or websites, we say things to each other that we would never say face to face. Shouldn’t we know better by now?

Anonymity is a powerful force. Hiding behind a fake screen name makes us feel invincible, as well as invisible. Never mind that, on many websites, we’re not as anonymous as we think—and we’re not anonymous at all on Facebook. Even when we reveal our real identities, we still misbehave.

According to soon-to-be-published research from professors at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, browsing Facebook lowers our self control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.