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November 2012
15 November 2012

Service design publications from Finland and Estonia

Service design magazine

As part of ServiceD, a three-year service design project, which researched future educational needs and piloted service design education, Lahti University of Applied Sciences from Finland and The Estonian Institute for Futures Studies from Tallinn University have published two remarkable service design publications:

Service Design: On the Evolution of Design Expertise (pdf) is a 196-page book that describes the developments and changes in Estonian and Finnish design competences since the 1960s and analyses how service design has emerged as a field of its own. The book also discusses how design has taken a turn towards the immaterial and provides insights to design education; how should education be developed amidst changing needs and environments.

Service design magazine (pdf, 84 pages) highlights fresh, global phenomena related to the outcomes of service design, city planning, drama and interaction studies, and futures research.

13 November 2012

Nicolas Nova interviewed on Ethnography Matters

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The people from Ethnography Matters, an ethnography group blog that is celebrating its first year anniversary today, interviewed their new regular contributor Nicolas Nova. He joins the all-woman team of Tricia Wang, Heather Ford, Rachelle Annechino, and Jenna Burrell.

Nicolas teaches at the Geneva University of Arts and Design, works closely with design and corporate firms throughout Europe, co-founded Lift, a conference that has often been described as the cozier & smaller version of TED, and has been blogging about his research since 2003 on Pasta & Vinegar.

The interview is a very nice read. Congratulations, Nicolas. Looking forward to reading your posts. And congratulations, Ethnography Matters team, with one year of inspiring contributions.

13 November 2012

How 3 million hours of user-testing fixed the Jawbone Up

jawbone

Pulled from store shelves after a month, the first high-profile wearable activity tracker was a humiliation for Jawbone. Now, the Up is back, and anyone vying for a stake in wearable tech should pay close attention to the product’s resurrection, according to Fast Company.

Interestingly, Jawbone advocates an entirely new (and rather questionable) use of the term ‘ethnographic’.

“Their own internal product testing was coupled with what Jawbone calls “one of the largest ethnographic studies you could imagine.” While they say most consumer gadgets might see eight weeks of limited field testing, theirs lasted 46 weeks, or just short of three million hours of beta testers living with the Up.”

In fact, it was more about a huge series of iterative prototypes:

“It was ultimately ‘hundreds and hundreds of different designs, each being tested one by one’ that evolved the Up into what’s returning to store shelves today. That’s hundreds and hundreds of different designs that the end user will never see, that can’t be slapped on a box as a selling feature, and that very few small companies could ever afford to do. But in the end, the Up may go down in history as one of the first wearable devices that just works (the second time around, at least).”

13 November 2012

An interview with three UX strategists

 

The role of UX Strategist is a relatively new one on UX design teams, and has recently addressed in two articles on UXmatters: “UX Strategy: The Heart of User-Centered Design” and “What Does a UX Strategist Do?“.

To provide more insight, Paul Bryan, manager of the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn and organizer of the the first international UX Strategy Conference (which will take place in Atlanta next year), interviewed three UX strategists at well-known companies: Nicole Netland of Best Buy, Rick Castanho of Lowe’s and Stephanie Sansoucie of Kohl’s.

“[Given the secrecy and confidentiality of what UX Strategists work on], the best that I can do is to continue to explore the topic of UX strategy tangentially, using knowledge that I can share openly to help push back the boundaries of secrecy. And that’s the spirit in which these three UX Strategists approached this interview, too. If, when reading their answers, it seems to you that we’ve omitted something important, it’s probably because we have. What I find most interesting about these interviews—besides the window that they provide into UX strategy practice—is that, while they begin by describing widely disparate evolutions of the discipline of UX strategy within specific organizations, they end with very compatible, even overlapping visions of the future.”

13 November 2012

A qualitative study of internet non-use in Great Britain and Sweden

 

Living Offline – A Qualitative Study of Internet Non-Use in Great Britain and Sweden
by Bianca Christin Reisdorf (U. of Oxford, UK), Ann-Sofie Axelsson (Chalmers U. of Technology, Sweden) and Hanna Maurin Söderholm (U. College of Borås, Sweden)
Paper presented at the Internet Research International Conference, October 2012, Manchester

This study explores and compares attitudes and feelings of middle-aged British and Swedish Internet non-users as well as their reasons for being offline. The rich qualitative data are conceptualized and presented according to various reasons for non-use, positive and negative feelings regarding non-use, and the positive as well as negative influence of and dependence on social networks. The comparison shows both unique and common perceptions of the British and Swedish respondents, some of which can be attributed to social, economic, or socio-economic factors. However, it also displays vast differences between middle-aged non-users in both countries. The analysis paints a complex picture of decisions for and against the use of the Internet and the need for more research to understand these highly complex phenomena, which cannot simply be attributed to socio-economic backgrounds as has been done in most previous research. The analysis shows that more complex reasons, such as lack of interest or discomfort with technologies, as well as the somewhat surprising finding that social networks can prevent non-users from learning how to use the Internet, as it is more convenient to stay a proxy-user, should be considered in future research and policies regarding digital inequalities.

(alternative link)

12 November 2012

Book: Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments

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Advancing Ethnography in Corporate Environments: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities
Edited by Brigitte Jordan
Left Coast Press
November 2012, 224 pages
[Amazon link]

Abstract
In this innovative volume, twelve leading scholars from corporate research labs and independent consultancies tackle the most fundamental and contentious issues in corporate ethnography. Organized in pairs of chapters in which two experts consider different sides of an important topic, these provocative encounters go beyond stale rehearsals of method and theory to explore the entanglements that practitioners wrestle with on a daily basis. The discussions are situated within the broader universe of ethnographic method and theory, as well as grounded in the practical realities of using ethnography to solve problems in the business world. The book represents important advances in the field and is ideal for students and scholars as well as for corporate practitioners and decision makers.

Brigitte Jordan, PhD, an independent consulting corporate anthropologist, has held positions as Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning, Principal Scientist at Xerox PARC, and Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Corporate Research Award in Excellence in Science and Technology from the Xerox Corporation and the Margaret Mead Award of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. Dr. Jordan specializes in research methodologies and the design of lifescapes of the future. She is the author of almost one hundred scholarly, technical, and professional publications, some of which have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and Japanese. Her website is www.lifescapes.org.

Download excerpt
Table of contents

11 November 2012

Finally a serious research study on tablet use in schools

 

Although there are many tablet deployments in schools worldwide, there is a glaring lack of serious research on what actually happens in the classrooms with these devices. In fact, there is so far no aggregated evidence that tablet technology significantly aids learning. Obviously, official endorsement for the widespread use of tablets in schools cannot really happen without substantiated, independent evidence to convincingly prove the case for tablet technology.

Carphone Warehouse (corporate site), a UK mobile phone retailer, recently commissioned the Family Kids and Youth research agency to conduct a qualitative study of schools situated in Belfast, Kent and Essex where children are already benefiting from tablet use. The aim of the research, which ran from April to July 2012, was to find out more about how tablets are actually being used in education.

Family Kids and Youth carried out focus groups and ethnography at one of the schools (Honywood Community Science School, Coggeshall, Essex), interviewing pupils, staff and teachers, and observing the way in which different subjects and age groups used tablets in learning. Research was also undertaken with teachers, pupils and parents in one control school and two primary schools. In addition, an online quantitative research study was carried out between 22 June – 2 July with a UK nationally representative sample of 1,120 parents of children aged 3-16, 933 children aged 7-16, and 202 teachers.

The research findings (pdf) are generally rather positive (assuming that Family Kids and Youth has done its research properly, given the obvious interest of Carphone Warehouse in tablet sales): tablets enhance learning, improve communication, engage and motivate pupils, and stimulate proactive querying, initiative taking and creativity. Interestingly, the study points out that particularly less engaged pupils, those who had previously struggled with their homework, and pupils with special educational needs appear to be benefiting most from tablet use in schools (read the short report for more details).

Often cited fears – about distraction, misuse such as gaming and texting, time spent, theft, loss of writing skills, challenges in terms of classroom management – were clearly not confirmed by reality.

Yet, it is worthwhile underlining what Carphone Warehouse considered to be three primary issues regarding the use of tablet technology in schools (as summarised in the introduction of a follow-up project that is running during the school year 2012-2013):
1. A lack of specialised training for teachers around the use of tablet technology
2. Concerns for students when faced with sitting traditional paper-based examinations
3. The growing mass of unregulated content in the app world and the lack of appropriate interactive content
(“Teachers have the impression that educational publishers are merely publishing text books in the form of an app without fully appreciating the possibilities that tablets can offer.”)

If you read French, you may also be interested in the dossier “Tablette tactile et enseignement (école, collège, lycée)” – on the website of the French Ministry of Education. The (very long) web page provides an overview of what is currently going on in France, contains many links, but does unfortunately not include a deeper analysis (unless you delve deeper into the linked reports, such as this one from Paris and this one from Fribourg, Switzerland).

10 November 2012

A tablet still is not a book … not yet

books-b-small

Dan Turner discusses why the experience of reading a book on tablets (iPads in particular) is a chore rather than a delight.

In a long article for UX Magazine, he discusses a number of reasons, often related to usability and even biology, why that may be so:

  • The physicality of books is linked to comprehension and memory, and reinforces focus and comprehension
  • The glossy, reflective screen is a physical strain, degrading the reading experience
  • The combination of thinness with weight puts a physical stress on your hands that a book does not
  • As a light source often used in darkened environments, potentially disrupt our sleep cycles
  • Due to the regular notifications we receive on our tablets, we are easily distracted and find it hard to achieve concentration or flow
  • We are conditioned to see screens as ‘work’ or ‘entertainment’ devices, again making it hard to enjoy a reading experience on them

So, he asks, what could we as hardware, system, and app designers do to help reduce distraction? And how can serious user research help us in that?

10 November 2012

More NEXT Service Design videos

Next-Berlin

Last week I posted links to a few videos from NEXT Service Design, the European conference for designing digital services, which took place on 8 October in Berlin.

In addition to the presentations by Alexander Baumgart and Pedro Custódio, two more videos have now been uploaded:

Service Design – Are we still talking about this?
Chris Downs, Method
In its early days, service design had a clear and compelling purpose – to shift our addition from owning products in favour of services. Products were bad, the thinking went – they encourage greed, envy and waste. Services on the other hand, were good – they led to community, sustainability and fulfilment.
Ten years on, the technological landscape has fundamentally changed and today it is almost impossible to distinguish between a digital product and a service. Where does that leave service design? Most importantly, why are we still having this conversation?
In this talk, Chris explores design in a world where the old notions of product, service and brand are blurring. He argues how services of the future will be more like the services of the past and explains why you should never ever refer to him as ‘a consumer’.

How lean and service design methods can create innovative, digital products
Magnus Christensson, Socialsquare
Drawing upon the design, development and launch of a client project for Denmark’s largest online bookstore, Magnus will share some of his experiences and insights from applying lean startup & service design methodologies to build a client product and business that challenge the market.

6 November 2012

How teens do research in the digital world

 

According to Pew Internet research, the teachers who instruct the most advanced American secondary school students render mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies. More in particular, they say that students’ digital literacy skills are weak and that courses or content focusing on digital literacy must be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.

Some 77% of advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed say that the internet and digital search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ research work. But 87% say these technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

According to this survey of teachers, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project, the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up:

  • Virtually all (99%) AP and NWP teachers in this study agree with the notion that “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available,” and 65% agree that “the internet makes today’s students more self-sufficient researchers.”
  • At the same time, 76% of teachers surveyed “strongly agree” with the assertion that internet search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily.
  • Large majorities also agree with the notion that the amount of information available online today is overwhelming to most students (83%) and that today’s digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of sources when conducting research (71%).
  • Fewer teachers, but still a majority of this sample (60%), agree with the assertion that today’s technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.
  • Given these concerns, it is not surprising that 47% of these teachers strongly agree and another 44% somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.
5 November 2012

Building software to conduct ethnographic research of online communities

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While digital ethnography is an established field within ethnography, we don’t often hear of ethnographers building digital tools to conduct their fieldwork. Wendy Hsu wants to change that.

In the first of her three-part guest post series on Tricia Wang’s Ethnography Matters, she shows how ethnographers can use software, and even build their own software, to explore online communities.

By drawing on examples from her own research on independent rock musicians, she shares with us how she moved from being an ethnographer of purely physical domains to an ethnographer who built software programs to gather more relevant qualitative data.

“In this post, I’d like to foreground computational methodology in thinking about how we as ethnographers may deploy digital tools as we explore communities within and around digital infrastructures. I am particularly interested in how we use these tools to study communities that are digitally organized. How do we use and think about data ethnographically? How does one use computational tools to navigate in digital communities? What are the advantages of leveraging (small) data approaches in doing ethnographic work? While this post is focused on the study of digitally embedded communities, in my later posts, I will speak more broadly about how the digital may extend how we look at communities where face-to-face interactions are central.”

Wendy is currently a Mellon Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center of Digital Learning + Research at Occidental College. She recently completed a Ph.D. in the Critical and Comparative Studies program in the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia.

5 November 2012

Five perspectives on the future of the human interface

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The next generation of apps will require developers to think more of the human as the user interface. It will become more about the need to know how an app works while a person stands up or with their arms in the air more so than if they’re sitting down and pressing keys with their fingers.

Tables, counters and whiteboards will eventually become displays. Meeting rooms will have touch panels, and chalk boards will be replaced by large systems that have digital images and documents on a display that teachers can mark up with a stylus.

A TechCrunch article contains comments by Microsoft General Manager Jeff Han; Jim Spadaccini of Ideum, which makes large interactive displays; cyborg anthropologist Andrew Warner; Amber Case, co-founder of Geoloqi, the mobile, location-based company; and Matt May, an accessibility evangelist who works for Adobe.

4 November 2012

Book: Digital Anthropology

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Digital Anthropology
Edited by Heather A. Horst, Daniel Miller
Berg Publishers, Oct 2012
328pp

Anthropology has two main tasks: to understand what it is to be human and to examine how humanity is manifested differently in the diversity of culture. These tasks have gained new impetus from the extraordinary rise of the digital. This book brings together several key anthropologists working with digital culture to demonstrate just how productive an anthropological approach to the digital has already become.

Through a range of case studies from Facebook to Second Life to Google Earth, Digital Anthropology explores how human and digital can be defined in relation to one another, from avatars and disability; cultural differences in how we use social networking sites or practise religion; the practical consequences of the digital for politics, museums, design, space and development to new online world and gaming communities. The book also explores the moral universe of the digital, from new anxieties to open-source ideals. Digital Anthropology reveals how only the intense scrutiny of ethnography can overturn assumptions about the impact of digital culture and reveal its profound consequences for everyday life.

Combining the clarity of a textbook with an engaging style which conveys a passion for these new frontiers of enquiry, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of anthropology, media studies, communication studies, cultural studies and sociology.

Authors/Editors
Heather A. Horst is a Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Australia.
Daniel Miller is Professor of Material Culture at the Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK

Contributors
Tom Boellstorff, Heather Horst, Lane DeNicola, Faye Ginsburg, Stefana Broadbent, Danny Miller, John Postill, Jelena Karanovic, Bart Barendregt, Jo Tacchi, Adam Drazin, Haidy Geismar and Thomas Malaby

4 November 2012

Anthropology of mid-sized startups

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In their natural habitats, social species organize into characteristic groups. Gazelles form herds, wolves form packs, and ants form colonies. Humans, in the same way, form tribes.

Of course, we’re pretty far removed from our natural habitat these days. But tribes are a large and fundamental part of our evolutionary heritage, and they have a corresponding influence on our mental and social lives. Organizing ourselves into tribes is one of the ways we manufacture normalcy. It helps our paleolithic minds perceive and act, more or less sensibly, in an increasingly complex modern world.

Humans also form kingdoms, nations, states, and civilizations, but those units of organizations aren’t as fundamental to our psychology.

So let’s see what happens when we treat startups as tribes.

4 November 2012

Leaving our mark: What will be left of our cities?

neworleans

From our cities, to our farms, to our rubbish, humans have firmly stamped their mark across the planet.

Humanity’s impact on the globe is so great and varied that we have launched a new geological time period in the Earth’s history. Its name is the Anthropocene – the human epoch.

In part one of a two-part feature, Andrew Luck-Baker, from the BBC’s Radio Science Unit, explores the legacy our civilisation will leave in the rocks of the future. You can read part two here.

4 November 2012

Human face of big data

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This past week featured a worldwide experiment conducted via a mobile app: The Human Face of Big Data. On September 26, 2012, Against All Odds Productions launched a smartphone and tablet app. With it, users could map their daily footprint through GPS, share a picture of what brings them luck, and get a glimpse into the one thing people want to experience during their lifetime. Why was this done?

Rick Smolan believes in the concept of “big data”, the idea that it is possible to analytically process massive amounts of data in order to derive insights into problems facing the world. Without most people even realizing it, your smartphone is collecting a lot of data on a daily basis. Where you have been. Who you have been calling. What businesses do you like. Most of this data is used for marketing or discarded after temporary usage by your apps. But what if this data could be harnessed?

The Human Face of Big Data app allows volunteers to provide demographic information through a series of questions. Then, through the rest of the week, the smartphone’s sensors were keeping a log of how far people traveled, how fast, and where they were going. While this may mostly be interesting to social scientists, Smolan is doing this to show just how much information people are already sharing passively. He believes that big data will have a more transforming effect than the internet itself.

4 November 2012

Bridging the gap between humans and computers

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Heather Kelly reports on the CNN website on The Atlantic’s recent Big Science Summit in San Jose, California:

We have voice-controlled assistants on our phones, telepresence robots for when we can’t make it to a meeting in person, and self-driving cars that are headed to a road near you.

These machines aren’t just taking over human tasks. Computerized systems are also taking on more human characteristics. As technology gets more advanced, how will our relationships with it change?

She explains – through some surprising examples – how to make better computers and robots in the future, that people will embrace using, by better understanding our “little human quirks” (as she calls it).

4 November 2012

Philips Design: From data to meaning for people

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On October 22nd, 2012, Philips Design organized a special seminar and workshop to explore how businesses can innovate by translating ‘Big Data’ into value for people.

The internet is becoming ever more intertwined with our daily lives, even more so now that mobile platforms are blurring the dividing line between the online and physical worlds. Data now touches so many parts of our lives that our world is becoming a composite of digital and real. Data is pervasive, abundant and constantly changing how the world operates. Tapping into this wealth of Big Data has huge potential for data-enhanced businesses that are creative and capable of making data meaningful and relevant for people.

The global economic environment is uncertain. The business environment is undergoing massive changes wrought by the advent of digitization, and there is an urgent need for a faster, more responsive relationship between the enterprise and its consumers and partners. In a data-driven world, action and feedback between an enterprise, customers and consumers is fast and creates many choices in potential propositions. This ‘Virtuous Circle of Data‘ will enable enduring propositions that deliver personalized, meaningful value – more individually tailored and adapted to the ever-changing context of the consumer than has been possible before.

Philips Design has developed an understanding approach and models to working with data in the 21st century. These models are contemporary, actionable, informative and communicated using a workshop process fit for use now and tomorrow. This can help you to make the next step and innovate with big-data management and visualization – the investment call here is in creativity coupled with some understanding of the technology.

Participating speakers at the seminar were Pieter Hermans, CEO Jakajima; Sean Carney, Chief Design Officer, Royal Philips Electronics; Maarten den Braber, Quantified Self; Professor Yi-Ke Guo, Digital City Exchange (Imperial college London); Joris Maltha and Daniel Gross, Catalogtree; and Jeroen Tas, Chief Information Officer, Royal Philips Electronics.

Video 1 [59:27] / Video 2 [1:36:38]

(via InfoDesign)

4 November 2012

NEXT Service Design videos

Next-Berlin

NEXT Service Design is the European conference for designing digital services, which took place on 8 October in Berlin. It focuses on design methods including design thinking, user-centric design and interaction design.

Two videos are currently online.

Strategy is a Service! What business leadership can learn from service design
Alexander Baumgart, Systemic Partners
An exploration (and provocation) on how service design does create new perspectives on (and for) strategy and planning practices – at helping leadership harness the in- and out-bound powers of a holistic human-centered design approach to leverage lasting competitive advantage.

The Experience is the Product
Pedro Custódio, Experience Designers
We’ve been riding on a wave of consumerism since the best part of last century, product of the industrial and services revolutions, the amount of products and services outpaced even the most wild thinkers. There’s just to much of everything! Choices are good, but hard to make! Product features first, product design next used to be central to developing new products and attached services, but clearly we’ve passed those days, so if it’s not about features, nor it’s design how do we create meaningful and attractive differentiation for our future products and services propositions? This is the question that Custódio works to solve and this presentation gives a bit more insights on how we can tailor amazing experiences in order to create valuable futures.

(via InfoDesign)

4 November 2012

The Slow Revolution

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The last ten years has seen a burgeoning of the Slow Movement in all aspects of life from management, travel and education to science and work.

On 4 October, the RSA brought together a group of thinkers and practitioners at their offices in London who have each been exploring ways to bring the principles of ‘slow’ to their life and work – whether in finance, culture or fashion. As well as sharing lessons from their own fields, they discussed how more of us can deal with the addictive nature of speed, apply the brakes and improve our quality of life, creativity and well-being.

Speakers: Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow; Kate Fletcher,reader in sustainable fashion, London College of Fashion; Deepa Patel, co-director, Slow Down London; Gervais Williams, award-winning fund manager and author of Slow Finance.

Chair: Ed Gillespie, co-founder, Futerra Sustainability Communications