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Putting People First

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May 2013
31 May 2013

How Obama used ‘Ethnography Project’ to defeat Mitt Romney in 2012

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Ken Walsh reports on how Team Obama made an unprecedented effort to understand the voters and speak their language, slicing and dicing the electorate with a sophistication and savvy that the Republicans couldn’t match and are still scrambling to replicate.

“The Obama team’s opinion research was led by Joel Benenson, a tough-minded pollster from New York. [...]

In 2012, he succeeded, largely because the depth of his research was so extraordinary. Benenson says his goal as a pollster is “to understand the hidden architecture of opinion” and to “probe deeply into the underlying values and attitudes that shape how people are viewing the issues of the day and the content of their lives.”

One way that Benenson set the Obama campaign apart was through the ethnography project. It was designed as a deep dive into the world of everyday Americans not only to clarify their views on politics but to find insights into their “daily lives,” Benenson told me.

After the responses [to an online questionnaire] were analyzed, nine voters were chosen from among the participants in each of the three states, and they were further divided into groups of three, or “triads.” At that point, detailed interviews were conducted to learn even more about them as individuals.

They were questioned, for example, about their routines, their families, their concerns about the present and their hopes and fears about the future. Each of these sessions lasted about 2 1/2 hours. They were also asked whether Obama deserved to be re-elected, and why.

Benenson says this information, compiled into what he calls “ethno-journals,” was combined with the results of many regular opinion polls and focus groups. The ethnography project produced 1,400 pages of transcripts and data.”

31 May 2013

Smart cities and smart citizens

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For future smart cities to thrive, it must be centred around people, not just infrastructure. This was the overwhelming message from a group of influential thinkers speaking at this year’s FutureEverything Summit. sustain’ went along to find out what smart-city planners can learn from bottom-up approaches.

“It seems global corporations and the large-scale technology platforms they offer and promote seem to be at odds with many of the localised, small-scale technology projects showcased at the Summit and, indeed, the interests of citizens themselves. And if there was one stark warning that emerged from the Summit for city leaders thinking about investing in smart-city technology, it was ignore your citizens at your peril. [...]”

The city is what it is because of the people. [...]

In many ways, social media has created a new interface for the city and how its citizens interact with it. Citizens have the opportunity to try something out, such as a pop-up café – and multiply it through social media and feedback via bespoke apps: physical activity and digital activity in harmony. Yet this appears to be contrary to the thinking behind many current smart systems which merely deliver information in order to change attitudes and behaviour. [...]

Citizens are quite obviously embracing new technologies – but it isn’t always for reasons of efficiency: it’s about sociability; it’s about transparency; it’s about culture; and it’s also about fun – gaming and entertainment. Furthermore, a one-size-fits-all approach to smart cities will not easily work in an age where, even at the most basic level, apps designed for specific spaces or cities are prevalent on most mobile phones. Bespoke solutions will be required.”

31 May 2013

The art of staying focused in a distracting world

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James Fallows of The Atlantic interviewed tech-industry veteran Linda Stone, coiner of the term “continuous partial attention,” on how to maintain sanity and focus in an insane, unfocused, always-on, hyperconnected world.

“We all have a capacity for relaxed presence, empathy, and luck. We stress about being distracted, needing to focus, and needing to disconnect. What if, instead, we cultivated our capacity for relaxed presence and actually, really connected, to each moment and to each other?”

31 May 2013

The city as interface: an interview with Manuel Portela

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Hillete Warner of The Enabling City, an initiative started and guided by the very inspiring Chiara Camponeschi, interviewed interaction designer and an event coordinator Manuel Portela about about collective brainstorming, community-building and the power of 10.000 ideas.

One of your projects, 10.000 ideas, is a crowdsourcing platform to re-think urban livability in Latin America. What was the inspiration behind it?
My early design projects led led to an interest in the development of participatory maps and digital interfaces. One day, I came across New York’s ChangeByUs campaign and thought it was very impressive, though I found the conversation to be flowing mostly in one direction: there were ideas for one city directed to and curated by one administration. This inspired me to develop a similar platform, this time open to all of Latin America. In essence, 10.000 ideas is a repository of suggestions and solutions that anyone – whether in the public, private or civil sector – can share and implemenet with others. I hope to see more and more places for this kind of problem-solving ‘offline’ but, in the meantime, we can make the most of what the web has to offer.

I am curious to hear more about the Brazilian SmartCity Index to encourage citizen participation.

> Check other recent posts from Enabling City people.

31 May 2013

How to design for the gut?

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Visceral design is the key to creating experiences people can’t get enough of. Game designers and mobile app developers have done a great job of leveraging visceral design, web designers can and should leverage it too.

So what exactly is visceral design? Foster, from Mysterious Trousers, articulates it best when he explains visceral design as the satisfying feeling we get when potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. That point where we release energy from a design in a way that creates surprise, delight, or simply a response that satisfies our desire to engage, manipulate, and shape our experience.

Morgan Brown and Chuck Longanecker provide further insight.

31 May 2013

Are you ready for the era of Big Data?

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Business agrees with governments — the more personal information they gather about us, the more “helpful” they can be. Should we give in to this “harmless” new science of benign surveillance, asks Steven Poole in The New Statesman.

“Through Big Data analysis, the “cloud” comes to know an awful lot about us. Simply analysing a person’s Facebook “likes” can identify a person’s sexual orientation or history of drug use. Even just searching for things and filling out online surveys can lead to personal information about you being bought and sold by big marketing analytics companies. When the Big Data is data about you, privacy becomes a faint memory. And this is true not just on the web. The Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University recently managed to identify 40 per cent of individuals who had taken part (again, supposedly anonymously) in a large-scale DNA study, the Personal Genome Project.”

27 May 2013

BBC on exploring and enhancing the TV user experience

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The BBC’s R&D department has been working on how to exploit the interactive functionality now available through connected televisions through a number of projects under themes such as companion screens, authentication, Internet of Things, recommendation services, accessibility and so on.

On Saturday 27th April, at the Universite Paris Dauphine, the team co-chaired a day-long workshop called ‘Exploring and Enhancing the User Experience for Television’ (TVUX).

Check out the Workshop Wiki for a treasure throve of position papers.

27 May 2013

Social networks of mobile money in Kenya

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Social networks of mobile money in Kenya
Sibel Kusimba, Harpieth Chaggar, Elizabeth Gross, & Gabriel Kunyu
Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion
University of California, Irvine

With mobile money technologies, people use mobile phones to send money to friends and relatives, connect to bank accounts, and make payments. This research examines the role of mobile money in Kenyans’ social and economic networks. Research reported was conducted in Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties in Kenya, and among Kenyans living in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2012.

Although mobile money services are often described as a form of “banking,” most users in Western Kenya use mobile money as a social and economic tool through which they create relationships by sending money and airtime gifts. A wide range of mobile money uses includes social gifting, assisting friends and relatives, organizing savings groups, and contributing to ceremonies and rituals.

Even though mobile money was designed for person-to-person transfers, its practices are best understood as created by collectivities and groups. In savings groups, groups of siblings and other relatives, and communities who contribute to ceremonies, users “save with others” through the entrustment of value to kin and friends and create new groups and communities based around the “floating world” of mobile technology. Individuals balance their social and economic capital in order to create marginal gains and mediate the conflicts created between social obligations and personal economic betterment. Ties to and through mothers are prominent in social networks of mobile money flows. Matrilineal kinship ties are a means of sharing or circulating money among those marginalized from access to other resources and forms of value.

27 May 2013

A selection from academia.edu

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Academia.edu, the platform for academics to share research papers, contains quite a few documents from fields such as design research, experience design and interaction design.

Below a selection of the last few months, sorted by upload date (most recently uploaded papers come first):

Designer Storytelling
David Parkinson and Erik Bohemia, Northumbria University
This paper aims to explore the approaches that designers take when storytelling. Design artefacts, such as sketches, models, storyboards and multimedia presentations, are often described in terms of stories.

Innovation in the Wild: Ethnography, Rurality and Communities of Participation
Alan Chamberlain and Andy Crabtree, University of Nottingham, UK
This paper presents a series of insights, discussions and methodologies relating to our experiences gained while carrying out research ‘in the wild’ in order to drive IT-based innovation within a rural context.

Ethnographic approach to design knowledge: Dialogue and participation as discovery tools within complex knowledge contexts
Francesca Valsecchi, Paolo Ciuccarelli, INDACO Department, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
This paper explores two main concepts: a) the ethnography as a thick andqualitative observation method, which refers to an active interpretation of the traditional ethnography by the communication design research mindset; b) the definition of design knowledge space, as extended boundaries for the physical place of design activities.

Interaction design and service design: Expanding a comparison of design disciplines
Stefan Holmlid, Human-Centered Systems, Linköpings Universitet, Sweden
In this paper we seek to identify common ground and differentiation in order to create supportive structures between interaction design and service design.

Prototyping and enacting services: Lessons learned from human-centered methods
Stefan Holmlid, Linköpings universitet, Sweden, and Shelley Evenson, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
In service development, finding new ways to prototype the service experience could potentially contribute to higher quality services, more well-directed service engineering processes, and more. In this paper, we draw on experience from the field of interaction design, which has a rich tradition of practice with the methods over the last two decades.

Connected Communities Of Makers
Marzia Mortati and Beatrice Villari, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy
The paper analyses the idea of crowd to understand how design is being influenced by the practices of mass participation both in the idea generation and innovation processes. Focusing on crowdfunding as a specific kind of crowdsourcing, we have analysed the case of Kickstarter using the filter of Communities of Practice. Two main reflections have emerged: the idea of a Temporary Community of Makers (TCoM), and connectivity as one of the elements to be designed in such environments.

Ethnographic Stories for Market Learning
Julien Cayla and Eric Arnould, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Drawing from extensive fieldwork in the world of commercial ethnography, the authors describe how ethnographic stories give corporate executives a unique means of understanding market realities. B

26 May 2013

For consumers, an ‘Open Data’ society is a misnomer

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Despite all the hoopla about an “open data” society, many consumers are being kept in the dark, writes Natasha Singer in The New York Times.

“A few companies are challenging the norm of corporate data hoarding by actually sharing some information with the customers who generate it — and offering tools to put it to use. It’s a small but provocative trend in the United States, where only a handful of industries, like health care and credit, are required by federal law to provide people with access to their records.”

Particularly the initiative of San Diego Gas and Electronic caught my attention:

Last year, San Diego Gas and Electric, a utility, introduced an online energy management program in which customers can view their electricity use in monthly, daily or hourly increments. There is even a practical benefit: customers can earn credits by reducing energy consumption during peak hours.

About one-quarter of the company’s 1.2 million residential customers have tried the program, says Caroline Winn, the company’s vice president for customer services. Newer features, she says, allow customers to download their own use files. Or they can choose to give permission for the utility to share their records directly with a handful of apps that can analyze the data and suggest ways to reduce energy consumption.

Note also the discussion of initiatives taken by Intel, and the comments by Ken Anderson, an intel anthropologist.

26 May 2013

Book: Design For Care – Innovating Healthcare Experience

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Design For Care – Innovating Healthcare Experience
Peter Jones
Rosenfeld Media, 2013
376 pages

The world of healthcare is constantly evolving, ever increasing in complexity, costs, and stakeholders, and presenting huge challenges to policy making, decision making and system design. In Design for Care, Peter Jones shows how service and information designers can work with practice professionals and patients/advocates to make a positive difference in healthcare.

More in particular, the book will:

  • Present a current presentation of compelling healthcare design and information issues, integrated by representative case studies, to help designers, managers, students and teachers better understand the field
  • Educate and stimulate this audience to innovate and design better services from a total systems perspective in current healthcare practice
  • Help this audience understand the complexities, emerging opportunities, and uncertainties as indicated from the collective experience of leading edge design and research thinkers

It’s the first book of Rosenfeld Media focused on a specific industry—healthcare, of course. It’s also something of a service design book and a design strategy book to boot. After all, as the design field becomes increasingly recognized as strategically important, we’ll need to contextualize its value for a variety of wicked problems—ones that are often associated with particular industries.

Peter Jones is associate professor at Toronto’s OCAD University, where he is a senior fellow of the Strategic Innovation Lab and teaches in the Strategic Foresight and Innovation MDes program.

24 May 2013

Free information, as great as it sounds, will enslave us all

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“While people are created equal, computers are not. When people share information freely, those who own the best computers benefit in extreme ways that are denied to everyone else. Those with the best computers can simply calculate wealth and power away from ordinary people.”

Jaron Lanier is provoking as ever in this article for Quartz.

“Ordinary people, or more precisely people with only ordinary computers, are the sole providers of the information that makes the big computers so powerful and valuable. And ordinary people do get a certain flavor of benefit for providing that value. They get the benefits of an informal economy usually associated with the developing world. The formal benefits concentrate around the biggest computers.”

24 May 2013

The future of technology isn’t mobile, it’s contextual

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In the coming years, there will be a shift toward contextual computing, writes Pete Mortensen of Jump Associates, defined in large part by Georgia Tech researchers Anind Dey and Gregory Abowd about a decade ago.

“Always-present computers, able to sense the objective and subjective aspects of a given situation, will augment our ability to perceive and act in the moment based on where we are, who we’re with, and our past experiences. These are our sixth, seventh, and eighth senses. [...]

The adoption of contextual computing–combinations of hardware, software, networks, and services that use deep understanding of the user to create tailored, relevant actions that the user can take–is contingent on the spread of new platforms. Frankly, it depends on the smartphone. Mobile technology isn’t interesting because it’s a new form factor. It’s interesting because it’s always with the user and because it’s equipped with sensors. Future platforms designed from the ground up for contextual computing will make such devices seem like closer to toys than to a phone with cool tools.”

Read the article with a critical mind, and think about what kind of invasiveness people would be willing to tolerate. Mortensen definitely is an optimist:

“Within a decade, contextual computing will be the dominant paradigm in technology. Even office productivity will move to such a model. By combining a task with broad and relevant sets of data about us and the context in which we live, contextual computing will generate relevant options for us, just as our brains do when we hear footsteps on a lonely street today. Then and only then will we have something more intriguing than the narrow visions of wearable computing that continually surface: We’ll have wearable intelligence.”

24 May 2013

Interview: “Hosting Todd Harple, INTEL Experience Engineer at ITC-ILO”.

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Some time ago, we suggested to Todd Harple, an anthropologist at Intel, to consider doing his 10 week sabbatical here in Turin at the International Training Center of the International Labor Organization (a United Nations structure).

His sabbatical is now coming to an end and our friends at ITC-ILO have now published an interview with Todd.

24 May 2013

Big Data needs Thick Data

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In the wake of Big Data, ethnographers can offer thick data, says Tricia Wang. In the face of the derisive mention of “anecdotes”, we ought to stand up to defend the value of stories.

“Lacking the conceptual words to quickly position the value of ethnographic work in the context of Big Data, I have begun, over the last year, to employ the term Thick Data to advocate for integrative approaches to research. Thick Data uncovers the meaning behind Big Data visualization and analysis.

Thick Data analysis primarily relies on human brain power to process a small “N” while big data analysis requires computational power (of course with humans writing the algorithms) to process a large “N”. Big Data reveals insights with a particular range of data points, while Thick Data reveals the social context of and connections between data points. Big Data delivers numbers; thick data delivers stories. Big data relies on machine learning; thick data relies on human learning. [...]

Thick Data is the best method for mapping unknown territory. When organizations want to know what they do not already know, they need Thick Data because it gives something that Big Data explicitly does not—inspiration. The act of collecting and analyzing stories produces insights.

When organizations want to know what they do not already know, they need Thick Data because it gives something that Big Data explicitly does not—inspiration. The act of collecting and analyzing stories produces insights.
Stories can inspire organizations to figure out different ways to get to the destination—the insight. If you were going to drive, Thick Data is going to inspire you to teleport. Thick Data often reveals the unexpected. It will frustrate. It will surprise. But no matter what, it will inspire. Innovation needs to be in the company of imagination.”

22 May 2013

Smart citizens make smart cities, a talk by Dan Hill

 

“We have the technology to do anything. To make things happen you need to turn to design and redesign the context, the decision making and the question.” – Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica, figured out that smart citizens are necessary to make smart cities. The institutions are collapsing, we have to decide on our own!

He spoke about all this at the end of April at Next Berlin.

Dan Hill is CEO of Fabrica, a communications research centre and transdisciplinary studio based in Treviso, Italy. A designer and urbanist, he has previously held leadership positions at Sitra (the Finnish Innovation Fund), Arup, Monocle, and the BBC. He is strategic design advisor for Domus magazine, as well as blogging at cityofsound.com.

Dan Hill will be the second speaker at Experientia’s Talking Design lecture series now co-organized with three other companies and organizations: Deltatre, GranStudio and ITC-ILO. The talk will be at the beginning of July and we will announce it here very soon.

22 May 2013

The future of tablets in education: potential vs. reality of consuming media

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Justin Reich of MindShift has launched a four-part series to explore four dimensions of using tablets, such as the iPad, in educational settings, examining how teachers can take students on a journey from (1) consumption of media, to (2) curation, (3) creation, and (4) connection.

Each of the instalments explores the challenges ahead using the Someday/Monday template:

“The Someday/Monday dichotomy captures one of the core challenges in teacher professional development around education technology. On the one hand, deep integration of new learning technologies into classrooms requires substantially rethinking pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and teacher practice (someday). For technology to make a real difference in student learning, it can’t just be an add-on. On the other hand, teachers need to start somewhere (Monday), and one of the easiest ways for teachers to get experience with emerging tools is to play and experiment in lightweight ways: to use technology as an add-on. Teachers need to imagine a new future—to build towards Someday—and teachers also need new activities and strategies to try out on Monday. Both pathways are important to teacher growth and meaningful, sustained changes in teaching and learning.”

For now, only the first part – on consumption – has been published:

“[The iPad] was a device made for reading and watching, for sitting back, for passively consuming media. One of the signature challenges of the surge of interest in iPads is helping educators imagine the device as more than a library of books or a rolodex of apps, but as a flexible, mobile device for creating multimedia performances of understanding. Educators using iPads should start by thinking about how the device can foster critical reading of text, images, audio, and film, but consumption should be the point of departure on a journey towards more active student engagement.”

22 May 2013

Death, life and place in great digital cities

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At the heart of the Smarter Cities movement is the belief that the use of engineering and IT technologies, including social media and information marketplaces, can create more efficient and resilient city systems.

In an excellent blog post, Rick Robinson, an Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, explains why he believes that “we are opening Pandora’s box.”

“These tremendously powerful technologies could indeed create more efficient, resilient city systems. But unless they are applied with real care, they could exacerbate our challenges. If they act simply to speed up transactions and the consumption of resources in city systems, then they will add to the damage that has already been done to urban environments, and that is one of the causes of the social inequality and differences in life expectancy that cities are seeking to address.”

So, he asks, “as a new generation of technology, digital technology, starts to shape our cities, how can we direct the deployment of that technology to be sympathetic to the needs of people and communities, rather than hostile to them, as too much of our urban transport infrastructure has been?”

“The first step is for us to collectively recognise what is at stake: the safety and resilience of our communities; and the nature of our relationship with the environment. Digital technology is not just supporting our world, it is beginning to transform it. [...]

The second step is for the designers of cities and city services – architects, town planners, transport officers, community groups and social innovators – to take control of the technology agenda in their cities and communities, rather than allow technologists to define it by default. [...]

As well as technologists, three crucial groups of advisers to that process are social scientists, design thinkers and placemakers. They have the creativity and insight to understand how digital technologies can meet the needs of people and communities in a way that contributes to the creation of great places, and great cities – places like the Eastside city park that are full of life.”

21 May 2013

How the Mobile Mind Shift is different in Europe

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People are in the midst of making a Mobile Mind Shift, which can be defined as “the expectation that any desired information or service is available, on any appropriate device, in context, at your moment of need.”

Attitudes and behaviors are shifting around the world, and the shift is rapidly accelerating.

However there are significant regional variations are fascinating.

According to Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research, Europeans are in general behind Americans on the Mobile Mind Shift:

“Europeans differ from Americans on all three components of the Mobile Mind Shift: the number of connected devices, the frequency of access, and the diversity of locations in which connections occur. While Europeans actually have more connected devices, they connect significantly less frequently and in fewer locations. This appears to be a result of the data plans on European mobile devices, plans that interfere with users’ natural desire to access mobile everywhere as a matter of habit.”

Although interesting, the post is very incomplete: it doesn’t include (a link to) the data by country. Moreover, Bernoff doesn’t explain why he thinks this is only based on data plans (what about cultural and contextual differences?), and why he claims that data plans will change so fast that “within six months, we expect European attitudes to catch up to where Americans are right now.”.

So are Europeans behind or are they just, eh, different?

21 May 2013

Service Design + Lean UX + Disruptive Design = UX Strategy?

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It seems like the UX community has been struggling a bit to reach a common definition of UX strategy. Is it a framework or an approach? Is it a methodology or a philosophy? According to Mona Patel, there are three concepts and perspectives that are all the rage in our larger design and development space — service design, lean UX, and disruptive design. Cumulatively, she says, these three trends give us a solid working definition of UX strategy.

“Brand is everything, offline and online. Therefore, the overall experience is what gets people to engage, buy, use, and connect with a given product or brand. The UX strategy defines how this happens.

And UX strategy actually makes it happen. [...]

The UX Strategist’s role is to help an organization want to consider and understand the user’s experience first and foremost. The UX Strategist’s job is to create a connection between the people who work in an organization and the people who might purchase its products and services or otherwise engage with the organization. It is to teach an organization how to embrace design thinking.”