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Putting People First

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October 2013
27 October 2013

Book: Speculative Everything

speculative_everything

Speculative Everything
Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming
By Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
MIT Press
Jan 2014, 200 pages
[Amazon link]

Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be—to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again. Instead, Dunne and Raby pose “what if” questions that are intended to open debate and discussion about the kind of future people want (and do not want).

Speculative Everything offers a tour through an emerging cultural landscape of design ideas, ideals, and approaches. Dunne and Raby cite examples from their own design and teaching and from other projects from fine art, design, architecture, cinema, and photography. They also draw on futurology, political theory, the philosophy of technology, and literary fiction. They show us, for example, ideas for a solar kitchen restaurant; a flypaper robotic clock; a menstruation machine; a cloud-seeding truck; a phantom-limb sensation recorder; and devices for food foraging that use the tools of synthetic biology. Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more—about everything—reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures.

Anthony Dunne is Professor and Head of Interaction Design at the Royal College of Art. He is also a Partner in the design practice Dunne & Raby, London.

Fiona Raby is Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, and Reader in Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art.

> Video of Speculative Everything lecture by Anthony Dunne

25 October 2013

Sustainable living and behavioral change

A bedroom with a light on

Below a selection of pieces from The Guardian’s sustainable living hub:

The power of behavioural design: looking beyond nudging
Christoph Burmester – 10 September 2013
Beyond nudging lies the world of applied behavioural science or, alternatively, the domain of behavioural design. Combining behavioural science with sustainable design could be a powerful game changer in shifting consumer behaviour.

Beyond farmers markets: can food entrepreneurs boost buying local?
Sarah Shemkus – 11 September 2013
Startups and nonprofits are working to better connect smaller farms with consumers – beyond the farmers market – to give local produce a boost.

Do businesses care about sustainable behaviour change?
John Drummond – 18 September 2013
New survey shows majority of businesses are taking behaviour change seriously but there are still misaligned priorities and a lack of top level engagement.

Prosperity with less: what would a responsible economy look like?
Yvon Chouinard – 4 October 2013
The founder of Patagonia Inc discusses the value of the simple life, and growing an economy based on buying less, not more.

Using innovation to shift behavior from consumption to conservation
Anna M. Clark – 14 October 2013
Brands have the potential to generate consumer movements that could progress sustainable living. But are they using their power and can they really turn consumers into collaborators?

24 October 2013

‘An Overview of Service Design for the Private and Public Sectors’ report

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Service design is an approach to innovating both private and public sector services that places the user at the heart of the development process. Service design is concerned with the customer experience and ensuring optimal interactions between the service provider and the service user through various ‘touch points’. Whether it is a small to medium-sized company (SME) or a local public authority, in developing new services, organisations can become preoccupied with the empirical data and develop services that are too far removed from the individual. The value of a service design approach is that it involves engaging the users directly in service development through action research, which provides a qualitative and human dimension to service development leading to increased desirability, usability and efficiency.

This SEE Policy Booklet seeks to answer some fundamental questions public officials may have about service design: What is service design? What are the benefits of a service design approach? Why engage in service design now? How does service design compare to other innovation methods? What are service design methods and tools? Subsequently, the booklet presents case studies of service design in the private and public sectors to illustrate service design processes in practice.

Private sector case studies:
– Aggrelek, a Welsh manufacturing company, that developed a service offering around their core business
– Service design tools and methods to companies in the tourism sector in Lapland in Finland

Public sector case studies:
– The Municipality of Rijkevorsel in Flanders
– The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council

SEE is a network of 11 European partners sharing international best practice to accelerate the adoption of design into government mainstream practices, policy and programmes.

24 October 2013

Is UX design the next big thing?

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UX design explained for advertisers:

“Here is where the world of communication and the world of computing starts to merge in intent. Systems are to be used. Products are to be experienced. Users and consumers are the rulers. Technology, if it has to gain acceptance and become successful, needs to provide a great user experience. No longer is it sufficient to be effective, it must be proved first as a delightful, worthwhile experience that will turn users into proponents. Remember how Mac users praise their possession as if they hold stock in the company! Lovemarks that the Saatchi’s often speak of cannot be created solely by the proclamation of the advertiser’s intent, but gets translated into experiences at the user/consumer level. User Experience (UX) goes much beyond creating aesthetically pleasing User Interfaces (UI). To give an advertising parallel, UI is the layout of the ad or the edit of the commercial, whereas UX Design is the intent, the greater scheme of things, the advertising strategy that ensures desired response.”

(via InfoDesign)

24 October 2013

Four myths about UX and how to bust them

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Brian Pagán describes four common UX myths and how to “bust” them:

  • UX is too soft; it’s not based on anything
  • Anyone can do UX
  • UX is too expensive
  • UX is just interaction design

In synthesis: “UX knowledge and methods come from centuries of academic study, practice, and applied research. UX requires a healthy balance and some creative tension in teams to work, so there shouldn’t be other stakeholders trying to “do UX.” Taking advantage of UX is only as expensive as you make it; consider applying it surgically to one or several aspects of your project. But don’t forget that the real benefit of UX knowledge comes from using it to design empathy into every aspect of your organization.”

22 October 2013

How teachers in Africa are failed by mobile learning

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Only projects that work with existing education systems will improve learning and cut poverty, says Niall Winters of the London Knowledge Lab at the University of London, and he argues for a user-centred approach (rather than a technology-centric one) that is focused on understanding teachers’ practice, co-designing interventions with them and providing them with training

“There is a vibrant Human-Computer Interaction for Development community that promotes user-centred approaches to technology design, use and evaluation. In my own work over the years, including in a current project for training community health workers in Kenya, we extensively use participatory approaches to help design and develop mobile learning interventions.

The idea that techno-centrism or even solely content-based solutions can address important educational challenges by themselves must be dropped. Research shows they can’t.

The path to success is clear: the risks of increasing the marginalisation of teachers — and by extension students — can only be ameliorated by understanding teachers’ practice, co-designing interventions with them and providing them with training.

Projects which work with existing educational systems, not against them, should have priority funding. Only then can mobile learning be seen to work for teachers, for their students and for the alleviation of poverty among those at the margins of society.”

22 October 2013

Book: Status Update by Alice E. Marwick

statusupdate

Last year, I posted about the very interesting PhD dissertation by Alice E. Marwick (downloadable here). Based on ethnographic research of the San Francisco technology scene, she explains how social media’s technologies are based on status-seeking techniques that encourage people to apply free-market principles to the organization of social life. She has now rewritten the material – and added new interviews, new material and an extra chapter – for a book that was just published:

Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age
by Alice E. Marwick
Yale University Press
2013, 368 pages
[Amazon link]

Social media technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook promised a new participatory online culture. Yet, technology insider Alice Marwick contends in this insightful book, “Web 2.0” only encouraged a preoccupation with status and attention. Her original research—which includes conversations with entrepreneurs, Internet celebrities, and Silicon Valley journalists—explores the culture and ideology of San Francisco’s tech community in the period between the dot com boom and the App store, when the city was the world’s center of social media development. Marwick argues that early revolutionary goals have failed to materialize: while many continue to view social media as democratic, these technologies instead turn users into marketers and self-promoters, and leave technology companies poised to violate privacy and to prioritize profits over participation. Marwick analyzes status-building techniques—such as self-branding, micro-celebrity, and life-streaming—to show that Web 2.0 did not provide a cultural revolution, but only furthered inequality and reinforced traditional social stratification, demarcated by race, class, and gender.

Alice E. Marwick is assistant professor, communication and media studies, Fordham University, and an academic affiliate at the Center on Law and Information Policy, Fordham Law School. Previously a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research, she regularly speaks to the press on various social media topics and has written for the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and the Guardian. She lives in New York City.

21 October 2013

The Newspeak of ‘human-centred’ [Book]

freedomvsnecessity

Freedom vs Necessity in International Relations
Human-Centred Approaches to Security and Development

by David Chandler
Zed Books Ltd
224 pages, 2013
[Amazon link]

Human-centred understandings of the world have become increasingly dominant over the last two decades. Indeed, it is rare to read any analysis addressing the problems of insecurity, conflict or development which does not start from the need to empower or capacity-build local agency. In this path-breaking book, Chandler undertakes a radical challenge to such human-centred understandings and suggests that, in articulating problems as a result of human behaviour or decision-making, the problems of the world have become reinterpreted as problems of the human subject itself. Within this framework, the solutions are not seen to lie with structures of economic and social relations, but with the social and cognitive shaping of those who are often seen to be the most marginal and powerless. This shift – from the material problems of the external world to the subjective problems of human thought and action – has gone hand-in-hand with the shift from state-based to society-based understandings of the world. In a provocative analysis, Chandler highlights how human-centred approaches have shrunk rather than enlarged our world and have limited our understanding of transformative possibilities

Review by James Heartfield
In his new book, Freedom vs Necessity, David Chandler, professor of international relations at the University of Westminster, [...] lays bare the claims of governments to put people and their decision-making at the centre of policy. What Chandler shows to great effect is that the latest claims of policymakers and theorists to a human-centred approach result in something like its opposite. In a wide range of cases – from the United Nations’ Human Development Report to the Cabinet Office’s prioritisation of the ‘choice environment’ – Chandler explains how ‘human-centred’ policy is, in fact, very far from human-centred. The real aim is for people to align their behaviour and choices to the outcomes chosen by those in power, rather than deciding such outcomes for themselves. ‘Human-centred’ policy turns out to have as much to do with people deciding for themselves as the Ministry of Peace had to do with Peace, or the Ministry of Plenty to do with Plenty in Orwell’s novel.

21 October 2013

Conference Review: UX STRAT 2013, Part 1

logo_uxStrat

UX STRAT, the first every user experience strategy conference, took place in September in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center. Pabini Gabriel-Petit was there and she published a first chapter – dealing mainly with logistics and conference experience – in a three-part review.

19 October 2013

Architects don’t listen to people

 

Christine Outram left the architecture profession because, she says, architects “don’t listen to people“.

“The truth is, most of you don’t try. You rely on rules of thumb and pattern books, but you rarely do in-depth ethnographic research. You might sit at the building site for an hour and watch people “use space” but do you speak to them? Do you find out their motivations? Do your attempts really make their way into your design process?

The world is changing. You have all these new tools at your fingertips. New tools that I don’t see you using and quite a few old techniques that you could get a lot better at.”

19 October 2013

The design of Copenhagen as a bicycle friendly city

 

In a ten part video series, Copenhagenize Design Co explores the top 10 design elements that make Copenhagen a bicycle-friendly city.

The embedded video highlights the big picture. The overall design of the bicycle infrastructure network as a key element in encouraging Citizen Cyclists to choose the bicycle as transport and that keeps them safe.

The other videos:

  1. The Green Wave
    The Green Wave is coordinated traffic lights for cyclists. Ride 20 km/h and you won’t put a foot down on your journey into the city centre in the morning and home again in the afternoon.
    On Nørrebrogade, the first street to feature the Green Wave, the number of cyclists increased by 15%. Traffic flow in the intense morning bicycle rush hour was improved, providing Citizen Cyclists with a smoother, more efficient journey.
    Now, several major arteries leading to the city centre in Copenhagen feature the Green Wave for cyclists.
     
  2. Intermodality
    Combining the bicycle on all forms of transport is vital.
     
  3. Safety details
    It’s in the details when you wish to keep cyclists safe and cycling convenient.
     
  4. Nørrebrogade
    Exploration of one of the greatest urban planning experiments in recent Copenhagen history. The retrofitting of the street Nørrebrogade, complete with Green Wave for cyclists, wide cycle tracks and restricted access for cars.
     
  5. Macro design
     
  6. Micro design
    The design details on the urban landscape – many by the people, for the people – are the beautiful polish on a bicycle-friendly city.
     
  7. Cargo bikes
     
  8. Desire lines
     
  9. Political will
19 October 2013

Observations from an ethnography conference

EPIC2013

Alexa Curtis recently attended EPIC, the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, a truly international gathering of ethnographers, anthropologists, strategists, designers, and others who are committed to understanding audiences in order to inform appropriate solutions.

Unlike past years, there was no explicit theme to which submissions had to relate, but themes certainly did emerge.

In her conference review, she concentrates on two: data (in all its forms) and the tension that shapes our practice(s).

Her reflection on why designers have a different take on ethnographic methods than ethnographers themselves is well worth a read.

18 October 2013

What behavioral economics is not

 

Essay:
The Nature of the BEast: What Behavioral Economics Is Not
10/16/13
Matthew Darling, Saugato Datta, and Sendhil Mullainathan

People are complex; they defy easy summary. Like Walt Whitman, we all contain multitudes. As a discipline, economics has been successful in part because it has ignored this complexity. Instead it has focused on explaining the institutions in which decisions are made — with institutions ranging from capitalism to communism, from perfect competition to monopolies, and from rock-paper-scissors to the prisoner’s dilemma.

Behavioral economics differs from standard economics in that it uses a more realistic (and more complicated) model for people; it differs from psychology in that it maintains the focus on institutions and the contexts in which decisions are made. Behavioral economists study how the context of decisions interacts with our expanding understanding of human psychology. By combining the insights from these two very different perspectives, behavioral economists have been able to reveal new depths in ourselves.

The short 4 page essay can be downloaded for free from the website of the Center for Global Development, an independent, nonprofit policy research organization “dedicated to reducing global poverty and inequality and to making globalization work for the poor”.

18 October 2013

An obstacle to patient-centered care: poor supply systems

 

It is widely acknowledged that patients and their families should be deeply involved in the design of and decisions about the health care that the former receive — and that it is integral to achieving high quality and patient satisfaction. But delivering such “patient-centered care” has proven challenging. After hundreds of hours of observations in hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada, Anita L. Tucker has come to the conclusion [written up in an article for the Harvard Business Review] that health care professionals will continue to struggle to deliver it unless hospitals redesign their internal supply processes, structures, and measurement systems so that staff have the specific materials and equipment needed for patients’ individual care plans, when they are needed. The good news is that approaches in other industries offer possible models for hospitals and other care providers.

15 October 2013

Experientia redesigns online learning and training toolkit for UN affiliate

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 14.52.19

This week, the ITC-ILO officially launched the Experientia-designed website Compass: the right direction for learning and training.

The site is a toolkit comprising 60 methodologies, with the aim of diffusing learning and training knowledge and tools within the ITC-ILO organisation.

Experientia conducted a complete redesign of the ITC-ILO methods library (the Compass) of tools that can be used during training sessions and in the field. The redesign updates the visual look and feel of the Compass tool, as well as the methods themselves, refreshing the communications style of the contents, and developing a new system for cataloguing and navigating through them.

The ITC-ILO is the training arm of the UN’s International Labour Organisation. Based in Turin, Italy, ITC-ILO runs training, learning and capacity development services for governments, employers’ organizations, workers’ organisations and other national and international partners in support of Decent Work and sustainable development. The Compass is a project of the Centre’s DELTA unit. DELTA is made up of a team of specialists who combine expertise in learning and knowledge sharing methodologies with professional backgrounds in international development.

The Compass uses the metaphor of a navigational instrument to guide people through a repository of participatory learning, training and knowledge sharing methods. The new site significantly improves the information architecture and organisation of the available content, ensuring that the methods are easily findable, and offering guidance on the kinds of learning and training situations each method is suited to.

The Experientia team included Yosef Bercovich, Erin O’Loughlin and Gabriele Santinelli, under the guidance of the partner for communications Mark Vanderbeeken.

Experientia has worked with the ITC-ILO previously, designing their website, and a mobile site (iOS and Android compatible) to promote mobile learning methods.

14 October 2013

New qualitative research report on tablet use in UK schools

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Tablets for Schools, a UK campaign organisation that seeks to “prove the categorical case of tablets in schools”, has just published its second qualitative research report.

“The report summarises findings from an evaluation study that is looking at the feasibility and educational impact of giving one-to-one Tablets to every child in school. Research for this stage was carried out between September 2012 and April 2013.

The research included an evaluation of four secondary schools that had chosen to give pupils one-to-one Tablets in September 2011, two schools that had introduced Tablets in autumn 2012, and three schools that were given Tablets by Tablets for Schools for Year 7s between 2012 and 2013. Methodology included qualitative and quantitative research. Results suggest that long-term use of the Tablet has a profound effect on pedagogy, and that pupils benefit from having access to content both at school and at home.

Pupils appear to have greater engagement with learning, collaboration with peers increases, and teachers can monitor individual progress effectively. There are some concerns about pupil distraction and managing time effectively. It is clear that schools need time to adjust to the introduction of one-to-one devices, and that the functions of the Tablet need to be understood by teachers, together with the changes to pedagogy that are brought about by an increase in independent learning. Strong leadership helps this process. Infrastructure, insurance or self-insuring, and protection for the devices need to be considered before introduction takes place, and access to appropriate content is key to using the devices effectively. For schools considering the introduction of one-to-one Tablets, learning from schools that have undergone this journey is highly beneficial.”

The Tablets for Schools team has summarised the key research findings below.

The benefits

  • Pedagogy: Tablets enhanced pedagogy by enabling teachers to adapt their teaching style to suit the needs of individual students, and allowed for innovative ways to learn. This was particularly beneficial for special needs students.
     
  • Engagement: Tablets improved student, teacher and parent engagement with learning. In particular, parents engaged more with the school and with their child’s education… “Somehow that engagement [learning composition] was much more intense with the tablet, and they were much more motivated and engaged, and worked quicker. The task didn’t feel like it was work.” – Teacher, Dixons City Academy.
     
  • Independent Learning and Collaboration: Tablets were found to foster both independent learning, and collaboration with teachers and other students.

Dealing with issues surrounding tablet use

  • Infrastructure. Infrastructure (including security) is a concern and one of the keys to successful implementation. Participants indicated the limits of their expertise, for example, schools are not experts in procurement so how can they compare the different costs of Wi-Fi?
     
  • Sourcing Educational Content. Finding reliable resources (particularly for maths) is an issue. However, teachers continued to be creative in terms of both customising content, and creating new content for teaching purposes (including multimedia tutorials) “…on the whole teachers like to create their own content because they know the content…it’s much more difficult to teach without your own notes…” Deputy Principal, Wallace High School
     
  • Students Being Distracted: Observation sessions noted that students multi-tasked during lessons (with messaging apps, etc). Though when asked what they did on their iPads during learning sessions, 95% said they focussed on work”. The concept of “distractibility” is unclear. For example, some students claimed music helped them concentrate, others were unable to multitask, and it was also found that a large number of the 5% of students who were “distracted” during lessons were actually “also” doing work. However, the key is to have clear rules, effective classroom management, and educating students in using tablets responsibly.
     
  • Teachers being Constantly Available: One of the key benefits for students was near-constant access to teachers. Teachers were comfortable setting their own boundaries around the resulting increased communication. One teacher pointed out that answering a student’s email on Sunday afternoon could save “significant amounts of time” on Monday morning.
     
  • Training and Preparation: There was a need for strong leadership, and the adoption of initiatives such as “device champions” and “parental consultation evenings” were identified as beneficial for implementation. Adequate preparation (such as training for both parents and teachers) was also essential.

A conference is planned on Monday 9th December in London, where attendees can gain practical experience of successfully implementing tablets from some of their research schools.

3 October 2013

Interaction-Ivrea, Arduino and Intel’s Galileo

 

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Intel’s Arduino-compatible open-source Galileo development board was launched today in Italy at Rome’s Maker Faire. Rightfully so, as the initiative has such deep Italian roots.

In 2004, a group of programmers, students and teachers at the highly regarded Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (Italy) developed the Arduino platform in order to create a small and inexpensive tool that would help students “prototype interactions.” The Arduino project, which was led by Massimo Banzi, was actually based on an earlier board, called the Programma 2003 (named after the world’s first desktop computer the Programma 101, designed by Piergiorgio Perotto and launched by Olivetti in 1964).

Interaction-Ivrea strongly supported the project and backed Massimo Banzi in keeping the Arduino open source at the end of Interaction-Ivrea in 2005. This enabled Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi and his team to expand the initiative, grow the Arduino community internationally, and in the end allowed Intel to create the Galileo, as a fully Arduino-compatible board.

One of the people involved in Interaction-Ivrea then, Experientia’s Jan-Christoph Zoels (who is now my business partner), dug up a visual – designed by Giorgio Olivero – that was the very first presentation of Arduino. (Click on the image above for the full pdf). It shows the history of the project, and lists the group of people involved at Interaction-Ivrea.

(Disclosure: I also worked at Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, and Experientia’s CEO, Pierpaolo Perotto is the son of the Programma 101 creator).

Congratulations, Massimo.

3 October 2013

Dancing to silent algorithms

 

More and more, we live our lives according to the unknown auspices of machine codes, writes Frank Swain.

“Our lives are influenced by technologies not simply as objects but invisible systems that surround us, and whose architecture shapes the patterns of our lives. To live inside these invisible systems, whether they be insurance forms, loan requests, job applications or dating websites, we consciously adjust ourselves, providing the information we think is most suitable — or the least open to misinterpretation by the system.”