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Putting People First

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Posts in category 'Art'

12 December 2007

Device art as a resource for interaction design and media art

iMal
Nicolas Nova, user experience and foresight researcher working at the Media and Design Lab (EPFL) and at the near future laboratory, is currently in Brussels where he gave a talk yesterday at iMal, a brand new center for digital cultures and technology.

The presentation entitled “Device art as a resource for interaction design and media art” was about the fading boundaries between interaction design, new media art and academic research. The hybridisation of digital and physical environments (through locative media, urban displays, augmented reality or mobile games) is explored by a large variety of people and institutions, not only engineers and academic researchers but also artists and designers. The talk looked at why the projects from the new media art/interaction design/device art are relevant and what they tell about the design of future technological artifacts.

iMal is the first Center for Digital Cultures and Technology in Brussels, a new place of about 600 square metres for the meeting of artistic, scientific and industrial innovations. The 2007/2008 programme of iMAL, an initiative of the French speaking community of Belgium, will propose basic and advanced workshops (i.e. on locative media, RFID, Ubicomp and the Internet of Things, urban electronic acts thanks to the support of VAF), regular concerts & performances, a series of conferences on Arts/Sciences, a series of meetings between innovating companies and creative peoople, and the first Dorkbot Brussels meetings.

Download presentation (pdf, 20 mb, 38 slides)

12 November 2007

Book: ‘Processing’ — and the design critics rave

Social network
Processing is an open-source programming language that can be used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and anyone who wants to program images, animation, and interactivity. There were many people involved in making Processing to what it is now, but at is origins were two people – Casey Reas and Ben Fry.

Casey and I were both involved at the meanwhile defunct but very well known Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. I got to know Casey as a warm, humble and brilliant interaction designer and a very strong artist.

Now MIT Press has published a book by Casey and Ben on Processing and the recommendations it goes with are worth quoting:

“Processing is a milestone not only in the history of computer software, of information design, and of the visual arts, but also in social history. Many have commented on the pragmatic impact of the open source movement, but it is time to also consider Processing’s sociological and psychological consequences. Processing invites people to tinker, and tinkering is the first step for any scientific and artistic creation. After the tinkering, it leads designers to their idea of perfection. It enables complexity, yet it is approachable; it is rigorous, yet malleable. Its home page exudes the enthusiasm of so many designers and artists from all over the world, overflowing with ideas and proud to be able to share. Processing is a great gift to the world.”
Paola Antonelli, Curator, Architecture and Design, MOMA

“This long-awaited book is more than just a software guide; it is a tool for unlocking a powerful new way of thinking, making, and acting. Not since the Bauhaus have visual artists revisited technology in such a world-changing way. Ben Fry and Casey Reas have helped a growing community of visual producers open up fresh veins of expression. Their work proves that code is open to designers, architects, musicians, and animators, not just to engineers. Providing a powerful alternative to proprietary software, Processing is part of a new social phenomenon in the arts that speaks to self-education and networked engagement.”
Ellen Lupton, Director of the graphic design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and Author of D.I.Y: Design It Yourself

“A whole generation of designers, artists, students, and professors have been influenced by Processing. Now, a handbook is published that goes far beyond explaining how to handle the technology and boldly reveals the potential future for the electronic sketchbook.”
Joachim Sauter, University of the Arts, Berlin, Founder, Art+Com

(via Bruce Sterling)

17 October 2007

Design Reaktor Berlin

Design Reaktor Berlin
The Design Reaktor Berlin is a multi-disciplinary research project of the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK) and Berlin University of the Arts. The aim is to encourage innovative co-operation between small and medium-sized companies and designers, in order to investigate strategies and prospects for post-industrial locations, based on Berlin as an example.

In a two-week series of workshops held earlier this year, the experimental links between trades, materials, technologies and tools provided by 52 companies produced hundreds of ideas. After an assessment of their feasibility and market potential, 52 products were developed further in cooperation with the involved companies.

Design Reaktor’s website contains a gallery of the results, some of which are ready for production while others are more speculative.

Two eye catching products are Garden Gun by Jakob Diezinger, Markus Dilger and Rayk Sydow (which doesn’t need much explanation) and Music Drop by Noa Lerner, a tiny music player shaped as a drop. The drop contains one song which can be used only one time.

Interestingly, except from Music Drop, all 52 designs appear to be stand-alone products. No experiences or services were developed.

(via Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog and Guerrilla Innovation)

15 October 2007

The fifth screen of tomorrow

Bruno Marzloff
The always very well-informed Internet Actu blog has posted an article by Bruno Marzloff, a sociologist and the driving force behind the Chronos Group, a research lab specialised in mobility and dislocation. Marzloff reflects on the future of our relation with the city, with our urban environment, to better understand how we will interact with it, and how this environment itself will become the support of our media. Has the urban become the media? [The translation from French to English is by Mark Vanderbeeken]

People are the new media“, said Pierre Bellanger in a recent article in Netéconomie (“The social network is the telco’s future“). If this means extending the collaborative approach also to the mobile phone, it is not really much of a surprise. For sure, “the new culture is participative” and extending this approach to the world of mobility seems rather straightforward, even if one can only guess the shapes this culture might take once it is detached from the PC and the big stationary screens. But Bellanger, who is the founder and CEO of Skyrock radio, goes quite a bit further in this reasoning. What he has in mind is nothing less than a revolution taking place, with him sitting in the front row. Or said differently: the mobile person is the media (and the individual gets mixed up with his mobile). Therefore the mobile (individual and machine) becomes the fulcrum of his communication and his outreach. The mobile is receiver, sender and relay station.

This central role of the mobile in our media world becomes amplified, adds Pierre Bellanger, because “Who knows better what I am doing, what I am watching, what I am listening to, with whom I am talking or where I am, than the machine that carries all these activities?” The media inserts itself in the mobility of the user while at the same time giving him “full control of his exchanges. The modest size of the screen and the keyboard is no limitation: it can connect to whatever other machine, appear there as a virtual support and therefore use the connected machine, including its peripherals, as an extra resource“. The mobile takes control of its surroundings: “A bit like the iPod takes control of a stereo system to which it is connected“. Bellanger concludes: “It is the small terminal taking charge of the big one“.

The “small terminal” is the new screen that comes in the wake of others that mark the history of communication. The first screen in the history of technology was a public one: it was the big cinema screen. The second one was a collective one, but it wasn’t public: it was the television set. The third one, the computer screen, was personal but could be shared. The fourth one, the mobile, is on itself, intimate, not to be shared, and accompanying me wherever I go.

And the evolution isn’t finished yet. A fifth screen is already on the horizon. A screen perhaps without a screen, without contact even, or on the contrary connected through a multitude of extensions. A screen that will highlight the evolution towards more autonomy and more mobility (i.e. the capacity to mobilise our resources, which the English call “empowerment”).

This fifth screen covers a collection of things:

  1. public technological devices (displays, kiosks etc.),
  2. public infrastructure without screens, that enter into a dialogue with our personal terminals that have screens (mobiles, smartphones, iPod and other mp3 readers, audio-video, game consoles…),
  3. or, by extension, with other terminals which are not “enabled” (contactless cards, RFID tags…),
  4. the mobiles themselves, because “the capacity of exploitation contained in the device itself becomes the capacity of a server“, as Bellanger explained.

Now set up as a human cyborg through the mediation of the mobile, the individual enters into a dialogue with tags, that become increasingly pervasive in the city. The urban nomad navigates along the structure of his own information system; in a dialogue with real time and real places; in continuous interaction as well with other nomads.

This media complex integrates the individuals in a moving tissue. The fifth screen marks the arrival of ambient technology, of the Everyware that Adam Greenfield calls it in his book Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing (see here and here). This Everyware is the field of development of the fifth screen and the new online service and media perspective of thecity. It is also one of the open topics to be addressed in the Villes 2.0 [Cities 2.0] programme, and a challenge to understand the city of tomorrow. Everyware is a real revolution due the way extends the power of us all (but also of the various operators and of authorities) in the public realm. This is why in the city of tomorrow, the urban is the media.

The “familiarity” one can feel towards a city or a neighbourhood, even while discovering it, is the real stake of the fifth screen. We will rather speak of a “permanent process of familiarisation” in a city where everything changes and moves all the time. Or in the words of Peter Morville, author of Ambient Findability, it is crucial to provide people the tools for their autonomy, their wayfinding and their choices – the author speaks of freedom that is granted to individuals (“empowering individuals with information and choice”). How? The answer to him requires a neologism: findability (which describes “a world in rapid emergence where one can find whoever or whatever, from wherever or whenever”). What does that mean concretely? One goes from the web to the city, and from the link to the place. One googles the city like one googles the Web. “Findability” applies to the existence of signs, reference marks, beacons and other types of information in the city, links as it were to real times and places, that allow us to navigation and to be secure in the city.

The goal of the fifth screen development, as some experiments are already showing, is to make the city familiar, to provide useful information and transactions, to enable a dialogue between citizens, and to allow the population access to participatory information, without forgetting of course some space for the imaginary. The fifth screen is the city. It is the urban as a media. They are waves, labels, signs, screens, traces, … A city augmented with information, information augmented with geolocalisation. One can feel the pulse of the city in real time and one can even participate in its beat, as demonstrated by the projects Real Time Rome and WikiCity.

The fifth screen is the next lever for urban governance. It allows the urbanite to express himself. The urbanite becomes the media in the city, just like the desktop user is in the world of Web 2.0. The fifth screen opens up a space to a wide range of actors that will use these opportunities of dialogue to share information, entertainment, services, and all kinds of offerings.

But if the field is wide open, so is Pandora’s box! The fifth screen can also become a tool for repression, for surveillance and for all types of intrusion. It could be the opposite of the collaborative media of sousveillance (with the system allowing us to see our voyeurs and therefore establishing a balance of reciprocal transparency, as outlined by David Brin in The Transparent Society). The history of the fifth screen will need to be written together by citizens, companies, and regional entities.

Bruno Marzloff

9 October 2007

Interview with Jonathan Kestenbaum of NESTA on innovation and design

Jonathan Kestenbaum
A few weeks ago Experientia partner Mark Vanderbeeken interviewed Jonathan Kestenbaum, the CEO of NESTA, the UK Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

The interview, which is now published on the website of Torino 2008 World Design Capital in both English and Italian, deals with innovation and design. Kestenbaum explains in great clarity how NESTA works to stimulate innovation, and how design, and in particular human-centred design, is a central part of that approach.

Some quotes:

“Much of our practical experimentation and much of our reflective research is suggesting that the next bounce of the ball, as far as innovation is concerned, will not necessarily take place within disciplines but between disciplines.”

“Design to NESTA is a tool for innovation. Basically it is a problem solving process, which is highly visual and very human-centred because it starts with the needs of people. Design is key to good innovation. For NESTA, design and its visual processes allow the early testing of ideas, leaving space for early and relatively cheap failure and reducing the risks and costs for innovation. This design approach also makes sure that the testing and the prototyping are very human-centred. If people do not want the product or do not know how to use the product, if they cannot understand the product, you will never get it to market. Design is the process through which all of this happens.”

“We sat down with the heads of the Royal College, Imperial College and Tanaka Business School who were planning to support interdisciplinary projects on a major scale and discussed the formation of an incubator for some of these projects – projects that would be the result of the integration of design, engineering, science and business. Across the organisations involved in what has been named ‘Design-London’, several million euros have now been invested and we have managed to get that matched by Government. This month the incubator and rest of Design-London will open and be the first of its type, bringing together artists, engineers and business graduates- to all work on new product development.”

Read full interview

9 October 2007

Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?

Newseum
“Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?” is the rather outlandish title of an otherwise good Washington Post article about the future of museums in the age of networked computers and virtual worlds.

“As the Newseum puts the finishing touches on its new building in downtown Washington, a second version of the museum of news is being developed for the online society Second Life.

This novel way to experience a museum [...] raises questions about the very future of museums. Indeed, it can make one ponder whether all those granite and limestone mausoleums that litter Washington have a future at all.

In the age of the networked computer, museums are being fundamentally challenged in the same ways that other bastions of education and entertainment — from libraries to the music industry — are being rocked to their cores.

The arguments swirl. Are museums in the bone-and-pigment business, reliquaries of the past? Are they in the theater business, telling stories through sensational lighting, presentations like stage sets and costumed interpretive actors? Are museums in the experience business, forced to reach for ever fancier gizmos and blockbusters to compete with the sports world and Disney for family time and money?”

It seems to me that new media usually don’t replace old ones but just provide an alternative experience. Just like television didn’t kill the radio, and movies didn’t kill the theatre, virtual worlds will not remove the need for real museums. They will just provide an alternative window into their collections and the story they are telling.

And in the end, that’s what the author thinks too. I recommend you to read the conclusions of the article.

Read full story

5 October 2007

Business Week special report on design schools

dschool
Business Week published a special report on design schools which contain a few stories that are quite relevant to what is being dealt with in this blog:

The cross-discipline design imperative

In a new, multi-skill approach, traditional design tactics are wedded to the needs of business. Schools should embrace the synergy.

Stirring design into business

Nick Leon is the new director of Design London, a multidisciplinary educational initiative launched recently by the Royal College of Art, Imperial College (an engineering school) and the Tanaka Business School in London.

Designer? Engineer? He’s both

An article about the partnership of the French engineering school Ecole des Mines with nearby Strate Collège, a design academy in the Paris suburbs.

USC’s new Institute for Innovation

Krisztina Holly wants to tap the vein of innovation that lives on university campuses, by working with all of the 17 schools within the college, to benefit society as a whole.

Art and business: a royal combination

Companies often struggle to grasp the front end of innovation. That’s where the Helen Hamlyn Centre of London’s RCA comes in.

28 September 2007

A mobile revolution is taking place in the developing world

Phone use in Africa
The mobile platform is currently undergoing somewhat of a revolution in the developing world — and so are people’s lives — with Africa now more advanced than the rest of the world in terms of mobile banking. The user experience challenges are only beginning to be addressed.

If you want to keep abreast on developments in this field, here is a crop of news stories from just this last week:

A recent special report in Business Week on how basic cell phones are sparking economic hope and growth in emerging — and even non-emerging — nations. The report takes a particular look at the micro- and macro-economic impacts of this development, and what it means for local entrepreneurs and major mobile operators. It also features an online extra on the use of mobile phones by artisans and tradespeople in rural India, a summary graphic and a slideshow;

A Reuters story on the beeping boom in Africa, what the social practices are, and how that is pushing mobile operators to innovate their services;

A post on the Vodafone R&D Betavine blog on the Mukuru Kash service that like Paypal will store funds that you pay to them online and then set up a voucher which can be redeemed at the petrol station for fuel;

Next: bridging the digital divide, a recent post by Niti Bhan, where she puts developments in the bigger picture of bridging the digital divide between the digital haves and have nots, and wonders what will happen if all these people in the developing world can also start accessing the internet from their mobile devices;

In a recent post on mobile banking, Barbara Ballard of Little Springs Design guides us to three blogs on the topic: Mobile Banking (news and analysis from Brandon McGee, a VP in charge of mobile banking), Mobile Money & Banking, and Mobile Banking, the blog of Hannes van Rensburg, CEO of a South African mobile banking provider Fundamo.

Note by the way that all the user research work by Jan Chipchase and others seems to have paid off: Nokia dominates the mobile handset landscape in India with an astonishing 74% market share.

25 August 2007

Kitchen Budapest, Magyar Telekom’s innovation lab

Kitchen
Magyar Telekom‘s new media lab Kitchen Budapest (KiBu), opened in June 2007, is a new media lab for young researchers who are interested in the convergence of mobile communication, online communities and urban space and are passionate about creating experimental projects in cross-disciplinary teams.

Promising idea-makers are provided with undisturbed working conditions and paid scholarships.

One of Magyar Telekom’s objectives with this project is to promote new initiatives and creative ideas that later might be competitive on the market.

Research fields

What happens to the net once it meets the urban space? How does private space relate to the saturating wireless networks? Where does user created content gain authority? How does our use of cities alter as we get more and more real time feedback of its dynamics? What makes a home smart? Street-smart?

We would like to rethink and remix the possibilities of new media in our everyday lives and to augment connections between new technologies and our society.

Lab

KIBU offers a research lab space downtown Budapest, a basic grant for a dozen researchers, some equipment, and a dynamic workflow where sharing and helping is essential , and the freedom to capitalize any good idea.

Being sponsored by Magyar Telekom(MT), the leading Hungarian Telco, there is a direct path where ideas and prototypes get reach larger audiences, in case MT and the project group finds ways to do so. Our aim is build a platform where ideas are materializing and some end up in cultural context, some in the market.

Art and technology

Kitchen Budapest regularly organizes exhibitions to present our prototypes, as well as works or projects from related institutions and professionals.

(via IFTF’s Future Now)
 

UPDATE: 6 OCTOBER 2007:

Short report of visit by IFTF’s Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

11 August 2007

New MFA in experience design in Sweden

EDG
Konstfack, the largest university college of arts, crafts and design in Sweden, is starting a two-year masters programme in experience design with a strong arts focus:

“In the Experience Design Group we believe art, design and media have real and measurable consequences on how we behave towards basic human problems. While conventional forms of art and design such as painting and industrial design embrace two and three dimensions, at EDG we design Time itself. Time, left to itself, is an unreflective sequence of moments. Time, subjected to design, becomes meaningful Experience. So while we do incorporate two and three dimensional media in our work, we feel closer affinities to composers and architects – those working in time-based art and design practices. To design time as immersive experience is to persuade, simulate, inform, envision, entertain, and forecast events. It is to influence meaning and modify human behavior.

The Experience Design Group is devoted to innovative interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practice-led research in the creation of new knowledge. Experience Design, a discipline relevant to artists and designers, explores and investigates the interplay between meaning and sensation within immersive experiences. To this end, our work is the creation of hybrid practices by synthesizing art and design, emerging paradigms of experiential and practical knowledge, history, theory and the experience economy.”

The Experience Design Group website – which is a bit of a flash nightmare – presents the programme’s three focus areas:

  • Persuasive experience – How has art and design been used as an instrument to alter human behavior, and how will it be used in the future?
  • Humanitarian experience – Can art, design, craft, and media have a real and measurable consequence on basic humanitarian problems by affecting the experience of being at risk?
  • Environment experience – How do you begin to orchestrate the experience of an individual in a designed environment?

The programme, which is lead by Ronald Jones, an artist, critic and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, will start in September.

Five blogs are associated with/promoted by the programme:

For more information, do check this 16 page pdf download.

.

4 July 2007

Peter Greenaway and the Savoy experience

First we observe
The Venaria Reale is a spectacular palace from the XVIIth and XVIIIth Century just outside Turin, Italy. It was built as the hunting grounds of the Savoy king – rumours go that the prey was also human and female.

When the royals were deposed just after the Second World War, the Turin population sacked the complex and took everything imaginable and unimaginable along with them. It also served as army barracks and immigrant housing at that time. As one can imagine, only a beautiful shell remained. Luckily the local authorities decided for preservation and a costly renovation is now completed.

When pondering what to do with such an enormous palace (it’s bigger than Buckingham Palace), the Region of Piedmont turned to Peter Greenaway. His project, called “Peopling the Palaces”, will feature five giant projections onto the bare palace walls (the original panelling and paintings were sacked as well), illustrating court life in the 17th and 18th centuries. “Imagine going into Venaria Reale and as it were watching 300 cinema films all at once which all interconnect,” said Peter Greenaway.

From a La Stampa newspaper article today [my translation]:
“The visitors will be welcomed by period actors, real and virtual at the same time, that will introduce them to to the palace, and guide him to the private apartments of the Duke, to the kitchen, and to the hunt. They will also be introduced to the court and to the “flying squadron” of the Savoy house, a formation invented by Caterina de Medici and afterwards copied, a group of 40 luxurious damsels ready to offer their services in exchange for alliances, information and secrets. Greenaway has meticulously documented himself on the period and wrote all the dialogues, which were then translated into and recited in Italian. The dialogues, though historically correct, are absolutely unconventional, and so are the projections which are currently being edited.”

View video of Peter Greenaway describing the project

3 July 2007

New Core77 article series more sophisticated than ever

Core77
The Core77 “Reactor” article series is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more and more relevant to the experience design discourse that this blog addresses as well. Check out the latest articles (with my personal preference ever so slightly on the last one):

Riding the Flux by Kevin McCullagh
Kevin McCullagh helps designers navigate the tectonic shifts affecting the design industry.

“The era of product design as practiced by a small band of gurus in Milan, London, Munich and New York is long gone. There are now thousands of competent product designers around the world able to ‘give good form.’ Design as ‘styling’ or ‘form-giving’ has become commoditized, and competing at this level is already a tough low-margin slog. While those hide-bound by the past batten down the hatches, the wise remember that change throws up opportunities as well as challenges.
If we shed the blinkers and see the world differently there are many positive shifts, like the mainstreaming of design in business and the public sector, which offer glimpses of a chance to drastically expand the frontiers of design. A good place to start is by taking a wider view of our know-how.”

Device Art by Carla Diana
Carla Diana brings us up to speed on Device Art, highlights some leading practitioners, and delves into the cross-cultural considerations.

“At the moment, we are seeing an explosion of Device Art activity emerging in Japan, with new artwork appearing in such mainstream channels as electronics catalogs and department stores. In the U.S., however, the Device Art landscape is somewhat bare. One would think that the public’s voracious appetite for gadgets, combined with the creative community’s growing discontent with formulaic, brand-obsessed corporate design would solidly set the stage for this discipline to become a strong cultural force in the U.S., yet it seems relegated to museum boutiques and the back rooms of hipster Japanese toy stores. What gives?”

ID Strategy Conference Review by Nico Macdonald
Nico Macdonald provides a super-detailed review of this year’s Institute of Design Strategy Conference from Chicago, divided up his review into “Reduction,” “Reactions” and “Reflection.”

“Apple and Steve jobs are a great example of not so much user-centered design but CEO-centered design,” quipped Patrick Whitney, Director of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. Soft-spoken Whitney was setting up the program for the Institute’s annual Strategy Conference he chairs, which took place this past May, and which has become the key English-speaking forum for discussing and investigating the new relationships emerging between design and business. Formally the Strategy Conference is an ‘international executive forum addressing how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems, and achieve lasting strategic advantage.’ In person, Whitney captures its goal more succinctly and engagingly. It is about ‘Where to play and How to win.’

Design and Poetry by Xanthe Matychak
Xanthe Matychak investigates what designers can learn from poetry, providing some inspiring tricks toward innovation and some real-world examples.

“What I fear about empirical research—research based purely on observation—is that it doesn’t recognize a deep context. So when designers ask questions like, how do we “design a device where incoming communications are noticed 100% of the time?” we are assuming that people need to notice them 100% of the time. We don’t take into account how rapidly changing technologies have constructed consumer preferences for the faster, the smaller, and the newer. And when we make conclusions based simply on observation, we are jumping too quickly to tech-driven answers. If we designers can, instead, open ourselves up beyond research findings to the practice of reflection, then we can ask deeper questions and discover more meaningful, long-term solutions.”

23 June 2007

Bringing together nature and technology, tradition and vanguard in southern Italy

Interferenzes
Sustainable tourism is one of the main focus areas of the Dott07 initiative (a year of community projects, events and exhibitions in North East England that explore what life in a sustainable region could be like – and how design can help us get there).

Programme director John Thackara has invited Leandro Pisano and Alessandro Esposito to an upcoming expert meeting.

Pisano and Esposito are partners in Ufficio Bifolco, a marketing and cultural planning company that works on ICT strategies for development of rural areas in South Italy.

They are producers of two festivals in Southern Italy – Interferenze and Mediaterrae – that bring together nature and technology, tradition and vanguard, past and future, local and global. This unique convergence of sounds, images, landscapes and carnival rites of a rural land, are signals of new ways we might visit and experience new locations.

(via Doors of Perception)

16 June 2007

A theatrical approach to experience design

ebook
By Adam Lawrence, experience director at Work.Play.Experience:

Everyone is talking about the experience economy, customer experience management, and experience design these days. The big idea is, in a world where all products are pretty good and all services are fairly decent, any one of them could do the job well enough. So offerings become interchangeable – or commoditised – and can only compete on price.

To avoid this trap, people are thinking less and less about the product or the service, and more about the complete customer experience – the way our customer perceives his contact with us, and the emotions that the experience invokes. Good experience design can really make your offering stand out from the pack, and command a better price. And with great experience design, you can even turn customers into fans who will keep coming back – and tell their friends.

The importance of good experience design is clear – but how do we ‘do’ it? Luckily for us, there is an industry that is already expert in using perceptions to create emotion (and to make fans). We need only look to the world of show business. From prehistoric storytellers up to Hollywood blockbuster directors, showbiz folk have been engaging our senses to move our hearts for thousands of years. And over the centuries they’ve discovered many tools that can be applied on stage, on screen – or easily adapted to shoe-shops, dental surgeries, websites, hotels…. In short, wherever an experience is designed.

Download ’12 showbusiness tools to your business’

(via Usability News)

25 May 2007

UK report on culture, participation and the web

Logging On
The UK think tank Demos has just published a new report on culture, participation and the web. Based on UK case studies, it provides insight and lessons learnt on how new and emergent web technology can increase public participation in culture, and on how to organise online engagement.

“The report looks at the convergence of three trends:

  • technological change
  • the way that people engage with culture
  • the policy aim of increasing democratic participation in culture, with particular regard to audiences described as ‘hard to reach’.

What these trends have in common is a movement from passivity to engagement, from uni-directional flows to interactivity, and from the few to the many.

Digitisation has changed everything. It has created public expectations for on-demand, constantly available, individualised access to products. It has also challenged the assumptions of cultural sector professionals that their role is to oversee public access to culture in the sense that they act as gatekeepers to what is produced, what is shown and how it is interpreted. In the analogue world, the public was able to engage with culture on terms set by experts and professionals: content, pricing, format and timing were all decided by the producer. In a world of infinitely replicable and manipulable digital content, this no longer applies. The full implications of this for the cultural sector are not yet clear.

In the brief history of the internet, the cultural sector has followed two related paths: on the one hand, the digitisation of content and provision of information and, on the other, interactivity and opportunities for expression. Some have seen these as in binary opposition.

The truth is that they are inexorably merging. But the big question is where do we go next? How can policy intervention best meet with technology to achieve the aim of bringing about a more democratic culture? What will be the role, opportunities and limitations of online culture in a rapidly changing world?”

Download report (pdf, 719 kb, 93 pages)

10 April 2007

Some of my favourite blogs nominated for Webby award

Webby
Some blogs that I have been following for a long time, and have sometimes written about, are now on the Webby award nominee list.

They are UX Magazine in the category Blog – Business; we-make-money-not-art in the category Blog – Culture/Personal; and WorldChanging in the category Magazine.

Voting begins today and ends on 27 April. Login here and vote.

5 March 2007

Where artists and inventors plot to save the world [The New York Times]

Chris Anderson
An article by Saul Hansell in The New York Times provides a good insight into the socially responsible direction Chris Anderson is taking the famous TED conference.

“The art being discussed is likely to be photography of genocide victims; the architecture, environmentally sustainable AIDS clinics; and the technology, water-purification systems.”

Anderson, a wealthy former magazine publisher of British origin who founded Business 2.0, the Internet-age business magazine, took over the TED conference from its founder, Richard Saul Wurman, and “absolutely, completely, totally believes that those three days at TED can change the world” [these are the words of Steve Rosenbaum, a longtime TED participant and the chief executive of Magnify Media, a Web video company].

[TED gave me] “a sense of possibility, that people can reach beyond where they are and do things that are surprising,” says Anderson.

Nice is that edited highlights from the conference presentations, called TED Talks, are available to watch online or to download for free – sponsored by BMW. And this after the BBC called the event “too intellectual”.

“So far the talks have been viewed 5.5 million times by 2 million people.”

Now they are creating — guess what — “a social networking system that will seek to be a sort of MySpace for the change-the-world crowd.”

Read full story

27 January 2007

Tadam: reinventing the puppet theatre experience

Tadam
Puppet theatre is a triple craft. It is about the crafting of the puppets and the set. It is about the skill of operating the string-suspended marionettes in a convincing and lifelike way. And it is about theatre, which means storytelling and continuous engaging interaction with the audience. It is, in short, about the making of magic.

A few months back I was a jury member of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award, a contest for the best in European multimedia from young producers, and was delighted to see the puppet theatre reinvented in Tadam, an entry by students of Gobelins, a Paris school of visual communication.

The young team responsible for Tadam (a French onomatopoeia used to express an excited announcement) have deeply understood the fascination of this magic and the three essential aspects it implies, and created an interactive and computer-supported experience that brings delightful freshness to the old art.

The joy of crafting is present in just about everything the project contains: from the soldering of the theatre frame out of metal tubes, to the knitting of the red and gold theatre curtains, from the careful computer rendering of the puppet faces (based on the actual faces of the project members) to the hand-sown clothes of the digital marionettes, from the intricacies of computer coding to the hand-drawn storyboards, and from the electronics-in-a-wooden-box prototypes to the sweet toy instrument music.

The marionettes are digital and only exist on a projected screen. Yet, they are operated like any other marionette: a skilled puppeteer holds a wooden cross that manipulates their arm, leg and head movements, and brings thrilling life to the inanimate forms.

Finally, the direct interaction between the puppeteer and the digital marionette allows for a direct dynamic with the audience, which is essential to this type of storytelling.

As a bonus, the making-off video is a splendid presentation of the project, conveying very well the pleasure the young team felt while working on their challenge.

Technical description

Tadam is a multimedia puppet show which brings computer animations to life and stages the animation film in a traditional theatre. Users initially build up a plot scene by scene through the director module and can select different well-designed graphic environments and themes. The show can be pre-cut in several parts. Using software similar to moviemaker, static sequences (e.g. transition, fade or text) or sound effects can be added, edited and saved. The puppeteers are free to manipulate 3D marionettes in real time by interacting with a wooden cross lever which is equipped with movement sensors. The puppet’s mouth can even be animated by speaking through a microphone. Once the show is performed, it can be burned on DVD. Tadam is hand-crafted and fully customisable for beginners or professionals.

Tadam, which was rightfully selected as a Europrix Top Talent Award 2006 winner in the category “Digital Video & Animations”, has a project website in French only. The Medias section also contains a shorter presentation video (which is however not as good as the “making-of” one, due to poor music and voice choices).

20 December 2006

More on Dutch cultural heritage and audience understanding

Dutch heritage conference
Last week I wrote about the lack of online audience understanding at Dutch cultural institutions.

Jos Taekema, director of Digital Heritage Netherlands, provided me with some further insight:

“For sure Dutch heritage institutions could do a lot more on understanding the needs, ideas and desires of their audience, but it is not correct to think that they are entirely on a different planet. The bigger institutions (like the National Library, the National Archive, the Rijksmuseum, Naturalis, the Van Gogh Museum, the National Museums of Ethnology and Antiquities) do indeed conduct online research, mainly through Ruigrok/Netpanel. The Dutch Association of Archives provides a sector arrangement on web usability tests via a specialised consultancy. The Museum Association in collaboration with TNS/NIP is the main provider of audience research of physical visitors via the museum monitor.”

“During the conference next year though it will be useful and interesting to put a stronger emphasis on qualitative research and the appropriate methodologies.”

21 November 2006

Arts Management newsletter, a horrible experience with great content

Arts Management newsletter
Arts Management is a Weimar, Germany-based international information network for arts managers.

The e-mail newsletters are without formatting (and therefore impossible to read), the only link in the e-mail body is the unsubscribe link (which I of course innocently clicked hoping that it would take me to a richer version of the newsletter and therefore immediately unsubscribing me), the content is only available in PDF (without graphics or images of course), and when you go on the website you cannot find any of the articles in the newsletters unless you first know the category, topics (not sure what is the difference) or date of submission (who cares?).

In short, the user experience is horrible. Why on earth are people putting up with this? I just don’t understand. Arts managers, wake up!

YET, the newsletter is rich in information about relevant issues. So to make it a bit easier for you, I am attaching the latest newsletter as a download (pdf, 393 kb, 18 pages), a service which is not even available on the Arts Management website (sic).

Because the content deserves it.

Here is a pick from the current issue:

  • An interview with Sowon Koo, strategic design division marketer of Designhouse in Korea who talks about “Papertainer”, a trendy exhibition built with
    353 paper tubes and 166 containers, to commemorate the museum’s 30th anniversary.
  • An article by two University of Washington Ph.D students who describe two related digital media annotation systems (VideoTraces and ArtTraces) that allow museum visitors to record “traces” of their experiences. Traces are composed of digital visual recordings of the exhibits made or selected by the visitors that are then layered with verbal and gestural annotations.
  • A position paper by Max Ross arguing that ‘new museology’ is about the movement towards a more visitor-centred ethos, with museum professionals changing roles from ‘legistators’ to ‘interpreters’ of cultural meaning.
  • Dr. Margot Wallace underlines the importance of museum branding, as applied to new museum buildings and museums’ actual survival.
  • A UK government paper considers the value of museums. It “recognised and celebrates the importance and achievements of museums in the 21st century while identifying some of the challenges that face them.”

Just dont’ ask me for links to the individual stories.