counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


Posts in category 'Children'

10 November 2009

Book: Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media

Hanging out
Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out
Kids Living and Learning with New Media
(John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning)
An examination of young people’s everyday new media practices—including video-game playing, text-messaging, digital media production, and social media use.

Authors: Mizuko Ito, Sonja Baumer, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Rachel Cody, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Heather A. Horst, Patricia G. Lange, Dilan Mahendran, Katynka Z. Martinez, C. J. Pascoe, Dan Perkel, Laura Robinson, Christo Sims and Lisa Tripp
MIT Press, November 2009, 432 pages
Table of contents and sample chaptersAmazon link

Conventional wisdom about young people’s use of digital technology often equates generational identity with technology identity: today’s teens seem constantly plugged in to video games, social networks sites, and text messaging. Yet there is little actual research that investigates the intricate dynamics of youth’s social and recreational use of digital media. Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fills this gap, reporting on an ambitious three-year ethnographic investigation into how young people are living and learning with new media in varied settings—at home, in after school programs, and in online spaces. By focusing on media practices in the everyday contexts of family and peer interaction, the book views the relationship of youth and new media not simply in terms of technology trends but situated within the broader structural conditions of childhood and the negotiations with adults that frame the experience of youth in the United States.

Integrating twenty-three different case studies—which include Harry Potter podcasting, video-game playing, music-sharing, and online romantic breakups—in a unique collaborative authorship style, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out is distinctive for its combination of in-depth description of specific group dynamics with conceptual analysis.

This book was written as a collaborative effort by members of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year research effort funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Southern California.

The project was spearheaded by Mimi Ito, a Research Scientist at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

(via danah boyd)

22 October 2009

On security, programming, privacy, and… people

Communications
Three articles in the latest issue of Communications of the ACM are quite relevant for the readers of this blog:

Usable security: how to get it
Why does your computer bother you so much about security, but still isn’t secure? It’s because users don’t have a model for security, or a simple way to keep important things safe.

“A user model for security deals with policy and history. It has a vocabulary of objects and actions (nouns and verbs) for talking about what happens. History is what did happen; it’s needed for recovering from past problems and learning how to prevent future ones. Policy is what should happen, in the form of some general rules plus a few exceptions. The policy must be small enough that you can easily look at all of it.

Today, we have no adequate user models for security and no clear idea of how to get them. There’s not even agreement on whether we can elicit models from what users already know, or need to invent and promote new ones. It will take the combined efforts of security experts, economists, and cognitive scientists to make progress.”

Scratch: programming for all
“Digital fluency” should mean designing, creating, and remixing, not just browsing, chatting, and interacting.

“[With Scratch] we wanted to develop an approach to programming that would appeal to people who hadn’t previously imagined themselves as programmers. We wanted to make it easy for everyone, of all ages, backgrounds, and interests, to program their own interactive stories, games, animations, and simulations, and share their creations with one another. [...]

The core audience on the site is between the ages of eight and 16 (peaking at 12), though a sizeable group of adults participates as well. As Scratchers program and share interactive projects, they learn important mathematical and computational concepts, as well as how to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively: all essential skills for the 21st century. [...]

In this article, we discuss the design principles that guided our development of Scratch and our strategies for making programming accessible and engaging for everyone. But first, to give a sense of how Scratch is being used, we describe a series of projects developed by a 13-year-old girl with the Scratch screen name BalaBethany.”

Four billion Little Brothers?: privacy, mobile phones, and ubiquitous data collection
Participatory sensing technologies could improve our lives and our communities, but at what cost to our privacy?

“Mobile phones could become the most widespread embedded surveillance tools in history. Imagine carrying a location-aware bug, complete with a camera, accelerometer, and Bluetooth stumbling everywhere you go. Your phone could document your comings and goings, infer your activities throughout the day, and record whom you pass on the street or who engaged you in conversation. Deployed by governments or compelled by employers, four billion “little brothers” could be watching you. [...]

How can developers help individuals or small groups launching participatory sensing projects implement appropriate data-protection standards? To create workable standards with data so granular and personal, systems must actively engage individuals in their own privacy decision making. [...] We need to build systems that improve users’ ability to make sense of, and thereby regulate, their privacy.

[...] As the first steps toward meeting this challenge, we propose three new principles for developers to consider and apply when building mobile data-gathering applications.”

1 March 2009

Media literacy and social action in a post-Pokemon world

Pikachu
Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito has posted a rough transcript of her (quite long) keynote address at the 51st NFAIS Annual Conference.

“If I were to pick one thing that is profoundly different, it is the fact that making and sharing media has become so fundamental to how we communicate and relate to one another. And this ability to communicate through media is one of the most important new forms of literacy for the 21st century. Add to this the fact that this is a change that is happening internationally – among youth across a diverse cultural spectrum in countries that are part of the turn to digital culture – and you’ve got the making a a real global sea change.” [...]

“What really is different, not at the technology layer, and not at the industry layer, but at the human layer, is how we use media to tell the stories about who we are, the stories that make a place for us in a social universe.”

Read full story

13 February 2009

Playful augmented objects

Touch
Touch is a research project, led by Timo Arnall, that investigates Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things. The project aims to develop applications and services that enable people to interact with everyday objects and situations through their mobile devices.

The project, which brings together an inter-disciplinary team involved in social and cultural enquiry, interaction/industrial design, rapid prototyping, software, testing and exhibitions, runs until 2009 and is based in the Interaction Design department of the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Norway. It is funded by the Norwegian Research Council.

Last week Interaction Design students at the Oslo School of Architecture & Design participated in a Touch workshop where the brief was to design a playful, exploratory or characterful RFID interface. The emphasis of this workshop was on exploring the relationship between digital interaction through RFID and the material properties of physical objects.

Timo Arnall just posted about three recent Touch projects that suggest different senses as metaphors for physical RFID interaction.

19 January 2009

When everyone zigs, Cory Doctorow zags

OLPC
Just when everyone is writing on how mobile phones are bringing about huge changes in emerging markets, Cory Doctorow publishes a very nice and thought provoking article in the Guardian entitled “Laptops, not mobile phones, are the means to liberate the developing world“.

“Mobile phones are necessarily an interim step. Adding software to most mobile phones is difficult or impossible without the permission of a central carrier, which makes life very hard for local technologists who have a very particular, local itch that needs scratching (and forget about collectively improving the solutions that do get approved – when was the last time you heard of someone downloading an app for her phone, improving it, and republishing it?). Mobile phone use is always metered, limiting their use and exacting a toll on people who can least afford to pay it. Worst of all, the centralised nature of mobile networks means that in times of extremis, governments and natural disasters will wreak havoc on our systems, just as we need them most.

By contrast, an open laptop with mesh networking is designed to be locally customised, to have its lessons broadcast to others who can use them, and to avoid centralised control and vulnerability to bad weather and bad governments. It is designed to be nearly free from operating costs, so that once the initial investment is made, all subsequent use is free, encouraging experimentation and play, from which all manner of innovations may spring.”

Read full story

17 January 2009

Experience design for interactive products

Walter Aprile
Experience design for interactive products: designing technology augmented urban playgrounds for girls (pdf) is the long title of an interesting paper by Aadjan van der Helm, Walter Aprile and David Keyson of Delft University of Technology.

Recent technological developments have made it possible to apply experience design also in the field of highly interactive product design, an area where involvement of non-trivial technology traditionally made it impossible to implement quick design cycles. With the availability of modular sensor and actuator kits, designers are able to quickly build interactive prototypes and realize more design cycles. In this paper we present a design process that includes experience design for the design of interactive products. The design process was developed for a master level course in product design. In addition, we discuss several cases from this course, applying the process to designing engaging interactive urban playgrounds.

One of the authors, Walter Aprile (pictured), was a former Interaction-Ivrea faculty member at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

via InfoDesign

1 December 2008

Book: Grown Up Digital

Grown Up Digital
McGraw-Hill is pitching me books and now and then I request a copy because the subject matter interests me greatly.

Don Tapscott’s “Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World” is such a book. It explains how digital technology has affected the children of the baby boomers, a group he calls the Net Generation, and how these kids are poised to transform society in a fundamental way.

What’s more, Tapscott (who also co-authored Wikinomics) drew for his book on a $4 million research project that undertook more than 11,000 interviews with Net Geners, along with scientific studies, input from academics and leaders in business, education and government.

Since I am not a professional reviewer, book reading is an extracurricular activity that takes me somewhat more time. I am only a third done, and on the whole the balance is positive. So this is an in-between observation — provoked by a few other reviews that I don’t want to withhold you from — yet I am likely to come back to the book once I am done with it.

Although the book’s descriptive pieces tend to be a bit non-surprising for an astute observer, the analysis is first class. Tapscott has a knack for condensing his insights in strong synthesis that is just excellent.

Here is a short excerpt:

THE EIGHT NET GENERATION NORMS
If Wonder bread builds strong bodies in 12 ways, this generation is different from its parents in 8 ways. We call these 8 differentiating characteristics the Net Generation Norms. Each norm is a cluster of attitudes and behaviors that define the generation. These norms are central to understanding how this generation is changing work, markets, learning, the family, and society. You’ll read about them throughout the book.

  • They want freedom in everything they do, from freedom of choice to freedom of expression. [...]
  • They love to customize, personalize. [...]
  • They are the new scrutinizers. [...]
  • They look for corporate integrity and openness when deciding what to buy and where to work. [...]
  • The Net Gen wants entertainment and play in their work, education, and social life. [...]
  • They are the collaboration and relationship generation. [...]
  • The Net Gen has a need for speed — and not just in video games. [...]
  • They are the innovators.

A recent Economist review provides a very good summary of the book and underlines the two things that Tapscott worries about:

“One is the inadequacy of the education system in many countries; while two-thirds of Net Geners will be the smartest generation ever, the other third is failing to achieve its potential. Here the fault is the education, not the internet, which needs to be given a much bigger role in classrooms (real and virtual). The second is the net generation’s lack of any regard for personal privacy, which Mr Tapscott says is a ‘serious mistake, and most of them don’t realise it.'”

Tapscott himself meanwhile has done his own bit to promote the book, not in the least through his eight (!) part article series for Business Week:

  • Net Geners come of age
    A new generation of Americans that has grown up digital are poised to make history on Election Day, if the polls are right.
     
  • How digital technology has changed the brain
    By their 20s, young people will have spent more than 30,000 hours on the Internet and playing video games. That’s not such a bad thing.
     
  • Net Gen transforms marketing
    The author of Grown Up Digital explains how Web savvy among the Net Generation (the boomers’ kids) will change how goods are bought and sold.
     
  • How to hire the Net Generation
    Hiring the under-30, digitally savvy young workers who will be the next generation of managers requires adapting recruitment strategies to fit the demographic.
     
  • How to teach and manage ‘Generation Net’
    The sage-on-stage model no longer works. To reach the Internet Generation’s members, engage them in conversation and let them work in groups.
     
  • Supervising Net Gen
    Forget top-down management. To harness the potential of young employees, you’ll need to collaborate and give them lots of feedback.
     
  • Focus on the Net Gen family
    The kids who grew up digital are closer to their parents than the previous generation. And they’ll bring new attitudes into the workplace.
     
  • The Net Generation takes the lead
    Enabled by the Web and digital technology, the Net Generation is transforming media, politics, and culture. Will older generations stand in the way?
20 November 2008

Worldwide Lab at Alcatel-Lucent

Worldwide Lab at Alcatel-Lucent
Alcatel-Lucent’s Worldwide Lab is an innovative primary research program focused on soliciting the end-user experiences and preferences from the highly coveted teen and young adult market.

Lab Members are made up of users from around the world and range in age from pre-teen to young adult. Currently there are 75 users from 19 countries in the lab.

The Lab’s ongoing research looks to understand how these teens experience entertainment across all the screens they use (e.g., phones, televisions, computers, etc.).

The team is given regular assignments – for example, downloading games on their mobile phone – and then they are asked about their experience. The results are published on the site each month.

The latest assignments:

RapidResults – mobile multi-tasking
We want to understand teens’ current habits of using their phone and computer at the same time along with their interest of using simultaneous voice and data on a mobile device.

Mobile downloads 2 years later
Two years after our first study on mobile downloads, Lab members tell us how things have changed, if there have been improvements and how we can fix the user experience.

RapidResults – Going green
Tell us what you do to help the environment and how “green” affects the decisions you make.

RapidResults – James Bond inventions
If you were Agent 007, James Bond, what new invention would you create that would make using technology a better experience for you? Our teens tell us their ideas…

RapidResults – education
Tell us how technology can be used to improve the education experience.

RapidResults – mobile accessories
Tell us about the accessories you use with your mobile phone

Location-based services
Location-based services will serve up special offers and notices based on where you travel. We want to see how willing teens are to tell us where they learn, play and shop.

20 November 2008

Report published on three-year digital youth research project

Digital youth
A three-year research project that explores how kids use digital media in their everyday lives has just published its report.

Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures” is a collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley.

By socializing, tinkering with technology and intensely delving into media, teens and children on the Internet “are picking up basic social and technical skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society,” according to a three-year national study released today, reports the Mercury News. [...]

The $3.3 million study, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, found that youths use online networks to extend friendships, acquire technical skills, learn from each other, explore interests and develop expertise.

The study used several teams of researchers to interview more than 800 young people and their parents and to observe teenagers online for more than 5,000 hours

You can find the main insights below, but Mizuko Ito, a research scientist in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who was the lead researcher on the study, also provides her own background.

- Report: Summary | White paper | Full report | Press release and video
Reviews: The New York Times | Mercury News

11 November 2008

Two UX magazines for subscribers only

UX Mags
Two user experience magazines landed on my desk this week. They are available only to subscribers, both in print and online. But subscriptions are relatively cheap.

User Experience is the quarterly magazine of the Usability Professionals’ Association (membership is a modest 100 USD) and its latest issue is devoted to usability in transportation. Here are the titles of the feature articles and you can find the abstracts online:

Taxi: Service Design for New York’s yellow cabs
By Rachel Abrams

Safer Skies: Usability at the Federal Aviation Administration
By Ferne Friedman-Berg, Ph.D, Kenneth Allendoerfer, Carolina Zingale, Ph.D, Todd Truitt, Ph.D.

Listen Up: Do voice recognition systems help drivers focus on the road?
By David G. Kidd, M. A., David M. Cades, M. A., Don J. Horvath, M. A., Stephen M. Jones, M. A., Matthew J. Pitone, M. A., Christopher A. Monk, Ph. D.

Get Your Bearings: User perspective in map design
By Thomase Porathe

Lost in Space: Holistic wayfinding design in public spaces
By Dr. Christopher Kueh

A Really Smart Card: How Hong Kong’s Octopus Card moves people
By Daniel Szuc

Recommendations on Recommendations: Making usability usable
By Rolf Molich, Kasper Hornbæk, Steve Krug, Josephine Scott and Jeff Johnson

Disclosure: my business partner Michele Visciola is on the editorial board of this magazine.

Interactions is the bimonthly publication of ACM. Better designed than User Experience, it has become, under the thoughtful leadership of Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko, both profound in its analysis and broad in its interests. At 55 USD for six issues, it is also a bargain.

Here is the latest harvest of articles, some of which you can actually find online:

Designing Games: Why and How
Sus Lundgren

An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research
Liz Sanders

Signifiers, Not Affordances
Don Norman

User Experience Design for Ubiquitous Computing
Mike Kuniavsky

Cultural Theory and Design: Identifying Trends by Looking at the Action in the Periphery
Christine Satchell

Understanding Children’s Interactions: Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products
Janet C. Read, Panos Markopoulos

An Exciting Interface Foray into Early Digital Music: The Kurzweil 250
Richard W. Pew

Some Different Approaches to Making Stuff
Steve Portigal

Design: A Better Path to Innovation
Nathan Shedroff

A Call for Pro-Environmental Conspicuous Consumption in the Online World
Bill Tomlinson

Of Candied Herbs and Happy Babies: Seeking and Searching on Your Own Terms
Elizabeth Churchill

Experiencing the International Children’s Digital Library
Benjamin B. Bederson

Taken For Granted: The Infusion of the Mobile Phone in Society
Rich Ling

How Society was Forever Changed: A Review of The Mobile Connection
Brian Romanko

Audiophoto Narratives for Semi-literate Communities
David Frohlich, Matt Jones

Think Before You Link: Controlling Ubiquitous Availability
Karen Renaud, Judith Ramsay, Mario Hair

Disclosure: As of next year, I will be a contributing editor to the magazine (and I feel honoured to be in such esteemed company).

27 August 2008

Ethnographic research informed Intel’s Classmate PC

Classmate PC
The design of Intel’s new Classmate PC with its full touchscreen support, is based on observations and research collected about the way that the computers are used in real-world classroom settings., reports ars technica.

In a video published by Intel on its YouTube channel, one of the company’s ethnographers describes some of the background research behind the new design of the device, which is aimed primarily for education in emerging markets.

Intel looked closely at how students collaborate and move around in classroom environments. The new tablet feature was implemented so that the device would be more conducive to what Intel calls “micromobility”. Intel wants students to be able to carry around Classmate PCs in much the same way that they currently carry around paper and pencil.

We want to offer more choices to meet the diversity of student learning needs across the world,” said Intel Emerging Markets Platform Group manager Lila Ibrahim in a statement. “Our ethnographic research has shown us that students responded well to tablet and touch screen technology. The creativity, interactivity and user-friendliness of the new design will enhance the learning experiences for these children. This is important for both emerging and mature markets where technology is increasing being seen as a key tool in encouraging learning and facilitating teaching.”

1 June 2008

Library of Congress lecture series on “digital natives”

Digital spot
The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress is organising a four-part lecture series on “Digital Natives,” referring to the generation that has been raised with the computer as a natural part of their lives, especially the young people who are currently in schools and colleges today.

The series seeks to understand the practices and culture of the digital natives, the cultural implications of their phenomenon and the implications for education to schools, universities and libraries.

A Washington Times article today and some Library of Congress press releases provide some more insight:

[The series] began April 7 with child development expert Edith K. Ackermann (site) discussing “The Anthropology of Digital Natives” (video).

The Washington Times writes: “Ms. Ackermann, a visiting scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke almost affectionately of young people’s affinity for sharing, “even before they think,” and their “fascination with freedom,” defined, in part, as having “the ability to do the right thing even when they have not got all the knowledge.” Because of their affinity for texting and borrowing sources available widely on the Internet and social networking sites, she concluded that “the gap between reading and writing is closing down.”

On 12 May, a spirited defense of the digital generation was presented by the writer Steven Berlin Johnson (site) based on his 2005 best-selling book, “Everything Bad is Good for You” (wikipedia). [A video is not yet available].

According to the Library of Congress press release, Johnson discussed the response to his argument that popular culture is growing more complex and cognitively challenging, and is not racing downward towards a lowest common denominator. He also talked about the future of books in this digital age.

Michael Wesch (site), assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, is the man behind the viral internet video “The Machine Is Us/ing Us“, which with over 600,000 views has become somewhat of a phenomenon. Welsch will discuss the three-year-old video-sharing Web site in a lecture titled “The Anthropology of YouTube” on 23 June.

“More video material has been uploaded to YouTube in the past six months than has ever been aired on all major networks combined, according to cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch. About 88 percent is new and original content, most of which has been created by people formerly known as “the audience.”

According to Wesch, it took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press appeared and a few hundred again before the telegraph did. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. “A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges,” Wesch said. “New types of conversation, argumentation and collaborations are realized.”

Douglas Rushkoff (site), a teacher of media theory at New York University who recently wrote a pamphlet for the UK think tank Demos, will close the series with a lecture entitled “Open Source Reality” on 30 June.

The series should eventually be available on video webcasts.

The Washington Times article also refers to a few other resources, including Digital Native, an international online academic research project that explores the “digital media landscape” and its implications. (Check the links at the end of that page).

By the way, check out the gorgeous illustration that Linas Garsys made for the Washington Times. Click on the image on the left so see it in its full size.

7 May 2008

Ethnographic study on how young children interact with the web

Parenting 2.0
Consumer Reports WebWatch released the results of an ethnographic study on how children interact with online environments.

The study, “Like Taking Candy from a Baby: How Young Children Interact with Online Environments,” used ethnographic methods and focused on young children, ages 2½ to 8.

For the study, parents in 10 families used video cameras to keep journals, providing insights into the way children use sites such as Club Penguin, Webkinz, Nick Jr., Barbie.com and others. Footage from those journals, which can be viewed at www.youtube.com/cwwkids, illustrates how young children respond to advertising and marketing tactics online.

The digital world offers a wealth of opportunity for young children to play and learn. But even in this small sample of 10 families the study found—too easily, in several circumstances—repeated examples of attempts to manipulate children for the sake of commerce.

The study’s key findings:

  • Even the very young go online.
  • The Internet is a highly commercial medium.
  • Web sites frequently tantalize children, presenting enticing options and even threats that their online creations will become inaccessible unless a purchase is made.
  • Most of the sites observed promote the idea of consumerism.
  • Logos and brand names are ubiquitous.
  • Subtle branding techniques are frequently used.
  • The games observed vary widely in quality, in educational value, and in their developmental match with children’s abilities.

The study’s executive summary (contained within the report download), also contains a range of recommendations for parents, publishers, and policy makers.

The report was written by Warren Buckleitner, Ph.D., an adviser to Consumer Reports WebWatch. Buckleitner is editor of Children’s Technology Review, a periodical covering children’s interactive media. He is also the founder of the Mediatech Foundation, a nonprofit public community technology center based in Flemington, N.J.

Press release
Download report (pdf, 58 pages)

28 April 2008

How Club Penguin turned 750,000 British kids into penguins

Digital youth
The (UK) Times reports on the successful networking site for tweens.

The features of Club Penguin, one of the most successful virtual worlds aimed specifically at children, may defy logic – and gravity – but they represent the new frontier of children’s entertainment, where the whimsy and colour of traditional kids TV blends with computer game-style tasks, and the networking power of the internet.

Some 750,000 British children aged between 6 and 14 are estimated to inhabit Club Penguin, the brainchild of two Canadian entrepreneurs who as parents became frustrated with the lack of the options for kids who wanted to play computer games but also meet friends online.

Read full story

27 April 2008

First findings presented of study on kids in digital environments

Digital youth
A group of researchers from the University of Southern California and University of California at Berkeley presented their first findings from one of the largest ethnographic studies on kids in digital environments.

Kids’ Informal Learning with Digital Media: An Ethnographic Investigation of Innovative Knowledge Cultures is a three year collaborative project funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Carried out by researchers at University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley, the digital youth project explores how kids use digital media in their everyday lives.

The study pictures a new generation that is “self-publishing, programming, and pushing the boundaries of what can be done online”, which provides them “with a sense of competence, autonomy, self-determination and connectedness”.

But – shows the research – they’re not learning how to do this in school.

The full research will be published later this year.

- Read more: news.com | UC Berkeley News
Talking notes, danah boyd, UC Berkeley

6 April 2008

New UK report on children and new technology

Byron Review
The UK Department for Children, Schools and Families launched last week its eagerly anticipated Byron Review into Children and New Technology.

It contains a comprehensive package of measures to help children and young people make the most of the internet and video games, while protecting them from harmful and inappropriate material, and sets out an ambitious action plan for Government, industry and families to work together to support children’s safety online and to reduce access to adult video games.

The report has led to a huge amount of press coverage and debate.

BBC News summarises the report and provides an overview of the reactions to it.

DK of MediaSnackers is rather lukewarm in his reaction and identifies three areas the report fails to tackle:

  • children vs young people—very different demographics in terms of their internet/technology use and expectations. There is a danger of trying to develop strategies which cater for both groups here;
  • internet or playing video games—surely these are two very different activities but in the report they are often ‘lumped’ together;
  • social networking regulation—any plans to regulate these online spaces will be near impossible to enforce let alone coordinate (due to the amount of platforms plus their international approaches—check this out).
26 January 2008

‘Google Generation’ is a myth, says new UK research

Google generation
A new study overturns the common assumption that the ‘Google Generation’ – youngsters born or brought up in the Internet age – is the most web-literate.

The first ever virtual longitudinal study carried out by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, they rely heavily on search engines, view rather than read and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web.

The report Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future (pdf, 1.7 mb) also shows that research-behaviour traits that are commonly associated with younger users – impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs – are now becoming the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.

Commissioned by the British Library and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), the study calls for libraries to respond urgently to the changing needs of researchers and other users. Going virtual is critical and learning what researchers want and need crucial if libraries are not to become obsolete, it warns. “Libraries in general are not keeping up with the demands of students and researchers for services that are integrated and consistent with their wider internet experience”, says Dr Ian Rowlands, the lead author of the report.

The findings also send a strong message to the government. Educational research into the information behaviour of young people and training programmes on information literacy skills in schools are desperately needed if the UK is to remain as a leading knowledge economy with a strongly-skilled next generation of researchers.

Read full press release

11 January 2008

“Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born”

Digital Youth
In a blog post, Danah Boyd (a Berkeley Ph.D student and a Harvard Fellow) relates the story of a mother who describes how her daughter’s approach to shopping was completely different than her own:

“Using Google and a variety of online shopping sites, Mary researched dresses online, getting a sense for what styles she liked and reading information about what was considered stylish that year. Next, Mary and her friends went to the local department store as a small group, toting along their digital cameras (even though they’re banned). They tried on the dresses, taking pictures of each other in the ones that fit. Upon returning home, Mary uploaded the photos to her Facebook and asked her broader group of friends to comment on which they liked the best. Based on this feedback, she decided which dress to purchase, but didn’t tell anyone because she wanted her choice to be a surprise. Rather than returning to the store, Mary purchased the same dress online at a cheaper price based on the information on the tag that she had written down when she initially saw the dress. She went for the cheaper option because her mother had given her a set budget for homecoming shopping; this allowed her to spend the rest on accessories.”

Boyd analyses this further:

In the 1980s, Alan Kay declared that, “technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.” In other words, what is perceived as technology to adults is often ubiquitous if not invisible to youth. In telling this story, Mary’s mother was perplexed by the technology choices made by her daughter. Yet, most likely, Mary saw her steps in a practical way: research, test out, get feedback, purchase. Her choices were to maximize her options, make a choice that would be socially accepted, and purchase the dress at the cheapest price. Her steps were not about maximizing technology, but about using it to optimize what she did care about.

Read full story

The blog entry is also a Fieldnote for the Digital Youth Project.

(via FutureLab)

11 December 2007

What happens when the $100 laptop actually gets used?

The face of the $100 laptop
All kinds of things apparently, as described by this revealing story on the BBC, commented on by Bruce Nussbaum of Business Week:

“Clearly, children love the machine. Most of them had never seen a computer before and the great design of the laptop was compelling. They are learning about technology even as they play. But why do they like it? By far, the most used function of the one laptop designed specifically for the world’s poorest children is taking pictures. The webcam–taking pictures and sharing them with friends–is the most discussed computer function. That’s cool and great, but is it the highest priority for ‘education?'”

Then there is the cost. I personally hadn’t added up all the money that goes into the $100″ laptop. What, in fact, is the true bottom line cost of the OLPC? Will governments that accept the OLPC subsidize the operating cost–electricity, repairs, etc.?

Finally, there is the actual teaching. The laptops in Nigeria came with pre-loaded learning programs. The BBC story doesn’t say who wrote these lessons and where they came from. The teachers appear to like them and perhaps that is enough. But is it? Were the lessons written by teachers in Nigeria? Would you accept lesson plans from another country for your kids?”

The project clearly suffers from a top-down approach, where “designing for” is the paradigm rather than “designing with” or “designing from”. There was as far as I know no structured needs analysis here, no contextual studies, no ethnography, no qualitative insights. Such an approach cannot lead to anything but unintended consequences and may be potentially undermining the project itself. There are many lessons to be learned here, by the OLPC (“one laptop per child”) team, but also by any company or organisation trying to deliver designed solutions for “end-users” who then turn out to have different needs and contexts that had somehow been anticipated.

But of course, we can always blame those “end-users” instead of learning some important lessons, and I am afraid this is definitely going to be part of the debate that will undoubtedly ensue.

- Read BBC story
Read Nussbaum commentary

4 October 2007

Frog Design Mind newsletter on identity and meaning in the world of design

Frog Design Mind
The latest issue of Frog Design Mind (permalink), the bi-monthly newsletter of Frog Design Inc., is devoted to identity and contain a rich group of articles on “the struggle to find new meaning in the growing landscape of design”. Here is a selection (and the first one in particular, by Mark Rolston, is highly recommended – it’s an excellent piece of writing):

 

Defining The New Singularity

Defining The New Singularity
Exploring the next level of convergence: between hardware and software, information and object, human and technology.

“As the writer Bruce Sterling puts it, borrowing a bit from Baudrillard and applying it to design, we are now approaching an age of technological advancement when ‘there is more stored in the map than there is in the territory’. Put more simply, the story surrounding a given ‘thing’, a product or service we buy and use, is rapidly exceeding the value of the thing itself. The identity of a product can no longer be easily defined through its form factor, but rather by the information that encases it, passes through it, and is accumulated by it over the course of its lifetime.”

Change Agency

Change Agency and Transformologies
Understanding the power of design to facilitate positive change in the end-user.

“Can personal development be better shaped by the technologies we, as designers, create? What if products and environments were designed to acknowledge individual aspirations and facilitate the realization of users’ potential? Could our products not only change users’ behavior, but actually foster within them the qualities that they seek?”

Parenting 2.0

Parenting 2.0
Key principles for the creation and curation of your child’s online identity.

“The purpose of this article is to provide you, the parent, with some basic principles for navigating the wonderful world of social networking and Web 2.0 with your children – all while keeping them safe, socialized, and engaged. They are not rules, or guidelines, or a philosophy of parenting. They are just basic principles that remind you, and your kids, to think before you press that Enter key.”

Is this how your kids see you?

Is Your Hard Drive Worth More Than Your Life?
The influence of technology on the collective experience of today’s families.

“Before the presence of cameras and the like, humans passed on knowledge through storytelling, intertwining personal experience with a sense of place and time. They created visual landscapes through words, art, and the objects around them. This storytelling codified a shared sense of experience, bringing the audience into a collective understanding of their culture and environment. As the stories were passed on, every teller became a part of the tale – rendering history subjective, reality shared. In our frenzy to safeguard our memories in the online world, we have removed the intimacy of storytelling. We have made the web, not each other, the major source of shared experiences, knowledge, and opinions (often not even our own).”

Ravi Chhatpar

HBR: Melding Design and Strategy
In the September 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review, frog Strategy Director Ravi Chhatpar published the following article, outlining the benefits of an iterative design process, in which design and business strategy impact one another directly.

“From concept through development, designers should function in parallel with corporate decision makers, creating prototypes for a number of variations on a product and then testing them with users and, if appropriate, partners. Tracking how customers’ ways of using a product evolve over time also makes it possible for designers to identify desirable new features and, in some cases, create new functionality in conjunction with users.”