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Posts in category 'Communications'

17 July 2011

Talk to Me – or interaction design as script writing

Talk to Me
In her New York Times review of Talk to Me (online journal), the latest exhibition by Paola Antonelli at the MoMA, Alice Rawsthorn describes what could be considered the essence of interaction design:

“Digital technology is enabling objects to become so complex and powerful that we now expect to interact with them. If you hand an unfamiliar object to a small child, he or she will instinctively search for buttons or sensors to operate it.

Though the same same microchips that enable things as small as smart phones to fulfill hundreds of different functions also make them more opaque. In the industrial era when form generally followed function, you could guess how to use an electronic product from its appearance. You can’t do that with a tiny digital device, which is why designers face the new challenge that Ms. Antonelli calls “script writing,” in other words, ensuring that the object can tell us how to use it.”

Read article

Make sure to also check the very rich online journal.

17 May 2011

Why a hyper-personalized Web is bad for you

The Filter Bubble
Eli Pariser, executive director of the progressive political action committee MoveOn.org, explains in a CNET interview why he thinks we should beware of the substantial risks inherent in the increasing personalization of the Internet.

“Eli Pariser is making noise these days as the author of “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You.

His new book, which was released yesterday, argues that the latest tools being implemented by the likes of Google and Facebook for making our Internet experiences as individual as possible are taking us down some very unsavory paths.

First, of course, Pariser explains the dynamic we all face online today: that no two people’s Web searches, even on the same topics, return the same results. That’s because search engines and other sites are basing what they send back on our previous searches, the sites we visit, ads we click on, preferences we indicate, and much more. Not to mention the fact that we are more and more shielded from viewpoints counter to our own.

But while the results are no doubt geared to what we’re most interested in, they come at a price–in terms of lost privacy, more ads, and even being followed by certain types of ads no matter where we go online.”

Read article

17 March 2011

Social media, internet, technology and museums

Museuma
The New York Times has published no less than eight articles at once on the topic of social media, internet, technology and museums. Note the article about the Arduino!

Speaking digitally about exhibits
Museums around the world now use social media for marketing and development efforts, and to strengthen relationships with visitors.

The spirit of sharing
Social media technology has created new opportunities for museums to create interactivity inside and outside of their walls. […] While museums have long strived to be welcoming places as well as havens of learning, social media is turning them into virtual community centers.

Four to follow
Several of the people who help lead some of the most innovative museum Web sites found their path serendipitously.

Stopping to gaze and to zoom
The Google Art Project lets users virtually visit museums, and 17 works are on display in super-high resolution for zooming and marveling.

Smithsonian uses social media to expand Its mission
The museums increasingly use the public to help research and add personal touches to history.

An interactive exhibit for about $30
A tiny programmable computer, the Arduino, has brought the price of interactivity down sharply in the last few years for museums and galleries.

Multimedia tour guides on your smartphone
Museums are increasingly using smartphone apps to enhance the experiences of visitors.

Social media as inspiration and canvas
Mining Vimeo, YouTube and Flickr, artists and museums use social sites to provide a direct link to their audiences.

15 March 2011

Tough Sell: Selling User Experience

 
Misha W. Vaughan, architect of applications user experience at Oracle USA, reflects in this interesting, small article for the February 2011 issue of the Journal of Usability Studies on the challenges explaining the value of user experience to the Oracle sales organisation.

Read article

2 September 2010

Interactions magazine on human nuances

Interactions
The current issue of Interactions Magazine is generally on the nuances of what makes us human, writes co-editor-in-chief Jon Kolko, and more in particular “about authenticity, complexity, and design-and the political, social, and human qualities of our work”.

Here are the articles that are currently available for free:

interactions: authenticity, complexity, and design
by Jon Kolko
Frequently, designers find themselves reflecting on the nuances of what makes us human, including matters of cognitive psychology, social interaction, and the desire for emotional resonance. This issue of interactions unpacks all of these ideas, exploring the gestalt of interaction design’s influence.

The meaning of affinity and the importance of identity in the designed world
by Matthew Jordan
When a designer is thinking about ways to create experiences that deliver meaningful and lasting connections to users, it is helpful to consider the notion of our personal affinities and how they affect perception, adoption, and use in the designed world. In our cover story, Matthew Jordan explores the term “affinity,” leading us to consider new and useful ways of informing design thinking and ultimately help us design with more success.

Why “the conversation” isn’t necessarily a conversation
by Ben McAllister
Architects have long understood that the structures we inhabit can influence not only the way we feel, but also the way we behave. This turns out to be true in digital environments like social networks, too. Subtle differences in the underlying structures of these networks give rise to distinct patterns of behavior.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst: interaction design and the tipping point
by Eli Blevis and Shunying Blevis
Typical interaction designers are not climate scientists, but interaction designers can make well-informed use of climate sciences and closely related sciences. Interaction design can make scientific information, interpretations, and perspectives available in an accessible and widely distributed form so that people’s consciousness is raised.

Gestural interfaces: a step backwards in usability
by Donald Norman and Jakob Nielsen
The new gestural and touch interfaces can be a pleasure to use and a pleasure to see. But the lack of consistency and inability to discover operations, coupled with the ease of accidentally triggering actions from which there is no recovery, threatens the viability of these systems. We urgently need to return to our basics, developing usability guidelines for these systems that are based upon solid principles of interaction design, not on the whims of the company-interface guidelines and arbitrary ideas of developers.

All look same? A comparison of experience design and service design
by Jodi Forlizzi
The comparison of experience design (or UX, as it has been labeled) and service design seems to be a topic of interest in the interaction design community. Can we and should we articulate differences among these fields? Can the methods and knowledge of one successfully transfer to another?

Relying on failures in design research
by Nicolas Nova
The investigation of accidents within a larger process can be inspiring from a design viewpoint. Surfacing people’s problematic reactions when confronted with invisible pieces of technologies highlights their mental model and eventually has implications for design.

Solving complex problems through design
by Steve Baty
What is it about design that makes it so well suited to solving complex problems? Why is design thinking such a promising avenue for business and government tackling seemingly intractable problems?

On academic knowledge production
by Jon Kolko
Now, as design enjoys the corporate credibility of “design thinking” and with the social problems confronting the world growing increasingly intractable, the need for bridging the gap between practitioners and academics is more important than ever.

21 August 2010

Designing for the loss of control

Simpsons angry mob
The people at frogdesign have posted two long articles (the first one is really an essay) that we consider a recommended read:

Openness or how do you design for the loss of control?
Openness is the mega-trend for innovation in the 21st century, and it remains the topic du jour for businesses of all kinds. However, as several new books elaborate upon the concept from different perspectives, and a growing number of organizations have recently launched ambitious initiatives to expand the paradigm to other areas of business, Tim Leberecht thought it might be a good time to reframe “Open” from a design point of view.

100,000 Twitter followers and why it matters
@frogdesign passed the 100K Twitter mark recently. […] Sometimes, [Sam Martin and his] marketing team are asked both inside and outside the company, “How are you doing this?” [They] even still get the question, “Why are you doing this?” They are necessary questions, and, of course, it’s not possible to point to one thing or effort or measurement when talking about either. Based on [their] experience over the past year, here are a few thoughts on the matter.

The following quote could also be the motto of this Putting People First blog: “Twitter is a reminder of the responsibility we have to be thoughtful curators of relevant news, trends, and debates, even when those debates involve our competitors.”

Great work, froggers!

21 August 2010

Do you own your device, or it you?

ZDNet Australia debate
On August 12, at noon, ZDNet Australia organised a live broadcast on the future of email. The discussion delved into the issues and challenges facing email in its current state, and looked at how social media is changing the way we exchange information.

The panel of local and global communications experts included Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow, Intel Labs, Director, Interaction & Experience Research, Intel Corporation; Alistair Rennie, General Manager, Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal, IBM Software Group; Mark Pesce, futurist, author, lecturer and technologist; and Adele Beachley, Managing Director, RIM Australia and New Zealand.

ZDNet Australia has posted a video of the debate as well as a short debate summary.

Read article

16 July 2010

Content Strategy questions and answers

Content strategy
Content strategy is becoming a hot topic (and one I am greatly interested in).

Last year, Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic published the book Content Strategy. In her own words, it “offers a pretty straightforward approach to planning for content in your web initiatives.”

“Content Strategy for the Web explains how to create and deliver useful, usable content for your online audiences, when and where they need it most. It also shares content best practices so you can get your next website redesign right, on time and on budget.”

Now some people who have read the book are launching the idea of a joined question time, the UIE Book Club, starting with this book on 17 August. All can join in.

Nick Finck of Blue Flavor recently gave a talk to the Content Strategy Seattle group on how content strategy fits into the user experience. He has posted the slides and a videocast for the talk.

(via InfoDesign)

23 June 2010

The huge challenge of Nokia’s head of design and UX

Marko Ahtisaari
The acclaimed Italian journalist Luca De Biase recently interviewed Marko Ahtisaari (blogwikipedia), Senior Vice President, Design and User Experience of Nokia, for the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

Here is what happened these last few weeks: A warning by Nokia on second-quarter sales and profits, a recent fall in the Nokia share price, yesterday’s news that Nokia runs a risk of being downgraded by S&P, and now the latest news that the iPhone is biting in Nokia’s European markets. But not all is bad: Nokia is making some gains in less expensive smartphones. Yet in all, this surely creates huge pressure on Marko, who was recently brought back to Nokia after careers at Blyk and Dopplr, to radically improve Nokia’s position in the high-end device market.

In view of this context, here is my translation of the story on Ahtisaari that was published in Italian:

Ahtisaari (Nokia): “My micro-sized social network”

Smart phones: After the blockbuster success of the iPhone, Nokia intends to write the sequel. Marko Ahtisaari, 41, was mandated to draft the screenplay. He first needs to to ask himself some basic questions: Who is the leader? The biggest or the most influential? Nokia or Apple?

Nokia’s new head of design knows that this is the key question making the rounds since about three years ago the charismatic Steve Jobs crossed the road which was once so securely in the hands of the Finnish phone giant. The question remains open, as Nokia continues to sell a dozen times more phones than Apple. But it only gains a fraction of the media attention. And of the market attention, as evidenced by the succession of iPhone imitations of the iPhone, launched by competitors. Peter Drucker once said: “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right thing.” Now Marko Ahtisaari plans to come up with a surprising answer: a giant can do the right thing. Ma deve ribaltare parecchie abitudini. But he has to overturn many old habits, because the issue is no longer to sell good products, but to regain the cultural leadership.

How? By changing the game. “I will have to tear down some dogmas,” says Ahtisaari, referring to the mobile phone world that now seems to only speak the language of Cupertino and Silicon Valley. “The leadership of Apple, Google, Facebook is American. We are a European company. And we have something to say.”

Yeah. But what? The challenge is immense: Apple has managed to redefine the mobile phone business, making it into a complex whole that builds on design quality, simplicity and number of functions, emotional contents, and usefulness of online services. Apple has brought its experience with internet-connected computers to the world of mobile devices, and started a whole new market of applications, often produced by small software houses all over the world, that provide the iPhone with a breadth of functions that no one company could ever design. Apple captured a central strategic position that has displaced the other handset manufacturers, has generated an earthquake in electronic commerce, and has even created problems for the operators.

Nokia has the opportunity to play on a much wider field than that of Apple: it can serve the end of the market that wants a good phone that is not too smart; can offer smartphones with all crucial functions at the lowest price on the market; but also has to play at the high-end of expensive and attractive smartphones like the iPhone. It is the high-end market where cultural leadership is defined.

So Ahtisaari spends half his time thinking about how to redefine the relationship between mobile phones and their users. “As I look at people in the restaurant, I see them bending over on their phones, no longer paying attention to the other diners. I think there is something to improve here. The experience offered by the current smartphone is “immersive”. It is persuasive technology, as BJ Fogg would have said. A phone that is controlled by touching the screen invites users to give all their attention to the device. “But for me it is more important that people can look each other into their eyes, and that the phone stays in its place.” It is a generous starting point for a designer: moving the products out of the way to leave the centre stage to people. “This is consistent with our identity: Nokia is not lifestyle. Nokia serves and facilitates communication between people. Now we have to bring this concept to a new level.”

Ahtisaari has all the fundamentals to move Nokia forward in the new millennium. His culture has been formed by a number of start-ups in the fast world of social networks. During the years when his father Martti worked with diplomatic patience in Kosovo, before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Marko was CEO of Dopplr, a platform to share travel information. Now at Nokia he began by unifying the groups that deal with hardware and software design. And he works closely with the developers of online services, from Ovi – Nokia’s application platform – to the group that develops mapping services, which is in a bit of a refresh these days after having been taken from Yahoo!. He knows where to play his next game.

“Advertising-based social networks have to concentrate all attention on themselves and tend to confuse the boundaries between the private network of friends and public communication. They must grow, always gaining new users who themselves also have an increasing number of connections – as one can see with Facebook. “We [at Nokia] will always be on the side of small groups that communicate. We focus on the relationships that develop within the circle of trusted friends and neighbours. And we have to serve this small circle with a mosaic of services that do not intrude with people, by making their lives public. We will always be on the side of privacy even if this would slow down the growth of the service.”

In short, Ahtisaari’s project seems clear. A new approach for a number of emerging needs in a world that is increasingly hyperconnected and distracted by today’s smartphones. The implementation is still to be conceived. But already it is clear how right the questions are that Ahtisaari has raised and how potentially revolutionary the responses can be. Strong leadership has the effect that many will follow the guide. But it can have many causes: vision, credibility, power, authority, muscle, size, charisma. If in a few years time we will see less people bent over the displays, also Ahtisaari will walk tall.

Three stages

1. When everybody online knew everything about everybody
The premise. Privacy online? But it doesn’t exist, of course. The phrase is by Scott McNealy, then Sun’s head, and goes back some 10 years. It was a company vision and an ideological mantra. In the effort to reduce the world to a global village, the web knows down all obstacles in a euphoric pursuit of exchange. It is the zero level of the Internet, with sharing the banner word: everyone wants to know everything about everyone. Having to sacrifice a bit of privacy seems to be the least of problems. This approach finds its triumph in Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Born to trace the “classmates” who are out of sight, the social network soon became a must. You have to be there to be someone.

2. Facebook and Google run for cover
The rethinking. Google’s dizzying race turns into an obstacle course. Just a few days ago there were the Street View maps that show the faces of unsuspecting passengers. And they protest. The Mountain View giant decides to suspend the release of his new facial recognition software. It puts limits to Google Buzz, the new social network introduced to connect users directly to their most frequent Gmail contacts. Facebook decides to do the same. It is an attempt to staunch the decline of contacts and members. Social networks discover that privacy has value – not only philosophically, but also economically.

3. No secrets? Only for those who I say
The possible scenario. Social networks are shown for what they are: not a medium in which to cultivate “friendships”, but a house without doors and walls of glass. According to calculations made by SearchEngineLand, the number of active users is growing less and less quickly. Possibly because people have sensed this possible two path development: social networks that are restricted to few with a threshold of privacy tends to a minimum, and a broader use of the Web with fewer personal data ‘moving around’. This is the direction of the scenario drawn by Marko Ahtisaari: minimal social networks for “real” friends.

Disclosure: Experientia has worked with Marko in the past (while he was at Blyk), and we admire his competence, strategic insights and entrepreneurial approach. So good luck, Marko.

Also, you may want to check this article on the vision presented by Tero Ojanpera, Nokia’s Executive Vice President of Services, in London this morning.

22 June 2010

The reality of social media

Social life
In this post Adrian Chan “teases apart the objective and subjective dimensions of social media, to examine what’s behind the relational economy we now live in, and its particular mode of production.”

“All commerce and much personal and social utility implied by use of social media, writes Chan, owes to the subjective value added to what was, previously, a mode of production of information (publishing).

I will try to demonstrate here the manner in which social acts and communication result in mediated social realities. And suggest that the relational connections and value-added associations which are the byproduct of social media use create a marketplace of content whose highest value, individually motivated subjective choices, we are only beginning to capture and mine.”

Read article

16 May 2010

The reality of social media

The Merchant of Venice
Adrian Chan has written a thoughtful post about “teasing apart the objective and subjective dimensions of social media, to examine what’s behind the relational economy we now live in, and its particular mode of production.”

“All commerce and much personal and social utlity implied by use of social media owes to the subjective value added to what was, previously, a mode of production of information (publishing).

I will try to demonstrate here the manner in which social acts and communication result in mediated social realities. And suggest that the relational connections and value-added associations which are the byproduct of social media use create a marketplace of content whose highest value, individually motivated subjective choices, we are only beginning to capture and mine.”

He concludes:

“Communication is just communication as long as it remains observed only. But it calls for a yes or no, for acceptance or rejection. When that is supplied by another person, it becomes social action. Not information, but action, and what we need to capture it, measure it, relate it, and repurpose it, is the challenge facing us today.”

Read article

26 April 2010

Guidebook on climate communications and behavioral change

CCBC
To address global warming there must be a shift in thinking and behavior that motivates people and organizations to engage in emissions reductions and climate preparedness activities and support new policies. Mounting evidence shows that this shift is not only possible, but an important part of a [US] national strategy. Even simple actions taken at the household and organizational levels can rapidly and significantly reduce carbon emissions. Making these changes would buy time and build public support for new policies that could spur greater reductions.

In order to motivate people to alter their views and behaviors related to global warming, leaders within all levels of government, the private sector, non-profits and communities must become aware of and utilize the fundamentals of effective climate communications, outreach, and behavioral change mechanisms.

To address this need, the Social Capital Project of the Climate Leadership Initiative — a social science-based research and technical assistance collaborative between The Resource Innovation Group and the Institute for a Sustainable Environment at the University of Oregon — has developed this guidebook, which draws on extensive global warming, behavior change and communications research completed by our organization and others as well as from practitioner expertise. The guide distills this information into tools and recommendations that climate leaders can easily apply. It includes talking points that have been tested with the public as well as quotes from focus group participants that reflect the attitudes of many Americans about global warming.

The guide is organized into two sections:

  • Part One: The Role of Tension, Efficacy, and Benefits in the Global Warming Conversation
    This section illustrates the challenges with existing climate communication efforts and provides tips on how to frame and deliver outreach efforts in a way that motivates changes in thinking and behavior.
     
  • Part Two: Understanding and Connecting with Audiences
    This section offers detailed advice and tips on how to frame global warming communications and promote behavior change in ways that resonate with a range of audience segments.
26 February 2010

Content strategy – the next big thing?

Content strategy
Content strategy is more or less on the same trajectory as social media was three years ago, argues Kristina Halvorson (of Brain Traffic).

“I think it’s because the reality of social media initiatives—that they’re internal commitments, not advertising campaigns—has derailed more than a few organizations from really implementing effective, measurable programs. Most companies can’t sustain social media engagement because they lack the internal editorial infrastructure to support it.”

Couldn’t agree more.

Read full story

(via InfoDesign)

24 February 2010

Google’s bad day

Google
Luca De Biase, the journalist I translated this morning, continues to add interesting commentary:

Excerpts from this post (translated into English):

“The Italian sentence on Google says fundamentally that the judges do not consider the [YouTube] platform to be an editor (Google was not sentenced for defamation) but they consider it responsible when there are violations of privacy legislation, in particular with regards to the sharing of sensitive data related to a person’s health. It might be that the problem that could simply be resolved by adding a button to the platform, so that the user, when about to publish something, has to declare that the uploaded contents are not in violation of the privacy legislation. We shall see. […]

One cannot ignore the fact that the motivations for the ruling are currently lacking. Once the judge will publish them, it will become obvious whether he did indeed take all this correctly into account, pointing out simply that in Google’s terms and conditions at the time, not all precautions were taken to avoid that users would upload materials that damages privacy – in which case the whole thing would be a lot less worrisome and platforms, in order to comply with the law, would just need to be more clear in asking users to pay attention to privacy matters.”

A second post provides some further reflection:

“The right to freedom of information and the right to privacy are increasingly in conflict. And all those who want to reduce the first can appeal to the second. […]

And even if it all leads to the fact that the platform needs to ensure that those who publish contents have all the rights to do so, even by asking first third parties before going on to publication, all this will generate enormous complications for any platform that deals with user-generated content. If it is just a matter of a better description of the terms and conditions, then it could be resolved rather easily.”

24 February 2010

Google Video: Italian law is complicating the world

Google
This Italian reflection on the Italian Google sentence, written by journalist Luca De Biase (in charge of the Nòva24 insert of “Sole 24 Ore” business newspaper), is highly pertinent and therefore worth to be translated:

Google Video: Italian law is complicating the world

“So now those platforms that allows users to publish online content have become responsible for possible violations by those same users? That’s what an Italian judge just decided. And this will have global legal consequences.

Judge Oscar Magi – the same one [who dealt with the CIA kidnapping] of Abu Omar – has condemned several
Google Italy executives for violating Italian privacy law, because they allowed the publication of a video showing a teenager with Down’s Syndrome being bullied. The judge absolved the three of a defamation accusation.

In practice it seems to state that Google would have had to obtain obtain a consent of all the parties involved – directly or indirectly – to the publication of these images.

This lower court decision is not final [and can be appealed]. But it opens a very complicated future scenario for all internet access providers and most of all for platforms that allow informational and other video content to be published by users directly.

Taken to its logical consequence, this sentence means that before publishing anything whatsoever about third parties on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, or Facebook, users need to first obtain a consent from those third parties, and if not, also the platforms themselves are responsible. The platforms therefore need to supervise everything their users are publishing.

That could be a very serious blow to the world of user-generated content. This sentence should be carefully looked at by all those people and entities who care about the web as a place for freedom of information – with all its good and bad, its risks and opportunities.”

In fact, according to the BBC, Google’s lawyer “questioned how many internet platforms would be able to continue if the decision held.”

I wonder if judge Magi has written consent from his 47 friends, listed with full names and photos on the judge’s entirely public Facebook page

In any case, here is Google’s answer. And yes, they are going to appeal.

Further analysis:
Guardian
Guardian editorial
Fast Company
ReadWriteWeb
Spiked

8 February 2010

Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium 2010

Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium
For the past four years, Microsoft Research (MSR) has sponsored a symposium on social computing that “brings together academic and industry researchers, developers, writers, and influential commentators in order to open new lines of communication among previously disconnected groups.”

The theme of the 2010 symposium, held at ITP at NYU, was “The city as platform”, which revolved around various sub-topic such as urban informatics, the city as a social technology, pervasive games and government infrastructure/data.

Participants included Genevieve Bell, Julian Bleecker, Ben Cerveny, Tom Coates, Anil Dash, Russell Davies, Alexandra Deschamps-SonsinoAdam Greenfield, Liz Goodman, Usman Haque, Tom IgoeNatalie Jeremijenko, Steven Johnson, Matt Jones, Jennifer Magnolfi, Mike Migurski, Nicolas Nova, Ray Ozzie, Clay Shirky, Kevin Slavin, Molly Steenson, Linda Stone, Alice Taylor, Anthony Townsend, Duncan Wilson and many more.

You can read elaborate and well-written symposium reports by Nicolas Nova (LIFT Lab) and Dan Hill (City of Sound / ARUP).

By the way, do also check Dan Hill’s urbanistic take on the iPad.

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.”

12 October 2009

Bringing internet video services to the living room TV set

project canvas
More details are emerging about Project Canvas, the ambitious joint venture by the BBC, ITV, Five and BT to bring internet video services such as the iPlayer from the bedroom PC to the living-room TV set, reports Tim Bradshaw on FT.com’s techblog.

“An interview in today’s FT with Marc Watson, head of BT Vision, revealed how BT envisages Canvas will work for consumers and content owners, should the BBC Trust approve the service.

The BBC, BT and their partners have emphasised from the outset that Canvas will be an “open” platform. Through a system they like to compare to Apple’s App Store, any content owner will be able to put its programming on the Canvas platform, they say, either ad-supported or charged for by subscription or micropayments.”

Read full story

12 October 2009

Our ever evolving online communication patterns

Online
Both the Wall Street Journal and Techcrunch devote extensive space today to our ever evolving online communication patterns.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how a shift towards a new generation of services like Twitter and Facebook “promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine.”

“We all still use email, of course. But email was better suited to the way we used to use the Internet—logging off and on, checking our messages in bursts. Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.”

Techcrunch has a few posts today. MG Siegler concentrates on Google Wave.

“Google Wave is not just a service, it is perhaps the most complete example yet of a desire to shift the way we communicate once again. […]

I think we want the option to communicate in real-time at will, but also the ability to communicate at our leisure at times. I would consider this to be a desire for a “passive-agressive” method of communication. Perhaps it would be better stated as a “passive/active” method of communication, but passive-aggressive sounds better, so we’ll go with that. […]

Google Wave is attempting to be a passive-agressive form of communication. You can actively (aggressively) engage in threads in real-time, or you can sit back and let messages come to you at your leisure (passively).”

Nik Cubrilovic, also on Techcrunch, takes a wider angle and contrasts the old paradigm of chronology with the newer one of relevance:

“Chronological order needs to be abandoned in favor of relevance. Without relevance, our ability to manage large sets of information is inefficient. The technology for relevance exist today, for eg. spam filters are able to tell us what we definitely don’t want to read. Real world information retrieval and organization is based on relevance, either what somebody else believes is relevant to us, or what we decide is relevant. Newspaper stories are not laid out in the order that events took place and libraries do not catalog their books in the order they were published.

Web applications that present relevance over chronological have proven to be popular.”

24 September 2009

Communication and human development: the freedom connection?

Berkman
Canada’s International Development Research Center and Harvard’s Berkman Center convened a conversation at Harvard yesterday on the future of information and communication technology and development (ICT4D).

Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Michael Spence joined Information and Communication Technology (ICT) experts Yochai Benkler and Clotilde Fonseca in a public discussion of the role of communication and ICTs in human development, growth and poverty reduction. Michael Best moderated the discussion. What has changed, been learned, not been learned, needs to be learned, needs to be done most urgently?

Global Voices participated in the event as a media partner, and Ethan Zuckerman and Jen Brea have been twittering and live-blogging the event.

Part 1: Notes from the Harvard Forum on ICT4D
Part 2: Mobiles, Markets and making culture
Part 3: ICT and gender
Part 4: Are we settling for too late?
Part 5: ICT4D and, and, and…
Part 6: What do we need to know?
Part 7: Focus and health