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Posts in category 'Culture'

10 October 2014

Peter Morville on creating a cultural fit

threelevelsofculture

Interesting reflection by acclaimed information architect Peter Morville:

“As a consultant for two decades, I’ve been a tourist in all sorts of cultures. I’ve worked with startups, Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, Ivy League colleges, and Federal Government agencies in multiple countries. My clients have included folks from marketing, support, human resources, engineering, and design. Being exposed to diverse ways of knowing and doing is one of the best parts of my work. But my interest runs deeper than cultural tourism. Over the years, I’ve realized that understanding culture is central to what I do.

He then explains how as an information architect, he must understand the culture of users, and as an outside consultant, he must understand the culture of the organizations for which he works, to end with a short elaboration on the three levels of culture.

9 April 2014

Tell me a story: augmented reality technology in museums

logo-chess-400

Museums around the world today face the challenge of increasing and maintaining visitor numbers, especially with younger audiences. A fall in visitors is seen by most as a negative outcome, both financially and in terms of wider social and educational impact. It can happen due to a range of factors, but one of the most important is that museums can often find themselves competing with the products of the entertainment industry, which at its heart is in the business of telling a good story.

The EU-funded Chess project (a shorter name for the much longer Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling) plans to make interactive content such as games and augmented reality available to the entire museum sector.

“The project relies on visitor profiling, matching visitors to pre-determined “personas” – which are designed as a representative description of the various people that constitute a given museum’s visitor base. These are created through data from surveys, visitor studies and ethnographic observations. A given visitor is matched initially through a visitor survey to one of several representative personas, which in turn influences fundamentally the experience delivered by the Chess system.

Doing this makes the visitor experience non-linear. The system constantly adapts to a visitor’s preferences. For example, if a visitor fails in a game or stays longer in front of certain artefacts, the system can adapt the storyline. It makes the experience more dynamic and relevant, so instead of sending the visitor to X exhibit, the system might instead choose to send you to Y exhibit, where you will get more information that’s relevant to what you’ve shown an interest in.”

17 December 2013

American-centric UI is leveling tech culture — and design diversity

AP941612296694-660x466

An article with a title like this cannot but intrigue me (being a non-American leading a non-USA company) – and even more so after I found out that it was written by an American working in an American company.

In a very frank and thoughtful article, Sean Madden, Executive Managing Director at Ziba, argues that the interactions designed into our devices overwhelmingly reflect a perspective native to modern, affluent, urban America.

“That our smartphones can be customized through the installation of apps assumes we want a device that is unique and personal. That our wearable devices track and analyze physical movement — as opposed to, say, proximity to friends or family — assumes that individual activity is the kind most worth monitoring. That our gaming consoles are designed primarily with a single, networked player in mind assumes we prefer remote interaction to the in-person kind; compare that to what Korean and Chinese gamers do, which is cluster in cafes.

This focus on individuality and personal mobility is deeply American, and it’s being taught to the rest of the world through the medium of American technology. And the age of invisible design, with its focus on experiences (as opposed to just products and interfaces) has made cultural influence the elephant in the room: obvious, ignored, and hugely powerful. Especially because technology platforms favor the culture that spawned them.”

Madden doesn’t stop at analysis, but sets out a vision for what the next challenge will be:

“Just as user-centered design transformed technology in the 1990s and early 2000s, cultural fluency needs to transform it today: user experience (UX) design that’s familiar enough with a user’s cultural background to meet him or her halfway.

Cultural fluency demands abandoning the idea that functionality is a universal language, and that “good UX” is culturally agnostic. [...]

It requires tremendous discipline to overcome the cultural biases of American design and engineering, to avoid teams building their own cultural norms into how the systems facilitate human interactions. Cultural fluency will require another expansion in design, one that incorporates anthropological, psychological, and historical insights in addition to everything that’s come before. And it will require understanding the broader impact on culture and society when devices begin making decisions and transacting on their own, as promised by the Internet of Things.”

17 October 2012

UX articles and dissertations from Denmark

md-top-banner-uk

Mind Design, the Design Research Webzine of the Danish Centre for Design Research, contains a wealth of information, all available in English.

Here are some highlights:

Article
Companies: Design Research Works in Practice
Design researchers are developing new, applicable knowledge together with organisations in the private and public sector. That was the clear conclusion at the mini-conference on the impact of design research that the Danish Centre for Design Research held at The Black Diamond in Copenhagen on 17 September 2012. Here, Rambøll, Bang & Olufsen and other companies shared case stories about how collaboration with researchers is creating value for their organisations.

Article
Using Experience Design to Reach a Broader Audience for Classical Music
How can we use new, digital technologies to make classical music more appealing and accessible – especially for a younger audience? A group of symphony orchestras and educational institutions in Denmark and Sweden have set out to address that question in a large-scale research collaboration that has received funding from the EU’s interregional development fund.

Dissertation
Inviting the Materials Into Co-Design Processes
Materials are important actors in co-design processes. Therefore they should be invited in and assigned roles when co-designers organise projects, workshops or events, for example in the field of service design. That is one of the key conclusions in a PhD dissertation on the role of materials in co-design which Mette Agger Eriksen defended at Malmö University on 13 June 2012.
> Download dissertation (pdf)

Dissertation
Realising the Full Potential of Drawing
Drawing is a language in its own right that holds a large potential for idea development, says Anette Højlund, who defended her PhD dissertation on drawing and creation on 13 April 2012. In the dissertation she examines what she calls the dialogue between the drawing and the person drawing. In this conversation with Mind Design she concludes that the potential of drawing could be utilised far better, for example in visualising issues that reach across disciplinary boundaries.
> Download dissertation summary (pdf)

Dissertation
Hierarchies and Humour in the Design Process
Humour plays an important role in the design process, argues Mette Volf, who recently defended her PhD dissertation Når nogen ler, er der noget på spil (When someone laughs there is something at stake). In her dissertation she explores the design process as social construct. Humour is used, for example, to turn the formal hierarchies on their head.

Dissertation
PhD Dissertation Challenges Traditional Interaction Design
Interaction design can easily incorporate both a body element and an empathy element. This was demonstrated by Maiken Hillerup Fogtmann, who as part of her PhD project developed interactive exercise equipment for team handball players and computer-based play equipment for children. She defended her dissertation, Designing with the Body in Mind, on 23 January 2012 at the Aarhus School of Architecture.
> Download dissertation summary (pdf)

Article
Making Active and Innovative Use of Your Customer Base
Companies are keen to get in touch with their customers and users in order to gain new ideas for products and business potentials. A project headed by the Danish Technological Institute focuses on user types that are potentially valuable for business. The conclusion is that the key lies in getting involved, identifying the company’s needs and involving the right users at the right time in the strategic processes.

Article
Design as Innovation Facilitator
Design-driven innovation in companies can result in both actual product development and the development of processes and business strategies. That was one of the points made at the workshop Design Driven Innovation – Organizing for Growth held at the Kolding School of Design in December 2011. Furthermore, the role of the position of design in relation to the individual company or organisation was emphasised.

4 April 2012

Book: Cross-Cultural Technology Design

Screen Shot 2012-04-04 at 14.54.45

Cross-Cultural Technology Design
Creating Culture-Sensitive Technology for Local Users
by Huatong Sun
Hardback, 352 pages
Oxford University Press – Feb 2012
[Amazon link]

The demand and opportunity for cross-cultural technology design is rapidly rising due to globalization. However, all too often resulting technologies are technically usable, yet cannot be immediately put to meaningful use by users in their local, concrete contexts. Support for concrete user activities is frequently missing in design, as support for decontextualized actions is typically the focus of design. Sun examines this disconnect between action and meaning in cross-cultural technology design and presents an innovative framework, Culturally Localized User Experience (CLUE), to tackle this problem. Incorporating key concepts and methods from activity theory, British cultural studies, and rhetorical genre theory, the CLUE approach integrates action and meaning through a dialogical, cyclical design process to design technology that engages local users within culturally meaningful social practices.

Illustrated with five in-depth case studies of mobile text messaging use by college students and young professionals in American and Chinese contexts spanning years, Sun demonstrates that a technology created for culturally localized user experience mediates both instrumental practices and social meanings. She calls for a change in cross-cultural design practices from simply applying cultural conventions in design to engaging with social affordances based on a rich understanding of meaningful contextualized activity. Meanwhile, the vivid user stories at sites of technology-in-use show the power of “user localization” in connecting design and use, which Sun believes is essential for the success of an emerging technology like mobile messaging in an era of participatory culture.

This book will be of interest to researchers, students, practitioners, and anyone who wants to create culture-sensitive technology in this increasingly globalized world that requires advanced strategies and techniques for culturally localized, participatory design.

21 March 2012

Helsinki Street Eats: a book about everyday food

helsinkifood

Helsinki Street Eats: a book about everyday food
By Bryan Boyer and Dan Hill, with contributions from Ville Tikka, Nuppu Gävert, Tea Tonnov, and Kaarle Hurtig.
Sitra / Low2No

Street food describes systems of everyday life. In its sheer everydayness we discover attitudes to public space, cultural diversity, health, regulation and governance, our habits and rituals, logistics and waste, and more.

It can be an integral part of our public life, our civic spaces, our streets, our neighbourhoods. Street food can help us articulate our own culture, as well as enriching it by absorbing diverse influences. And it can enable innovation at an accelerated pace by offering a lower-risk environement for experimentation.

Street food can do all of these things, but it doesn’t necessarily.

This book is an attempt to unpack what’s working and what isn’t in Helsinki, and sketch out some trajectories as to where it could go next.

We see that the history of Helsinki’s street food is inextricably tied to food in Finland in general, and so it is caught up in deep currents of regulation, politics, commerce, national identity and culture. As unlikely as it may seem, when viewed from this historical and cultural perspective, street food might be a powerful force for shaping everyday life. It also presents an economic opportunity.

The Low2No project is interested in understanding these systems of everyday life, in order to assess how best to support, influence, and invest into them to enable a greater capacity for sustainable well-being. We’re interested in enabling food entrepreneurship with an eye towards diversity, quality, and sustainability – this short book is our first step towards our next projects in this space. Take a bite – download a PDF or order a print-on-demand copy – and get in touch if you want more.

See also: Bryan Boyer’s blog post on the book

7 December 2011

Why service design is the next big thing in cultural innovation

Blackboard
Rohan Gunatillake, the lead producer of festivalslab (the Edinburgh Festival Innovations Lab) gives four reasons why new thinking and tools can produce better experiences.

“Here at the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab, we explore how to best use new thinking and new tools to make the experience of the twelve major Edinburgh festivals even better – for audiences, performers and the festivals organisations themselves. As part of this ongoing work, this week saw the launch of Festivals Design DNA, a project which began life as a simple question: what happens if we approached innovation through the eyes of a designer, and in particular a service designer?

Working together with Glasgow-based service design agency Snook, we have created a set of practical tools to help cultural organisations use the principles and approaches of service design to improve the experiences they produce – supporting the innovation process all the way from ideation to delivery.”

Read article

12 October 2011

Guardian Tech Weekly podcast: creating a digital public space

Jemima Kiss
Jemima Kiss examines plans for a digital public space with the British Library, the Royal Opera House and the BBC.

“How can we preserve analogue culture in a digital world? Could something allow us to view, research & remix cultural items? Jemima Kiss examines plans for a digital public space – a part of the internet that could grant worldwide access and create links between museums, archives and libraries.

Jemima talks to Richard Ranft of the British Library and Francesca Franchi of the Royal Opera House about the items and artefacts from their archives that a digital public space could open up to the public, and how the reach of both organisations can be dramatically extended to a worldwide audience.

Bill Thompson, head of partnerships at the BBC’s archive (but also of the Digital Planet and Click programmes) explains how the corporation could help build what is needed, and how it could work.

And Jill Cousins of europeana.eu discusses how similar project that is funded by the European Commission works, and how it has now developed into a full service.”

Listen to podcast

30 September 2011

Truth, lies and the internet

Truth, lies and the internet
The internet is the greatest source of information for people living in the UK today. But the amount of material available at the click of a mouse can be both liberating and asphyxiating. Although there are more e-books, trustworthy journalism, niche expertise and accurate facts at our fingertips than ever before, there is an equal measure of mistakes, half-truths, propaganda, misinformation and general nonsense. Knowing how to discriminate between them is both difficult and extremely important.

Truth, Lies and the Internet, a report published by the UK think tank Demos, examines the ability of young people in Britain to critically evaluate information they consume online. It reviews current literature on the subject, and presents a new poll of over 500 teachers. It finds that the web is fundamental to pupils’ school lives but many are not careful, discerning users of the internet. They are unable to find the information they are looking for, or trust the first thing they see. This makes them vulnerable to the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams.

This pamphlet recommends that teaching young people critical thinking and skepticism online must be at the heart of learning. Censorship of the internet is neither necessary nor desirable; the task instead is to ensure that young people can make careful, skeptical and savvy judgments about the internet content they encounter. This would allow them to better identify outright lies, scams, hoaxes, selective half-truths, and mistakes, and better navigate the murkier waters of argument and opinion.

Download report

> see also this short video report by the BBC

21 September 2011

Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?

Digital AlterNatives
Hivos (The Netherlands) and the Centre for Internet and Society (Bangalore, India) have consolidated their three year knowledge inquiry into the field of youth, technology and change in a four book collective “Digital AlterNatives with a cause?”.

This collaboratively produced collective, edited by Nishant Shah and Fieke Jansen, asks critical and pertinent questions about theory and practice around ‘digital revolutions’ in a post MENA (Middle East – North Africa) world. It works with multiple vocabularies and frameworks and produces dialogues and conversations between digital natives, academic and research scholars, practitioners, development agencies and corporate structures to examine the nature and practice of digital natives in emerging contexts from the Global South.

The conversations, research inquiries, reflections, discussions, interviews, and art practices are consolidated in this four part book which deviates from the mainstream imagination of the young people involved in processes of change. The alternative positions, defined by geo-politics, gender, sexuality, class, education, language, etc. find articulations from people who have been engaged in the practice and discourse of technology mediated change. Each part concentrates on one particular theme that helps bring coherence to a wide spectrum of style and content.

Book 1: To Be: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
The first part, To Be, looks at the questions of digital native identities. Are digital natives the same everywhere? What does it mean to call a certain population ‘Digital Natives”? Can we also look at people who are on the fringes – Digital Outcasts, for example? Is it possible to imagine technology-change relationships not only through questions of access and usage but also through personal investments and transformations? The contributions help chart the history, explain the contemporary and give ideas about what the future of technology mediated identities is going to be.

Book 2: To Think: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
In the second section, To Think, the contributors engage with new frameworks of understanding the processes, logistics, politics and mechanics of digital natives and causes. Giving fresh perspectives which draw from digital aesthetics, digital natives’ everyday practices, and their own research into the design and mechanics of technology mediated change, the contributors help us re-think the concepts, processes and structures that we have taken for granted. They also nuance the ways in which new frameworks to think about youth, technology and change can be evolved and how they provide new ways of sustaining digital natives and their causes.

Book 3: To Act: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
To Act is the third part that concentrates on stories from the ground. While it is important to conceptually engage with digital natives, it is also, necessary to connect it with the real life practices that are reshaping the world. Case-studies, reflections and experiences of people engaged in processes of change, provide a rich empirical data set which is further analysed to look at what it means to be a digital native in emerging information and technology contexts.

Book 4: To Connect: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
The last section, To Connect, recognises the fact that digital natives do not operate in vacuum. It might be valuable to maintain the distinction between digital natives and immigrants, but this distinction does not mean that there are no relationships between them as actors of change. The section focuses on the digital native ecosystem to look at the complex assemblage of relationships that support and are amplified by these new processes of technologised change.

(via Luca De Biase)

17 July 2011

New RSA Journal out

RSA Journal
The Summer 2011 edition of the RSA Journal explores the relationship between business and social change.

Brand values
As the social, political and commercial spheres become more intertwined, firms are increasingly finding incentives to look beyond the bottom line. Colin Crouch explores the strong moral and commercial case for corporations to contribute to social good.

The cooperative renaissance
Values-based business models offer a viable alternative to the traditional capitalist approach, argues Peter Marks. What can the public and private sectors learn from these business models in today’s post-recession landscape?

Urban ingenuity
Too often accused of being a breeding ground for poverty and inequality, cities are actually a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurialism and social mobility. It is no coincidence that many of the world’s most successful businesses had their genesis in cities, says Edward Glaeser

The new frontier?
While most social enterprises have yet to become household names, they are well positioned for steady growth, as they have a role to play in public-service provision, believes Geoff Mulgan.

The 21st century prison
Rachel O’Brien outlines the RSA’s plans to build a social enterprise prison that makes it easier for ex-offenders to transition into society and return to work.

The power of proximity
In an age when digital technology connects us on a global scale, entrepreneurial success still depends largely on the networks, resources and demand found in local communities, says Barry Quirk.

Self-made in China
Linda Yueh asks what we can learn from the generation of Chinese entrepreneurs who are driving the country’s rapid economic growth.

Best behaviours
Monique and Sam Sternin discuss how the Positive Deviance approach uses people’s hidden talents to tackle widespread and complex social problems.

David Hume: 300 years on
David Hume is remembered as a thinker who has influenced the way we address social, political and economic challenges. James Harris explains why, three centuries after his birth, David Hume continues to intrigue and inspire his diverse readership.

27 May 2011

Book: The Internet of Elsewhere

The Internet of Elsewhere
The Internet of Elsewhere: The Emergent Effects of a Wired World
by Cyrus Farivar
Rutgers University Press
May 2011

Abstract

Through the lens of culture, The Internet of Elsewhere looks at the role of the Internet as a catalyst in transforming communications, politics, and economics. Cyrus Farivar explores the Internet’s history and effects in four distinct and, to some, surprising societies–Iran, Estonia, South Korea, and Senegal. He profiles Web pioneers in these countries and, at the same time, surveys the environments in which they each work. After all, contends Farivar, despite California’s great success in creating the Internet and spawning companies like Apple and Google, in some areas the United States is still years behind other nations.

Skype was invented in Estonia–the same country that developed a digital ID system and e-voting;Iran was the first country in the world to arrest a blogger, in 2003; South Korea is the most wired country on the planet, with faster and less expensive broadband than anywhere in the United States; Senegal may be one of sub-Saharan Africa’s best chances for greater Internet access.

The Internet of Elsewhere brings forth a new complex and modern understanding of how the Internet spreads globally, with both good and bad effects.

Review by Curt Hopkins in ReadWriteWeb

“Instead of focusing on the capital of the Web, Silicon Valley, or even on one of the Silicon Valleys outside of the original, like Bangalore, India, Farivar has taken a look at our wired world through the lenses of South Korea, Senegal, Estonia and Iran.

There is a tendency to think of the Internet as being a priori and sui generis. This is a new world so powerful and so game-changing that it effects history and culture, no matter where one stands. Farivar’s argument, and it is a well-made one, is that like any other element of the human experience, the Internet is effected by history and culture. If we ignore that fact, if we let ourselves believe that the Internet, not history, is more of a determining factor in our future, we are liable to be surprised by it to an excessive degree.

Each of the places he covers are important to our understanding of the Internet because their histories and cultures have influenced how they have embraced it. In a way, the countries he has chosen to profile are reflections of each other, Senegal of South Korea and Estonia of Iran.”

Read review

7 November 2010

The enabling city

The enabling city
Italian social researcher Chiara Camponeschi has written a fascinating Creative-Commons licensed publication, The Enabling City: Place-Based Creative Problem-Solving and the Power of the Everyday (pdf), an innovative toolkit – also featured on a website – that showcases pioneering initiatives in urban sustainability and open governance.

“I am a firm believer in the power of communities to solve their own needs and contribute to larger processes of change”, says Camponeschi in an article published in The Mobile City.

“The recent graduate of York University based The Enabling City on international research she conducted as part of her Master in Environmental Studies in Toronto, Canada.

“I believe that there are vast amounts of untapped knowledge and creativity out there that we need to unleash to make our cities more open and sustainable”, she continues. The Enabling City exists to document and celebrate the power of inter-actor collaboration and of our everyday experiences in enhancing problem-solving and social innovation worldwide.

The toolkit showcases a total of forty innovative initiatives across six categories: place-making; eating and growing; resource-sharing; learning and socializing; steering and organizing; and financing. Through what she refers to as ‘place-based creative problem-solving’, Camponeschi sketches out an approach to participation that leverages the imagination and inventiveness of citizens, experts, and activists in collaborative efforts that make cities more inclusive, innovative, and interactive.

Through their involvement, creative citizens worldwide demonstrate that citizenship is so much more than duties and taxes it’s about outcome ownership, enablement, and the celebration of the myriad connections that make up the collective landscape of the place(s) we call home. The Enabling City, then, is here to invite us to unleash the power of our creative thinking and to rediscover ‘the power of the everyday.’”

Publication abstract

At its simplest, The Enabling City is a new way of thinking about communities and change.

Guided by principles such as collaboration, innovation and participation, the pioneering initiatives featured in The Enabling City attest to the power of community in stimulating the kind of innovative thinking needed to tackle complex issues ranging from participatory citizenship to urban livability.

We know that markets are no longer the only sources of innovation, and that citizens are capable of more than just voting during election time. We have entered an era where interactive technologies and a renewed idea of citizenship are enabling us to experiment with alternative notions of sustainability and to share knowledge in increasingly dynamic ways. We now see artists working alongside policy makers, policy makers collaborating with citizens, and citizens helping cities diagnose their problems more accurately.

What emerges, then, is a community where the local and global are balanced and mediated by the city at large, and where local resources and know-how are given wider legitimacy as meaningful problem-solving tools in the quest for urban and cultural sustainability.

Here, innovation is intended as a catalyst for social change — a collaborative process through which citizens can be directly involved in shaping the way a project, policy, or service is created and delivered. A shift from control to enablement turns cities into platforms for community empowerment — holistic, living spaces where people make their voices heard and draw from their everyday experiences to affect change.

So be surprised by how walks have the power to make neighbourhoods more vibrant, and how art can be used to convert dull city intersections into safe community spaces. Learn how creative interventions can unleash spaces for reflection and participation, and witness how online resources can lead to offline collaboration and resource-sharing. See how the values of Web 2.0 translate into the birth of the open government and open data movement, and what a holistic approach to financing can bring to local communities and cities alike.

This is what place-based creative problem-solving looks like in action. This is the power of the everyday.

Chiara Camponeschi works at the intersection of interdisciplinary research, social innovation and urban sustainability. She is passionate about the ‘creative citizen’ movement, and is committed to strengthening and supporting networks of grassroots social innovation. Originally from Rome, Italy Chiara has been involved with creative communities in Europe and Canada for over six years. Chiara holds a BA (Hons) in Political Science & Communications Studies, and a Master in Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto, Canada.

2 October 2010

Talk by anthropologist Mimi Ito in Milan

Mimi Ito
Yesterday cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito spoke on the impact of technology on teen and youth culture at the Meet The Media Guru event in Milan, Italy. The video is available online.

Cultural anthropologist, with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, Mimi Ito co-directed the Digital Youth Project, which was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and focused on new m-Learning scenarios. The project has become an important point of reference for those studying the relationship between teens and new media.

The three-year Digital Youth Project researched kids’ and teens’ informal learning through digital media, with a particular focus on the day-to-day use and the impact of these new technologies on learning, play and social interaction.

The results of the project are encapsulated in the report, Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project, and the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media.

Mimi explored a vast range of social activities that are “augmented” by digital technology: online gaming, virtual communities, production and consumptin of children’s software, and the relationship between children and new media.

She is also specialised in amateur content production and peer-to-peer learning.

She teaches at the Department of Informatics of the University of California, Irvine, and at Kejo University in Kanagawa, Japan. She has also worked for the Institute for Research and Learning, Xerox PARC, Tokyo University, the National Institute for Educational Research in Japan, and for Apple Computer.

Her new book on Otaku culture, the Japanese term for children that have an obsessive interest in video games and manga, will be published shortly.

Mimi Ito joined the Wiki Foundation Advisory Board in June of this year.

Watch video (Mimi starts speaking at 19:30)

18 September 2010

All together now, to each his own sync

Anand Giridharadas
New York Times cultural commentator Anand Giridharadas reflects on the fact that as the very idea of mass culture erodes, many people are synced with themselves but unsynced with those around them.

“The digitizing, globalizing world is changing the working of culture. As some see it, cities and nations and continents are losing their common culture, their shared reference points, their zeitgeist: People can no longer count on those around them knowing or cherishing any of the same music or art or films. Others argue that a common culture is not dying so much as changing form: that it is less and less attached to particular terrain and ever more linked to dispersed.”

Read article

23 June 2010

Why we desire, display and design

Nancy Etcoff
Humans around the world wear clothing and accessories to hide their bodies, to emphasise them, even to evoke magic. Indeed, personal ornaments appear to be among the first forms of symbolic communication. US psychologist Nancy Etcoff linked fashion to psychology in the sixth Premsela Lecture: ‘Born to Adorn: Why We Desire, Display and Design’, delivered on 26 May in Amsterdam.

At the yearly Premsela Lecture, a speaker from outside the world of design addresses current developments in the field. The yearly lectures are organised by Premsela, Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion.

“”Dress, clothes and fashion are rare topics in the social sciences,” Etcoff said, “particularly the branch I inhabit, at the intersection of neuroscience and psychology. Perhaps that is because historically, there has been far more interest in reason and the mind than in emotion and the body, in depth rather than surface, [although] dress has as much to do with reason as emotion, as much to do with the mind as the body, and as much to do with our inner depths as our surface.”

She outlined the variety and importance of our reasons for adornment, ending with a call to designers to use science to push fashion further in its enhancement of human well-being.”

Etcoff, author of The Survival of the Prettiest, The Science of Beauty, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Download text of lecture

(via InfoDesign)

26 April 2010

The interviews of l’école de design

CADI
The bilingual (Fr/En) research journal CADI of the highly respected design school L’école de design Nantes/Atlantique in the French city of Nantes is a worthwhile treat, as each issue contains four in-depth interviews with professional authorities who worked with their graduating students. A dedicated blog (also in English) provides extra materials. Here are the highlights:

CADI 2009

“Today flexibility, user-control and end-user programming are key notions in our field.”
Interview with Laurence Nigay, researcher in Computer-Human Interfaces and professor at the University of Grenoble
Laurence Nigay focuses particularly on the human, economic and social issues related to new technologies and the digital economy. She also underlines the essential role of design in the field of “tangible interfaces.

“Design could come into play prior to our activities by contributing to new views and new solutions….”
Interview with Stephen Boucher, public policy consultant
Stephen Boucher, former co-secretary of Notre Europe, a think tank specialising in European politics, and now programme director of the EU Climate Policies Programme (launched by the European Climate Foundation), talks about innovative methods for citizens to debate and make their voices heard. How can we organise information and understand trends?

“In the future techno-literate knowledge architects will be supported by knowledge designers.”
Interview with Henri Samier, researcher in business intelligence and innovation
Henri Samier, head of the Masters in Innovation programme at ISTIA (the engineering school of the University of Angers, France) points out the importance of future research, especially in the field of “economic intelligence”.

“In the food industry, design is the only way to make products stand out.”
Interview with Céline Gallen, marketing researcher
This last interview deals with the changes in our eating habits and how designers collaborate with experts in marketing and semiology in this domain. Céline Gallen teaches marketing at the University of Nantes and studies the mental models of conusmers when purchasing food products.

CADI 2008

“Our future will be shaped by teams of engineers and designers who work hand in hand.”
Interview with Frédéric Kaplan, artificial intelligence researcher
Kaplan, who researches artificial intelligence at the EPFL in Lausanne, talks about how design colludes with artificial intelligence related technologies.

“Design does not anticipate social evolutions nor customs. They start to take shape through it.”
Interview with Annie Hubert, anthropologist
Annie Hubert, an anthropologist specialised in nutrition and eating habits, delves into the topic of how design has become an integral part of our daily lives.

“Medicine that is used more appropriately, thanks to design, will be more efficient.”
Interview with Pascale Gauthier, pharmacy expert
Gauthier explores how design contributes to the evolution of parent/child relationships in pediatric care contexts.

“Even when not dealing with extreme situations, designers must be aware of potential hazards.”
Interview with Marie-Thérèse Neuilly, sociology and psycho-sociology researcher
Neuilly discusses how design can adapt to both natural and technological emergencies.

“We have to engage people to share and create a new history, a new vision of the world.”
Interview with Gaël Guilloux, eco-design researcher
Guilloux, who is a researchers and consultant in eco-design at the Rhône-Alpes Regional Design Centre, talks about how indispensable is to the achievement of sustainable production processes.

“The real challenge is not to conceive user-friendly tools, but to view them within a broader cultural context.”
Interview with Bruno Bachimont, scientific director of the French Audiovisual Institute
How can design explore the cultural and sensitive dimensions of digital legacy, thus going beyond the mere production of functional digital tools? That is the central question in the interview of Bruno Bachimont, scientific director of INA, the French Audiovisual Institute.

Increasingly French design schools like L’école de design and Strate Collège are chosing to provide nearly all its materials also in English, thereby underlining their international ambitions and outreach.

As for the Nantes school, you want to check their programmes on tangible interfaces, ethically responsible innovation, new mobility, virtual reality and “mutations of the built environment“.

Knowing the effort involved, I can only compliment those French design schools for their English language commitments.

26 April 2010

Interactions Magazine – May/June 2010 issue

Interactions
The latest issue of Interactions Magazine is about the spread of design into new areas, write editor Jon Kolko:

“The process of design is spreading into new areas of society and business, and as it does, our work gets more complicated and more rewarding. From the details of our interfaces to the focus of our efforts, this issue describes the complexity of the changing landscape of interactions.”

Here are the articles available for free online:

interactions: Business, Culture, and Society
Jon Kolko
The process of design is spreading into new areas of society and business, and as it does, our work gets more complicated and more rewarding. From the details of our interfaces to the focus of our efforts, this issue describes the complexity of the changing landscape of interactions.

Reframing health to embrace design of our own wellbeing
Rajiv Mehta, Shelley Evenson, Paul Pangaro, Hugh Dubberly
This article describes a growing trend: framing health in terms of well-being and broadening health-care to include self-management. Self-management reframes patients as designers, an example of a shift also occurring in design practice – reframing users as designers. The article concludes with thoughts on what these changes may mean when designing for health.

Depth over breadth: designing for impact locally, and for the long haul
Emily Pilloton
In the past few years, we designers have acknowledged the imperatives of sustainability and design for the greater good, and responded by launching initiatives that are often rife with widespread cheerleading rather than deep, meaningful work. [Yet] I firmly believe that lasting impact requires all three of the following: proximity (simply being there, in the place you seek to design with and for), empathic investment (a personal and emotional stake in collective prosperity), and pervasiveness (the opposite of scattershot – involvement that has impact at multiple scales).

Solving the world’s problems through design
Nadav Savio
Design Revolution is a fantastic sourcebook of inspiring designs and creative problem solving and a deeply humanistic call to arms. Pilloton wants nothing less than for designers to focus their energy, knowledge, and talent on making people’s lives better.

Natural user interfaces are not natural
Don Norman
Gestural systems are no different from any other form of interaction. They need to follow the basic rules of interaction design, which means well-defined modes of expression, a clear conceptual model of the way they interact with the system, their consequences, and means of navigating unintended consequences. As a result, means of providing feedback, explicit hints as to possible actions, and guides for how they are to be conducted are required.

Making face: practices and interpretations of avatars in everyday media
Liz Danzico
We’re starting to see more and more experiences that weave avatar with message, pairing the expression of intent with content. How will the mix of image and message further proliferate through everyday life? Will the image stand for the message or will face work still be work? What will be socially acceptable, and will new etiquettes emerge in segments that cross personal, professional, and mixed boundaries?

The ubiquitous and increasingly significant status message
Bernard J. Jansen, Abdur Chowdury, Geoff Cook
The status message has evolved from its lowly beginnings into a multidimensional feature and service addressing numerous social needs.

Back to the future: bleeding-edge IVR
Ahmed Bouzid, Weiye Ma
The glaring disconnect between what companies aim to achieve in deploying interactive voice response (IVR) systems (better customer service) and what they actually do achieve (customer frustration) can be squarely laid on the shoulders of shabby voice user interface (VUI) design and implementation. The vast majority of today’s IVRs are, simply put, shamefully unusable, and customers detest them.

Intentional communication: expanding our definition of user experience design
Kristina Halvorson
Design and content. Content and design. It’s impossible (and stupid) to argue over which one is more important than the other – which should come first, which is more difficult or “strategic.” They need each other to provide context, meaning, information, and instruction in any user experience (UX).

Content strategy for everybody (even you)
Karen McGrane
When done the wrong way, creating new content and managing the approval process takes longer and is more painful than anyone expects. But planning for useful, usable content is possible – and necessary. It’s time to do it right.

interactions cafe: on language and potential
Jon Kolko
The more we carefully select our words, the more comfortable we’ll be in making the wholesale shift toward the emerging role of design in healthcare – and in other arenas where social responsibility is growing, and designers are able to value the whole person.

16 January 2010

Good: the Slow Issue

The Slow Issue
Good, the collaborative magazine, has published its “Slow Issue” with perspectives on a smarter, better and slower future:

“At its simplest, slow stands for a focus on quality, authenticity, and longevity rather than a mindless adherence to the faster and cheaper ethos.

This issue is about planning not only for tomorrow, but for the next year, and the next generation. Because if progress isn’t permanent, can it even be called progress at all?”

Here are the longer articles:

Hurry up and wait
We asked some of the world’s most prominent futurists — Julian Bleecker (Nokia/Near Future Laboratory), Esther Dyson, Jamais Cascio (Worldchanging), Bruce Sterling, John Maeda (RISD), and Alexander Rose (Long Now Foundation) — to explain why slowness might be as important to the future as speed.

Slow burn
Money—not the paper stuff in your wallet, but the bits of data that whip around the world in billions of instantaneous transactions each day—moves too fast.

Built to last
Designer/inventor Saul Griffith argues that we need to stop buying things and then throwing them away so quickly. In short, we need more “heirloom design.”

Mass reduction
Welcome to slowLab, a collective of designers applying a cradle-to-cradle philosophy to consumer goods.

Turning the tables
Tracing the slow-food movement back to its feisty Italian roots.

Pushing the limits
In Oregon, radical antisprawl laws aim to save the state’s bucolic paradises. But with land-hungry suburbs on the prowl, can these goats be saved?

8 January 2010

A Creative Commons inspired barter market in Turin, Italy

Senza Moneta
Two articles from today’s La Stampa newspaper (translation by Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia):

Bargains without money
Luca Indemni – Fabrizio Vespa

“Leave your wallet at home” – that could be the slogan of the Gifts Without Money (“Regali Senza Moneta”) initiative organised by the ManaMana’ association in collaboration with the local San Salvario development agency and about fifteen other local associations. It will all take place this Sunday from 10am to 6pm in Piazza Madama Cristina, Turin, Italy.

Even though there are now a huge number of ideas on how to best face the economic crisis, this initiative is of another level altogether, as the event goes beyond the narrow idea of barter and promotes the concept of a real exchange. Scheduled immediately after the Christmas holidays, the initiative provides people with an opportunity to free themselves of less wanted gifts, bringing them to the market and putting them back in circulation. “Our market is not a real market,” explains Filippo Dionisio, President of ManaMana’ – in the sense that money is banned. We want to go beyond the commercial concept of barter, which is often seen as a precursor to money, and to affirm instead the value of exchange, where such exchange can also be immaterial and cover connections and relationships between people.” That’s why the “SenzaMoneta” event should be seen first of all as a meeting between people, where goods, products and also knowledge can be exchanged without any money passing hands, thereby also limiting any possible waste.

How does it work – Those wanting to particpate in the event have to bring something that can be exchanged, which can also include a skill or a knowledge service. Stalls are available and these can be booked by sending a mail to senzamoneta(at)manamana.it. “During recent SenzaMoneta events that we organised in the city,” continues Donisie, “we have seen some really fun things: dinner invitations in exchange for objects, or a live one-hour long music performance in exchange for a one hour plumber intervention. The whole idea is to go beyond the idea of the financial value of things, but rather exchange them with whatever our free immagination can come up with.”

Objects and services – On the covered Madama Cristina market, you can also find a range of services, such as the Bicycle Office, where you can get small bike repairs done, an initiative devoted to the recycling and reuse of PC’s, a special exchange zone for children, a Creative Commons based music exchange, as well as stalls with zero-kilometre food such as polenta and hot wine. “Our objective,” concludes the event organiser, “is to provide more space to people’s time and to demonstrate that one can do many things without adhering to a logic of ‘consumption at all costs’ and without thinking about money.” More information on www.manamana.it

A show room to recycle unwanted gifts

Exchange, barter and ‘do-it-yourself’ make you save money, but not just that. “When you are in a situation where you can’t use money,” explains Daniela Calisi of the ManaMana’ association, “you have to put yourself at stake, relate to the other and create a connection with him or her.” Therefore, the exchange is both an invitation to more enlightened consumption, but also a social opportunity to create connections with other city inhabitants. That’s at least the idea behind the SenzaMoneta markets that ManaMana organises every 3-4 months in the city.

During the remainder of the year, the no-cost supporters can also find tools online for exchange and barter.

Interesting proposals and offers can be found on www.bakeca.it, in the section “varie-regali-baratto” (“various gifts and barter”), or one can become a member of the group Freecycle, a platform dedicated to all those who prefer to recycle an object, rather than throw it away. These sites cover everything, from a piano seat to an old door, as long as they are in good condition. Be aware though that all things on offer on the Freecycle site are available for free.

Other interesting solutions, mostly connected to clothing exchange, are the so-called “swapping parties”, which are not just about meeting people and having fun, but also about exchanging and bartering clothes and accessories, events that often taken place when the seasons are about to change. So if you want to completely redo your wardrobe without spending money, the only thing you have to do is organise such a party, as Anna and Genny Colombotto Rosso have been doing for some time now in Turin. You can find valuable suggestions on the greenMe site under “consumare” and “riciclo e riuso”.

The swapping parties tend to be organised by and for women, without garments for men, even though these could provide some interesing gift ideas. Often the parties come with a small buffet that – always in the same spirit – are based on people bringing some food from their homes. What is crucial is that participants bring along some cleanly washed clothing in good condition. Also important is to have a space in the party home where the clothing can be shown, possibly organised by size, so that active participation is guaranteed. Finally, to create a smooth process, it is good to have some kind of rule on who can start. Once the garment has been fitted and chosen, it is removed from the “show room”. Whatever is not exchanged at the end of the party, is donated to a used clothing outlet or a non profit organisation, such as the San Vincenzo of Via Nizza, where they can make good use of such garments and assure their longer life.

And for those who can’t wait for the next swapping party, there is always the Internet. Check swapstyle and barattopoli.