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Posts in category 'Culture'

25 December 2009

When professionals get culture shock

Culture shock
Nokia user researcher Jan Chipchase reflects on the issue of culture shock, a condition that can even affect professionals whose livelihood depends on being able to travel the globe and decode the nuances of what they experience.

“I’ve seen first hand and have on occasion experienced the symptoms of culture shock include: increased irritability; becoming hypercritical of locals and local practices; withdrawal – in particularly spending long time resting or in bed; physiological reactions; and excessive eating, drinking or drug use.”

Read full story

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)

8 September 2009

Organizational Culture 101: a practical how-to for interaction designers

Culture 101
“To navigate the landscape of organizational culture interaction designers need a set of practical tools, language & knowledge drawn from the world of cultural anthropology.” That is the core of the argument of Sam Ladner on the Johnny Holland blog.

“Interaction designers are accustomed to discerning individual preferences, particularly for interactivity. But they may not be as well versed in understanding cultural preferences. Anthropology offers us a very clear framework for mapping cultures against key values.”

Read full story

27 July 2009

Conceptual consumption

Consumed
An article in the New York Times Magazine brought me to an interesting article by behavioural economist Daniel Ariely, who has been featured previously on this blog:

“Anybody who is honest about consumer behavior knows that often what we buy is not simply some thing but some idea that is embodied by that thing. “Conceptual consumption” is the name given to this practice in a recent paper with that title by Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University (and author of the book “Predictably Irrational”), and Michael Norton, an assistant professor of marketing at the Harvard Business School, in The Annual Review of Psychology. Their notion has various subsets, one of which is the consumption of goals.”

Conceptual Consumption
by Dan Ariely (Duke University) and Michael I. Norton (Harvard Business School)
Annual Review of Psychology 2009. 60:475–99

Abstract
As technology has simplified meeting basic needs, humans have cultivated increasingly psychological avenues for occupying their consumption energies, moving from consuming food to consuming concepts; we propose that consideration of such “conceptual consumption” is essential for understanding human consumption. We first review how four classes of conceptual consumption—consuming expectancies, goals, fluency, and regulatory fit—impact physical consumption. Next, we benchmark the power of conceptual consumption against physical consumption, reviewing research in which people forgo positive physical consumption—and even choose negative physical consumption–in order to engage in conceptual consumption. Finally, we outline how conceptual consumption informs research examining both preference formation and virtual consumption, and how it may be used to augment efforts to enhance consumer welfare.”

A shorter article on the same theme and by the same authors can be found on the Harvard Business Review.

18 July 2009

Technology for more than one language, please

Earth
Technological tools are not made for people who speak more than one language, and there are many of us: immigrants, travellers, polyglots, emerging market facilitators, people from smaller language communities … In fact, people who are not Anglo-Saxon frequently use more than one language.

But technology is not made for us.

Although computers have operating systems in many languages, once you have chosen one of them you are completely locked in: support in any other language means going through complicated menus that are usually not immediately reachable and that have way too many options (e.g. every time I change my spell check language I have to select between ALL languages, not just between those that I actually speak); key widgets are available in the main OS language only (try installing an English language Apple dictionary/thesaurus on your Mac, while also installing an Italian and a Dutch one); going through user forums; or relying on the web.

Nokia, which is a company that should know better (as Finnish is only spoken by 6 million people), is not much of an example either. European phones come pre-installed with dictionary support for language regions (no help if you are a Belgian living in Italy), and it is nearly impossible to change that unless you start mucking around with the firmware of the phone. Even changing my T9 language support during messaging from let’s say English to Italian takes me at least 8 clicks (Options > 4 down on the list: Writing language > 3 down on the list: Italiano).

In the end you end up messing around, tinkering, hacking solutions together, struggling and being frustrated.

Has there been any research on this? Any article? Any best practices?

5 July 2009

The future of money

Stowe Boyd
Stowe Boyd, an internationally recognised authority on social applications and their impact on business, media, and society, launched a new interview series examining the future of money.

The series is sponsored in part by Neo.org, a non-profit he is working with. Because of Neo’s efforts toward defining and implementing a new digital currency, Boyd hopes that a series on the future of money might line up well, and draw some attention to Neo’s efforts.

Each interview comes with a video and a bulleted set of highlights.

Christian Nold and The Bijlmer Euro
In this interview Christian Nold, an artist, designer and educator working to develop new participatory models for communal representation, discusses his project in the Bijlmer area in South East Amsterdam, where he aimed to develop a prototype system for an alternative local currency that could support local development and work in conjunction with the Euro.

Bruce Sterling
“When you are interested in magic, you might want to talk to a witch doctor, so when I started to think about the future of money, I thought I should talk to a science fiction author. Who better? As it so happens, I know one,” writes Boyd.
Bruce was kind enough to mention me [i.e. Mark Vanderbeeken], our company and the recent KashKlash project we did with Heather Moore and the Vodafone UE Group.

Alternative currencies: Is small the new big?
This third piece reflects on the value of alternative currencies, starting with the following two questions:
1. Does an alternative currency have to be in large scale use? Is it possible for it to be a ‘success’ at small scale?
2. Do alternative currencies have to stand for something? Do they have to represent a strong position on some issue or social cause?

Intangible Money + Cell Network Banks = Secure Money
Olga Morawczynski is a doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh, posting some of her work on mobile banking in Africa at the CGAP (Consultive Group to Assist the Poor) website. She noted that the normal flow of fund transfers in Kenya — from the cities to rural relatives — reversed during recent violence there.

Richard Smith and the Dollar ReDe$ign Project
Richard’s deep motivation was to help restart the economy, and the means? Redesigning our money, and rebranding it, to shift our thinking and to help the little bits of paper in our pockets act as a sort of social catalyst for change. He set up the project in the form of a contest, and received dozens of truly wonderful designs.

And there is more to come still…

2 July 2009

Steelcase research insights

Sonata
Two interesting articles on recent Steelcase research, and particularly on the challenge of how to best gather relevant insights from qualitative research:

How to find insights from your research
You did the interviews, got the photos, and compiled the reams of data. Now what? A Steelcase experience could guide your next innovation project.
Jessie Scanlon – Fast Company

“The four-member group based in the Grand Rapids (Mich.) headquarters of the office furniture giant was studying the experience of cancer patients, and had spent months interviewing and photographing doctors and patients in oncology units at nine hospitals across the country. [...]

Standing before all of this material, the Steelcase health research team faced the challenge of every innovation team after the initial research stage: how to tease useful insights out of all of this disparate data.”

Workspring & the workplace of the future
John F. Schneider tries to understand how Workspring, a recent offering from Steelcase that gets to the heart of the collaborative meeting and events space, can be seen as a physical reflection of their research into the workplace and into meeting dynamics and interactions.

“There seems to be a unified focus at Steelcase on user centered design and the development of holistic systems informed by thorough observation and research. This informs the ways in which Steelcase engages its customers and partners to result in greater value creation, and relevance in an industry that works hard to rise above a commodity mindset.”

Also take note that Steelcase just published the ‘Office Code‘, a research about ‘building connections between cultures and workplace design’.

“As multi-national organizations increasingly employ workers from a variety of countries under one roof, they are often faced with culture clashes between employees rooted in their national differences. Upon completion of a three-year exploration study on the relationship between national culture and office space, Steelcase, a global office environments manufacturer, releases the “Office Code”. This book is designed to help companies successfully integrate workers who think differently at work.

The research spans six European countries – the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Spain – and shows that national culture and physical office space are not always in harmony, due to pressing economic constraints or the adoption of traditional office configurations. From the impact of meeting start times – for example in Germany it is essential to be on time, whereas in Italy, being late is acceptable or expected – to the message of a closed door signalling a need for privacy or nothing at all, the “Office Code” addresses how the nuances between different cultures under one roof can inform space planners to maximize collaboration and communication.”

25 June 2009

Practices around privacy (and Nokia)

Tehran
A few days into the brouhaha about Nokia-Siemens Networks equipment being used for surveillance in Iran, Nokia user researcher Jan Chipchase reflects on the controversy, and delves into the subject of privacy.

“In the past few years our research into how people communicate, how they capture and share experiences has repeatedly touched on issues around privacy, security and trust.”

Jan then continues in sharing with us “10 relatively modest insights drawn from studies of mainstream users around the world”. They confront us with some broader issues, raise many questions, and are a strongly recommended read.

Read full story

19 June 2009

UK report on how cities use innovation to tackle social challenges

Breakthrough Cities
British Council press release:

Breakthrough cities is a groundbreaking report on how cities can mobilise creativity and knowledge to tackle compelling social challenges. The report was commissioned by the British Council from the Young Foundation. Geoff Mulgan and Charles Leadbeater, established international experts in social innovation and creativity, are major contributors.

The Breakthrough cities report is a unique resource for anyone working in the field of city policy – policy makers, consultants, public employees, workers in the arts or education sectors, NGOs, or simply private individuals committed to improving city lives. It provides inspiring ideas, understanding and guidance that can help make cities better places to live in.

Download report (1.4 mb)
Transforming Public Spaces – some ideas from the UK (3.1 mb)

14 June 2009

Italians say goodbye to property

Dress sharing
Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reports today on the growing phenomenon of renting products rather than buying them:

“[...] But the real revolution is that renting is becoming a way of life which is changing consumption and society. Car sharing, bike sharing, i.e. quick rentals of cars and bikes, but also dress sharing, i.e. the rental of clothes and handbags. There is toy sharing: children toys, small machines, lego, and puzzles. Even tools for the disabled, wheelchairs, orthopaedic supports, computers, and whatever you might need in the gym, sports or vacation. You don’t need to buy, you can just rent.” [My translation]

The article provides many examples, with products both aimed at companies and at private individuals: from construction cranes to umbrellas, and from Ferraris to digital cameras. You can even rent vegetable gardens and land workers who will take care of a small patch of garden for a couple of euros a day, and deliver your vegetables at home.

No less than five websites are specialised in this new cultural phenomenon: NoleggioTutto, Noleggiando, Italnolo, ItaliaNoleggio and Noleggio.it (the word “noleggio” means rent or rental).

13 May 2009

Us Now

Us Now
Watch this excellent 1 hour documentary film about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet.

“In his student flat in Colchester, Jack Howe is staring intently into his computer screen. He is picking the team for Ebbsfleet United’s FA Trophy Semi-Final match against Aldershot . Around the world 35,000 other fans are doing the same thing, because together, they own and manage the football club. If distributed networks of people can run complex organisations such as football clubs, what else can they do?

Us Now takes a look at how this type of participation could transform the way that countries are governed. It tells the stories of the online networks whose radical self-organising structures threaten to change the fabric of government forever.

Us Now follows the fate of Ebbsfleet United, a football club owned and run by its fans; Zopa, a bank in which everyone is the manager; and Couch Surfing, a vast online network whose members share their homes with strangers.

The founding principles of these projects — transparency, self-selection, open participation — are coming closer and closer to the mainstream of our social and political lives. Us Now describes this transition and confronts politicians George Osborne and Ed Milliband with the possibilities for participative government as described by Don Tapscott and Clay Shirky amongst others.”

CONTRIBUTORS: Don Tapscott, Ed Miliband, William Heath, Martin Sticksl, Lee Bryant, Tom Steinberg, Charles Leadbeater, George Osborne, Saul Albert, Mikey Weinkove, Sunny Hundal, Sophia Parker, JP Rangaswami, Paul Miller, Becky Hogge, Matthew Taylor, MT Rainy, Giles Andrews, Clay Shirky, Paul Miller, Sane Kelly, Liam Daish

Us Now project website
Us Now blog
Us Now video (Vimeo)

10 May 2009

Book: Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing

Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing
Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing: The next-generation Internet’s impact on business, governance and social interaction
J.D. Lasica
The Aspen Institute, 2009

Smart Mobs reports:
“Recently, The Aspen Institute has published an eBook which some say is possibly the best report on cloud computing ever published. Written by J.D. Lasica, Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing: The next-generation Internet’s impact on business, governance and social interaction is the result of the Seventeenth Annual Roundtable on Information Technology which included 30 experts in identity and technology with notable contributors such as John Seely Brown and Esther Dyson. This is a MUST read for anyone attempting to decipher and understand the ramifications of the cloud on a societal level.”

Here is the abstract:
“Identity in the Age of Cloud Computing: The next-generation Internet’s impact on business, governance and social interaction” examines the migration of information, software and identity into the Cloud and explores the transformative possibilities of this new computing paradigm for culture, commerce and personal communication. The report also considers potential consequences for privacy, governance and security, and it includes policy recommendations and advice for the new presidential administration. Written by J.D. Lasica, the report is the result of the Seventeenth Annual Roundtable on Information Technology.

Download e-book

7 May 2009

In cellphone, India reveals an essence

Anand
Anand Giridharadas, South Asia correspondent at International Herald Tribune, describes what makes the cellphone special in India, and what it means for democracy.

“The cellphone appeals deeply to the Indian psychology, to the spreading desire for personal space and voice, not in defiance of the family and tribe but in the chaotic midst of it.

Imagine what it was like, back in the Pre-cellular Age, to be young in a traditional household. People are everywhere. Doors are open. Judgments fly. Bedrooms are shared. Phones are centrally located.

The cellphone serves, then, as a technology of individuation. On the cellphone, you are your own person. No one answers your calls or reads your messages. Your number is just yours.”

Read full story

30 April 2009

A selection of CHI2009 papers

CHI2009 proceedings cover
Today I spent some time looking through the CHI 2009 papers. Here is a personal selection (and you need an ACM membership to access them):

A comparative study of speech and dialed input voice interfaces in rural India
Neil Patel, Sheetal Agarwal, Nitendra Rajput, Amit Nanavati, Paresh Dave, Tapan S. Parikh
In this paper we present a study comparing speech and dialed input voice user interfaces for farmers in Gujarat, India. We ran a controlled, between-subjects experiment with 45 participants. We found that the task completion rates were significantly higher with dialed input, particularly for subjects under age 30 and those with less than an eighth grade education. Additionally, participants using dialed input demonstrated a significantly greater performance improvement from the first to final task, and reported less difficulty providing input to the system.

Sacred imagery in techno-spiritual design
Susan P. Wyche, Kelly E. Caine, Benjamin K. Davison, Shwetak N. Patel, Michael Arteaga, Rebecca E. Grinter
Despite increased knowledge about how Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are used to support religious and spiritual practices, designers know little about how to design technologies for faith-related purposes. Our research suggests incorporating sacred imagery into techno-spiritual applications can be useful in guiding development. We illustrate this through the design and evaluation of a mobile phone application developed to support Islamic prayer practices. Our contribution is to show how religious imagery can be used in the design of applications that go beyond the provision of functionality to connect people to the experience of religion.

A comparison of mobile money-transfer UIs for non-literate and semi-literate users
Indrani Medhi, S.N. Nagasena Gautama, Kentaro Toyama
Due to the increasing penetration of mobile phones even into poor communities, mobile payment schemes could bring formal financial services to the “unbanked”. However, because poverty for the most part also correlates with low levels of formal education, there are questions as to whether electronic access to complex financial services is enough to bridge the gap, and if so, what sort of UI is best.
In this paper, we present two studies that provide preliminary answers to these questions. We first investigated the usability of existing mobile payment services, through an ethnographic study involving 90 subjects in India, Kenya, the Philippines and South Africa. This was followed by a usability study with another 58 subjects in India, in which we compared non-literate and semi-literate subjects on three systems: text-based, spoken dialog (without text), and rich multimedia (also without text). Results confirm that non-text designs are strongly preferred over text-based designs and that while task-completion rates are better for the rich multimedia UI, speed is faster and less assistance is required on the spoken-dialog system.

Comparing semiliterate and illiterate users’ ability to transition from audio+text to text-only interaction
Leah Findlater, Ravin Balakrishnan, Kentaro Toyama
Multimodal interfaces with little or no text have been shown to be useful for users with low literacy. However, this research has not differentiated between the needs of the fully illiterate and semiliterate – those who have basic literacy but cannot read and write fluently. Text offers a fast and unambiguous mode of interaction for literate users and the exposure to text may allow for incidental improvement of reading skills. We conducted two studies that explore how semiliterate users with very little education might benefit from a combination of text and audio as compared to illiterate and literate users. Results show that semiliterate users reduced their use of audio support even during the first hour of use and over several hours this reduction was accompanied by a gain in visual word recognition; illiterate users showed no similar improvement. Semiliterate users should thus be treated differently from illiterate users in interface design.

StoryBank: mobile digital storytelling in a development context
David M. Frohlich, Dorothy Rachovides, Kiriaki Riga, Ramnath Bhat, Maxine Frank, Eran Edirisinghe, Dhammike Wickramanayaka, Matt Jones, Will Harwood
Mobile imaging and digital storytelling currently support a growing practice of multimedia communication in the West. In this paper we describe a project which explores their benefit in the East, to support non-textual information sharing in an Indian village. Local audiovisual story creation and sharing activities were carried out in a one month trial, using 10 customized cameraphones and a digital library of stories represented on a village display. The findings show that the system was usable by a cross-section of the community and valued for its ability to express a mixture of development and community information in an accessible form. Lessons for the role of HCI in this context are also discussed.

Designable visual markers
Enrico Costanza, Jeffrey Huang
Visual markers are graphic symbols designed to be easily recognised by machines. They are traditionally used to track goods, but there is increasing interest in their application to mobile HCI. By scanning a visual marker through a camera phone users can retrieve localised information and access mobile services.
One missed opportunity in current visual marker systems is that the markers themselves cannot be visually designed, they are not expressive to humans, and thus fail to convey information before being scanned. This paper provides an overview of d-touch, an open source system that allows users to create their own markers, controlling their aesthetic qualities. The system runs in real-time on mobile phones and desktop computers. To increase computational efficiency d-touch imposes constraints on the design of the markers in terms of the relationship of dark and light regions in the symbols. We report a user study in which pairs of novice users generated between 3 and 27 valid and expressive markers within one hour of being introduced to the system, demonstrating its flexibility and ease of use.

“When I am on Wi-Fi, I am fearless”: privacy concerns & practices in everyday Wi-Fi use
Predrag Klasnja, Sunny Consolvo, Jaeyeon Jung, Benjamin M. Greenstein, Louis LeGrand, Pauline Powledge, David Wetherall
Increasingly, users access online services such as email, e-commerce, and social networking sites via 802.11-based wireless networks. As they do so, they expose a range of personal information such as their names, email addresses, and ZIP codes to anyone within broadcast range of the network. This paper presents results from an exploratory study that examined how users from the general public understand Wi-Fi, what their concerns are related to Wi-Fi use, and which practices they follow to counter perceived threats. Our results reveal that while users understand the practical details of Wi-Fi use reasonably well, they lack understanding of important privacy risks. In addition, users employ incomplete protective practices which results in a false sense of security and lack of concern while on Wi-Fi. Based on our results, we outline opportunities for technology to help address these problems.
Predrag Klasnja, Sunny Consolvo, Jaeyeon Jung, Benjamin M. Greenstein, Louis LeGrand, Pauline Powledge, David Wetherall

Sharing empty moments: design for remote couples
Danielle Lottridge, Nicolas Masson, Wendy Mackay
Many couples are forced to live apart, for work, school or other reasons. This paper describes our study of 13 such couples and what they lack from existing communication technologies. We explored what they wanted to share (presence, mood, environment, daily events and activities), how they wanted to share (simple, lightweight, playful, pleasant interaction), and when they wanted to share (‘empty moments’ such as waiting, walking, taking a break, waking up, eating, and going to sleep). ‘Empty moments’ provide a compelling new opportunity for design, requiring subtlety and flexibility to enable participants to share connection without explicit messages. We designed MissU as a technology probe to study empty moments in situ. Similar to a private radio station, MissU shares music and background sounds. Field studies produced results relevant to social science, technology and design: couples with established routines were comforted; characteristics such as ambiguity and ‘movable’ technology (situated in the home yet portable) provide support. These insights suggest a design space for supporting the sharing of empty moments.

19 March 2009

Good design at Metropolis

Good Design
The March issue of Metropolis is focused on products with the theme of Good Design.

Several articles are fitting quite well with the topic of this blog:

What is good design?
By Peter Hall
The 20th-century definition of “good design” was driven primarily by form. Today the stakes are too high, and the world too complex, for a superficial response.

Good Is Sustainable (“Bending the Reeds” by Julie Taraska)
Good Is Accessible (“Updating a Workhorse”, an article on the Perkins Brailler by Kristi Cameron)
Good Is Functional (“Redefining Design” by Jennifer Kabat)
Good Is Well Made (“In Praise of the Supernormal”, Paul Makovsky interviews Jasper Morrison)
Good Is Emotionally Resonant (“Selective Memories”, Donald Norman on creating an evocative user experience)
Good Is Enduring (“Mari on Mari”, a profile on Enzo Mari by Martin C. Pedersen)
Good Is Socially Beneficial (“Products For a New Age”, Ken Shulman on how to deal with the world’s most vexing problems)
Good Is Beautiful (“Empty Promise”, a profile of Muji by Mason Currey)
Good Is Ergonomic (“A Call to Arms”, Suzanne LaBarre on the design of prosthetics)
Good Is Affordable (“Banal Genius”, Paul Makovsky on Sam Hecht’s intriguing Under a Fiver collection)

The New Reality
Motor City Blues (Michael Silverberg on the Detroit three)
Graduating Class (students completing ten top industrial-design programs talk about their career plans)
Surviving the Storm (Belinda Lanks on how retailers look for new ways to attract shoppers in a hostile business climate)

Within the Product of No Product
By John Hockenberry
What are the implications for industrial designers if the strongest consumer impulse becomes not buying?

Product Panic: 2009
By Bruce Sterling
What’s an industrial designer to do in the midst of economic chaos? Our columnist offers some career advice.

Rekindling the Book
By Karrie Jacobs
Can Amazon’s new digital reader do for print what the iPod did for music?

(via Designing for Humans)

13 March 2009

Designing the democratic

Jamie Owen
Jamie Owen, a visual information specialist for a training arm of the USA Department of Veterans Affairs argues on Boxes and Arrows that thinking outside of our own cultural influences can strengthen our design decisions.

“The role of the information architect (IA), interaction designer, or user experience (UX) designer is to help create architecture and interactions which will impact the user in constructive, meaningful ways. Sometimes the design choices are strategic and affect a broad interaction environment; other times they may be tactical and detailed, affecting few. But sometimes the design choices we make are not good enough for the users we’re trying to reach. Often a sense of democratic responsibility is missing in the artifacts and experiences which result from our designs and decisions. [...]”

“I’d like to discuss several elements of democratic responsibility we might have some control over, touching briefly on potentially deeper implications for the design decisions we make. It’s folly to try to establish a canon of best practices in this regard because each of us is informed by a unique roster of experiences—personal, professional, and cultural—when making decisions that influence the user experience. Instead, I am suggesting that we get in the habit of reflecting on our decisions with special attention to the degree to which we are meeting our democratic responsibility.”

Read full story

10 March 2009

An anthropologist gone techno

Jukka Jouhki
Jukka Jouhki (blog), an anthropologist and post-doc researcher at the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, has a particular interest in technology.

He is currently doing research on South Korean new media culture (2006-2009), human-technology interaction, cultural aspects of new media and ubiquitous society visions.

Check these two recent papers:

A Modern Fetish: The Value of the Mobile Phone in South Korean Youth Culture
DRAFT for a paper to be presented at IADIS Multi Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems, 17 – 23 June 2009, Algarve.
This paper attempts to analyze the cultural significance of the mobile phone to the youths living in Seoul. It is based on the observation data produced by a group of communication students at Seoul National University. The paper presents the students’ observations on mobile phone use in the public and urban context of Seoul area as well as the students’ personal reflections on the subject. The paper further discusses the mobile phone as a significant element of Korean youth culture and, further, of the contemporary modern society.

Keeping in Touch: Notes on the Mobile Communication Culture of Korean Youth
DRAFT ONLY for Sonja Kangas (ed.): Communication Acrobatics, forthcoming in 2009
Discusses South Korean youth and their mobile communication culture. Based on participant observation and interviews conducted by Korean university students.

13 February 2009

Kazys Varnelis’ new book on network culture

Kazys Varnelis
Kazys Varnelis [CV | blog], the author of Networked Publics and the Director of the Network Architecture Lab at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, is writing a new book and posting drafts online.

“My current research project—already well underway—is a book that sets out to synthesize a historical understanding of our era, coming to terms with the changed conditions in culture, subjectivity, ideology, and aesthetics that characterize our new, networked age. I explore how the network is not merely a technology with social ramifications but rather unites changes in society, economy, aesthetics, and ideology.

Just as the machine made modern industrialization possible and also acted as a model for a rationalized, compartmentalized modern society while the programmable computer served the same role for the flexible socioeconomic milieu of postmodernism, today the network not only connects the world, it reconfigures our relationship to it. In this book I will argue that many of the key tenets of culture since the Enlightenment: the subject, the novel, the public sphere, are being radically reshaped.”

Read full story

(via Bruce Sterling)

24 January 2009

Mission 2.0: advice for arts & cultural organisations from the social web

Gunatillake
Rohan Gunatillake of NESTA Connect highlights three principal drivers as being behind the new wave of online activity: the low barriers to participation, the thirst for conversation and the power of collaboration.

“Let’s look in turn at the general lesson each of them has to share and then what specific steps arts & cultural organisations can explore to take advantage of the opportunities they present.”

Read full story

2 November 2008

Everyday Digital Money workshop at UC Irvine

Everyday Digital Money
The Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Irvine recently organised a workshop on innovation in digital money, entitled Everyday Digital Money.

The workshop examined this emerging, complex, and unevenly distributed landscape of digital money innovation from cultural, psychological, legal, artistic, technological, and industrial perspectives, in order to identify key topics for future research within and across disciplines; such as:

  • M-banking, m-payment, and electronic remittance systems
  • Design tradeoffs; e.g., security/accountability vs. accessibility/empowerment
  • Financial literacies and numeracies
  • Regulatory conflicts and opportunities
  • Formal and informal experimentation with new electronic moneys
  • Connections to physical and virtual mobilities

The workshop blog contains a lot of materials, including the presentation abstracts of each of the sessions:

Some papers and presentation slides are available on various websites, including

Further browsing unearthed additional resources such as: