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Posts in category 'Culture'

31 October 2008

Nokia on somebody else’s phone

Somebody else's phone
Somebody else’s phone is a new Nokia campaign advertised in London that does a great job of depicting the life of an early to mid twenty year-old through their text messages, MMS and pictures.

(via Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino)

4 October 2008

Mobile Revolutions

Mobile revolutions
Mobile Revolutions is a great blog about mobile phones, youth and social change by Lisa Campbell, that I discovered via Mobile Active. What’s more, she has actually taken the time to write a lengthy, seriously researched and in-depth paper to dwell on the subjects that are dear to her (and important to us).

“In this paper I outline the transformative power of new media technologies in Latin American contexts as tools for social change, comparing examples of youth digital activism from both Costa Rican and Panamanian contexts. Focusing on two types of Social Media, both Social Networks and Mobile Communication are examined as tools for Central American youth activists. In my conclusion I summarize the effects of national media policies, the situation of the digital divide and its effect on media democracy. The powerful nature of Citizen Media illustrates how overcoming the digital divide can produce democratic access to the media and societies’ larger institutions for social change.”

You can read it in one go, or split out over four chapters:

22 September 2008

In the Netherlands, ‘Big Brother’ cafe watches what you eat

Cloud commons
The Restaurant of the Future at the University of Wageningen investigates the influences on eating behaviour and carries out studies for the food industry. Ceiling cameras record not only what food you selected, but what you almost selected and how long you paused before deciding. Facial recognition software analyses your level of enjoyment.

The $4.5 million Restaurant of the Future is run by scientists of Wageningen University and Research Center, working with Sodexo, an international catering firm, and the Noldus software company, to answer questions from the food industry and behaviorists. [...]

Research on consumer behavior has been around since marketing began. Cornell University professor Brian Wansink has published popular works in the United States on how to fight obesity through food psychology, and runs a lab designed to look like a kitchen on the Cornell campus. McDonald’s has done confidential studies on its own customers.

But with its spy machines, databases and battery of analysts, the Wageningen project, with 42 companies participating, is meant to take the study of eating to a level approaching rocket science.

Read full story

15 September 2008

Cultural aspects of interaction design

International Journal of Design
The latest issue of the International Journal of Design is devoted to the cultural aspects of interaction design:

“When a group of people, no matter its scale, start sharing common ways of thinking, feeling and living, culture emerges. Culture therefore can emerge from any population segment. It is not limited to a geographic area or ethnicity. Different cultures can be distinguished by their individual and group characteristics, e.g. the mental models, behavioral patterns, emotional responses, aesthetics, rules, norms, and values that group members share. Different cultures therefore produce different artifacts and environments based on their cultural characteristics. On the other hand, artifacts, through people’s interactions with them, influence cultures and can even produce a new culture.”

Read issue

9 September 2008

Book: Coming of Age in Second Life – an anthropologist explores the virtually human

Coming of Age in Second Life
Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human (Hardcover)
by Tom Boellstorff
Princeton University Press
Hardcover, 2008, 328 pages

Millions of people around the world today spend portions of their lives in online virtual worlds. Second Life is one of the largest of these virtual worlds. The residents of Second Life create communities, buy property and build homes, go to concerts, meet in bars, attend weddings and religious services, buy and sell virtual goods and services, find friendship, fall in love–the possibilities are endless, and all encountered through a computer screen. Coming of Age in Second Life is the first book of anthropology to examine this thriving alternate universe.

Tom Boellstorff conducted more than two years of fieldwork in Second Life, living among and observing its residents in exactly the same way anthropologists traditionally have done to learn about cultures and social groups in the so-called real world. He conducted his research as the avatar “Tom Bukowski,” and applied the rigorous methods of anthropology to study many facets of this new frontier of human life, including issues of gender, race, sex, money, conflict and antisocial behavior, the construction of place and time, and the interplay of self and group.

Coming of Age in Second Life shows how virtual worlds can change ideas about identity and society. Bringing anthropology into territory never before studied, this book demonstrates that in some ways humans have always been virtual, and that virtual worlds in all their rich complexity build upon a human capacity for culture that is as old as humanity itself.

Tom Boellstorff is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of A Coincidence of Desires: Anthropology, Queer Studies, Indonesia and The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia (Princeton).

Amazon page
Book reviews: The Guardian | Scientific American | Times Literary Supplement

5 August 2008

A choice for language as a key to understanding cultural context

globe
Today we made a little survey of the languages spoken at our office and we came to a quite remarkable seventeen: Arabic, Armenian, Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Kashmiri, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.

This is not just a trivial statistic about our office. It is a choice.

When we founded Experientia three years ago, we wanted to be an international agency with a global awareness and a Mediterranean sensitivity (after all, we are based in Italy).

We didn’t want to be literally copying the American approach to people-centred design (although all four of the founding partners have lived in the US at some point in their lives), nor did we want to be identified as just an Italian consultancy.

We believe that people-centred design implies and requires a deep understanding of cultural context. Since people’s experiences are both defined and expressed through culture and language, we put a lot of emphasis on the linguistic and cultural skills of our staff.

Therefore seventeen languages spoken is equivalent to seventeen in-depth viewpoints onto rich, local cultural contexts.

We are therefore quite pleased that the upcoming UPA Europe conference (Turin, 4-6 December) carries the subtitle “Usability and Design: Cultivating Diversity”, a byline which came about thanks to the very active involvement of our partner Michele Visciola.

16 July 2008

From favelas to townships: mobile use in low-income populations

Favelas
MobileActive reports on two studies that explore how low-income people use mobile technology in Brazil and South Africa.

This rise of mobile phone use by low-income and so-called ‘base-of-the-pyramid’ users raises a number of questions. Are low-income people using mobile technology in different ways than their higher-income counterparts? How can mobile phones be designed and used in ways that are useful to these populations? Two new studies–one of favelas in Brazil and the other of a low-income township in South Africa–seek to answer these questions.

Read full story

13 June 2008

China and the next billion customers

Attention
The second article in Vodafone’s newly updated Receiver Magazine is about China and the next billion customers.

Author Jared Braiterman seeks to understand mobile phones play in China’s fast-paced development and explores why China become a centre of passionate technology usage.

Braiterman claims there are two cultural explanations for the intensity with which the Chinese have adopted the internet and, even more so, mobile phones: the single child policy of nearly thirty years, and the dearth of communication and entertainment alternatives.

Jared Braiterman is a Harvard and Stanford-trained anthropologist (PhD 1996) who has worked for twelve years as a human technology consultant and educator in Silicon Valley, Europe, Asia and the Americas. With his San Francisco-based research and creative studio Giant Ant he recently led a public research study on youth culture and technology called “Mobile China”. Now in its fourth year, the project has examined mobile phones, virtual life and mixed reality in the world’s biggest emerging market.

Read full story

20 May 2008

Upcoming book on the “high end”

Future High Tide of High End
A few weeks ago we were contacted by Marco Bevolo of Philips Design who was looking for some advance feedback on the book he is writing together with co-authors Stefano Marzano (also Philips Design), Dr. Howard R. Moskowitz and Alex Gofman (president and vice-president of Moscowitz Jacobs Inc.). We were sent a galley copy for a first reaction.

The book, which has the tentative title “Future High Tide of High End” and will be published by Wharton School Publishing, provides a socio-cultural and people-centred understanding of the concept of luxury — more specifically prestige products for the masses (which they call “High End”) — with the aim of delivering insights and guidance for future business development in this sector.

Made possible by about seventy conversations, contributions and interviews with industry experts, thought leaders and opinion makers, the book is quite unique in its approach, and bound to become a must-read for anyone conceiving, developing and marketing higher-end consumer products and services.

A focus on the intersection of social trends, designer visions, and deep people understanding, allows the authors to propose a series of original insights, including a new, experience-based concept for the future of the industry, as well as a toolbox from which to create and understand new “High End” product and service offerings.

To understand what the soul of the High End is going to be in the near future, the authors also introduce an experimental method, the Rule Developing Experimentation (RDE) — with people having to evaluate pairs of future scenarios, with those data then statistically analysed to find out which underlying ideas are the real drivers. They then present the results of an original experimental study based on this method, that was conducted in four countries (US, UK, China and Italy) with more than 500 end-users, all from somewhat higher income brackets.

The book, which is currently in advanced editing (partly on the basis of our feedback), is bound to be published before the end of the year. The authors told us they will soon publish some more material on their website (such as an abstract, a table of contents, a sample chapter, etc.), so that also our readers can contribute their own insights and suggestions.

A small endnote is one of pride: this is the first public piece on the upcoming book. Marco said he would be happy if it came from his hometown (Torino, Italy) and so are we.

3 May 2008

CHI 2008: a selection on product design

CHI 2008 proceedings
Here is my selection on product design related papers presented at CHI 2008.

(Papers are linked to their pdf downloads, if available.)

Case study: using online communities to drive commercial product development [abstract]
Authors: Sheena Lewis (IBM)
Abstract: This paper demonstrates how human computer interaction (HCI) practitioners utilize an online community to drive commercial product innovation, definition, and development. Upper management’s increased interest in user feedback suggests that this development strategy promotes the case for stronger human-centered design processes to be included in corporate strategic planning.

Future Craft: how digital media is transforming product design [abstract]
Authors: Leonardo Bonanni, Amanda Parkes, Hiroshi Ishii (MIT Media Lab)
Abstract: The open and collective traditions of the interaction community have created new opportunities for product designers to engage in the social issues around industrial production. This paper introduces Future Craft, a design methodology which applies emerging digital tools and processes to product design toward new objects that are socially and environmentally sustainable. We present the results of teaching the Future Craft curriculum at the MIT Media Lab including principal themes of public, local and personal design, resources, assignments and student work. Novel ethnographic methods are discussed with relevance to informing the design of physical products. We aim to create a dialogue around these themes for the product design and HCI communities.

“If you build it, they will come … if they can”: pitfalls of releasing the same product globally [abstract]
Authors: Ann Hsieh, Todd Hausman, Nerija Titus and Jennifer Miller (Yahoo, Inc.)
Abstract: As companies based in the US launch more interactive, “Web 2.0”-style products, the rest of the world may not be moving at the same speed. This presentation will reveal the pitfalls of building the same product for all audiences across many countries, especially when it comes to economic, technological, and cultural disparities. This illustrates the point that even if global users want to access new products, they may not always have the means.

What about a ‘local’ wrapper around an ‘universal’ core? [abstract]
Authors: Apala Lahiri Chavan (Human Factors International)
Abstract: In this paper, I examine the possibility of restructuring our premise about cross cultural design and explore a possible new way to look at how we can create products in one culture and yet have the whole ‘flat world’ use it!

Studying paper use to inform the design of personal and portable technology [abstract]
Authors: Daniela Rosner, Lora Oehlberg and Kimiko Ryokai (UC Berkeley)
Abstract: This paper introduces design guidelines for new technology that leverage our understanding of traditional interactions with bound paper in the form of books and notebooks. Existing, physical interactions with books have evolved over hundreds of years, providing a rich history that we can use to inform our design of new computing technologies. In this paper, we initially survey existing paper technology and summarize previous historical and anthropological analyses of people’s interactions with bound paper. We then present our development of three design principles for personal and portable technologies based on these analyses. For each design guideline, we describe a design scenario illustrating these principles in action.

25 April 2008

Down with innovation

Down with innovation
Rick Poynor, a writer and critic based in London specializing in visual culture, wrote a provocative essay (published in I.D. Magazine), tackling contemporary indulgence with design thinking and innovation:

Design is now so important, it seems, that designers can no longer be trusted with it, and to make it absolutely clear that control has moved into someone else’s hands, design needs to be given a fancy new name. Call it design thinking. Call it innovation. “Everyone loves design but no one wants to call it design,” BusinessWeek’s Bruce Nussbaum informed the readers of Design Observer last year. “Top CEOs and managers want to call design something else—innovation. Innovation: that they are comfortable with. Design, well, it’s a little too wild and crazy for them.” Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, offers this prescription: “Businesspeople don’t just need to understand designers better—they need to become designers.”[...]

Which is more patronizing: to create something you believe in because you think other people might like it too, and just put it out there? (The old, design, way.) Or to study every facet of consumers’ behavior with the intention of filling them with feelings of “insane loyalty” for your client’s products? (The new, innovation, way.)

Read full story

23 April 2008

Cultures of virtual worlds

Cultures
A two-day conference this week will bring together scholars, developers and participants in virtual worlds to discuss the emerging cultures being created from a range of online communities.

Event organizers theorize that virtual worlds can be studied by researchers in the fields of humanities and social sciences.

Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito, Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell, UCI informatics professors Paul Dourish and Bonnie Nardi, Intel researcher Maria Bezaitis and UCI anthropologist Tom Boellstorff will lead the discussions.

The event is sponsored by Intel Research and UCI’s Department of Anthropology and Center for Ethnography.

Tom Boellstorff, one of the conference organizers, is the author of Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. His is the first book to take a look at Second Life from a purely anthropological perspective.

- Press release
- Event website

10 April 2008

The future of Europe lies in email

Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organising without Organisations (see also these posts), argues in a short essay that the future of Europe lies in email:

“The EU is the test case for the effects of the Internet on government. No other multi-national region of the world has gone so far to dismantle national broders. Within the EU there are no passport checks, no customs checks at internal broders, and no barriers to work – any citizen of any of the 12 EU countries can work in any other EU country without needing a visa. Things that Americans take for granted, like being able to move 3000 miles for a job, are available to the citizens of the EU for the first time. In other words, the EU has most of the trappings of a country except the citizens, and the citizens are being produced at places like easyEverything. The people sending their email there are Europe’s first post-national generation, its first Internet generation, the first group of people who can move from one country to another if they hear that life is better elsewhere. The willingness of this generation to ignore national identity is going to confound their elders, the people who have grown up convinced that sentiments like ‘The Germans are efficient and humorless, while the Italians are undisciplined and fun-loving’ have an almost genetic component. Nationality matters less than economics – the Internet generation is going to behave more like customers than citizens.”

Read full story

12 March 2008

Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy

Creative Britain
The UK government is aiming to make the country a global leader in the arts, media and advertising through initiatives including the creation of thousands of new apprenticeships and the launch of a Davos-style world creative business conference.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the culture secretary, Andy Burnham, unveiled the action plan, Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy, in what the government is labelling the first-ever comprehensive, state-supported plan to move the creative industries from the “margins to the mainstream of economic and policy thinking” in the UK.

The action plan [which was welcomed by the design industry] outlines 26 commitments for both government and the creative industries to nurture talent, create jobs and to drive the UK’s international competitiveness.

One of the initiatives is to develop a new annual World Creative Business Conference that will act as the “centrepiece” of an international push to make the UK the “world’s creative hub”.

Read full story [The Guardian]
- Download action plan (pdf, 1.2 mb, 81 pages)

(via Richard Florida)

27 February 2008

Nokia morphs itself from within

Nokia Morph
Very interesting article on the BBC news site on how Nokia is transforming itself from a device manufacturer into a software and services company that monetises its software know-how through selling devices, and the strategic role that research plays in this endeavour. Some UX related quotes:

Dr John Shen, head of the Palo Alto Research lab, said his team was helping Nokia’s development as a services company.

“We see the intersecting of the internet and mobility. Nokia has been a device company and that will remain a lucrative business for years to come, but instead of waiting until we have to change, Nokia is looking ahead and making changes now.”

He said the focus for the firm was a “total solution”, encompassing hardware and software, but focusing on a “compelling user experience”.

“The company that understands the end user experience is going to have an edge,” he added. [...]

Dr Shen added: “When technology is below the user requirement, technology drives the industry.

“But once you cross over to the mainstream then you have to look at services and the user experience.

“The real focus now is compelling user experiences. It has to be user experience driven rather than technology driven.”

Read full story

21 January 2008

The expectation economy

Expectation economy
Trendwatching.com’s latest report is devoted to the “expectation economy”:

“The expectation economy is an economy inhabited by experienced, well-informed consumers from Canada to South Korea who have a long list of high expectations that they apply to each and every good, service and experience on offer.

Their expectations are based on years of self-training in hyperconsumption, and on the biblical flood of new-style, readily available information sources, curators and BS filters. Which all help them track down and expect not just basic standards of quality, but the ‘best of the best’.”

Read full story

11 January 2008

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

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

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

Boyd analyses this further:

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

Read full story

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

(via FutureLab)

8 January 2008

Museum 2.0

Museum 2.0
The Museum 2.0 blog explores the ways that the philosophies of Web 2.0 can be applied in museums to make them more engaging, community-based, vital elements of society.

Just like Web 2.0 which is “a definition of web-based applications with an ‘architecture of participation,’ that is, one in which users generate, share, and curate the content”, says Nina Simon who is behind the Museum 2.0 blog, “museums have the potential to undergo a similar (r)evolution as that on the web, to transform from static content authorities to dynamic platforms for content generation and sharing.”

“I believe that visitors can become users, and museums central to social interactions. Web 2.0 opens up opportunity, but it also demonstrates where museums are lacking. The intention of this blog is to explore these opportunities and shortcomings with regard to museums and interactive design.”

(via IdeaFestival)

8 January 2008

Eataly, the slow and experiential supermarket

Eataly
Last week I visited Eataly again, a fantastic “experiential” supermarket, right here in Torino. Associated with the Slow Food movement, you can dwell in it for hours and feel constantly stimulated, intellectually, sensually and visually.

But I had never written about in those terms. Mea culpa. I was reminded of this gap only when I read the Guinness Storehouse case study on the Design Council website.

The Atlantic Monthly [full article here] calls it the “supermarket of the future”:

“Eataly is an irresistible realization of every food-lover’s gluttonous fantasy, paired with guilt-cleansing social conscience—a new combination of grand food hall, farm stand, continuing- education university, and throbbing urban market. Much like Boqueria, in Barcelona, and Vucciria, in Palermo, two of the few thriving center-city markets left in Europe, Eataly draws all classes and ages at all times of day. The emphasis on local and artisanal producers, education, affordable prices, a lightened environmental footprint, and sheer fun makes Eataly a persuasive model for the supermarket of the future—one that is sure to be widely copied around the world. The question is whether Eataly will bite the hands of the people feeding it, the people it says it wants to help: Slow Food, which is the arbiter and moral center of today’s food culture, and the artisans themselves. “

Monocle carries an excellent video report:

“Housed in a former vermouth factory, Eataly offers the finest artisanal produce from Italian suppliers, all selected with the assistance of Slow Food Italia and accompanied by lovingly compiled details of its provenance and production.”

And also The New York Times featured it, using the opportunity to announce that a smaller version (one tenth the size of the Torino market) will open this spring in a two-level, 10,000-square-foot space in the new Centria building at 18 West 48th Street in New York:

“In January, in what had been a defunct vermouth factory in Turin, [Oscar Farinetti] opened a 30,000-square-foot megastore called Eataly that combines elements of a bustling European open market, a Whole-Foods-style supermarket, a high-end food court and a New Age learning center. [...]“

“Artisanal products from some 900 Italian producers fill the store’s shelves, and 12 suppliers (some of which Mr. Farinetti invested in or bought outright) were enlisted as partners. Many of the food items are accompanied by explanatory placards and nearly half of the three-level store is dedicated to educational activities: a computer center, a library, a vermouth museum and rooms for cooking classes and tasting seminars. [...]“

“According to management, more than 1.5 million people visited the store in its first six months and sales have exceeded projections.”

In short, for the real experience of fresh products from the Piedmont countryside you need to come to Torino.

27 December 2007

Torino heading towards 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011

I Love To
Torino, Italy officially opens the World Design Year next week with an extraordinary New Year’s Eve, organised specially to celebrate Torino 2008 World Design Capital.

The centre of events for 31 December 2007 is Piazza Castello [the "Castle Square"], the Baroque heart of the city, seen on TV screens worldwide as the “Medals Plaza” of the XX Olympic Winter Games of 2006.

The New Year Eve’s activities contain a lot of interaction design with Luminous LEDs, Shining microvideos, and Interactive balls, plus of course the live music and the DJ’s.

Aside from the many events planned during the first World Design Capital in 2008 — with quite a few requiring your participation — keep also an eye open for what’s coming up in the following years:

2008 – UIA World Congress of Architecture (29 June – 3 July)
For the first time an Italian city hosts a World Congress of the International Union of Architects. Torino will be the location of this prestigious event which every three years reunites thousands of professionals and students to cover a theme analysing the future prospects of the profession and its relationship with the social and cultural problems of the moment. The theme chosen for the event in 2008 is Transmitting Architecture.

2009 is dedicated to sports with the European Athletics Indoor Championships (6-8 March) and the World Air Games (7-13 June).

2010 – Euroscience City (2-7 July)
The EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) is Europe’s most important interdisciplinary forum for presentation and debate of leading scientific trends and key science policy issues. It brings Europe’s science community together to discuss the social and economic impact of science, technology, the social sciences and humanities. The event is promoted by Euroscience, an organisation that includes scientists from 40 European countries.

2011 – Italy 150 (17 March – 31 October)
In 2011 Italy will celebrate its 150th birthday as a united nation: an opportunity to look back of course but also to debate what future should Italy be aiming at (a hot topic also in the international press – see The New York Times and The Times). Many of the planned events will take place in Torino, Italy’s first capital. The slogan: “Experience Italy” !