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Posts in category 'Culture'

15 December 2007

Handmade 2.0

Handmade 2.0
Rob Walker of the New York Times Magazine asks what so many crochet-hook-wielding, papermaking, silversmithing handicrafters are doing online and tries to prove that the future of shopping — and of work — is all about the past.

The article is mostly a profile of Etsy, a company that hosts an online shopping bazaar for all things handmade.

“Only about two years old, the company is not currently profitable but is somewhat unusual among Internet-based start-ups of the so-called Web 2.0 era in having a model that does not depend on advertising revenue. It depends on people buying things, in a manner that the founders position as a throwback to the way consumption ought to be: individuals buying from other individuals. “Our ties to the local and human sources of our goods have been lost,” the Handmade Pledge site asserts. “Buying handmade helps us reconnect.” The idea is a digital-age version of artisanal culture — that the future of shopping is all about the past.”

The author is particularly interested in the new technologically enabled “new craft movement” as a social commentary on consumer culture, but has not explored what the possibilities might be if these objects themselves would become carriers of information.

If you want to know more about this, I suggest you to explore the work of Ulla-Maaria Mutanen, whose Thinglink (blog) organisation is all about the Internet of Things, applied to the world of crafts, and whose approach is closely connected to the Spime concept envisioned by Bruce Sterling.

Read full story

12 December 2007

‘Exodus’ to virtual worlds predicted, claims BBC

exodus
The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to “disappear from reality,” said Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, an expert on large-scale online games.

Dr Castronova, who has written a book on the subject entitled Exodus To The Virtual World, drew parallels to the 1600s when thousands of people left Britain for a new life in North America.

“That certainly changed North America – and that’s usually what we focus on – but it certainly changed the UK as well,” he said.

“So what I tried to do in this book is say, ‘listen – even if the typical reader doesn’t spend any time in virtual worlds, what is going to be the impact on him of people going and doing this?'”

And he predicted that everyone will be involved in a virtual environment within ten years – although the level of that involvement will vary.

Read full story

30 November 2007

InterSections 07: a debate on design

Intersections
The UK Design Council sponsored conference InterSections 07 brought together 34 leading thinkers in design to consider how design is evolving and how this is affecting its relationships with other fields.

The conference, held in NewcastleGateshead in October 2007, asked how design is transforming as it adapts to a world in transition. Two days of stimulating and energetic debate considered how designers are adapting to the new landscape by acquiring new know-how.

Audio and transcripts are now online and feature a series of keynote presentations:

as well as panel discussions and breakout sessions:

  • What is the new know-how in service design? (audio | transcript)
    Services have been around for centuries, but Service design has recently become a hot topic. Designers Gillian Crampton-Smith (IUAV), Chris Downs (live|work) and Heather Martin (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design) outline some examples of good, and bad, service design and discuss what the core skills of service designers are whether traditional designer notions such as craft, beauty and visualisation are still important. Jeremy Myerson (RCA) moderates.
    <  >
  • As designers, are we guilty of killing the planet? (audio | transcript)
    John Thackara (Dott07) will argue that 80 percent of the environmental impact of the products and buildings is determined at the design stage; and the ways we have designed the world force most people to waste stupendous quantities of matter and energy. But for John, playing the blame game is pointless, the best way to redeem ourselves is to become part of the solution.
    <  >
  • Clever by design (audio | transcript)
    Where does design fit into management thinking? What is the role of the designer in the modern economy? Sir George Cox, Design Council Chairman and Dr Andrea Siodmok, head of its Design Knowledge team discuss with chair Jeremy Myerson whether businesses are making more use of design capability and, if so, whether designers have the right skills to talk to business.
    <  >
  • New connections: question time (audio | transcript)
    At the final panel session of Intersections 07, delegates had the chance to put questions to the panel (Peter Saville, Richard Seymour and John Thackara), ranging from the lack of women in design, to the role of designers in creating unnecessary landfill, and how best to reconcile the desire for visionary design with co-creation. This session draws together some of the key themes from the conference.
    <  >
  • Fashion connections (audio | transcript)
    Vicky Richardson, Editor of Blueprint magazine, Ignacio Germade, Design Director of Consumer Experience Design at Motorola, Sarah Maynard, Designer and MD of Maynard Bespoke and Tom Savigar from Future Laboratory discuss the influence of fashion on wider design practice. They argue that fashion is not just about the type of things that designers create, but it can be an approach to design thinking about products, interactions, space and environments.
    <  >
  • Interaction blur (audio | transcript)
    How is interaction design changing and what the drivers behind this? Has it managed to develop the skill sets it needs to deal with the challenges ahead? And how does interaction design overlap with other design disciplines? Andy Altmann from Why Not Associates, Durrell Bishop of Luckybite and Daljit Singh, founder of Digit discuss with chair Nico Macdonald.
    <  >
  • Are design schools the new B-schools? (audio | transcript)
    Business Week has floated the idea that tomorrow’s Business school might be a design school. Jeremy Myerson, from the RCA, Janet Abrams, from the University of Minnesota Design Institute, John Bates, London Business School and Christoph Böninger, formerly of Siemens discuss whether designers can really go head-to-head with the MBAs and whether students would be better equipped for the business world if they were design trained?
    <  >
  • Feedback: Day 1 breakout sessions (audio | transcript)
    Vicky Richardson reported back to delegates on Fashion Connections, the Culture thread of day one’s breakout sessions, and Nico Macdonald told the audience what they had missed if they hadn’t been discussing Interaction blur in the Interactions thread. Chair Jeremy Myerson told delegates all about the Business thread and how the panel had discussed whether D-schools were the new B-schools?
    <  >
  • But is it art? (audio | transcript)
    Can design fill the aesthetic and cultural vacuum left by contemporary art? Where are the boundaries between the two disciplines and is it even useful to try and draw distinctions between them? Designers Allan Chochinov, Peter Saville and Richard Shed are joined by artist and writer Matthew Collings in a discussion about the nature of ‘design art,’ chaired by Vicky Richardson, editor of Blueprint magazine.
    <  >
  • Can good design be co-created? (audio | transcript)
    Can good design be co-created? What can designers learn from the open source software movement and ‘wikinomics’? While everyone is a designer, isn’t it the job of professional designers to champion good design? Writer and journalist Nico Macdonald chairs a discussion with Joe Heapy (Engine), Lynne Maher (NHS) and Austin Williams (Future Cities Project) about the possibilities and pitfalls of co-design.
    <  >
  • What can design bring to strategy? (audio | transcript)
    Design strategy is a growing sub-discipline of design. This session, chaired by conference director Kevin McCullagh, asked what strengths designers bring to strategy building and what new skills they might need to acquire. The panel, Jonathan Sands from Elmwood, Richard Eisermann from Prospect and Ed Silk from Interbrand, covered the topic with reference to their own wide experience as designers and strategists.
    <  >
  • Feedback: Day 2 breakout sessions (audio | transcript)
    Vicky Richardson“>Vicky Richardson informed delegates who had not attended the Culture thread of the breakout sessions on Is it art? of what they had missed. Nico Macdonald feedback what delegates who had attended the Interactions thread thought about the question of whether good design can be co-created and Kevin McCullagh, who had chaired the Business thread debate on design and strategy, updated the audience on what had been discussed.
19 October 2007

Book: “Authenticity” by Gilmore and Pine

Authenticity
James Gilmore and Joe Pine, authors of the 1999 bestseller “The Experience Economy“, have now published a new book “Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want”.

Abstract

Contrived. Disingenuous. Phony. Inauthentic. Do your customers use any of these words to describe what you sell–or how you sell it? If so, welcome to the club. Inundated by fakes and sophisticated counterfeits, people increasingly see the world in terms of real or fake. They would rather buy something real from someone genuine rather than something fake from some phony. When deciding to buy, consumers judge an offering’s (and a company’s) authenticity as much as–if not more than–price, quality, and availability.

In “Authenticity,” James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II argue that to trounce rivals companies must grasp, manage, and excel at rendering authenticity. Through examples from a wide array of industries as well as government, nonprofit, education, and religious sectors, the authors show how to manage customers’ perception of authenticity by:

  • recognizing how businesses “fake it”;
  • appealing to the five different genres of authenticity;
  • charting how to be “true to self” and what you say you are; and
  • crafting and implementing business strategies for rendering authenticity.

The first to explore what authenticity really means for businesses and how companies can approach it both thoughtfully and thoroughly, this book is a must-read for any organization seeking to fulfill consumers’ intensifying demand for the real deal.

Review in Publishers weekly (copied from here)

This eye-opening but muddled volume tells companies to “remain true to self” or, at least, to appear genuine, arguing that “in a world increasingly filled with deliberately and sensationally staged experiences… consumers choose to buy or not buy based on how real they perceive an offering to be.” Everything that forms a company’s identity—from its name and practices to its product details—affects consumers’ perceptions of its authenticity. Juggling philosophical concepts, in-depth case studies and ad slogans, Gilmore and Pine (The Experience Economy) run into trouble with a chapter called “Fake, Fake, It’s All Fake,” which eviscerates the entire idea of authenticity: “Despite claims of ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ in product packaging, nothing from businesses is really authentic. Everything is artificial, manmade, fake.” The argument is unexpected and perhaps brilliant—yet rather confusing, since most of Authenticity argues that businesses should strive to not only appear authentic but to be so. The book’s bullet points, charts and matrices add to the tangle, as the authors’ early advice (“your business offerings must get real”) becomes a demand for furrowed-brow soul-searching. Still, the prose is snappy and conversational, and the book is densely packed with insights and provocations, and may inspire some executives to consider how consumers see their company. (Nov.)

- Publisher’s page | Amazon page

Download table of contents and first chapter (pdf, 170 kb, 12 pages)

9 October 2007

Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?

Newseum
“Is there a future for old-fashioned museums?” is the rather outlandish title of an otherwise good Washington Post article about the future of museums in the age of networked computers and virtual worlds.

“As the Newseum puts the finishing touches on its new building in downtown Washington, a second version of the museum of news is being developed for the online society Second Life.

This novel way to experience a museum [...] raises questions about the very future of museums. Indeed, it can make one ponder whether all those granite and limestone mausoleums that litter Washington have a future at all.

In the age of the networked computer, museums are being fundamentally challenged in the same ways that other bastions of education and entertainment — from libraries to the music industry — are being rocked to their cores.

The arguments swirl. Are museums in the bone-and-pigment business, reliquaries of the past? Are they in the theater business, telling stories through sensational lighting, presentations like stage sets and costumed interpretive actors? Are museums in the experience business, forced to reach for ever fancier gizmos and blockbusters to compete with the sports world and Disney for family time and money?”

It seems to me that new media usually don’t replace old ones but just provide an alternative experience. Just like television didn’t kill the radio, and movies didn’t kill the theatre, virtual worlds will not remove the need for real museums. They will just provide an alternative window into their collections and the story they are telling.

And in the end, that’s what the author thinks too. I recommend you to read the conclusions of the article.

Read full story

8 October 2007

‘My mobile is me’ – a story about mobile design in India

WikiCity
India is one of the world’s hottest mobile design locations today. The Hindu Business Line reports on what handset makers think of design in India, and how they track trends and make gadgets that reflect people’s personality and needs.

The article features quotes from people at BenQ, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Vertu.

Here a quote about the Nokia design process:

“Our entire design process is influenced by the consumer and their behaviour — how they want their mobile to look, function and fit into their lifestyle. We take a human approach to design in an industry that tends to focus on just pushing technology. We are creating stylish products that work just the way people like them to. This combination is central to our design work and brand,” says Jan Blom, Head of the Bangalore design team of Nokia, which recently tied up with Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to set up the first of a series of satellite design studios. The Bangalore studio “reflects India’s status as one of the hottest countries for design,” according to Nokia’s Chief Designer, Alastair Curtis. [...]

“The [Bangalore studio] will look at a range of design trends and themes, including: visual perceptions: researching key colour and material trends in India and their cultural significance; Internet mobility: understanding how people in India are accessing the Internet via mobile phones, why and what are they using this for, the impact on behaviours and culture, and how can we identify these and other signals that will help us come up with relevant and compelling devices designed for Internet usage and even social applications for mobiles — how can mobile design be used to address issues in more rural areas of India, for example access to education material.”

The article ends with some hints at what is coming up “by 2010″.

Areas to watch, according to the maker, are new shapes, materials and features, creating new ways for people to interact with their device, how to make the mobile Internet experience compelling, and broader adoption of multi-media features and content. “Mobile design is a fascinating and dynamic area. Design will be much more based around the experience people want from their device — what they want their device to do and how it needs to fit into their everyday lives. Given that we are not all looking for the same experience, there will be a number of different trends,” says Blom.

Read full story

4 October 2007

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

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

 

Defining The New Singularity

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

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

Change Agency

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

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

Parenting 2.0

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

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

Is this how your kids see you?

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

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

Ravi Chhatpar

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

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

28 September 2007

Turning museums into places where people interact

Local Projects
Print Magazine is reporting on Local Projects, a company that is turning museums into places where people interact with information—and each other.

When Jake Barton, the 34-year-old principal of the interactive design firm Local Projects, thinks about what an exhibition can do, he often considers the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa. The museum documents the forced removal of more than 60,000 residents from a mixed-race neighborhood declared a whites-only zone in 1966, and tells the stories of those displaced. In the early ’90s, when reclaiming that land was still not an option, the museum kept the issue in the public eye through exhibitions and debate; subsequently, the museum’s sister organization helped residents apply to have their land returned. Transforming and healing a community through inclusive storytelling is, in Barton’s eyes, the mandate for museums of the 21st century. These days, he has ample reason to meditate on it: In April, he and his seven-person firm received the commission to codesign the permanent exhibition for the World Trade Center Memorial Museum.”

By choosing Local Projects, the memorial’s directors cast their lot with a new kind of museum that prizes interactivity over top-down presentation. Local Projects insists on a plurality of voices—the exhibitions it creates function as a kind of conversation rather than as repositories of authoritative fact. “Museums are starting to evolve into agents of social change,” Barton says. “That’s being reflected in the numbers of people who are going to museums and the ways museums are functioning as spaces for community dialogue. We [are] trying to make diverse people visible to each other through a storytelling space.”

Read full story

18 September 2007

The French and their mobiles

The French and their mobiles
A few days ago, I translated an article from the French newspaper Le Monde about new French research on “collective mobile phone use”.

The French Association of Mobile Operators now published the full study (pdf, 630 kb, 156 pages), as well as a three-page press release/synthesis.

For a number of reasons I decided to spend (quite) some time translating the report synthesis:
– The study is strong and the results insightful, refreshing and highly innovative;
– Little is known internationally about anthropological research on mobile technologies in France;
– There is a barrage of coverage coming from the Anglo-Saxon world, and only a trickle from elsewhere.

Translating the study itself is unfortunately beyond my capacity and I can only hope that the French Association of Mobile Operators itself will one day make the study available in an English translation – feel free to put some pressure on them by contacting them at info@afomobiles.org.
 

MAIN CONCLUSIONS OF THE NEW SOCIOLOGICAL STUDY ON THE MOBILE PHONE IN FRANCE IN 2007

The French Association of Mobile Operators (AFOM) asked the Discours and Pratiques studio to conduct a study on the mobile phone in the French society in 2007.

Five researchers in information and communication sciences [sociology, information sciences, communication sciences, philosophy and literature], all members of GRIPIC (the research group of the CELSA school), worked on the study for six months, conducting about one hundred in-depth interviews, as well as anthropological observations in various locations (Paris and its suburbs, Marseilles, Strasbourg, Creuse and various ski resorts) and various situations.

The researchers tried to understand the ways of “doing and being” that go with the use of the mobile phone on the street, cafe terraces, restaurants, public gardens, train stations, apartments, vacation homes, companies, libraries, and transportation means, and this without falling back on traditional social categorisations. And to really cover the symbolic dimension of the mobile phone, the research also covered areas that up till now were not covered by research: the movies, television shows and literature.

The study was lead by Anne Jarrigeon and Joëlle Menrath, two researchers who were already involved with a previous GRIPIC study on the mobile phone in French society, conducted in 2004 and 2005.

The main points of the 2007 study are:
 

1. The mobile phone is no longer just a personal device. In 2007, the phone is integrated within collective practices both in the family and between friends.

Mobile phone are increasingly objects that circulate within a group. The owner of the mobile phone is no longer the only one to touch it, check it and use it.

Mobile phones can allow for exchanges based on the amount of credit left before the end of the month and on the range of hourly allowances when calls are free. This can also lead to a collective choice of operators, of discount plans and of prepaid cards, with the sole aim of optimising cost within the group.

Within the family, mobile phone reinforce the asymmetric role and character of the parent-child relationship: whereas parents do not think about money when calling their children, the children themselves try to save money by “beeping” their parents, in order to be called back.

The mobile of the child is a jointly managed tool and a transaction device. It is experienced by the parents – and mainly by the mothers – as an opportunity for exchange with their child and as a way for children to learn to manage a financial budget.

Within a group of friends, mobile phones serve to define roles and affinities. One can find the expert, and the user with difficulties, the “banker” who always has some credit, and the “borrower” who always asks for text messages and minutes (without ever giving them).

Beyond these roles, the mobile phone created relations of exclusivity with those whom one calls most often based on the tariff offers and their compatibility.
 

2. The French have ambivalent and changing relations with their mobile phone. In 2007, the mobile phone goes from being personal to transitory, from intimate to visible.

If the mobile phone is a “signature object” that one gets emotionally attached to and reflects the identity of its owner, it is also a “transitory object” that one can easily detached from, because it’s after all a device that young users see as something that will in the end be either replaced by a new model, or end up broken, lost or stolen.

If the mobile phone is an intimate “black box” where one stores the archives of one’s life (contacts, SMS, photos…), it is also:

  • for adults, the album that unites all the photos previously kept in the wallet and the object where one keeps its secrets from intrusion (partner listening to messages or checking on call history…),
  • for teens, the place where one keeps personal collections (images, ringtones, …), that one shares and shows like a museum.
     

3. New social conventions are being established around the mobile phone.

A mobile phone call can easily be interrupted (“I have to go now”, “I can’t hear you anymore”, “I am out of battery”, “I just arrived”). With a mobile phone, ending a call is allowed without this being considered impolite.

Calling someone on a mobile means living it up to him/her to answer or not. The mobile phone is increasingly seen as a non-intrusive tool of reachability.

New rules are also developing about money, with regards to “limit expenses”, or “pick up the tab” such as in a restaurant, or on the impoliteness of extending a conversation because the call is free anyhow.
 

4. The use of the mobile phone is governed more by example than by rules and prohibitions.

Nowadays there are many rules that prohibit the use of the mobile phone, be it at work, in public spaces or at school. Very often these rules are not followed.

In many contexts that were observed (office, train, waiting room…), use is self-regulated in terms of what people consider to be tolerable and appropriate.

At school, the mobile phone is added to the series of tools of those that are not interested in a class or have fun at creating some disturbance, something that more “traditional” tools were used for before. It becomes another challenge for the teacher to manage during his class.

Confiscation seems to be most effective sanction in school even if the user of the confiscated phone is no the owner (because phones often circulate in groups) and even if parents are opposed to this sanction because it prevents them from reaching their children (including – for some – during classes).

Because rules are usually not followed, example behaviour is often more effective than prohibition. When someone decides not to use his/her phone when on holidays, at dinner, during meetings or while with the family, this is often the best way to dissuade others from using it.

However such example behaviour requires constant vigilance because any use of the mobile phone quickly becomes a breach that others quickly take advantage of.
 

5. Several dominant sociological and philosophical lines of thought are consistent with the behaviours that were observed and the results that were obtained during the study.

While the mobile phone is often presented as the token of an individualistic and atomised society, in reality one observes collective and collaborative behaviours around the mobile in the family and between friends.

While the mobile phone is often thought of as creating a bubble around the people engaged in the call, excluding them from their immediate environments, in reality one increasingly observes conversations where those around the “caller”, allow themselves to intervene, to interrupt the caller or to speak to him/her about something else.

While the mobile phone is often portrayed as filling a void or a lack, one increasingly observes situations where the phone provides resources to act and react, allows to capture what one experiences et to bring an “extra value” to what one experiences that can be described with wellbeing or pleasure.

And while the mobile phone is often, also outside of expert research, mentioned in current discussions on improper behaviour the people that were interviewed do not speak about this and one observes increasingly less signs of exasperation or of cases of embarrassment in public life.
 

6. The mobile phone is seen as a “average medium” that renews amateur photo and film practice.

Mobile phone images are viewed as precarious images, often of uncertain quality, not to be printed and not be shared between devices. These images always call up a description of something one should see. They serve to create memories and to prove that one really was present at the event one is talking about (e.g. a concert, a celebrity passing by …).

Mobile phone images are integrated within several reference frameworks that preceded the phone: the journalism of the everyday and one’s own life, spontaneous family images as opposed to fake happiness, the sensationalism that comes with having to set up brief, clear, efficient and striking acts.

More spectacular scenes can raise the challenge by bringing in the grotesque, the playful, the macabre, even violence. This is what lead to the videos gags, the MTV Jackass and the so-called ‘snuff movies’. The aggressions filmed on a mobile phone are one of the most recent expressions of this (although the expression ‘happy slapping’ was not used by any of the people interviewed within this study).
 

Our friends from InternetActu, who also report on this study, highlight that the authors of the study conclude that “the mobile phone of 2007 is no longer exactly the same phone as it was in 2007:

“Its current massive and seemingly irreversible presence in all spheres of life would make one think that its uses would become trivialised or neutralised. None of that can be observed. […] Whereas the conventional uses of the mobile phone are more stable now than they were in 2005, they are now shared with new uses that are either linked to innovative technologies that are appropriated by users, or created by themselves in daily practice.

[…] What struck is, is that the mobile phone hasn’t ‘bursted’ under the effect of the successive additions of new functions, but continues to make sense to people as a “phone”, even though they use it in manifold ways. It goes even further than that. The mobile phone is no longer fully conceived or ‘experienced’ as a Swiss Army knife of aggregated functions but instead reinvented with each use as a ‘fully conceived object': a machine to write text messages, a photo camera, a voice mail system… It is an object that is endowed with the capacity of metamorphosis. When seen in the context of the other devices it relates to, the mobile phone seems today to be part of an augmented collection [or 'ecosystem'] of communicating devices, including the devices of others […]. Research on the effects of the phone on others therefore seems more relevant today than an investigation on how to optimise the performance and complementarity of the different tools.”

10 August 2007

Cultural differences in the emotional experience

Ilkone mobile phone
Marco van Hout asks in a long article for uiGarden.net whether there is something like a common ‘emotional experience’.
“In my opinion, the answer to this question is two-fold. First of all, people share basic emotional reactions and basic human needs. This makes us all part of the same species, so to speak. However, different culturally specific contexts can make a person from Asia evaluate the same stimulus differently from a European person. But, does this count for all products and designs?”

In this well-referenced article, he tries to explain how he think differences in emotional experience between cultures occur. He looks in particular at the importance of context, and the impact context has on people’s needs, on meaning, and on information processing

He concludes with the statement that “in spite of the globalising market, it is almost impossible to talk about a ‘global experience’. This only occurs when context is shared, which is an ongoing process on the Internet, but not as much in the ‘real’ world yet. Therefore, it still makes sense for designers to study cultural differences.”

Marco van Hout (The Netherlands) is a founding partner of Monito Design & Internet, a company that specializes in innovative solutions for Internet applications; an active member of the Design & Emotion Society where he supports the board as a Public Relations Officer; and editor of the internationally renowned website “design & emotion” where he publishes interviews with leading design professionals from some of the most respected brands and writes about the emotional impact of design, brands and services.

Read full story

27 July 2007

slow+design, examining the slow approach to design

unisg
The new “Food for Thought” journal of Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences examines the slow approach to design. The entire contents in Italian and English are available to any one who completes the free registration. You can also order a printed copy.

In the article “Beyond Food Design to a Sustainable Sensoriality” (Italian version), Giacomo Mojoli, vice-president of Slow Food International, contemplates what it means to mutually contaminate the sphere of food sensoriality with the wider one of material, manufacturing and creative sensoriality:

“Slow Food is one of these paradigms, a sort of strategic design project, a network prototype, applied to the world of food, agriculture and food education. Slow Food proposed a vision, a way of thinking and acting which by now has gone beyond food to inspire a new and eco-compatible way of conceiving development and economy, on a local as much as a global scale.”

Mojoli sees the objectives of Slow Food’s new slow+design initiative as to “reunite the quality of products with that of the environment and the social forms which generate them” and to “cross the experience of Slow Food with that of those who study and promote the new economy of social networks, the so-called distributed economy, and those who, in the practical and cultural ambit of design, are concerned with the quality of products, services and communications.”

The Slow Model: A Strategic Design Approach” (Italian version) is the title of the second article on the topic by Ezio Manzini (blog) and Anna Meroni of the Milan Polytechnic. They provide a more in-depth analysis of the relation between strategic design and the slow approach. They argue that a new sustainability can arise out of this innovative union, with a rigorous sensibility towards the environment, the quality of life and daily rhythms which can be integrated into the planning of spaces and objects.

“A slow approach means first of all the simple (but in these times revolutionary) affirmation that it is not possible to produce and appreciate quality without taking the time needed to do so, i.e. if we do not slow down in one way or another.

But slow today doesn’t mean just that; it also means a concrete and practicable way of putting this idea into action. It means cultivating quality by connecting products with producers, with the production sites and with the end users who participate in diverse ways in their definition and thus become co-producers.

The slow approach therefore outlines a model of production and alternative consumption which is both subversive and feasible, a model which confronts head on the ideas and practices of today’s globalization. Nevertheless it can be immediately realized on a local level and, as Slow Food has proven, with success.”

In their long essay, they suggest three strategic directions for the slow+design initiative: localisation and experience, phenomenological quality and sustainability, and skill and self-determination.

To find out more about the slow+design initiative, see this earlier post on Putting People First. In 2004 the New York Times also published a nice feature on the launch of the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

25 July 2007

BMW reports on the secret life of cars

The Secret Life of Cars
The architecture and design blog dezeen reports that carmaker BMW published the results of a UK-based study into the way people behave and feel while travelling in cars, both as drivers and passengers.

The findings come in a report called The Secret Life of Cars and What They Reveal About Us – an “anthropological study into human behaviour and motoring”, which was commissioned to help BMW understand drivers’ current and future needs.

The report explores issues such as the way sign language (image) has evolved so drivers can communicate with each other – but notes that no satisfactory signal for “sorry” has emerged. It also finds that, with the rise of eating and drinking in cars, inadequate cupholders is one of the biggest sources of driver discontent.

Among other issues explored in the report – which involved research, focus groups, driver interviews and in-car observations over a four-month period – are attitudes to vehicle emissions and climate change, talking and even singing in cars and the relationships people have with their vehicles.

The report explores the rituals of getting into and out of cars (men take an average of 8 seconds to get out, women 10 and families up to 10 minutes) and identifies new trends among car owners such as personalisation, regional colour preferences and “green-upmanship” – “a tendency to worry about whether their car looks ‘un-green’.

It suggests that families are now likely to spend more time together in the car than anywhere else and that car journeys have replaced the “semi-mythical family mealtime” as the main point of communal experience.

The study was carried out by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) in Oxford and the report was compiled by Not Actual Size.

- Download full report (pdf, 3.3mb, 89 pages)
– Other articles: The Times (UK), Design Week (UK)

(via Core77)

18 July 2007

Barcelona_London: comparing, contrasting and challenging two urban success stories

BCN_LDN 2020
Today the UK think tank Demos launches a new collection of essays produced with Catalan think tank Fundació Ramon Trias Fargas comparing and contrasting the two urban success stories of London and Barcelona.

The report, called BCN_LDN 2020, explores how London and Barcelona can reflect on their past decades of urban policy-making and the challenges ahead.

Abstract

Over the last fifteen years London and Barcelona have epitomised the story of the ‘resurgent city’. They now face a set of challenges without easy answers – such as on public behaviour and public space, on migration and identity, on governance and collective imagination. The collection BCN_LDN 2020 brings together a range of provocative essays exploring current policy discourses and alternative stories.

The collaboration between Demos and Fundació Ramon Trias started with a Work Party in the Summer of 2006, which explored how London and Barcelona can reflect on their past decades of urban policy-making and the challenges ahead.

The publication, which acknowledges the achievements of recent policy-making, but provides a critical reflection on the success stories that we hear from both cities, includes essays by Antoni Vives (Fundació Ramon Trias Fargas), Dr Fran Tonkiss (London School of Economics), Indy Johar (Zero Zero Architects), Anwar Akhtar (Cultural Industries Development Agency), Chris Murray (Core Cities Group), and Lise Autogena (independent artist / NESTA fellow).

Download publication (pdf, 1.7 mb, 102 pages)

17 July 2007

Publicly funded culture and the creative industries

Publicly funded culture and the creative industries
Today the UK think tank Demos posted a short publication (32 pages + footnotes), entitled “Publicly funded culture and the creative industries“.

Abstract
The relationships between publicly funded culture and the creative industries are often assumed to be clear and straightforward. In some cases this is true, but there are more complex factors at work. The creative industries are poorly understood in policy, partly because they often do not conform to traditional expectations about how businesses work, and partly because their scale makes them hard to measure and hard to engage with. This paper calls for new understandings of how culture can benefit the creative industries.

Download publication (pdf, 617 kb, 48 pages)

16 July 2007

TVs and computers breeding generation of ‘screen kids’

TV kids
The Guardian reports on a new report that shows how children are losing out on family life thanks to technology.

TVs and computers are the “electronic babysitters” for a generation of children who are losing out on family life and becoming more materialistic, a report says today. The study paints a picture of a breed of “screen kids” who are spending more and more time watching TV and surfing the net in their bedrooms, unsupervised by adults.

The Watching, Wanting and Wellbeing report from the National Consumer Council found nearly half the children from better-off families surveyed had televisions in their bedrooms, compared with 97% of the nine- to 13-year-olds from less well-off areas.

Children from poorer areas were also six times more likely to watch TV during the evening meal. And around a quarter of youngsters in this group admitted that they regularly watched the television at lunchtime on Sundays, compared with one in 30 children in better-off neighbourhoods. The NCC’s report links increased TV viewing hours with greater exposure to marketing and higher levels of materialism.

The authors, Agnes Nairn, Jo Ormrod and Paul Bottomley, also found that materialistic children were more likely than others to argue with their family, have a lower opinion of their parents and suffer from low self-esteem.

- Read article
Read press release
Download report (pdf, 250 kb, 65 pages)

4 July 2007

Peter Greenaway and the Savoy experience

First we observe
The Venaria Reale is a spectacular palace from the XVIIth and XVIIIth Century just outside Turin, Italy. It was built as the hunting grounds of the Savoy king – rumours go that the prey was also human and female.

When the royals were deposed just after the Second World War, the Turin population sacked the complex and took everything imaginable and unimaginable along with them. It also served as army barracks and immigrant housing at that time. As one can imagine, only a beautiful shell remained. Luckily the local authorities decided for preservation and a costly renovation is now completed.

When pondering what to do with such an enormous palace (it’s bigger than Buckingham Palace), the Region of Piedmont turned to Peter Greenaway. His project, called “Peopling the Palaces”, will feature five giant projections onto the bare palace walls (the original panelling and paintings were sacked as well), illustrating court life in the 17th and 18th centuries. “Imagine going into Venaria Reale and as it were watching 300 cinema films all at once which all interconnect,” said Peter Greenaway.

From a La Stampa newspaper article today [my translation]:
“The visitors will be welcomed by period actors, real and virtual at the same time, that will introduce them to to the palace, and guide him to the private apartments of the Duke, to the kitchen, and to the hunt. They will also be introduced to the court and to the “flying squadron” of the Savoy house, a formation invented by Caterina de Medici and afterwards copied, a group of 40 luxurious damsels ready to offer their services in exchange for alliances, information and secrets. Greenaway has meticulously documented himself on the period and wrote all the dialogues, which were then translated into and recited in Italian. The dialogues, though historically correct, are absolutely unconventional, and so are the projections which are currently being edited.”

View video of Peter Greenaway describing the project

3 July 2007

New Core77 article series more sophisticated than ever

Core77
The Core77 “Reactor” article series is becoming increasingly sophisticated and more and more relevant to the experience design discourse that this blog addresses as well. Check out the latest articles (with my personal preference ever so slightly on the last one):

Riding the Flux by Kevin McCullagh
Kevin McCullagh helps designers navigate the tectonic shifts affecting the design industry.

“The era of product design as practiced by a small band of gurus in Milan, London, Munich and New York is long gone. There are now thousands of competent product designers around the world able to ‘give good form.’ Design as ‘styling’ or ‘form-giving’ has become commoditized, and competing at this level is already a tough low-margin slog. While those hide-bound by the past batten down the hatches, the wise remember that change throws up opportunities as well as challenges.
If we shed the blinkers and see the world differently there are many positive shifts, like the mainstreaming of design in business and the public sector, which offer glimpses of a chance to drastically expand the frontiers of design. A good place to start is by taking a wider view of our know-how.”

Device Art by Carla Diana
Carla Diana brings us up to speed on Device Art, highlights some leading practitioners, and delves into the cross-cultural considerations.

“At the moment, we are seeing an explosion of Device Art activity emerging in Japan, with new artwork appearing in such mainstream channels as electronics catalogs and department stores. In the U.S., however, the Device Art landscape is somewhat bare. One would think that the public’s voracious appetite for gadgets, combined with the creative community’s growing discontent with formulaic, brand-obsessed corporate design would solidly set the stage for this discipline to become a strong cultural force in the U.S., yet it seems relegated to museum boutiques and the back rooms of hipster Japanese toy stores. What gives?”

ID Strategy Conference Review by Nico Macdonald
Nico Macdonald provides a super-detailed review of this year’s Institute of Design Strategy Conference from Chicago, divided up his review into “Reduction,” “Reactions” and “Reflection.”

“Apple and Steve jobs are a great example of not so much user-centered design but CEO-centered design,” quipped Patrick Whitney, Director of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. Soft-spoken Whitney was setting up the program for the Institute’s annual Strategy Conference he chairs, which took place this past May, and which has become the key English-speaking forum for discussing and investigating the new relationships emerging between design and business. Formally the Strategy Conference is an ‘international executive forum addressing how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems, and achieve lasting strategic advantage.’ In person, Whitney captures its goal more succinctly and engagingly. It is about ‘Where to play and How to win.’

Design and Poetry by Xanthe Matychak
Xanthe Matychak investigates what designers can learn from poetry, providing some inspiring tricks toward innovation and some real-world examples.

“What I fear about empirical research—research based purely on observation—is that it doesn’t recognize a deep context. So when designers ask questions like, how do we “design a device where incoming communications are noticed 100% of the time?” we are assuming that people need to notice them 100% of the time. We don’t take into account how rapidly changing technologies have constructed consumer preferences for the faster, the smaller, and the newer. And when we make conclusions based simply on observation, we are jumping too quickly to tech-driven answers. If we designers can, instead, open ourselves up beyond research findings to the practice of reflection, then we can ask deeper questions and discover more meaningful, long-term solutions.”

1 July 2007

Timo Veikkola (Nokia) on a vision of the future

Timo Veikkola
This 20 minute video from the PSFK Conference London 2007 shows the presentation given by Timo Veikkola, senior future specialist at Nokia, on a Vision of our Future. As design is the reflection of society, how can we envision the future through trends, observation and informed intuition. What values, attitudes and behaviours of today will shape our future?

Juliana Xavier provides some more background on her blog “mind the gap”.

Timo Veikkola is an anthropologist; he studies people into culture. As many anthropologists these days he holds a strategic position inside a global corporation. As senior future specialist at Nokia Design, he looks at society to comprehend how there are going to be shifts in behaviour and culture that can inspire their design team. [...]

According to him, trends are the manifestation of values and attitudes, of people’s behaviour and reaction to what is happening in the world. Therefore, innovation, be it a product innovation or a different way to communicate it, has to be based on a good observation and informed intuition of what is going on in the present.

Read full report

29 June 2007

Motorola ethnographic research on shared experiences to inform ICT innovation

Motorola
Crysta Metcalf, principal staff anthropologist at Motorola’s Social Media Research Lab has just published a presentation entitled “Investigating the Sharing Practices of Family & Friends to Inform Communication Technology Innovations“.

“When we talk about the “user experience” the main emphasis is often on an individual’s experience with a particular technology. Even with a purported social technology, for example a social networking site, we still tend to create for the individual’s interaction with the site (how does someone find their friend, how do they access this site easily from a mobile device).

However, designing for sociability means thinking about how people experience each other through the technological medium, not just thinking about how they experience the technology. The emphasis is on the human-to-human relationship, not the human-to-technology relationship. This is a crucial difference in design focus. It means designing for an experience between people.

Of course designing for an experience between people doesn’t mean ignoring the interaction with the device, but it calls for taking something else into account. That “something else” is often another person or people. How do we, as developers of communication technologies, make the communications more interesting, more exciting and more stimulating for the receiver? How do we help our users meet the needs of the other people in their social network? How do we create a shared experience that is equally compelling for all participating parties? When we begin to think like this, we truly start to think of designing social software, social applications, social media.

We’re currently exploring such questions in our research on social group relationship maintenance. Ethnographic studies of five social groups around the country, from the southwest coast of California to rural Iowa to the New York City area, are revealing behavioral patterns around shared activities, storytelling, and attention exchange that we can use for applications innovation.”

Download presentation (pdf, 1.23 mb, 26 slides)

29 June 2007

Carphone Warehouse study on the role of mobile phones in our daily lives

Carphone Warehouse
UK retailer Carphone Warehouse published the latest findings from Mobile Life revealing the strength of people’s attachment to their phones as well as how they have become integral to modern day life.

The study, which was done in conjunction with the London School of Economics (LSE) and Lord Philip Gould, also includes the results of a unique ethnographic experiment depriving 24 people of their phones for a week to better understand how they shape our behaviour.

Findings

  • One in three people would not give up their mobile phone for a million pounds or more, with women leading the way on those most likely to refuse.
  • 76% of people believe it is now a social requirement to have a mobile phone.
  • 85% of people think having a mobile phone is vital to maintaining their quality of life.
  • One in five 16-24 year olds think having a mobile phone decreases their quality of life.
  • Most young adults who took part in the ethnographic experiment felt mobile phones were not just a tool, but a critical social lifeline for feeling part of a friendship group.
  • Most of 16-24 year olds would rather give up alcohol, chocolate, sex, tea or coffee than live without their mobile phone for a month.

- Read press release
Go to Mobile Life website (with report downloads and videos)