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Posts in category 'Media'

7 August 2011

Storytelling in the digital age

Once upon a time
Digital technology allows us to tell tales in innovative new ways. As the tools available to publishers grow more sophisticated, it’s up to us, writes Aleks Krotoski in The Guardian, to experiment and see what sticks.

“The Edinburgh international book festival begins this week, featuring a fortnight of storytelling and literati self-promotion. Looking at the 17 packed days of a programme filled with debates, talks, readings and keynotes, I’ve noticed that there is virtually no reflection on the cards for the “dead tree” version of the story that is threatening to shake-up publishing’s centuries-old foundation. More so, it is surprising given the “digital first” bent of its headline sponsor, the Guardian, that there’s no mention of apps, digital extensions or the new, multiformatted way of telling stories that’s emerging among a new and talented crop of content creators supported by innovative and risk-taking storytelling outlets.”

Read article

13 July 2011

UX and the design of news at BBC World Service

Content hierarchy
Tammy Gur, Head of Design, BBC World Service Future Media, explains the work of the BBC’s user experience and design team which designs and develops news sites for the web and mobile devices in 27 languages, catering for audiences across world.

“I liken the design of a news site to that of the Japanese Bento box. There is a bounding tray and small dishes in a variety of shapes and sizes that can be arranged in different combinations. This is our site design. The food they hold is the changing news content. It is the harmony between the two, the box and the food, that determines the way we will experience this meal.

The food is the main attraction to the diner. But would it be so delectable if not presented with such finesse? To achieve this presentation the box designer has to understand the food (the content) and the diner’s needs and tastes (user behaviours).”

Read article

6 July 2011

How computers can cure cultural diabetes

Peter Lunenfeld
Peter Lunenfeld (wikipedia), professor in the Design | Media Arts department at UCLA, argues in a New Scientist op-ed piece for the importance of what he calls “meaningful uploading”, which is still difficult for most people since “for the past half-century, much of the world’s media culture has been defined by a single medium – television – and television is defined by downloading.”

“What counts as meaningful uploading? My definition revolves around the concept of “stickiness” – creations and experiences to which others adhere. Tweets about celebrity gaffes are not sticky but rather little Teflon balls of meaninglessness. In contrast, applications like tumblr.com, which allow users to combine pictures, words and other media in creative ways and then share them, have the potential to add stickiness by amusing, entertaining and enlightening others – and engendering more of the same. The explosion of apps for mobile phones and tablets means that even people with limited programming skills can now create sticky things.”

Read article

27 May 2011

The future of the TV experience

BLINK
The second global edition of BLINK, a quarterly media industry magazine published by media agency MediaCom, looks into the future of TV.

The 48 page magazine contains insights from experts from around the globe on how TV is changing in the digital age. What does the future hold for channels such as Video on Demand? How do consumer behaviours differ in Asia and how can the Western world learn from them?

Some highlights from the magazine:

The evolution of moving pictures
By Daniel Bischoff, Dennis Grzenia and Sven Wollner, MediaCom Germany
Moving pictures are ubiquitous in modern media. They are part of our culture, part of the way we communicate and have the power to linger long in our memories. But how have moving images evolved? And what lies ahead in the future?

Trends in TV & Video on Demand
By Jonas Hemmingsen, CEO, MediaCom Nordic
Will Video on Demand really change the way we watch television? or will the internet simply become an alternative way to deliver a classic TV experience?

Marketing across platforms
By Michele Skettino, MediaCom USA
Q&A with Michael Kelly, President/CEO of The Weather Channel Companies

6 new ways of viewing television
By MediaCom Italy powered by GroupM
The availability of video on the internet has transformed the way TV is being watched. But while the majority of people use it to augment their traditional viewing habits, a few have discarded their television sets altogether.

The future of TV in Asia
By Jeff McFarland
The future of TV in Asia belongs to mobile and online and may have little to do with the television set

The future of the TV experience
By Helge Tennø
Multitasking, once predicted as the last nail in the coffin of the TV industry, could now be the thing that reconnects TV with its most important player: the audience.

Media plan of the future
By Oliver Gertz, Managing Director Interaction Europe, Middle East & Africa, MediaCom
By combining online and TV we can reach larger audiences, more effectively. High demand means pre-roll and mid-roll ads are seller’s market so we must consider all formats in order to achieve the best return on investment (ROI).

Asia is digitally different
By Robert Fry, Head of Insights, MediaCom Asia Pacific
Until recently marketers in Asia had struggled to explain to their colleagues in the West how different their region was when it came to digital. While they all could appreciate the larger ‘quantity’ of usage, it was harder to relay the higher ‘quality’ of usage. However, the evidence is now becoming clearer.

One of the contributors, Helge Tennø of the Scandinavian Design Group, delves into the topic of multitasking – which he sees the thing as that reconnects TV with its most important asset: the audience – in a rather confusing excerpt article on 180/360/720 (republished on FutureLab), but I recommend to read his original contribution in the PDF download of the magazine.

Also worth some exploration are:
Webcast on the future of TV with Gerhard Zeiler (CEO, RTL Group) and Sue Unerman (CSO of MediaCom UK)
– MediaCom whitepaper on the future of TV
Panel on Future TV at DLD11 with Peter Hirshberg, Thomas Künstner (Partner with Booz & Company’s Communications Media and Technology Practice), Brian Sullivan (CEO, Sky Deutschland), and Ynon Kreiz (Chairman and CEO, Endemol group)

24 May 2011

Book: New Media Technologies and User Empowerment

New Media Technologies and User Empowerment
New Media Technologies and User Empowerment
Jo Pierson, Enid Mante-Meijer and Eugène Loos (eds.)
Peter Lang – International Academic Publishers
May 2011
317 pages
ISBN 978-3-631-60031-3

Synopsis

Recent developments in new media devices and applications have led to the rise of what have become known as ‘social media’, ‘Web 2.0’, ‘social computing’ or ‘participative web’. This shift in ICT, from unidirectional to conversational media of mass self-communication has lowered the technological thresholds for everyday users to cooperate for their own benefit, to participate in online environments and social network sites, to co-create business value and to become ‘produsers’ or ‘pro-ams’. At the same time, we see an evolution towards people-centred design and user-driven innovation in the design of new media technologies. This has created new opportunities and heightened expectations regarding user empowerment in different societal arenas.

However, the question remains to what extent users and communities interacting in an all-IP new media ecosystem are empowered (and not disempowered) to express their creativity and concerns in their social and cultural environment and to obtain a prominent role in the process of new media design and innovation. The book attempts to answer this question through a collection of chapters that scrutinise this issue. The different chapters focus on the way that social and economic opportunities and threats enable and/or constrain user empowerment.

This work consists of four major sections, each of which examines the (potential) empowerment/disempowerment of users in relation to new media technologies from a different angle. The chapters in the first section describe different theoretical perspectives on user roles and user involvement in the new media ecosystem, referring to interpretative, positivist and critical schools of thought. Based on these overall guiding frameworks, we then explore the leverage users have, both on content level and on technological level. This refers respectively to the second and third section of the book. In the fourth section different case studies are presented, each of which highlight how user empowerment manifests itself in different new media sectors and environments (such as publishing, the music industry and social networking sites).

The book is based on interdisciplinary research. It offers innovative insights based on state-of-the-art academic and industry-driven ICT user research in various European countries. This work will appeal to post-graduate students and researchers in the field of media and communication studies, social studies of technology, digital media marketing and other domains that investigate the mutual relationship between new media technologies and society.

Contents

  • Yves Punie: Introduction: New Media Technologies and User Empowerment. Is there a Happy Ending?
  • Enid Mante-Meijer/Eugène Loos: Innovation and the Role of Push and Pull
  • Valerie Frissen/Mijke Slot: The Return of the Bricoleur: Redefining Media Business
  • Serge Proulx/Lorna Heaton: Forms of User Contribution in Online Communities: Mechanisms of Mutual Recognition between Contributors
  • Aphra Kerr/Stefano De Paoli/Cristiano Storni: Rethinking the Role of Users in ICT Design: Reflections for the Internet
  • James Stewart/Laurence Claeys: Problems and Opportunities of Interdisciplinary Work Involving Users in Speculative Research for Innovation of Novel ICT Applications
  • Marinka Vangenck/Jo Pierson/Wendy Van den Broeck/Bram Lievens: User-Driven Innovation in the Case of Three-Dimensional Urban Environments
  • Mijke Slot: Web Roles Re-examined: Exploring User Roles in the Media Environment
  • Philip Ely/David Frohlich/Nicola Green: Uncertainty, Upheavals and Upgrades: Digital-DIY during Life-change
  • Eva K. Törnquist: In Search of Elks and Birds: Two Case Studies on the Creative Use of ICT in Sweden
  • Levente Szekely/Agnes Urban: Over the Innovators and Early Adopters: Incentives and Obstacles of Internet Usage
  • James Stewart/Richard Coyne/Penny Travlou/Mark Wright/Henrik Ekeus: The Memory Space and the Conference: Exploring Future Uses of Web2.0 and Mobile Internet through Design Interventions
  • Sanna Martilla/Kati Hyyppä/Kari-Hans Kommonen: Co-Design of a Software Toolkit for Media Practices: P2P-Fusion Case Study
  • Ike Picone: Mapping Users’ Motivations and Thresholds for Casually «Produsing» News
  • Stijn Bannier: The Musical Network 2.0 & 3.0
  • Enid Mante-Meijer/Jo Pierson/Eugène Loos: Conclusion: Substantiating User Empowerment

Authors

  • Jo Pierson is Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel – Department of Communication Studies / SMIT (Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication)
  • Enid Mante-Meijer is emeritus Professor at Utrecht University – Utrecht School of Governance
  • Eugène Loos is Professor at the University of Amsterdam – Department of Communication Science / ASCoR (Amsterdam School of Communication Research).
17 March 2011

Social media, internet, technology and museums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 December 2010

Book: Designing Media by Bill Moggridge

Designing Media
Designing Media, the new book by Bill Moggridge, director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and founder of IDEO, is now available in hard copy, as a DVD and as a downloadable pdf.

Abstract

Mainstream media, often known simply as MSM, have not yet disappeared in a digital takeover of the media landscape. But the long-dominant MSM—television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and books—have had to respond to emergent digital media. Newspapers have interactive Web sites; television broadcasts over the Internet; books are published in both electronic and print editions. In Designing Media, design guru Bill Moggridge examines connections and conflicts between old and new media, describing how the MSM have changed and how new patterns of media consumption are emerging. The book features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter.

We learn about innovations in media that rely on contributions from a crowd (or a community), as told by Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Craigslist’s Craig Newmark; how the band OK Go built a following using YouTube; how real-time connections between dispatchers and couriers inspired Twitter; how a BusinessWeek blog became a quarterly printed supplement to the magazine; and how e-readers have evolved from Rocket eBook to QUE. Ira Glass compares the intimacy of radio to that of the Internet; the producer of PBS’s Frontline supports the program’s investigative journalism by putting documentation of its findings online; and the developers of Google’s Trendalyzer software describe its beginnings as animations that accompanied lectures about social and economic development in rural Africa. At the end of each chapter, Moggridge comments on the implications for designing media. Designing Media is illustrated with hundreds of images, with color throughout. A DVD accompanying the book includes excerpts from all of the interviews, and the material can be browsed at www.designing-media.com.

The book also features interviews with thirty-seven significant figures in both traditional and new forms of mass communication; interviewees range from the publisher of the New York Times to the founder of Twitter – also these can be viewed on the website.

Interviews with: Chris Anderson, Rich Archuleta, Blixa Bargeld, Colin Callender, Fred Deakin, Martin Eberhard, David Fanning, Jane Friedman, Mark Gerzon, Ira Glass, Nat Hunter, Chad Hurley, Joel Hyatt, Alex Juhasz, Jorge Just, Alex MacLean, Bob Mason, Roger McNamee, Jeremy Merle, Craig Newmark, Bruce Nussbaum, Alice Rawsthorn, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Paul Saffo, Jesse Scanlon, DJ Spooky, Neil Stevenson, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Shinichi Takemura, James Truman, Jimmy Wales, Tim Westergren, Ev Williams, Erin Zhu, Mark Zuckerberg

Bill Moggridge, Director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City, is a founder of IDEO, the famous innovation and design firm. He has a global reputation as an award-winning designer, having pioneered interaction design and integrated human factors disciplines into design practice.

5 November 2010

Nine reasons smartphones are dumb remotes

FLPR
As the Internet and TV converge in living rooms, lots of folks, including the New York Times, have been drooling over the idea of smartphones as next-gen remotes. On the surface, this seems like a cool idea. After all, smart mobile devices have touch screens, keyboards, and all sorts of other bells and whistles that should equal an enhanced, enjoyable smart-TV experience.

Once you scratch the surface, however, you soon realize what a terrible and impractical idea an app-enabled smartphone remote really is.

Here are the nine reasons why

(And the author forgets to mention that TV’s are often watched in darker environments, where tactile feedback on the location of the volume and programme buttons are simply quite helpful – one can change the volume or the programme without having to watch a normal remote, but you can’t do that with a touchscreen smart phone).

4 November 2010

Four year ethnographic study of Global Voices

Lokman Tsui
How would a newsroom look if we could build it from scratch, current technologies in hand?

A 4 year ethnograhic study of Global Voices brought Lokman Tsui, an Assistant Professor in Media and Communication at the City University of Hong Kong to the concept of the transformative newsroom. The research results are published in his doctoral dissertation “A Journalism of Hospitality“.

“My project answers this question through a comparative study of legacy mainstream professional newsrooms that have migrated online, what I call “adaptive newsrooms”, and two “transformative” newsrooms, Indymedia and Global Voices. In particular, it takes up the challenge of rethinking journalism in the face of new technologies, by analyzing the cultures, practices and people of a new kind of news production environment: Global Voices, an international project that collects and translates blogs and citizen media from around the world in order to “aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – to shine light on places and people other media often ignore.”

An ethnographic study of Global Voices spanning four years reveals that the internet enables a radical shift in several key facets of news production: its political economy, its sociology and its culture. The Global Voices newsroom, for example, demonstrates how the internet allows for different kinds of newsroom routines that are designed to bring attention to underrepresented voices, whereas it was previously thought routines determined the news to be biased towards institutional and authoritative voices. I argue that these changes in news production challenge us to judge journalistic excellence not only in terms of objectivity or intersubjectivity, but increasingly also in terms of hospitality. Roger Silverstone defined hospitality as the “ethical obligation to listen.” Understanding journalism through the lens of hospitality, the internet presents a unique opportunity as well as poses a radical challenge: in a world where everybody can speak, who will listen? I suggest that in a globally networked world, there continues to be a need for journalism to occupy an important position, but that it will require a process of rethinking and renewal, one where journalism transforms itself to an institution for democracy where listening, conversation and hospitality are central values.”

Download dissertation

(via Dina Mehta)

2 November 2010

Lost the remote? Another reason to use an app

Remote
TV viewing habits are changing as more Internet and on-demand content — YouTube videos, streaming movies, shopping sites, Facebook photos — flows directly onto big screens, writes Joshua Brustein in the New York Times. Navigating all of that demands more action from the viewer, including a fair amount of typing, which current remotes cannot handle.

“Some in the technology industry believe that a better alternative would be to simply replace the remote with smartphone apps like the one Mr. Lavoie uses. If you create a specialized smartphone app to control a TV or set-top box, you can pack the phone’s touch screen with virtual buttons in any configuration you like. [...]

[Other] companies are not sold on the idea of the smartphone as the remote of the future. They are selling a range of remotes armed with full keyboards, touch screens and motion sensors.”

Read article

2 November 2010

How the shift to mobile is revolutionising online news design

Guardian app
At the recent European Information Architecture Summit in Paris, Oliver Reichenstein, who has done several web design projects for Swiss newspapers, talked about how the traditional layout of the paper was very much wedded to the technology of the time, writes Martin Belam, information architect for Guardian.co.uk.

In the 19th century, if you needed to be able to accommodate sudden changes to layout caused by late breaking news, the easiest way to achieve this with physical type was to have interchangeable blocks of text with common widths. And thus we have the newspaper layout we know and, mostly, still love.

The web design of news is also deeply rooted in the technology of the time, with most major news websites optimised to work well in browsers that were released a few years ago, on desktop-shaped monitors. And most existing content management systems (CMS) are optimised around spitting out chunks of articles of broadly similar length, which are mostly displayed in the browser in broadly similar templates.

There might be the occasional dalliance with a different format, but broadly speaking, an article per page, with a strip of topic-based navigation on top is the de facto standard for delivering news online.

The growth of the smartphone market in the US and the emergence of a range of tablet devices are challenging this orthodoxy of digital news presentation.

Read article

28 July 2010

Time to break the cyber-utopian myth

Ethan Zuckerman
Who do you read and associate with online?

Ethan Zuckerman argues in this Guardian video that cultural and linguistic barriers stand in the way of our using the internet to tackle global issues.

15 July 2010

University and Cyberspace conference videos online

Communia
A few weeks ago the Communia conference University and Cyberspace took place here in Torino, Italy, with a focus on “reshaping knowledge institutions for the networked age”. Speakers included Massimo Banzi, Joy Ito, David Orban, Bruce Sterling, and many others.

The international conference, which is the conclusion and culmination of the Communia Thematic Network project (the European Thematic Network on the Digital Public Domain), was organised by the Politecnico of Torino’s NEXA Research Center for Internet and Society (that also coordinated the network) and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and aimed at defining a shared vision of the future of universities as knowledge institutions and identifying the main steps leading from vision to reality.

The event addressed questions such as: How is the role of universities as knowledge creating, sharing, and applying institutions going to change due to the Internet? How should universities use cyberspace to best implement their mission with respect to society? Taking into account the characteristics of the new generations of students, faculty and staff, how should the informational and the spatial (both physical and virtual) infrastructures of universities be shaped to improve learning, discovery, and engagement? What about the new opportunities to enhance the civic role of universities – who prepare people for citizenship and contribute to the public sphere – in our democratic societies?

Videos of all sessions are now online, although in a still somewhat rough format (they are now working at processing the videos further):

Monday 28 June
The first day of the conference covered the relevant history and traditions of universities, moved through the current state of play, and focused on the emerging landscape of universities, articulating both their changing role in society, the significant challenges these institutions are facing for the future and, more specifically, their role vis a vis the increasing commons of knowledge facilitated by the Internet.

Morning session (video link)

  • Kick-off [00:12:56]: Juan Carlos de Martin, NEXA Center for Internet & Society, in conversation with Charles Nesson, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Keynote [00:53:20]: “Universities in the Age of the Internet” by Stefano Rodotà, University of Rome
  • High Order Bit [01:46:00]: “Arduino, Open Source Hardware and Learning by Doing” by Massimo Banzi, tinker.it, arduino.cc
  • Plenary [02:03:45]: “Digital Natives” with John Palfrey, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Marco de Rossi, Oilproject.org, and Urs Gasser, Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Afternoon session (video link)

  • Plenary [00:01:19]: “Information Infrastructure” with Alma Swan, Key Perspectives Ltd., Stuart Shieber, Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Office of Scholarly Communication at Harvard University, and Martin Hall, Salford University, UK
  • High Order Bit [01:27:13]: “African Universities as Knowledge Centers: Challenges and Opportunities” by Boubakar Barry, African Association of Universities
  • Plenary [01:41:45]: Physical/Virtual Spatial Infrastructure” with Antoine Picon, Harvard University and Jef Huang, EPFL

Tuesday 29 June
The second day attempted cross-sectional reorientation, by examining universities’ emerging responsibilities as ‘horizontal’ themes, especially as they intersect with future challenges described in the first day’s ‘vertical’ tracks.

Morning session (video link)

  • High Order Bit [00:01:12]: “Individual and social evolution: through digital gaming, out of the box” by Carlo Fabricatore, Initium Studios & University of Worcester
  • Plenary [00:14:52]: “Universities as Civic Actors or Institutions” with Marco Santambrogio, University of Parma, Italy, Colin Maclay, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Maarten Simons, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, Jan Masschelein, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and Juan Carlos De Martin, NEXA Center for Internet & Society

Afternoon session (video link)

  • Plenary [00:01:00]: “Universities as Platforms for Learning” with Catharina Maracke, Keio University, Japan, Marco De Rossi, Oilproject.org, Carlo Fabricatore, Initium Studios & University of Worcester, Delia Browne, Peer-2-Peer University, Stephan Vincent-Lancrin, OECD, and Jean Claude Guedon, University of Montreal
  • High Order Bit [01:15:46] by Joy Ito, Creative Commons
  • Plenary [01:33:11]: “Universities as Knowledge Creators” with Carlo Olmo, Politecnico di Torino, Phillippe Aigrain, Sopinspace, Janneke Adema, Coventry University, Mary Lee Kennedy, Harvard Business School, and Terry Fisher, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Plenary [02:49:56]: “In Search of the Public Domain” with Lucie Guibault, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam, Patrick Peiffer, Luxcommons, Jonathan Gray, Open Knowledge Foundation, Sirin Tekinay, Ozyegin University, Istanbul, Turkey, Ignasi Labastida, University of Barcelona, Philippe Aigrain, Sopinspace, and Paolo Lanteri, WIPO

Wednesday 30 June
The third day combined the three tracks and the cross-sectional issues with an orientation towards solutions and next steps.

Morning session (video link)

  • High Order Bit [00:01:08]: “Why Academia Needs to Rediscover the Commons” by Jean Claude Guedon, University of Montreal
  • High Level Keynote [00:28:00]: “Digital Culture, Network Culture, and What Comes Afterward” by Bruce Sterling
  • High Order Bit [01:35:44]: “From Elites, To Masses: Drivers of Excellence in Communication, And Participation” by David Orban, Humanity+ & Singularity University
  • Student session [01:49:58]: “Public universities, public education: From the Bologna Process to Cyberspace”, chaired by Chiara Basile, Politecnico di Torino

Afternoon session (video link)

  • Final Session: “Synthesis and Proposals” with Stephan Vincent-Lancrin, OECD, Francesco Profumo, Rector Politecnico di Torino, Mario Calabresi, La Stampa, Herbert Burkert, University of St. Gallen, Jafar Javan, UN Staff College, Charles Nesson, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Chiara Basile, Politecnico di Torino, Sirin Tekinay, Ozyegin University, Istanbul, Turkey, Juan Carlos De Martin, NEXA Center for Internet & Society, and Urs Gasser, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
23 June 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three stages

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

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

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

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

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

22 June 2010

The reality of social media

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

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

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

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13 June 2010

Book: Screen Future

Screen Future
Screen Future
The Future of Entertainment, Computing, and the Devices We Love
By Brian David Johnson

June 30th 2010 will see the publication of the book, Screen Future: The Future of Entertainment, Computing and the Devices We Love, by Brian David Johnson, customer experience architect at Intel.

Screen Future is a technical book about people, technology, and the economics that are shaping and the evolution of entertainment. Blending social and computer sciences, the book provides a vision for what happens after convergence and what we need to do to get there.

Screen Future explores the big unanswered questions: What do consumers really want? What are the real world implications for bringing about the future of TV across multiple platforms? As the experience of watching television permeates all of consumer electronics devices how will it be delivered and paid for? Pulling from global consumer research, Screen Future explores in concrete terms what real people actually want from the future of TVs and how the entertainment and technology industries might bring this vision to market in ways that work for all involved.

Table of contents (pdf)
Blog post by the author
Book review on Dealerscope

28 May 2010

Usability and user experience in digital libraries

Ariadne
Lorraine Paterson and Boon Low of the UK National e-Science Centre at the University of Edinburgh highlight findings from the usability inspection report they conducted for the JISC-funded research project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0). The article was published in Ariadne, the UK web magazine for information professionals in archives, libraries and museums.

“Demands for improved usability and developments in user experience (UX) have become pertinent due to the increasing complexities of digital libraries (DLs) and user expectations associated with the advances in Web technologies. In particular, usability research and testing are becoming necessary means to assess the current and future breeds of information environments such that they can be better understood, well-formed and validated.

Usability studies and digital library development are not often intertwined due to the existing cultural model in system development. Usability issues are likely to be addressed post-hoc or as a priori assumptions. Recent initiatives have advanced usability studies in terms of information environment development. However, significant work is still required to address the usability of new services arising from the trends in social networking and Web 2.0.

The JISC-funded project, Usability and Contemporary User Experience in Digital Libraries (UX2.0), contributes to this general body of work by enhancing a digital library through a development and evaluation framework centred on usability and contemporary user experience. Part of the project involves usability inspection and research on contemporary user experience techniques. This article highlights the findings of the usability inspection work recently conducted and reported by UX2.0. The report provided a general impression of digital library usability; notwithstanding, it revealed a range of issues, each of which merits a systematic and vigorous study. The discussion points outlined here provide a resource generally useful for the JISC Community and beyond.”

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25 May 2010

Growing up online

Growning up online
In Growing Up Online, the American public affairs series FRONTLINE takes viewers inside the very public private worlds that kids are creating online, raising important questions about how the Internet is transforming childhood.

“The Internet and the digital world was something that belonged to adults, and now it’s something that really is the province of teenagers, ” says C.J. Pascoe, a postdoctoral scholar with the University of California, Berkeley’s Digital Youth Research project.

“They’re able to have a private space, even while they’re still at home. They’re able to communicate with their friends and have an entire social life outside of the purview of their parents, without actually having to leave the house.”

As more and more kids grow up online, parents are finding themselves on the outside looking in. “I remember being 11; I remember being 13; I remember being 16, and I remember having secrets,” mother of four Evan Skinner says. “But it’s really hard when it’s the other side.”

At school, teachers are trying to figure out how to reach a generation that no longer reads books or newspapers. “We can’t possibly expect the learner of today to be engrossed by someone who speaks in a monotone voice with a piece of chalk in their hand,” one school principal says.

“We almost have to be entertainers,” social studies teacher Steve Maher tells FRONTLINE. “They consume so much media. We have to cut through that cloud of information around them, cut through that media, and capture their attention.”

Fears of online predators have led teachers and parents to focus heavily on keeping kids safe online. But many children think these fears are misplaced. “My parents don’t understand that I’ve spent pretty much since second grade online,” one ninth-grader says. “I know what to avoid.”

Many Internet experts agree with the kids. “Everyone is panicking about sexual predators online. That’s what parents are afraid of; that’s what parents are paying attention to,” says Parry Aftab, an Internet security expert and executive director of WiredSafety.org. But the real concern, she says, is the trouble that kids might get into on their own. Through social networking and other Web sites, kids with eating disorders share tips about staying thin, and depressed kids can share information about the best ways to commit suicide.

Another threat is “cyberbullying,” as schoolyard taunts, insults and rumors find their way online. John Halligan‘s son Ryan was bullied for months at school and online before he ultimately hanged himself in October 2003. “I clearly made a mistake putting that computer in his room. I allowed the computer to become too much of his life,” Halligan tells FRONTLINE. “The computer and the Internet were not the cause of my son’s suicide, but I believe they helped amplify and accelerate the hurt and the pain that he was trying to deal with that started in person, in the real world.”

“You have a generation faced with a society with fundamentally different properties, thanks to the Internet,” says Danah Boyd, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “It’s a question for us of how we teach ourselves and our children to live in a society where these properties are fundamentally a way of life. This is public life today.”

Watch programme online

12 May 2010

The future of news

Daedalus
The Spring 2010 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, is dedicated to the Future of News.

Front Matter

Introduction
Loren Ghiglione, Professor of Media Ethics at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University

News & the news media in the digital age: implications for democracy
Herbert J. Gans, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Columbia University

Are there lessons for the future of news from the 2008 presidential campaign?
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, & Jeffrey A. Gottfried, senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center

New economic models for U.S. journalism
Robert H. Giles, Curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University

Sustaining quality journalism
Jill Abramson, Managing Editor, The New York Times

The future of investigative journalism
Brant Houston, Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The future of science news
Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University

International reporting in the age of participatory media
Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

The case for wisdom journalism – and for journalists surrendering the pursuit of news
Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism in the Carter Institute at New York University

Journalism ethics amid structural change
Jane B. Singer, Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa

Political observatories, databases & news in the emerging ecology of public information
Michael Schudson, Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

What is happening to news?
Jack Fuller, former President of Tribune Publishing Company

The Internet & the future of news
Paul Sagan & Tom Leighton, Fellows of the American Academy

Improving how journalists are educated & how their audiences are informed
Susan King, Vice President for External Relations at Carnegie Corporation of New York

Does science fiction suggest futures for news?
Loren Ghiglione, Professor of Media Ethics at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University

poetry: In a Diner Above the Lamoille River
Greg Delanty, poet

Contributors

5 May 2010

Reading in a digital age

American Scholar
Sven Birkerts wites in the American Scholar on why the novel and the Internet are opposites, and why the latter both undermines the former and makes it more necessary.

“My real worry has less to do with the overthrow of human intelligence by Google-powered artificial intelligence and more with the rapid erosion of certain ways of thinking—their demotion, as it were. I mean reflection, a contextual understanding of information, imaginative projection. I mean, in my shorthand, intransitive thinking. Contemplation. Thinking for its own sake, non-instrumental, as opposed to transitive thinking, the kind that would depend on a machine-drive harvesting of facts toward some specified end. Ideally, of course, we have both, left brain and right brain in balance. But the evidence keeps coming in that not only are we hypertrophied on the left-brain side, but we are subscribing wholesale to technologies reinforcing that kind of thinking in every aspect of our lives. The digital paradigm.”

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