counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


Posts in category 'Participation'

22 November 2010

Invading Cyprus with user-centred design

Schedia
A group of young designers are making their mark on Nicosia’s urban scene by creatively redesigning “misused public spaces”.

“Our goal is to give solutions on how these spaces could be used,” said designer Marina Hadjilouca, one of the founders and designers of Schedia, organisers of this weekend’s Urban Invaders event.

Schedia was set up in December 2009 and focuses on user-centred designs, exploring how methods used within this area of design can improve urban regeneration, such as the transformation of the old town of Nicosia, as well as public and private places like libraries. This type of design is centred on the user, researching its characteristics and providing solutions that meet their needs, wishes and expectations. The process covers each stage of design, starting from the research involving the public to the outline of the idea and the development of the space.

Read article

7 November 2010

The enabling city

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication abstract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 October 2010

Smartphones are our new drug of choice

Smartphone addiction
Smartphones’ sleek forms, tactile buttons, and blinking lights add up to a sort of game — and a perfect catalyst for compulsive behaviors, writes Shelley DuBois in Fortune Magazine.

“Smartphones actually could tap into one of the same pathways in the brain that make slot machines so addictive, according to Judson Brewer, the medical director at the Yale Therapeutic Neuroscience Clinic. One of the reasons gambling is so addictive is that it taps into a powerful associative learning pathway.

Associative learning means that your brain is trained to make you feel either good or bad after a certain event. Winning a jackpot feels great, so gamblers get a very strong hit of good-feeling chemicals when they win, which makes them want to do it again. “That forms an associative memory,” says Brewer. “Wanting is the stickiness that creates the glue between what you just did and that feeling.”

It turns out that reinforcing that reward intermittently creates a more powerful need than offering a reward consistently. If people hit the jackpot every time they pulled a lever, gambling would be boring. But because they don’t know when the reward is going to come, they want it that much more. Smartphones, in a way, also channel intermittent rewards.”

Read article

6 October 2010

Is social media catalyzing an offline sharing economy?

Sharing Economy
The results of Latitude Research and Shareable Magazine‘s The New Sharing Economy study released today indicate that online sharing does indeed seem to encourage people to share offline resources such as cars and bikes, largely because they are learning to trust each other online. And they’re not just sharing to save money – an equal number of people say they share to make the world a better place.

The research was prompted by a recent surge in sharing startups driven by social technology, a generational shift, and new consumption patterns brought on by economic and environmental crisis.

Read article

UPDATE: New related articles
Study reveals big opportunities in the sharing economy
Has the business of sharing finally reached the tipping point?

30 September 2010

Crowdsourcing: turning customers into creative directors

Threadless
Is turning your customers into both creative director and chief of research the ideal low-cost model for business? The BBC reports on the role of crowdsourcing in business:

“Not everyone is so sanguine about the benefits. Jaron Lanier is a US computer scientist, virtual reality pioneer, and author of You Are Not a Gadget. He made Time magazine’s 2010 list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

His concern is that by “mining” the crowd in this way, the wealth that results from the work done remains concentrated in the hands of the people who put out the call – ultimately endangering jobs and the economy. Lanier also believes that crowdsourcing threatens creativity. “

Read article

29 September 2010

Forrester Research: Many social networkers happy just to lurk

Social networker
Online social networks are growing, but the percentage of users uploading content to sites like YouTube and Facebook has “plateaued” worldwide, according to a report released Tuesday by Forrester Research, writes CNN.

The report, called “A Global Update of Social Technographics,” says people joining online social networks aren’t uploading videos, posting status updates and engaging in conversations like those before them.

Read article

21 August 2010

Does technology pose a threat to our private life?

Smartphone
This week Google’s Eric Schmidt suggested we may need to invent new identities to escape embarrassing online pasts – while Facebook launched a tool to share users’ locations. So does technology pose a threat to private life? Jemima Kiss reports in The Guardian:

“From the surveillance entertainment of Big Brother to CCTV and celebrity magazines, the boundaries of what is regarded as appropriate to put in the public domain are shifting dramatically. But nothing is challenging our notion of privacy more than social networking, with 26 million of us using Facebook to share the minutiae of our lives every month in the UK alone.”

Read article

21 August 2010

Designing for the loss of control

Simpsons angry mob
The people at frogdesign have posted two long articles (the first one is really an essay) that we consider a recommended read:

Openness or how do you design for the loss of control?
Openness is the mega-trend for innovation in the 21st century, and it remains the topic du jour for businesses of all kinds. However, as several new books elaborate upon the concept from different perspectives, and a growing number of organizations have recently launched ambitious initiatives to expand the paradigm to other areas of business, Tim Leberecht thought it might be a good time to reframe “Open” from a design point of view.

100,000 Twitter followers and why it matters
@frogdesign passed the 100K Twitter mark recently. [...] Sometimes, [Sam Martin and his] marketing team are asked both inside and outside the company, “How are you doing this?” [They] even still get the question, “Why are you doing this?” They are necessary questions, and, of course, it’s not possible to point to one thing or effort or measurement when talking about either. Based on [their] experience over the past year, here are a few thoughts on the matter.

The following quote could also be the motto of this Putting People First blog: “Twitter is a reminder of the responsibility we have to be thoughtful curators of relevant news, trends, and debates, even when those debates involve our competitors.”

Great work, froggers!

21 August 2010

Why web tracking isn’t bad

Privacy
Companies spend so much money on free services because of online advertising that trades in personal information. If Web users supply less information, the Web will supply less information to them, says Jim Harper in the Wall Street Journal.

“If Web users supply less information to the Web, the Web will supply less information to them. Free content won’t go away if consumers decline to allow personalization, but there will be less of it. Bloggers and operators of small websites will have a little less reason to produce the stuff that makes our Internet an endlessly fascinating place to visit.”

Read article

23 July 2010

Taking co-production into the mainstream

Co-production
The conventional public services delivery model does not address underlying problems that lead many to rely on public services and thus carries the seeds of its own demise, argue David Boyle, Anna Coote, Chris Sherwood and Julia Slay in a new report by UK think-and-do-tank nef (the new economics foundation) and NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

These include, they argue, a tendency to disempower people who are supposed to benefit from services, to create waste by failing to recognise service users’ own strengths and assets, and to engender a culture of dependency that stimulates demand.

People’s needs are better met when they are involved in an equal and reciprocal relationship with professionals and others, working together to get things done. This is the underlying principle of co-production – a transformational approach to delivering services – whose time has now come.

Co-production has the potential to transform public services so that they are better positioned to address these problems and to meet urgent challenges such as public spending cuts, an ageing society, the increasing numbers of those with long-term health conditions and rising public expectations for personalised high quality services.

For over a year, nef and NESTA have been working together to grow a network of co-production practitioners. They have built a substantial body of knowledge about co-production that offers a powerful critique of the current model of public service delivery and a key to transforming it.

The discussion paper Right here, right now – Taking co-production into the mainstream (pdf) is the last of three reports ow is the right time to move co-production out of the margins and into the mainstream. The report provides the basis for a better understanding of how to make this happen.

The first report, The Challenge of Co-production, published in December 2009, explained what co-production is and why it offers the possibility of more effective and efficient public services.

The second report, Public Services Inside Out, published in April, described a co-production framework.

Read press release

20 July 2010

Social networking and public service provision

Lee Bryant
I very much enjoyed the reflection of Lee Bryant (Headshift), following the launch of the UK Government’s Big Society initiative.

In it, he argues that in the past, UK politics [and not just UK, I'd say] were dominated by two competing visions of the role of the state:

“One, on the left, saw state provision as the best way to ensure fairness and protect people form the vagaries of the market, and argued for increasing spending on public services. The other, on the right, saw state intervention as contrary to the liberty of its citizens and a poor substitute for market or community provision of services, arguing for a reduction in public spending and a rolling back of the state.”

“We badly need new ideas and new approaches,” he says, “especially since the gulf between rising demands on public services and available funding to meet them is growing ever wider.”

“More than anything, we need approaches that go with the grain of human behaviour and motivation, and which understand that society is comprised of inter-related complex systems, rather than reductionist management control methods.”

He then continues an in-depth discussion about the value of co-design and participation (supported by the PwC / IPPR paper ‘Capable Communities‘), social networks as tools, social networks as contexts, and the future new, socially-networked public services.

Read article

12 July 2010

Worries about over-sharing location from mobiles

Friends using Foursquare
Experiments like ‘Please Rob Me’ indicate that what people reveal via location-sharing apps could potentially be harmful to them – and survey finds concerns among users.

“More than half of people with geolocation-capable mobile devices worry about “loss of privacy” from using their location-sharing features, a survey has found – even though location-sharing apps such as FourSquare and Gowalla have millions of users checking in every day.

Among UK respondents, 52% said they were “very or extremely concerned” about loss of privacy from using location-sharing applications – even though the same proportion said that they geotag photos, indicating where they were taken, when uploading them to the internet.

The survey, commissioned by security company Webroot, interviewed 1,500 owners of devices with geolocation capabilities, including 624 people in the UK.”

Read article

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.”

Read article

15 June 2010

Improving patient safety by user-driven design

PSIP
In his talk “‘Improving patient safety by user-driven design of decision support” at the IIT Institute of Design, Christian Nøhr of Aalborg University described the ethnographic and participatory work conducted with doctors, nurses and patients in Denmark, as part of the PSIP European research project.

Christian Nøhr presents the participatory design games approach for Patient Safety through Intelligent Procedures (PSIP), a 5-country European Union project including Denmark. In this technology R & D project, the Danish team created video-ethnography documentation of interactions between doctors, nurses and patients regarding medication prescriptions and medication taking. Video clips were then used as material in design process in participatory workshops for rapid prototyping to support ‘collective intelligence’ for design of support for the complexity of medical work practices.

Christian Nøhr, M.Sc. Ph.D. Professor of health informatics and technology assessment at Department of Development and Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark. Director of he Virtual Centre for Health Informatics (V-CHI). Christian has worked with health care informatics for more than 25 years. His main research field is technology assessment and evaluation studies, organizational change, design and implementation of information systems in health care. He has been project manager of several national research projects, and participated in a number of European projects. He is currently a member of the E-health Observatory – an ongoing project, which monitors the development and implementation process of E-Health systems in Denmark.

Watch video [69:49]

12 June 2010

Closing the digital frontier

The digital frontier
The era of the Web browser’s dominance is coming to a close. And the Internet’s founding ideology—that information wants to be free, and that attempts to constrain it are not only hopeless but immoral— suddenly seems naive and stale in the new age of apps, smart phones, and pricing plans. What will this mean for the future of the media—and of the Web itself? Michael Hirschorn reflects on this in latest issue of The Atlantic Magazine:

“The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995.”

Read article

11 June 2010

Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus

Cognitive Surplus
Clay Shirky’s second book, The Cognitive Surplus, “picks up where his stellar debut, Here Comes Everybody left off,” writes Cory Doctorow in his Boing Boing book review, “explaining how the net’s lowered costs for group activity allow us to be creative and even generous in ways that we never anticipated and haven’t yet fully taken account of.”

“Shirky’s hypothesis is that a lot of the 20th century stuff we used to take for granted — most people didn’t want to create media, people didn’t value homemade and amateur productions, no one would pitch in to create something for others to enjoy unless they were being paid — weren’t immutable laws of nature, but accidents of history. The Internet has undone those accidents, by making it possible for more people to make and do cool stuff, especially together.”

Read book review

11 June 2010

Recognising the nuances of privacy

Open
This weekend the new issue of OPEN will be launched at the Berlin Biennial. “Privacy” is the main theme, and the focus is “not so much on deploring the loss of privacy but on taking the present situation of ‘post-privacy’ for what it is and trying to gain insight into what is on the horizon in terms of new subjectivities and power constructions.”

Martijn de Waal contributed to this issue with the article: “New Use of Cellular Networks – The Necessity of Recognizing the Nuances of Privacy”.

According to media researcher Martijn de Waal, it is time to rethink our ideas of privacy. The growing use of cellular networks is generating data that plays an important role in civil society projects. To be able to continue using such data in a meaningful and fair way, people must become aware of the fact that privacy is not only a question of either private or public, but includes many New gradations in between.

Read article (alternate link)

Some other articles are also available online.

5 June 2010

Does the Internet make us smarter or dumber?

Smarter or dumber?
Clay Shirky and Nicholas Carr post contrasting video’s in the Saturday Essay of the Wall Street Journal

Amid the silly videos and spam are the roots of a new reading and writing culture, says Clay Shirky.

“The case for digitally-driven stupidity assumes we’ll fail to integrate digital freedoms into society as well as we integrated literacy. This assumption in turn rests on three beliefs: that the recent past was a glorious and irreplaceable high-water mark of intellectual attainment; that the present is only characterized by the silly stuff and not by the noble experiments; and that this generation of young people will fail to invent cultural norms that do for the Internet’s abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print culture. There are likewise three reasons to think that the Internet will fuel the intellectual achievements of 21st-century society.”

The cognitive effects are measurable: We’re turning into shallow thinkers, says Nicholas Carr.

“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the Net, with its constant distractions and interruptions, is [...] turning us into scattered and superficial thinkers.

The picture emerging from the research is deeply troubling, at least to anyone who values the depth, rather than just the velocity, of human thought. People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read traditional linear text. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, alerts and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time.”

Personally, I am much more convinced by Shirky’s argument. Also I find Shirky’s thinking more concrete and actionable than Nicholas Carr’s, whose gloomy and conservative analysis can only lead, it seems to me, to a completely impossible conclusion: to shut down the web and move back to books.

>> See also these reviews on Carr’s book by The New York Times and Business Week

16 May 2010

UX reflections in UX Magazine

UX Magazine
UX Magazine keeps to its high standards with these three well written contributions:

Curators of the Real-Time Web: Distilling the chatter to relevant, actionable information
By Jonathan Gosier (Appfrica)

“Information wants to flow and it wants to flow freely and torrentially. Twitter, SMS, email, and RSS offer unprecedented access to information. With all these channels of communication comes a deluge of overwhelming retweets, cross-chatter, spam, and inaccuracies. How do you distinguish signal from noise without getting overwhelmed? Can we somewhat automate the process of filtering content into more manageable portions without sacrificing accuracy and relevance?

These are the exact questions I attempted to answer during the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. As the Director and System Architect of SwiftRiver at Ushahidi, we’re working on an open-source software platform that helps journalists and emergency response organizations sift through real-time information quickly, without sacrificing accuracy. These earthquakes, however unfortunate, offered extreme use-cases for testing ideas internally, as small nonprofits and organizations as large as the U.S. State Department were relying on us for verified information.

The approach SwiftRiver takes is to combine crowdsourced interaction with algorithms that weight, parse, and sort incoming content.”

The FedEx UX Journey, Part 1: The genesis and early progress of FedEx’s UX practice
By Thomas Wicinski and Brice Stokes (Digital Access, Fedex Services) and Mike Downey (UX Magazine)

“Underlying FedEx’s global shipping and logistics business is a complex technological infrastructure with many digital customer touchpoints. FedEx has recognized the need to improve the user experience of its systems, and has taken strong steps toward not only creating a UX practice area, but also toward moving the entire company to pay closer attention to UX in its customer-facing products. This interview is the first in a set of articles we’ll be running over the coming months to examine how FedEx is building its UX competency and practice. They’re still early in what they call the UX “maturity model,” so this interview focuses on the genesis of the effort and some of its early goals and successes.”

How UX can drive sales in mobile apps
By Jeffrey Powers, Vikas Reddy and Jeremy Olson

“This is an interview with Jeff Powers and Vikas Reddy, the founders of Occipital and creators of the popular iPhone app, RedLaser. We became interested in their story when we learned the differentiating factor between a somewhat unsuccessful first version and a wildly popular second version was due to their attention to UX.”