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 'Research'

21 July 2009

Touch me! An article on tactile experience

TouchMe
In this article Jessica Ching, Laura Henneberry and Shally Lee share the findings of a collaborative project between the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) and Canadian network operator TELUS.

“Touch is a vital human need and a deeply emotional form of communication. When we physically interact with people or things we enjoy, we connect with them and react to them. They can make us feel warm, calm, playful or excited. The physical sensation of using a mobile phone, however, is missing these emotional and physical reactions. When we think about other objects, we can clearly imagine the feeling of sensual underwear, luxurious cars or high performance runners. In contrast, using a mobile phone is a bit like pressing your face into a remote control.”

Read full story

1 July 2009

Towards tomorrow’s sustainable workplace

Jigsaw
Today work is somewhere you travel to – in the future work will come to you. So says a report attempting to work out what the offices and workplaces of 2030 will be like, reports the BBC.

The report, which is sponsored by Johnson Controls, “predicts that as workforces get more mobile, technology will ensure that everything an employee needs is available no matter where they are.”

“The report posits a situation in which, from the moment someone wakes, the world is aware of their needs and uses any and every means to keep them up to date.

Walls could become screens showing diaries, documents or video conferences. Homes and cars would measure mood and tune surroundings to, for instance, soothe a worker if they were feeling stressed.

The number of offices in use could shrink as smart scheduling software ensures that they maintain maximum occupancy.

A tiny smart mobile, with a folding screen and a powerful pico-projector could be the gadget that co-ordinates the way information is passed on, speculated the report.”

- Read full story
- Download press release
- Download report

26 June 2009

Microsoft’s global R&D transformation

Rural kiosks
Navi Radjou writes on HarvardBusiness.org that he recently visited the Microsoft Research India lab in Bangalore, describes what he learned about their Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) unit, and draws some interesting wider conclusions.

“What impressed me most about TEM is its staff members’ multidisciplinary backgrounds. In addition to computer scientists and engineers, TEM also includes experts in the areas of ethnography, sociology, political science, and development economics, all of which help Microsoft understand the social context of technology in emerging markets like India. [...]

By leveraging its multidisciplinary talent, TEM has developed some amazing solutions designed for emerging and underserved markets, both in rural and urban environments.”

Radjou sees this as an example of Microsoft’s new direction in terms of research and development:

“Undoubtedly Microsoft is pioneering the R&D 2.0 model that I discussed in my last post — an organizational model that relies on anthropologists and development economists to first decipher the socio-cultural needs of users in emerging markets like India and then use these deep insights to develop appropriate technology solutions. And it’s telling that Microsoft picked India as the epicentre of its global R&D transformation.”

He concludes with “some operating principles that [he] can offer to senior managers in other multinationals who wish to deploy the R&D 2.0 model in their own emerging market units like India.”

Navi Radjou is the Executive Director of the Centre for India & Global Business at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge.

Read full story

11 June 2009

R&D 2.0: fewer engineers, more anthropologists

Navi Radjou
Navi Radjou argues on the HarvardBusiness.org Voices blog that R&D in emerging markets needs fewer engineers and more anthropologists.

“To effectively identify and address the explicit and unmet needs of the broader consumer base in emerging markets, I believe multi-national companies [MNCs] must adopt a new global innovation model. Let’s call it global R&D 2.0.

This global R&D 2.0 strategy calls for a talent recalibration in MNCs’ R&D labs in emerging markets. I suggest that multinationals, besides employing technically-oriented engineers and scientists, begin to staff their R&D units in developing nations like India with two other types of experts, namely:

Anthropologists and ethnographers. By having anthropologists study and interact with end-customers in their natural settings, Western firms can learn to tailor their business models and offerings to match users’ socio-economic and cultural context. [...]

Development economists. [...] To effectively lure low-income buyers into procuring their low-end goods and services, multinationals need the help of development economists who can concoct creative pricing and financing mechanisms, such as microcredit schemes.”

Read full story

11 June 2009

From little things…

Uganda van
The Future Tense programme on Australia’s ABC Radio features bottom-up, user-generated innovation in Africa:

“In this program we’ll highlight several interesting initiatives, one in Africa and one in the South Asia region, initiatives which have had success largely because of their responsiveness to people needs. And we’ll also question the West’s preconceptions about the future technological needs of the world’s poor.”

The programme features Nathan Eagle, a research scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, whose “area of expertise is exploring ways in which the lives of people in the developing world can be enhanced by creatively using a simple piece of everyday technology, the mobile phone”; Jerry Watkins, a senior lecturer in design at Swinburne University in Melbourne, who is the co-principal investigator of the ‘Moving Content’ project in India; and Archie Law, CEO of ActionAid Australia, which is “in the process of setting up what they call a ‘blog outreach post’ where the idea is “to send someone to a remote part of the developing world, in this case Tanzania, and have them establish a communications point there.”

Listen to audio or view transcript

11 June 2009

The Mobile Difference

Pew Internet
The Mobile Difference, a new report by the Pew Internet & American Life project covers at length the current social implications of mobile internet access in the United States:

“Some 39% of Americans have positive and improving attitudes about their mobile communication devices, which in turn draws them further into engagement with digital resources – on both wireless and wireline platforms.

Mobile connectivity is now a powerful differentiator among technology users. Those who plug into the information and communications world while on-the-go are notably more active in many facets of digital life than those who use wires to jack into the internet and the 14% of Americans who are off the grid entirely.

  • Digital collaborators: 8% of adults use information gadgets to collaborate with others and share their creativity with the world
  • Ambivalent networkers: 7% of adults actively use mobile devices to connect with others and entertain themselves, yet are ambivalent about all the connectivity
  • 8% of Americans find mobility lighting their information pathways, but have comparatively few tech assets at home
  • 16% of adults are active conduits of content and information for either fun or for personal productivity
  • 61% are anchored to stationary media; though many have broadband and cell phones, coping with access is often too much for them”

- Report overview
- View report online
- Download report

A more journalistic reflection on the study can be found on the site of the Christian Science Monitor.

5 June 2009

Mobile gesture design at Nokia – developing a new dialect of interaction

Younghee and Joe
The field of mobile gestures is a fascinating one that Nokia is keenly exploring and researching, with explorative designers Younghee Jung and Dan Macleod on the frontline.

Last week the people of Nokia Conversations had the opportunity to chat to them at The Inside Story design day in London about their ideas on mobile gesture design, the research they’ve been doing, and the tools that have been developed to help test how well future mobile gestures might work.

“As part of their fieldwork they ask people from many countries and a broad spectrum of cultures to play out scenarios of how they might perform a task with a gesture that feels natural to them, using simple plastic mono block phones as props.

They set out a series of tasks for people, such as silencing a ringing phone. Sure, the flip-to-silence gesture is already alive in a number of devices, such as the Nokia 8800 and N97, but it was great to hear examples of some of the physical gestures people suggested in their research. A few of my favourites that Younghee and Joe mentioned were people wanting to squeeze the phone to shut it up, while others put their index finger over their mouth to shush it or simply covered the phone with their hand. The strangest, but my pick of the bunch was simply staring at your phone with a rather annoyed look, as if it were a naughty child that needs to be quiet.”

In a video interview they talk about the creation of the gesture phone prototype that they use to explore this new dialect of physical interaction designed to let you perform tasks and communicate in very new ways.

Read full story (with video interview)

5 June 2009

Tim Berners-Lee: I no longer understand the web

Tim Berners-Lee
World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee wants to put the web under the microscope to investigate how it changes our behaviour. Paul Marks asked in The New Scientist him what he hopes to achieve.

“Web science is already happening. People are studying the effect of the web within disciplines like social science, economics, psychology and law. Our Web Science Research Initiative aims to bring that research together. There are converging web-related issues cropping up, like privacy and security, that we currently have no way of thinking about. Nobody has thought to look at how people and the web combine as a whole – until now.”

Read interview

31 May 2009

In the US, even the homeless stay connected

Homeless and online
The Wall Street Journal reports on the use of the internet by homeless people in San Francisco.

“A few years ago, some people were worrying that a “digital divide” would separate technology haves and have-nots. The poorest lack the means to buy computers and Web access. Still, in America today, even people without street addresses feel compelled to have Internet addresses.”

The photos are great, and so are some of the quotes:

“When he realized he would be homeless, Mr. Livingston bought a sturdy backpack to store his gear, a padlock for his footlocker at the shelter and a $25 annual premium Flickr account to display the digital photos he takes.”

But it also shows to what extent the internet in the developed world is still a computer-based phenomenon, in contrast to emerging markets where it is largely mobile.

Read full story

31 May 2009

Round. The World. Connected. A video series

Round. The World. Connected.
The Nokia Siemens Networks has created an extremely well produced website and video series, entitled “Round. The World. Connected.” that sets out to understand what connectivity means to different people and cultures across Europe, Asia and the Americas. The project focuses specifically on how the latest communications technologies are touching peoples lives and on the socio-economic impact of connectivity.

“Adrian Simpson discovers the future of TV entertainment in Belgium; how the mobile phone camera revolutionizes healthcare in Kenya; the way in which government processes are facilitated through internet access in Mexico; and the political influence of SMS and social networking sites during the Obama election campaign in the US. But that’s not all – in the second half of 2009 Adrian will continue to travel to the corners of the globe, to find out how connectivity is impacting people’s lives from Austria to Zimbabwe.”

Currently the site has five 10 minute video episodes up on Europe, Africa, Latin America, USA and India (with China and Jakarta/Tokyo following soon). Each episode comes with clearly marked additional footage, plus interviews of Nokia Siemens Networks customers in those areas.

Mira Slavova of the excellent mmd4d blog that deals with mobile services for emerging markets, reports extensively on the African episode and its additional footage.

20 May 2009

Portfolios of the Poor: Financial diaries of the bottom billion

Portfolios of the Poor
Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day
by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, Orlanda Ruthven
Princeton University Press
Hardcover, May 2009

Abstract

About forty percent of the world’s people live on incomes of two dollars a day or less. If you’ve never had to survive on an income so small, it is hard to imagine. How would you put food on the table, afford a home, and educate your children? How would you handle emergencies and old age? Every day, more than a billion people around the world must answer these questions. Portfolios of the Poor is the first book to explain systematically how the poor find solutions.

The authors report on the yearlong “financial diaries” of villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa–records that track penny by penny how specific households manage their money. The stories of these families are often surprising and inspiring. Most poor households do not live hand to mouth, spending what they earn in a desperate bid to keep afloat. Instead, they employ financial tools, many linked to informal networks and family ties. They push money into savings for reserves, squeeze money out of creditors whenever possible, run sophisticated savings clubs, and use microfinancing wherever available. Their experiences reveal new methods to fight poverty and ways to envision the next generation of banks for the “bottom billion.”

Book review The Economist:

“The unbanked do not have access to such luxuries as standing orders, which richer people use to overcome the temptation to spend whatever they earn. And they are forced to pay for things that are free for most—which enables women like Jyothi to earn a crust by offering a safe store for small savings. But with some ingenuity, they use unorthodox financial instruments to create a more stable life than their erratic incomes would otherwise allow.”

Book review Next Billion blog

“Often times in the development community the bottom billion is thought of in terms of aggregate statistics without much attention given to the individuals and their day to day lives. The goal of the authors was to find a happy medium between aggregate data/statistics and individual anthropological research. What they developed as a result were Financial Diaries, which give a basic overview of every financial transaction made and service used over the studied timeframe.

Through the use of Financial Diaries, the researchers meticulously tracked every detail of their subjects’ financial lives by interviewing them bi-weekly for one year using metrics of the portfolio management world, including cash flow and income statement analysis. While gathering evidence, they discovered that it took approximately six interviews with each respondent to develop the trust required to obtain accurate data and account for margins of error. This is in interesting implication for research that is often times based on one interview. Their analysis approached households as start-up organizations and adjusted their research using these metrics.”

19 May 2009

How the mobile phone became an ‘instrument for life’

 
The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a study of more than 1000 workers which shows that the mobile phone does not make people any more rushed or pressured for time.

An analysis of more than 20,000 calls and texts logged by participants confirms the device originally marketed as a business tool has become an instrument for life.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

19 May 2009

New media practices in China, Korea, India, Brazil, Japan and Ghana

 
The blog series on New Media Practices in International Contexts, which I announced in January, is now complete. It covers the unique characteristics of digital media user behaviours in very different socio-cultural contexts of China, Korea, India, Brazil, Japan and Ghana, with a particular interest in the intersection of youth, new media and learning.

The authors, a group of people around Mimi Ito, believe that examining new media practices from an international (and, in some cases, transnational) perspective will enhance their current efforts to theorise youth, new media and learning, a wider MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Initiative.

China (by Cara Wallis): introductionmobile phonesgaminginternetnew media productionconclusion
Korea (by HyeRyoung Ok): introductioninternetgamingmobile phonesnew media productionconclusion
India (by Anke Schwittay): introductionmobile phonesgaminginternetnew media productionconclusion
Brazil (by Heather Horst): introductioninternetnew media productiongamesmobile phonesconclusion
Japan (by Mimi Ito and Daisuke Okabe): introductioninternetmobile phonesnew media productiongamingconclusion
Ghana (by Araba Sey): introductionmobile phonesinternetnew media productiongamingconclusion

Each case study focuses upon the telecommunications landscape, internet and mobile phone practices, gaming, and new media production, and provides a unique perspective on the ways in which infrastructure, institutions and culture (among other factors) shape contemporary new media practices.

12 May 2009

Bringing the everyday life of people into design

Thesis Sleeswijk
Bringing the everyday life of people into design” is the title of a doctoral dissertation that Froukje Sleeswijk Visser is defending today to obtain her doctoral degree in industrial design engineering at the Technical University Delft.

Summary

Products play a role in our everyday lives. Insight into the experiences of people in their everyday lives is of great use for designing products. For example, the contexts in which products are used (physical, social, culture etc.) and the state (excited, tired, concentrated etc.) of the users influence how they experience using products. However, in design practice using this type of diverse, subjective and multi-layered information, as inspirational input for the design process, is a recent development.

In this research project, I explored how this information can be communicated in such a way that it supports designers (1) to empathise with users, (2) to be inspired to create new product ideas, and (3) to be engaged to use this information in their design processes.

By a set of eight explorative studies in collaboration with industrial practice (varying from a small design firm to a multinational telecom company) the current situation in design practice is investigated, tools to communicate this type of information are designed and explored in use, and a theoretical framework is created to organise the elements which play a role in this communication.

The filled in framework and a set of guidelines for practitioners to successfully communicate rich experience information in design are the results. The framework folds out how the three main qualities (empathy, inspiration and engagement) can be achieved by setting in mechanisms and means. The guidelines show various examples of how these qualities can be supported.

Download dissertation

(via InfoDesign)

5 May 2009

Taking my community ‘to go’

On call
The latest issue of Vodafone’s Receiver Magazine is entitled “Seizing the Moment”:

“Bending and transcending the constraints of time and space has gotten easy for us. With our mobiles and netbooks, we’re about to create a social setting in which communication and self-expression are possible not only on the go, but also at the speed of thought. We can convert dead time into creative time, are provided with information when we need it, can react to events in an instant and enjoy each precious little moment with our dear ones. Constant contact has become so convenient that we sometimes have to keep ourselves from cramming as much as we can into every second.”

The articles come in weekly instalments, and in her contribution to receiver Mary Chayko, professor and chairperson of sociology at the College of St Elizabeth in Morristown, New Jersey looks at the connections we make and the social networking that takes place on the internet and mobile phones. She discusses the immediacy and the appeal, the challenges and the complexities, of our spending so many moments interacting in on-line and mobile “portable communities”, and all this in a very human-centred way.

“Portable communities and social networks would not have become such enticing ‘places’ in which to devote so much of our time if the social connections made there were not real and genuine.

It’s clear by now (though it wasn’t when I began studying all this almost twenty years ago) that real social bonds and communities are made with the assistance of technology. These connections can be vivid, authentic, reciprocal, and highly meaningful for people. Of course, sometimes, they are none of these things. But generally, in the emotional, often intimate, immediacy of the moments spent on-line (especially with wireless and mobile devices) social connections are made easily – connections which very much matter to us. They bring about real tears and smiles, create real friendships and partnerships and break up real marriages and careers. In short, they produce genuine feelings and pleasures and problems, with real and definite consequences which, the sociologist »» W.I. Thomas says, is the true test of realness. We do on-line and mobile social connectedness a disservice (and fail to understand it fully) when we treat it as anything less than fully real.”

Read full story

30 April 2009

NESTA’s Age Unlimited project

Ageing
NESTA, the UK Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, just announced that it has undertaken research which leads it to believe the UK is unprepared for ageing. Just under a third of all pensioners live on or close to the poverty line and twelve million people – half the UK workforce – are putting nothing aside for old age. Demographic patterns mean these trends are getting worse and the UK is failing to find new solutions, focusing instead on existing services and initiatives.

NESTA’s Public services innovation Lab is responding by launching a programme that will design innovative new approaches to create sustained personal well-being for an ageing society. The aim is to get people in their 50′s to plan earlier for old age, when they are in a position to make informed choices about the type of lifestyle they want to lead.

‘Age Unlimited’ will call on policy makers and this new generation of Third-Agers – people aged 50-70 – to shift the focus from retirement to being prepared for ageing. It will experiment with ways of extending working age and social participation and strike a better balance between the contribution and costs of an ageing society in the UK.

A call for ideas has just been launched.

Associated materials

Preparing for ageing
This report (summaryfull report) commissioned by NESTA from Deloitte describes the challenge of an ageing society, assesses the role that innovation is currently playing in meeting this challenge, and identifies where innovation needs to be harnessed more fully. It covers the public, private and voluntary sectors, across five areas: housing; the local environment; health and social care; personal finance; and social inclusion.

The new old age
Perspectives on innovating our way to the good life for all. A collection of essays that form part of our first Lab ‘Accounts’ and complement our Research Summary – ‘Preparing for Ageing’.

Voices of older people (video)
An introduction to what older people feel about the ageing process and their attitudes to retirement in the UK. This film supports the work of The Lab from NESTA as part of our Age Unlimited work.

29 April 2009

Research on how teenagers use news sites

Teens Know
The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) Foundation has published a report on a study on how teenagers use news sites.

“The NAA Foundation and the Media Management Center at Northwestern University have teamed up to explore and put to the test better ways to match the online news preferences of teens.

We developed prototypes of home pages and story-level pages, then tested them in focus groups across the United States. Teens’ responses were remarkably and overwhelmingly consistent, regardless of market size or location.

We found that there are better ways to serve teens with online news. The answer isn’t to dilute the news, but to be bolder.

This doesn’t mean that news organizations should necessarily create sites just for teens. The term “youth news Web site” conjures up visions of a site heavy with lifestyle and entertainment content, with a little news on the side. But what these teens said they want are news sites that do news well, not dumb it down or pose as experts in teen culture.

Given that teen responses were very similar to those of adults who are light readers, we recommend creating a new type of site – not just for teens, but for all people who lack experience with news and have a limited amount of time to get engaged with it.”

- Executive summary
- Full report
- Presentation at the NAA Annual Convention in April 2009

19 April 2009

Paper: Mobile phone access and usage in Africa

African e-Index
Research ICT Africa!, a network of universities and research institutions from 19 African countries, has a site with some interesting research papers and presentations:

Mobile telephony access and usage in Africa (2009)
Chabossou, A., Stork, C., Stork, M., Zahonogo. Z.

Towards evidence-based policy in Africa: ICT access and usage in 17 African countries (2009)
Alison Gillwald

Towards evidence based ICT policy and regulation Vol 1 Paper 2: ICT access and usage in Africa (2008)
Alison Gillwald & Christoph Stork

Towards evidence based ICT policy and regulation Vol 1 Paper 3: eSkills (2008)
Philipp Schmidt & Christoph Stork

Towards an African e-Index: telecommunications sector performance in 16 African countries: a supply-side analysis of policy outcomes (2007)
Steve Esselaar, Alison Gillwald and Christoph Stork

Towards an African e-Index: SME e-access and usage in 14 African countries (2006)

(via White African)

11 April 2009

Africa perspective on the role of mobile technologies in fostering social and economic development

South Africa shops
Last week, the W3C Mobile Web Initiative organised a workshop on the “Africa Perspective on the Role of Mobile Technologies in Fostering Social Development” in Maputo, Mozambique.

The workshop set out to understand the specific challenges of using mobile phones and Web technologies to deliver services to underprivileged populations of developing countries, and to capture the specificities of the African context.

“There are today more than half of the population living with less than 3$ a day, and lacking all kind of services (health, education, government…). The incredible growth of the mobile penetration rate last few years is providing a new hope. The potential of simple ICT services on mobiles to improve people’s income has indeed been largely demonstrated. The aim of this workshop is to explore how to leverage these success stories and create an enabling environment that would drive the appearance of numerous services all over the Developing World.”

There were sessions on m-health, technology, mobile activism, enabling environments, m-govenment, m-banking and agriculture.

Presentations and papers are now available online (though some presentations are very concise). Here is a short selection:

Technology

Enabling Environment

M-Banking

11 April 2009

IT viewed through a moral prism

Moral prism
An EU-wide study of emerging technologies led by Leicester’s De Montfort University aims to alert policy makers to any potential social and ethical problems

New technology is changing the way we live and work so quickly that it is easy to overlook the social and ethical implications of each new development. [...]

So a two-year research project to identify emerging information and communication technologies (ICT) and assess any associated ethical pitfalls could be seen as a timely initiative. The Ethical Issues of Emerging ICT Applications (ETICA) project, led by Leicester’s De Montfort University, seeks to minimise the risks associated with technologies likely to enter common use over the next 10 to 15 years. [...]

Some of the technologies being considered by the ETICA team are already fairly left-field, such as ambient intelligence and emotional computing.

Read full story