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Posts in category 'Scenarios'

8 September 2007

“Concept Design”, a new study from Denmark

Concept Design
Fora, the Danish Authority for Enterprise and Construction‘s division for R&D, has just published “Concept Design – How to solve the complex challenges of our time“, which presents a new type of company – the concept design company.

The study focuses on how design can be utilised together with other disciplines to create new solutions to the global challenges faced by the private and public sectors in the twenty-first century, and is a follow-up to the report entitled “Et billede af dansk design” (A View of Danish Design), which was published in April 2007. It draws up a map of the proliferation of concept design companies and their areas of work.

Today’s companies are seeking answers to the question “what?”.

What should companies focus on? What problems should the companies’ innovation solve?

In the past companies wanted answers to the question “how?”. How do we develop a new product? How should it be designed? How should it be marketed, and how should the company be organised to achieve the best solution?

When companies seek advice and answers to how questions they can turn to consulting engineers, designers, advertising agencies or management consultants. Until recently, this has provided a reasonably clear division of labour between different consulting offerings.

In terms of answering questions related to what a company should innovate and produce, companies have no obvious place to go. For that purpose consulting engineers, design companies, advertising agencies and management consultants could all be involved. However, none of these companies are single-handedly able to answer the question “what”. Hence, we are witnessing industry break-up and gliding.

The study will contribute to shed light on this dynamic and fascinating development – with a particular focus on possibilities and consequences for the design industry.

Downloads:
Concept Design [August 2007] (pdf, 17.9 mb, 115 pages)
Et billede af dansk design – udfordringer og perspektiver [April 2007, in Danish only] (pdf, 11.1 mb, 118 pages)
Design Denmark [July 2007, Danish government white paper on the direction for design policy in Denmark] (pdf, 320 kb, 20 pages)

7 August 2007

BT futurologist predicts the real and virtual merging

mixing the real and the virtual
BT futurologist Lesley Gavin looks ahead, in a BBC News article, to a time when real and virtual worlds mix as easily as making a mobile phone call.

“In the future these environments [social networking sites, 3D virtual environments and real world mega-clubs that offer numerous different themed environments under one roof] are likely to merge. Interfaces will improve, and more specifically, personalised applications will be built on top of them.

Virtual worlds will also become integrated with real environments. Buildings or public spaces may offer virtual world counterparts.”

- Read full story
Read a critique of this approach by Andy Polaine

Previous BBC News foresight articles on the future of technology include contributions by:

  • Charles Stross, science fiction writer, on a future in which all human experience is recorded on devices the size of a grain of sand;
  • Greg Papadopoulos, CTO of Sun Microsystems, who calls for technology and design to be married to people’s needs (see also here);
  • Bradley Horowitz, head of technology development at Yahoo! on the “internet of things”;
  • Dave Winer, software developer (blog, wikipedia) offering his personal view on technologies he would like to see in existence one day;
  • Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of Skype and Joost, on how the collaborative aspect of the internet will shape the technologies of the future (see also here).

Meanwhile science-fiction novelist William Gibson (he coined the word “cyberspace”) has given up on trying to imagine the future, because he says “we have no idea at all now where we are going”. [via Lunch over IP]

15 July 2007

Bruno Giussani on how free talk services lead to surprising user creativity

Skype
Bruno Giussani reports in his Business Week column on how some users of Skype and other free Internet services are exploiting the technology in creative and unconventional ways.

Give people unlimited cheap or free phone or voice-over-Internet service and what happens? Not much, according to research by sociologists and anthropologists. People don’t tend to increase the number or length of their calls significantly. There is only so much time you can spend talking, after all, and a phone call requires more commitment in terms of attention than, say, an instant messaging session—just try handling multiple phone conversations in parallel.

Yet there are exceptions. The rise of Skype, MSN, GoogleTalk, iChat and the other free Internet telephony and videotelephony services out there has led people to use voice and video communication in surprising, unconventional, and creative ways.

He goes on to list a whole range of “unpredictable” examples that are “all uses of Skype, MSN, and similar services that the engineers who developed them never intended, and the marketers never foresaw”.

Giussani concludes that “successful communication technologies are designed with this openness at their core, so that their real applications can be figured out not by the developers or the sellers, but by the actual users”.

Read full story (mirror)

30 June 2007

The vision deficit

Stones
The shape of things to come has never been so inadequately imagined. Peter Lunenfeld suggests that designers can overcome the vision deficit by taking on the future as a client, in an article published on Adobe Design Center’s Think Tank, a series of in-depth articles that examines the sometimes tense but always intimate relationship between design and technology.

“In a global economy, when the nationalist impulse is either outmoded or suspect, I propose a new mode of design education, one that can in fact be carried over into designers’ professionals practices. Why not posit the future itself as one of the designer’s chief clients? More than that, why not pick a better future as that client?

Let’s think of the future as either a pro-bono client or a partner in an entrepreneurial enterprise. Both of these strategies take payment, or even profit, off the table at least for the time being. Taking the future as a client also gives the designer a certain space to breathe. The future is one client that can legitimately claim the right to all of the designer’s time and creativity.

All well and good you might say, but how can we adopt the future as a client, what methods are available to us? One that I have been exploring is scenario planning, or, as I’ll explain later, the development of bespoke futures. […]

I’m interested in taking this corporate scenario planning and subverting its methodologies, audiences, and outcomes, creating what I call bespoke future.”

A professor in the graduate Media Design Program at Art Center College of Design, Peter Lunenfeld writes about design, art, film, and the broader culture in an era of computational ubiquity, studies that fall under the emerging rubric of Digital Humanities. His books include The Digital Dialectic, Snap to Grid, and USER: InfoTechnoDemo. His forthcoming book is The War Between Downloading and Uploading: How the Computer Became Our Culture Machine. He is the editorial director of the award-winning Mediawork series for the MIT Press.

Read full story

29 June 2007

Alcatel-Lucent’s Alex and Lucie on user-centric experience

IMS
The website of Alcatel-Lucent, the global communications solution provider contains an entire section on user-centric experience. It is the first item of the site’s main menu, in fact.

“As end-users increasingly demand a more sophisticated communications experience tailored to meet their unique needs, putting them at center stage is what it will take to successfully compete. With Alcatel-Lucent’s user-centric applications and solutions, you will be uniquely positioned to deliver an enriched communications experience to consumers and enterprises — anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”

The section contains quite a lot of material, including:

19 June 2007

Book: Mobile Persuasion

Mobile Persuasion
The mobile phone will soon become the most powerful channel for persuasion, more influential than TV, print, or the Internet.

Mobile Persuasion is a new book by the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab (blog). Edited by BJ Fogg and Dean Eckles, it presents 20 perspectives on how mobile devices can be designed to motivate and influence people—and how this emerging trend will change the way you live, work, and play.

The book is based on the Mobile Persuasion event that took place at Stanford University in February this year and brought together innovators, designers, and researchers interested in mobile technologies that change people’s beliefs and behaviors.

This April, the lab also hosted Persuasive Technology 2007, an academic conference on persuasive technology. The proceedings are now in process and should be available in August of 2007.

4 June 2007

Ubiquitous computing gone mad

Virtual walls
The future as described by this National Post article is one of ubiquitous computing gone mad, with technology everywhere, and good user experience and privacy nowhere at all.

“In the future rush to get to work, the day’s tasks will be checked using a personal robotic butler, the misplaced car keys will be located by entering the word “keys” into a cellphone and getting a call back saying “bedroom.” The children will be monitored by sensors that detect their every movement. At work, the office map uses the same kind of sensors to track down staff members for a meeting. The work day is interrupted by a break to play with the cat remotely over the Internet. After work, the ads on the shopping mall wall reconfigure to suit each person passing by, so when there is a sign for a concert, you buy a ticket by waving your cellphone over the billboard. At home that night, the phone programs the dishwasher and washing machine to run while the family sleeps.”

The article is unfortunately based on what happened at the 5th International Conference on Pervasive Computing held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on May 13-16, 2007.

Luckily there were Adam Greenfield and Apu Kapadia (a post-doctoral research fellow at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire) to bring some sense to the madness, but they seem to have been lone wolves crying. And even Greenfield was not optimistic, as he believes that the only bastion for privacy in this technological future may be in the home: “I think in public space, the battle is already over, and the forces of privacy have lost.”

In a long post, computer consultant Roland Piquepaille reflects on these problems, asks what can be done to protect our privacy, and provides some more depth on the issue.

Read full story

(via SmartMobs)

2 June 2007

The user is the content

Meeting of Minds, Antwerp - Photo by Pieter Baert
The user is the content’ was a debate that took place on April 26 in Antwerp, Belgium, and focussed on the impact of user generated content on traditional media, publishers and cultural organisations. What about the copyright? And what about the future?

During the debate nine experts presented future scenarios on cyberspace and the implications this may have for the user. Their presentations are now online.

The event was co-organised by De Buren, a Dutch-Flemish forum for debate on cultural diversity, society and politics in Europe, and C.H.I.P.S., an organisation that promotes cultural initiatives that focus on new media, communication and participation.

23 May 2007

Vodafone’s Receiver magazine is “at home”

Vodafone Receiver magazine
The latest issue of Vodafone’s Receiver magazine (#18) is entitled “at home” and is introduced as follows:

Digital media are entering the connectivity as a matter of course era, and they are entering the “home zone”: the home (for many young people: the bedroom) has become the centre of their connected world. Once upon a time communications technologies belonged to the world of work – they now provide people with socialising tools they have long taken for granted. Technology becoming intuitional and ubiquitous prompts sociologists to speak of a privatisation of the public through communications and a fragmentation and/or expansion of the concept of home. How come?

Some of the articles it contains:

  • Socializing digitally
    Danah Boyd
    So what exactly are teens doing on MySpace? Simple: they’re hanging out. Of course, ask any teen what they’re doing with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out”. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.
     
  • Homecasting: the end of broadcasting?
    José van Dijck
    The internet never replaced television, and the distribution of user-generated content via sites such as YouTube and GoogleVideo, in my view, will not further expedite television’s obsolescence. On the contrary, they will introduce a new cultural practice that will both expand and alter our rapport with the medium of television — a practice I refer to as “homecasting”.
     
  • Connected strategies for connecting homes
    Mark Newman
    Do consumers actually want a connected home? I’m not sure that many of us even understand the concept. But what we do want is the freedom to time-shift and place-shift the services we already have. We want to be able to take the services we use at work into our homes. And the services we receive at home into the office or away with us on business or on holiday.
     
  • Keeping things simple
    John Seely Brown
    Well-designed media provide peripheral clues that subtly direct users along particular interpretive paths by invoking social and cultural understandings. Context and content work efficiently together as an ensemble, sharing the burden of communication. If the relationship between the two is honored, their interaction can make potentially complex practices of communication, interpretation, and response much easier. This is the essence of keeping things simple.
     
  • Appliances evolve
    Mike Kuniavsky
    Today, information is starting to be treated in product design as if it was a material, to produce a new class of networked computing devices. Unlike general-purpose computers, these exhibit what Bill Sharpe of the Appliance Studio calls “applianceness”. They augment specific tasks and are explicitly not broad platforms that do everything from banking to playing games.
     
  • Socializing digitally
    Leslie Haddon
    There have been numerous occasions where technologies have entered our everyday lives through the influence of users, or at least some users, in ways that were unanticipated by industry. In relation to a number of important innovations it is users themselves who have developed or adapted the technology to fit into their lives and their homes. But as we shall see, that is only one side of the coin. Users can also be quite discriminating.
     
  • The new television
    Louise Barkhuus
    From ancient tragedies and comedies to theatre and, later, movies, it is evident that people enjoy being entertained by stories — regardless of the medium. Television is yet another step in the evolution of media that tell these stories, and just as television did not kill the movies (although it had an impact by decreasing their prevalence), interactive games and the internet will not render television obsolete. We will merely see innovative versions of moving pictures that can satisfy the needs of the 21st century’s embedded acquaintance with a multitude of media.
     
  • Pleasant, personalized, portable – the future of domotic design
    Fausto Sainz de Salces
    The home environment can greatly benefit from mobile technology that enhances the user’s experience through easy interaction with the immediate environment. Designing the home of the future, integrating communication devices, is not an easy task. It is a challenge that includes consideration of home dwellers’ opinions, preferences and tastes

The magazine now also comes with its own blog.

24 April 2007

Robot future poses hard questions [BBC]

Robot
Scientists have expressed concern about the use of autonomous decision-making robots, particularly for military use, writes the BBC.

As they become more common, these machines could also have negative impacts on areas such as surveillance and elderly care, the roboticists warn.

The researchers were speaking ahead of a public debate at the Dana Centre, part of London’s Science Museum.

- Read full story
Related article in The Guardian

13 March 2007

UK hosting provider imagines web in 2020

The Web in 2020
Tomorrow’s Generation C will be nicer then today’s Generation X, according to a report by the Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC), conducted on behalf of Rackspace Managed Hosting, a UK hosting provider.

The study, entitled “Life online: The Web in 2020″ predicts that Generation C (C standing for content/ connectivity/ creativity/ collaboration/ communication) will be ‘nicer’, more able to communicate with a wider cross section of people and find common ground across previously divisive differences as a result of proliferation of the Internet, versus the previous generations.

The term Generation X comes from a fictional book written in 1991 by Douglas Coupland in which three strangers distance themselves from society. He describes the characters as “underemployed, overeducated, intensely private and unpredictable.”

In contrast, Dr. Peter Marsh of SIRC says: “…’Generation C’ …will be middle aged by 2020. This generation has grown up under the Web ideologies of open access, co-operation, exchange and sharing of information, as will all further generations. This will have profound implications for our society.”

- Read press release
Request report (78 pages)

(via Usability News)

10 March 2007

Jan Chipchase of Nokia on delegating positive experiences

The art of delegation
Jan Chipchase, a user anthropologist at Nokia, thinks that at some point we may well be able to delegate entertainment experiences to other people, to be enjoyed at your leisure at a later time and date.

“Experience shifting raises all sorts of interesting questions about empathic design, where from an physiological-emotional perspective experience designers will literally be able put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

What are the characteristics of the people whose experiences will define, well, the essence of the experience we wish to design for, to communicate? It can be anything from designing an out of the box experience to learning, knowing what it feels like to walk in a Sao Paulo subway station, the touch of a razor from a Chinese back street barber, and yes, will encompass sexual encounters.

In this world DRM boils down to removing experiences from human memory and the inevitable badly written DRM leaves its host as a vegetable.

A new profession will arise – people whose job it is to experience stuff, and who will be judged on their ability to capture the subtleties of any difference process, task or context. With a distinction between raw experiences and those enhanced though stimulants, or post production.”

Read full story

5 March 2007

Design led futures

Design led futures
“Design prototyping is an excellent way to bring imaginable future(s) to life, to make them visible, tangible, ‘experiencable‘ and allow people to deal with their meaning(s) in versatile ways,” writes Nik Baerten on his foresight blog A Thousand Tomorrows.

“Prototyping – whether conceptual or physical – makes for possible contextual scenarios in the foresight-sense to give rise to possible scenarios-of-use in the user centred design-sense. As such, in foresight activities these designs not only help to evoke more in-depth qualitative reflections from stakeholders, they can also give direct leads as to how to take up certain strategic challenges posed by the scenario, thereby co-creating new value(s).

In ways reminiscent of experimental projects by Philips Design as well as the EU research project Designing for Future Needs (see also here), and with a time horizon of about 10 years, industry partners and students at Victoria University of Wellington School of Design in New Zealand envisioned future solutions in an initiative titled Design Led Futures.

Professor Simon Fraser started it in order to challenge students “to step back from the constraints of daily practice, to look beyond the immediate product, to look at it in context, and to investigate the broader issues that surround it – human issues, issues of society, culture and behaviour – including emotional issues that are fundamental to industrial design as a discipline.”

So far three projects have been concluded, in which the focus lay explicitly upon the overall experience rather than the mere object of design :

  • Domestic Bliss: students were required to create a new understanding of the role that appliances (such as fridges, washing machines and cookers) might play in the architecture and culture of the home
  • Inside-Out: project on the theme of outdoor living and the role that appliances might play in making this possible and pleasurable
  • Energising Water: project to explore and create a new understanding of the base material of water by creatively applying existing or new, specifically developed technologies

Check out the fascinating concepts that students developed.”

18 February 2007

Demanding Innovation: Lead markets, public procurement and innovation

Demanding Innovation
“Innovations are the product of the creative interaction of supply and demand. However, in focussing on how to increase the supply of innovative businesses, policymakers have lost sight of the importance of demand,” argues Luke Georghiou in a “Provocation” essay published on the NESTA website.

The essay elaborates Eric von Hippel’s concept of the ‘lead user’ into a wider notion of ‘lead market’.

“We should not throw away the benefits of the support we give to innovation through grants, incentives and advice, but complement it with efforts to create ‘lead markets’ – demanding consumers (including the public sector) who give innovators an early customer base from which to develop their products or services and diffuse them ahead of global competition.

In addition, this focus on demand for innovations will give us a tool to tackle one of the UK’s most pressing problems – how to increase the productivity and effectiveness of our public services. Outside of the defence sector, the public sector has lagged behind consumer and industrial sectors in innovation, and yet they have the potential through their purchasing power and the regulatory powers of government to transform the markets for innovations.”

NESTA’s “Provocations” are extended essays by key thought leaders working in innovation. They aim to foster debate and new ideas, and showcase thought-provoking work on innovation.

Luke Georghiou is Professor of Science and Technology Policy and Management at the University of Manchester and Director of PREST, a large innovation research centre within the Manchester Business School.

Download essay (pdf, 229 kb, 32 pages)

2 February 2007

Experience Design Lab project on care for the elderly

Experience Lab
Some months ago I wrote about the plans to create a new Experience Design Lab in Genk, Belgium with the double aim of integrating and transforming the various departments of a media and design academy towards a strong user-focus, and enabling the school to reach out to and collaborate with the social and economic tissue of the region they are in, through a new and engaging vision.

The academy chose to immediately bolster enthusiasm through a socially-oriented project, focused on care for the elderly, thus enabling the various departments — photography, graphic design, product design, video, and communication & multimedia design — to learn new user-centred approaches through concrete, interdisciplinary and experience-focused activities.

Carefree living for the elderly

The Media & Design Academy started the year with a project that allowed students from various disciplines to collaborate creatively on a social topic: the living conditions of the elderly. This topic is highly relevant as our population is getting older and today’s youth will have to confront an increasingly ageing population both in their personal and professional lives. We therefore need insights in the needs, aspirations and capacities of the elderly.

The school used an experience design methodology to gather these insights: “Rather than figure out how to design for your audience, design for yourself after becoming like your audience!” (Dishman in Laurel, 2002). Objects and services are not seen as static products but as embodied experiences in a context, that differ depending on the person who engages in the interaction. To create a succesful and pleasing experience, the designer needs to learn how to see a context or an environment through the eyes of the user.

(My translation from the project website)

The students first inserted themselves in the environment of the elderly, helped by theatrical improvisation sessions. This lead to a series of innovative and creative designs and future scenarios aimed at visualising this carefree living of the elderly.

A short English-language vision document on design research is also available for download (pdf, 83 kb) from the lab’s website.

23 January 2007

Interview with Adam Greenfield on the user experience of ubiquitous computing

Adam Greenfield
Régine Debatty (of we-make-money-not-art) and Nicolas Nova (co-organiser of the upcoming LIFT conference) have together interviewed Adam Greenfield in which he focuses on the user experience of ubiquitous computing.

Greenfield is the principal of design consultancy Studies and Observations, and author of Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing. According to Wikipedia, Greenfield is generally considered to be a thought leader in the information architecture and user experience professions.

Here is Régine Debatty’s introduction:

“His latest book, Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing tells about what we can read in all the tech mags: computing without computers, everywhere, all the time and whithout us noticing it. For the first time however, someone who has observed the “ubicomp’d” life on several continents has put into a social, spatial, design and human context the consequences of this recent technology. I should also add that the book translates the working, meanings and implications of ubicomp into a very accessible language.

I still had a series of questions for Adam though. To be sure that i wouldn’t leave too many stones unturned, i asked Nicolas Nova to come to my rescue. Well… that’s the best excuse i could find to convince the guy who writes the only blog i would bring to a desert island to come and use wmmna space. Nicolas and i have both published the interview yet you’ll have to read the both of them to get the full picture: i posted some of his questions but not all of them and god knows what he’s done with mine ;-)”

I personally liked reading his answer to why designers should be involved with ubiquitous computing:

“If ubiquitous systems, products, and services are developed in the absence of careful, sensitive interaction design they fail. And they fail in a way that poses particular challenges and risks to the user’s sense of calm and equanimity, because by and large the interaction landscape of everyday life is very robust, very well-assimilated. We simply don’t expect the constituents of everyday experience to crash, lock up, or perform perversely or incoherently the way digital information technologies manifestly do. […]

Someone with a commitment to the human being at the focus of these technologies, who’s been trained to weigh that person’s prerogatives heavily in the design of transactions, who has the experience to recognize and account for not merely this single system but the entire context in which it’s operating – that’s the person you want to include on your team if you expect your intervention to succeed. I can’t imagine why anybody serious about satisfying their users and customers would want it any other way.”

- Read interview on Régine’s site
Read interview section on Nicolas’ site

22 January 2007

Developing user-centered tools for strategic business planning

Wells Fargo
User experience management consultant Richard Anderson provides some good examples of how user experience professionals are moving their work and impact “upstream” to play an earlier and more strategic role in their workplaces’ business.

“I’ve addressed aspects of this in previous blog entries, as have other bloggers. Among the others are Jess McMullin, whose design maturity continuum describes design activity as evolving in companies from the role of styling to making things work better, to problem solving, and ultimately to problem framing to shape strategy. Another is Luke Wroblewski, who recommends that designers use their design skills “for business visualization“. […]

One business that has gone and is going even further with such work is Wells Fargo, as partly described by Robin Beers and Pamela Whitney in a September 2006 EPIC conference paper entitled, “From Ethnographic Insight to User-centered Design Tools.” At Wells Fargo, ethnographic and related research findings are summarized in experience models, mental models, and user task models, with the latter representing the details and complexities of everyday financial life. User profiles, also developed from research findings, are then connected to the task model via “scenario starter” worksheets that enable all sorts of Wells Fargo personnel, including business strategists, to walk through the experience of different users in different situations in order to develop an extensive understanding of where, when, how, and why the user experience breaks down.

By extending the task model with metrics derived from surveys and other sources, Wells Fargo has developed an impressive user-centered strategic toolkit that guides project identification, project prioritization, business case definition, and much more.”

Read full story

19 January 2007

Nokia presents video scenarios of the future

Nokia video scenarios
Nokia has released a number of short videos on its own website and on YouTube that explore how mobile phone design may change in the next three or four years.

There is a video for each of the four categories, or put more simply different lifestyles, that Nokia focuses on.

The videos are not showing prototypes of actual phones or devices that Nokia is currently working on or plans to launch. They are exploring futuristic concepts and potential new ideas that may or may not be produced in years to come. They are designed to inspire and stimulate discussion around how the mobile device of the future might look and function in our lives.

It looks like these are the same videos that Alistair Curtis, Nokia’s head of design, presented at the end of November at the Nokia World conference in Amsterdam.

Nokia – Achieve: Achieving Together | (on YouTube) (1:50)
Members of an architectural firm work feverishly together to win a competitive new project. Virtual teamwork is made effortless through smart wireless conferencing and remote presentations. Bluetooth audio ensures strong and clear communication. When mobile technology ascends to this level, we will achieve great things together.

Nokia – Connect: Connecting Simply | (on YouTube) (1:41)
We visit a grandmother who is virtually surrounded by her family as she prepares the evening meal. Simple interfaces scale up to wall mounted touch screens for ease of use. A spoken phrase is quickly translated into a large, readable text message to send. To connect simply is to honor what we value most as humans: staying close to those that matter.

Nokia – Live: Inspiring Senses | (on YouTube) (1:45)
What do our devices say about us? We seek new forms of personalization which are fluid and spontaneous, such as using captured images to transform our devices instantly. We exchange electronic business cards with the ease of passing a note. Reinventing personalization will inspire new ways to tell the stories which are uniquely our own.

Nokia – Explore: Sharing Discoveries | (on YouTube) (1:36)
People connect through their passions. An obsession with astronomy has led one man to scale a tall building, rapidly capturing and sorting images along the way. He is alone – and not alone. He is sharing his discoveries with a vast community of kindred observers from all over the world. Explore extends the reach of minds inclined to wander.

(via ExperienceCurve)

18 January 2007

World Economic Forum briefing materials

WEF briefing material
Ahead of its annual Davos meeting next week, the World Economic Forum has published 40 background essays and 130 graphs and charts.

Some of the (fairly short) background essays, which were prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, are particularly relevant to the topic of this blog:

Briefing on My Private World?
Online worlds have opened up new vistas for individuals to seek like-minded acquaintances or take on new personalities. Do they give up their privacy in the process?

Briefing on Social Networks
Through social networks and related developments, consumers have the newfound ability to create and share their own experiences. Will they use that power to usurp power from corporations? How might this change society itself?
(Take a look at the charts as well!)

Briefing on Technological and Sector Convergence
Technological advancements have always affected how people work, play and communicate. When consumer behaviours fundamentally adapt, however, does it spell trouble for entire industries?

22 December 2006

UK foresight studies identify emerging trends over the next 50 years

Sigma scan
Via the BBC I found out about the Sigma and Delta foresight scans, with nearly 250 papers that look ahead at developments over the next 50 years.

The research was commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation‘s Horizon Scanning Centre, and complied by futures researchers, Outsights-Ipsos Mori partnership and the US-based Institute for the Future (IFTF).

The papers look forward at emerging trends in science, health and technology. As well as assessing the current state of thinking they also examine the possible implications for society.

SIGMA SCAN

The Sigma Scan is set up as a database of 146 issue papers that provide a brief description of a particular trend or development and a projection of how, given a range of possible conditions, it may unfold in the future and influence the course of events over the next 50 years. The site navigation is rather idiosyncratic and not very user-friendly. But in fact, it is not so bad: you just click on one of the five themes, and on the next page simply hit the “search” button. Here are some of the papers that caught my interest (in no particular order):

  • Come together: Virtual communities, multiple identities?
    New forms of communities are emerging, enabled by new technology and drawn together by shared interests from across the globe. As membership becomes more common, we may see people adopting multiple identities in the convergence of virtual and real worlds. The phenomenon has the potential to unleash huge creative forces and foster social capital. However it may also challenge legislators as it permits new forms of criminal behaviour.
     
  • From consumer to creator: The content revolution and the rise of the creative class
    Consumers are harnessing media previously beyond their grasp technically or economically to express themselves creatively and to earn money. This has come about through innate creativity; accessibility of equipment (eg digital cameras); means to manipulate content (eg easy-to-use software); virtual sharing communities. Creative content may grow exponentially, spawning a new ‘creative class’. Consumer behaviour may change from plain consumption to customisation or co-production.
     
  • The digitisation of knowledge: The wholesale transfer of conventional knowledge media to online sources
    Forms of knowledge and the means of sustaining them for public good are moving online at an exponential rate. The continuation of this online trend may herald radical changes in learning and work. It may or may not imply radically different patterns of knowledge use.
     
  • Technology to empower the greying generation
    Currently, we design for a ‘youth-obsessed society’. It is often thought by designers that older people have little interest in design and in many situations the issue becomes not one of tastes but of needs. However, information technologies are becoming ever more essential for participating in modern life. Potentially they provide a valuable means of keeping people mentally active and in touch with friends and family, as well as providing a convenient means of doing shopping and obtaining advice. Yet computers can be very hard for older people to use, leading to their exclusion from this central aspect of society. There is likely to be high demand for significant redesign of user interfaces – for example, the introduction of speech recognition or the improvement of haptic (touch-sensitive) interfaces.
     
  • Sensory transformation: life in a cloud of data
    Over the next ten years, increasing numbers of computational devices may be embedded in physical objects, places, and even human beings, that would provide considerable amounts of additional information about their environment. Access to this information may enhance our sensory experience, but also stretch our sensory capacity beyond current capabilities. Information technologies (e.g. ambient displays and so-called “calm” technologies) look likely to play a major role as a medium and mediator of social and professional communication. Also, by 2015 displays and interaction may be ubiquitous and provide rich sensory experiences. High-resolution and haptic (or force-feedback) displays, that allow users to feel and touch virtual objects with a high degree of realism, could become more immersive and lifelike.
     
  • Virtual democracy?: Political activity goes online
    Democratic politics may increasingly be conducted online. Ease of access may allow citizens to virtually interact with political representatives eg mass referenda. Vast numbers may be able to register their opinions on topical issues almost instantaneously. This may revive the democratic process but also prompt debate about the nature of democracy itself, increasing pressure for constitutional reform and the creation of new outlets for participation in public life.
     
  • The end of ownership?: Ubiquitous leasing of manufactured goods
    Virtually all fixed assets may be leased to businesses and consumers rather than be owned by them. Leasing could extend from property and large machinery (e.g. all vehicles might be leased) to smaller appliances (e.g. computer hardware, furniture).
     
  • Innovation communities: Open-source, cooperative R&D
    The information economy allows technology development through global research and development, but high costs for specific applications sometimes make it risky, especially in competitive industries. Private and public sectors may combine resources to develop solutions more quickly, efficiently and mitigate risk. Internet and collaborative tools may facilitate this, with open source model allowing savings in costs.
     
  • Technology’s child: the advent of young, tech-literate commercial talent
    The economy may become dependent on those who are highly technologically skilled. While some workers may be immigrants, the majority are likely to be have grown up with the technology and been through a work focused, IT-oriented education. Without re-education or re-skilling, declining demand for unskilled labour may depress their earning potential and prospects. The knowledge economy’s increasing importance may mean increasing inequality.
     
  • From information to insight: Intelligent support and the conquest of information overload
    Computer agents equipped with artificial intelligence may automatically scan, filter and process information, reporting it to users in various targeted forms to aid business and personal life. Able to monitor, analyse, learn and understand natural languages in real time, these systems may help people become highly information-literate, process vast information quantities effectively from multiple inputs, and enable faster informed choices. This may boost productivity.

DELTA SCAN

Also the Delta Scan works as a forum for scanning the science and technology horizon over the next 50 years. The forum contains a hundred outlook pages covering a wide range of scientific disciplines and technologies. The Delta Scan was produced by the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think-tank, as part of a project for the Horizon Scanning Centre of the United Kingdom’s Office of Science and Innovation. The database is hosted by the Stanford University Foresight Research group, housed in the university’s Wallenberg Center. Also here a selection of papers:

  • Ambient displays at the human-computer interface
    Developments in display technology may increase the repertoire of interactions between users and digital media by increasing the number of sites for ‘ambient’ displays.
     
  • Computing on the human platform
    Interaction between personal electronic products, mediated by human skin, may lead to new, and greater use of, invasive applications.
     
  • The end of cyberspace
    The concept of cyberspace as a distinct geographical entity has influenced the way we think about information technology, e-commerce, copyright, and high-tech products. New technologies are revealing a more complex relation between data-space and the real world, with consequences in all these areas.
     
  • New technologies for cooperation
    New technologies for cooperation and a better understanding of cooperative strategies may create a new capacity for rapid, ad hoc, and distributed decision making.
     
  • The rise of proactive and context-aware computing
    Proactive and context-aware computer systems that anticipate users’ needs and perform tasks in a timely and context-sensitive manner may begin to have an impact within the next 10 years.
     
  • Human brain: the next frontier
    The next 20 years are likely to witness a revolution in our understanding of the human brain, with implications for virtually every domain of human activity, from mental health to software design and academic performance and real-life decision- making.
     
  • Artificial extensions of human capabilities
    A wide range of technologies, from pharmaceuticals to implantable devices, and specialised cognitive or behavioural training (leading to regional brain activation through functional imaging), will enable extensions of human bodies, senses, and capabilities. This will lead to redefinition of various boundaries: natural versus artificial, alive versus dead, individual versus collective.
     
  • The rise of applied anthropology
    The rise of applied anthropology is likely to challenge the traditional structure of the discipline.
     
  • Studying human behaviour in cyberspace
    Cyber-ethnography, defined as the study of online interaction, is likely to become an important area of anthropological research as more and more human activities are conducted in cyberspace.