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Posts in category 'Social change'

17 March 2014

Six ways to design humanity and localism into Smart Cities

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A long post by Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, admonishes Smart Cities planners and designers not to overlook the social needs of cities and communities. After all, he says, the full purpose of cities is: to enable a huge number of individual citizens to live not just safe, but rewarding lives with their families.

His well thought-through and experience based reasoning is very much worth a read and ends with an in-depth discussion of six practical steps:

  1. Make institutions accessible
  2. Make infrastructure and technology accessible
  3. Support collaborative innovation
  4. Promote open systems
  5. Provide common services
  6. Establish governance of the information economy
16 March 2014

Why smart cities need an urgent reality check

Cities: smart 3, boston

Responsive urban technology sounds enticing but citizens must not be disconnected from plans drawn up on their behalf, argues Gary Graham in The Guardian.

“It’s not clear at the moment whether future cities are strategic experiments for [large companies such as IBM, Samsung, Cisco and Intel], or if they are genuinely catalysing the regeneration of inner cities. To investigate some of these visions, I went to MIT in Boston for three months last year. The aim was to find out how people would get their goods and services in the city of the future, and how we we get everyone to engage with city plans.

We decided to test out some ideas with the inner-city communities of Boston in a series of workshops. We essentially combined science fact and science fiction by presenting them with a Boston set in 2037, based on current technological trends projected forward through several imagined scenarios.

We combined the traditional science fiction ideas of utopia and dystopia with realistic technological trends such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and big data and asked Bostonians to come up with fictional stories about their life in these environments.”

And the answers were quite to the point:

“Workshop participants felt smart cities were rather utopian concepts growing from a vision put forward by one group of businesses. There was general agreement that there were often many visions for the city, but “at the moment it’s the rich and powerful who determine that future vision.”

Many were troubled by the notion that people would live in a city purely because of its technology capabilities and thought there were lots of other important social and cultural reasons influencing people’s decisions to live or work somewhere. Just because these urban centres could offer us new ways of living in the future does not negate the importance of the natural environment, history and legacy.”

9 March 2014

Swedish inspirations on design for public policy

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The Forum for Social Innovation Sweden is a meeting place for academia, industry, government, civic society and non-profit organisations in Sweden striving to develop social innovation and social entrepreneurship.

As part of its mission to share news, information, network and what is happening within this field, in Sweden and globally, it is worth calling attention to a few of its events and publications:

Event

Designing Publics, Public Designing
On the 27th an 28th of January, the Forum for Social innovation Sweden, at Malmö University and partners organised an international seminar on the subject of design and social innovation for public policy.
Synthesis article | Report | Conference video

Publications

Public and collaborative, Exploring the intersection of design, social innovation and public policy
Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability, DESIS, has published a public and collaborative book presenting reflections on efforts of DESIS Labs in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

The Power of the Collective
Research article by Andi Sharma that explores how social enterprise and non-profits can fully realize the potential of co-location communities.

> More publications

5 March 2014

Campaign: Mobile card set of facilitation and training techniques

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Are you a trainer? Do you facilitate meetings?

Help the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (an Experientia client) to develop a mobile card set of 60 participatory knowledge sharing methods and technologies that you can use in any of your upcoming workshops or meetings. The cards will help you to make informed decisions about developing learning activities and choosing the appropriate methods, tools and resources to conduct them.

Watch the video | Go to the crowdfunding campaign

9 February 2014

Adam Gopnik: “Why I don’t tweet”

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Adam Gopnik, who writes for the New Yorker, has only ever sent nine tweets. In this long BBC article he explains why:

” Everyone insists that the technological transformation of the daily shape of our lives by new gadgets is enormous, while allowing that their emotional effect is more dubious, leaving us with emptier, or at best, unaltered souls. I think the truth is closer to the direct reverse. The emotional effect of new devices is overwhelming – they are like having new pets, new children, trailing with them an overwhelming attachment. But the transformational effect they have on our lives is actually, looked at squarely and without sentiment, quite minimal. After the introduction of a new device, or social media, our lives are exactly where they were before, save for the new thing or service, which we now cannot live without.”

And note this sentence:

“Like so much modern media technology, [the smartphone] creates a dependency without ever actually addressing a need.”

12 January 2014

[Book] Design Transitions

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Design Transitions – Inspiring Stories. Global Viewpoints. How design is changing.
By Joyce Yee, Emma Jefferies and Lauren Tan
BIS Publishers
[Book site - Amazon link - selected pages]

Abstract

Design Transitions presents 42 unique and insightful stories of how design is changing around the world. Twelve countries are represented from the perspectives of three different communities: design agencies, organizations embedding design; and design academics.

Design Transitions takes you across the globe in search of the most innovative design practitioners, and their answers to the question ‘How are design practices changing?’ From small practices to vast corporations, the renowned to the lesser known: these are the stories of people working at the fringes of the traditional disciplines of design. They have opened up their design worlds to reveal the methods, tools and thinking behind their inspirational work. Some of the organizations and individuals featured includes: Droog, BERG, Fjord, thinkpublic, FutureGov, Hakuhodo Innovation Lab, DesignThinkers Group, INSITUM, Optimal Usability, frog Asia, Ziba, Banny Banerjee, Ezio Manzini, Carlos Teixeira and Adam Greenfield.

Design Transitions is divided into three sections:

  • Section I: Changing Practices features 25 stories from design practices in a range of disciplines.
  • Section II: New Territories features five organizations introducing and embedding design approaches into their core practice and operations.
  • Section III: Viewpoints features 12 interviews with leading design academics, offering additional insights and a critical perspective on the key themes that have emerged from our case studies and interviews.

Authors

Joyce Yee, PhD is a senior lecturer at UK’s Northumbria University’s Design School, teaching interaction, service and design methodologies across undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Emma Jefferies, PhD is an independent design consultant and founder of Design Doctors.

Lauren Tan, PhD has worked as a designer in various capacities in graphic design, management consulting, service design and social design.

12 January 2014

The new design: social innovation inspiring business innovation

 

Cheryl Heller of CommonWise argues that there’s a new design emerging that works from inside a community and at a systems level, impacting human relationships instead of things. It emerges from the new discipline of design for social innovation, in which the discipline is applied to re-imagining and reinvigorating human resources. This new design, applied to business, can shift cultures, instill broad creativity, and ignite the kind of transformational opportunities we need most right now.

“An emerging design practice has grown from the efforts of a relative handful of pioneering designers working in social impact design. It “scales up” the principles and processes of design to work at a systems level – creating the conditions, relationships, engagement and access to wisdom that shift cultures and ignite creative potential. This new design, developed through working in the social sector, requires skills and knowledge incremental to the core visual and technical skills that designers are currently taught: skills for mapping, storytelling, ethnographic research, analysis, facilitation, collaboration and persuasion. These new skills open the creative process to collective participation, engaging a culture in imagining and realizing it’s own future. And that is the heart of this powerful new tool for business.”

12 January 2014

Design’s next big frontier? Shaping behavior in real time

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Small devices with embedded intelligence can do more than just measure; they’re showing their potential to change the way we act, writes Sean Madden in Fast Company.

“For the first time, we have in essence a kit of parts–sensors, software, wireless protocols, an ecosystem of smartphones–that makes it relatively easy to balance unobtrusiveness, access and appropriateness in almost any device. The greatest obstacles now are figuring out what to measure, and ensuring that we use the tremendous persuasive power of these new feedback loops to encourage the right behavior.”

12 January 2014

[Book] The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think

rationalanimal

The Rational Animal: How Evolution Made Us Smarter Than We Think
by Douglas T. Kenrick and Vladas Griskevicius
Basic Books
September 2013
[Amazon link]

Abstract

Why do three out of four professional football players go bankrupt? How can illiterate jungle dwellers pass a test that tricks Harvard philosophers? And why do billionaires work so hard—only to give their hard-earned money away?

When it comes to making decisions, the classic view is that humans are eminently rational. But growing evidence suggests instead that our choices are often irrational, biased, and occasionally even moronic. Which view is right—or is there another possibility?

In this animated tour of the inner workings of the mind, psychologist Douglas T. Kenrick and business professor Vladas Griskevicius challenge the prevailing views of decision making, and present a new alternative grounded in evolutionary science. By connecting our modern behaviors to their ancestral roots, they reveal that underneath our seemingly foolish tendencies is an exceptionally wise system of decision making.

From investing money to choosing a job, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, our choices are driven by deep-seated evolutionary goals. Because each of us has multiple evolutionary goals, though, new research reveals something radical—there’s more than one “you” making decisions. Although it feels as if there is just one single “self” inside your head, your mind actually contains several different subselves, each one steering you in a different direction when it takes its turn at the controls.

The Rational Animal will transform the way you think about decision making. And along the way, you’ll discover the intimate connections between ovulating strippers, Wall Street financiers, testosterone-crazed skateboarders, Steve Jobs, Elvis Presley, and you.

Related

12 January 2014

[Book] War, Peace, and Human Nature

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War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views
Douglas P. Fry
Oxford University Press
April 2013
[Amazon link]

Abstract

Have humans always waged war? Is warring an ancient evolutionary adaptation or a relatively recent behavior–and what does that tell us about human nature? In War, Peace, and Human Nature, editor Douglas P. Fry brings together leading experts in such fields as evolutionary biology, archaeology, anthropology, and primatology to answer fundamental questions about peace, conflict, and human nature in an evolutionary context. The chapters in this book demonstrate that humans clearly have the capacity to make war, but since war is absent in some cultures, it cannot be viewed as a human universal. And counter to frequent presumption the actual archaeological record reveals the recent emergence of war. It does not typify the ancestral type of human society, the nomadic forager band, and contrary to widespread assumptions, there is little support for the idea that war is ancient or an evolved adaptation. Views of human nature as inherently warlike stem not from the facts but from cultural views embedded in Western thinking.

Drawing upon evolutionary and ecological models; the archaeological record of the origins of war; nomadic forager societies past and present; the value and limitations of primate analogies; and the evolution of agonism, including restraint; the chapters in this interdisciplinary volume refute many popular generalizations and effectively bring scientific objectivity to the culturally and historically controversial subjects of war, peace, and human nature.

> Book review

2 January 2014

[Book] Design for Behavior Change

designingforbehaviorchange

Designing for Behavior Change: Applying Psychology and Behavioral Economics
By Stephen Wendel
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Released: November 2013
Pages: 400
[Amazon link]

A new wave of products is helping people change their behavior and daily routines, whether it’s exercising more (Jawbone Up), taking control of their finances (HelloWallet), or organizing their email (Mailbox). This practical guide shows you how to design these types of products for users seeking to take action and achieve specific goals.

Stephen Wendel, HelloWallet’s head researcher, takes you step-by-step through the process of applying behavioral economics and psychology to the practical problems of product design and development. Using a combination of lean and agile development methods, you’ll learn a simple iterative approach for identifying target users and behaviors, building the product, and gauging its effectiveness. Discover how to create easy-to-use products to help people make positive changes.

  • Learn the three main strategies to help people change behavior
  • Identify your target audience and the behaviors they seek to change
  • Extract user stories and identify obstacles to behavior change
  • Develop effective interface designs that are enjoyable to use
  • Measure your product’s impact and learn ways to improve it
  • Use practical examples from products like Nest, Fitbit, and Opower

> Sampler pages (33 in total)

31 December 2013

Saving the lost art of conversation in the age of the smartphone

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Megan Garber of The Atlantic interviews (alternate link) Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and a professor at MIT whose primary academic interest—the relationship between humans and machines—is especially relevant in today’s networked age.

Turkle’s most recent book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, “explores our reliance on devices that can isolate us under the auspices of connection. Published in 2011, it poured 384 pages’ worth of water onto technological optimism at a time when most of the culture preferred to focus on the promise and allure of digital devices.”

Turkle, writes Garber, is at work on a new book, aspirationally titled Reclaiming Conversation, which will be a continuation of her thinking in Alone Together. In it, she will out herself again, this time as “a partisan of conversation.” Her research for the book has involved hours upon hours of talking with people about conversation as well as eavesdropping on conversations: the kind of low-grade spying that in academia is known as “ethnography,” that in journalism is known as “reporting,” and that everywhere else is known as “paying attention.”

“The conclusion she’s arrived at while researching her new book is not, technically, that we’re not talking to each other. We’re talking all the time, in person as well as in texts, in e-mails, over the phone, on Facebook and Twitter. The world is more talkative now, in many ways, than it’s ever been. The problem, Turkle argues, is that all of this talk can come at the expense of conversation. We’re talking at each other rather than with each other.

Conversations, as they tend to play out in person, are messy—full of pauses and interruptions and topic changes and assorted awkwardness. But the messiness is what allows for true exchange. It gives participants the time—and, just as important, the permission—to think and react and glean insights. “You can’t always tell, in a conversation, when the interesting bit is going to come,” Turkle says. “It’s like dancing: slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. You know? It seems boring, but all of a sudden there’s something, and whoa.”

Occasional dullness, in other words, is to be not only expected, but celebrated. Some of the best parts of conversation are, as Turkle puts it, “the boring bits.” In software terms, they’re features rather than bugs.”

31 December 2013

How do e-books change the reading experience?

 

Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes discuss in the New York Times Book Review how technology affects our reading habits.

Mohsin Hamid argues that in a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude.

“As we enter the cyborg era, as we begin the physical shift to human-machine hybrid, there will be those who embrace this epochal change, happily swapping cranial space for built-in processors. There will be others who reject the new ways entirely, perhaps even waging holy war against them, with little chance — in the face of drones that operate autonomously while unconcerned shareholding populations post selfies and status updates — of success. And there will be people like me, with our powered exoskeletons left often in the closet, able to leap over buildings when the mood strikes us, but also prone to wandering naked and feeling the sand of a beach between our puny toes.”

Anna Holmes writes that who or what we choose to read can be as telling as the clothes we wear, and an e-book feels like a detail withheld, a secret kept.

“No matter how fancy the refinements made to, say, Apple’s much heralded Retina display or Amazon’s electronic ink, an e-book offers little promise of discovery or wonder. Browsers may be ubiquitous in our e-portal age, but an e-book doesn’t encourage actual browsing.”

23 December 2013

Ethnographic research: Facebook is basically dead and buried with UK teenagers

 

As part of a European Union-funded study on social media (make sure to check also the UCL site and blog on the same project), the Department of Anthropology at University College London is running nine simultaneous 15-month ethnographic studies in seven countries (small towns in Brazil, China (2), India, Italy, Trinidad, Turkey and the UK). Interesting insights from the UK:

“What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things.

Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. This teaches us a number of important lessons about winning the app war.”

8 December 2013

Britain’s Ministry of Nudges

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The title of this New York Times article sounds like a Monty Python sketch (intentionally, I guess). But the article is luckily quite a lot more serious, exploring how the British government – inspired by American behavioral economics – is finding new ways to gently prod people to pay taxes, find jobs and insulate their homes:

“A small band of psychologists and economists is quietly working to transform the nation’s policy making. Inspired by behavioral science, the group fans out across the country to job centers, schools and local government offices and tweaks bureaucratic processes to better suit human nature. The goal is to see if small interventions that don’t cost much can change behavior in large ways that serve both individuals and society.

It is an American idea, refined in American universities and popularized in 2008 with the best seller “Nudge,” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Professor Thaler, a contributor to the Economic View column in Sunday Business, is an economist at the University of Chicago, and Mr. Sunstein was a senior regulatory official in the Obama administration, where he applied behavioral findings to a range of regulatory policies, but didn’t have the mandate or resources to run experiments.

But it is in Britain that such experiments have taken root. Prime Minister David Cameron has embraced the idea of testing the power of behavioral change to devise effective policies, seeing it not just as a way to help people make better decisions, but also to help government do more for less.”

6 December 2013

UK Cabinet Office policy lab aims to create designer public services

Airport design

Public service design is about to hit the mainstream. In December the Cabinet Office will launch a new policy lab tasked with using design to “re-invigorate policymaking in the UK civil service”, reports The Guardian.

The new lab to be launched in December will work with departments on their toughest problems, drawing on design methods such as ethnography to shed new light on what services people really need, and what a better solution might look like.

“Most design in the public sector is focused on transactions with government, such as applying for a passport. Much less has been done on design for improving human services such as drug rehabilitation. Even where design is deployed, it is usually only used to reshape a particular service not redesign the system surrounding it. So although some have designed to cut reoffending, designers have not yet had the chance to explore why offending is happening in the first place.

Moreover, design needs to learn from other public service fields, such as behavioural economics and social finance. The public service design revolution is just beginning.”

29 November 2013

Design your way to better public services

 

Innovative design-based approaches to public service management can rapidly enhance user experience whilst driving effective and efficient policymaking, explains Lucy Kimbell on the site of the Policy Network (the UK’s leading thinktank and international political network based in London).

“[The UK Cabinet Office, the Young Foundation, the International Telecommunications Union amd Nesta] are all examples of organisations reaching out to something confusingly called “Design”, in their attempts to create and deliver better responses to social challenges. Here, “better” public services can be understood through the lens of Roman architect Vitruvius. Well-designed public services should be pleasing and easy to access and use from the end user’s perspective (venustas). They should use resources effectively and efficiently, for example, reducing public sector investment (firmitas). And they should achieve policy goals resulting in the impacts that were the point of creating the solution in the first place (utilitas).

Helpful is how Kimbell describes what is distinctive about an approach where a team of people from policy, social science, technology and design backgrounds together take a design-led approach to addressing social challenges.

19 November 2013

Behavioral change strategy cards

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Artefact Group, the Seattle based design company, has posted the first installment of its Behavior Change toolkit.

“We’ve curated this selection of cards to give you a sample of principles and strategies that you can apply to your own work, dealing with concepts like how timing, ownership, and perceived losses impact people’s decisions.

Our goal is to provide internal and external designers, talent managers, and organizations with tools to incorporate behavioral economics principles into their work. This first installment of our Behavior Change toolkit rounds out our library of free resources on behavior change, including:

19 November 2013

Bringing sharing to Korea

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Richard Heinberg, author of The End of Growth, gave the keynote address at the ‘Seoul Youth Hub Conference 2013, Reshaping the Way We Live’, held in Seoul, Korea from 6 to 8 November 2013.

The conference was co-hosted with 8 youth-led organizations working for transforming our lives into more sustainable way in various sectors.

The Seoul Youth Hub is a project of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and its mandate is to help young people “design a future society” by providing a place where they can share and resolve their problems, experiment with a sharing economy, and “discuss specific policies regarding various agendas such as work-labor, housing, life safety net, business creation, youth politics,” and more. The Hub is also intended as a model and a networking center for similar projects throughout Asia.

Richard was quite impressed about it all, and wrote a report on his experience on Shareable.

Very funny was his meeting with the Mayor of Seoul:

“On the evening of the first day of the conference I met Mayor Park at his offices in City Hall, a twisty new steel-and-glass structure whose ground floor is devoted to citizen-led social innovation projects.

Copies of The End of Growth were on the mayor’s meeting room table. Using an interpreter, we got right to it: He had clearly read the book and asked intelligent questions about it. What would I recommend that he and the City of Seoul do to prepare for the end of economic growth? It was a stunning question, given the circumstances, and he appeared eager to consider whatever suggestions I might offer. I started rattling off a laundry list of ideas — supporting farmers’ markets, community gardens, and other staples of a local food system; discouraging cars while encouraging bicycling and public transport; raising energy building standards to the Passive House level; staging more cultural events to increase the happiness quotient among citizens. When I finished, he recited examples of how he and the city have already begun doing nearly every one of these things. He was saying, in effect, “Check, check, check. Come on, what else have you got? Please tell me, and I’ll see if we can do it!” I suggested he find a way for the city to help bring Transition to Seoul. (There are currently two official Transition Initiatives in Japan, none in Korea.) He promised to do just that.”

19 November 2013

What human experiences are we missing by adopting new technologies?

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The more our data is used to determine our needs and desires, the less chance there is for serendipity, writes Bronwen Clune. Are we willing to make this concession in the name of progress?

“Tracking, data mining and collaborative filtering are now the way things are done. There is little room left for the art of finding something good by accident, or stumbling upon something useful while not searching for it. We shouldn’t underplay this, as luck and serendipity have long played a role in science when it’s come to discoveries; penicillin, radioactivity and gravity to name a few. What role could technology play in reducing these accidents from our lives? If we’re only ever exposed to what has been determined to appeal to us, we reduce the chances of these accidental discoveries. This can be from the personal to things of larger consequence. Put simply, the more our data is used to determine our needs and desires, the less chance there is for serendipity.”