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Posts in category 'Social change'

6 September 2013

Selected videos from “The Conference” in Sweden

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Media Evolution The Conference is an international conference organized annually in Malmö, Sweden. The event focuses on factors that are affecting our society, with a media industry angle to it, exploring who sets the agenda, what changes the playing field and how we all can shape society from now on.

The main themes are “Human Behavior”, “New Technology” and “Make it Happen” with sessions that look into topics such as big data, learning, non visual communication, online harassment, responsive web design, boredom, change making and tactility in a digital world.

Here are some selected videos from the August 2013 edition. There are 56 in all online (just from 2013), so I invite you to explore them as well.

Suzannah Lipscomb – Opening keynote [41:19]
Suzannah Lipscomb is Senior Lecturer and Convenor for History at New College of the Humanities. She also holds a post as Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia. Suzannah opened The Conference by looking back and talked about what we can and can not learn from the past.

James Bridle – Naked Lunch [43:07]
The world is shaped by new technologies, but perhaps it is shaped more by how we understand those technologies, how they impact our daily lives, and the mental models we have of them. James Bridle, who coined the term “New Aesthetic”, talks about architectural visualisation, online literatures, contemporary warfare and contemporary labour, in an attempt to articulate new ways of thinking about the world.

An Xiao Mina – The Internetz and Civics [12:54]
An Xiao Mina is an American artist, designer, writer and technologist. She explores the disruptive power of networked, creative communities in civic life. Dubbing memes the “street art of the internet”, she looks at the growing role of meme culture and humor in addressing social and political issues in countries like China, Uganda and the United States.

Golden Krishna – The Best Interface Is No Interface [16:25]
Golden Krishna, Senior Designer at Samsung, speaks about how “The best interface is no interface”.
Many people believe that the future of design is on screens. But what if we can design communication that doesn’t involve screens.

Mike Dewar – Seeing From Above [18:25]
Mike Dewar, Data Scientist at The New York Times R&D Lab, will talk about how we can build tools to let us see behavioral phenomena from a heady new perspective with big data and data science. In an increasingly complex and networked world, tools for recording, filtering and visualising data is powering a new breed of storytelling.

Petra Sundström – Digitals [13:52]
Petra Sundström is a leading researcher within the fields of Human Computer Interaction and Interaction Systems Design. She is Lab Manager for the Crafted Technology and Experiences lab at SICS and Mobile Life.
We all know how paper feels and that we interpret things by touching them But how does digital features feel, and how can we better understand “digital materials” to design augmented digital experiences.

Tricia Wang – The Elastic Self [17:23]
Tricia Wang is a global tech ethnographer who researches how technology makes us human. She advises organizations, corporations, and students on utilizing Digital Age ethnographic research methods to improve strategy, policy, services, and products.

6 September 2013

Thoughts on clever cities

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The multiplexed metropolis
Enthusiasts think that data services can change cities in this century as much as electricity did in the last one. The Economist – in a piece written by Ludwig Siegele, online business and finance editor, argues that they are a long way from proving their case.

The role of the citizen in the smart city
Technology has changed how we look at city infrastructure, raising the possibility of smart cities. Could it now change how city governments and citizens interact?
(With contributions by Dan Hill, Saskia Sassen, Usman Haque, William Perrin and Rick Robinson)

“Against the smart city” teaser
The smart city pretends to an objectivity, a unity and a perfect knowledge that are nowhere achievable, even in principle, argues Adam Greenfield.

6 September 2013

Rebecca Solnit on the downside of social and mobile technology

 

Rebecca Solnit writes – in an excellent piece – that she feels as though she is in a bad science fiction movie where everyone takes orders from tiny boxes that link them to alien overlords. Which is what corporations are anyway.

“Previous technologies have expanded communication. But the last round may be contracting it. The eloquence of letters has turned into the unnuanced spareness of texts; the intimacy of phone conversations has turned into the missed signals of mobile phone chat. I think of that lost world, the way we lived before these new networking technologies, as having two poles: solitude and communion. The new chatter puts us somewhere in between, assuaging fears of being alone without risking real connection. It is a shallow between two deep zones, a safe spot between the dangers of contact with ourselves, with others.” [...]

Getting out of it is about slowness, and about finding alternatives to the alienation that accompanies a sweater knitted by a machine in a sweatshop in a country you know nothing about, or jam made by a giant corporation that has terrible environmental and labour practices and might be tied to the death of honeybees or the poisoning of farmworkers. It’s an attempt to put the world back together again, in its materials but also its time and labour. It’s both laughably small and heroically ambitious.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge, about technological change in the 19th century. She lives on the edge of Silicon Valley.

5 September 2013

Pew: 86% of USA adults make efforts to hide digital footprints online

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Pew Research Center found that 86 percent of surveyed adult Internet users in the U.S. have made efforts to obscure their “digital footprints” — which could include simple measures like clearing cookies in your browser or something more involved like encrypting your email, writes Ingrid Lunden on TechCrunch.

Some 55 percent have taken this one step further by trying to block specific people or organizations — services like Disconnect.me, for example, have built an entire business on creating these tools.

These efforts are not directed solely at state or government groups — despite all the recent attention from the PRISM revelations and the government’s role in gathering data.

“[Users'] concerns apply to an entire ecosystem of surveillance,” writes Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and one of the report’s authors. “In fact, they are more intent on trying to mask their personal information from hackers, advertisers, friends and family members than they are trying to avoid observation by the government.”

> See also this Fast Company article

23 August 2013

The UK’s Behavioural Design Lab

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The UK’s Behavioural Design Lab is a new collaboration between Warwick Business School and the Design Council, uniting behavioural science with design-thinking. They help organisations transform a better understanding of people into innovative solutions that improve society.

Our Belief
The biggest issues in society, from obesity to climate change, are due to behavioural and lifestyle factors people embrace on a daily basis.
Most attempts to change behaviour rely on the outdated assumption that people are governed by a rational self-interest. The result is a range of programmes with a firm rationale but minimal impact.
We believe the best way to solve these issues is to not only research how and why people actually make decisions, but use the design of products, services and places to help us all make better decisions.

Our Approach
Innovation requires two things. The ability to generate creative ideas and a way of testing them.
Our approach uses design-thinking and behavioural insights to reframe problems as an opportunity for enterprise, providing a platform for creative ideas.
We then use our network to bring teams together to tackle the briefs, supporting them through development. As ideas become real, they are tested and refined using experiments.

19 August 2013

Social scientists find story in data to attract more customers

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Social scientists say that tech companies are showing an increased interest in their skills, especially with the rising importance of social networking and big data, and that their roles within those companies are changing. A report by Janet I. Tu, the Seattle Times technology reporter.

In the past few years, with the rise of social computing and social media, tech companies have come to understand that, “It’s not enough to understand the individual user,” said Donald Farmer, a Seattle-based vice president of product management at QlikTech, a software company. “You have to understand them in a social context.” [...]

Tracey Lovejoy, a senior user research lead for Office, has used her anthropology training at Microsoft as a user experience researcher and an ethnographer, researching how technology is embedded in people’s lives.

Recently, she and her team conducted a field study of about three dozen people, talking to people and observing them in their environments to understand the kinds of work they do on their tablets and how those tablets fit within their wider technology ecosystem.

One theme that emerged was that many tablet owners used their devices for more “casual productivity” and in more relaxed positions, such as reclining on the couch — information useful for future iterations of Office.

These days, Lovejoy observed, it’s the researchers themselves who are more embedded into product teams, “becoming more impactful, and influencing decisions at the strategic level.”

17 August 2013

What’s lost when everything is recorded

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Who wouldn’t delight in hearing Lincoln at Gettysburg in the same way we can go back and witness President Obama on the campaign trail? But with so much data capture and storage, which is preferable for our hearts and minds, the theater of politics or deference to the algorithm? Quentin Hardy, the deputy tech editor of the New York Times explores the matter on the newspaper’s Bits blog.

“While we fret about losing privacy and other dangers of the digital revolution, one sad change is happening with little notice: Our technology is stealing the romance of old conversations, that quaint notion that some things are best forgotten.

Remember the get-to-know-me chat of a first date or that final (good or bad) conversation with someone you knew for years? Chances are, as time has passed, your memory of those moments has changed. Did you nervously twitch and inarticulately explain your love when you asked your spouse to marry you? Or, as you recall it, did you gracefully ask for her hand, as charming as Cary Grant?

Thanks to our near-endless access to digital recording devices, the less-than-Hollywood version of you will be immortalized on the home computer, or stored for generations in some digital computing cloud.” [...]

“That quintessential American trait, self-reinvention, may well be threatened in the hard world of video and audio documentations and the chase of objective truth.”

17 August 2013

Lessons from monks about designing the technologies of the future

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Our technologies are designed to maximize shareholder profit, and if that means distracting, confusing or aggregating the end-user, then so be it.

But another path is possible, argues Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in his new book The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul (Amazon link).

Pang calls the idea “contemplative computing,” and Techcrunch’s Klint Finley reflects on his book:

“Pang’s notion of mindful, or contemplative, computing is useful, but ultimately it’s just a way of coping with a world of applications designed without our best interests at heart. Just as meditation, prayer and weekend retreats can help us cope with the harsh realities of the modern world, so too can it help us cope with flame wars, feral inboxes and the non-stop rush of social media. But just as citizens can demand safer cities, more humane governments and even economic reform, we can demand a new class of technologies.”

7 August 2013

To get users to make smarter choices now, show them their future

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Design can be used to introduce users to the future now, so they can act in ways that will benefit them in the future, writes Nikki Pfarr, researcher and strategist at Artefact.

“What [designers] don’t often do, is think of the future as a tool for persuasive design. But it is–and it can actually be quite powerful. When people get a peek at what’s in store for their health, their pocketbooks, and the environment, they tend to make better decisions–such as saving more money for retirement or going for a jog instead of watching television.

By making users’ futures–25, 35, or even 50 years from now–more salient in the products and services we design, we can nudge them toward future-oriented choices. A good place to start is by helping users feel more connected to their future selves.”

24 July 2013

Ph.D thesis: Design with Intent

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Brunel University London has posted the Ph.D dissertation of Daniel Lockton, entitled “Design with Intent – A design pattern toolkit for environmental & social behaviour change” (download link).

“This thesis describes a systematic research enquiry into influencing more sustainable behaviour through design, which has produced communicable new knowledge in the form of a design pattern toolkit, called Design with Intent, developed and evaluated through an action research process. The toolkit aims to help designers create products, services and environments which influence the way people use them, primarily for environmental and social benefit; it brings together techniques for understanding and changing human behaviour from a range of psychological and technical disciplines, illustrated with examples, with the aim of enabling designers to explore and apply relevant strategies to problems.

`Design for behaviour change’ has grown significantly as a field in the past few years, to a large extent due to recognition of the contributions that user behaviour makes to the environmental and social impact of technology and designed systems in general. People’s behaviour is inevitably influenced by the design of the systems which they use, and it is not a great leap to consider that design could be used intentionally to influence behaviour where some benefit would result.

This thesis starts by identifying the need for a guide for designers working on behaviour change. It extracts insights from reviews of perspectives on influencing behaviour from different disciplines, inside and outside of `design’, which could be usefully applied in a design context. Through an action research process of iterative development and workshops with design practitioners and students, these insights are incorporated into a toolkit for designers, which is applied mainly to environmental and social behaviour change briefs. Versions of the toolkit are made publicly available, and feedback from early users in different contexts is analysed and implications for continuing development discussed.”

14 July 2013

Why behavior change apps fail to change behavior

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“Too many well-intentioned products fail because they feel like ‘haftas,’ things people are obligated to do, as opposed to things they ‘wanna’ do,” writes Nir Eyal on Techcrunch.

“When faced with ‘haftas,’ our brains register them as punishments so we take shortcuts, cheat, skip-out, or in the case of many apps or websites, uninstall them or click away in order to escape the discomfort of feeling controlled. [...]

Unfortunately, too many companies build their products betting users will do what they should or have to do, instead of what they want to do. They fail to change behaviors because they neglect to make their services enjoyable for its own sake, often asking users to learn new, unfamiliar actions instead of making old routines easier.

Instead, products that successfully change behavior present users with an implicit choice between their old way of doing things and the new, more convenient solution to existing needs. By maintaining the user’s freedom to choose, products can facilitate the adoption of new habits and change behavior for good.”

6 July 2013

Cities are being redrawn according to Google’s world view

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In the second of two columns exploring the impact of digital culture on design, Sam Jacob looks at how Google Maps is reshaping cities while Apple, Facebook and Amazon are reshaping the natural landscape by building their own headquarters as self-contained ecosystems.

“Over the last year or so, many of the key digital behemoths have unveiled plans for new headquarters: the grand edifices that they choose to erect for themselves. These are the physical ecosystems inhabited by our digital ecosystems, and in these habitats we can read technology companies’ own ambitions and their own self images, and perhaps glimpse something of the distortions that digital culture brings to the world around us. [...]

In designs for both the Apple and Facebook headquarters, the idea of nature is at once highly present and highly synthetic. It’s a level constructed above vast parking garages, quoted as experience and presented as mission statement. In both, there are echoes of the hippy pastoral techno-utopias of the 1960s, washed together with management theory and marketing. These are ideologies made glass and grass. [...]

Proximity and loss of hierarchy are, in this headquarters, core issues. These reflect both the nature of digital work culture and the nature of the digital too. The absence of distance and constant adjacency is at once both the liberation that digital culture brings and the springboard for loss of liberty that Prism suggests. In architectural terms, we might understand this problem in terms of openness: the open plan and the curtain wall are simultaneously things that give us spatial transparency and a condition of panoptic surveillance.”

(If this topic fascinates you, also check out this fascinating piece by George Packer in the New Yorker on how Silicon Valley is transferring its slogans — and its money — to the realm of politics.)

6 July 2013

Prism is the dark side of design thinking

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In this first of two columns about the impact of digital culture on design, Sam Jacob asks what America’s Prism surveillance program tells us about design thinking.

“Prism tells us something about design in the twenty-first century. [...] It tells us that design is increasingly about systems, increasingly about processes and the way these interface with the real world.

Prism is part, I would suggest, of the realm of design thinking. This is a problem-solving methodology born out of similarly strange bedfellows as The Californian Ideology. In this case it’s art school creativity hijacked by management theory. Design thinking suggests the synthetic way in which designers are (supposed to be) thinking can be applied to almost any subject. Its power is its ability to transform anything into a design problem: the way organisations work, profitability, market share, information, the gathering and processing of intelligence and, it seems, national security.”

6 July 2013

Seoul, the Sharing City

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On 20 September 2012, the Seoul Metropolitan Government disclosed its plan for promoting the “Sharing City, Seoul” project, which includes 20 sharing programs and policies for generating or diffusing “sharing city” infrastructure after declaring the “Seoul as a Sharing City” vision.

The Metropolitan Government regards “sharing city” as a new alternative for social reform that can resolve many economic, social, and environmental issues of the city simultaneously by creating new business opportunities, recovering trust-based relationships, and minimizing wastage of resources.

In particular, the city plans to deploy secondary sharing infrastructure from now on to enhance the usefulness of idle resources such as space, objects, and talents since its urban policies have concentrated on constructing primary sharing infrastructure to date, such as roads, parking lots, schools, and libraries. Parallel to the above, the Metropolitan Government plans to implement policies of opening public resources to the citizens by having the public sector take the initiative while focusing on the implementation of policies that respect and promote private sector capabilities.

6 July 2013

Book: Legible Practices by Helsinki Design Lab

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The social innovation book Legible Practices aims at codifying the practises of stewardship, as exhibited by innovators who are consciously rethinking institutions to better meet the challenges of today. It is the last book by Helsinki Design Lab, the recently closed strategic design lab of Sitra, the Finnish innovation fund.

“Stewardship is the art of aligning decisions with impact when many minds are involved in making a plan, and many hands in enacting it.

This notion comes to life through the stories of six projects on three continent, each an example of carefully rewiring institutions to better meet today’s challenges.

By zooming in on the details, a handful of practises emerge that will help you convert ideas into action. Each story is shared as a brief narrative which is then broken down into a network of interlinking practises.

In writing Legible Practises, the authors Bryan Boyer, Justin W. Cook and Marco Steinberg – hope to spark a conversation about the deep craft of social innovation as a reminder that, even when dreaming big, the details still matter.”

The case studies featured in the book:

  • Constitución (Chile): Redesign the city in 90 days through a co-creation process aimed at deliverying more resilient infrastructure and an urban form that provides greater social equity.
  • Brownsville Partnership (USA): Create a safer, stronger and more self-reliant community in Brownsville by working collaboratively with community, non-profit organisations, and public agencies to build a portfolio of complimentary services.
  • Creative Councils (UK): Support innovators in local government across England and Wales to develop and implement radical innovations addressing a long-term challenge that matters in their area.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (USA): Designing a brand identity, engagement strategy and discrete consumer-facing educational experiences for the nascent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Branchekode (DK): Transform a Danish government service responsible for generating classification categories needed to register a new business.
  • Gov.uk (UK): Transform the quality of the UK’s government digital services, making them “simpler, clearer, faster”, starting with a single website for the whole of government.

You can order a printed copy or download a free pdf.

2 July 2013

Notes on “Ambient Commons”, by Malcolm McCullough

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Malcolm McCullough is one the key thinkers and writers about the intersection of the network, digital media, and the urban and architectural. Dan Hill (who will speak here in Torino on Thursday) was asked to provide a testimonial for the back of McCullough’s latest book, “Ambient Commons; Attention in the age of embodied interaction,” which he reproduced on his blog, together with some choice excerpts.

“Ambient Commons is both a timely, if highly civilised, wake-up call and a hugely valuable guidebook to the new post-”digital” landscape of contemporary urban culture.

In suggesting we “take back our attention”, genuinely consider our surroundings, take notice of the world, McCullough argues for a radical rebalancing of our patterns of living, working, playing – not as a refusenik, but as engaged and critical designer and thinker, and backed up by building on a bravura free-wheeling whistle-stop tour through an “environmental history of urban information”.

As physical and digital entwine such that they can rarely be separated, the relationship between disciplines and perspectives becomes increasingly complex and interwoven too. “Ambient Commons” demonstrates how a book can strategically expand the perspective, toolkit and practical vocabulary of the designers, coders and architects who are helping produce the new soft city, but through its open, diverse and richly patterned reference points and positions, it will be engaging and insightful for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on on the street of today and tomorrow.

McCullough also demonstrates how important it is that we understand technology as culture, and that it is worthy of philosophical inquiry. He manages to convey these complex ideas such that they feel accessible, yet are rigorously researched, are instantly appealing, yet prompt considered reflection, stoking the engines on many trains of thought.

It is also, unlike most texts that pivot around technology, beautifully written. It is a critical book to have written at this point.”

2 July 2013

Urban sustainability: what will a smart city look like in the future?

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By 2050 there will be five billion urbanites but, with pressure on resources and climate disruption, how will cities cope? New technology and conceptual design will be vital, says Emma Stewart, head of sustainability solutions at Autodesk.

“If we play our cards right, the 2050 city will:

  • recognise its context, situated within a natural and agricultural ecosystem that provides its denizens’ abundant raw materials, free crop pollination, and genetic diversity;
  • be resilient, responding to long-term shifts through adaptive re-use and short-term shocks through high-tech smart devices and low-tech biomimetic designs;
  • be water neutral, drawing from its aquifers only as much as it can recharge, and the rest from the sky or recyclers now part of basic plumbing;
  • be inhabited by citizens who emit no more than one ton of greenhouse gases per person per year, due to their heavy reliance on efficient building design, decentralised generation, district energy systems, and multi-modal transit.”
2 July 2013

Four ways cities should be adapting to change

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The report “State of the City: 5 Trends Impacting US Cities,” issued by Living Cities, not only provides guidance about what issues are trending but also how cities need to act so they can successfully adapt to these trends.

Ben Hecht (CEO of Living Cities) highlights the four key ways that cities need to adapt to these powerful trends:
1. Identifying solutions to these complex problems will require the letting go of old ways of working.
2. Understanding the interdependent nature of these trends is critical to addressing them successfully.
3. Recognizing that no institution or sector alone can reverse the direction of these trends is an imperative.
4. Taking full advantage of innovations in financing and technology will accelerate change.

Hecht concludes: “Our State of the City Report confirms once again what Charles Darwin found 130 years ago: strength and intelligence matter but its adaptation that probably matters most”.

12 June 2013

Online, we’re all celebrities now. So what next?

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“In reality, we’re all kind of on ‘Big Brother’ — on a reality show,” says Syracuse University’s Anthony Rotolo, a professor who runs the Starship NEXIS lab, focusing on social networking and new technologies. “Whenever I give a talk, whenever you give a talk, there’s going to be someone live-tweeting it. There’s going to be somebody posting a picture on Facebook. We are redefining celebrity in this age, and anybody at any time could be speaking publicly without realizing it.”

There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle once it’s started sharing memes on Facebook. If you must be a Web celebrity, at least do so with self-awareness, experts say.

6 June 2013

Technology puts power in the hands of the Millennial Generation

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This week the Financial Times has run two reports on the Millennial Generation.

Part Two (pdf) came out today, whereas Part One is from June 3.

Part Two’s leading article is definitely worth exploring, particularly in how it connects technology and mobile devices with empowerment of a new generation:

“Technology has played a huge role in how they’re different from the ­generation that came before them,” says Jean Case, chief executive of the Case Foundation, which she and her husband Steve Case, AOL’s co-founder, created in 1997.

This generation sees technology as levelling the playing field. In the FT-Telefónica Global Millennials Survey of 18 to 30-year olds almost 70 per cent of respondents said “technology creates more opportunities for all” as opposed to “a select few”.

This belief has brought tremendous confidence to the world’s first generation of digital natives, despite facing the worst economic outlook since the great depression.”

More background also in this article.