counter

Putting People First

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

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


Posts in category 'Technology'

8 September 2014

11 reasons computers can’t understand or solve our problems without human judgement

wang_tiles

It is true that our ability to collect, analyse and interpret data about the world has advanced to an astonishing degree in recent years, writes Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, in his blog “Urban Technologist”. However, he says, that ability is far from perfect, and strongly established scientific and philosophical principles tell us that it is impossible to definitively measure human outcomes from underlying data in physical or computing systems; and that it is impossible to create algorithmic rules that exactly predict them.

After a lengthy introduction, he provides a description of some of the scientific, philosophical and practical issues that lead inevitability to uncertainty in data, and to limitations in our ability to draw conclusions from it:

Robinson then finishes with an explanation of why we can still draw great value from data and analytics if we are aware of those issues and take them properly into account.

12 March 2014

A UX view of the future of mobile networks and systems

idea

The latest post of the User Experience Lab at Ericsson Research presents a UX view of the future of mobile networks and systems.

“The “Remote Control over Mobile Networks” concept is one of several concepts that we have defined in a longer term research project called “UX of future networks”, which is currently ongoing. The main scope for the project is for us at the UX Lab to investigate the next generation of networks and systems (such as 5G) from an UX perspective.”

10 March 2014

Observing the technologists

3283045370_1982140195_b

Nick Seaver, a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at UC Irvine, makes the case for the importance of “studying up“: doing ethnographies not only of disempowered groups, but of groups who wield power in society, like technology developers. This project focuses on the development of algorithmic music recommendation systems.

“Just as ethnography is an excellent tool for showing how “users” are more complicated than one might have thought, it is also useful for understanding the processes through which technologies get built. By turning an ethnographic eye to the designers of technology — to their social and cultural lives, and even to their understandings of users — we can get a more nuanced picture of what goes on under the labels “big data” or “algorithms.” For outsiders interested in the cultural ramifications of technologies like recommender systems, this perspective is crucial for making informed critiques. For developers themselves, being the subject of ethnographic research provides a unique opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation.”

Now I am curious what his research results actually showed.

5 March 2014

De l’importance de l’ethnographie appliquée aux technologies

Etvousvotrechaudiereestelleaccessible-221x300

For once a post in French!

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu describes some examples – mostly from the recent EPIC conference – of the great contribution of ethnography in focusing our gaze on real life practices, in pointing out that what technologists do not see, and in explaining how the strictly technological gaze often fails. ["Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue."]

“L’ethnographie est une méthode des sciences sociales consistant en l’étude descriptive et analytique, sur le terrain, des moeurs, coutumes et pratiques de populations déterminées. Longtemps cantonnés aux populations primitives, les sociologues, anthropologues et ethnologues ont depuis les années 70 élargies l’usage de ces méthodes à bien d’autres terrains, et notamment à l’étude de nos pratiques quotidiennes, afin de mieux comprendre “les expériences humaines en contexte”. Parmi les repères de la conception ethnographique appliquée à la technologie, citons au moins le travail pionnier de Lucy Suchman au Xerox Parc dès les années 90, ou celui de Genevieve Bell qui poursuit ce travail chez Intel et qui a signé, avec Tony Salvador et Ken Anderson, en 1999, l’un des articles fondateur de l’ethnographie appliquée aux questions technologiques.

Depuis 2011, le site Questions d’Ethnographie (ethnomatters) interroge ces nouvelles pratiques de l’ethnographie et permet à de jeunes chercheurs de discuter la tension entre l’ethnographie universitaire et l’ethnographie appliquée, tel que de plus en plus d’ethnologues la pratiquent. Pour eux, si l’ethnographie est importante, c’est parce qu’elle aide à maintenir “le développement technologique réel”, concret.

Récemment, le site a publié une série d’exemples tirés de présentations qui se sont déroulées lors de la conférence Epic 2013 qui avait lieu en septembre dernier à Londres, une conférence sur la pratique ethnographique dans le monde des affaires (voir le brouillon non finalisé des actes (.pdf)), qui éclaire d’une manière concrète l’intérêt de l’ethnographie appliquée. Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue. Prenons quelques exemples pour mieux comprendre les enjeux.”

12 January 2014

The UX of commercial drones

the-ux-of-commercial-drones-banner-mp

In order for commercial drones like Amazon’s or Australian startup Flirtey’s to become a reality, the drone (or any future-world technology, really) can’t merely do its job—meaning, it can’t randomly drop off deliveries and simply fly away as the drone in the Amazon demo video does. There’s a lot more to it than that. To make this kind of service take off (literally), companies will have to consider the user experience, and especially the microinteractions, the drones will have with customers, writes Dan Saffer in UX Magazine.

There are quite a few issues to be resolved, clearly.

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.”

20 November 2013

Teens in the digital age

 

Two talks on teens in the digital age:

The App Generation: identity, intimacy and imagination in the digital era (video – 21:18)
Talk at The RSA, London, UK – October 2, 2013
Today’s young people have grown up almost totally immersed in digital media. But have we really begun to take full stock of the impact that living in the digital era has on young people’s creativity and aspirations?
Drawing upon a unique body of new research, father of the theory of multiple intelligences, Professor Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist at Harvard University, explores the particular challenges facing today’s “App Generation” as they as they navigate three vital areas of adolescent life – identity, intimacy and imagination – in a digital world.
Addressing the areas in which digital technologies can both positively and negatively affect relationships, personal and creative growth, Gardner looks at how we might venture beyond the ways that apps are designed to be used, to ensure that technologies act as a springboard to greater creativity and higher aspiration.

It’s Complicated: Teen Privacy in a Networked Age (video – 22:14)
Talk held at Family Online Safety Institute, Washington, DC, USA – November 6, 2013
Dr. danah boyd, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, expanding on her new book It’s Complicated (Amazon link).

Perhaps not surprisingly, Howard Gardner (born in 1943) and danah boyd (born in 1977) come to quite different conclusions. boyd’s talk is quite consistent by a great one by Tricia Wang at EPIC in London, by the way.

By the way, note Boyd’s definition of privacy: “Privacy is not simply the control of the flow of information, but it is in many ways the control of a social situation.”

11 November 2013

Two new reports by ARUP

 

Designing with Data
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and ARUP have released Designing with Data: Shaping Our Future Cities, a new report that explores the massive potential role that data could have in the planning and design of our buildings and cities, reports Dexigner.
The report identifies the main approaches to working with data for those involved in designing and planning cities. Better data can offer a deep insight into people’s needs and has the potential to transform the way architects and urban planners design our built environments. This could result in cheaper experimentation and testing of designs before construction begins. It also promises the chance for greater consultation with potential users – speeding up the process, saving time and money and resulting in better and more affordable design.

Museums in the Digital Age
Museums of the future may be filled with 3D-printed replicas, green walls and sensory surfaces, according to a report by Arup (writes Wired UK).
Arup, the London engineering firm behind Japan’s planned Giant Observation Wheel, the world’s first algae-powered building and Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge, compiled the report Museums in the Digital Age with help from Central Saint Martins’ students on the MA Practice for Narrative Environments course.
The report recognises that museums now have to cater for increasingly disparate visitor groups from an aging population through to the Facebook generation, as well as an expanding global middle class which will give rise to a mass cultural boom. Through investigating the experiential requirements of each, the report suggests a number of changes to future museum design and investments.

2 November 2013

How technology changes storytelling

Roundup1-articleInline

Long New York Times piece where writers in a variety of genres tell us what new technologies mean for storytelling.

Contributions by Margaret Atwood, Charles Yu, Marisha Pessl, Tom McCarthy, Rainbow Rowell, Dana Spiotta, Frederick Forsyth, Douglas Coupland, Tracy K. Smith, Emily Giffin, Ander Monson, Elliott Holt, Victor LaValle, Lee Child, Meg Cabot, Tao Lin, and A. M. Homes.

29 September 2013

The problem with big data correlations

 

“The people using big data don’t presume to peer deeply into people’s souls,” argues David Brooks in the New York Times (in an April 2013 column). “They don’t try to explain why people are doing things. They just want to observe what they are doing.”

“The theory of big data is to have no theory, at least about human nature. You just gather huge amounts of information, observe the patterns and estimate probabilities about how people will act in the future. [In other words,] this movement asks us to move from causation to correlation.”

While this approach has yielded some impressive results, he says, one should be also aware of its limits and goes on to list four of them:

  • The challenge of discerning meaningful correlations from meaningless ones
  • People are discontinuous and the passing of time can produce gigantic and unpredictable changes in taste and behavior
  • The world is error-prone and dynamic
  • The distinction between commodity decisions and flourishing decisions

Interesting too, his conclusion: “My worries mostly concentrate on the cultural impact of the big data vogue. If you adopt a mind-set that replaces the narrative with the empirical, you have problems thinking about personal responsibility and morality, which are based on causation. You wind up with a demoralized society.”

24 September 2013

Can Smarter Cities improve our quality of life?

goldengate

Can information and technology improve the quality of life in cities?

That seems a pretty fundamental question for the Smarter Cities movement to address. There is little point in us expending time and money on the application of technology to city systems unless we can answer it positively.

Rick Robinson, Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, argues that the answer is yes in a long post on his blog, that is structured around Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.

6 September 2013

Selected videos from “The Conference” in Sweden

Renaissance-300x300

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.

28 August 2013

Exploring the use of tablets in educational settings

mindshift

MindShift, a service by KQED and NPR, has published a four-part series to explore the four dimensions of using tablets in educational settings, examining how teachers can take students on a journey from (1) consumption of media, to (2) curation, (3) creation, and (4) connection.

Each of the instalments explores the challenges ahead using the Someday/Monday template:

“The Someday/Monday dichotomy captures one of the core challenges in teacher professional development around education technology. On the one hand, deep integration of new learning technologies into classrooms requires substantially rethinking pedagogy, curriculum, assessment, and teacher practice (someday). For technology to make a real difference in student learning, it can’t just be an add-on. On the other hand, teachers need to start somewhere (Monday), and one of the easiest ways for teachers to get experience with emerging tools is to play and experiment in lightweight ways: to use technology as an add-on. Teachers need to imagine a new future—to build towards Someday—and teachers also need new activities and strategies to try out on Monday. Both pathways are important to teacher growth and meaningful, sustained changes in teaching and learning.”

20 August 2013

Does big data have us ‘fooled by randomness’?

ap-good-times-in-silicon-valley

Being surrounded by data makes it easy to see the noise rather than the signal, and the trees rather than the forest, writes Andre Mouton in USA Today.

“Nassim Nicholas Taleb achieved notoriety with several books written before the housing crisis, criticizing the financial industry for putting so much faith in its predictions. He argued in Fooled by Randomness that there are problems with our attempts to understand the past, and even larger issues when we use it to predict the future. Those criticisms turned out to be justified.

“Big data” is allowing more industries to try their hand at fortunetelling. With social media and portable devices, we can watch society just like traders watch the stock market. People can be measured, quantified, modeled. As we enter this brave new world, it’s worth considering some of Taleb’s points and seeing how they might apply to big data.”

He concludes: “If businesses and governments see [big data] as a tool for self-measurement, they’ll find it useful. If they see it as a way to “crack the code,” or quantify human nature, or predict the unpredictable, they’re probably fooling themselves.”

17 August 2013

What’s lost when everything is recorded

17bits-memory-tmagArticle

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.”

22 May 2013

Death, life and place in great digital cities

google_glass

At the heart of the Smarter Cities movement is the belief that the use of engineering and IT technologies, including social media and information marketplaces, can create more efficient and resilient city systems.

In an excellent blog post, Rick Robinson, an Executive Architect at IBM specialising in emerging technologies and Smarter Cities, explains why he believes that “we are opening Pandora’s box.”

“These tremendously powerful technologies could indeed create more efficient, resilient city systems. But unless they are applied with real care, they could exacerbate our challenges. If they act simply to speed up transactions and the consumption of resources in city systems, then they will add to the damage that has already been done to urban environments, and that is one of the causes of the social inequality and differences in life expectancy that cities are seeking to address.”

So, he asks, “as a new generation of technology, digital technology, starts to shape our cities, how can we direct the deployment of that technology to be sympathetic to the needs of people and communities, rather than hostile to them, as too much of our urban transport infrastructure has been?”

“The first step is for us to collectively recognise what is at stake: the safety and resilience of our communities; and the nature of our relationship with the environment. Digital technology is not just supporting our world, it is beginning to transform it. [...]

The second step is for the designers of cities and city services – architects, town planners, transport officers, community groups and social innovators – to take control of the technology agenda in their cities and communities, rather than allow technologists to define it by default. [...]

As well as technologists, three crucial groups of advisers to that process are social scientists, design thinkers and placemakers. They have the creativity and insight to understand how digital technologies can meet the needs of people and communities in a way that contributes to the creation of great places, and great cities – places like the Eastside city park that are full of life.”

10 May 2013

‘Open Data’ brings potential and perils for governments

 

Governments and public officials are rushing to embrace the concept of Open Data, throwing open the vast panoply of publicly collected information for the digitally savvy to mine and exploit, writes Ben Rooney in the Wall Street Journal.

However, the use of government data throws up many issues surrounding privacy, policy-making and the uses to which the data has been put. These need to be tackled before simply opening up these digital to all comers.

Some remarkable quotes:

“Anonymized personal data has to be treated as personal data and not open data.”

“The main problem with correlation is that if you look at enough data you can find correlations in almost anything.”

“It is very dicey when you start talking about causation… You know, we have real problems to solve.”

22 April 2013

Low2No smart services workbook by Experientia

smartservices

As part of Experientia’s involvement in the award winning Low2No project in Helsinki and in particular its strategy towards demand management and behavioral change, we are proud to announce that Dan Hill (former ARUP and Sitra, now Fabrica) has just reminded us of last year’s long review (and a download link) of the Low2No smart services workbook created by Experientia and ARUP:

“This aspect explores the potential of contemporary technologies – particularly those increasingly everyday circling around phrases like social media, “internet of things”, “smart cities” and so on – to enable residents, workers, visitors and citizens in general to live, work and play in and around the block in new ways. These are predicated on the same low-carbon outcomes that drives the Low2No project in general, but also a wider “triple-bottom line” approach to sustainability, which might include beneficial social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental. We’d had this element in from the start, from the Arup-led consortium’s original competition submission in 2009, and today we’re sharing some of the work-in-progress as it developed, in the form of the “informatics workbook” developed by the design team, as a tool in the design process.”

Thank you, Dan.

24 March 2013

Big Data and personal data for behavioral analysis and behavioral change

logoMTL2

In a broader article on Big Data and privacy, the New York Times writes about the work of Alex Pentland, a computational social scientist, director of the Human Dynamics Lab at the M.I.T., and academic adviser to the World Economic Forum’s initiatives on Big Data and personal data.

His M.I.T. team, writes the New York Times, is also working on living lab projects. One that began recently, the Mobile Territorial Lab, is in the region around Trento, Italy, in cooperation with Telecom Italia and Telefónica, the Spanish mobile carrier. About 100 young families with young children are participating. The goal is to study how much and what kind of information they share on smartphones with one another, and with social and medical services — and their privacy concerns.

The Mobile Territorial Lab (MTL) aims at creating an experimental environment to push forward the research on human-behavior analysis and interaction studies of people while in mobility. MTL has been created by Telecom Italia SKIL Lab, in cooperation with Telefonica I+D, the Human Dynamics group at MIT Media Lab, the Institute for Data Driven Design (ID³) and Fondazione Bruno Kessler, and with contributions from Telecom Italia Future Center.

The data presents a valuable and unique source for investigating personal needs, community roles, phone usage patterns, etc. and for providing benefits to people in terms of personal, economic and social benefits.

MTL aims at exploiting smartphones’ sensing capabilities to unobtrusively and cost-effectively access to previously inaccessible sources of data related to daily social behavior (location, physical proximity of other devices; communication data (phone calls and SMS), movement patterns, and so on. The Mobile Territorial Lab (MTL) in Trentino aims at fostering mobile phone related research activities with real people on a very responsive territory. This include the involvement of a significant number of committed users with the goal of having a continuous and active user base to interact with and cutting down the experimentation setup costs. Not only.
A continued and active user base equipped with smartphones, enabling users to access (from everywhere) online services and to collect personal or contextual information from the integrated sensors, represents a valuable and unique sample for investigating new paradigms in the management of personal data.

1 March 2013

In a world of connected devices, focus on what they do

connection

Stacey Higginbotham reports on a the GigaOM Internet of things meetup in San Francisco a few days ago:

“All of the participants agreed that the connected device wasn’t the product; the service was. Ideally, the Internet of things should fade into the background; what matters is what it allows people to do.” [...]

“The other design factors people must take into consideration are that these are not devices made for the screen, but devices that need to be integrated into everyday life, according to Roberto Tagliabue, executive director and software designer at Jawbone. It’s also important to think about the difference between a service and an app that might hope to have the user’s full attention.

“Ask when and how we can be relevant to the user,” Tagliabue said. “It’s not about their full attention, but now, how we can improve their life.”