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Posts in category 'User experience'

28 October 2014

The zombiefication of business travelers

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Tim Askew, CEO of Corporate Rain International, explains how technology is increasingly isolating us from each other and stifling creativity and real experiences.

“As a frequent business traveler, I have noticed an unhappy change of late: I’m meeting fewer people than I used to. And I don’t like it. [...]

I’m afraid technology is turning us into dull-eyed, unpresent I-Zombies. We are losing the gift for connection to our fellow human beings, as well as stunting our brain processes that summon nonrational revelations and “aha”s.

In short, he says, “our ‘eureka’ moments may be being sacrificed for a mess of pottage–that mess of pottage being our present experience of superficial sledding on an omnipresent sea of technological connectedness.”

30 September 2014

Using HCD to make mobile money relevant

 

Earlier in 2014, two consecutive Mondato Insights examined the role of Human Centered Design (HCD) in enhancing the user experience and closing the gap between registered and active users of Mobile Money.

In the six months since then, reports Mondato, the value of the HCD approach in creating MFS (Mobile Financial Services) products that meet the needs of, and are attractive to, low-income customers has further been highlighted by a number of research projects in Southeast Asia. Once again, many of the assumptions made by MFS providers about the market segments they hope to target have been challenged, showing that significant knowledge gaps persist between providers and potential customers, and these must be addressed by anyone hoping to create attractive value propositions for Base of the Pyramid (BoP) consumers.

“Central to the HCD approach are deep dive interviews that seek to understand BoP customers not merely as individuals, but as the totality of their relationships as members of families, communities and business networks. Interviews take place in a very unstructured fashion, allowing free-flowing discussion that gives subjects the confidence and space to express themselves in their own terms, without the potential for design bias that formal questionnaires carry with them. The goal of the research is to form a number of “personas”, which are representative of market segments, and to identify what are their needs.”

29 September 2014

An interview with Dirk Knemeyer on UX and reinventing democracy

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Dirk Knemeyer is a UX thought leader, an entrepreneur, a game designer, and a former UXmatters columnist. Recently, Pabini Gabriel-Petit had the opportunity to interview Dirk about his experiences as a UX professional and entrepreneur, as well as his reflections on the state of democracy in the United States and how we can use design thinking to imagine a more participatory form of democratic government.

Recently, Dirk published “Redesign Democracy: A Better Solution for the Digital Era,” on the Involution Studios Web site. This thought piece, which considers how we might reconceptualize the democratic process in the United States, provided the focus for the remainder of our discussion. – See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2014/09/user-experience-entrepreneurship-and-redesigning-democracy-an-interview-with-dirk-knemeyer.php#sthash.UZVyhVRo.dpuf

18 September 2014

Why banks need to revamp their user experience

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The most interesting things happening in financial services are not happening in financial services, writes Rich Berkman, Associate Partner of IBM Interactive Experience, in UX Magazine. The most useful and powerful cross-channel, digital tools rolled out in recent years were not introduced by banks, he says, but by tech companies that understood how to use the Internet, data analytics, and mobile technologies to solve consumers’ day-to-day problems.

“Optimizing customer experience requires a holistic understanding of the user and a willingness to change. In some ways, this is where banks fall short. They already have more than enough information about their customers, they just need to figure out where the data is and how to use it effectively, which is easier said than done but also a necessity. The roll out of new mobile apps and other cross-channel experiences will exponentially increase data generation as more people use their phones, watches and more to interact with insurers, retailers, airlines, mortgage brokers, and so on. The better banks understand their customers—and can build models based on rich user research, analytics and evolved “personas”—the better they’ll be able to improve services to meet today and future customer demands.”

3 September 2014

How do consumers use and respond to energy monitors?

energypolicy

Feeding back about eco-feedback: How do consumers use and respond to energy monitors?
Kathryn Buchanan (a), Riccardo Russo (a) and Ben Anderson (b)
a Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK
b Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, UK
Energy Policy
Volume 73, October 2014, Pages 138–146

Abstract
To date, a multitude of studies have examined the empirical effect of feedback on energy consumption yet very few have examined how feedback might work and the processes it involves. Moreover, it remains to be seen if the theoretical claims made concerning how feedback works can be substantiated using empirical data. To start to address this knowledge gap, the present research used qualitative data analysis to examine how consumers use and respond to energy monitors. The findings suggest feedback may increase both the physical and conscious visibility of consumption as well as knowledge about consumption. Accordingly, support was evident for the theoretical assertions that feedback transforms energy from invisible to visible, prompts motivated users to learn about their energy habits, and helps address information deficits about energy usage. We conclude by evaluating the feasibility of feedback to substantially reduce consumption and discuss ways in which feedback could be improved to aid its effectiveness in the long term before discussing the implication our findings may have for government policy.

31 August 2014

Converting your home to LED lights is still a challenging user experience

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Switching to LED bulbs in your home is still a bit expensive, but makes a lot of economic sense – as you quickly earn your money back through a MUCH lowered electricity bill. Yet it is quite a challenge for most people.

I just successfully replaced 40 halogen and incandescent bulbs of the most varied fittings, sizes, lighting strengths and shapes. The new bulbs all fit and have the luminosity and color warmth that we want in our house. But I can only conclude that industry and retailers need to do a much better job at explaining the challenges and helping customers understand why to buy LED bulbs and what types to buy.

The first impression most people have of LED lights are usually the display racks in retail stores. The fact that LED lights sometimes come in the most bizarre form factors are off-putting if anything, while key information is largely provided in jargon (kelvin, lumen, fitting mount codes, etc.).

The next thing you might then do is go online and search for more relevant information, only to get lost in myriads of blog posts, tech jargon filled pieces, or product tech sheets. The best backgrounders I found – with some effort – are this one from The Guardian and one from the European Commission (in 22 languages!). Nothing much from industry, where websites focus immediately on individual products.

Then you have to figure out what you need in your house (or office). Besides the fitting mounts, the bulb sizes and the wattages, there are four key things to take into account:

  • Colour temperature: In short, the lower “K” or “Kelvin”, the better. For home use stay on or below 2700K for a warm white.
  • Luminosity or light strength: Commonly described in watt, but the most accurate value is actually “lumen”, or even better “lux”.
  • Dimmability: Some LED bulbs can be dimmed but it is usually never clear if you need a special dimmer for that or can do so with your regular dimmer – so trying out is the only option consumers have. Good luck.
  • Avoiding false savings: As The Guardian writes, “halogen bulbs use so much electricity for the light they produce – just feel their heat – that it’s a false economy to wait until they blow to replace them”.

Finally there is purchasing itself. Most DIY stores and electricity supply retailers limit themselves to the most common bulb choices. Special sizes and fittings are not that easy to find. You may want to buy online (which is what I ended up doing).

It is generally recommended to buy only products from reliable brands (Philips, Samsung, etc.), as there is quite some unreliable junk on the market. But these “reliable” brands may not have the exact fitting mounts, wattage or colour temperature you are looking for. It is also hard to find out what quality control the various retailers have in place, and what guarantees consumers have if a product is not up to par.

In all, this is not a trivial matter. If all homes and offices in a city would switch to LED, much less power would be needed in that city, and this would mean a significant impact on carbon emissions. Governments and media are starting to do their part in helping people navigate this.

Industry is lagging behind. Making the products is only part of the challenge. Guidance in consumer education and behavioural change is hardly addressed. It is a job for service designers and good writers/storytellers.

The industry or retailer that ends up doing that job well will gain quite a competitive edge in a rapidly growing market.

8 August 2014

Dropbox’s Head of Design on the dawn of personalized products

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Soleio Cuervo, design lead at Dropbox, spends his time thinking of new ways for products to understand our needs and wants in real time.

After years of firsthand work and observation, Cuervo has seen four ingredients emerge that power personalized products. At First Round’s recent Design+Startup event in San Francisco, he explained each one and how newer and smaller companies can put them together to not only build great products but accelerate progress for everyone:

IDENTITY – The takeaway for startups is that you should actively manage people’s identities in ways that encourage the behavior you want — whether it’s getting people to buy something or converse more with each other or share media. The features on your roadmap should bring out these aspects of your users’ identities whenever possible. And if engagement is your goal, your product should take cues from how people are organically identifying themselves on your platform.

GRAPHS – Just like people have a variety of identities spanning the digital world, they are also members of a growing number of groups, communities and networks that may have nothing to do with the people they know in real life. They belong to interest groups, follow celebrities, connect with professional contacts, tap into media sources for their news, and more. All of these systems of structured relationships act as graphs that can be used to deliver tailored experiences to individuals. As an entrepreneur, you want to select the graphs that make the most sense for your product.

CONTEXT – The new wave of innovation will be all about presenting the right information at the right time given the context of relationships, location, and device. Startups and apps that can filter people’s huge influx of information in a way that seems natural are set up to succeed in today’s climate. Startups looking to launch personalized products should fix their sights on how tasks and needs vary across different devices over the course of a given day.

BEHAVIOR – Don’t be afraid to be opinionated about how your users should behave. You’ve created a product to get them to do something. Get them to do it. “Be purposeful when it comes to driving a particular type of behavior — have a very strong viewpoint about how people should be using the service you’re providing.”

Cuervo’s final development tenet: “Remember that you’re not competing against other services. You’re competing against people’s habits. The companies that are truly out there disrupting things are the ones that drive a wedge into people’s habits. They say things like, ‘You used to walk out to the street to flag a taxi down. Now with Uber you can hail a car from your desk, so break that habit of leaving the building.’ As you’re creating your product, always be thinking about what people currently do and how you can very purposely create a new set of habits around your service. That’s what retention is — helping people build a routine around the utility you provide. Successful tech companies are built on new habits they helped form.”

8 August 2014

No time to think

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Nowadays, people can keep negative thoughts at bay with a frenzy of activity. Kate Murphy writes on the consequences in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times.

“You can’t solve or let go of problems if you don’t allow yourself time to think about them. It’s an imperative ignored by our culture, which values doing more than thinking and believes answers are in the palm of your hand rather than in your own head. [...]

Suppressing negative feelings only gives them more power, leading to intrusive thoughts, which makes people get even busier to keep them at bay.

Studies further suggest that not giving yourself time to reflect impairs your ability to empathize with others. “The more in touch with my own feelings and experiences, the richer and more accurate are my guesses of what passes through another person’s mind,” said Giancarlo Dimaggio, a psychiatrist with the Center for Metacognitive Interpersonal Therapy in Rome, who studies the interplay of self-reflection and empathy. “Feeling what you feel is an ability that atrophies if you don’t use it.”

Researchers have also found that an idle mind is a crucible of creativity. A number of studies have shown that people tend to come up with more novel uses for objects if they are first given an easy task that allows their minds to wander, rather than a more demanding one.”

27 July 2014

Qualitative self-tracking and the Qualified Self

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Mark Carrigan, sociologist, academic technologist and research assistant at the Centre for Social Ontology, is intellectually drawn to the Quantified Self because “it’s a fascinating example of the intensification of reflexivity in contemporary society”.

Most interesting in his reflective blog post is his attempt at a definition of qualitative self-tracking:

Using mobile technology to recurrently record qualities of experience or environment, as well as reflections upon them, with the intention of archiving aspects of personal life that would otherwise be lost, in a way susceptible to future review and revision of concerns, commitments and practices in light of such a review.

The Centre for Social Ontology (CSO) was established in 2011 at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). It is now based in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick,

26 July 2014

The touch-screen generation

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Young children — even toddlers — are spending more and more time with digital technology. Hanna Rosin wonders what will it mean for their development?

“As technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives, American parents are becoming more, not less, wary of what it might be doing to their children. Technological competence and sophistication have not, for parents, translated into comfort and ease. They have merely created yet another sphere that parents feel they have to navigate in exactly the right way. On the one hand, parents want their children to swim expertly in the digital stream that they will have to navigate all their lives; on the other hand, they fear that too much digital media, too early, will sink them. Parents end up treating tablets like precision surgical instruments, gadgets that might perform miracles for their child’s IQ and help him win some nifty robotics competition—but only if they are used just so. Otherwise, their child could end up one of those sad, pale creatures who can’t make eye contact and has an avatar for a girlfriend.”

24 July 2014

Persona Power

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Article by Shlomo Goltz on “integrating the hero’s journey as part of the user-centered design process”:

“There are many prominent and outspoken members of the design community, such as Steve Portigal and Jason Fried, who feel that personas are unnecessary. They make compelling arguments, but they also rule out the use of personas entirely, which I feel is too strong a stance.

Like any other tool in your utility belt, personas have times when they are extremely powerful, and other times when they are simply not warranted—the trick is knowing when to use them, and then to use them effectively.”

22 July 2014

Call to bring refugee-led innovation into humanitarian work

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The humanitarian sector must lift barriers to user-led innovation by refugee communities if it is to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world, says a new report, Humanitarian Innovation: The State of the Art, published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and presented at the Humanitarian Innovation Conference at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, on Saturday (19 July).

The trajectory of humanitarian assistance is unsustainable — with the cost trebling and the number of people requiring help doubling over the past ten years — and humanitarian tools and services are often ill-suited to modern emergencies, says the report.

“The risk-averse sector needs to embrace innovation, private sector involvement and bottom-up solutions to keep up with modern challenges”.

The current debate focuses on improving the tools and practices of international humanitarian actors and has overlooked the “talents, skills and aspirations of crisis-affected people themselves”, who remain a “largely untapped source of sustainable and creative solutions”.

An alternative to these short-term, project-based solutions by external actors is user-centred design that embraces indigenous innovation and participatory methods, it says.

This, it adds, involves recognising and understanding innovation within communities and putting them at the heart of the humanitarian innovation process.

The report calls for early consultation on the design of solutions to make sure they fit with cultural practices, and for more investment in “innovation spaces and opportunities that mentor, accelerate, and incubate the initiative of affected populations and local organisations”.

It also says that international organisations should ensure users drive the process of defining priority areas for innovation, testing out products and processes to meet those needs, and providing feedback during implementation and scaling.

The report will be published on the OCHA website.

15 June 2014

Behaviour change presentations at Nudgestock event

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On 6 June OgilvyChange, the specialist behavioural sciences practice of Ogilvy & Mather UK, hosted the second edition of Nudgestock, the “largest gathering of behavioural experts in the world”. The one day event on May 24 saw speakers from fields as wide ranging as behavioural finance, evolutionary theory, the science of magic and design discussing where theory and hypotheses has been creatively translated into successful behaviour change around the world.

The organisers have uploaded most of the speaker videos, of which we highlight a few:

Dr. Dan Lockton: Designing with people in behavioural change
Many approaches to behaviour change largely model humans as defective – bad at making decisions and in need of intervention. Yet most people, surprisingly, actually manage to get by. More often, design lets them down and produces barriers to behaviour.
Dan Lockton is a Senior Associate at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art.

Ed Gardiner: A recipe for making good ideas happen
Understanding how we tick is half the challenge, applying these insights in the real world is the real issue. We can now turn cutting edge science into real world products and interventions.
Ed Gardiner is the Head of the Behavioural Design Lab in partnership with the Warwick Business School.

Rob Teszka: Cognitive Psychology and Magic
Magicians have the uncanny ability to manipulate how people perceive the world. The study of attention and awareness reveals the efficiencies in the human brain. If we can understand why something fails, you can understand how it works.
Rob Teszka is a Cognitive Psychologist at Goldsmiths University and a Member of the Magic Circle.

1 June 2014

German psychologist aims to debunk behavioural economics (a.k.a. the “nudge” approach)

Illustration by Jack Hudson.

Daniel Kahneman, the ‘godfather’ of behavioural economics, has been challenged by rival psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Centre for Cognition and Adaptive Behaviour at the Max Planck institute in Berlin, who claims that Kahneman presents ‘an unfairly negative view of the human mind’.

Gigerenzer’s book Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions debunks the behavioural economics of Daniel Kahneman, and Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, authors of the bestselling book “Nudge”, who, along with the authors of Freakonomics, were once David Cameron’s pet thinkers.

Tim Adams reports on it all in the Observer.

“In an increasingly complex and specialised world, Gigerenzer preaches a gospel of greater simplicity. He suggests that the outcome of decisions of any complexity – a complexity of, say, trying to organise a successful picnic or greater – are impossible to accurately predict with any mathematical rational model, and therefore more usefully approached with a mixture of gut instinct and what he calls heuristics, the learned rules of thumb of any given situation. He believes, and he has some evidence to prove it, that such judgments prove sounder in practice than those based purely on probability.” [...]

“Though Kahneman himself carefully limits its potential political application, his argument that we are irretrievably in thrall to our fallacies, in Gigernzer’s view, only strengthens the argument for such paternalism from government. Nudge theory becomes the more palatable expression of a deliberate wider manipulation. It makes us weaker and less questioning citizens.

Gigerenzer proposes an alternative solution. He believes, with education, the teaching of critical thinking about statistical probability, people can become more usefully ‘risk savvy'”

Related:
– Videos of Gerd Gigerenzer at TEDxZurich (2013) and TEDxNorrköping (2012)
– “Risk Savvy” book reviews in The Financial Times | The Economist | Times Higher Education
– An older, but in-depth review on the debate by Nick Dunbar

28 May 2014

When big data meets dataveillance: the hidden side of analytics

 

Among the numerous implications of digitalization, the debate about ‘big data’ has gained momentum. The central idea capturing attention is that digital data represents the newest key asset organizations should use to gain a competitive edge. Data can be sold, matched with other data, mined, and used to make inferences about anything, from people’s behavior to weather conditions. Particularly, what is known as ‘big data analytics’ — i.e. the modeling and analysis of big data — has become the capability which differentiates, from the rest of the market, the most successful companies. An entire business ecosystem has emerged around the digital data asset, and new types of companies, such as analytical competitors and analytical deputies, are proliferating as a result of the analysis of digital data. However, virtually absent from the big data debate is any mention of one of its constitutive mechanisms — that is, dataveillance. Dataveillance — which refers to the systematic monitoring of people or groups, by means of personal data systems in order to regulate or govern their behavior — sets the stage and reinforces the development of the data economy celebrated in the big data debate. This article aims to make visible the interdependence between dataveillance, big data and analytics by providing real examples of how companies collect, process, analyze and use data to achieve their business objectives.

Degli Esposti, Sara. 2014. When big data meets dataveillance: The hidden side of analytics. Surveillance &
Society 12(2): 209-225. http://www.surveillance-and-society.org | ISSN: 1477-7487
© The author(s), 2014 | Licensed to the Surveillance Studies Network under a Creative Commons
Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license.

24 May 2014

Left to our own devices

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Our well-being centers on the meaningfulness of our relationships: our intimate ties, our associations with a larger circle of people, and our sense of interconnectivity with a collective tribe. Technology has become deeply embedded in how we build these relationships and define ourselves. It is undeniable that we can use technology in ways that are alienating—texting while talking, for example.

As a clinical psychologist creating and studying technology for Intel, Margie Morris has been impressed by how people draw on their devices to enhance their relationships—in particular their capacities for being alone, interconnected, and attuned.

21 May 2014

World Economic Forum reports on personal data focus on trust, privacy and framework

 

The World Economic Forum has released three new reports on strengthening trust, transparency and privacy in personal data usage.

Rethinking Personal Data: A New Lens for Strengthening Trust, prepared in collaboration with A.T. Kearney, looks at how to enhance transparency and accountability in the use of personal data. It argues that a user-centred approach is the best way of achieving this. Individuals must have more of a say in how their data is used and should be able to use the data for their own purposes.

Supporting this analysis are two quantitative studies that look at the issues of trust, privacy and framework through the eyes of users. Rethinking Personal Data: Trust and Context in User-Centred Data Ecosystems, an empirical study across different countries, examines the importance of context-aware data usage and how it impacts trust.

The Internet Trust Bubble: Global Values, Beliefs and Practices uses the results from a survey of 16,000 respondents to assess the attitudes and behaviour of internet users globally.

2 May 2014

Aiming for open source technology that is gorgeous and provides great UX

 

Designer and social entrepreneur Aral Balkan believes it is time to build an alternate future where we own our own tools, services, and data. And to do this we must create a new category of design-led, experience-driven ‘technology’.

That’s the point Balkan made at a talk (video) at RSA London recently.

The talk, entitled “Free is a Lie,” sets out the argument that in these times of all encompassing corporate and governmental data grabbing and surveillance, we shouldn’t think about privacy as about “having something to hide” but as about “the right to control what you want to share and what you want to keep to yourself.”

In other words, the cost of free (within the corporate, closed model) is our privacy, our civil liberties, our human rights.

The only answer, he says, is open tools that people can own, rather than being de facto forced to “rent from corporations”.

The big problem with open tools today is that they have poor user experience, because they are features-led.

Balkan argues that we need to create a new category of free and open products that are experience-driven and that are built by design-led organizations. Such products and technologies are a prerequisite to empower regular people to own their own tools and data. Balkan calls this independent technology or indie tech and has just launched an Indie Tech Manifesto.

But it doesn’t stop there, Balkan and his team are using these principles to build an operating system, indieOS, a personal cloud, indieCloud, and an actual phone, indiePhone.

1 May 2014

Looking ahead in automotive UX with Mercedes

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Steve Tengler recently sat down the user experience folks at Mercedes’ Research and Development Center in Sunnyvale, California, and interviewed Paolo Malabuyo (Vice President of Advanced UX Design), Vera Schmidt (Senior Manager of Advanced UX Design), and Viviane Eide (Manager of UX Research).

An excerpt:

With customers in the connected world being bombarded with nearly throwaway, evolving, mobile electronics, does that change your traditional advanced research development view from 10-12 years in advance to 2-3 years?

PAOLO: Seven years ago the iPhone didn’t exist, right? So I think it would be hubris for any of us to say we know exactly how things are going to turn out 12+ years in the future. But there are realities that we need to deal with that bridge the 2-to-12-year gap. One end of the spectrum is the supply chain necessary to support the creation of these amazingly complex things that require tens of thousands of parts that get sourced from raw materials, which require a kind of planning and institutional muscle memory that companies like Mercedes have. The opposite end of the spectrum—the tech sector—moves much faster and is an ecosystem with nearly zero risk aversion. For instance, you just had to restart your [phone’s] recording app. That’s a product that came about in that ecosystem. Can you imagine having to pull over and restart a Mercedes after a fifteen minute drive ‘cause, well, a few things just went wrong? Completely unacceptable. So it’s up to us to figure out where the right experience bar is, and then work with the people who are experts on moving things through this process, negotiating between them and the people saying, “OK, the future looks like .”

VERA: You can see really well that we are trying to bridge this gap with the Digital Car. We are looking really far ahead—sometimes 15 years or more. We are trying to envision our ideas. This is really important because the technology is going so fast that if you always think, “OK, next year it’ll be this technology,” or “In five years, it’ll be …” then you will always be behind something else instead of coming up with your own ideas. And the connected device really [enables that]. If you have ideas now and you want to bring it to the vehicle soon—not only in 10 years—we try to accomplish it with this team by taking advantage of mobile devices and connecting them to the car to bridge that gap.

VIVIANE: I think it helps—as we are confronted with the issue that technology moves at autobahn speed—if you think about it this way: we are ultimately designing for the user, and humans don’t change that quickly. Our core desires remain fairly stable. So if I had to predict what would be a core desire in 2020, people probably [still won’t] want to waste time in traffic. So we like to think about those human, core desires and how can we use technology to meet them. But one distinguishing factor, even if we are developing faster and [creating] apps, is that we do not release beta versions and test them in the market. That is obviously not acceptable in the automotive market for safety reasons.

24 April 2014

My digital shadow

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The surveillance program PRISM by the US secret service NSA has reminded us that all of our activities online may be monitored without giving us the chance to understand whether we really are targeted or what the purpose of this monitoring is. Information is being collected about us all but we have little understanding about how it is being used.

We do though have some means of learning what information we are giving away and this can allow us to make conscious decisions about how we want to continue to use the internet. Some traces are difficult to avoid, but there are also many things we can do to reduce our digital shadows.

This website is created by the Tactical Technology Collective (and is in stable-Beta mode) to help you see which digital shadows you cast and how to make them smaller.