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Putting People First

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12 January 2014

The new design: social innovation inspiring business innovation

 

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

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

12 January 2014

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

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

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

12 January 2014

Solving the right problem and finding your own solution: an interview with Don Norman

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At the LAUX Meetup Group, Media Contour’s Luke Swenson was able to track down Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition and get his thoughts on problem solving, identifying the right problem, and why copying your competitors is unwise in a world where you should be focusing on your own strengths.

What about “featuritis.” Why is focusing on strengths so much more important than copying your competition?

You have to stand out. You have to look different from the others. Take the number of Android phones on the market today. They all look the same, right? Don’t feature match. Don’t design match. Make your phone stand out from the crowd. It’s about your company, not about your competitors. What are your strengths? What does your website design say about your company? What does your product design say about your company?

For instance, if your company is a fun, whimsical clothing company, your website needs to reflect that. You might not resonate with EVERY person who comes to the site, but you don’t WANT every person to buy your clothing. You want those who fit in with your company’s identity. That applies to every single business out there. You need to express what your business is like, what your image is, and then connect with people who share that. You need to show that you can solve their problem.”

12 January 2014

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

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

Abstract

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

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

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

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

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

Related

12 January 2014

[Essay] Empathy on the edge

 

Empathy on the Edge
Scaling and sustaining a human-centered approach in the evolving practice of design
Katja Battarbee, Jane Fulton Suri, and Suzanne Gibbs Howard
IDEO
January 9, 2014

Remarkable things can happen when empathy for others plays a key role in problem-solving. In today’s global marketplace, companies are being asked to design for increasingly diverse users, cultures, and environments. These design challenges can be so systemic and wickedly complex, the task of aligning all of a project’s stakeholders can seem impossible. But it’s not.

Design empathy is an approach that draws upon people’s real-world experiences to address modern challenges. When companies allow a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs to inspire them—and transform their work, their teams, and even their organization at large—they unlock the creative capacity for innovation.

In this essay, we’ll explore how design empathy works, its value to businesses, and some ways in which it can be used to effect positive change. We’ll discuss the need for scaling and sustaining design empathy, so that its benefits can reach more people and have long-term positive impact throughout organizations. And we’ll offer stories from the edges of our own empathic design practice. Our goal is to inspire other designers and innovators to share their practices and to expand the conversation about empathy to include the business community-at-large.

12 January 2014

The UX of commercial drones

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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.

12 January 2014

150,000 job listings in the user experience field in the USA alone

 

Hiring managers know that design plays, and will continue to play, a critical role in the success of their companies because: What has been seen cannot be unseen., writes Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman of the Unicorn Institute.

And what has been seen is companies like Apple, which are investing a lot of resources in design. We can see how much design matters by looking at Apple’s profits in comparison with their competition.

This understanding is leading to an increased demand for designers, and even more specifically it’s leading to an increase in demand for user experience designers. In fact, in the United States alone, there are around 150,000 job listings in the user experience (UX) field.

12 January 2014

[Book] War, Peace, and Human Nature

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

Abstract

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

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

> Book review

12 January 2014

Discover the world’s best mobile UX

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To help you build better mobile experiences, UX Archive finds and presents mobile’s most interesting user flows so you can “compare them, build your point of view, and be inspired.”

“Documenting user flows is probably something many UX designers already do to some degree. Now a great collection is in one place, and wired to grow as new discoveries are added to the archive. Even more useful, the site is set up so you can easily filter user flows based on specific tasks, such as onboarding, purchasing and sharing, and compare just those.”

A side project of Feedly co-founder and designer [and former Experientia collaborator] Arthur Bodolec, and developers Chris Polk and Nathan Barraille, UX Archive is a lean, clean site that just does one thing and does it really well, writes Penina Finger.

2 January 2014

Using ethnography to build internet freedom tools for real people

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In our new dystopian world of pervasive surveillance, most people are at a loss what to do. The tools that allows us to maintain a semblance of privacy are really, really hard to use. Most of us won’t even try and just accept our fate, with resignation and some bitterness.

Michael Brennan is one of these people trying to change that.

He gave a talk a few days ago at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress [30c3] by the Chaos Computer Club [CCC] on how we can use ethnography and human-centered design to build more effective tools that can be used by individuals from all around the world to circumvent censorship and surveillance and communicate safely and anonymously.

Few hackers will disagree that users are not given enough consideration when building Internet Freedom Tools designed to circumvent censorship and surveillance. But how do we do it? This talk outlines a framework for a user-focused approach to the Development and Impact of Internet Freedom Tools through using ethnography, human-centered design, and the practice of research-based product definition. This talk is intended for developers, researchers, and journalists who seek to understand how better tools can be developed to protect anonymity and provide unfettered access to the Internet.

Internet Freedom Tools (IFTs) are developed to solve the technical challenges of anonymity, privacy, security and information access. Focus on these technical challenges rather than the user of an IFT can lead to overlooking the motivations, needs and usability issues faced by user communities. Further, IFTs may solve a technical challenge for users, and yet fall short when it comes to user experience. There is a disconnect that must be remedied for IFTs and the people who use them to realize their full potential.

This talk seeks to provide new insights to developers and users in need of knowledge on how they can better address relevant problems, create appropriate solutions and help users with IFTs. This talk explains to the audience what tools are available for user-focused design. It also walks through a framework to guide the development of IFTs that is grounded in ethnographic methods and human-centered design, and how this framework is being used to conduct an IFT user community.

This work is currently being conducted by SecondMuse and Radio Free Asia through the Open Technology Fund.

ADDENDUM: But, what is “Ethnography”? What are “User Communities”?

  • Ethnography is defined as the study of culture and human motivation through qualitative research. Ethnographic practices complement usability studies by tapping into needs and motivations of people and users to give the “why” behind certain actions observed solely through conducting usability research. This method includes interviews, observing specific behaviors and understanding the material culture and surrounds of a target group.
  • A community is defined as a group of users that can be defined by geography, culture, shared experiences, or shared challenges. User is defined as someone who is currently utilizing a particular IFTs such as Tor, RedPhone, CryptoCat, and/or other privacy, security, anonymity and access enhancing technologies and methodologies created by developers or users themselves. A user may also be defined as a potential user of such technologies and tools.
2 January 2014

[Book] Hooked

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Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Technology
By Nir Eyal
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Released: December 2013
Pages: 154
[Amazon link]

Why do some products capture our attention, while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of habit? Is there be a pattern underlying how technologies hook us?

This book introduces readers to the “Hook Model,” a four steps process companies use to build customer habits. Through consecutive hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back repeatedly — without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.

Hooked is a guide to building products people can’t put down. Written for product managers, designers, marketers, startup founders, and people eager to learn more about the things that control our behaviors, this book gives readers:
- Practical insights to create user habits that stick.
- Actionable steps for building products people love.
- Behavioral techniques used by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other habit-forming products.

Nir Eyal distilled years of research, consulting and practical experience to write a manual for creating habit-forming products. Nir has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. His writing on technology, psychology and business appears in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today.

Three presentations by Nir Eyal presenting the main points of his book:
- Detroit Mobile City, February 2013: videointerview
- GSmummit, San Francisco, April 2013: videoslides
- Grow Conference, Vancouver, August 2013: videoslides

2 January 2014

[Book] Design for Behavior Change

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

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

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

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

> Sampler pages (33 in total)

1 January 2014

[Book] Experience Design

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Experience Design: A Framework for Integrating Brand, Experience, and Value
Patrick Newbery, Kevin Farnham
240 pages
October 2013
Wiley
[Amazon link]

Description
Businesses thrive when they can engage customers. And, while many companies understand that design is a powerful tool for engagement, they do not have the vocabulary, tools, and processes that are required to enable design to make a difference. Experience Design bridges the gap between business and design, explaining how the quality of customer experience is the key to unlocking greater engagement and higher customer lifetime value. The book teaches businesses how to think about design as a process, and how this process can be used to create a better quality of experience across the entire customer journey.

Experience Design also serves as a reference tool for both designers and business leaders to help teams collaborate more effectively and to help keep focus on the quality of the experiences that are put in front of customers.

Authors
Patrick Newbery and Kevin Farnham are the Chief Strategy Officer and CEO of Method respectively, an experience design company that solves business challenges through design to create integrated brand, product, and service experiences.

> Review in Dexigner
> Review by Carolynn Duncan

31 December 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 December 2013

Solving problems for real world, using design

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Formally the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, the D.school has made a global impact by encouraging students to find out what is most useful. Nicole Perlroth reports in The New York Times.

“At the heart of the school’s courses is developing what David Kelley, one of the school’s founders, calls an empathy muscle. Inside the school’s cavernous space — which seems like a nod to the Silicon Valley garages of lore — the students are taught to forgo computer screens and spreadsheets and focus on people.

So far, that process has worked. In the eight years since the design school opened, students have churned out dozens of innovative products and start-ups. They have developed original ways to tackle infant mortality, unreliable electricity and malnutrition in the third world, as well as clubfoot, a common congenital deformity that twists a baby’s feet inward and down.”

Related feature:

Products of Design Thinking
The design institute at Stanford University, known as the D.school, pushes its students to rethink the boundaries of industries. The students are taught to forgo computer screens and spreadsheets and focus on people. So far, that process has worked. In the eight years since it opened, its students have churned out dozens of innovative products and start-ups — everything from ways to tackle infant mortality and unreliable electricity in the third world to a mobile news-reader app. This feature contains a few of those ideas.

31 December 2013

The anthropology of Big Data

 

The anthropology of an equation. Sieves, spam filters, agentive algorithms, and ontologies of transformation
Paul Kockelman

This article undertakes the anthropology of an equation that constitutes the essence of an algorithm that underlies a variety of computational technologies — most notably spam filters, but also data-mining tools, diagnostic tests, predictive parsers, risk assessment techniques, and Bayesian reasoning more generally.

The article foregrounds the ways ontologies are both embodied in and transformed by such algorithms. And it shows the stakes such ontological transformations have for one particularly widespread and powerful metaphor and device — the sieve.

In so doing, this inquiry shows some of the complex processes that must be considered if we are to understand some of the key relations linking semiosis and statistics. Reflexively, these processes perturb some core ontological assumptions in anthropology, science and technology studies, and critical theory.

31 December 2013

The epistemology of Big Data

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In addressing the insecurities of postmodern thought, Big Data falls prey to some of the same issues of interpretation, writes Michael Pepi in The New Enquirer.

More in particular, Pepi points out that “the conditions that generated postmodernism were an intellectual half-step toward the logic that permits the hegemony of networked computing — the era of grappling with Big Data.”. He goes on:

“The ideology of Big Data — that capitalists can and should mine a massive, schema-less trove information that we produce for patterns — is implemented through the discourse of e-commerce, social media, comments, video, and log files. By these means, capitalism rushes to the oracle of difficult-yet-omnipresent data to unlock and replenish the faith in a universal certainty and meaning. Judgment and certainty can then return to art only as networked aesthetic discourse — as the output of Big Data–style analysis. Hermeneutics become statistics. A critic’s opinion can be modelled, predicted, and exposed for its cultural contingencies and biases: Just map their browsing history, show a histogram of authors they cite by age, race, and sex. Analytics permits few myths since narrative scarcely survives reams of data.”

31 December 2013

How do e-books change the reading experience?

 

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

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

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

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

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

23 December 2013

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

 

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

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

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

20 December 2013

People powered data

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Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta (the UK innovation charity), writes that in 2014 the growing movement to take back control of personal data will reach a tipping point.

“The next few years will bring a further explosion of data, and data awareness in daily life. We’re some way off the new Magna Carta that will, at some point, need to establish the ground rules of privacy, power and identity in a digital world. But these issues are fast moving from the margins to the mainstream of daily life – and quite a lot of very powerful organisations risk being on the wrong side of history.”