Posted: June 22nd, 2008 | Comments Off
That pictogram ensemble is a project by german artist Ulrike Gruber. It actually re-uses urban signs targeted at pedestrian and project them on the building facade. As described on the public work authorization (only in french), this painting aims at using pedestrian pictograms to describe new elements added on the facade after the renovation (such as the elevator, new stairs, etc.). The painting shows the movement of the elevator, the rotation of the stairs and also the presence of recycling containers to induce new behavior (turn right, do not lean against the balcony) and suggest new uses (authorized swimming, belvedere altitude).
Why do I blog this? what looks intriguing here is how the space of flow is made explicit through the pictograms, and how new affordances can be created on a vertical plane using codes of the horizontal plane. The sort of things to ruminate on a sunday morning perhaps.
Posted: June 21st, 2008 | 5 Comments »
“one of the diseases of this age is the multiplicity of books; they doth so overcharge the world that it is not able to digest the abundance of idle matter that is every day hatched and brought forth into the world“
Barnaby Rich (1580-1617), writing in 1613.
Posted: June 20th, 2008 | 1 Comment »
In his graduation thesis entitled “Social RFID, at the Utrecht School of the Arts, Patrick Plaggenborg interestingly explores what an “Internet FOR Things” mean, differentiated from the so-called “Internet of Things”. The document can be downloaded here.
The goal of the project is to explore supply chain RFID infrastructure to form a public platform and “reveal the invisible emotions in things” so that “people are stimulated to look at objects differently“, especially those seemingly worthless objects.
More than the project itself, I was intrigued by the “internet for things” notion and its implication that Patrick defines as follows:
“A world with all objects being tagged and uniquely identified is still not very close, but we can think of scenarios and applications for it. The infrastructure will be rolled out slowly, starting with the bigger and more expensive items. In the mean time designers can speed up this process with Thinglinks and their own RFID tags to create test beds for their own interest. Using this infrastructure, small applications will take off as forerunners to a world where digital interaction with every day objects will be common. This is not the ‘Internet Of Things’, where objects connect to create smart environments and where they collect and exchanging data with sensors. This is about the ‘Internet For Things’““
Why do I blog this? What I find intriguing here is the parallel wave of design research concerning the Internet of Things which seems to me far beyond the current vector pursued by lots of research labs in the domain. Combined with blogjects, thinglinks and relevant interfaces there is a strong potential for these ideas.
To some extent, I am curious about how the new Nokia research lab in Lausanne is interested in this sort of explorations.
Posted: June 20th, 2008 | Comments Off
Seen this morning in Geneva. A subtle reminder crafted by the driver to keep in mind the presence of speed/traffic enforcement camera/gatso. The location of the note right above the dashboard is especially interesting.
What’s also intriguing is the fact that the note is a reminder of a possibility, unlike post-its notes to remind you to do something
Posted: June 19th, 2008 | 3 Comments »
Recently working on a project about gestural interfaces and the user experience of the Nintendo Wii, I had my share of discussions about sampling in user experience research and the role of exceptions. Quantitative researchers often drawn nice curves with cute statistical distributions with “means” and quantiles. The type of things I’ve done in my PhD research, measuring X and Z (satisfaction to a certain project, number of messages typed on a phone, number of time someone pressed a certain button, etc.). In the end, you get this sort of graph represented below with anonymized dots which eventually represents how normal humans did certain things.
In general, quant research (the sort I’ve done in the past yes) compares different “conditions”: you have two sorts of interfaces, each group of users test one of the interface and you compare the number of time a certain group did certain things on the interface they had. Say, the number of time they pressed on the button called “OK”. Applying different statistical techniques (like variance analysis is the distribution is normal in the statistical sense, checking variances and if you’re in trouble then you always employ “non-parametric tests”). This is robust no kidding, I don’t criticize that kind of method. However, what I am wondering about is when this sort of methodology is solely applied to design research.
And it leads me to the discussion I had the other day with a colleague about the importance of exceptions, dots which are not close to the means, the weird outliers, peeps who do not fall in the distribution like that weird circle on the upper right-hand corner on the boxplot below:
Depending on your mood, the research methodology and your colleagues’ attitude, there is a wide spectrum of reaction ranging from “WTF, that person screwing my distribution?” to “OK this is an extreme user, he/she is special, let’s have a look more closely”. And then, of course, because you’re a smarty pant and you ALSO have qualitative data you see what the person SAID or DID (or whatever other types of data sources you have). Then the real thing starts: who are the extreme users? how extreme are they? what makes them extreme? are there other data source which attest that they are “exceptions”. And obviously this leads you to the question the norm (the mean).
To some extent, that’s the story of why I slowly moved from quant research to a mix of descriptive quantitative and qualitative research in user experience projects. I started getting interested in the role of exceptions, especially with regards to their importance in design. Why exceptions are important in design? Perhaps because they might show peculiar behavior and routine which can announce futures norms or trends (and then inspire new products, features and services) but also to show that the notion of a “normal user” or “mean user” is difficult to grasp as diversity exist and is important. Surely a very relevant near future laboratory spin.
An interesting example of an extreme user was this deaf guy I saw the other day at the train station, walking and gesticulating in front of his video cell-phone. If you map the use of video-communication on cell-phone you get a very low usage of the feature in general but that guy would be an exception.
Posted: June 18th, 2008 | Comments Off
“Technological Landscapes” by Richard Rogers is an essay about “relevant past futures”, i.e the “past roads not taken”, in which he invites us to re-read the history of technological culture “to inform the selection of the technological landscapes of our day”:
“Historical comparison with imagery of previous technological landscapes fires the imagination. It is also the stuff of argument and defence for an idea or a project
The rationale to looking closely into the early history of current dominant systems relates (…) to challenging the commonplace idea that the marketplace sorts out the ‘best’ technology and that the consumer and society are the beneficiaries. (…) the ‘alternatives paths’ or ‘roads not taken’ historians examine the effects on society (and increasingly the environment) of having lost a potentially viable system – technology opportunity cost.
After mentioning some examples such as FM radio, Rogers goes on with:
“When new and ‘better’ technological systems are trumpeted, it is worth recalling these and other specific examples of lost battles, from the level of abstractions of craft versus mass production down to that of keyboard layout. In confronting better technologies of the future, the question always remains ‘better for whom’?“
And then some more elaborate thoughts about how past futures are used or can be relevant:
“The Nineties [case for space exploration] also shows us how earlier models (relevant pasts) are employed as ‘guides’ to make current futuristic cases more compelling. To make a case for a futuristic technological project, the promoter often must finds ‘usable pasts’ or indeed ‘usable past futures’.
We learn the past futures for at least two reason. They aid us in thinking through the ideals, principles and social relations which have been and could be reflected in and designed into our technologies, bringing within our grasp the ability to ‘imagine alternative technological designs’ and act accordingly. Secondly, comparison is the stuff of case building. Drawing the right parallel (or spotting the spurious analogy) is one step in proposing or opposing particular cases to be made for new technology and new forms of decision-making on technology.“
Why do I blog this? collecting material for a project about technological failures. I am interested in the role of failures in foresight and design. Rogers describes some pertinent ideas about how failed futures can frame design, and the intrinsically political imaginary realm of this practice.
Posted: June 17th, 2008 | 1 Comment »
Encountered this afternoon in Grenoble France, in a café where the WiFi was available for 2 euros (no time restriction) and electricity for 1 euro:
The price tag on the power plug is amazingly contextualized.
Posted: June 16th, 2008 | 2 Comments »
There’s a topic I rarely discuss here: how we work on the program of the LIFT conferences. With 3 editions in Geneva, a small event in Seoul and the LIFT Asia in CheJu next september, a long list of speakers has been booked. Since I am in charge of that part, it’s always interesting to shed some light about we handle that part of the conference.
So how does that work? Well, it’s not so much of a formal process as it’s a combination of the LIFT coreteam daily observation of the Tech world and a discussion with members from our board as well as local advisers. The daily dose of newsfeeds, magazine reads, meetings with researchers, designers, entrepreneurs, public institutions lead us to add names of relevant people in a database we called “LIFT parking”. This is mostly coordinated by myself and approved by the coreteam with recommendations coming from the LIFT team, the LIFT board, some partners/friends who reads specific resources (and get a free subscription and LIFT entrance) and of course local contacts who keep us posted about who is intriguing, pertinent and interesting in other part of the world such as South Korea, China, Japan. In the future we’d like to open this to new contacts from other countries in Latin America and of course Africa. Finally, the suggestion part of the website allows people from the community to suggest names and topics.
7-8 month before the event, we start cobbling our notes, potential speaker names and list of topics so that we can discuss the main theme and subtopics for the conference. This allows us to narrow down the list of potential speakers. Board members also suggest speakers at this time.
Posted: June 15th, 2008 | Comments Off
Quite enjoyed reading future perfect’s rationale in this interview:
“Your blog Future Perfect (“about the collision of people, society and technology”) includes a lot of your musings about what you see on your travels, but poses more questions that it answers.
I’m pretty bad at shoehorning life into what amounts to lifeless journal and conference submissions. I mean, how do you take the essence of what’s out there, the richness of life, and put it on paper? I don’t think you can. The motivation behind the blog is that I do something that totally fascinates me, and I’m lucky to be well resourced and to work with very talented people. I want to be able to communicate some of that. It’s not about saying what the answers are; it’s about asking the questions and maybe some of those will stick in people’s minds and they’ll ask those questions in their own contexts.“
Why do I blog this? it’s always interesting to get people’s motivation behind what they’re doing… Also, I like the idea of “asking questions” to inform design.
Posted: June 13th, 2008 | 1 Comment »
J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter’s author) about the importance of failure in her Commencement Address at Harvard:
“What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.
Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. (…) So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.“
There are also some great parts about to confront oneself to others and other cultures (“How much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people’s lives?).
Why do I blog this? collecting resources about failures for a book project.