Posted: October 23rd, 2008 | 2 Comments »
Two maps to navigate in Berlin yesterday and today. The first one, on the right, is the classic lonely-planet-like artifact you give to the hotel, asking them “can you point me where we area?”. The second is the lovely and more valuable map handed by a local friend who made some recommendations. Even though most of the context (parks, other streets) is lost, there is more value to me in this second one (and it’s also more foldable in my pocket).
Two different sorts of information: where the former is exhaustive and official, the latter is minimal but goes straight to the point: the place where my friend assumed I’d be intrigued. Services opportunity here.
Coincidentally, and because we passed by Berlin in the same week, near future laboratory compadre Julian Bleecker has also a post about maps.
Posted: October 22nd, 2008 | 1 Comment »
A picture I took yesterday morning in Geneva. It shows an interesting (and sad) trend lately in the city: the disappearing of mom and pop’s shop which are now so expensive to rent that it’s more valuable for certain luxury companies to use the shop as a billboard structure. In the case depicted above, the former DIY shop on the right has been turned into a billboard for a watch company (but of course some cool graffiti-makers attacked it). The portuguese restaurant showed on the foreground (left) has also recently been turned into this kind of surface: the wooden structure will soon be covered by crappy watch ads.
In the end, we have an empty volume with this super-expensive surface.
Why do I blog this? this quick thought (“surface more valued than volume”) while walking around there yesterday led me to think about how spatiality is a complex issue. It’s kind of weird to think about this sort of practice.
Posted: October 22nd, 2008 | 1 Comment »
In the last issue of Vodafone’s receiver, which is about “space”, there is an interesting overview of the geospatial web (aka GeoWeb) by Sean Gorman. The article examine how these technologies allow to understand spatial and social phenomena. Starting by a quick overview of the field and how it shifted from cartographers and geo-scientists to hackers and programmers, Gorman describes the different possibilities enabled by such technologies: from mash-up to mobile application (unfortunately using again the sad restaurant-rating example).
Why do I blog this? useful material to write a chapter about the history of location-based services. The article by Jonathan Raper is also pertinent as it uncovers principles about what “digital geography” can offer.
Posted: October 21st, 2008 | 5 Comments »
Some quick pointers about the relationships between science-fiction and HCI/interaction design:
Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies by Michael Schmitz surveys the different kind of interaction design sci-fi movies envisioned during the past decade. It also interestingly describes how the film technicians made prototype possible and legible.
Make It So: What Interaction Designers can Learn from Science Fiction Interfaces by Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel is a nice presentation from SxSW08 that looked at sci-fi material as well as industry future films to show design influences sci-fi and vice versa.
The upcoming paper by Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell entitled ““Resistance is Futile”: Reading Science Fiction Alongside Ubiquitous Computing that investigates how ubiquitous computing is imagined and brought into alignment with science-fiction culture.
Julian Bleecker’s presentation from Design Engaged and SHiFt 2008 also addressed that topic.
A list to be updated I hope.
Posted: October 21st, 2008 | No Comments »
Seen at the flea market last week end in Geneva. It’s fascinating to see how such electro-devices are more and more common in this kind of place. Electronic gear used to be common but I see a surge recently in second-hands shops. Why is that intriguing to be blogged? simply because the prominence of electronic artifacts is so important that it starts leaking into more and more places. And the fact that they’re not covered with this gloomy black boxes makes it even more curious.
Posted: October 20th, 2008 | 3 Comments »
Found time to sort my notes from last week’s workshop. Quick and dirty revision below
The first presenter, Alan Dix, nailed down the differences between designing for the mobile and fixed in his “interaction with and through the mobile” speech. He pointed out the main differences: context/device/interaction/infrastructures.
Limited: screen size (if they have screen at all), input, bandwidth, cost connectivity (still today), computational power, heterogeneous platforms BUT opportunities (sensor, camera, projector)
Context: variable context (street, meeting, train), focus of interaction (short focused activity, divided attention), interruptions (by mobile devices or mobile task, opportunistic), privacy and security issues, intimacy and availability, ergonomics (movement and vibration when walking/in car, etc.)
Besides, he showed how requirements and evaluation is hard: it’s not that you can’t do things, it’s different. It’s particularly hard to do field observation:
- distribution of tasks in time and space
- may use diary studies
- or ‘transect’ study (loots at people for short time), you only get snippets
And even in the lab because screen capture and device logging may need special toolkits AND it’s hard to capture eye gaze etc. hard with device in the air, but holding device on table worse
Heuristics such as Nielsen’s are heavily used in UI design but situation is changed with mobile. There are heuristics of mobile UI literature: see Bertini et al. (2007). Appropriating heuristic evaluation methods for mobile computing
May use screen emulator OR “kludge” hardware; what is good enough?
Or have 1/2 prototypes (physical input proto but screen on computer with different levels of fidelity)
The second tutorial was by Paul Coulton who gave an insightful overview of the creative capabilities of mobile devices to support original interactions. Paul presented a wide range of interactions using touch/near field communication, the digital camera or location-based scenarios using hands-on examples. I have already blogged about this “exquisite corpse” design rationale which I found intriguing. A slide that struck me as relevant concerning the difference between mobile and fixed computing stated the following:
Opportunities: context (location, presence, sensing), connectivity, feature evolution large demographic, high device penetration, changing fashion
Constraints: constrained platforms, fragmentation (difficulty to reach critical mass), porting, distribution (nobody download), low revenues (nobody wants to pay), skills shortage
Why do I blog this? even if it’s very raw here (no time to blog lately), I find interesting to describe recent material concerning the difference between fixed and mobile computing.
Posted: October 18th, 2008 | 1 Comment »
Recently involved in a design studio concerning electricity and the internet of things at ENSCI design school in Paris, I spent some time these days nailing down the topic of people and energy from various angles: perception and representation of electricity, the importance of infrastructures, the social interactions and practices surrounding electrical objects, etc. Most of the material I employ emerges from my readings (been perusing a lot about the history of techniques and electrical devices design as well as usage lately) and the pictures I take. These pictures come both from various urban safari I make (vacation, on purpose, etc.) as well as user studies. Although I have not studied the topic of electricity per se in my field studies, doing home ethnography allowed me to scratch the surface about these issues and discuss that with informants.
We had an interesting discussion today about electrical switchgear and meters. These devices are kind of spot-on of the sort of artifacts I find intriguing to examine. There is indeed a lot to draw from observing them. See for instance the following set of pictures encountered in my recent travels (US – Brazil).
Depending on the culture, switchgear and meters are not located at the same place, and not always “protected”. In France for instance, both are generally located close to each other indoor, and, of course, the electrical guy needs to have an appointment with the tenant/owner to check the metering. Whereas in lots of other countries (such as northern america but also in the EU), meters are outdoor. Electrical consumption is then more public and less personal.
Moreover, switchgear are generally indoor. France, again has the habit to refer to the “compteur électrique” has a sort of umbrella term for both the meter and the switchgear (no picture here). This interface with the electrical infrastructure is also more and more complex with lots of red buttons which correspond to an odd mapping of the house/appartment structure, with generally no clear rules.
This last picture, taken last summer in Peru is also very compelling to me as it shows how peruvian house actually reveal the electrical infrastructure from the meter to other house parts with white paint. I don’t have any answer for this, my two cents would be that it can be useful for security reasons. In any case, the point of taking and discussing this picture is that is allows to question the environment, find intriguing phenomena and eventually inspire design.
Readers really into that topic might want to have a look at Sliding Friction as well as Jeff Makki’s Critical infrastructure walking guide.
Posted: October 18th, 2008 | No Comments »
Reading this report on “the impacts of CCTV in the UK, I was struck by some points in the conclusion:
“crime rates appeared to the authors to be a poor measure of the effectiveness of CCTV. The problem about measuring outcomes in terms of overall crime rates was that they disguised some important successes with particular types of offence. Moreover, in some cases (although not many) an increase in crime was an indicator of success, and this needs carefully teasing out. Similarly, mechanisms increasing recorded crime rates can work alongside those that reducecrime, and these can cancel each other out. Recorded crime rates were subject to a great deal of background noise from other factors, such as other crime reduction initiatives in the areas being studied, regional and national crime trends, and changes in methods of crime recording, any of which could mask the small impact that CCTV might have.
there was a lack of realism about what could be expected from CCTV. In short, it was oversold – by successive governments – as the answer (indeed the ‘magic bullet’, Ditton and Short, 1999) to crime problems (…) there was a tendency to put up cameras and expect impressive results, ignoring the challenge of making what is quite a complex measure work (replicating the findings of Ditton et al. 1999), and failing to define what exactly the CCTV system was expected to do.
the installation of CCTV requires more than the production of a technically competent system; generally, project designers did reasonably well in this regard. However, systems have to be monitored properly or recordings made and stored properly; but the quality of this work varied considerably from one control room to another.“
Why do I blog this? was reading this at the airport after having found the reference in a newspaper, I find interesting the arguments given above as they can also apply to lots of other ubiquitous computing projects. The expectations towards such camera-based system may interestingly apply to other sensor-based deployments. There’s a lot more to draw on the report, especially regarding the humans who are in control rooms and who have trouble keeping up with the huge amount of data that is collected.
Posted: October 16th, 2008 | 4 Comments »
The Internet of things field has given, for quite a long time, a prime position to the fridge as the sort of stereotypical device one could “augment”. The ubiquity of this artifact, as well as its size and position, made it a good candidate to become the target of ubiquitous computing researchers. The general ideas is often to start from an existing object such as the fridge and try to project if into the future by adding displays, sensors as well as RFID technology. Giving “intelligence” to your fridge often corresponds to add new capabilities allowed by such technologies: internet browsing, fridge content scanning, automatic order over the internet to refill the fridge, etc.
(picture taken from this BBC article)
Most of the time, the human aspect of such purposes is left out of the picture as if the fridge designers thought that thing would only requires time to be “accepted”. This is why I was interested in Matthias Rothensee’s paper entitled “User Acceptance of the Intelligent Fridge: Empirical Results from a Simulation” which he presented at the Internet of Things conference in Zürich few months ago. Although that event seemed scarily engineer/business-based, showing only one side of the coin, there were still some people there who realized that the internet of things is not just some über-cool engineer thing.
The authors employed a smart fridge simulation and a quantitative methodology to study the perception and evaluation of the various assistance functions provided by the system. The variable of interest were: the usefulness, the ease of use, the intention of use and the affective attitude. Some of the results:
“Generally, participants were neutral to positive about the smart fridge. They regarded the system as useful, easy to use, and would slightly tend to use it, if already on the market. Participants estimated their likely reactions to a smart fridge, both, before and after interacting with a simulation of it. Results have shown that despite the fact that the intention to use such a system remains stable after interacting with the simulation, usefulness and affective reactions are negatively aﬀected by interacting with it. This reaction can be interpreted as the participants’ disappointment about the apparent dullness of the smart fridge.
usefulness remains the most important predictive variable for the acceptance of the smart fridge, as in traditional workplace technology acceptance literature (…) however, we learned that pleasure felt during interaction with the simulation is also a valuable predictor, underlining the importance of emotion in the acceptance of household technology
people’s evaluations diﬀered between the groups, conﬁrming the hypothesis that smart fridge functions are diﬀerently appreciated. Nutrition and healthy lifestyle feedback are evaluated most positively, whereas the recipe planer flops.“
Why do I blog this? interesting elements here concerning possible users’ reactions, especially when considering the low number of user studies which consider the human appreciation of intelligent fridges. However, I am dubious about the use of laboratory tests (and hence the corollary statistical tests) to analyze this kind of design issues. The role of context (spatial, social), practices and habits is very important to analyze regarding acceptance and usage of technologies since these different elements generally have direct or indirect influence on how people employ artifacts.
Posted: October 15th, 2008 | 1 Comment »
Steve russell, quoted by Steward Brand, in the legendary Spacewar: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums published in Rolling Stones in 1972:
“We had this brand new PDP-l, it was the first minicomputer, ridiculously inexpensive for its time. And it was just sitting there. It had a console typewriter that worked right, which was rare, and a paper tape reader and a cathode ray tube display. Somebody had built some little pattern-generating programs which made interesting patterns like a kaleidoscope. Not a very good demonstration. Here was this display that could do all sorts of good things! So we started talking about it, figuring what would be interesting displays. We decided that probably you could make a two-Dimensional maneuvering sort of thing, and decided that naturally the obvious thing to do was spaceships.
I had just finished reading Doc Smith’s Lensman series. He was some sort of scientist but he wrote this really dashing brand of science fiction.
By picking a world which people weren’t familiar with, we could alter a number of parameters of the world in the interests of making a good game and of making it possible to get it onto a computer. We made a great deal of compromises from some of our original grand plans in order to make it work well“
Why do I blog this? various intriguing things here: people trying to find applications for the weird new device that sits in their research lab, the importance of talk-and-try, the influence of sci-fi in the researchers’ imaginary realms and game design as random tuning. Of course, there is more to draw in the whole piece. Reminds me of some situations, please replace “PDP-l” by whatever technological stuff you have in mind, and “Doc Smith’s Lensman” by any cool sci-fi from either the Zeitgeist or the shiny past we never reached and you may encounter a similar situation.