Posted: March 31st, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Highly intriguing notice in this newsstands visited in Venice Beach yesterday afternoon: the indication of the time customers are allowed to flip through the magazines. Temporary consumption of products indicated in the place where you can access them (see of course “The Age of Access” by Jeremy Rifkin). As a customer, you then know the rules you’re subjected to and act accordingly.
Interestingly, the duration is conditioned by the type of content one might want to access as attested by these two other signs:
Why do I blog this nothing particular in mind… this is fun at first glance but there are some interesting lessons to draw here about media consumption (signage to prevent certain behavior), the importance of certain types of content (and the inherent need to refrain people from spending too much time on it), design choices (3-5-15? I wonder how the owner made it up!, besides 15 seems quite a long time). The different shapes/typefont of the 3 signs is also curious: as if the norm was this “15 minute browsing” classic sign from back in the day (back in the days before people were soooo much into this “access” meme), followed sometime after by a more temporary “5 minutes ONLY” printed in black-and-white, and eventually by this quick-and-dirty “3-minutes only” sign (as if it reached a climax).
Posted: March 29th, 2009 | No Comments »
Gathering some notes about “successes” and “failures” of innovations to improve my talk about foresight failures, I ran across interesting material in Communicating Technology Visions by Tamara Carleton (Funktioneering Magazine. Vol 1, pp. 13). The paper actually shows how measuring only financial and commercial results for a radical innovation is inadequate and that other aspects should be taken into account. She basically shows how “meeting management’s expected sales, profits, market share, and
return on investment” only offer a partial view. Some excerpts I found relevant to my research:
“For radical innovations, this default definition presents a thorny issue. There is an assumption that all innovations are predicated on financial results. Many experts today consider the Apple iPod to be a successful example of a highly radical technological innovation, and most would argue that the product was radically innovative from the start. However, if the iPod was measured solely in terms of financial profit based on its first few years on the market, then its proof as a successful innovation is not as strong or convincing.
Radical innovations may be truly radical and innovative without necessarily producing monetary gains. There are at least three ways to be considered radically innovative. An innovation could create an entirely new market or product catego-
ry, such as the Honda Insight, the first American hybrid vehicle that laid the foundation for other cars like the Toyota Prius to follow. Or an innovation might generate a significantly new customer base but still not produce revenue, such as Napster, the original file-sharing service for music. Or an innovation may introduce a new technological application that is recast as novel or revolutionary in a different market without generating lasting financial returns. This would be the adoption of text messaging in the U.S., years aftewidespread phenomenon in Europe.
There is another problem in using the common test of success. Financial information about a radical innovation must be available and unambiguous. (…) Historical analysis will identify radical innovations clearly in terms of success and failure, but investigation of contemporary or budding innovations for the future require different metrics.“
Why do I blog this? some good elements here about the definition of “success”. Given my interest in “failures”, it’s important as it helps to symmetrically rethink what is a failure: a commercial failure is not necessarily an innovation failure as described in the example above.
Posted: March 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments »
There was a time when this sort of message was more common. For the record, an error 404 (or Not Found error message) refers to:
“a HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with the server but either the server could not find what was requested, or it was configured not to fulfill the request and did not reveal the reason why. 404 errors should not be confused with “server not found” or similar errors, in which a connection to the destination server could not be made at all.“
A time when information superhighways were full of dead-ends and wrong-ways… People were given means to circulate (through URLs addresses, Web directories and then search engines) but these tools could also be misleading… and lead to Error 404. It’s less usual now, and web folks have learn to create user-friendly 404-pages.
Is there a physical equivalent to 404? What would be a “404 error” when wandering on the streets (or in the countryside)? A mistake where “you don’t find what you looked for/requested”.
Why do I blog this? thinking about translations of practices and rituals from the digital to the physical.
Posted: March 27th, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Seen in Lyon, France last year.
Accumulation of information or simply a physical representation of the history of concert posters. The different layers are added on top of each others creating this intriguing shape. This accumulation leads to a curious texture/surface in our environment: there is an inherent 3D effect to this stack of posters. Can there be a role of this “thickness”? What do people infer from it? the fact that no one is cleaning up this mess or the richness of cultural events in the area?
Posted: March 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments »
The picture above taken in Marseilles (France) few months ago depicts a human practice that fascinates me: the deliberate destruction of artifacts. There are different reasons for that, ranging from anger towards someone (and throwing the object at hand) to being upset by a certain piece of technology. Observing this practice is quite difficult as it’s both uncommon and quick… you generally access to traces of this behavior. The phone above is an example of such traces. Among all the reasons to destroy things, it’s perhaps the frustration the user feels when the object doesn’t work as he/she intended. In this situation, of course, people are not always so violent but it can happen. This is perhaps why I am also intrigued by breakdown, failures and people’s reactions (or perception).
Nailing down some references about failures and adoption issues of technology, I enjoyed reading this report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project insightfully called “When technology fails“. The reports presents some statistics about people’s usage (or non-usage) of various technologies in the US. Some examples of problems I found interesting:
“nearly half (48%) of adults who use the internet or have a cell phone say they usually need someone else to set up a new device up for them or show them how to use it. (…) 44% of those with home internet access say their connection failed to work properly for them at some time in the previous 12 months. (…) 39% of those with desktop or laptop computers have had their machines not work properly at some time in the previous 12 months. (…) 29% of cell phone users say their device failed to work properly at some time in the previous year.“
And it’s also important to look at how people deal with breakdowns:
“Some 15% of those experiencing problems (…) said they were unable to fix the problem. However, the
majority of users found solutions in a variety of ways: 38% of users with failed technology contacted user support for help. 28% of technology users fixed the problem themselves. 15% fixed the problem with help from friends or family. 2% found help online.“
People’s perception is of course very emotional as the PEW research showed:
“Users whose technology had failed also reported a mix of emotions during the course of trying to
solve the problem:
- 72% felt confident that they were on the right track to solving the problem.
- 59% felt impatient to solve the problem because they had important uses for the broken technology.
- 48% felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem.
- 40% felt confused by the information that they were getting.”
I guess they did not find anyone in their sample revealing that sometimes they just trash/punch/kick the object that users can’t use because it’s a not-so-common behavior. Perhaps it can be a subset of “impatience”… given that this study as based on a survey it may be a side-effect of the methodology. I would find intriguing to show picture of tossed/destroyed artifacts as a probe to discuss with participants.
Why do I blog this? gathering material about this topic that fascinates me for quite a while. Documenting the experience of breakdowns is insightful for design, as a locus of people’s creativity in finding solutions (bricolage, social navigation, asking questions to others, destroying the system and trying to repair it after a while, etc.).
These issues are also related to another favorite topic of mine: how people build a representation of their computers/cell phones/nintendo Wii/etc. and how they use this knowledge to explain the artifacts’ behavior (and breakdowns).
Posted: March 22nd, 2009 | No Comments »
This hanging pen/notepad assemblage can be found at a beauty salon in my neighborhood. Interestingly, the notepad is meant to be used by customers to note their contact information so that the owner (when busy) can phone them back. What is important here is that:
- This notepad features contact information in some sort of transitional artifact: people write down their particulars, the owner tear up the sheets of paper and phone people back. It’s only a temporary inscription.
- For some time, contact information (and sometimes customers’ requests) are in a semi-public display (that curious person can observe when passing by). The private/public boundaries are somewhat blurred.
- This shop has a phone number BUT it seems important for the owner to provide its customers with a specific interface when people are passing by. In this case, the notepad acts as just-in-time just-in-place interface.
- The fact that people can write with a pen (a costly mean of communication in these days of 140-characters messages) and that someone may peruse the requests and contact people back has an important value: a direct and specific relationship between customers and the shop owner.
Why do I blog this? observing rituals in my neighborhood when heading to the local baker to refill my stack of croissant this morning.
Posted: March 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment »
An intriguing and purely accidental assemblage observed in Geneva this morning: as if the pedestrian’s footsteps were reshaping the yellow band (of course it’s not, these curves are caused by cars). An evocative image of the adaptive city.
Posted: March 21st, 2009 | 1 Comment »
Just found this interesting quote by James Carey (in “McLuhan and Mumford: The Roots of Modern Media Analysis.” Journal of Communication 31 (Summer 1981): 162-78):
“all of the claims that have been made for electricity and electrical communication, down through the computer and cable and satellite television, were made for the telegraph with about the same mixture of whimsy, propaganda and truth. Cadences change, vocabulary is subtly altered, examples shift, the religious metaphors decline, but the medium has the same message.“
Why do I blog this? collecting material to improve one my speech. I gather elements about the recurring promises of technologies (and their failure).
Posted: March 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Several examples of how people’s activity and interaction with objects transform their appearance. Stairs in a bookshop (above), a door handle and the floor of the parisian subway are all victims of the passage of time.
Of course, these traces (or patina) can have an intriguing aesthetic function but they can lead to a specific affordances too: traces that orient action or shape people’s interactions with the environment. Social navigation indicators of some sort.
Posted: March 20th, 2009 | No Comments »
People interested in the history of video-games and in the material behind production may be intrigued by “Rogue Leaders: The Story of LucasArts” (Rob Smith)
I received my copy the other day and focused my attention on all this curious prototypes and documentation of game design. Maniac Mansion or Secret of Monkey Island meant a lot to me and it’s refreshing to stay the history behind. The book is a thorough survey of a video game company with lots of concept art, character sketches, storyboards and timelines.
All these impressive maps and graphs were really an important component of game/level design at the time. Simply, because the game itself was really close to these elements; whereas today game levels are far different from the maze depicted above. It does not remove the value of this documentation and I am pretty sure there are lessons to draw from these.
Why do I blog this? an interesting book about Lucasarts game design practices, surely some insights to draw for my own research.