Posted: May 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
At the recent workshop on Gamification and game design elements in non-gaming contexts at CHI 2011 in Vancouver, there was an interesting paper about Foursquare entitled Gamification and location-sharing: some emerging social conflicts.
The paper reports various observations on conflict that appeared between gamification elements (supposed to drive user engagement) and other usage motivations for location-sharing. The results are based on users interviews, surveys and ongoing analysis of real-time ‘check-in data’ involving 20 active foursquare users from Sweden, The Netherlands and the US.
Some examples of the conflicts described in the paper:
- “Playing for points vs. ‘nonsense’ venues: A way to gain additional points and mayorships is creating new venues to check-into. However, venues that just have been created for ‘the game’, can also be a non-informational annoyance
- Mayors & badges vs. privacy & identity management: Mayorships are publically visible on users’ profile, and are also shown to any user checking- in to that venue. This means that mayorships can threaten privacy (…) Some participants worried about getting mayorships or badges that would threaten their identity. Would one want to become the mayor of the cheapest eatery in town?
- Mayorships vs. ownership: A mayorship appeared to communicate not only identity, but also public ‘ownership’ over a place, which was not always desired.
- Anti-cheating aka ‘you’re using it wrong’: services employing gamification need to consider which messages their ‘game-rules’ send to users who might have very well appropriated the service in other ways.
- Inappropriate can be more fun: Multiple participants described ‘getting caught’ and ‘doing it under the table’. Exactly this social unacceptable aspect of using the service also invoked playful behaviors
It’s interesting to see how their results show that game design elements such as mayorships, points or badges can both engage participants and restrict the use of the service.
Why do I blog this? I’m interested in this sort of frictions as they reveal relevant tensions in users’ behavior. Mostly because we’ve been conducting a field study to understand the usage of Foursquare here in Switzerland. I’m looking forward to see the other results from this research team.
Posted: May 9th, 2011 | Comments Off
An interesting project by emphase.ch encountered at the Panorama exhibit in Geneva last Saturday: ZWISCHENSAISON Knowledge Visualization is a visual taxonomy of an hotel archives (a set of artifacts).
The list of artifacts is presented on the first page:
And then, each page keeps the same arrangement with pictograms to describe object traits:
Why do I blog this? Working on the game controller book project, I’m interested in different ways to depict object categories. It’s interesting that design research seem to offer various exploration about how to create visual catalogues with compelling solutions like the one above.
Posted: May 7th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
The ubiquitous presence of cell phone towers in urban and rural landscapes have led to protestation against their visual presence (the ugly mast/transmitter aesthetics) and their electromagnetic waves (which are invisible). A side-effect of people’s “need” for uninterrupted connectivity, the design and building of phone towers is now influenced by various strategies. One of them consist in the use of camouflage techniques… and obviously the “natural” metaphor plays an important role here, as attested by these examples encountered in Lipari, Sicily last week.
Fake trees such as these palm transmitter species are great candidate but there are also other concealment possibilities such as fake chimneys, cross (“already a transmission tower of sorts“, clock tower, water towers, etc.
As pointed out by Rick Miller and Ted Kane in their chapter on mobile phones in The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles edited by Kazys Varnelis:
“the result is the camouflaged cell phone tower, the by-product of the only position available to communities who oppose cell phone towers, that is to demand their invisibility. Hiding its presence from public view, the ubiquitous cell phone tower camouflaged as a palm tree becomes an appropriate icon for the private infrastructural network of our day“
It would be intriguing to discover the whole design and construction process, especially how the the details have been taken care of. See for example the tower base and the antennas below… the design of the trunk, the branches and the leaves is of great quality, leading to some surreal piece of nature. Even more important here is the fact that the tree itself is (or must be) protected because it’s an infrastructural installation that have inherent dangers for the genpop (electricity, etc.). The tree itself is just part of this ecosystem of components (electricity adapater, barriers, light system for night inspections, etc).
Why do I blog this? I see this sort of design as a curious sign of how certain norms lead to fascinating (absurd and perhaps depressing) solutions like transmitters concealed in fake trees:
- Social and aesthetic norms about what should be visible or not and the type of tree/leaves that can be employed in an italian island.
- Technological norms about how certain technologies should be protected, concealed or be accessible 24/7 (hence the presence of light).
Posted: May 5th, 2011 | 4 Comments »
In a recent article about the Internet of Things for ACM interaction, Chris Speed discusses the notion of “a continuum of artifacts that are more or less valuable in their material or immaterial form“.
(Networked objects being designed at the HEAD-Geneva design school)
On this continuum, Speed distinguishes two poles: “things that are actually in the world, and things that are not actually in the world“… which raise interesting new question from both a design and cultural standpoint. To him, the materiality of both is influenced by their potential “information shadow“, what Speed describes as “an immaterial other“.
This decoupling between material things and their immaterial counterpart may lead to interesting “design futures” described in the articles… and that explain the title of the paper (“An internet of things that do not exist”). Some excerpts that caught my attention:
“we may need to design blank objects that have no other function than to become the host for memories that have lost their connection with the original physical artifact. Other times, discarded and culturally lost objects may be used because they retain some of the physical attributes that trigger associations with immaterial things (e.g., memories) that have lost their original material partner.
As well as becoming conduits that allow us to recall information from the past, things will help us to recover memories that have lost their physical place in the world
In the Internet of Things, objects may end up on your mantelpiece with associated memories of completely different artifacts. The value of these vessels and our attachment to them will likely depend on the social data stored in them, rather than on their physical form.“
(Potential candidates as blank objects meant to receive memories?)
Why do I blog this? simply because I find interesting (culturally and design-wise) this distinction and the consequences that the author describes. The idea of having blank objects (and designing them) or to associate immaterial counterparts to objects which are totally different may lead to curious avenues. This is of course a shift that will be important to explore in several context and I wonder about the implications for the kind of domains we are interested in at Liftlab.
Posted: May 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
There’s suddenly a surge of interest in failures (technological, entrepreneurial, social) in the press. Curiously, I encounter various of these last week when traveling.
First, it was a piece on the Wired UK 05.11 issue which gives an account of various entrepreneurial stories and approaches. The article shows the importance of failures and the cultural lessons one could draw out of them (“Fail fast”…).
More specific and full of interesting details and analysis is the April issue of the Harvard Business Review. Although this is a journal I don’t read very often, the material was kind of inspiring. The articles addressed several aspects such as the reasons to “Crash a Product Launch”, the reluctance from entrepreneurs to learn from failures, the failures-that-look-like-successes, effective strategies to learn from failures, ethical issues, etc.
What struck me when comparing both the Wired issue and the HBR articles was that the entrepreneurs/innovators’ testimonials were rarely interesting and pertinent… compared to external analysis (meta or not). As if there was some sort of blindness that prevented people from analyzing the problems at stake.
The Economist’s Schumpeter gives a quick overview of this HBR issue with the following excerpts:
“simply “embracing” failure would be as silly as ignoring it. Companies need to learn how to manage it. Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School argues that the first thing they must do is distinguish between productive and unproductive failures. There is nothing to be gained from tolerating defects on the production line or mistakes in the operating theatre.
Companies must also recognise the virtues of failing small and failing fast. (…) Placing small bets is one of several ways that companies can limit the downside of failure. Mr Sims emphasises the importance of testing ideas on consumers using rough-and-ready prototypes: they will be more willing to give honest opinions on something that is clearly an early-stage mock-up than on something that looks like the finished product
But there is no point in failing fast if you fail to learn from your mistakes. Companies are trying hard to get better at this. India’s Tata group awards an annual prize for the best failed idea. Intuit, in software, and Eli Lilly, in pharmaceuticals, have both taken to holding “failure parties”. P&G encourages employees to talk about their failures as well as their successes during performance reviews.“
Why do I blog this? I just completed a book (in French) about recurring technological failures (title and cover are provisional, to be released at the beginning of June)… and it’s interesting to see that there’s a kind of momentum on these issues.
Posted: May 3rd, 2011 | Comments Off
Augmentable, Believable, Improvable and Invisible is a project by Ina Xi (Art Center College of Design) that aims at reinventing social media and identity management services.
What attracted my attention is that the project is based on the research of social media users’ misleading behaviors online. It basically “speculates how we can design the social network if it were to afford human conditions such as lying and hiding, even when it’s offline“.
Ina’s research was informed by an on-going discourse about social media users’ virtual identity and its security resulted from the increasingly publicized personal data, and is greatly inspired by anecdotes and stories of using technologies to selectively hide from and lie to members in one’s virtual network for varied social purposes, which also has an impact on one’s real-world relationships“, which had led to the summary of four main typographies of dishonest behaviors and their outcomes:
“The ‘Augmentable Me‘ is driven by the motivation of a better self-image in front of the chosen audience, and based on what one wants to gain out of being the way they choose.
The ‘Believable Me‘ is a virtual identity associated with credible, authentic informations of a real person, regardless of whether what has been said or done is exactly what has happened. The ‘Believable Me’ is motivated by the intention of preserving privacy through actively spreading their private information to the world.
The ‘Improvable Me‘ is the result of a built-up online reputation on top of a bad, or a damaged one.
The ‘Invisible Me‘ is an anonymous identity due to a missing link or a mismatch between the virtual identity and the real person.
The value of the Invisible Me is rewarding especially when the identity used to be more public, exposed or discussed.“
These personas were then used to translates the observational research into a series of user experiences and scenarios described on her website. See for instance this design fiction which is very compelling:
“Peter always saw Lisa on the metro train home. He wanted to approach her but, instead of coming up and say hi, he tried to find her online. Putting together the observed characteristics of Lisa and pretending to be the guy Robert who said hi to her once on the train, Peter had Lisa accept him as a friend in the virtual network.
Carefully he created a desirable picture of himself through a falsified identity seen by Lisa alone, based on the algorithmic analysis of her online profile, activity history, group discussions and contact list. A discussion between her network friends has shown Peter an opportunity to meet Lisa in real life, making her reach out naturally to him.
With everything planned out and the handy tips of talking ready, Peter went to the bookstore where Lisa works part-timely as a store assistant. Everything happened as expected, except, however, the fact that Lisa was not there to talk to him, and neither does she work at the store..“
Why do I blog this? This project is close to what a student of mine is doing at the design school in Geneva (creating bots that interact on social networking sites). The idea of using this kind of research , material and narrative to explore the complexity of identity management services is interesting. I particularly like the emphasis on various sorts of interfaces in the video.
Posted: May 2nd, 2011 | Comments Off
“The Image of the City” by Kevin Lynch is an important contribution in urban design thinking. The perspective expressed by the author, as well as the methodology (description of mental maps drawn by residents in several cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Jersey City), is insightful.
Interesting, Gabriel Pelletier, a graphic designer added a new perspective on this book using the following treatment:
“Excerpts from Kevin Lynch’s “Image of the City” were graphically treated according to their respective themes. The blue color was used throughout all the document is used to recall blueprints.
Each section’s beginning was created using the graphic symbols located throughout it’s pages. The cover was done in the same fashion, taking all graphic elements of the book and adding them to note the notion of unity when talking about the city’s elements.“
Why do I blog this? First because I like this book and enjoy this kind of graphic design. Second because it’s interesting to see how the material presented in the book can be enhanced through the kind of representations proposed by Pelletier. The idea of using blue shapes is intriguing as it is sort of reminiscent of building blueprints.