Giles kicked off his talk at UX Brighton by saying, “We’re killing our users!” referring to the rise in road-traffic accidents due to increased distraction caused by mobile electronic devices.
These days we are constantly being distracted by technology. We commonly refer to multi-tasking as a new power that humans are getting better and better at, though Giles argues that in fact there is only switching between tasks and that in fact people who multi-task more are actually worse at it.
We design interfaces that actively encourage users to switch between tasks and see it as beneficial to them. Alerts are seen as an important way of keeping users connected to the information that is important to them. But in reality this constant shifting of the users attention is preventing them from completing any one task properly.
Giles proposes we should instead be helping users to organise their time better and motivating them to stay on-task. Do they really need to see every Tweet the second it’s tweeted or should they be setting aside ‘reading time’ for once their core task is completed?
Are we designing experiences that are detrimental to our users productivity and more importantly their health?
Photography by Katariina Jarvinen.
Mike talked about the importance of creating semantic web pages and domain-driven design. BBC pages receive most hits from users deep-linking from Google searches rather than navigating there from the BBC Homepage.
By creating object-orientated pages and by stating the relationships between these objects, a site becomes easier for machines such as Google to read and understand, which in turn can provide the user with content that is relevant to them.
Photography by Katariina Jarvinen.
“’I’ve got 400 friends on Facebook, but I don’t know why because I never speak to half of ‘em!”
How many times have you had that conversation?
Robin Dunbar is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Institute of Cognative and Evolutionary Anthropology of the University of Oxford.
He came to UX Brighton to share his insights into the nature of human relationships and to draw parallels to the relationships as the happen in the real world with those now happening through social media.
He proposes there is a theoretical cognitive limit to the amount of stable social relationships that can be maintained within a group without policing. This number is perceived to be around 150 people on average, based or correlation between the sizes of villages and settlements through the ages and across the world. This is Dunbar’s Number.
The number also correlates with those of effective army companies and business management structures among other group types. Dunbar gives the example of Gore-Tex and how Bob Gore split his factories in two once the company exceeded 150 people.
This August a report was published suggesting Dunbar’s Number can also be applied to the limit of meaningful social relationships a user is able to maintain through online social networks.
Watch this interview with Robin for the Guardian last year for the full story.
Photography by Katariina Jarvinen.
Ubiquitous computing seems increasingly to be moving out of the conference halls and into the world around us.
Last week a few of us (no ‘FewofUs’ jokes please) went down to London IA where we saw a chap called Ben Bashford talk about his passion for connected things. Ben is a member of Council – a think tank for the Internet of Things.
He gave us some new terminology to use in the context of a ubiquitous network of objects, people and data, like ‘Fabricators’ (Things that we make. Think 3D printing) and ‘Actuators’ (Things that move in the real world. Think robotic arms in manufacturing). By the end of the talk he was asking us to imagine a future where we would have to create personas for robots! Check out these lovely notes on his talk by Eva-Lotta Lam.
The thermostat learns your heating and air-con habits and automates it, while encouraging you to increase your energy efficiency in the process. You can also control it from your phone and manage your preferences online. That is one connected thing! Find out more from the Wired article, “Brave New Thermostat: How the iPod’s Creator Is Making Home Heating Sexy”.
An incredibly interesting project by Droog and Metahaven here. Fantastical Investments is the outcome of a study into Russians consumer culture, and the apparent paradox of their love for classic literature, and luxury goods.
Droog observed that these habits can be traced back to a mistrust of institutions, resulting in a passion for escapism and for investing in high value consumer goods (fiction, fantasy, and stability).
From this new questions, and areas of interests emerge; such as does Russia’s love of acquiring durable goods be read as a survival strategy, and if so does this provide a new and more exciting notion of the aesthetics of sustainability, one that is not based on bare and grey austerity, but one based on the notion that products are designed as an investment for one’s lifetime.
Droog conclude by ask if within a rising global climate of uncertainty and instability “Russia may be considered as a looking glass that for the last 20 years has been offering the Western countries the reflection of the coming future” as Olga Kuzina, a Russian sociologist and economist who consulted on the project suggests.
All of this results in a an fictional brand Fantastical Investments who unveil nine products today in Amsterdam, and next year in Moscow in partnership with Strelka Institute of Media, Architecture and Design.
An interesting article by Don Norman here on the potential dangers of being dependent on A cloud based information access system:
“…without access to data, what was left for my smartphone to do? Almost nothing. Smart phone became stupid phone. Without a network connection, the most useful technology available in the phone was the backlit screen which meant that my smartphone was reduced to a flashlight.
I can no longer function by myself. When my smartphone becomes stupid, I too become stupid. Just as I am reliant on technology and the skills of others to clothe, house and feed me, I am reliant on my technology for my intelligence. My phone translates foreign languages, provides maps and directions, recommends restaurants and tells me the news of the day. It lets me communicate with friends around the world and in general, allows me to function. All my knowledge depends upon access to communication services: my email, my calendar, my maps and guidebooks. But all of this is at the mercy of the service provider.”
I Have Seen the Future and I am Opposed
And a supporting post on the impending demise of email:
Teens Hate Email
An interesting article by Tom Armitage at Berg, comparing the sleep and awaking states of the iPad and the Kindle.
When awoken the iPad bursts to life, demanding your attention “When the iPad wakes up, everything else in the room disappears; your attention’s been stolen by that burst of light.” The Kindle however calmly changes the content of the screen, not its quality; no change in brightness, contrast, no backlight.
Armitage suggests that the attention seeking action of the iPad could be read as a device that is uncomfortable or insecure, having to remind the world that it’s still here. His feelings towards his recently acquired Kindle is that it “it’s comfortable in the world.”
He suggests that the Kindle does have the luxury of a single use, a use which requires a large amount of attention (reading), a luxury the iPad cannot assume. However he concludes that the Kindle seems comfortable when its asleep just as when it is being used , where as the iPad does not seem happy when it is not the centre of attention “a reminder that the design of genuinely ubiquitous devices and products is not just about what they are like in use; it is also about what they are like when they are just present.”
Pay Attention To Me
Canongate to publish ‘unauthorised first draft’ of WikiLeaks founder’s autobiography it has secretly printed and shipped.
This is such a strange and complex story of our times, it’s almost impossible to get a handle on. However it’s certainly the story that cuts to the heart of the schizophrenic, contradictory, and just plain weird network culture landscape we better get used to.
Kazys Varnelis raises some really important and pressing issues here, ones that can easily be ignored whilst in the fervour of the “permanent contemporary” epoch that we find ourselves in. However issues that are fundamentally concerned with epistemology are way too serious and important to overlook, as Varnelis warns “this is a crisis of major proportions for anyone involved in thinking about human culture in the long term.”
Books and the Problem with their Future
The Westwood Experience
Connecting Story to Locations via Mixed Reality
A research project and production by Nokia Research Center Hollywood
One of the first entertainment experiences that has some justified claim to being called “mixed reality”. What makes it so interesting is not just that it’s geolocative, and it’s prepared stage sets, it’s its clever use of a culturally recognized, real world locale to construct the narrative. This creates a sophisticated (and unique) relationship to time and the visitors position within it, as they are not being physically placed into another (simulated) time period (in a literal sense) but rather being asked to make that imaginative leap themselves.
The Westwood Experience