Through the industrial age we have systematically repackaged the artifacts of our lives in smaller and smaller containers. We are in the age of miniaturization. Mobile computing is at the center of our increasingly de-centralized lives. Interestingly, artifacts like music, photos, and video have taken more portable forms while remaining sublime indicators of our identity: our history, memories, behaviors, and habits. Acquiring, creating, and consuming these artifacts—or what might be called our digital legacy—constitutes much of our mobile activity.
Trends like the steady drop in computing’s price to performance ratio, network speed innovation, cheap supply of memory, enhanced battery life, and large-scale quality manufacturing all fueled the evolution of miniaturization. But advances in user experience arguably played a more important role. The introduction and rapid adoption of multi-touch opened up the experience in ways previously impossible with indirect interface models. Rather than impose an abstraction in the way users interacted with content, content began responding in expected and familiar ways for users. Performance also made the experience responsive and immediate. There were no more spinning cursors or hour-glass icons interrupting the moment. Small nuances, like the use of physics or the way items and lists responded to touch, brought moments of delight that users understood and connected to.
The current generation of mobile device is roughly 8-9 millimeters thick with a 3- to 5-inch touch screen, a couple of cameras, sensors, and a connection to the network and cloud. Mobile platform wars are certainly far from over, but a period of mobile normalization has begun. It’s not unlike the time when personal computing settled with Windows and Mac OS. The core features are similar and standard interaction paradigms have stabilized. Android vs iOS vs Windows Mobile are not really as strategic decisions as they previously were. The steady pace of incremental innovation by Apple and Google has a tangible cadence. It hasn't stalled but perhaps it has crested. While we continue to cram more and more of our lives behind that 4-inch display, we also lose out on many of the important attributes that make our digital legacy important to us. There is something missing from the experience. Touch is a great enabler but it breaks down when we have access to every song recorded, every picture we have ever taken, and several terabytes of history and social interactions that we are constantly encoding about ourselves.
frog recently participated in the annual IIT Institute of Design’s Design Research Conference (DRC) that was held in Chicago. Our challenge was twofold: to facilitate an interactive engagement with the entire conference audience and to provoke thought and reflection on the conference content and theme — the adjacent possible.
Each year a group of students at the Institute of Design works to create a conference that explores emerging themes and practices in design research. This year’s focus on concepts from lateral fields and disciplines was inspired by author Steven Johnson’s description of the adjacent possible. Johnson draws upon this idea, originally from scientist Stuart Kauffman, to argue that good ideas are often generated by the recombination of other existing ideas:
“The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations.”
In the context of the conference, this essentially boils down to a few simple questions: What can designers learn from other fields? Which ideas can help us create better solutions?
I spend a lot of time playing multi-player video games with people all over the world. In the process, I have come to realize that the gamers I play with represent a wide range of age, ethnic, and gender diversity—sometimes even more than the range of people in my daily life. I started to wonder if this was true of other gamers: were their groups of in-game friends more diverse than their real-life friends? What was the impact of these video game interactions on gamers’ awareness of other cultures?
I live in New York City, which has a pretty diverse population, but in the past I have lived in cities like Kyoto, Japan where my gaming friends were absolutely more diverse than my non-gaming friends. Could cultural awareness gained through online gaming translate into more positive attitudes and interactions with a wider group of people offline?
On a chilly October day, a stone’s throw from a postcard-perfect New England harbor and across from an adorable town square, a group that included chief executives, grad students, physicians, public-school educators, activists, scientists, and artists gathered. Some members of this diverse crowd, assembled in Camden, Maine, for the annual PopTech conference from October 17-20, were from large companies such as Nike, Google, and Procter & Gamble. Others were the twentysomething founders of start-ups that no one has ever heard of–yet. Or they were academics, investors, designers, engineers.
They came to listen to, and mingle with, the head of a public school for pregnant girls in Detroit; a Paralympic World Cup snowboarding gold medalist; an Icelandic childcare specialist; and a bank robber/hacker turned neuroscientist, among many others. While this roster is only a tiny sample of the PopTech speaker list, it offers a taste of the broad spectrum of voices and stories presented on the Opera House stage. As varied as they are, they all share the common theme of “resilience.” It is a topic that is gaining momentum not only as a coping strategy in an age of economic uncertainty and dramatic natural disasters, but also as an innovation strategy, too. And the first day of PopTech offered a number of lenses from which to understand the concept, which is also the conference’s theme.
Stop for a second and listen. Close your eyes, use your ears, and just listen.
Whether you are in a quiet office environment or out on a busy street, you'll be amazed by how many sounds there are around you. Most of us do not pay attention to the ambient sounds that surround us. Our brains filter them out and we don't listen. Yet the sounds we miss can be very enjoyable.
Today, what we hear in our daily lives is often designed sound- music and sound effects carefully crafted for games, devices, and products. For example, mission-critical products, such as heart rate monitors used during medical surgery or a plane’s flight deck controls, use distinctive alarming sounds that are designed to be easy to perceive and raise a sense of urgency or danger.
In interfaces for everyday tasks, sound is used to create engaging and beautiful experiences. Sounds can generate a special feeling or underline brand identity while simultaneously providing cues that a command has been received by the system. Most smart phones today come with subtle sounds that indicate the pressing of a touch screen’s virtual buttons. Since there is no way to feel if a virtual button has been pressed, the sounds reinforce the action for the user. Another example can be found in industrial design, where the latest electric cars are being designed with artificial motor sounds. The sounds alert pedestrians to the car as well as reinforce the sense of driving a powerful vehicle. These examples underline the overall trend of sound being used to create an aesthetic experience rather than serving as purely a functional aid to improve interaction.
At the recent HOW Interactive Design Conference in Washington DC, I gave a presentation called "Know Thy User: The Role of Research in Great Interactive Design." This 30-minute high-level talk was intended to provide conference attendees with repeatable processes that will help them integrate user research into their interactive projects. Other presenters at the conference went more in-depth into some of the methods mentioned in this talk, but I felt that it was important for attendees to understand the role of specific methods and activities within the research process on any design project.
Speaking one-on-one with Wim Elfrink, the first Chief Globalisation Officer to be appointed at software giant Cisco Systems, is always a delight. I must confess that I’ve only had conversations with him via Cisco’s high-end telepresence system at the corporation’s One Penn Plaza offices in Manhattan, when it’s been morning in New York and evening in Bangalore, where Elfrink often works. As he said the last time we spoke, “sometimes it’s hard to remember if I meet people in person or on telepresence,” and this is true about our own meetings. Our chats have been so vibrant, so warm, and so engaging that we may as well have been talking at a dinner party. This is testament to Cisco’s telepresence equipment, of course, but also more exemplary of Elfrink’s dynamic mind and lively, affable personality. It shines through, no matter what the forum.
Recently, we talked about the future of cities: how they can best leverage exciting new technology possibilities in terms of becoming “smarter,” via connecting people more quickly online or via mobile devices, and processing real-time data from sensors and other equipment. In other words, we explored how urban communities can better use social networking, sensors, Big Data, and sophisticated information technology infrastructures to evolve and prosper. Here’s our edited conversation.
Why are cities such a focal point for anyone interested in inspired innovation today?
Cities have always attracted people by offering three things: security, prosperity, and quality of life. Because of those three things, innovation takes place in cities. There has long been a misconception that cities aren’t safe, that they are filled with poor people, that it is hard to live in cities.
But today, security is not about brick and mortar safety, it is not about walls. Surveillance has changed that.
Cities offer more opportunities for people to improve their lives than in smaller towns, so even if they attract people who are challenged by a lack of resources, they have better chances of becoming more prosperous.
Telepresence will also help the poor have access to cities, perhaps bring them the education, work, and even healthcare possibilities that they didn’t have before, and in a way, make them part of cities.
Also, we must remember that great cities have souls. Think of what they are known for: Paris, for art. New Orleans, for music. San Francisco, for high tech. What is so promising about social networking is that in the future, we’ll be able to connect more people with each other around these aspects of cities while we are in them—or away from them.
Finally, we should consider that the future of competition is between cities, whereas it used to be between nations. Many people today identify themselves as what city they are from, versus what country. If cities do not work to become smarter, in all aspects of the word, they will lose the competition for visitors, industries, and revenues.
这里我与大家分享一个关于创新的小故事，早在2004年， 摩托罗拉曾向青蛙设计寻求帮助。 青蛙设计的创始人艾斯林格就向对方建议，应当给予消费者更友善的界面，运用最多两个键达到目标。摩托罗拉因担心设计成本与风险而最终否决这一建议。在3年之后的2007年，苹果电脑发布了第一代的iPhone，整个机器正面只有一个按钮。在接下来的5年中，iPhone风靡全球，成为了史上最受欢迎的移动终端设备。 而摩托罗拉则因为失去先机，陷入了被动的局面。
“Choose your enemies carefully, 'cause they will define you Make them interesting 'cause in some ways they will mind you They're not there in the beginning but when your story ends Gonna last with you longer than your friends. -- U2, “Cedars of Lebanon”
We know that opposition is an integral part of the creative process. But sometimes opposition itself can be a creative act. Beyond common tactics (listed on this Community Toolbox site as “deflect, delay, deny, discount, deceive, divide, dulcify, discredit, destroy, deal”), it can manifest itself as craftsmanship and art--whether it be street art by Shepard Fairey or satire like these recent Mitt Romney campaign spoofs Venn diagrams.
As Make Shift’s editor, Steve Daniels, observes in the current issue, the nature of resistance is changing. Case studies ranging from Occupy Wall Street to neighborhood activism in Port-au-Prince illustrate that a combination of social technology and street-level ingenuity is producing new tools, techniques, practices, and skills for vocalizing opposition. And these in turn drive boycotts, counter-movements, and insurgencies, as well as opposition at a more mundane level, in day-to-day interactions.
With regard to business, numerous acts of creative opposition abound, from product hacks (e.g., hackers of IKEA products and Microsoft’s Kinect) to Beck’s decision to release his new album only as “sheet music” to be recorded by his fans. The entire maker and crowdfunding movements, as well as “innovation communes” such as The Glint, the Rainbow Mansion, and the Memento Factories can be seen as fundamental acts of creative resistance to business as usual.
All of these trends made me think about creative opposition within companies--about employee activities that are counter to the top-down policies without crossing the line into the unproductive and illegal. From passive disengagement, noncompliance, and disobedience to passive aggression, covert sabotage, and overt conflict, which tactics are appropriate, legitimate, and effective? How much resistance from its fringes can an organization endure before it is threatened at its core--and stops being an organization altogether? And most important, why would fostering creative opposition even be beneficial to companies?