Background Knowledge

On ‘Mind Over Mass Media’ by Pinker

Pinker, S. (2010). “Mind Over Mass Media.” The New Your Times Online. Retrieved on 23 June 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11Pinker.html Summary: Pinker’s article tries to prove the positive affect of new media technologies on mental development. Pinker observes, that the development of information technologies have always caused panic, but such scares usually are for no reasons. As an example, the author connects decreasing crime rate with emerging new technologies. In his understanding “[i]f electronic media were hazardous to intelligence, the quality of science would be plummeting” by scientist are using information technologies. By accepting, that “experience can change the brain” he argues, that new technology is not “a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience” and there are differences between the sorts of experiences. The article points, that the knowledge of accomplished people is one-sided. In Pinker’s opinion people are elementally changing by the usage of a certain technology. The article points that people need to use new technology with self-control. As the author concludes, that “the Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output [… and] technologies are the only things that will keep us smart”. Opinion: On one hand I can fully…

Distilling Information

When it comes to my students’ participation in this blog, it’s all about distilling information found in the news to something product designers in our midst would find useful, on a practical level. Consider the illustration below. We see a person’s face (mine in this case). We can describe some of the features. But what do we actually remember? Remembering complex visual information is hard—too many details. Recalling a drawing is easier. That’s because an artist already distilled the complexity into its essential parts—only those details that are required to remind us of a particular individual are included in the rendering. We are all pretty good at judging wether a portrait looks like the person it was intended to represent. We can quickly say if it does or if it doesn’t. But it would be difficult to explain what details in the illustration make the likeness or what’s missing from the drawing that didn’t hit its mark. Distillation of information is hard. Some people are good at it, some are not. It’s an acquired skill. And each category (e.g. sensory like visual, audio, tactile or knowledge-based like physics, economics, biology) requires its own training and its own set of talents.…

Working Memory Limitations vs. the Size of Problem

Three BLind Men and an Elephant Proverb

The illustration above comes from Wikipedia, which has a complete entry on the Asian proverb about blind monks who examine an elephant and generate multiple hypotheses of what it could be. In product design speak, these monks are doing collaborative problem solving with a shared goal of identifying a mysterious object—the elephant. The monks, the story goes, all come from different backgrounds: an old tailor touching an elephant’s ear describes it as cloth; an aging gardner hugging the leg imagines a tree trunk; an elephant’s tusk is envisioned as a weapon by an arms master. Each monk brings his own life’s worth of experience to bear on the problem, but each has very limited access to the whole. It’s easy to see how this story can be used to explain the pains of collaborative and cooperative group projects in which individuals focus on product design. Each person brings their own expertise to the table, hopefully contributing positively to the whole process. But this story is also a good metaphor for understanding problem solving in context of our very limited working memory capacity. Unlike elementary school math problems that we all calculated, real world problems are messy and don’t come with…

On “97 percent of American youth play video games”

Article | A.P. (2008). “97 percent of American youth play video games.” CNN. Retrieved 16 September, 2008. http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/ptech/09/16/videogames.survey.ap/index.html Summary | The article, focused on the findings from a survey of over a thousand responses posits that about ninety-seven (97) percent of youths – including girls – play videogames. Additionally, the study found that these people are not simply playing alone, but with others (in person and online) in order to socialize. Additionally, the survey highlights their findings that playing video games isn’t a rare or once off happening. Also, it highlights the diversity of tastes across the population. In discussing these findings, the author of the article talks about the apparent correlation (or lack thereof) between video games and commitment to civil participation and civil engagement. Moreover, the researchers who conducted the study (and author) encourage parents to avoid the stereotypes traditionally associated with video games. User Groups | If 97% of the youth population is playing video games on a regular basis, this would imply some level of familiarity and comfort not only with technology in general, but also with the specific trope and conceits commonly part of video game design. Additionally, the social nature of gaming for this…