Cultural Differences

Gamification and Sociobiology

Portable Heart Monitor

For the last several years, the has been a steady drum beat: Gamify, Gamify, Gamify. Universities are struggling to gamify their students and curricula, hospitals seek to gamify their staff, corporation are trying to gamify their sales strategy. Gamification is everywhere. What’s lacking is a clear understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. Here is a couple of examples where gamification of user activity was causing direct harm. Understanding what drove undesirable behavior allowed designers to remove those aspects from interaction intentionally. And an example of using gaming strategy to increase sales. Online Support for Anorexia Patients British online support site for young eating disorder sufferers provides access 24/7. It is absolutely vital to help children during times when they feel vulnerable, especially once they’ve been released from a program. But old habits are hard to break. It’s easy to devolve into a numbers games on a public BBS — “I’ve lost/gained 5 pounds in the last 2/4 days” is an absolute trigger message for a person recovering from anorexia. Anorexia is a numbers game: How long can I go without food? How little can I eat per day? How many pounds can I lose? How fast? There’s…

We Are the Magicians

Maximilien Luce, Morning, Interior, 1890, using pointillist technique

We all make magic every day. Don’t think so? Then consider this, we conjure up complete worlds of information with a mere suggestion, just a bit of outline, a stroke or two, a few words, a spatter of color, a dash of melody. We literally make grand visions from just a trickle of data. This is true for those who design and those who consume information. Let’s first explore our ability to comprehend very incomplete information. Take pointillism — an art movement (technique) that required artists to create images using points of pure color — why are we able to “see” the complete image from a mere collection of dots? With just a collection of colored dots, we are all able to imagine the mood, understand the story, visualize the universe behind this painting. You can say: “well, the artist was great at using dots.” But it is not just dots that we are good at. We reconstruct our reality from little bits of incomplete data all day every day of our lives. Consider the tone of voice of the person who answered the phone — you can easily tell the mood and even guess at the personality of that…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…

Matters of Trust

call center experience

In the last few months I’ve started several new relationships. One was with BlueShiled of California — a relationship that was forced on me by the changing health insurance laws. The other came about from trying to find a place to stay in United Kingdom for our family vacation. I didn’t actively want these relationships, but here I am. And I am not very happy. The basic problem comes from the flow of trust. I’ve never heard of anyone else talk about the directionally of trust, but it is a very important concept to understand for any customer service oriented company. I will illustrate the idea using my new relationships. BlueShield Customer Service Failure! Let me start by saying that I wasn’t overly fond of my previous insurance company. In fact, that relationship was very much like this new one with BlueShield — antagonistic. My story begins in October of 2013, when I created a spreadsheet of all my family doctors versus possible new health insurance companies. I wanted to make sure that which ever insurance I picked, my family doctors would take it. I spent the afternoon making phones calls and ended up with BlueShield of California as my…

Design for Social Good

Social engineering is way of designing products and situations which actively encourage people to behave in a desired way — Nudging for Good. EDF Challenge “Sharing energy in the city, 2030” seems an ideal circumstance for social engineering for the greater social good. The basic question is how do we as designers find ways to incentivize individuals to save energy? How do we make a bit of personal sacrifice an attractive option for most? How do we “nudge” people to behave in a socially responsible ways when it comes to energy use? First, it makes sense to break up the problem into several user categories: personal energy sharing, family sharing, neighborhood or community sharing, city or village sharing. At each level we expand the circle to involve more and more individuals, and so we need a different approach for each category. Each category has a set of pressure points on which social engineers can apply pressure to achieve the desired changes. Once we identify the user groups targeted for “nudging”, game theory can be used to find the most attractive options. While there are numerous strategies that can be borrowed from game theory to incentivize the desired energy sharing behavior,…

Language and Cultural Differences in Communication

Kulula Plane Decorations

Above is an example of Interface Design — Kulula Airlines decorates its planes in a very playful manner. Does this choice make you feel safer or more reticent to fly their planes? Well, that depends… Consider the FAA Passenger Briefing Guidelines: 14 CFR 91.519. Below are a few examples: § 91.519 Passenger briefing. (a) Before each takeoff the pilot in command of an airplane carrying passengers shall ensure that all passengers have been orally briefed on: Smoking. Each passenger shall be briefed on when, where, and under what conditions smoking is prohibited. This briefing shall include a statement, as appropriate, that the Federal Aviation Regulations require passenger compliance with lighted passenger information signs and no smoking placards, prohibit smoking in lavatories, and require compliance with crewmember instructions with regard to these items; Use of safety belts and shoulder harnesses. Each passenger shall be briefed on when, where, and under what conditions it is necessary to have his or her safety belt and, if installed, his or her shoulder harness fastened about him or her. This briefing shall include a statement, as appropriate, that Federal Aviation Regulations require passenger compliance with the lighted passenger sign and/or crewmember instructions with regard to…

Language, Culture, and Communication

Where we come from — our background culture: our country of origin and language, our heritage and religion (or lack there of), our family, our education, our friends, and where we live — has an enormous impact on our ability to communicate. What’s more, when people from different cultural backgrounds try to interact with each other, these differences can cause catastrophic failures. Direct versus Indirect Communication Styles Consider the following set of remarks about doing homework: Do your homework! Can you start doing your homework? Would you mind starting your homework now? Let’s clean the table so you can start your homework. Do you need help with homework? It’s getting late, do you have a lot of homework? Didn’t you say you have a lot of homework? Johnny’s mom said that he has a lot of homework today… Do you have everything ready for school tomorrow? Look how late it is — it’s almost time for bed. You have school tomorrow. Each of the statements above represents a progressively less direct command to do homework. In my family, I usually pick number 2 to communicate my desires for finished homework to my sons (although number 1 is perfectly acceptable, to…