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Cuteness Inspires Violence Research and Angry Birds

cheek pinching

Have you ever felt the urge to hug someone too hard? Squeeze a baby? Pinch a cheek? Even when you knew it might hurt the other person? If you have, you are not alone! Last month, Scientific American published an article Cuteness Inspires Aggression on the study done by Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon of Yale University, documenting the intense response to cuteness. Cute aggression’s prevalence does not mean that people actually want to harm cuddly critters, Aragon explains. Rather the response could be protective, or it could be the brain’s way of tamping down or venting extreme feelings of giddiness and happiness. The scientists are currently conducting additional studies to determine what drives the need to squeeze. So this research led me to think of the success of the Angry Birds game. Originally, I thought that it was the juxtaposition of the cuteness factor and violence that made the game so irresistible as a sales effort (once people started playing it, the puzzles were good enough to sustain engagement with the game without the cute + aggressive factor). Would the game be just as fun to talk about (or to wear t-shirts) if the birds weren’t so damn cute?…

Press Release: World’s Tech Elite Named to Interaction-Design.org Board

Interaction-Design.org Logo

Today the Interaction Design Foundation, the IDF, has announced its new executive board. The executive board includes Don Norman; Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research; Ken Friedman, professor and former dean of the Faculty of Design at Swinburne University, Australia; Michael Arent, vice president of user experience at SAP Business Objects; Olof Schybergson, founder and CEO of Fjord, a digital service design consultancy; Jonas Lowgren, a professor of interaction design at Sweden’s Malmo University; and Dan Rosenberg, a user experience executive, consultant, and professor. All executive board members are serving gratis. The foundation’s keystone project is Interaction-Design.org, a website that publishes free and open educational materials for students, industry leaders and individual tech designers. The present centerpiece of the IDF is the ever-expanding Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction written by 100+ leading designers, Ivy League professors, CEOs, futurists and bestselling authors from across the high-tech universe. Currently, the encyclopedia numbers 35 short textbooks or chapters which students, professors and professionals can assemble in any way they want in order to make their own individualized compendium. Don Norman has also contributed to a chapter. Three other contributing authors are Clayton Christensen, the Harvard professor praised as “brilliant” by New York Mayor…

Social Media Election

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The creative folks at Open-Site.org invited me to share the following informational graphic with the readers of this blog. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has probably noticed an increase in the number of political postings over the past few years. This is due, in part, to the explosive rise in social media outlets and users. But voters are not the only people who use social media; among politicians, 9 out of 10 Senators and Representatives have Twitter accounts. However, many are starting to wonder if social media is becoming less a reporter of political races and more of a predictor of the results. In Senate races, the candidate with more Facebook friends than his or her opponent has won 81% of the time. And one email sent to 60 million Facebook users prompted an additional 340,000 people to vote in the 2010 election. This infographic illustrates just how politics and social media are affecting each other.

Special Preview: Socio-Technical System Design

Segway Tours in SF

Brian Whitworth and Adnan Ahmad contributed a chapter on Socio-Technical System Design for the free Interaction-Design textbook. This is a very interesting, if technical discussion of the subject. While reading it, I kept thinking about how I would love to debate some of the points raised in this Chapter in person. But lacking this opportunity, below are my ideas and thoughts on the subject of Socio-Technical System Design. First, let me give a quick summary of what is a socio-technological system paraphrasing a bit from Whitworth and Ahmad own words: Socio-technology is about technology and people. Technology is any device. IT system is then a combination of software AND device(s). Human computer interaction (HCI) is a person plus an IT system. Introduction of “person” brings physical, informational and psychological levels into the combined system. And finally, socio-technical system (STS) is merger of community and HCI(s). A Bit of Historical Perspective When my son was in third grade, he was given an assignment: compare some technology from today with that of 100 years ago. He chose transportation. Here’s his insight: 100 years ago, going from San Francisco to Berkeley took a very long time. There were no bridges. People had to drive their…

End-User Development (EUD) Educational Preview

This is an interesting collection of videos and background materials on End-User Development — situations when end users design and develop software for their own use. If you’re old enough, you would remember BASIC and HyperCard — tools that let anyone develop simple games and applications. A great example is “Spelunking” game totally developed in HyperCard (these guys when on to develop “Myst”!). I’ve made a few games like this myself. And of course FileMaker is another system that allows application development by the end users — we have one for time tracking. There have been many many others, and unfortunately, many of them are now gone. The discussion on what happens when end users develop for themselves is fascinating. Most times, these users are experts in their own fields and are not software developers (some have no and some have little formal training). Thus there are cultural differences between “real” programmers and end users that take up programming to achieve their own goals, often because they can’t find what they need out in the world. These end-user designed products have strengths and they also have many weakness. In particular, these products are tightly focused on the needs of those…