Tag Archive for context

Special Preview: Activity Theory

Crisis Mapping Illustration

Once again, we get an early preview of the next chapter of Interaction-Design.org textbook: Activity Theory. The author of the chapter, Victor Kaptelinin, did a wonderful job of summarizing decades of research in educational psychology, cognitive science, and HCI — from Vygotsky to Moran. If you’re unfamiliar with the theories, research, and thinking that brought us to present day HCI design, this is a great place to start (and includes all of the references to the relevant literature). Adopting an activity-theoretical perspective has an immediate implication for design: it suggests that the primary concern of designers of interactive systems should be supporting meaningful human activities in everyday contexts, rather than striving for logical consistency and technological sophistication. While this chapter focuses mainly on human computer interaction (HCI), I would argue that we need to be broader: we need to focus on product design. And as always, I mean product to be interpreted in a very broad sense. We are moving rapidly into a world where everything we touch is a computing device. Today, I Twitted that my washing machine is an ICT device — the new ARM chip is small, requires very little power, and will be incorporated into everything.…

Emotional Scaffolding

Processing emotions takes time and energy. Part of the working memory is taken up by analyzing the emotional state of others, environmental stresses, personal feelings, and anxiety. Since working memory is an extremely limited resource, anything that takes up space there without our bidding (against our will) takes away from our ability to think through situations, to problem solve, and to make well-reasoned decisions. Instead of thinking, we are using up the working memory for processing emotions. Sometimes, emotions are just the right thing to focus on — to pay attention to. How does this painting makes me feel? Do I like this person? This music feels good… But if you are taking a math test, focusing on how much you really hate test-taking takes away from your ability to take the test. It is very common for individuals to “get” the subject matter, but fail the test. Some people are good at dealing with anxieties and some have trouble controlling their attention controls away from fretting. That’s one of the reason some educators are talking about doing away with summative assessments (final exams) in favor of continuous assessment (assessment as part of learning) — the on-going observation of students’…

Creativity, Perception, and Public Art

Coming Unzipped

Art or craft? Creativity or public nuisance? Sometimes, the line between these is so fine, so complex, so fractal, that it’s simply doesn’t matter. The images below span thousands of years in dates of creation. The artists used light and shadow, perspective, and clever geometry of space to add meaning to their work. All showed an amazing amount of imagination, all provide commentary on current events or a point of view. Happy holidays to all! Enjoy! [flagallery gid=3 name=”Gallery”]

Thinking about the Science of Communication and Interaction

Alien Senses

In the Galaxy Far Far Away… What if sentient being evolved on a planet with permanent cloud cover? What if these being never saw stars? Would they still be able to discover the laws of nature? These kinds of hypothetical thinking questions — the Gedankan Experiments, as Einstein put it — are very useful in science. I’ll try to use them here for analyzing product design and communication. So what senses do we need to communicate? And what body appendages are necessary to produce this communication? Note that it helps keep track of these separately. Aroma-bet When I was little, I “designed” a language based on smell: each smell was assigned a character in an alphabet and, strung together in sequence, my smelly letters transcribed into words — the Aroma-bet. There were several problems with this: It was difficult to get an alphabet-worth of distinct odors; Arranged next to each other, the odors started to blend into each other, making “reading” difficult; I got a very bad headache; My mom didn’t like her expensive perfumes used in such a creative way… And I couldn’t remember what letter each smell stood for, requiring the creation of a smell-o-dictionary, which in turn…

Special Preview: Social Media by Thomas Erickson

Interfaces.com was given a free advanced preview of Thomas Erickson’s report and videos on social computing. The videos are very well produced and provide an interesting point of view and good insights on social media. Below are few of my notes based on the video content and ideas discussed on this blog in the past (my former students should find these familiar). Social Media Definitions & Ideas Social Computing: this is really about groups working together using ICT (Information Communication Technologies). I think this is a broader definition then the one offered by Thomas Erickson, as it includes all forms of ICT. Social Scaffolding: we all have a set of social scripts — culturally-specific, socially constructed norms of behavior — that help us navigate group interactions and allow for self-organization of crowds, at least shot-term and for a limited goal (like crossing the street). [Please watch Dr. Erickson’s example of street crossing in “Video 4.3: Social Computing video 3 – Face-to-face Interaction as Inspiration for Designing Social Computing Systems”.] Product design needs to create opportunities for social interaction — these scaffolds have to be built into the system: meeting spaces, places to sit down, well-lit areas, easy communication tools, games,…

The Cultural Context for Product Design

Nothing exists in isolation. Design divorced from the context in which the product is used is of little value to its audience. Cognitively, this makes sense—most designers agree that they have to consider the environment, culture, and situation as part of the process of developing a new product (or redesigning an old one). But practically, context and culture get little play in design meetings. This post is aimed at relieving some of designers’ mirroring errors—helping see alternate ways their products might be used in the real world. Enjoy! Cultural Difference in Car Use: livestock Cultural Difference in Car Use: large loads Cultural Difference in Bike Use: large loads Notice the little bike on the left… Cultural Difference: people movers