Tag Archive for education

Cultural Differences through Time

Bottle of Heroin (1890-1910) by Bayer, sold as a non-addictive substitute for morphine

There’s been a shift in our culture (at least in US) towards seeing medication as a sign of weakness from one of alleviation of suffering that predominated out society some 100 years ago. Some people I know are even proud of the fact that they’ve never taken a painkiller or were treated for cough. Stoicism became a virtue all in itself — “I’m a good person because I don’t take medicine, preferring to suffer the illness and/or the symptoms of the disease.” And it’s not just the patients that feel this way. Medical professionals routinely prescribe to the “complain 3 times” rule: their patients have to mention being in pain on multiple visits prior to getting a prescription that would deal with it. A friend told a story of a doctor visit during which he was told that “he didn’t want to appear to be complainer.” Several weeks later, he was having back surgery and remains in a wheelchair to this day, a decade later! How did we get here? This is a very complicated question, but it might help to examine how things use to be. Below are medications as they were packaged and sold all over America in the…

Socially Constructed Beliefs

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with a strong recommendation against the use of bumpers in cribs. The September 2007 issue of The Journal of Pediatrics examined deaths and injuries attributed to infant crib bumper pads: “Twenty-seven accidental deaths reported by medical examiners or coroners were attributed to bumper pads. The mechanism of death included suffocation and strangulation by bumper ties. Twenty-five nonfatal injuries were identified, and most consisted of minor contusions. All retail bumpers had hazardous properties.” AAP has finally announced that it is formally against bumpers. That certainly took a while. And, amazingly, the bumper pads are still for sale by all major baby room outfitters, and parents are still buying them and using them with their beloved offspring. Why? Why would parents knowingly endanger their children? This is an interesting case of Mental Model Traps, Mirroring Errors, and Cognitive Blindness. Mental Model Traps Let’s start by Mental Model Traps that parents fall into in this particular case. To do this, we need to back up in time a bit. The design of children’s beds had undergone considerable evolution over the last few centuries. Cribs used to be just large baskets with tightly woven sides. The weave…

Entropy & Design

Entropy is the measure of a system’s disorder and it increases with time (as dictated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Once the egg is cracked open, it’s impossible to make whole again: “Humpy Dumpy sat on the wall, Humpy Dumpy had a great fall; all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpy Dumpy together again!” We are taught the second law of thermodynamics from a very early age! So what about design? Surly, we steadily progress to a better and finer product, right? Unfortunately, in my experience, the steady progress is rarely the case when dealing with big company, large products, or long time frames. Big, large, and long spell out entropy in design. Let me walk you through it. We Need A New Product! It all starts with a call: “MegaCorp needs a new product!” Well, the words are sometimes different, but it is all the same—there’s change in the air. With luck, this means that various departments of the MegaCorp Inc. scramble to do some market and internal research to come up with some ideas: What does the market need? What resources do we have? What can we develop? (given time, people, budget,…

Washing Machines and Education

Hans Rosling is a professor of International Health at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. (He has been featured on this blog before—“No More Boring Data”.) For me, the most important point Dr. Roseling makes in this TED presentation is that time-saving technology raises the general level of education in the community and women in particular.

Remarkable Design

How does one design a remarkable product? “Well, it depends on a product,” some would say. But couldn’t we say something general? Why do we feel passionate about some products but not others? Consider conversations: some are fun, some are boring; some engage lots of people, some not so much; some result is heated exchanges, some are more neutral. Note that you can be very passionate about a topic, but don’t consider it fun: rape, genocide. Politics engages lots of people, but the details leave most bored. Some conversations generate sustained interest, and some fizzle out without a remark. What’s required for a conversation to be remarkable? That depends on the audience. To be engaged in a discussion, you have to find the topic interesting to you. And what’s interesting to you, might not be to me. Thus the topic of conversation is a variable of the targeted audience. Even if you find the topic amusing, you might not have the time to participate in the conversation. “I would love to talk to you about quantum space time, but the plane leaves in 5 minutes.” And it is so noisy on the plane that you can only hear every other…

ICT & Human Rights: A Round Table Discussion at IADIS 2011 Conference

IADIS conference on ICT, Society and Human Beings, Rome, July 24-26, 2011 Proposal for a Joint Multi-conference Session Title: ICT and Human Rights: A Round Table Chair/Organizer: Olga Werby Background and Purpose Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)—internet, web, and social media—are fast becoming a comprehensive repository and soon an archive of human knowledge. With access to ICT, an individual can become informed on everything from healthcare issues to civic problems to legal concerns. One hundred years ago, people were discussing the need for basic literacy and its impact on the human condition. Today, we should be discussing digital literacy and access in the same way. Digital literacy can be seen as a basic human right. Individuals can also impact society, react, and reach out. ICT is both a powerful tool for materializing human rights and is also challenging human rights. I propose a Round Table Session, which is open to all participants of IADIS multi-conferences, to be titled “ICT and Human Rights.” This session would provide a forum on cross-disciplinary research and development, and action, in the fields of what rights are important and can be better facilitated by ICT in: e-Democracy, ICT and Society, e-Culture, e-Health, e-Learning,  human-computer interaction,…

Working with Clients

We once had a client who made his secretary drive to our studio with a piece of a carpet from his office to be used as a color swatch for his company’s new logo. And while the final logo looked okay (very logo-like), it did little to represent the company’s brand. The company is no longer around today. Having a client who opines on the color of the background, choice of typeface, thickness of line, or layout mars the design process. It’s easy to get lost in details and personal preferences—who is to say that green is better than orange? A good designer has to be able to manage the client, keep the conversation focused on business goals and user needs. But before we can delve into the design process, we have establish trust. Clients need to feel like they’ve been listened to, they have to know and understand that design is hard work, and they have to buy into our expertise. The First Date The initial group meeting between the design firm and their client tends to feel like a first date: this is a chance for everyone to declare their expertise and expectations of each other. And like a…