Tag Archive for social processing

Empathy on the Brain

Empathy is a necessary component of product design. To design and make something that is comfortable to use for someone else, requires the maker of the product to imagine how another human being would feel while using it. This is a hard thing to do. Medical students have to take “bed side manners” classes that explicitly teach empathy for the patient. Some design schools do the same (check out this video in Product Design Resources). Fortunately, humans come equipped with a special region in the brain whose job it is to help us see the world from another’s point of view. Here’s a short introduction by Rebecca Saxe, “How we read each other’s minds.” So when we go to the movies, we relate to the characters and feel what they feel, and cry when they are sad, and laugh when they are happy, and cringe when things get awkward, because we have the Right TPJ (or RTPJ) region in our brain just behind and above our right ear. We aren’t born ready to use this part of our brain, as the experiments described by Dr. Saxe in the video show. It takes a long time for this social problem solving…

Demonstration of Wealth

People have been flashing “bling” around since the cave days. But what we perceive as “bling” has changed dramatically over the years and over cultures. We are social animals, we put a lot of value in our place in the social hierarchy of the group. By demonstrating wealth, we are advertising our social status in the community. Body Image How can you tell how much influence a cave man had in his group? Well, one was probably the way he looked: body paint, tattoos, scarification, body modification, hairdos, teeth filings, nail beautification, and accessories. And while somethings were transitory—beads are easily lost in battle, nails broken during a hunt—some are permanent status symbols. When all you owe is carried on you, then permanent modifications is a good solution to broadcasting your importance and achievements to the group. Each scar carries meaning and is much easier to show off than notches on the bed post. But body modifications is a very painful bling. Products Once the society is a bit more stable, stuff becames a preferred way of social display. Jewelry can be worn, homes can be owned, cars can be seen—there are many ways to show off wealth in the…

Cultural Difference: Kids Stories

I came across this short video: “The White Wolf” by Pierre-Luc Granjon. It is an 8 minute animation short about two brothers living in a small French village. Please pay attention to the story-line (I know it is an obvious thing to pay attention to): would it have been received well in US? Note that it is not more gruesome than “Snow White”… This is why cultural context is so important to product design and why I teach the class!

Knowledge, Context, & Expectation

These are three necessary components of any product design: Knowledge: the background information that forms the foundation of product design Context: the ecosystem in which the product will be used Expectation: the alignment of goals between product creators and the users for which it was designed A failure to fully understand any of the above variables results in errors that propagate throughout the product system. But what if the product is disaster preparedness? Consider the design of an evacuation plan ahead of a disaster. You would need to understand the what kinds of damage the disaster is capable of wrecking; the probabilities for each outcome; the people and the ecosystem in which the disaster will occur; and expectations of all the participants in the evacuation plans. Tsunami and The Zoo A few years ago, I was teaching a fifth grade science class where we were discussing the possible damage from a tsunami in San Francisco (we just visited the Bay Model). The problem I posed to the students was to design a reasonable evacuation plan for The San Francisco Zoo animals. The Zoo lies on the tsunami flood plane, and as far as we knew there was no plan for…

Trolls, Dolls, and Poupees

The first time I saw her, she was riding on a bus. Her hair was long and golden. Her eyes were amazing blue. She was stylishly dressed in a mini skirt and had a cool pair of earrings. But what got me—what burned that moment into my memory forever—was that her long slender legs bent without any visible joints. She was amazing. I wouldn’t see another like her until many years later, when my family was emigrating from Russia and living Vienna. Not far from the apartment we stayed in, there was a toy store and it was filled with wonders just like the one I remembered from so many buses ago: Barbie. When I was growing up in Russia, I played with dolls and poupees—all girls did. The dolls were made to resemble little kids, with big eyes, big heads, chubby cheeks, and cute clothes. I used old buttons and odd bits of cloth and lace to make them new clothes and bedding. My play mainly consisted of creating cool things for my dolls—I liked to sew and glue. And I don’t think that my play was all that much different from girls’ 100 years before—my dolls would have…

Context and Information Processing

Sometimes a book comes along that demonstrates in a very effective way the meaning of perfect. There’s a saying: “I will know when I see it.” But our seeing and knowing is wrapped up in our cultural bias and prone to mirroring errors. This contextual confusion over categorization is often cited during the discussion of American blindness to fat—when everyone in a group is over weight, no one is. The book “Athlete” shows what’s normal for various athletic groups. And what’s normal to some is amazing to others…

Information Scaffolding

Here’s another way of thinking about crisis mapping as an ecosystem or a cell with a membrane allowing certain information to enter while keeping other out. Some data has data “receptors” in the organization and thus “gets in”. But some information doesn’t and some just doesn’t have the right format: wrong language, incomplete information, time delay, low quality, etc. Please let me know your thoughts on the communicative value of this illustration. Thank you! And here’s how Ushahidi can help.