education posts

Kavita’s War Story: Managing money, oh joy! March 27th, 2013
Part 48 of 69 in the series War Stories

Kavita Appachu shares her story about uncovering emotion where she hadn’t expected to find it.

Finance has never been my thing, and where possible I leave the chore of managing my finances to others. That changed somewhat a few years back when I started working for a company that makes financial software, specifically tax software. This threw me right in the middle of people’s financial lives.

What I had not realized was that while the task of managing finances may be very functional, everything else related to money and taxes is at its core very emotional. I have lost track of the innumerable times participants have poured their hearts out as they describe how they manage their finances, from the twenty-something who referred to her mom as ghetto, or the hulk of a guy who rattled off the choicest of expletives for his ex-wife. The one story that has stood out in all this is about a mom, wife and editor in Seattle.

On a rare sunny day, we pulled up to a community of condos with well-manicured yards. We rang the doorbell and my fellow researcher and I were greeted by our participant, who welcomed us into her very tastefully done home. There were pictures of the kids, family vacations, sporting events. It seemed like a happy home. The kids were at school and our participant had the morning off so she had decided to catch up on her finances, specifically her investments. We talked about the members of her household, her husband’s job, her job and their approach to financial planning. She was concerned their savings were not going to be enough for retirement and the kids’ education.

She had all her papers spread out on the dining table beside her laptop. We observed her going through the process of logging into both her and her husband’s 401(k) accounts, monitor her mutual funds and stocks and even place a sell order. Nothing out of the ordinary…and then she broke down in tears.

We were a little taken aback. She had a helpless look on her face and kept sobbing and muttering that woman, that woman. We calmed her down and then asked her if she wanted to share what was bothering her. She told us that as part of her husband’s divorce settlement from his earlier marriage he was required to pay for her stepchildren’s college. That was making a deep hole in their pockets and she was unable to save for her own children’s college education, take vacations or save for retirement. She hated the ex-wife and held her husband somewhat responsible for giving in to the ex-wife’s demands. She avoided tracking finances if she could because it was a painful reminder of her dire situation.

That was my aha moment. I had known all along that personal finances are very closely entwined to one’s life, but this really brought it home: personal finances are a mirror of your inner joys, sorrows and insecurities.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
Omni Quickies January 25th, 2012
Part 17 of 19 in the series the Omni project

Not Quite Smart Enough [NYT] – Smart appliances are back, yet again! Engineers are crammed atop happily dumb products because, well, because they can. The classic of course is the Smart Fridge, the result of jetpack-denied technologists channeling their rage. We’ve heard the use cases over and over again, we aren’t that interested (are we?) but comically, that doesn’t seem to stop them. From past work, I believe there some wonderful opportunities for technology to have a meaningful impact in domestic chores, but this repetition of an undesirable product just isn’t it. Bonus funny/sad: Mike Kuniavsky’s 2008 blog post looks at the history of these ridiculous things. /SP

Still, there are differences in what is offered this time around – especially in the role of smartphones, which were not widely on the market a decade ago. In addition, even if the idea of a connected home, controlled by a smart electrical grid, is years off, it is more than just a pipe dream. For now, though, manufacturers are promoting the high-tech gizmos on their smart appliances, rather than focusing on the potential for being a cog in a smart grid. Samsung offers a French-door refrigerator with an LCD screen and its own apps, allowing consumers to check the weather, browse the Web for recipes, listen to music and keep tabs on what is in the refrigerator. The 28-cubic feet, four-door refrigerator costs about $3,500. LG is introducing a refrigerator that allows consumers to scan a grocery receipt with their smartphone so that the refrigerator can track what is inside. So if you buy some chicken, for instance, the refrigerator will keep tabs on when you bought it and tell you when it is about to expire. If you have chicken, broccoli and lemons in your refrigerator, it will offer recipes that include those three ingredients, even narrowing recipes based on specific dietary needs and goals. Several manufacturers are introducing washers and dryers equipped with Wi-Fi that alert consumers on their television or smartphone when a load is done, and gives them the option of fluffing towels for another 10 minutes or adding a rinse cycle. LG’s robotic smart vacuum can be told, again, through a smartphone, to clean up the living room. And since it’s equipped with a built-in camera, its owner can secretly watch what the nanny is doing, too.

Tenured Professor Departs Stanford U., Hoping to Teach 500,000 Students at Online Start-Up [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – Last week we explored the innovative physical learning environment at the Swedish Vittra school. This week we learn that the future of educational institutions may involve abandoning the halls of the academy entirely in favor of virtual pedagogy and entrepreneurial ventures. Is the university destined for obsolescence? Freelance online classes challenge the value proposition (and often prohibitive cost) of a university degree by offering affordable alternatives that connect teachers who are motivated to share knowledge with students who are eager to learn and apply it, regardless of location. This reminds me of a recent Kickstarter project I funded called Don’t Go Back to School: A handbook for learning anything. For $25 I am getting a whole course and textbook on independent learning. Bargain! /TC

During his talk, Mr. Thrun explored the origins of his popular online course at Stanford, which initially featured videos produced with nothing more than “a camera, a pen and a napkin.” Despite the low production quality, many of the 200 Stanford students taking the course in the classroom flocked to the videos because they could absorb the lectures at their own pace. Eventually, the 200 students taking the course in person dwindled to a group of 30. Meanwhile, the course’s popularity exploded online, drawing students from around the world. The experience taught the professor that he could craft a course with the interactive tools of the Web that recreated the intimacy of one-on-one tutoring, he said.

Interactive film, Bear 71, blurs lines between wild and wired [Montreal Gazette] – News articles on this work, currently showing at Sundance, have difficulty classifying it. Is it a film? A documentary? An interactive experience? Multi-media project? All-encompassing digital experience? An interactive film? Akin to Steve’s comments on smart-appliances above, the interactive multi-media experience has also been around for awhile – remember ye olde CD-ROM? This project, however, is doing more than just using technology to give viewers some ownership and direction in the story-telling. The film-makers seem very tuned in to the philosophical implications of inserting all this technology into a very natural environment, and conscious of the irony of their ambition to use technology to bring us closer to our animal state, despite their claims that technology is the very thing drawing us away from that state. Bear 71 official site. /JN

Enter Jeremy Mendes, a Vancouver-based artist and three-time Webby Award winner with a special talent for interactive work. “I drove out to Alberta and met Leanne [Allison], and when I saw these images, I knew right away that it was bizarre: It was surveillance equipment, essentially. These are the same cameras we use on ourselves. They’re the same cameras in Times Square and 7-11,” says Mendes. “I thought, ‘This is a technology story about us and this bear.'” “We prepared an outline and did all the research, and realized this was a story about communication. It’s about the communication humans use, and the communication animals use,” says Mendes… Call it the natural bulletin board, or deciduous Internet, but the scents tell each animal’s story to other animals – very much the same way we use Facebook of Twitter to keep tabs on other humans. “Humans probably had the same ability to understand that information before technology removed us from the natural world,” says Allison…It’s such a different approach to filmmaking and art, that it may take a while for the average Joe or Jane to take it all in, but that’s kind of the point: We’re only half-awake to our animal nature, and all our ambient technology only serves to shove us deeper and deeper into a state of instinct denial.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
Stories behind the themes: Transformation November 21st, 2011
Part 10 of 19 in the series the Omni project

Here we offer the third installment of an unfolding bibliography of secondary research that fueled our generation of themes for the Omni project. This time around we are focusing on the transformational role of technology in our everyday lives, both in terms of what is changing (us) and how, i.e. the process of moving ritualistically through the liminal space that sits between what (and how) we once did things and the activities that will become our daily doings. This theme captures not only the place between the old and the new, but also the processes of learning, relearning, and unlearning how to respond to the new and improved version of our lives that technology suggests possible.

Online Banking Bill Pay Changes Ahead [FastCompany.com] – Remember the last time you had to show up in person at your bank to conduct business? Yeah, me neither. Remember the last time you had a confounding online banking moment trying to transfer funds to or from one account or bank to another (be it yours or someone else’s)? Yep, me, too! We appear to be wading through the growing pains associated with a transition from institutionally-focused financial rituals to customer-driven (and designed) online personal financing that is largely institutionally-agnostic.

While consumers like seeing all their finances in one friendly place, they don’t like the fact that they can’t do anything about it there–namely pay those bills or move money between accounts–using the same site or app. That capability is gradually coming, with the help of new finance technology, business models and willing, often smaller, banks.

Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age [Chronicle.com] – Cathy Davidson puts her teaching (and learning to teach in this era of “This is Your Brain on the Internet”) under the microscope in an exploration of how technology is impacting the collaborative nature of knowledge including how it is consumed, crowdsourced, created, communicated, and (perhaps most fascinating of all) subjected to criticism by various stakeholders. Here we can begin to see that a focus on traditional ways of learning has created attentional blindness to the opportunities for new ways of learning.

Unfortunately, current practices of our educational institutions-and workplaces-are a mismatch between the age we live in and the institutions we have built over the last 100-plus years. The 20th century taught us that completing one task before starting another one was the route to success. Everything about 20th-century education, like the 20th-century workplace, has been designed to reinforce our attention to regular, systematic tasks that we take to completion. Attention to task is at the heart of industrial labor management, from the assembly line to the modern office, and of educational philosophy, from grade school to graduate school.

A Walk to Remember to Remember [Full-Stop.net] – Anyone who has seen the video of the woman walking into the mall fountain because her eyes are glued to her phone (there’s another walk to remember!) has witnessed the physical (and perhaps more experientially concrete) impact of technology on walking. This piece roots around in some of the more metaphorical and abstract ways that technology has transformed rituals and narratives of bipedal locomotion.

“When I walk,” he describes, “my impression is that a digital sensibility overtakes me [-] the places or circumstances that have drawn my attention take the form of Internet links.” Referring to associative memory as being like hypertext is a perfect example of how the significance and description of walking changes in reference to the time and culture in which it is grounded. The metaphors we use to characterize things we don’t understand often change with relation to extant technology. For example the human mind once described as a tablet is now popularly referred to as being like a computer. But this use of figurative language also demonstrates how metaphor shapes the way we perceive and experience the physical world.

In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores [NYT.com] – Technology is obviously changing our institutions and, here again,education seems to be a classic meme. There is a defined dream that computers will fix THIS – every generation of tech, from the first Apple PCs to now iPads, are all hailed as “THIS is the thing that will truly, radically improve it!”; but in our measurement-focused education systems, evidence points to “no”.

To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up – here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption [Shareable.net] - Technology is enabling alternatives to the mainstream economy that are self-created and subvert standard modes of exchange and value. This easy-to-use DIY guide is a road map for leaving behind ancient rituals of consumption in favor of practices that values possibilities of use over possession.

American youth are slowly realizing that the old system is broken, and no longer holds the answer to all their dreams and desires. We’re discovering that stable, satisfying careers can be found outside the offices and factories around which our parents and grandparents built their lives. We’re acknowledging that the pursuit of bigger, better, and faster things have plunged our country into a time of despair and difficulty. We’re convinced that business as usual isn’t an option any longer–but what’s the alternative?

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
ChittahChattah Quickies April 16th, 2011
  • [from steve_portigal] Teaching Children the Basics of Saving and Spending [NYTimes.com] – [We've explored people's attitudes and behavior around money in a number of projects. The power of education and influence at a young age is a clear takeaway from all that work, so this initiative is encouraging.] In the wake of the financial crisis and the realization that individuals share at least some blame for the bubbles, a number of people and organizations have taken up the cause of helping the next generation of grown-ups form better habits at an earlier age. Sesame entered the fray with a series of videos and other material aimed at teaching its audience about spending, saving and sharing. There is no definitive proof that any of this will make a lasting impact. “It would be 20 years before we would know the results,” said Laura Levine, JumpStart’s executive director, who served on Sesame Street’s advisory panel. But the beauty of watching young children absorb these lessons and answering their questions is that it can make you more aware of the financial examples you set.
  • [from steve_portigal] Lady Liberty Stamp Depicts a Vegas Replica [NYTimes.com] – [A failure of traceability/transparency, when a representation of a replica is mixed in with the original. But the USPS claiming to prefer the replica is confounding (as they apologize) - does sexy trump authentic here?] The United States Postal Service has issued a new stamp featuring the Statue of Liberty. Only the statue it features is not the one in the harbor, but the replica at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas. The service selected the image from a photography service and accidentally used the 14-year-old statue that presides over thousands of weary gamblers a week. “We still love the stamp design and would have selected this photograph anyway,” said Roy Betts, a spokesman. Mr. Betts did say, however, that the post office regrets the error and is “re-examining our processes to prevent this situation from happening in the future.”
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
AC4D: Applications for next year are open April 11th, 2011

Last fall I had the opportunity to give a guest lecture to the students in the first class at the Austin Center for Design (AC4D). Over the past few years, a number of innovative programs have sprung up and I’ve spoken at a number of them. What I enjoyed specifically about the AC4D was the feeling of being at a start-up and the slightly up-start attitude. I got the sense that students and faculty were united by someone, somewhere along the way, telling them that they couldn’t do this. And they are doing it. The school is focusing on applying design to social change, but the discussion is about the problem solving power of design – to understand, reframe, and innovate, rather than the an excess of earnestness or worrying. I suspect their point of view is maybe what you could call post-worldchanging…of course you want to address homelessness, let’s use the tools we’ve got to look at it.

Later this year I’ll be one of many IxDA peeps who volunteered to mentor the winning team of the Interaction ’11 Student Competition: AC4D’s Kat Davis and Ruby Ku (while I didn’t know they would be the winners when I volunteered, I couldn’t be more pleased).

If you or someone you know would be interested in attending AC4D next year, check out their site. They are now taking applications.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
ChittahChattah Quickies March 23rd, 2011
  • [from julienorvaisas] Pop-up dining takes residency atop major European landmarks [Springwise] – [Very inventive, experiential PR effort by Electrolux; seems ripped straight off the whiteboard of an ideation session.] The Cube is an aluminum-clad 140 square meter dining area including a 50 square meter terrace, soon to be based in the Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels. The highly portable restaurant — which can be transported by helicopter — plans to move from this Brussels base to a different European City every four to twelve weeks. Each location is selected to offer the 18 diners within The Cube a unique panoramic view of the surrounding area, whilst creating an eye catching new addition to the cityscape for onlookers on the outside. Lunches are available from EUR 150 and dinners from EUR 200, including wine and champagne. During dinner, the head chef — selected from the local area for a short residency in The Cube — takes center stage, with the Electrolux kitchen fully on show.
  • [from steve_portigal] New MFA in Products of Design [School of Visual Arts] – [I'm stoked for this new program and looking forward to my guest lecture spot] More and more we are recognizing that designed artifacts all live within dynamic systems, and that the creators and users of these artifacts must negotiate their value, purpose, and impact in an ever-changing world. We also recognize the limits of seeing designed objects as simply things; designers, who create multiples of their outputs, aren’t actually in the artifact business at all—they’re in the consequence business. And if we consider consequences first, above materiality or ergonomics or aesthetics, we are more likely to arrive at design offerings that are purposeful, thoughtful, sustainable, and wondrous. It is from this perspective that the Products of Design program addresses the needs and desires of the world at large. Through a combination of design thinking, design making, and design doing, we immerse our participants in hands-on physical exploration, rigorous investigation, and strategic intent.
  • [from steve_portigal] Take A Self-Portrait Every Day. Every Day. Every Day [Technologizer] – [This is brilliant: an application of technology that puts the astounding within reach of everyone. Leverages the "smart" aspect of smartphones to enable new activities!] If you’ve spent any time at all on the internet in the last few years, you’re probably responsible for one of the 18 million (now approaching 19 million) views of his video, mashing together years’ worth of self-portraits into a few minutes of thrashing hair and regular shaving. His name is Noah Kalina, he’s a New York-based photographer, and he has teamed up with some other people to create Everyday an iPhone app that makes it super-easy to create your own version of this video. The app thinks about everything, so you don’t have to. It helps you line your face up in roughly the same position every time you take a shot. It reminds you to take your photos on a regular basis. It saves them all for you, and when you’ve taken enough, it automatically turns them into a timelapse video, ready for posting online.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
ChittahChattah Quickies March 9th, 2011
  • [from julienorvaisas] An iPhone App Helps the Blind Identify Currency [NYTimes.com] – [Feature Evolution: Clever use of built-in iPhone camera and speaker to provide a critical service to the blind.] For the millions of blind people living in the United States, paying for something in cash can pose major challenges because there is no difference between the size and shape of a $1 or $100 bill. To tackle this problem, many blind people set up systems to identify a bill’s value by folding the notes into different sizes and shapes, which then make them easily identifiable later. A new application, the LookTel Money Reader, available for $2 on the Apple iOS platform, hopes to help solve this problem by taking advantage of the devices camera to “read money” and speak the value of the currency out loud.
  • [from julienorvaisas] How Designer Marc Ecko Is Using Foursquare to Spank School Spankers | Fast Company – [App Evolution: Foursquare is being employed as an tool of activism - a check-in at a school gets you user-generated reports of the school's record of corporal punishment. An interesting evolution of the application, potentially turning regular users/consumers/players into citizen-heroes, broadcasting more than just location.] Beyond the Foursquare integration, there's a larger game element at play. "Think of Unlimited Justice as a game, where you're the hero. But, instead of saving some far away, imaginary land, you're doing good, right here, in America," Ecko says in his promotional YouTube video. Users of the service not only find out about school that practice spanking, they rack up points on a leader board as they watch videos, connect over social networks, and voice their discontent over the practice to leaders. "Go viral, spread the word, and build your credibility as the ultimate activist."
  • [from steve_portigal] Core77 Design Awards – [Bring distributed collaboration to the awards game, Core enters the game just as the game is changing. Well done!] Instead of bringing everyone to one location, we took a new approach to assembling the jury, distributing the field globally. No plane fuel, more legroom. Our Jury Captains are based in 13 cities spread around eight countries. Each will recruit four people from their area to form a locally-based multidisciplinary Jury Team. They get to do the judging in their own location, and we’ll provide the snacks. Once their results are finalized and validated, the teams will reconvene for a live web broadcast revealing their Winners, Runners-up and Notables, and the reasoning behind their choices. And they’ll do it all without jet lag.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
ChittahChattah Quickies August 17th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] The opposite of user experience design [Jorge Arango] – [I've experienced the bewildering confusion of bureaucracy in another country but have always assumed implicitly that for "those people" it was tenable. Jorge's tangible frustration and brilliant insight puts the lie to my ridiculous parochialism] One of the advantages of living in the developing world is that I am exposed to a wide variety of UX disasters. If you find it hard to define UX, try dealing with a Panamanian government office. You will quickly see what a lack of UX thinking looks like, and this will in turn aid your appreciation and understanding of good UX. A few weeks ago I had to go to the Panamanian immigration office to take care of some paperwork. When I got there, I found chaos…I’ve come to understand that the opposite of UX design is not shitty design, thoughtless design, or piecemeal design. It is anarchy. Only strong leadership with a clear user-centric vision can transform the organization’s culture and improve the experience of its constituents.
  • [from steve_portigal] Please vote for our SXSW 2011 Panel – Mommy, Where Do Good Products Come From? (with Gretchen Anderson) – [Thanks for your vote!] Business case studies are the ultimate in reductionism: A complex business activity rooted in a specific context of people, company culture, time, and place is boiled down to a few key ideas. People confuse the terms innovation and invention; looking for breakthrough ideas sends companies into a frenzied search for "new" things not great or disruptive things. In this session, we will explore some different pathways to creating great product ideas. As designers and researchers, we're experienced enough to know that design research isn't the only approach or even always the best approach (a point of view that Don Norman vehemently argued in recent writings). For instance, design research wouldn't be sufficient to create a disruptive innovation like Gowalla. We'll outline a framework that looks at different approaches to idea generation, including corporate competencies and culture, customer needs and cultural context, and technological innovation.
  • [from steve_portigal] Please vote for my SXSW 2011 Panel – Diving Deep: Best Practices For Interviewing Users – [Thanks for your vote!] The skill of getting the right information from users is surprisingly complex and nuanced. This session will focus on getting past the obvious shallow information into the deeper, more subtle, yet crucial, insights. If you are going to the effort to meet with users in order to improve your designs, it's essential that you know how to get the best information and not leave insights behind. Being great in "field work" involves understanding and accepting your interviewee's world view, and being open to what they need to tell you (in addition to what you already know you want to learn). We'll focus on the importance of rapport-building and listening and look at techniques for both. We will review different types of questions, and why you need to have a range of question types. We'll also suggest practice exercises for improving your own interviewing skills and how to engage others in your organization successfully in the interviewing experience.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Minds Behind the Mind-Set List [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – [Freshmen in 2010 have never known a world in which a website can't get a book deal. Yes, the Mind-Set List book is coming] Mr. McBride, a professor of English and the humanities, says the list started on a lark back in 1997—some old college hands unwinding on a Friday afternoon, musing on how much freshmen don't know about recent history and culture. But such blind spots are to be expected, they had agreed, given the relative youth of the incoming class. They had concluded that professors should be mindful of how very different their students' life experiences are from their own. With colleagues, they had brainstormed about the cultural touchstones for that year's entering freshman class, whose members would have been born in 1979. That was the year of the Iran hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and Three Mile Island. The resulting list was passed around and eventually found its way into the hands of a Wall Street Journal reporter, who subsequently wrote about it.
  • [from steve_portigal] Beloit College Mindset List 2010 – [The annual list, in time for this year's freshmen, telling us older folks how our view of the world differs in key and/or bemusing ways]. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
ChittahChattah Quickies August 15th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] Ont. parents suspect Wi-Fi making kids sick [CBC.ca] – ["Proving" something is causing health problems is tough; but our willingness to believe with full certainty is powerful. We see this perception as a barrier to adoption in many categories of products and services.] A group of central Ontario parents is demanding their children's schools turn off wireless internet before they head back to school next month, fearing the technology is making the kids sick. Some parents in the Barrie, Ont., area say their children are showing a host of symptoms, ranging from headaches to dizziness and nausea and even racing heart rates. They believe the Wi-Fi setup in their kids' elementary schools may be the problem. The symptoms, which also include memory loss, trouble concentrating, skin rashes, hyperactivity, night sweats and insomnia, have been reported in 14 Ontario schools in Barrie, Bradford, Collingwood, Orillia and Wasaga Beach since the board decided to go wireless, Palmer said. "These kids are getting sick at school but not at home," he said.
  • [from steve_portigal] Budgets Tight, School Supply Lists Go Beyond Glue Sticks [NYTimes.com] – [A cultural reframe moment; retail is there] Schools across the country are beginning the new school year with shrinking budgets and outsize demands for basic supplies. On the list for pre-kindergartners at McClendon Elementary in Nevada, TX.: a package of cotton balls, two containers of facial tissue, rolls of paper towels, sheaves of manila and construction paper, and a package of paper sandwich bags.Retailers are rushing to cash in by expanding the back-to-school category like never before.Now some back-to-school aisles are almost becoming janitorial-supply destinations as multipacks of paper towels, cleaning spray and hand sanitizer are crammed alongside pens, notepads and backpacks. OfficeMax is featuring items like Clorox wipes in its school displays and is running two-for-one specials on cleaners like gum remover and disinfectant spray. Office Depot has added paper towels and hand sanitizer to its back-to-school aisles. Staples’ school fliers show reams of copy paper on sale.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
ChittahChattah Quickies August 9th, 2010
  • [from julienorvaisas] The Sketchbook Project: 2011[http://www.arthousecoop.com/projects/sketchbookproject] – [For $25 and an output of your own artistic energy, you can be part of this traveling sketchbook project. Choose from themes like "Adhere to me," "Help!" and "Down your street." Great way to practice sketching and story-telling!] Thousands of sketchbooks will be exhibited at galleries and museums as they make their way on tour across the country. After the tour, all sketchbooks will enter into the permanent collection of The Brooklyn Art Library, where they will be barcoded and available for the public to view. Anyone – from anywhere in the world – can be a part of the project. To participate and have us send you a sketchbook that will go on tour, start by choosing a theme.
  • [from steve_portigal] Want Smart Kids? Here’s What to Do [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – [It seems like this confuses correlation and causality, but it is a very actionable finding in that way] Buy a lot of books. That seems kind of obvious, right? But what's surprising, according to a new study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, is just how strong the correlation is between a child's academic achievement and the number of books his or her parents own. It's even more important than whether the parents went to college or hold white-collar jobs. Books matter. A lot.
  • [from steve_portigal] Google Research Director Peter Norvig on Being Wrong [Slate] – We do it by trying to fail faster and smaller. The average cycle for getting something done at Google is more like three months than three years. And the average team size is small, so if we have a new idea, we don't have to go through the political lobbying of saying, "Can we have 50 people to work on this?" Instead, it's more done bottom up: Two or three people get together and say, "Hey, I want to work on this." They don't need permission from the top level to get it started because it's just a couple of people; it's kind of off the books. …Within the company, we're really good at making decisions based on statistics. So if we have an idea—"You know, here's a way I can make search better"—we're really good at saying, "Well, let's do an experiment. Let's compare the old way with the new way and try it out on some sample searches." And we'll come back with a number and we'll know if it's better and how much better and so on. That's our bread and butter.
  • [from steve_portigal] Dangerous Ideas [Big Think] – [When we lead ideation exercises, we often talk about the importance of "bad" ideas and try to empower or teams to be free to come up with bad ideas; it's a way of coming un-stuck, to free yourself from "solving" the problem and just play with the problem. When we suggest trying things that are dangerous or immoral, people laugh, but they are immediately get it. Here's a more serious consideration of the power of "bad" ideas] Throughout the month of August, Big Think will introduce a different "dangerous idea" each day. Brace yourself: these ideas may at first seem shocking or counter-intuitive—but they are worth our attention, even if we end up rejecting them. Every idea in the series will be supported by contributions from leading experts.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
ChittahChattah Quickies June 11th, 2010
  • [from julienorvaisas] David Brooks Defends the Humanities [NYTimes.com] – "Let me stand up for the history, English and art classes, even in the face of today’s economic realities. Studying the humanities improves your ability to read and write. No matter what you do in life, you will have a huge advantage if you can read a paragraph and discern its meaning (a rarer talent than you might suppose). You will have enormous power if you are the person in the office who can write a clear and concise memo. Studying the humanities will give you a familiarity with the language of emotion." [Brooks veers into strange territory with his idea of the Big Shaggy, but makes a compelling argument for how powerful an education in the sometimes seemingly-pointless Humanities can be in the world of business (a message well-received by the girl with a degree in Art History).]
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Does the Internet Make You Smarter? – WSJ.com – "The case for digitally-driven stupidity assumes we'll fail to integrate digital freedoms into society as well as we integrated literacy. This assumption in turn rests on three beliefs: that the recent past was a glorious and irreplaceable high-water mark of intellectual attainment; that the present is only characterized by the silly stuff and not by the noble experiments; and that this generation of young people will fail to invent cultural norms that do for the Internet's abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print culture." [Clay Shirky's article is peppered with great insights about the intersection of information-sharing platforms and culture.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Banana museum splits for new digs [SFGate.com] – The 17,000 items, everything from a "rare" petrified banana to a banana-shaped boogie board, was lovingly collected over 38 years by Ken "The Bananist" Bannister. The Bananist, who sells real estate for a living, kept it at his International Banana Museum in the Mojave Desert town of Hesperia. Plans are for the museum, listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest collection dedicated to a single fruit, to reopen in January in this dusty town on the edge of the Salton Sea. Garbutt, who unlike Bannister was never much into bananas, is busy learning everything he can about the potassium-rich fruit that can be served in a variety of ways, including fresh-peeled, deep-fried or frozen and dipped in chocolate. He plans to open the museum next door to Skip's Liquors, which his family has owned since 1958. He says he hopes it will boost business there.
  • [from steve_portigal] G.M. Backtracks on Chevy Memo [NYTimes.com] – [The nickname, when authentic (we're looking at you "The Shack") is a powerful way of people to take ownership of a brand meaning. GM inadvertently unleashed some real passion around this issue] Responding to negative reactions to an internal memorandum discouraging use of the word Chevy, General Motors moved on Thursday to explain its strategy and to reassure consumers that it still valued the popular nickname for Chevrolet. The memorandum asked employees to “communicate our brand as Chevrolet.” For decades, Chevrolet and Chevy have appeared interchangeably in advertisements, and the Chevrolet Web site uses both terms. But after a strong public reaction to a report in The New York Times on the note, G.M. issued a statement on Thursday that said the memorandum had been “poorly worded.” The statement said that the memorandum reflected Chevrolet’s strategy as it expanded internationally, but that the company was not “discouraging customers or fans from using” Chevy.
  • [from steve_portigal] Angry clowns decry armed robbery by impostors [ajc.com] – [An interesting and surprising example of protecting brand identity] About 100 professional clowns who make money by performing on public buses marched through Salvadoran capital Thursday to protest the killing of a passenger by two imposter clowns. On Monday, a man was shot five times in the face and stomach when he declined to give money to two assailants dressed as clowns who boarded a public bus. No one has been arrested. The protesters — wearing oversized bow ties, tiny hats and big yellow pants — marched down San Salvador's main street in an effort to both entertain and educate passersby. Several held signs insisting that real clowns are not criminals. "We are protesting so that people know we are not killers," said professional clown Ana Noelia Ramirez. "The people who did this are not clowns. They unfortunately used our costume and our makeup to commit a monstrous act." (via BoingBoing)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
ChittahChattah Quickies June 3rd, 2010
  • Subway To Start Tessellating Cheese July 1? [The Consumerist] – Three years after the protests began, it seems Subway has finally listened to its customers and will start tessellating cheese on its sandwiches, according to what appears to be an internal weekly newsletter. As anyone who has gotten a Subway sandwich knows, most Subways layer their isosceles-cut cheese in an overlapping fashion. This means one side of the sandwich gets more cheese than the other and leaves pockets of zero cheese, resulting in a uneven flavor and texture distribution. As the newsletter says, "This will improve the cheese coverage on the sandwiches."
  • Reading Lolita On Paper [graphpaper.com] – Throughout the final terrifying third act of the book, Nabokov knew that the reader would be constantly, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, seeking (or deliberately avoiding seeking) a single word, a word whose distinctive typographical form would light up like a flare in the reader’s peripheral vision, paragraphs in advance, impossible to miss. Every time you turn a page, even if you avoid it, your eyes will, in an instant, claw through the one-thousand characters in every new two-page spread to find it, the word, the single characteristic letter. He plays with this visual expectation so thoroughly — torments the reader, in fact — that it’s inconceivable that he wasn’t always thinking about printed words, words on pages being turned in a reader’s hands. Oh, how glad am I that I was unable to find Lolita in any sort of eBook format.
  • Kno is a digital textbook that is about to change the way knowledge is transmitted and the way students learn – First we did our homework about the way students do their homework. We studied the way they study. We probed them about the best way to re-imagine the analog studying and reading experience in the digital world. The Kno’s two generous panels open like written material has opened for hundreds of years. The experience is reassuringly book-like. Indeed, because we respect and honor the textbook, content of 99 percent of all textbooks – including the charts and graphs – fit flawlessly. No material spills beyond the screen, so there’s no awkward scrolling or manipulation required. If Kno only transferred existing textbooks into a digital form, we might as well sleep in and skip class. Kno pushes further than that. Our mission is to create a new kind of immersive, fluid, fully-engaging learning experience – made possible because the power of the physical is combined, for the first time, with the potential of the digital. It’s a whole new form factor that feels natural because it is natural.
  • Christina York’s sketched notes from UPA2010 – [Her summary of my presentation begins on slide 5] This was the perfect complement to Rachel Hinman’s opening keynote. Steve enthusiastically dives deeper into cultural clues, cues and gaps that impact our work and our own experiences in this world. In this session I sat at the front, which I usually don’t do (I like to observe the entire room). However, I am a fan of Steve’s and was like a groupie in the front row. How embarrassing. But Carol sat next to me, and I felt better about myself. Steve delivered an impassioned talk and engaged an audience that richly represented the cultures present at this conference. The group discussion was as rich as the presentation and I really appreciated that Steve’s focus was to give us something to think about and not try to ground everything in application.
  • Complete Beginner’s Guide to Design Research [UX Booth] – Valiant attempt to take a complex volume of expertise and boil it down to some essentials. Not sure what it means to be a "luminary" in this field but certainly the company we're listed with is pretty awesome. Curious to hear what others have to say about this piece.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
Beyond visual communication May 18th, 2010

A couple of great examples of alternative ways of communicating information…

Australian financial-advisory firm BT using art installations to explain stock investing (full story at Fast Company )

And going back in time a bit, Ben Cohen (of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream) representing the apportioning of the Federal Discretionary Budget with stacks of Oreo cookies.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
ChittahChattah Quickies November 27th, 2009
  • Waldo Hunt, 88, dies; repopularized pop-up books in 1960s – "He was such an important publisher of pop-up books who really advanced them technically. The pop-up designers who worked for him were amazing creative engineers," said Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum of UCLA.

    The first golden age of movable books began in the late 1800s, when European publishers crafted elaborate books for children, and ended with the onset of World War I. With Mr. Hunt's epiphany, the second golden age was about to begin.

    "I knew I'd found the magic key," Mr. Hunt said. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country. No one could afford to make them here. They had to be done by hand, and labor was too expensive."

    He started Graphics International, and produced a series of pop-up ads featuring zoo scenes as part of a magazine campaign for Wrigley's gum. Soon, his company was creating pop-up table decorations and greeting cards for Hallmark.

  • Electronic Popable Books from MIT – Electronic popables integrate paper-based electronic sensors that allow amazing interactivity — turning on lights and moving images at the touch of a finger. Will it catch on or will the line between printing on paper and electronic media become so blurred that consumers will opt to watch the story on a screen?
  • StoryCorps: National Day of Listening – On the day after Thanksgiving, set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you. You can interview anyone you choose: an older relative, a friend, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood.

    You can preserve the interview using recording equipment readily available in most homes, such as cell phones, tape recorders, computers, or even pen and paper. Our free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide is easy to use and will prepare you and your interview partner to record a memorable conversation, no matter which recording method you choose.

    Make a yearly tradition of listening to and preserving a loved one’s story. The stories you collect will become treasured keepsakes that grow more valuable with each passing generation.
    (via BoingBoing)

  • London 2009 – a set on Flickr – My London pictures from our recent visit
  • Every year, The Harris Poll asks a cross-section of adults whether they think about 20 leading industries do a good or a bad job of serving their consumers. – Note that the cable industry regularly appears on this poll as doing a bad job.
  • Time Warner insincerely and manipulatively asks customers to "vote" if it should "get tough" or "roll over" – Facing expiring deals with a number of key programmers, the nation's second-largest cable operator is launching a Web site, rolloverorgettough.com, which it says is designed to give its subscribers a voice in what it calls unfair price demands by content suppliers. Time Warner says those who operate broadcast and cable networks are asking for "incredible price hikes," as much as 300%. Customers will be able to vote on whether the operator rolls over, or should get tough, about price increases.

    "You're our customers, so help us decide what to do. We're just one company, but there are millions of you. Together, we just might be able to make a difference in what America pays for its favorite entertainment."

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post    
ChittahChattah Quickies October 25th, 2009
  • Drowning in Data in Kathmandu – Exchange between me and Dave Robertson about how to process the overwhelming amount of experiential and visual stimulation that comes from spending time someplace very foreign.
  • Obituary: Ray Browne / Scholar who pioneered the study of popular culture – Ray Browne, an Ohio university professor who was credited with coining the phrase "popular culture" and pioneering the study of things such as bumper stickers and cartoons, has died. He was 87.

    He developed the first academic department devoted to studying what he called the "people's culture" at Bowling Green in 1973.

    "Culture is everything from the food we've always eaten to the clothes we've always worn," he said in a 2003 interview.

  • Disney offers refunds for Baby Einstein DVDs – Canadian and U.S. parents who feel duped by claims that Baby Einstein videos were brain boosters for their infants and toddlers can now get a refund for old merchandise from the Walt Disney Company.

    The company agreed after a lengthy campaign by a coalition of educators and parents, who complained Disney's marketing materials implied their videos for babies under 2 years of age were beneficial for cognitive development.

    The move to compensate some customers comes after Disney's Baby Einstein stopped using some claims following a complaint lodged with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

    The group alleged deceptive marketing.

    "Disney took the word 'educational' off of its website and its marketing, but we felt that parents deserved more," child psychologist Susan Linn, co-founder of the organization, said yesterday.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
Comments Off  |   Email This Post