Posts tagged “interactions”

Oh um hey there Awkward Chatbot

Awkward Chatbot

While our collective techo-optimism leads us to expect – and create – technology-driven experiences (say, bots) of all types that represent our best selves. But to be more realistic we need to consider a wide range of interaction styles. Enter Awkward Chatbot, a site that effectively simulates the disengaged, ineffective and well, awkward, interactions that characterize instant messaging.

earlier

You: Do you have anything to tell the readers of All This ChittahChattah?

Chatbot: are you like mad at me or something lol

Sigh.

Big Content/Big Data Quickies

My interactions article Content, The Once And Future King has just come out. Here are some other examples, articles, resources, and so on that build on the topics of Big Content and Big Data that I explored.

99 Problems (Explicit Political Remix) [YouTube] – Jay-Z’s 99 Problems “covered” by Barack Obama. Astonishing.

Look to the skies. The flying saucers will always be there [MetaFilter] – Overview of Dickie Goodman and break-in records.

After Buchanan and Goodman got sued for copyright violations, they exploited the situation for more publicity, by releasing Buchanan and Goodman on Trial, in which the district attorney was portrayed by Little Richard. Their actual trial turned out even better, establishing a precedent for parodic fair use quotations of hit records, as long as copyright holders were compensated. Goodman would then spend several decades making more “break-in” records, where snippets from Top 40 hits were used to “break in” with commentary on the action. Because the records exploited contemporary news events and pop cultural trends, Goodman’s break-in records sound like little time capsules, inspired by topics as varied 50s folk music (The Banana Boat Story), Sputnik (Santa and the Satellite), Westerns (The Flying Saucer Goes West), monster movies (Frankenstein ’59/Frankenstein Returns), the Cold War (Russian Bandstand), TV cop shows (the Touchables in Brooklyn), the Berlin Wall (Berlin Top Ten), the 1968 Democratic convention (On Campus), the Apollo moon landing (Luna Trip), blaxploitation (Superfly Meets Shaft), Richard Nixon (Watergrate), and gas shortages (Energy Crisis ’74)

Raiders of the Lost Archives [YouTube] – “Shot-by-shot comparison of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ vs. scenes from 30 different adventure films made between 1919-1973.

Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity [McKinsey] – Definitive report on Big Data, with downloadable reports, podcasts, and more.

The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets-so-called big data-will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus, according to research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office. Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future

How Big Data Became So Big [NYT] – A brief cultural history of the concept of Big Data and how it’s tipped into the mainstream this past year.

Rising piles of data have long been a challenge. In the late 19th century, census takers struggled with how to count and categorize the rapidly growing United States population. An innovative breakthrough came in time for the 1890 census, when the population reached 63 million. The data-taming tool proved to be machine-readable punched cards, invented by Herman Hollerith; these cards were the bedrock technology of the company that became I.B.M.

The Ethnographer’s Complete Guide to Big Data: Small Data People in a Big Data World [Ethnography Matters] – Jenna Burrell has a three-part series of posts looks at qualitative cultural work and both traditional and emerging approaches to larger and larger data sets.

Being an ethnographer makes me more of a “small data” person. It seems counter-intuitive at first, but I find there are good, sound reasons to sometimes forgo the opportunity to collect more data. This gets to ever present questions about how much is sufficient when doing qualitative or, more specifically, ethnographic research (i.e. how many people to interview? how many months to spend in the field? etc). I find memory limits are an important bounding factor. Can I remember key points from each interview, distinctive elements of that individual’s story? Can I recall the setting and some of the things I observed there? Reading a transcript or my field notes, can I put myself back in that time and place? To have good recall and mastery of your data helps you to move through it with agility and to draw the kinds of surprising thematic connections across data that make ethnographic work, at times, profound.

Designing for Big Data [Jeffrey Veen] – A 20-minute talk from Web2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Veen describes how “technology has enabled massive amounts of data to be recorded, stored, and analyzed. Putting those things together has resulted in some fascinating innovations that echo data visualization work that’s been happening for centuries.”

Our latest article: Content, the Once and Future King


Our latest interactions column Content, the Once and Future King has just been published.

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is a 24-hour film, in which each minute of the 24 hours is depicted by images of clocks (or other depictions of the time) from other movies. Creating The Clock was an intensive, meticulous process. For at least several months, as many as six people spent their days watching DVDs and ripping potential clips; Marclay spent three years working at his computer for 10 to 12 hours a day. With at least 90 years of cinematic history to work with, and perhaps 90,000 movies available, there is a substantial corpus of moving images to draw from. Let’s call this Big Content.

Get the PDF here.

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Our latest article: Never Eat Anything Raw


Our latest interactions column (written by Steve Portigal and Julie Norvaisas) Never Eat Anything Raw: Fieldwork Lessons from the Pros has just been published.

Interviewing is based on asking questions. As children we all learned to ask questions (perhaps more than the adults around us were ready for!), but it takes work to become a skilled interviewer-the kind of interviewer with whom a natural exchange is almost inevitable and for whom asking questions is as effortless as Roger Federer’s forehand. Great interviewers are made, not born. We’ve had the ongoing opportunity to think even more about the experiences that have shaped us as interviewers. Of course, as researchers we are compelled to look outside ourselves, so we asked some people we admire to tell us about how they improve their interviewing skills. We have synthesized our findings into four key areas: practice, reflect,
critique, and exchange.

Get the PDF here, and check out (and add to) the fieldwork War Stories here.

Previous articles also available:

Our latest article: Kilroy Was Here


Our latest interactions column (written by Steve Portigal and Julie Norvaisas) Kilroy Was Here has just been published.

Reviled or celebrated, graffiti is ubiquitous in even the least-urban environments. With roots in the wall-scrawled slogans of ancient Greece, it is a physical yet ephemeral expression of the personality of a neighborhood. It allows us to see a colorful trail of inhabitants’ interactions with public spaces. Graffiti (or street art, or urban art) has been displayed in (and arguably corrupted by) art exhibitions, influenced fashion and pop culture, and generated revenue for municipalities and the paint-removal industry alike. Of course, it’s largely illegal. It’s everywhere, and we are grateful. Perhaps we are drawn to the element of danger that feeds street art, and the rebellion implicit in its enjoyment (probably the same reasons we loved the Fonz!)…We find ourselves considering the street art of one city, or neighborhood, or corner, as a whole, compared to what we know from other cities, neighborhoods, and corners. What elements make them visually distinct? What might these observations say about the culture or history of the location? How does one graffito fit into the larger context of surrounding graffiti? We can channel our inner visual anthropologist, uncovering signs not only of the times but also of the place.

Get the PDF here and let us know what you think. Do you follow street art? What do you like about it? Share your pictures with us!

And, here are some photos to supplement the article

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And then there were themes: Secondary research results

We read quite a bit on a daily basis here. Once we embarked on the Omni project, everything crossing our screens seemed to relate to the topic at hand. We created a secondary research database to document and collect various articles, blogs, video, blurbs and stories about the role of technology in our lives. We commented on them. We tagged them with keywords. We talked about them. We thought about what we’ve learned from years of doing fieldwork and being curious, and attending conferences and meetings. As they will, patterns and themes began to emerge, which are helping us to ground and organize our thinking as we move forward into our first phase of primary fieldwork.

We’re excited to share some of what’s occupying our thoughts based on that work. Disclaimers and caveats: we are deliberately not including links to all the articles that informed us, to avoid being overwhelming. We’ll post that detailed bibliography next week. We have, however, added a link or two here and there to give you a glimpse into from whence our ideas came.

We noticed a powerful, overarching effect: the discourse about how technology is experienced has been characterized by a remarkably strong polarity. We are either becoming dumber or smarter. Being threatened or enabled to greatness. Dehumanized or globalized. Diseased or cured. If we were to think of this as a personal relationship, we’re at a crossroads. What is gained and lost by this alliance? We are making a list of pros and cons as a culture. Some entries in this ledger are tangible and physical, others are emotional and spiritual. We project our fears and our dreams onto our technology-based interactions and experiences. We are inspired and terrified. Some of us want to break up with technology, others are ready to commit.

Example: Bill Davidow in the Atlantic: Life in the Age of Extremes

We hear a lot of chatter, and have a lot of questions about…

…the notion of our own personal exposure. We put our identity (or identities) out there, and our behavior gathers around it in a massive snowball effect, which defines us in this context. So, that’s done then, to a greater or lesser extent. How do we protect ourselves? From who/what? Is it possible to be safe, or have we ceded control of our personal choices and activities in return for participation? The consequences of participation are unclear. We no longer have a clear mental model about the trajectory of our roles. It’s difficult to preview the positive or consider an exit strategy. The fate of our digital lives after our physical death is an example of this uncertainty. How will more exposure resulting from more access, inter-connectivity and integration of our technologies add to the hullabaloo?

See: CNN Money/Fortune’s Review of Jeff Jarvis’ Book Public Parts Internet Privacy: Is it Overrated?

…the broader relational aspects of our technology-enabled interactions. One:one, one:many, one:technology, tech:tech. The oft-pondered question: are we now closer or more isolated from other people for all this? Are we more or less human as a result of these interactions? Who is serving who, or what? The data we generate can be seen as more interesting than the content (even to our own “friends”). We are forced to analyze and qualify relationships in new ways. How many friends do you have? As magical as the tools and tech we interact with are, our relationships with each other even is more complex than it can support. We don’t have the inner social tools to deal with technologically fueled communication. New tech-driven awkward situations arise, or olde-tyme situations, such as break-ups, take on another layer to navigate. What are strategies help deal with all our connections and interconnections, both with human and non-human actors? When do they fail?

Check out: Jonnie Hughes on Salon The Tribesman who Facebook Friended Me

…the constant state of transformation we’re in, fueled by the rapid and endless development cycle for both experiences and hardware solutions that utilize new tech. We have to first unlearn, then learn and relearn ways to do both common and exceptional tasks on a daily basis. The way I note something on my calendar, for instance, has become orders of magnitude more complex than it used to be. Reinforced behaviors and habits are in a constant state of flux, and complicated by the fact that we are interconnected and affected by what we are doing, relationally, with other people and objects. People, of course, have different levels of comfort and patience with these transformations, thus early adopters vs. laggards. Behavioral change is a notoriously difficult charge for innovators, so how do we address the fact that we are thrusting people into such challenging zones on a regular basis?

For instance: Cathy Davidson in the Chronicle of Higher Education Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age

…the physical effects and experiences with technology. Sure, it’s virtual, but it’s also tangible, and is becoming biological. Consumer technologies that intersect with our bodies and minds are increasingly available, allowing us to quantify ourselves. Different poses and postures are being impacted and invented through devices and interactions. Handwriting is on the decline, finger-typing is passé, thumb-typing is prime, gesture and NUI are on the rise. What are the implications as we think increasingly of technology as part of our brains, biology and environment? How are our bodies and environments evolving to keep up?

As in: Pagan Kennedy in the New York Times Magazine The Cyborg in All of Us

…the onslaught of information/data/content/feeds/streams/news/media which we are thinking of as a wonderland, in the manner of Alice’s rabbit-hole. The Faustian bargain is on – do we revel in the delight of access or cringe under the burden of the onslaught? Apps (Siri, Evernote) and strategies (in-box zero, digital holidays, gamification) abound to manage.

No link here… you’re soaking in it!

Our latest article: Elevator Pitch


Our latest interactions column (written by Steve Portigal and Julie Norvaisas) Elevator Pitch has just been published.

It seems only yesterday that the VCR and its flashing 12:00 was the go-to whipping boy for the interaction field. “Gosh almighty,” the lament would rise. “What does it say about us if we can’t even make a usable digital clock, one that won’t blinkingly admonish us for our failures?” Note to younger readers: The VCR, now obsolete, was an entertainment device that “streamed” video information directly from physical media, not unlike its successor, the nearly obsolete DVD player. We’re stoked to propose an alternative that isn’t likely to be obsolete for a while: the elevator.

Get the PDF here.

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Our latest article: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting It


Our latest interactions column (written in collaboration with Julie Norvaisas) What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting It has just been published.

We are inevitably astounded and affected by what exists outside of explicit research project constraints.We indulged in a little reflection on some of the people we’ve met and how meeting them took us outside of the business questions at hand but had a real impact on the team and reframed the way we thought about the business questions. This opportunity to dwell on the exception provides a reminder of how these experiences deliver a potent dose of humanity to the business of providing products for people.

Get the PDF here.

Previous articles also available:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] a new analog take on the book [Influxinsights] – [In our Reading Ahead project we encouraged designers and publishers to consider the possibilities for design in the traditional book, and not just focus on what digital can bring. So this was exciting to see!] These are reactions to a radical new book design from Visual Editions, a UK based publisher with a new take on the reading experience. The book is "Tree of Codes" and it's author Jonathan Safran Foer's experiment to cut-in, using die-cuts to his favorite book, "The Street of Crocodiles" by Bruno Schultz.

Our latest article: The Hard Work Lies Ahead (If You Want It)


My latest interactions column The Hard Work Lies Ahead (If You Want It) has just been published.

Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” from 1943 is a well-known psychological framework that has been applied (directly, or through derivative versions) to thousands of diverse problems. Our work often brings us back to his hierarchy as we consider addressing a richer set of needs through the stuff we’re making. And while I like to look at and think about people more than stuff, I feel as though we’ve come to a point where we aren’t thinking hard enough about the “stuff.” It’s high time to leverage this style of hierarchy to challenge the types of user experiences we’re enabling with the stuff we’re making.

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Previous articles also available:

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Why Evan Williams of Twitter Demoted Himself [NYTimes.com] – [Creating a small but deliberate interaction – say, logging onto a computer – that serves as an engine of culture change in an organization] Twitter’s executives talk about the “Dunbar number” — the maximum number of people, generally believed to be 150, with whom one person can have strong relationships. This effort, mind you, comes from a company with a business model that fosters a multitude of ever-growing — and largely glancing — interactions among Twitter’s users. “I’ve never seen a company so focused on avoiding the Dunbar number,” says Adam Bain, who recently joined Twitter from the News Corporation as head of global revenue. “You can tell Ev planned it out.” Each time employees log on to their computers, for instance, they see a photo of a colleague, with clues and a list of the person’s hobbies, and must identify the person. And notes from every meeting are posted for all employees to read.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] A Morose and Downbeat Woman is My Co-Pilot [Boing Boing] – [Nass and Yen on Boing Boing talking about their body of research, of which we've long been fans, around the social behaviors that emerge in our interactions with technology. Back in the day, their research was under the branding Computers are Social Actors, but this latest offering seems to be positioned a bit more broadly in focus and in appeal] In my new book, The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us about Human Relationships, I describe almost one hundred rules for social behavior that can be derived from experimental studies of how people use technology and that can make people more likeable, effective, and persuasive. The current study gives us two principles to guide interactions with people (as well as technology): telling upset people to "look at the bright side of life" can be off-putting, and "misery loves miserable company."
  • [from steve_portigal] There is a Horse in the Apple Store [Frank Chimero] – [A lovely story that delivers on so many levels, from pure observational humor to an insightful treatise on how we engage – or not – with the world] THERE IS A LITTLE PONY IN THE APPLE STORE. What the hell? A beautiful little pony, with a flowing mane, the likes of which my sister would have killed to get for Christmas when she was 7 or 8. And, NOONE is looking at this thing. I wondered: if there were kids in the Apple Store, would they notice? “Yes,” I say. “Yes, they would.” Kids have a magnetic connection to animals. But there are no children in the Apple Store, for the same reason you would not see a child in a jewelry store: things are small and fragile and expensive and shiny. And if you have a child, you probably can not afford Apple products. But, if a child were here, they would see the pony, because when you’re a kid, you notice everything, because everything is new.
  • [from steve_portigal] Does Your Language Shape How You Think? [NYTimes.com] – [Some of the latest thinking on this evolving exploration] French and Spanish speakers were asked to assign human voices to various objects in a cartoon. When French speakers saw a picture of a fork (la fourchette), most of them wanted it to speak in a woman’s voice, but Spanish speakers, for whom el tenedor is masculine, preferred a gravelly male voice for it. More recently, psychologists have even shown that “gendered languages” imprint gender traits for objects so strongly in the mind that these associations obstruct speakers’ ability to commit information to memory.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Austrian phone booths repurposed to charge electric vehicles [Springwise.com] – [Creative monetization of unconsumption.] Now that mobile phones are ubiquitous, public phone booths are fast becoming obsolete. In a bid to find a viable new use for its 13,500 phone booths around the country, Telekom Austria has begun converting them into battery recharging stations for electric cars, scooters and motorbikes. Unveiling its first phone booth-turned-recharging station in front of the company's Vienna headquarters in May, Telekom Austria announced plans to convert an additional 29 phone booths by the end of this year. During the initial trial period, recharging is free. The company eventually plans to charge a single-digit euro sum for the recharging service, with payments to be made via mobile phone.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Adding By Leaving Out: The Power of the Pause [Liz Danzico, interactions magazine] – [We have noted the power of the pause during interviews; Ms. Danzico explores the notion at points further down the design process.] I propose that we’re too impatient with the pause, and as a result, we’re missing out on a great deal. What would happen if, as communicators and designers, we became more comfortable with the pause? Because it turns out we can add by leaving out. The pause has power.
  • [from steve_portigal] Wonder Woman, 69, Has Style and Mythos Makeover [NYTimes.com] – “She’s been locked into pretty much the exact same outfit since her debut in 1941,” Mr. Straczynski wrote. "I wanted to toughen her up, and give her a modern sensibility.”…The new costume was designed by artist Jim Lee. Given the assignment, “my first reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh,’ ” Mr. Lee said. He welcomed the challenge: “When these characters become so branded that you can’t change things, they become ossified.”…The new look ­ with an understated “W” insignia, a midnight blue jacket and a flinty fusion of black tights and boots ­ is darker than the famed swimsuit-style outfit, and aims to be contemporary, functional….In 1968 Wonder Woman lost her powers, dressed mod and practiced martial arts. It took the attention of Gloria Steinem to protest the change, and to help get the Amazon back into her star-spangled duds. Ms. Steinem went on to use Wonder Woman on the cover of the first issue of Ms. magazine in 1972 with the line “Wonder Woman for President.”

URF10: Research, Creativity and Astonishment

Many thanks to our friends at Bolt|Peters for hosting an energizing User Research Friday last week! Dan and I heard a recurring theme of research and creativity, both in method and mindset. Dan noted that several people spoke about research and creativity as though they were separate, and that combining them was somehow novel. But research done well, from framing the problem through storytelling, is creative by nature!

In particular I was struck by how Michal Migurski of Stamen (see his annotated slides here and video here) framed his discussion on their creative visualizations of information streams for Digg Labs and the Twitter Track for the Olympics (to name just a couple) as research-free, when we saw their work as a terrific illustration of a pretty standard method: Using stimulus (in this case the visualizations themselves) to do rapid prototyping based on immediate user feedback, all as a way to guide development. He even talked about Digg Labs as a “wide-open playing ground” for this kind of cycle of experimentation.


One of many visualizations on Digg Labs


NBC Olympics Real Time Twitter Tracker

Even beyond that, Migurski implied that Stamen’s visualizations have become research tools that help people to understand, navigate and make use of vast swathes of data, such as the journalist who keeps the Digg example up on his screen as a snapshot of what’s got buzz. So Stamen’s gorgeous visualizations are really a product of research as well as possibly a nascent research method. If their creation doesn’t feel to Migurski like deliberate research methods are being employed that may be because it’s just so embedded in their process. I’d argue that’s the best kind of research: an integral part of the process.

Now, terms like “User Research” are slippery, but I do object to his definition:

“User research, to me, is an attempt to mitigate and control astonishment by determining what an audience believes or expects, and where possible delivering on that belief and expectation. User research promises stability and predictable outcomes, and I think that we’re at a curve in the road where the idea of stability is just not all that interesting.”

This sounds like the objectives of conventional focus group or usability testing, not the front-end discovery methods that are at the core of our discipline. Our goal is not simply to determine what consumers believe or expect and then use those observations as marching orders, but to creatively synthesize these discoveries into insights about what people need and value, in order to drive the development of experiences and products that delight and (why not!) astonish.

Overall, the content at URF10 left us hungry for more discussion about how creative research methods are used as a set of inputs and methods that complement and inform design and business strategy at many stages of the development process.

Finally, a tip of the hat to presenter Ed Langstroth of Volkswagen for telling us about the “Party Mode” button (which turns up the bass in the back of the vehicle) on the new Toyota 4-Runner:

For more User Research Friday goodness, check out Steve’s 2008 User Research Friday presentation: Research and Design: Ships in the Night? (slides, audio, and video here) and the subsequent articles in interactions: Part I and Part II .

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Social Change: Women, Networks, and Technology by Natalie Quizon [interactions magazine] – [I'm working as a contributing editor for interactions magazine and some of the first articles I've been involved in are starting to appear!]

    More than 35 years ago, Laya Wiesner first came up with the idea of convening a workshop at MIT University on Women In Science and Technology (WIT). In her role as the wife of Jerome Wiesner, then the 13th president of MIT, she immersed herself in what she recognized was a critical educational issue. The subsequent report introduced the above questions, the guiding objectives of the WIT Workshop held at MIT in 1973, which focused on the challenging dearth of women in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields (STEM).

  • Operationalizing Brands with New Technologies by Denise Lee Yohn [interactions magazine] – [I'm working as a contributing editor for interactions magazine and some of the first articles I've been involved in are starting to appear!] New technologies-like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, social networking, augmented reality, tagging, wikis, social indexing-and the applications they make possible have affected our culture in a profound way. Still, I hope they will have an even greater impact going forward.

    Truth is, the use of these new technologies has been quite limited when it comes to the way companies build their brands. To date, most technology-enabled, brand-building approaches have focused on brand expression and communication…

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