Posts tagged “japan”

User research self-reporting in the YouTube era

Pizza in JAPAN (embedded below) is a charming video by some Canadian students living in Japan. It’s the type of self-reporting I would love to see more of when I do researcher with users. In the easygoing video they walk through the whole experience from ordering online to the tasting. The young women offer pretty basic but helpful compare-and-contrast commentary. There are tons of YouTube videos showing just how crazee things are in Asia; this isn’t trying for that, it’s just such a nice explanation from someone in a new culture about that culture, speaking back to their home culture.

I’m curious if an increasing fluency with digital tools mean that we can start to expect this level of quality in self-reporting from engaged, creative research participants. Self-reporting is of course limited to what respondents decide to share with you; it’s always going to be incomplete but I see this wonderful example as very encouraging. Check it out: look for the little Japanese mannerisms and marvel at the experience these girls are having.

David’s War Story: Footloose

Interaction designer David Hoard shares a story where even his best intentions are not sufficient to prevent a perplexing gaffe.

Researcher Chinami Inaishi and I were on a 10-day trip to Tokyo to interview kids and young adults about their video game use. It was 1995 and the console wars were in full effect. Chinami is Japanese, but had lived in the US for many years. So she was the perfect local guide to help me understand the cultural nuances we were witnessing. She also helped us navigate the nearly impossible house numbering system in Tokyo, where house 31 was next to number 6, which was next to 109. This echoed one theme of the trip: squeeze things in wherever you can find space for them. Every square inch will be utilized.

The visits were fascinating and enriching at each stop. We saw small beautiful homes with Western-style furniture next to Japanese Tatami rooms. We interviewed a young man with the smallest apartment ever, a tiny 8′ x 8′ space packed to the gills with Western-oriented magazines, blue jeans, skateboards, and a (unused) full-size surfboard. The kids were impressive, with their beautiful calligraphy work and exacting toy collections. In all cases, no square inch of space was unused, and that made me rethink the design we were considering. A low, wide game console was perhaps out, replaced by a slim vertical unit that could fit in one of their densely packed bookcases.

Before the trip, I had done my best to read up on Japanese culture and manners. There’s no way to learn a culture from a book or two – my goal was simply to avoid making a big mistake. I practiced and practiced the few phrases I would need (Chinami was doing simultaneous translation for 98% of it). I knew my two-handed business card presentation technique, and I nearly understood the rules for bowing.

We’d been through most of the visits, and so far so good. All of the sessions had gone fairly well, and we were learning a lot. But then I did something bad. Something wrong.

We had been visiting a house near the end of a train line, slightly out of the city-center. The session was over; it was time to pack up the camera and notes and head out. We were doing our now-normal goodbye ritual, trying to check off the right etiquette boxes. And then it happened: I misstepped. Near the front door, I stepped my sock foot just off the wood floor and onto the carpet. With one shoe on already. Unknown to me, I just violated an important manner about where you must be (and must not be) when putting your shoes back on when you leave.

Instantly the whole family erupted in hysterical laughter, with everyone pointing at me. Suddenly I was in a mayday situation, with my manners in a dangerous nosedive. Confused, I did my best to get my shoes on as Chinami pulled me out the door and onto the street. She was like a commando extricating someone from an international hotspot.

“What was that??” I asked, once we were out on the street.

Chinami informed me that laughter (apparently hysterical laughter) was how the Japanese cope with a faux-pas or embarrassing situation. Embarrassment was indeed what I created, and I felt it too. Intense embarrassment comes with a whole set of physical sensations. You’re flushed, addled, and dazed. You’ve got great regret, but it’s too late to fix it.

When we go out to do field research, we often feel we are going out to observe a strange species in its native habitat. We are the scientists, they are the creatures to be documented. We go to great lengths to help them feel comfortable with our scientist-like presence. We feel like we are the smart ones.

But guess what? The research participants are in their native habitat, and are experts on their own lives. We the researchers are the weird aliens. We’re the ones not getting their nuance. We’re the ones who are sometimes worthy of mockery.

But it’s all in a days work when you’re out doing research; you’ve got to be light on your feet. Every research session I’ve ever been on has been a dance to cover the material and sniff out insights right below the surface. All while you try to make everyone comfortable and keep the conversation flowing. It’s that dance that makes it exciting; just try to keep your toes in the right place.

Jaimes and Aico’s War Story: Sumimasen!

Jaimes Nel of Connected Futures collaborated with Aico Shimuzu to tell this story about their rapid research in post-quake Japan.

Research often feels like a process of managing confusion and uncertainty until we find conceptual tools to understand a situation. Failure (and subsequent redemption) are, after all, a well-worn trope in ethnography. The journey from outsider to insider is an effective literary technique that boosts the credibility of the storyteller.

My experience is an ordinary day’s work on a more asymmetric battlefield than a typical client project. On the 11th of March 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan, causing a tidal wave that devastated towns up and down the coast of Tohoku province. Travelling to Japan later that year, I was interested in how the earthquake had affected people around the country. They had been experiencing rolling power blackouts for several months in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear emergency and I wanted to get a sense of whether this might prompt change in a country that has experienced sluggish growth for nearly two decades. I was only in Tokyo for a week, with other commitments, but managed to set aside a day for some research time with Aico Shimuzu, a friend who works as a design researcher and innovation consultant in Tokyo.

Our very straightforward approach was to meet at a busy train station, a little way away from the usual Tokyo hotspots of Shibuya or Shinjuku, and simply approach people in the street, asking for a few moments of their time. We spent around 3 to 4 hours wandering through the streets around the station, striking up conversations when we could. As you might expect, more people said no to us than yes. It was probably quite helpful that we were a man and a woman, and Japanese and a foreigner. In a culture that can be very reserved, it was much easier for me to approach strangers than it was for Aico. This small cultural sin was more easily forgiven of a foreigner. My faltering Japanese also made for a great opening line, as Aico would have to step in and rescue our victims! In all we managed to have brief conversations with 7 people (some in pairs and some on their own). They kindly agreed to let us photograph them and told us about their experiences since the earthquake and what they thought had changed in Japan.

Their stories were moving, and worrying. They all agreed that things had to change, but the events of 11th March had shaken their confidence in the authorities. Some emphasised the need to appreciate daily life, as the things that are ordinarily taken for granted had become impossible for people in Tohoku. One woman felt Japan had become selfish, and needed to re-emphasise connections between people, telling us “In the end, we can never live alone. We have to help each other.”

Aico and I were struck by the earnestness with which the people we spoke to desired change. This was truly an event that made people notice that the infrastructure around them could not always be relied on. In a way, an event such as this is like a giant “breach” experiment, in which the unspoken assumptions we rely on to get along with each other have broken down. As we walked, Aico and I talked about all of these issues and the people who took the time to chat with us helped us learn a little bit more about our own perspectives and gave us fuel to think about things. In many ways, this type of guerrilla work is as much a tool for your thinking as it is a way to understand a topic. This is what I mean when I say it’s almost inevitably a failure. I don’t mean that it’s not successful, but rather that it can never hope to represent a coherent view. It’s simply too random. The people we spoke to had little connecting them, apart from the fact they were all going through the same experience in some fashion Doing this work outside Tohoku, we were a little distant from the events there and so were our participants. We also noticed that many of those who were willing to break stride and talk to us were from outside Tokyo, which says a little about both big cities and our process!

Our guerrilla tactics may limit the claims we can confidently make from this data, but we can still explore them as individual cases, and use them to frame our own thought processes. Eventually, our day of guerrilla research left us with more questions than ever, just like our participants, but often that’s entirely the right place to be in a situation which is fluid and unresolved. Discussing this piece now, a year and a half later, Aico makes the point that repeating the exercise would help understand whether the social ripples from the quake were still being felt, or if people were forgetting and moving on. At the time, Japan was still working on making sense of what happened to it all those months ago and this day helped sensitise us to that atmosphere of uncertainty and doubt.

See Aico’s pictures from Tokyo just after the quake and from Tohoku a month later.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Before I die I want to… [Creative Review] – [Flat-out inspiring and deeply moving public art in New Orleans. One brilliant comment after the article observes that the installation proves that: "…design work is incomplete without an audience."] "I believe the design of our public spaces can better reflect what's important to us as residents and as human beings," says Chang.
  • [from julienorvaisas] New Version of Madden 12 Called a ‘Teaching Tool’ on Concussion [NYTimes.com] – [Video games largely exist to allow people to immerse in fantasy, unbounded by physical constraints and free to indulge in acts not possible – or advisable – in real life. Madden NFL takes a different tack.] Player animations, now sophisticated enough to depict Peyton Manning’s throwing motion and Randy Moss’s gait, will not display helmet-to-helmet tackles, hits to the heads of defenseless players or dangerous headfirst tackling, said Phil Frazier, the executive producer of Madden 12. John Madden, the coach for whom the game is named and who is involved in its development, said that the impetus for the changes was twofold: to further hone the game’s realism, and to teach youngsters to play football more safely. “Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game. It starts young kids — they start in video games. I think the osmosis is if you get a concussion, that’s a serious thing and you shouldn’t play. Or leading with the head that you want to eliminate."
  • [from julienorvaisas] Crimes against design: Airport carpets [ICON MAGAZINE] – [Apparently I'm not the only one noticing and often lamenting commercial carpet patterns inflicted upon us in airports, convention centers, and movie theaters. I marvel at the number of deliberate choices that must have led to these tragic outcomes and how many dark souls are complicit.] Those travellers who turn their eyes away from the skies and look down at the ground of their immediate present will be richly rewarded. For unbeknownst to many, beneath each traveller's feet is a knotted kaleidoscope of shapes and colours, a flat-weaved cornucopia of scintillating signs and sigils, a polypropylene sea awash with dark and hidden beauty. I speak, of course, of the airport carpet. As the world's largest interior visual design medium, airport carpets have spread a multi-faceted but uniform aesthetic to the furthest reaches of the globe In their geometric precision, sensitivity to colour, and ability to absorb and hide stains. The link between carpeting and flight stretches back millennia.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Lighter Side of Plutonium; Energy Group Mascots Include Little Mr. Pluto [WSJ] – [Interesting that in the land of cute the nuclear mascot was seen as going too far even before the disaster] But perhaps the most controversial of all promotional characters is Pluto-kun, or Little Mr. Pluto, who represents the friendly side of one of the most toxic substances known to man, plutonium. The brainchild of a now defunct government research organization, the apple-cheeked animated Little Mr. Pluto debuted in the mid-1990s wearing a green helmet with a pair of antennae and the chemical symbol for plutonium, PU. Promising to “never be scary or dangerous,” Little Mr. Pluto extolled the benefits of plutonium, which Japanese nuclear authorities have viewed as a fuel of the future for fast breeder reactor technology. But an animated video used in educational materials included a widely criticized scene showing Little Mr. PU shaking hands with a boy who safely downs a plutonium-tainted beverage to make the debatable point the substance would pass through a body without doing harm.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Japan’s Smokestacks Draw Industrial-Strength Sightseers [WSJ.com] – [This sub-culture is exerting economic influence. I'm looking for the American equivalent.] What started as a fringe subculture known as kojo moe, or "factory infatuation," is beginning to gain wider appeal in Japan, turning industrial zones into unlikely tourist attractions. It's the Japanese equivalent of going sightseeing at industrial stretches along the New Jersey Turnpike. Unlike the tourists who visit the factories of Toyota Motor Corp. and other Japanese manufacturers, the kojo moe crowd has little interest in the inner workings of the plants. They get excited by the maze of intricate piping around the exterior of a steel plant or the cylindrical smokestacks sending up steam. [A book on the topic] lists 19 questions to test one's kojo moe credentials, including "Do you like Blade Runner?" and "Can you stare at a factory you like all day long?" Now, industrial regions across Japan are working to create factory sightseeing tours.
  • [from steve_portigal] Stop Blaming Your Culture [Strategy + Business] – [A must-read. This could become the article on the topic, a companion to Porter's classic What is Strategy? REad it and pass it along.] Fortunately, there is an effective, accessible way to deal with cultural challenges. Don’t blame your culture; use it purposefully. View it as an asset: a source of energy, pride, and motivation. Learn to work with it and within it. Discern the elements of the culture that are congruent with your strategy. Figure out which of the old constructive behaviors embedded in your culture can be applied to accelerate the changes that you want. Find ways to counterbalance and diminish other elements of the culture that hinder you. In this way, you can initiate, accelerate, and sustain truly beneficial change — with far less effort, time, and expense, and with better results, than many executives expect.
  • [from steve_portigal] Steve Portigal to write book on interviewing users [Rosenfeld Media] – Interviewing users is fundamental to user experience work but, as Steve Portigal cautions, we tend to take it for granted. Because it's based on talking and listening, skills we think we have, we often wing it. Sadly, we miss out on many of the wonderful opportunities our interviews should reveal. So we're thrilled that Steve, who's contributed regular columns to interactions and Core77, has signed on to write a new Rosenfeld Media book, The Art and Craft of User Research Interviewing, to help UX practitioners really succeed with interviewing. Steve's book will focus on helping practitioners to better understand users' perspectives, and to rely upon rapport as the main ingredient in successful user interviews.
  • [from steve_portigal] Intel Teams with will.i.am, Black Eyed Peas Front Man [Intel] – [Is there a nomenclature convention emerging? If your corporate title is surrounded by quote marks, you may not receive the same HR benefits as others. Although it looks like he's got a badge? See you at Friday's Beer Bust!] He’s best known for being a multi-platinum music artist, producer and front man for The Black Eyed Peas, but will.i.am is also an innovator, technology fan, entrepreneur and philanthropist. With today’s announcement at the Anaheim Convention Center, the seven-time Grammy winner has added another title to his multi-faceted resume: “director of creative innovation.” As an extension of his insatiable fascination with technology, which plays a significant role in his professional and personal lives, will.i.am will engage in a multi-year, hands-on creative and technology collaboration with Intel Corporation. He already sports an Intel ID badge, which he proudly showed off at a news conference in Anaheim, where Intel is holding an internal sales and marketing conference.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] ALT/1977: WE ARE NOT TIME TRAVELERS [Behance] – [Alex Varanese's thought-provoking concepts go beyond blogosphere-hipster-silliness to really provoke reflection on design and functionality often taken for granted] What would you do if you could travel back in time? Here's what I'd do after that: grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars. I've explored that idea in this series by re-imagining four common products from 2010 as if they were designed in 1977: an mp3 player, a laptop, a mobile phone and a handheld video game system. I then created a series of fictitious but stylistically accurate print ads. I've learned that there is no greater design element than the anachronism. I've learned that the strongest contrast isn't spatial or tonal but historical. I've learned that there's retro, and then there's time travel.
  • [from julienorvaisas] 10:10 Tags Symbolize Committment to Climate Change [10:10global.org/uk] – [The fact that this tag is tangible but also symbolic rather than overt, and versatile enough to be carried on the body as a daily reminder of a commitment to the cause of climate change can help change behavior and improve compliance, as well as subtly telegraph solidarity.] The 10:10 Tag is made from a recycled jumbo jet, and can be worn on the neck, wrist, lapel or leotard to symbolise your 10:10 commitment. Whether you pin it to the lapel of your business suit or thread it through the laces of your skateboard trainers, your 10:10 Tag shows others that not only do you know how to accessorise; you’re also part of the solution to climate change.
  • [from Dan_Soltzberg] Grateful Dead scholar in heaven at UC Santa Cruz [SFGate] – [More big things happening at my Alma Mater] The ultimate job in Dead-dom is in Room 1370 at McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz. The door is marked by the steal-your-face logo, and superimposed over it reads the name Nicholas G. Meriwether, Grateful Dead Archivist.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Ariely’s Upside of Irrationality: using irrational cognitive blindspots to your advantage [Boing Boing] – [We've seen the principles of behavioral economics applied to help us understand and explain consumers irrational choices in a business context, now here's a self-help book helping us apply them to our own everyday lives.] Upside of Irrationality is a mostly successful attempt to transform the scientific critique of the 'rational consumer' principal into practical advice for living a better life. 'Mostly successful' only because some of our habitual irrationality is fundamentally insurmountable — there's almost nothing we can do to mitigate it.
  • [from steve_portigal] Text 2.0 – What if your book really knew where you are gazing at? – [This is essentially one of the concepts we proposed from our Reading Ahead research – where an eyetracker in a digital book manipulates the text dynamically based on your gaze. In our use case, we addressed the interrupt-driven commute reading revealed by our research. If the book saw you looking away, it could mark your spot to enable more efficient resuming]
  • [from steve_portigal] Twitter a hit in Japan as millions ‘mumble’ online [Yahoo! News] – Japanese-language Twitter taps into a greater sense of individuality in Japan, especially among younger people less accepting of the Japanese understatement and conformity. 16.3% of Japanese Internet tweet 16.3% (vs. 9.8% in US). "Japan is enjoying the richest and most varied form of Twitter usage as a communication tool…It's playing out as a rediscovery of the Internet.” It's possible to say so much more in Japanese within Twitter's 140 letters. "Information" requires just 2 letters in Japanese. Another is that people own up to their identities on Twitter. One well-known case is a woman who posted the photo of a park her father sent in e-mail before he died. Twitter was immediately abuzz with people comparing parks…"It's telling that Twitter was translated as 'mumbling' in Japanese," he said. "They love the idea of talking to themselves," he said…"In finding fulfillment in expressing what's on your mind for the moment, Twitter is like haiku," he said. "It is so Japanese."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • ‘Law & Order’ canceled by NBC after 20 seasons: The culprit behind NY show’s demise? Low ratings [NY Daily News] – "Law & Order" is going the way of egg creams. After two decades and 451 shows, NBC pulled the plug on the New York-based series to make room for new shows. The series will end May 24. Once a top-10 show, "Law & Order" had struggled in recent years – along with the rest of NBC's prime-time lineup. This season the show is No. 56 overall.
  • ‘Little Orphan Annie’ comic strip skips off into the sunset [Washington Post] – Daddy Warbucks's favorite pupil-less redhead had enough Depression-tested pluck to survive 86 years in daily newspapers, but now the orphan's outta luck. Come June 13, her clear-eyed comic strip will end as her syndicate, Tribune Media Services, sends her off into the sunset. Canceled. "Believe me, this wasn't a decision we took lightly," said Steve Tippie, TMS's vice president of licensing. "But we also felt that 'Annie,' unlike many strips, has such wide, almost iconic presence in our culture that it would serve the character and our business best if we focused on other channels more appropriate to the 'kids' nature of the property." The strip's current artist, Ted Slampyak, said: "It's almost like mourning the loss of a friend."
  • In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Starts to Fade [NYTimes.com] – Hello Kitty has been licensed to products like dolls, clothes, lunch boxes, stationery, kitchenware, a Macy’s parade balloon and even an Airbus. But amid signs that Hello Kitty’s pop-culture appeal is waning, especially at home, where sales have shrunk for a decade, the company has struggled to find its next-generation version of adorable. Recent flops include Spottie Dottie, a pink-frocked Dalmatian, and Pandapple, a baby panda. Even the moderately successful My Melody (a rabbit) and TuxedoSam (penguin) show no signs of achieving global Kitty-ness. “We badly need something else,” said Yuko Yamaguchi, Sanrio’s top Hello Kitty designer for most of its 36 years. “Characters take a long time to develop and introduce to different markets,” Ms. Yamaguchi said. “But Kitty has been so popular it’s overshadowed all our other efforts.” …In a ranking of Japan’s most popular characters, compiled Character Databank, Hello Kitty lost her spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • This isn’t the page of a magazine, this is my desktop [Reddit] – (With link to screenshot of PC desktop at http://imgur.com/QIhqe.jpg) The tv plays youtube, the middle speaker controls volume while the one on the left and right open up Rhythmbox and VLC, the cabinets are notepads, the trashbin is clearly a widget, the clock and alarm clock actually work, the books also serve as launchers, the top bar with the date lets me know of future events. I created the desktop for fun, but don't really recommend it as screenlets seem to use a lot of RAM.
  • Bob and Beyond: A Microsoft Insider Remembers [Technologizer] – [Tandy Trower relates several – ultimately unsuccessful – attempts at Microsoft to ship a UI that leverages key research from Nass and Reeves about the social interactions people have with any technology. In his view, there is tremendous value if it's done right and it wasn't ever done right.] The Office team picked up Microsoft Agent for their next release, but opted not to use the characters I had created as they preferred their own unique ones. To avoid the past user-reported annoyances, they gave users more control over when the character would appear, but did little to reform its behavior when it was present. So, you still had the same cognitive disconnect between the character’s reaction to your actions in the application’s primary interface. The character just became a sugar coating for the Help interface, which, if it failed to come up with useful results, left the user unimpressed and thinking that the character was not very useful.
  • Japanese Food Companies Seek Growth Abroad [NYTimes.com] – [What will this mean to collectors/fans of Foreign Groceries 🙂 ] Ichiro Nakamura, spokesman for Lotte in Japan, said that the 400 versions of Koala’s March cookies — some smile and some cry, some hold musical instruments and some play sports — are much more challenging to manufacture than people might think. “We have a special technology that puffs up the koala-shaped cookies so there is hollow space inside where soft chocolate can be injected later,” Mr. Nakamura said. “And unless you have the right technology, the cookies are going to break easily when packed into boxes.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Japanese cultural norms – asking about weight – Insightful little culture-clash story; an American working in Japan isn't sure how to deal with blunt (especially from the Japanese!) questions about his increasing weight
  • Clive Thomson on Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, renowned for his use of mathematical game theory models for prediction – Those who have watched Bueno de Mesquita in action call him an extremely astute observer of people. He needs to be: when conducting his fact-gathering interviews, he must detect when the experts know what they’re talking about and when they don’t. “His ability to pick up on body language, to pick up on vocal intonation, to remember what people said and challenge them in nonthreatening ways — he’s a master at it,” says Rose McDermott, a political-science professor at Brown who has watched Bueno de Mesquita conduct interviews. She says she thinks his emotional intelligence, along with his ability to listen, is his true gift, not his mathematical smarts. “The thing is, he doesn’t think that’s his gift,” McDermott says. “He thinks it’s the model. I think the model is, I’m sure, brilliant. But lots of other people are good at math. His gift is in interviewing. I’ve said that flat out to him, and he’s said, ‘Well, anyone can do interviews.’ But they can’t.”
  • New York Times Magazine on the Beatles’ Rock Band videogame – This is a fantastic article that spans many big issues: gaming, music, performance, art, history, culture, product development, authenticity, creativity, entertainment, technology. It's a must-read.
  • Brian Dettmer turns books into sculptural pieces – Contemporary visual artists see opportunity in what many bemoan as the twilight of the age of the book. John Latham (1921-2006), Hubertus Gojowczyk, Doug Beube and others have treated books as sculptural stuff. But no one whose work I have seen tops that of Atlanta artist Brian Dettmer at Toomey Tourell.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • A thoughtful consideration (that could have so easily gone curmudgeonly) on the changes in how (and how much) we consume art – Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.
  • Michael Pollan on the cultural shifts revealed by themes in food-related TV entertainment – The historical drift of cooking programs — from a genuine interest in producing food yourself to the spectacle of merely consuming it — surely owes a lot to the decline of cooking in our culture, but it also has something to do with the gravitational field that eventually overtakes anything in television’s orbit…Buying, not making, is what cooking shows are mostly now about — that and, increasingly, cooking shows themselves: the whole self-perpetuating spectacle of competition, success and celebrity that, with “The Next Food Network Star,” appears to have entered its baroque phase. The Food Network has figured out that we care much less about what’s cooking than who’s cooking.
  • Nine Reasons RadioShack Shouldn’t Change Its Name – Best one is " RadioShack has problems beyond any issues with its name." Also they did already change name from Radio Shack to RadioShack.
  • Radio Shack: Our friends call us The Shack – Do they really now? More proof that you can't simply declare yourself cool. Promo or overall rebranding, it reeks of inauthenticity.
  • Understand My Needs – a multicultural perspective – A Japanese usability professional compares the norms of service that retailers provide in Japan with those elsewhere (say, his experience living in Canada), and then contrasts that to the common usability problems found in Japanese websites. Culture is a powerful lens to see what causes these differences, and how usability people can help improve the experience.

Calling out, around the world?

(originally published at Core77)

suica
Subway ad for Suica, transit fare payment by mobile phone, Tokyo, 2008

Why Japan’s Smartphones Haven’t Gone Global is a toe-dip into the case study of factors that have limited export of Japan’s cutting-edge mobile phone innovations.

Yet Japan’s lack of global clout is all the more surprising because its cellphones set the pace in almost every industry innovation: e-mail capabilities in 1999, camera phones in 2000, third-generation networks in 2001, full music downloads in 2002, electronic payments in 2004 and digital TV in 2005.

Despite their advanced hardware, handsets here often have primitive, clunky interfaces. Because each handset model is designed with a customized user interface, development is time-consuming and expensive, said Tetsuzo Matsumoto, senior executive vice president at Softbank Mobile, a leading carrier. “Japan’s phones are all ‘handmade’ from scratch,” he said. “That’s reaching the limit.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Japanese robots not finding their market, recession and high prices blamed (but not fundamental mismatch between need and solution?) – Roborior by Tmsuk — a watermelon-shape house sitter on wheels that rolls around a home and uses infrared sensors to detect suspicious movement and a video camera to transmit images to absent residents — has struggled to find new users. A rental program was scrapped in April because of lack of interest. Though the company won’t release sale figures, it has sold less than a third of the goal, 3,000 units, it set when Roborior hit the market in 2005, analysts say. There are no plans to manufacture more.

    That is a shame, Mariko Ishikawa, a Tmsuk spokesman, says, because busy Japanese in the city could use the Roborior to keep an eye on aging parents in the countryside. “Roborior is just the kind of robot Japanese society needs in the future,” Ms. Ishikawa said.

    Sales of a Secom product, My Spoon, a robot with a swiveling, spoon-fitted arm that helps older or disabled people eat, have similarly stalled as caregivers balk at its $4,000 price.

  • Chris Anderson on the differences between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking – When scarce resources become abundant, smart people treat them differently, exploiting them rather than conserving them. It feels wrong, but done right it can change the world. The problem is that abundant resources, like computing power, are too often treated as scarce.

The multifaceted YouTube brand experience

Today YouTube launched a beta of a TV-friendly version of their site. Here’s some thoughts on YouTube, brands, interfaces, transformation, and authenticity.

Casio’s Exilim cameras feature a YouTube mode that supposedly eases the process of capturing and uploading videos to YouTube.

exilim

Note the prominence of the YouTube badge on the front of the camera. It’s bigger and brighter than the manufacturer of the name of the product line!

Euronews is sponsoring a YouTube channel, Questions for Europe and is broadcasting YouTube-like content.

questionsforeurope

Although this photograph of a TV screen is of poor quality, when watching the program it’s fairly easy to see that the picture quality is far beyond what’s available on YouTube and that that Euronews is simply taking traditional broadcast video and placing it in a YouTube-like interface. Although the progress bar is still useful in a non-interactive mode, the whole thing is a bit of a cheat: you can’t actually use any of those controls.

Finally, in Shibuya, Tokyo, YouTube sponsored some sort of performance/talent competition.

youtubeshibuya

They built a stage that resembled a YouTube window, with the interface simply as visual detail on the exterior. In this setup real life is framed as a stand-in for digital content (which itself is a proxy for real life content). The mind does boggle.

Pictures from Japan here and pictures from Amsterdam are here.

Election Campaign Posters Around The World

japan_election
Tokyo, 2002. Don’t you just love the jogging inset?

bali_election
Bali, 2007. I was reminded of Wanted! posters.

eu-election2
Brussels, 2009. All the European Parliament election posters we saw had an “ordinary-person” vibe to them, just slightly gussied up for the poster.

More pictures from Belgium here.
More pictures from Bali here
More pictures from Japan (2002 here, 2008 here)

Series

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