Posts tagged “photography”

Kristina’s War Story: Trampoline Spies

Kristina Lustig is a researcher at Stack Overflow, and is currently based in London. She told this story live at User Research London.

Last year, I was in Bangkok with eight members of my product team. For our research, we planned to speak with people who we saw taking videos with their smart phones. We split into a few groups, each with their own interpreters. My group tried – and failed – to find people at an open-air market or around a couple of malls before we got the idea to look for parents taking videos of their children. Our interpreter, Kay, in a flash of genius, suggested that we’d probably see a lot of this behavior at a trampoline park, so off we went.

After riding several long thin escalators far into the interior of an extremely large mall, we arrived at the trampoline park and bought our tickets. Before we went in, we put on the mandatory lime green sticky socks and neon pink wristbands.

Now, I’ve done a good bit of international research in questionable situations, but at this point, this was the strangest research situation I’d been in. Let me paint the picture for you: two white people in business casual with neon pink wristbands and lime green sticky socks, holding notebooks, accompanied by our Thai interpreter, all wandering through a trampoline park full of Thai parents and children. On the 700th floor of an upscale mall on a Wednesday morning.

But really, it was also a research goldmine! We found many mothers with their smart phones out, filming their children. We spent about 30 minutes chatting as casually as possible with a few different women. We learned a lot about how they shared videos on social media. Then we were approached by a trampoline park employee. She began speaking with Kay, and although we couldn’t understand a word, we watched as Kay moved from confident to concerned and finally to incredulous.

As Kay translated for us, the employee was concerned that we could be spies from a rival trampoline park, or that we were we attempting to sell these women passes to a rival trampoline park!

Kay explained to the trampoline park employee that we were from a big company in the US and that we weren’t selling anything, but she didn’t believe us. We gave her our business cards (with potentially impressive or reassuring titles like “UX Researcher” and “Product Designer”) but no dice. She started to kick us out of the trampoline park, but in a last ditch effort, we asked “Well, can we just… stay and jump?”

So, we didn’t get to do too much research, but we did spend a lot of time bouncing around under that employee’s watchful anti-research eye. We observed as much as we could, while bouncing. In retrospect, we probably should have cleared our research with the trampoline park beforehand…but any research endeavor that starts with intercepts and ends with extreme trampolining is a win in my book.

Out and About: Steve in Brooklyn

I was in Brooklyn in October to teach a workshop at the Delve event. Here’s some of what I saw when I was in town.

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Hotel housekeeping messages left on the headboard. Have we reached Peak Sticky?

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A tempting do-not-touch.

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Branding.

What we eat and what we trash

There’s no end of photography projects documenting an ordinary aspect of life, across diverse individuals, with the hope of throwing some light on who we are and how we live now. Or how others live. It’s art with the frisson of anthropology. Here’s another two in the same vein, each looking at different elements of our consumption.

Dinner in NY by Miho Aikawa looks at people having dinner, in New York (hence the clever title).

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Also see Dinner in Tokyo and read more at Slate.

With no nod to naturalism, Gregg Sega shoots portraits of people surrounded by 7 Days of Garbage.

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Also see the fascinating project frogdesign did back in 2007, where staff blogged about the trash they found themselves accumulating throughout a regular week, and read more about Gregg Saga’s project at Slate.

Out and About: Steve in New York

Last week I was in New York to speak with two groups at SVA and at IxDA (also to see the city, eat desserts and hang with friends). Here’s some of the pictures I took during my trip.

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“I Know A Guy, Inc.”

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The New Colossus by the Bruce High Quality Foundation, public art at Lever House that references the ubiquitous labor action inflatable rats.

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Blue by Anish Kapoor at MOMA, chock full of subtlety.

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DO NOT WALK THRU ELEVATOR.

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The Strand Book Store unloading some similar titles about the women behind the men of the sea.

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Hyperlocal.

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Papa Moozi

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A mini-Jurassic Park seen as street art around sidewalk greenspace.

New York previously: Summer 2013, 2011

Out and About: Steve in Minneapolis

I was in Minneapolis earlier this week to speak at the MIMA Summit. I hadn’t been in Minneapolis since 1999, so I took a little bit of time to explore – here’s some of my photographs.

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City icons: Charles Schultz hails from Minneapolis, as did Mary Richards.

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Who needs the Kuik-E-Mark?

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Create your Turkey Masterpiece! Who could resist, when inspired by those nothing-short-of-masterful pieces?

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Inspiring earnest words populate a downtown garden space.

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No smoking or dipping. No, that’s not an ashtray, it’s a tin of tobacco. You can tell because it’s got the word “tobacco” written on it, pretty much the mark of failure in icon design.

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ATMS are increasing featuring mirrors as safety devices, letting you see whose coming up behind you. This takes it one step further, with a video monitor performing the same function. Is that creeping-featurism?

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Marquette Plaza, constructed somewhat like a suspension bridge.

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Not related at all to Chevron. Really?

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Sawing you in half daily. At Sever’s. Really?

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Mill City Museum

Out and About: Steve at SXSW

Recently, we spent the week in Austin at SXSW. Here’s some of the observations and other highlights from the time there.

Anne encountered the Uncanny Valley with this video-projection-on-a-human-shaped-cutout.
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In one session, I sat behind a cyborg.
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Ridiculous marketing language abounds.
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A cafe made use of physical “Like” buttons next to posted artwork. The LCD counter increments each time someone clicks the button. Curious to see interactions specific to the virtual world being replicated in the physical world. See here, previously.
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The Frito pie is made from a bag of corn chips, where the bag is ripped open and topped with chopped onions, meat, sauce and cheese.
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One really has to wonder about how complex everyday technology use can become. Even though Austin is fairly tech forward, this sign in the convention center is beyond ridiculous.
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Gourdough’s used to be just an Airstream that served the biggest donuts you’d ever seen, but now they’ve opened a proper restaurant. Most if not all of the main courses (e.g., friend chicken) feature a donut.
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Live music, including the Waco Brothers and Ian McLagan.
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And of course, there were mascots.
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ChittahChattah Quickies

Restaurants Turn Camera Shy [NYT] – While on one level this is a story about shifting norms, where an emerging behavior is deemed rude and disruptive. Where it is or not is another question, not really explored here. But there is at least one example of finding alternative ways to address the need rather than just banning what is considered wrong.

But rather than tell people they can’t shoot their food – the food they are so proud to eat that they need to share it immediately with everyone they know – he simply takes them back into his kitchen to shoot as the plates come out. “We’ll say, ‘That shot will look so much better on the marble table in our kitchen,’ ” Mr. Bouley said. “It’s like, here’s the sauce, here’s the plate. Snap it. We make it like an adventure for them instead of telling them no.” Mr. Bouley is setting up a computer system so that diners can get digital images of what they’ve eaten before they even get the check.

‘Friends’ Will Be There For You At Beijing’s Central Perk [NPR] – While in the west the show might be a somewhat-beloved artifact of a decade past, in another part of the world, the possibility for a different meaning is ripe. Perhaps, as the article suggests, this somehow embodies freedom that young Chinese are yearning for?

Tucked away on the sixth floor of a Beijing apartment block is a mini replica of the cafe, orange couch and all, whose owner Du Xin introduces himself by saying, “Everyone calls me ‘Gunther’ here.” Indeed, he is a Chinese version of cafe owner Gunther from the show, down to his giddy passion for Rachel (the character played by Jennifer Aniston). “I’m crazy about Friends,” Du says. “For me, it’s like a religion. It’s my life.” The extent of Du’s Friends obsession is clear on entry to Beijing’s Central Perk. The level of detail is scary: same window, same doorway. People sitting on the orange sofa are watching TV – reruns of Friends, naturally. The cafe only serves snacks mentioned in Friends, and the menus are even annotated.

The Role of Anecdotes in Science-Based Medicine – An imperfect but perhaps illustrative analogy to user research, about the relationship between stories and what some may call “proof.”

Here are two limiting factors in how anecdotes should be incorporated into medical evidence: The first is that anecdotes should be documented as carefully as possible. This is a common practice in scientific medicine, where anecdotes are called case reports (when reported individually) or a case series (when a few related anecdotes are reported). Case reports are anecdotal because they are retrospective and not controlled. But it can be helpful to relay a case where all the relevant information is carefully documented – the timeline of events, all treatments that were given, test results, exam findings, etc. This at least locks this information into place and prevents further distortion by memory. It also attempts to document as many confounding variables as possible. The second criterion for the proper use of anecdotes in scientific medicine is that they should be thought of as preliminary only – as a means of pointing the way to future research. They should never be considered as definitive or compelling by themselves. Any findings or conclusions suggested by anecdotal case reports need to be later verified by controlled prospective clinical studies.

Out and About: Steve in Ottawa

Last week I was in Ottawa speaking at Carleton University as well as delivering the closing keynote for UXcamp Ottawa. Here are some photographic highlights of my time there. Look for the rest of my pictures on Flickr.


Joseph Henri Maurice “The Rocket” Richard


Suzy Q Donuts.


The Canada Hall in the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Depicting 1000 years of history, this was an outstanding exhibit. In addition to the familiar elements of contemporary museum design, it had just enough realism, sort of the heightened-fakery from a movie studio backlot. The open-ended design enabled an immersive stroll through recreations of the past. As you wandered you could go in and poke around stores, schools, mills, airports, and so on. It was almost like being in a holodeck, strolling through time (and from east to west).


Building environmental control module or splash screen for circa 1974 television news magazine?


Recreation of the Robert Frank image used on the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street cover.


Stickers stuck to poles outside of the National Gallery. I took the picture without knowing what the heck I was looking at, though. It was only when I got my ticket for the National Gallery and was asked to put the same sticker on my clothing did I realize how those poles ended up like that.


That about covers it.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Mice as Stand-Ins in the Fight Against Disease [New York Times] – Looks like this has been happening in some measure for a while, but some new methods are increasing the usage. The most science-fiction thing you’ll read all week.

In what could be the ultimate in personalized medicine, animals bearing your disease, or part of your anatomy, can serve as your personal guinea pig, so to speak. Some researchers call them avatars, like the virtual characters in movies and online games. “The mice allow you the opportunity to test drugs to find out which ones will be efficacious without exposing the patient to toxicity,” said Colin Collins, a professor at the University of British Columbia.

Australia 2012 [Flickr] – My complete set of pictures from Australia earlier this month.

Chinese families’ worldly goods in Huang Qingjun’s pictures [BBC] – We’ve seen other projects like this, but the focus on China captures a material culture in transition.

Amid China’s tumultuous dash to become rich, one man’s photographs of families posing with their worldly goods will soon seem like records from a distant era. Huang Qingjun has spent nearly a decade travelling to remote parts of China to persuade people who have sometimes never been photographed to carry outside all their household possessions and pose for him. The results offer glimpses of the utilitarian lives of millions of ordinary Chinese who, at first glance, appear not to have been swept up by the same modernisation that has seen hundreds of millions of others leave for the cities. But seen more closely, they also show the enormous social change that has come in a generation. So the photo of an elderly couple of farmers outside their mud house reveals a satellite dish, DVD player and phone.

Four Big Things, a phrase dating from 1950s for most sought-after goods for newly married couples: sewing machine, bicycle, watch, radio. It’s since come to refer to whatever is most fashionable at the time. By 1980s the four big things were: TV, washing machine, rice cooker, fridge. Now, consumer goods flood China’s cities, it tends to be used to describe people’s aspirations for the latest thing.

Must-See Video: How a Woman With No Arms Dresses Herself. What Assistance Can Design Provide? [Core 77] – I love the reaction; that excitement of discovering how current solutions could be improved. Designers are so great at bringing that creativity and know-how to bear to make change for the good. But let’s remember, we don’t need videos to be posted by users to uncover what things aren’t working for them. Are designers waiting for broken products to appear in front of them so they can spontaneously improve them, or are they out there looking at current behaviors and solutions in order to proactively find opportunities. Designers: you don’t need the disabled (or anyone) to post their own videos, go and shoot your own!

I hope that more folks with disabilities make videos like this, not just to share with others what their particular trials are, but to enable us designers to improve upon the objects they use.

FILMography – a Tumblr with an incredible series of images where a printout of a still from a film is held up in the actual location where that scene was shot. It’s a “trick” I’ve seen before but mostly as a one-off; the breadth here is fascinating.

FILM + photography = FILMography.

Out and About: Steve in Melbourne

Here is the last post with highlights of my trip to Australia (see parts 1, 2 and 3, previously). Meanwhile, all my pictures are making their way to Flickr.


At the tram stop for the Children’s Hospital, the platform is filled with various cute “Dr. Jake” signs. I especially like transforming the transformer box into a height chart. Someone is thinking broadly about reframing the hospital from scary into welcoming and using the first point of entry – the tram stop – as the place to begin doing that.


Patience is a virtue. A post-design attempt to mollify confused users.



I could not figure out what the heck “Teady” referred to on this first truck. It wouldn’t be my first time encountering a word I didn’t understand (see “showbag” in an earlier post, say). But no, the adjacent truck says “Steady.” I went back and checked – did the initial S wear off? No, it was never there to begin with. The design – sans S – fits perfectly in the designated area on the first truck.


Bold language boldly presented.


Once again, weird people sculptures.


Free WiFi at the train station. Nice visual reference to many memes (e.g., Star Wars kid, the dancing baby, keyboard cat) as well as Facebook and Twitter.


ACDC lane. Yes, the official City of Melbourne lane commemorating ACDC.


Reminded me of a similar sign in San Francisco.


The menu at this restaurant offered beer in a pot or a beaker. I was further charmed by the use of familiar words with shifted meanings, as part of my foreigner’s journey. But no, the beaker is exactly what you’d think: a beaker.


More 8-bit-videogame streetart, although Mario instead of Space Invaders; stickers instead of tiles.


Many many flavors of hot chocolate at Chokolait. I must go back!


Indoor nighttime climbing wall.

Series

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