Posts tagged “reading”

A user research reading (listening/watching) list

I’m in Chattanooga today, teaching the students at Center Centre today (and tomorrow) about ethnographic research.

In preparation for the class, they asked me to put together a list of readings, so I pulled together a bunch of links that I’d posted in the last few months, some of them on this blog but mostly on the Portigal LinkedIn page. I’m sharing the list below.

The Future of the Book, you say? [2013 edition]

Reading ahead
In 2010, we conducted a public-facing study about the future of books and reading, called Reading Ahead. We raised many fascinating questions including the design implications for the digital book experience: which elements of the traditional experience should move forward and which should be left behind.

Looking at the issue a few years later is the New York Times, with Out of Print, Maybe, but Not Out of Mind

Some functions of physical books that seem to have no digital place are nevertheless being retained. An author’s autograph on a cherished title looked as if it would become a relic. But Apple just applied for a patent to embed autographs in electronic titles. Publishers still commission covers for e-books even though their function — to catch the roving eye in a crowded store — no longer exists.

What makes all this activity particularly striking is what is not happening. Some features may be getting a second life online, but efforts to reimagine the core experience of the book have stumbled. Dozens of publishing start-ups tried harnessing social reading apps or multimedia, but few caught on.

Much of the design innovation at the moment, Mr. Brantley believes, is not coming from publishers, who must still wrestle with delivering both digital and physical books. Instead it is being developed by a tech community that “doesn’t think about stories as the end product. Instead, they think about storytelling platforms that will enable new forms of both authoring and reading.”

This Week @ Portigal

Monday is well underway and the week is filling up with meetings and work sessions! Away we go!

  • Last week we kicked off a super-rapid project. We didn’t know we were doing the project at the beginning of the week and by the end of the week we had started recruiting research participants. This week we’re lining up our participants and figuring out what we’ll do in the field.
  • I’m calling it “collaborative listening” – thanks to our officemate Olly, we’re experimenting with some networked speakers that lets us all listen to music together instead of individually over headphones. This will mean sorting out some social norms around volume, phone calls, and musical tastes. But so far, so good (oh yeah, because we’re listening to my music right now!)…
  • We’re hosting our first event later this week. We’ve invited a small number of folks for a discussion and will be sharing more once it’s all over. But we’re actively discussing our catering options right now!
  • More conference submissions to prepare, more conference acceptances to announce, and more conference presentations to start getting together!
  • This week we’ve begun reaching out to potential new teammates, partners, and collaborators. We don’t know where we’ll end up but the journey is sure to be an informative one.
  • What we’re consuming: A Visit From The Goon Squad, The Firestarter Sessions, Pizzeria Delfina

Reading Ahead Quickies

While the Reading Ahead project was a couple of years ago, we continue to find stories that resonate with or extend beyond our findings. Here’s a few!

For Their Children, Many E-Book Fans Insist on Paper [NYT.com] – A key Reading Ahead finding was that people select different content for different environments, situations, etc. By extension, it makes sense to see that people are also making choices among platforms for similar reasons. Reading is a multi-headed beast.

Print books may be under siege from the rise of e-books, but they have a tenacious hold on a particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents are insisting this next generation of readers spend their early years with old-fashioned books. This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals. Parents also say they like cuddling up with their child and a book, and fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention. Also, if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.

Fulfilling the status role of books [Applied Abstractions] – An admittedly facetious concept that pokes at the ongoing struggle between objects, in this case books, as physical tangible demonstrable symbols versus digital and generally invisible personal content, an issue that arose clearly in the Reading Ahead research

The Norwegian publishing and bookselling industry yesterday introduced a new concept for e-books that is rather harebrained. They want to sell e-book tablets where you can buy books not as downloads (well, you can do that, too) but as files loaded on small plastic memory cards, to be inserted into the reader. According to their not very convincing market analysis, this is aimed at the segment of the book buying market who do not want to download books from the net (but, for some reason, seem to want to read books electronically.) I initially thought I would make a joke about having to replace my bookshelves with neat little minishelves for the plastic cards, when it dawned on me that perhaps we have the solution here – i.e., a model where we could get the accessibility of digital books with the status display of the paper version. Why couldn’t the publishing industry sell you a digital book (for downloading, if you please) bundled with a cardboard book model, with binding and all, to put in your bookshelf? This would look great, allow you to effortlessly project your intellectualism and elevated taste, while avoiding the weight, dust, and (since these books would only need to be a in inch or two deep) space nuisances of traditional books. You could even avoid physical distribution by letting the customer self-print and cut and fold the “shelf-book” in the right format. You could even electronically link the two, so that you cold pick your cardboard book from the shelf, wave it in the direction of the e-book tablet (using transponder, 2D barcoding or other identifying techniques) and the book would show up in your reader. If you really wanted to show off, you could add a little color coded bar indicated how far you were in each book, much like a download bar for your computer, to be displayed on each book. Moreover, such as book could be lent from one reader to another.

A Digital Whiteboard for the Kindle [WSJ.com] – Already two years old, this post evoked for me another key tension: are digital book platforms translations (with relevant, reading-related enhancements) of the book reading experience or are they new digital platforms for a range of digital activities? Our research suggested a stronger desire for the former, with fears of distraction around the latter.

Luidia, the maker of an interactive whiteboard technology called eBeam, is extending its reach onto another screen: Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. The start-up is launching a system that automatically zaps a copy of notes and scribbles left on whiteboards into people’s Kindle or Kindle DX. It works by turning the notes (captured digitally by the eBeam system) into an image file, and then emailing that file to a Kindle. “We saw the potential not just to read a novel and textbooks, but also have other kinds of content created live in the classroom by students and teachers themselves,” says Jody Forehand, Luidia’s vice president of product planning…But apps that extend or go beyond reading are one of the most anticipated additions to e-book readers in the coming year. Kindle competitor Irex has said it would release a software development kit so that programmers can make their own apps for its e-reading device.

Keeping it real

Print vs. Online: The ways in which old-fashioned newspapers still trump online newspapers. [slate.com] – Jack Shafer recounts his rejection of and then ultimate return to consuming the news in good olde print. For him, attention to and retention of the news is much improved. Our old friends tangibility and experience exert their influence on him as well. Recent research seems to support his experiences. How might newspapers create real value out of this burgeoning new respect for the medium? There might be something to Shafer’s sarcastic idea about having his carrier hand-deliver his digital content with cues to the familiar physical form. There’s a little bit of a buzz lately about hybrid digital/physical delivery systems, like the recent Phoenix Down album-delivery system on a sweet flash drive, noted below.

I started missing the blue Times bag on my lawn and the glossy goodness of the Sunday magazine. Perhaps if I could have gotten my carrier to toss a blue-bagged computer preloaded with the Times Reader onto my lawn every morning, I could have survived. But no. What I really found myself missing was the news. Even though I spent ample time clicking through the Times website and the Reader, I quickly determined that I wasn’t recalling as much of the newspaper as I should be. Going electronic had punished my powers of retention. I also noticed that I was unintentionally ignoring a slew of worthy stories…My anecdotal findings about print’s superiority were seconded earlier this month by an academic study…The researchers found that the print folks “remember significantly more news stories than online news readers”; that print readers “remembered significantly more topics than online newsreaders”; and that print readers remembered “more main points of news stories.” When it came to recalling headlines, print and online readers finished in a draw… Newspapers are less distracting-as anybody who has endured an annoying online ad while reading a news story on the Web knows. Also, and I’m channeling the paper a little bit here, by virtue of habit and culture a newspaper commands a different sort of respect, engagement, and focus from readers.

Phoenix Down: Brooklyn hip hop trio release their latest album on a pixelated feather [coolhunting.com]

Besides eliminating clutter, one of our favorite upshots of the post-CD era is the micro-movement of creative USB stick design. We’ve seen Doc Martens, surfboards and Red Stripe bottles among other adorable forms for the little devices, so it’s somewhat surprising that more bands haven’t paired sound and vision like Junk Science and Scott Thorough recently did by releasing their new album Phoenix Down on a mini-hard drive. Loaded with the tracks, as well as instrumentals, a cappella versions and a bonus folder of remixes and more, the limited-edition flash drive is a soft-rubber pixelated feather-a fitting mix of nature and digital for their 8-bit-heavy sound and lyrics like “the future’s pixelated.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Reading, writing, and calculations…

Like Pandora? Try A Literary Offshoot, Booklamp [flavorwire.com] – The folks at Flavorwire gave the book-recommendation engine Booklamp a little ammo, with comic results. Such as the “Lyrics of Sting” being recommended based on enjoying Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” I tried to play too, but I lost interest after a cursory search for some of my favorite books and authors came up altogether empty.

BookLamp.org is a new website that is similar to Pandora – it creates algorithms and breaks down your book preferences by main themes. For instance, if you liked White Teeth, then Booklamp discerns that you’re into: Culture, Life/Death/Spirituality, Extended Families, Explicit Language, and “Elements of Time.” This results in some odd recommendations, such as The Cestus Deception (Star Wars: Clone Wars) by Steven Barnes. (Really? Because we are just never going to be in to that.) However, another suggestion was The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, which makes some sense. So click through and see what hilarious, interesting, and arguably accurate choices we found on our trip through the site.

Slowpoke: How to be a faster writer. [slate.com] – So it’s not just me! Agger’s quietly funny column includes some aha’s into the process of writing, some moments of vigorous nodding-and-agreeing (such as in the intro, excerpted below) and a rare banana-nut muffin pop-culture reference.

Hunched over my keyboard, I’m haunted by anecdotes of faster writers. Christopher Hitchens composing a Slate column in 20 minutes-after a chemo session, after a “full” dinner party, late on a Sunday night… So what’s holding us back? How does one write faster? Kellogg terms the highest level of writing as “knowledge-crafting.” In that state, the writer’s brain is juggling three things: the actual text, what you plan to say next, and-most crucially-theories of how your imagined readership will interpret what’s being written. A highly skilled writer can simultaneously be a writer, editor, and audience. Since writing is such a cognitively intense task, the key to becoming faster is to develop strategies to make writing literally less mind-blowing.

Do you Suffer from Decision Fatigue [nytimes.com] – Daily calculations become more taxing as they mount, to the point of fatigue; the effect is exacerbated by glucose levels. More wild-cards in trying to understand how people make decisions. Lots of great stories of research projects throughout the article.

No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts…Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making. In the rest of the animal kingdom, there aren’t a lot of protracted negotiations between predators and prey. To compromise is a complex human ability and therefore one of the first to decline when willpower is depleted. You become what researchers call a cognitive miser, hoarding your energy. If you’re shopping, you’re liable to look at only one dimension…When there were fewer decisions, there was less decision fatigue. Today we feel overwhelmed because there are so many choices. Your body may have dutifully reported to work on time, but your mind can escape at any instant. A typical computer user looks at more than three dozen Web sites a day and gets fatigued by the continual decision making – whether to keep working on a project, check out TMZ, follow a link to YouTube or buy something on Amazon.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] 5 Reasons Why E-Books Aren’t There Yet [Wired.com] – [Echoes the work we did in our 2010 Reading Ahead project, "The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words" http://www.portigal.com/blog/reading-ahead-research-findings/] E-books are still falling short of a promise to make us forget their paper analogs. For now, you still lose something by moving on. I have never owned an e-book reader, because I have an ingrained opposition to single-purpose devices. But since getting an iPad on day one, I haven’t purchased a print edition of anything for myself. I am hooked — completely one with the idea that books are legacy items that may never go away, but have been forever marginalized as a niche medium. With that in mind, however, here are five things about e-books that might give you pause about saying good riddance to the printed page. 1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it…5)E-books can’t be used for interior design.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from wstarosta] Status displays: I’ve got you labelled [The Economist] – [Evolutionary biology helps to explain why luxury branded objects, even counterfeit ones, are so appealing.] DESIGNERS of fancy apparel would like their customers to believe that wearing their creations lends an air of wealth, sophistication and high status. And it does—but not, perhaps, for the reason those designers might like to believe, namely their inherent creative genius. A new piece of research confirms what many, not least in the marketing departments of fashion houses, will long have suspected: that it is not the design itself that counts, but the label.
  • [from steve_portigal] The Future of Books. [McSweeney’s Internet Tendency] – [As usual, McSweeney's does razor-sharp mockery, but you could read this as straight-ahead prediction and it would sadly almost pass for believable] 2050: Analog Reading Will Be Digitally Simulated. As people spend more and more of time immersed in massively multi-player role-playing games, they will begin to crave some downtime. Virtual simulation worlds will start to include hideaway "libraries" you can lock yourself into. There you'll be able to climb into a virtual bath and lovingly turn the pages of a pixilated representation of one of those dog-eared tomes—reliant on old-school linear narrative— that by this time will have been made illegal in the real world. Perfectly reproduced will be the sensation of turning the pages, the crack of the spine, and even the occasional paper cut.
  • [from steve_portigal] When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? [Smithsonian Magazine] – [Fascinating cultural history] The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before WW I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out. In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says..Nowadays people just have to know the sex of a baby or young child at first glance, says Jo B. Paoletti, a historian & author of Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls From the Boys in America. Thus we see a pink headband encircling the bald head of an infant girl. [Via @boingboing]
  • [from steve_portigal] In Sweden’s frigid north, auto testing is hot [SFGate] – [Obvious car companies do a ton of lab and simulation testing, but they are also big advocates of real world testing] Arjeplog, a region in northern Sweden is is important to car makers eager to optimize their vehicles for driving in extreme weather, This winter, temperatures have hovered around -4 F, making ice on the lakes consistently thick enough for driving. About 180 engineers convened at the test center at one point this season to work on making cars more fuel-efficient in cold weather and to optimize their anti-spin function. While Arjeplog is the world's largest winter testing area, rival locations include Ivalo, Finland; West Yellowstone, Mont.; Carson City, Nev.; and Millbrook, England. Francisco Carvalho, an analyst at IHS Automotive, says such tracks provide automakers with "the ultimate test for the little things they can't detect or predict in a lab." Almost 9,000 car industry officials visit Arjeplog each winter, with about 2,800 engineers working on any given day.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Revealing the Man Behind @MayorEmanuel [Technology – The Atlantic] – [Professor/former punk zine publisher comes clean as author of Rahm Emanuel's apparently epic fake Twitter feed. Atlantic makes a case that it represents a new kind of fiction.] @MayorEmanuel is a new genre that is native to Twitter. When you try to turn his adventures into traditional short stories or poems, they lose the crucial element of time. The episode where the mayor gets stuck in the sewer pipes of City Hall just does not work when the 15 tweets aren't spaced out over 7 hours. It's all over too fast to be satisfying. There's no suspense. This is also a piece of fiction that could interact with reality in real-time. So, when right-wing Michelle Malkin lauded @MayorEmanuel, he could tell her to eff-off. The character could be right there with you when the Bears lost, when snow blew in or as Rahm visited Google. He created fiction both out of what was happening and out of what you, yourself, were living. And he did it for five months. It was serialization in a sense, but alive.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins [NYTimes.com] – [While there's a bit of 'Death of Print! Oh noes!' at work here, the impact of digital technology on archiving is, in general, a mounting challenge (and frequent blog fodder)] Twain was engaging in marginalia, writing comments alongside passages and sometimes giving an author a piece of his mind. It is a rich literary pastime, sometimes regarded as a tool of literary archaeology, but it has an uncertain fate in a digitalized world. “People will always find a way to annotate electronically,” said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. “But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.” [Thanks, Stacey G.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Bidder wins `lucky’ car registration number 16 for cool $8.5m [The Standard] – [Arbitrary extrinsic value for meaningful symbols, albeit for charity] Suen was willing to shell out such a large sum because 16 is his lucky number. More than HK$18.5 million was raised at the auction, where the proceeds go to charity. Suen also tried to get 668 as a gift for his wife but was outbid by number plate collector Ngan Man-hon, who paid HK$3 million for it. Ngan said that he liked 668 as it sounds auspicious in Cantonese. In recent years lucky car plates have become popular among mainland collectors so the prices for the better ones remain high….The sale trumped Saturday's auction under the Personalized Vehicle Registration Marks Scheme. Then, car plate B0NUS was sold for HK$220,000 while 201314, which sounds similar to "Love you forever" in Putonghua, went for HK$22,000…Suen's lucky number trails 18 and 9, which were sold for HK$16.5 million in 2008 and HK$13 million in 1994, respectively. The third most expensive number was 2, which went for HK$9.5 million in 1993.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Apple Says Chinese Supplier Made Changes After Suicides [NYTimes.com] – [The awkward truths revealed by increased transparency around our fancy gadgets is a topic we've discussed before. Here, Apple's investigation is admirable, but hotlines and nets to catch suicidal employees do not seem to be adequate solutions reaching towards the core of the problem.] Apple said that Mr. Cook and a team of independent suicide prevention experts conducted a review of Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen in June and made a series of recommendations. Mr. Cook and the team also reviewed changes that Foxconn had put in place, which included “hiring a large number of psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care center and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides,” Apple said in the report. “The investigation found that Foxconn’s response had definitely saved lives.” Apple said it recommended areas for improvement, including “better training of hotline staff and care center counselors and better monitoring to ensure effectiveness.”
  • [from steve_portigal] Create with people, really! [InternetActu.net] – [Google Translate excerpt from a French review of our innovation session at Lift11] But this is not the most important, says Steve Portigal, because all these methods can be acquired by whoever wishes. No, the most important thing is to change the culture, the process by which we do things. "Companies often think they know the problem and are confident they know to solve it, better than anyone." It is their products, services, customers, suppliers, engineers … But a little humility does not hurt, the consultant recognizes the height of his experience "It is actually rather sit back and see that the problem is not what we thought. We must confront the ambiguity and be tolerant to other approaches, to reach the measure of data (and methods). "
  • [from steve_portigal] Shorter E-Books Show Promise for Mobile Devices [NYTimes.com] – [In ReadingAhead we called for the creation of *digital* reading experiences] The Atavist is (publishing) stories that are longer than a typical article but shorter than a novel ­ in the hope that they will find a home on the glassy screens of mobile devices. The dimensions of mobile devices are quite limited. So it’s important to exploit the advantages that the devices do have. Success depends on thinking beyond a “one-to-one transition from book to e-book,” and on doing more than replacing paper with pixels. The Atavist integrates clever tools into the text, like interactive timelines and character biographies to help a reader quickly find her place without spoiling the plots…But it’s much too early to know whether the Atavist and its brethren will become permanently rooted in our reading culture or become a “fossil, embedded in the archaeology of the medium of reading…We are seeing a new category take shape that reflects a new paradigm of what it means to read on a new device.”
  • [from steve_portigal] Geneva and Lyon, 2011 [a set on Flickr] – [Photos from my trip to Geneva (with a side trip to Lyon) for Lift11]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Le Laboratoire des Nouvelles Lectures (LNL) – a community centered around the future of reading – This week Lift is launching a new project: Le Laboratoire des Nouvelles Lectures (LNL) – a community centered around the future of reading. LNL is an open platform designed to inspire and incubate new forms of reading experiences based on all the new technologies now available. The LNL is an initiative of the Salon du Livre et de la Presse de Geneve (the Geneva Book Fair), and is produced by LIFT, Edipresse and Bookapp.com.
  • [from julienorvaisas] Tablets Rekindle Our Love of Reading–Books, Too [Fast Company] – [MFD is used here by the survey companies Brock Associates and iModerate Research Technologies – quite a name, that one! – to signify a Multi-Function Device which includes ebook readers as well as tablets. And possibly smartphones. You know, personal electronic devices. Mobile technology. We don't know what to call things anymore. In any case, here's more research to suggest that though people enjoy reading on and read more on their "MFDs," it's an additive effect, encouraging non-digital reading activity as well. Ereading does not replace non-ereading. Reading begets reading.] Despite the fact that the survey showed MFD users had great "affinity" for their devices, "struggling to to come up with significant shortcomings to reading ebooks on them" they were also inspired to read more old-school books. Perhaps they were reminded of the pleasures of reading, and were reluctant to haul their Kindle into the bath with them for a book-accompanied relaxing soak?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] The future of books is a real page-turner [Sydney Morning Herald] – [With so much prognostication going on, this government effort to foster a conversation about the future of books is refreshing] When in electronic form, storytelling may benefit in ways that no one can yet articulate. This is one reason why the Book Industry Strategy Group, established last year by Kim Carr, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, is seeking public submissions about the future of the industry. It is seeking ideas from writers, educators, librarians, publishers, retailers and – most importantly – readers about how to enhance the Australian publishing industry as an important sector of our economy, society and culture. Will the "deregulation" of the publishing industry, where anyone can self-publish, result in more stories of highly variable quality? Of course it will – just as the printing press did. But it may lead to some new and innovative ways of storytelling, ways that engage the reader in different or deeper ways. [Thanks, Wyatt!!]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Romance Books Are Hot in the E-Reading Market [NYTimes.com] – [We've commented extensively on how printed books are a means of conveying identity by displaying a key to their contents; something that is lost with e-books. Now here's an example where that limitation provides a benefit] Sarah Wendell is passionate about romance novels. Except for the covers, with their images of sinewy limbs, flowing, Fabio-esque locks or, as she put it, “the mullets and the man chests “They are not always something that you are comfortable holding in your hand in public,” Ms. Wendell said. So she began reading e-books, escaping the glances and the imagined snickers from strangers on the subway, and joining the many readers who have traded the racy covers of romance novels for the discretion of digital books.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] You’re Reading That Book Too? Marry Me: How Young People and Online Dating Services Look for Love Matches Based on Reading Habits or Artistic Pursuits [WSJ.com] – [As we spend time on social networks announcing what we "like" this seems an obvious extension] alikewise.com, a free dating site that matches singles based on books and has amassed 4,000 users, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, since it launched in July. The site facilitates matchmaking by notifying users when someone adds a book of the same title or genre….The focus on matching people based on what they've read (or what they'd like to read) could change the online dating lexicon from "she's hot" to "she's interesting."…But are books really a Rorschach test for compatibility? Dennis Palumbo, a psychotherapist and author of the novel "Mirror Image," believes people in their 20s and 30s are too concerned with shared interests, as evidenced by the growing number of niche dating sites. "As we get older, we want a kind, caring person who cares how we feel," he says. Not necessarily someone who has read "The Cornish Trilogy." [via Springwise]

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