Posts tagged “culture”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Side View Mirror Project – [Love Erik Dahl's deep dive on the ordinary to find ot the extraordinary, as he has spent years taking pictures of side view mirrors. He discovers some great themes and patterns although he acknowledges he didn't know where it was going to go when he started.] Taking these pictures changed the way I drive. I used to be very end-state oriented when I would drive. When I started taking pictures for this project I stopped thinking about where I was going, and started watching mirrors and looking for red lights. As designers, its important to remember that the goal and orientation of the user dramatically impacts their experiences.
  • [from steve_portigal] Two years after buying Pure Digital, Cisco ditches the Flip [Ars Technica] – [I always thought this was about driving a consumer-facing innovation culture into the org. Let's hope that this persists even without the specific line of products.] Cisco is killing off the line of pocketable video cameras in order to refocus the company around home networking and video. The news was a surprise to even Flip critics, leaving everyone wondering why Cisco bothered to buy Pure Digital (the Flip's former parent company) for $590 million just 2 years ago. The marriage never fully made sense, but we accepted it­most assumed that Cisco was making its own attempt to compete in the handheld market by simply gobbling up one of the hottest little gadget startups at the time. Two years later, Cisco's feelings about the acquisition have changed. Cisco announced that it's expanding the Consumer Business Group, but that the Flip business will no longer be part of it. There was no formal explanation given as to why Cisco chose to shut the group down instead of selling it.

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.

Unfinished Business lecture: Culture, User Research & Design

I was recently in Toronto to speak at OCAD (Yes, we were in this awesome building) as part of the Unfinished Business lecture series. My talk looked at the notion of culture and it’s importance for user research, and design.

Culture is everywhere we look, and (perhaps more importantly) everywhere we don’t look. It informs our work, our purchases, our usage, our expectations, our comfort, and our communications. In this presentation, Steve will explore the ways we can experience, observe, and understand diverse cultures to foster successful collaborations, usable products, and desirable experiences.

Slides



Audio

I’ve split out the presentation itself from the Q&A, which was fun, challenging, and filled with big-picture type questions.

Presentation (1 hour, including a quick intro by host Michael Dila):

Q&A (40 minutes):

To download the presentation audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac). For the Q&A audio, Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

Note: In the talk (and the Q&A) I refer to my interactions article, Persona Non Grata. You can find that article here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] A Memory of Webs Past [IEEE Spectrum] – [The French National Library is updating their technical ability to archive absolutely everything ever published.] "We have a lot of so-called crap, and we're happy about that," says Illien, an archivist. His colleagues in other countries might turn up their noses at hard-core porn, advertisements, and obscure newsletters, but not Illien. "In a hundred years, what's totally irrelevant or dirty today will end up becoming of extreme interest to historians." The archivists here aren't after just printed material; they're preserving the electronic, too. It's his daunting task to archive French Web sites—all of them, in all their evanescent, constantly changing, and multimedia splendor. "I'm convinced the Web as we know it will be gone in a few years' time. What we're doing in this library is trying to capture a trace of it." Illien sees himself as a steward of an ancient tradition; he believes he is helping pioneer a revolution in the way society documents what it does and how it thinks.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software [HeraldTribune.com] – [Spin in this article is that using computers to manage super-human levels of complex data will have employment consequences.] When five television studios became entangled in a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against CBS, the cost was immense. As part of the obscure task of “discovery” ­ providing documents relevant to a lawsuit ­ the studios examined six million documents at a cost of more than $2.2 million, much of it to pay for lawyers and paralegals who worked for months. But that was in 1978. Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time and cost. In January, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, CA., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000. Some programs can extract relevant concepts ­ like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East ­ even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.
  • [from steve_portigal] PG&E launches huge paper chase for pipeline data [SF Chronicle] – [You think you have a lot of data to process? Obviously their record-keeping incompetence is just now being surfaced and they have taken on a data task that is beyond human scale. We can create systems that we can't manage!] For the past couple of days, forklifts have been carting pallets loaded with 30 boxes each into 3 warehouses outside the 70-year-old Cow Palace arena in Daly City. Friday afternoon, there were still more than 100 pallets stacked outside the warehouses waiting to go in. "There are 100,000 boxes in there, and you can't believe the papers spread everywhere," one PG&E employee said …"There are records in there going back to the 1920s. "We're looking at all kinds of parameters, and our data validation efforts are going on throughout the service area,…We're doing a 24-7 records search involving at least 300 employees and contractors, and we're working to confirm the quality of our data through collecting and validating our gas transmission pipeline records."
  • [from steve_portigal] Hong Kong, 2011 [Flickr] – [My pictures from our recent trip to Hong Kong for the UXHK Conference]
  • [from steve_portigal] Understanding Culture, User Research and Design with Steve Portigal – [Reserve your tickets now for either Toronto event: a lecture on March 8 and a workshop on March 9. The lecture will focus on culture, insights, and design while the workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to practice synthesizing user research data into opportunities and concepts. Hope to see you there!]

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Non-Jews Begin to Embrace Ketubah Wedding Tradition [NYTimes.com] – [Cultural appropriation of religious traditions as we continue to seek meaning through symbols] The decade of non-Jews discovering the ketubah coincides with three relevant social trends: the rise of Christian Zionism, the growth of interfaith marriage, and the mainstreaming of the New Age movement with its search for spirituality in multiple faith traditions. As a result, an increasing number of gentiles have taken up Judaic practices: holding a Passover Seder, eating kosher food and studying kabbalah, the Jewish mystical movement. “A lot of these things are grass-rootsy,” said Prof. Jenna Weissman Joselit, a historian at George Washington University, who has written extensively on Jewish popular culture. “They have to do with the growing popularity of intermarriage — openness, pluralism, cultural improvisation. And for those who are more religiously literate, they add another level of authenticity or legitimacy.”
  • [from steve_portigal] More Focus Groups for ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ [NYTimes.com] – [What is the meaning of using consumer research? Do we admire producers for being user-centered or do we decry them for being desperate?] The producers of the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” are offering $60 goodie bags to people who serve in focus groups that will respond to several performances. Two focus groups attended Thursday night’s performance, and four more are scheduled to be at Friday night’s show and the Saturday matinee. It’s not unheard of for Broadway producers to use focus groups, and the musical has used them before since preview performances began on Nov. 28. But these are the first since largely negative reviews of the show by theater critics across the country were published on Tuesday. OnTrack Research, a marketing and consulting firm, is coordinating the focus groups, and here’s the rub: participants only get to see Act I or Act II, not both. They are then asked to fill out surveys and join in discussions in a “V.I.P. room.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] A History of the Future in 100 Objects by Adrian Hon [Kickstarter] – [I'm in! Who else will throw some cash at this kickstarter project, crowdsourced funding for some exciting research and writing?] Let's imagine it's 2100…What are the 100 objects that future historians will use to sum up our century? 'Smart drugs' that change the way we think? A fragment from suitcase nuke detonated in Shanghai? A wedding ring between a human and an AI? The world's most expensive glass of water, returned from a private mission to an asteroid? I want to write a weblog that will explore all of these ideas, with 100 posts for 100 objects. Along the way I'll produce a newspaper and a podcast, and when it's finished, I'll publish it as a book. But it's not just going to be about technology – I'm going to focus on the deeply human effects of our fascinating future, from religion to advertising to wars. I want to tell the story of individuals, families, countries, and the human race, as we venture from 2011 to 2100.

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] Second City Customizes a Show for Rochester [NYTimes.com] – [Successful experiment where a comedy troupe immerses in local culture, then creates a show that resonates locally but still holds true to their existing brand of humor. Playing in Peoria, indeed!] They arrived in October for a 4-day insider’s tour of Rochester, The 16-hour days (built around writing time) included dinners with politicians and radio personalities, a tour of the Genesee beer brewery, a meeting with students at Bishop Kearney High School and a foray to the public market. “We tried not to do too much tourist stuff,” Mr. Furman said. “Ideally we shop and eat and go where the residents do.”…Early table-reads of the script brought a promising sign: the director, Jim Carlson, who knew nothing of Rochester, didn’t get a lot of the jokes. “I knew, based on the rhythms, where the punch lines were, but I didn’t understand them."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Problem With Studies: Why They Get It Wrong [ABC News] – [Food for thought as we analyze, synthesize, prioritize and report our own study results.] People, including journal editors, naturally prefer papers announcing or at least suggesting a dramatic breakthrough to those saying, in effect, "Ehh, nothing much here." The availability error, the tendency to be unduly influenced by results that, for one reason or another, are more psychologically available to us, is another factor. Results that are especially striking or counterintuitive or consistent with experimenters' pet theories also more likely will result in publication. Even such a prosaic occurrence as clock-watching provides illustration of this. I don't think I look at the clock more than others do, but I always seem to notice and remember when the time is 12:34, but not when it's 10:56 or 7:41.
  • [from steve_portigal] Making culture, provoking culture (by making pie) [Grant McCracken] – [Grant sees in design-provocations the possibility to go beyond wishful-social-change-thinking and uncover rich new insights about people and culture. Plus, pie. Mmm, pie.] Our interest is sincere. We do want to know about them. We want to seize this opportunity to find out who they are, to listen to anything they're prepared to tell us. We are doing ethnography in tiny bite size bits. (Here too we want to consult the work on methodology.) Some people who wish to make a social difference don't really care to hear from the Pie recipient. They have a vision of the new world, and they mean to keep banging away at this vision until the pie recipient embraces it. But if we have learned anything about engaging the world it is that it can't be about us. Our best efforts must begin with a study of them.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] My Year Without Star Wars [io9] – [Screenwriter/producer reflects on the lessons learned from stepping back from his beloved Star Wars] How many modern blockbusters seem like cargo cult versions of that childhood inspiration? How many times do I have to walk out of a theater thinking "I just paid to see a laundry list of beats that "worked" in Star Wars" before wondering if our collective doorway to archetypal storytelling hasn't become a Trojan Horse? Star Wars may have taught the Hero's Journey to entire generations, but it is our responsibility to use the paradigm and to forge something with its own emotional integrity. All creators imitate, emulate and steal. All maturing artists engage in a dialogue with what came before… but I can't think of a single instance in history when so many of us are so actively engaged in paying homage to a single work of art. Bluntly: we are all cribbing our best moves from the same two-hour movie and it has to stop. There just isn't enough meat on the carcass.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die [Wired] – [Provocative musing on what the Internet has wrought to outsider enthusiasts, but the piece falls off a cliff after this. I yearned for Chuck Klosterman to make this funnier/insightful] With everyone more or less otaku and everything immediately awesome (or, if not, just as immediately rebooted or recut as a hilarious YouTube spoof), the old inner longing for more or better that made our present pop culture so amazing is dwindling. The Onion’s AV Club—essential and transcendent in so many ways—has a weekly feature called Gateways to Geekery, in which an entire artistic subculture—say, anime, or the Marx Brothers—is mapped out so you can become otaku on it but avoid its more tedious aspects. Here’s the danger: That creates weak otakus. Everything That Ever Was – Available Forever doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie?

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Snowclone [Wikipedia] – A snowclone is a type of cliché and phrasal template originally defined as "a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants". An example of a snowclone is "grey is the new black", a version of the template "X is the new Y". X and Y may be replaced with different words or phrases – for example, "comedy is the new rock 'n' roll". Both the generic formula and the new phrases produced from it are called "snowclones". [Thanks @mulegirl]
  • [from julienorvaisas] The Business of Unfriending People [inc.com] – [Suggests that the social media footprint in our lives is contracting, voluntarily, and explores cultural trends informing that. Is the social media bubble about to burst (or at least diffract)?] New evidence suggests that as social media gets bigger, we're getting smaller. This is the growing trend of descaling—the pruning of our social lives on the Internet. Here we take a media, which is structurally perfect for massive scaling at low cost, and use it to make the Internet a more meaningful, emotional, and intimate experience.This new sense of intimacy derives from two places. The first is our growing sensitivity and sophistication about privacy. Secondly, this trend to intimacy isn't relegated to the digital world. It's happening across our economy. The pre-crisis consumer has become a smart shopper, more concerned with maximizing both the value of his or her purchase, but also actively supporting the brands, ideas, and friends that share his or her values.

Keeping it Weird

I made my second trip to Austin a couple of months ago and was struck again by the Keep Austin Weird ethos. Once you start seeing it, it’s fairly pervasive (i.e., tie-dyed souvenir shirts, tote bags, bumper stickers, keychains, etc. at the airport). Of course, memes become co-opted and corrupted. Here are two examples I found


A McDonald’s mural by David Soames gives new meaning to the term “counter culture”


Keeping Jesus Weird – a different and unpredictable faith conversation – offers a Ladies’ Night event, where women are the topic. I count two memes being repurposed here

I’m not sure that “Keep [thing that you’re selling] Weird” is going to work (even in Austin) for every possible brand, product, service, religion, or combination thereof, but it’s amusing to watch the purveyors try real hard to make it happen!

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Mobile Mandate: Tribute to Cultural Connectors [design mind] – [frogdesign's Kate Canales and Lauren Serota adventure in Zambia revealed some crucial truths about accessing other cultures. As much as I'm advocate for having my mind blown as an outsider, the importance of the bridge – the people who can help you make sense of it all – is paramount] As we traveled with her, she grew to truly understand why we were there and could see we were missing pieces. She found opportunities to fill those gaps, taking time to explain things to us and immerse us in the culture..We were reminded that if you are open to it, you can learn as much from insightful people like Lister as you can through days of fielding. More than that, she might have been our most powerful in-field synthesis tool. A sounding board for questions, validations, curiosities and stories. There's not much better than having multiple observations tied together in an understandable way by someone native to the culture.

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