Posts tagged “decision-making”

From Us, To Steve: The techno present

For the Omni project we are exploring the impact of technology on people’s everyday lives. This has involved a lot of “looking out” into the world. Of course we are also “looking in” and paying attention to how technology is impacting our own lives, i.e. when it comes to tolerating traffic and making consensual decisions about birthday gifts.

Julie and I had the best of intentions: Head up to the Ferry Plaza building after a meeting in the city to pick up a gift for Steve for his birthday. We knew (more or less) that we wanted to get he and Anne some sort of serving dish from Heath Ceramics to complement the new tableware they purchased last month. Unfortunately traffic was not in our favor that day. As Julie practiced her patience at the wheel we noticed in the sunroof that a helicopter circled above- definitely not a good sign.

By the time we got to the Ferry building, Julie’s patience had run out.

JN: I do not want to deal with parking. Why don’t I just drop you off here and you can run in?

TC: Okay. Wait a minute. I thought we were gonna pick something out together?

JN: It’s fine. We talked about it. I’m sure you can pick something out.

TC: I want us to choose together! Okay, I will text you! Stay tuned!

I got to the shop and met Monica and Michael (whom I had already spoken with on the phone about our mission). They were ready to help and set to showing me exactly what Steve and Anne had purchased. I found myself in a race against time and battery when I saw the dreaded red percentage in the upper right corner of my iPhone. As a gift-giver I was focused on figuring out the present, but I also felt a bit frantic about making sure I had power enough left to find Julie once the shopping was done. The tingling butterflies in my stomach sang a tune of “you are new to this city, never been to this ‘hood before… if you get to 10% better run for the door…”

Julie assuages my fears of never finding her should my battery die before I get back outside to her car.

Monica showed me a bunch of serving platter options that would complement Steve and Anne’s new set. I texted these images to Julie with my suggestion. She agreed and we arrived quickly at a decision. The whole process, including gift wrapping, took less than 15 minutes. I walked out the door directly over to Julie’s car with a perfect present, selected in consensus, and a teeny tiny bit of battery to spare.

The techno-interventions into our gifting ritual did not end there. We planned to meet at Ho Wing’s General Store in the Mission for dinner on Sunday night (which, sadly, is so new it has no website or relevant hyperlinks as of yet). En route to the restaurant¬† the texts started flying among the three of us. *Nota bene: I typically comply with California hands free laws and do not text while driving. I have, however, trained my 8 year-old to masterfully multi-task between giving me directions via Google Maps and reading/replying to text messages.

iMéssage ?† trois illustrating communication of¬† our location, our confusion, our emotions and our search for why.

During our hunt for a birthday gift for Steve, I was reminded of the simple daily interventions of technology. I take for granted that the ways that technology enables me (and my 8¬† year-old) to find and communicate with friends, learn more about friends, stay connected, pass time, navigate, keep anxiety at bay (or not), and share decision making in a way that ensures we both have the same ‘data’. It’s hard to imagine that less than 10 years ago none of this experience would have been possible or, for what it’s worth, noteworthy.

Happy ending! Steve and Anne with their new tray (images courtesy of Steve and Anne…and technology)

 

 

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

  • Satisficing [Wikipedia] – Satisficing (a portmanteau of satisfy and suffice) is a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution. The word satisfice was coined by Herbert Simon.[1] He pointed out that human beings lack the cognitive resources to maximize: we usually do not know the relevant probabilities of outcomes, we can rarely evaluate all outcomes with sufficient precision, and our memories are weak and unreliable.
  • There, I Fixed It – Epic Kludge Photos – We often talk about the "satisficing" you see in contextual research – people coming up with their own "good enough" solutions that can drive designers and engineers crazy. We remind our clients that these aren't always things to be redesigned (and in fact there are often better solutions that we see in the field already available) – because it's about motivation, activation energy, and tolerance for less-than-perfect solutions. While this site is a bit snarky in tone, it's a good reminder of the prevalence of messy semi-solutions in the real world.

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