2 December 2006

Donald Norman on the design of future things

Be the first to share

Donald Norman's Horse and Rider
Donald Norman has posted a draft of the first chapter of his new book “The Design of Future Things”.

The book will be published by Basic Books, probably in early 2008. According to Norman it is about the ever-increasing role of automation in our homes and automobiles, why it is being done so badly, with suggestions for doing it right through what he calls “natural interaction”.

Entitled “Cautious Cars and Cantankerous Kitchens: How Machines Take Control“, the first chapter aims to set out the driving questions of the book: “As we start giving the objects around us more initiative, more intelligence, and more emotions and personality, what does this do to the way we relate with one another? What has happened to our society when we listen to our machines more than people?”

Some quotes from the first chapter:

“We fool ourselves if we believe we communicate with machines. Those who design advanced technology are proud of the communication capabilities they have built into their systems. The machines talk with their users, and in turn their users talk with their machines. But closer analysis shows this to be a myth. There is no communication, not the real, two-way, back-and-forth discussion that characterizes true dialog, true communication. No, what we have are two monologues, two one-way communications. People instruct the machines. The machines signal their states and actions to people. Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”

“As our technology becomes more powerful, more in control, its failure at collaboration and communication becomes ever more critical. Collaboration requires interaction and communication. It means explaining and giving reasons. Trust is a tenuous relationship, formed through experience and understanding. With automatic, so-called intelligent devices, trust is sometimes conferred undeservedly. Or withheld, equally undeservedly. The real problem, I believe, is a lack of communication. Designers do not understand that their job is to enhance the coordination and cooperation of both parties, people and machines. Instead, they believe that their goal is to take over, to do the task completely, except when the machine gets into trouble, when suddenly becomes the person’s responsibility to take command.”

“More and more, our cars, kitchens, and appliances are taking control, doing what they think best without debate or discussion. […] The problem is the lack of dialogue, the illusion of authority by our machines, and our inability to converse, understand, or negotiate.”

“Successful dialogue requires a large amount of shared, common knowledge and experiences. It requires appreciation of the environment and context, of the history leading up to the moment, and of the many differing goals and motives of the people involved. But it can be very difficult to establish this shared, common understanding with people, so how do we expect to be able to develop it with machines? No, I now believe that this “common ground,” as psycholinguists call it, is impossible between human and machine. We simply cannot share the same history, the same sort of family upbringing, the same interactions with other people. But without a common ground, the dream of machines that are team players goes away. This does not mean we cannot have cooperative, useful interaction with our machines, but we must approach it in a far different way than we have been doing up to now. We need to approach interaction with machines somewhat as we do interaction with animals: we are intelligent, they are intelligent, but with different understandings of the situation, different capabilities. Sometimes we need to obey the animals or machines; sometimes they need to obey us. We need a very different approach, one I call natural interaction.”

Norman goes on to ask what it would mean to have a graceful symbiosis of people and technology, and argues for a more natural form of interaction, “an interaction that can take place subconsciously, without effort, whereby the communication in both directions is done so naturally, so effortlessly, that the result is a smooth merger of person and machine, jointly doing the task.”

Read first chapter

Be the first to share
14 August 2016
The psychology of scarcity: what behavioral economics can teach design
Eldar Shafir, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and coauthor, with Sendhil Mullainathan, of the book Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives (Picador, 2013), talks …
13 August 2016
New book on how corporate anthropology can help businesses grow
On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights by Andi Simon PhD Greenleaf Book Group Press July 2016, 184 pages Abstract Innovation has become such a ubiquitous value, it's in danger of becoming cliché. Companies …
31 July 2016
[Book] The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age
The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age Sonia Livingstone and Julian Sefton-Green New York University Press May 2016, 368 pages > Read online for free Do today’s youth have more opportunities than their parents? As they build their …
31 July 2016
Examining cultural need: discussing design anthropology with Amélie Lamont
Designer Erin Lynch recently interviewed Amélie Lamont, a NYC-based design anthropologist, and the result is quite stimulating, particularly also on the topic gender and racial gaps in the design industry. According to Amélie, "design anthropology focuses …
31 July 2016
Can ‘user experience’ experts become ‘customer experience’ experts?
For those of us who are puzzled about what exactly the difference is between UX and CX, Toby Bottorf, principal at continuum, situates the difference as one of scale: "The difference is one of scale. You’re …
23 July 2016
Emerging social roles for life in 2025
Over the last five years Ericsson's Networked Society Lab has been exploring what social life in 2025 might mean. How have 20th structures of industrialization been challenged? What is happening with life and lifestyles right …
22 July 2016
[Book] Overcomplicated (or when systems go feral)
Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension by Samuel Arbesman Current (Penguin Randomhouse), July 2016 256 pages Abstract Why did the New York Stock Exchange suspend trading without warning on July 8, 2015? Why did certain Toyota vehicles accelerate uncontrollably …
22 July 2016
A nudge toward participation: Improving clinical trial enrollment with behavioral economics
A nudge toward participation: Improving clinical trial enrollment with behavioral economics Eric M. VanEpps, Kevin G. Volpp and Scott D. Halpern (University of Pennsylvania) Science Translational Medicine - 20 Jul 2016 Vol. 8, Issue 348, pp. 348fs13 Interventions informed …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

22 June 2016
A united energy economy: Experientia helps wrap up the CITYOPT Nice pilot project

Can behavioral change address local energy issues, raise people’s awareness energy consumption issues, and directly support non-profit organizations at the same time? With the Nice pilot of the CITYOPT project, we have seen strong suggestions that it can. It also suggests that the sense of belonging to a local community is a strong motivation for […]

23 May 2016
Experientia white paper: “Conducting clinical trials is about working with patients”

Patient-centricity is one of the defining issues facing clinical trials in the pharma industry. The past few years have seen a growing awareness by pharmaceutical companies of the importance of patient-centricity – but they have also illustrated that not everyone is clear on just what patient-centricity is, or how to achieve it. After using UX […]

12 April 2016
The latest on innovation in Energy Efficient Buildings: annual round-up of EU Commission projects

Every year, the Energy-efficient Buildings (EeB) Public Private Partnership (PPP) publishes the EeB PPP project review – a round-up of energy-efficiency projects that have been co-funded by two European Commission schemes. This year, the print and digital booklet design was done by Experientia, in particular by our talented visual and interaction designer Dohun Jang. Experientia […]

8 March 2016
Behavioral modeling – Shaping cultural change and behavioral evolution

One of the things we do here at Experientia that really sets us apart from other UX agencies is behavioral modeling. Our cognitive and behavioral models go beyond the standard customer journeys and personas (both useful tools, and often preliminary steps to behavioral modeling) to create frameworks that can be used to make people more […]

1 March 2016
Singapore’s main newspaper on Experientia’s design with the elderly

Arti Mulchand reports in the Straits Times, Singapore’s main newspaper, on Experientia’s “Design for Ageing Gracefully” project: Putting faces to end-users early in the design process is changing the way designers and organisations are approaching products aimed at Singapore’s growing elderly demographic. Experientia’s ethnographic study, which was commissioned by DesignSingapore Council in a collaboration with […]

18 January 2016
Experientia website completely reshaped

Experientia is pleased to announce that we’ve started 2016 with a brand new website. Experientia’s now officially 10 years old, and we decided that the best way to celebrate is by building a new website that showcases our growth – with new projects, new people in the staff, and two new locations in Lausanne and […]

See all articles