11 March 2010

Elegant technologies for complex lives

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Microsoft Research
The Socio-Digital Systems (SDS) group of Microsoft Research aims to use an understanding of human values to help to change the technological landscape in the 21st century.

“Beyond making us all more productive and efficient, we ask how we can build technology to help us be more expressive, creative, and reflective in our daily lives.

Our group considers a broad range of human values, aims to understand their complexity, and puts them front and centre in technology development. An important aspect of this endeavour is the construction of new technologies that, in turn, we ourselves can shape. In so doing, we may create new ways that help us to actively realise our aspirations and desires, to engage with or disconnect from the world around us, to remember our past or to forget it, to connect with others or disengage from them. Important here are technologies which ultimately make our lives richer, and which offer us choice and flexibility in the things that we do.

SDS does this through the bringing together of social science, design and computer science. We believe that by understanding human values, we open up a space of new technological possibilities that stretches the boundaries of current conceptions of human-computer interaction.”

Some of their projects can be viewed online, but I was quite intrigued by the wealth of recent publications (2009 & 2010) which I grouped under a number of thematic headings:

Family archives
Passing on and putting to rest: Understanding bereavement in the context of interactive technologies
Opening up the family archive

Household messaging
Designing a technological playground: A field study of the emergence of play in household messaging
Bridging the gap between grandparents and teenagers: Lightweight vs. heavyweight contact
Resilience in the face of innovation: Household trials with BubbleBoard

Social practices
Collocated social practices surrounding photos
Desiring to be in touch in a changing communications landscape: Attitudes of older adults
Machine intelligence

Studies of technology use in the home
Who’s hogging the bandwidth?: The consequences of revealing the invisible in the home
Understanding family communication across time zones
Home video communication: Mediating “closeness”
Home curation versus Teen Photography: Photo displays in the family home
Photo displays and intergenerational relationships in the family home

Supporting autobiographical memory
Now let me see where I was: Understanding how Lifelogs mediate memory
Narrative, memory and practice: Tensions and choices in the use of a digital artefact
Fixed in time and “time in motion”: Mobility of vision through a SenseCam lens
Reflecting on oneself and on others: Multiple perspectives via SenseCam

Specific projects
Glancephone
Hybrid interactive surfaces
TellTable (also here)
VPlay

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