9 July 2008

Polite, pertinent and… pretty

Be the first to share

Polite, pertinent and... pretty
Polite, pertinent and… pretty: designing for the new wave of personal informatics” was the title of a talk given by Matt Jones (Dopplr) and Tom Coates (Yahoo! Brickhouse) at the recent Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

Summarising their talk is not an easy thing to do, but I will give it a try. In any case the 81 slides with speaker notes are available on SlideShare.

Jones and Coates start from the premise that information is now becoming so pervasive, omni-present, localised and personalised that we can not only increase our awareness but also constantly use it to our advantage. These data come from big databases, but also from our own behaviours. Our own devices sense, record and sample data, and share these with other devices and with us and other people. They call this “personal informatics”. But this poses a huge user experience challenge, which requires a sophisticated design solution:

“The discipline of informatics is based on the recognition that the design of this technology is not solely a technical matter, but must focus on the relationship between the technology and the use in real-world settings.”

“That is, informatics designs solutions in context, and takes into account the social, cultural and organisational settings in which computing and information technology will be used.”

But what does that mean concretely? How should we design? Jones and Coates propose “three pegs to hang some thoughts off” and they all start with a P.

In defining the concept of politeness (to be thought of as the “softer ying to the hard yang of ‘privacy’), they lean on such thinkers as Adam Greenfield (and in particular his recent book “Everyware“), Mimi Ito, Leisa Reichelt, Matthew Chalmers, Anne Galloway and of course their own practice.

Pertinence is about “disclosing information that is timely and as ‘in context’ as possible”. To define this better, they refer to the ‘movement’ metaphor that Matt Webb of Schulze & Webb recently described in a talk. Webb posits that we are moving from a web of ‘places’ to “something more like a web of organisms or engines connecting and fuelling each other”.

So the issue here is to show small pieces of information in the right context at the right time, “delivered in increasingly pertinent ways, depending on our habits and contexts”.

And finally there is prettiness:

“The vast quantities of information that personal informatics generate need not only to be clear and understandable to create legibility and literacy in this new world, but I’d argue in this first wave also seductive, in order to encourage play, trial and adoption”.

So what is the future of personal informatics? Aren’t we creating our own “participatory panopticon” (Jamais Cascio)? Or are we moving to a world filled with “spimes” (Bruce Sterling)? At the moment it’s often artists who are exploring the boundaries of this unknown future.

In a long post, Alex Steffen of Worldchanging presents his own – excellent – summary of the Jones/Coates talk, but takes their analysis a step further by connecting it with sustainability and adding a fourth P (“Protection”):

“Ubiquity and sustainability could turbocharge each other. Ubiquity enables revealed backstories, observed flows and shared services, making it easier to live well at a minimum of expense and ecological impact. Sustainability, particularly in the form of compact urbanism with bright green innovation, concentrates human interactions with each other and networked systems, making it easier to suffuse daily life with the sort of intelligence that allows data to be gathered, shared and connected. The Net and the public square, as Castells wrote, are symbiants.” […]

“PSS [product-service systems] offer enormous potential sustainability benefts. Indeed, I’d argue that it will be impossible to deliver sustainable prosperity without the widespread adoption of shared/sharing systems. But they can also have a real downside, for PSS rely on a more intimate connection with their users, and where that intimacy is not backed by protected relationships, real disaster can result.” […]

“So, I would add a fourth P, “Protection.”

If we are going to interact with companies in intimate ways — in ways that impact our deepest life choices — those interactions ought not only to be held to a higher standard of transparency and public accountability; they ought to be safe-guarded in formal ways as well by having corporate decision-making structures that protect the user rights of the people involved.”

Steffen keeps on surprising me by the depth of his thinking.

Be the first to share
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 …
1 May 2016
Report: User Experience and Usability in Complex Systems
User Experience and Usability in Complex Systems Final Report 1/2015 FIMECC (Finnish Metals and Engineering Competence Cluster) November 2015, 225 pages Five years ago, some of Finland’s metals and engineering industry companies were looking for new ways to tackle …
30 April 2016
The Internet of Things needs design, not just technology
Scott A. Nelson and Paul Metaxatos write that, as B2C companies rush to exploit new IoT applications, pushing technology to potential end users no longer works. Increasingly, the pull of user experience will drive market …
30 April 2016
Security versus UX
Gwendolyn Betts explores how to reconcile one of the biggest challenges in interface design: security versus user experience. Betts writes that it is not uncommon for security measures to be tacked on at the end as …
21 April 2016
The product design of IoT
As more and more ‘Internet of Things’ products come into the market, most, if not all will come with significant challenges. The key to overcoming any obstacles, writes Joe Johnston, VP Experience Innovation for Universal …
19 April 2016
Co-creating policy and public services in Ireland
Governments, public sector and community organisations are addressing increasingly complex challenges such as the ageing society, climate change, sustainable behaviour change, youth unemployment, impacts of austerity, health, housing and homelessness. They are doing this at a …
14 April 2016
Anthropology is not only undersold, it’s misunderstood
Dr. John Sherry, Director of Business Innovation Research at Intel, says in an long profile on Epicpeople that anthropology is not only undersold, but also misunderstood: People too often talk about ethnography as a tool for …
8 April 2016
Markus Giesler on customer experience design
At Experientia, we live the mantra that experience design is always contextual experience design. Understanding and designing for people within a culture, a context and how people evolve and change within these, is at the …

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.

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 […]

1 January 2016
For when things get personal…
See all articles