this week i revisited the analog sensor lab and (finally!) connected the potentiometer and FSR to trigger my LEDS. At first the FSR Was working fine. But the potentiometer was acting like a switch. No gradual illumination, just on and off. After much pin switching and recoding, i realized i had a resistor connected to the potentiometer and this was causing the problem. Now it works!
I agree with the ideas presented in both of Donald Norman’s readings (Chapter 1 of “Design of Everyday Things” and the essay ‘Emotion & Design: Attractive things work better’) this week.
For this week we were supposed to watch people interacting with technology. Prior to looking at the readings i was going to talk about cars because, as Norman explains, cars are designed to be easy to use and intuitive, especially in situations where split second decisions could be a matter of life or death. I also wanted to look at cars because people bond with their cars in a way that does not happen with an ATM or a Metrocard kiosk.
Psychologically the car becomes an extension of one’s body. From my observations driver’s and pedestrian’s actions are not that much different. Both navigate the physical world in a manner that reflects their affect. Like pedestrians on a busy street we see rushed drivers weaving in and out of traffic, nervous tourists making inching about in all directions, careless people, and overly cautious people. When we are in an accident or if the car breaks down it can be a traumatic experience or a manageable one. A scrape on the knee versus a hospital visit. The design of the car encourages different levels of familiarity parallel to the human body, from the immediate (feet and pedals for movement) to the more complex (internal organs and engines). And the appearance of a vehicle is another presentation of ones style or personality, not unlike clothes or hairstyles.
However after readings I found myself thinking more about our emotional relationship to maps. Our previous reading would call a map one of the lowest levels of interaction because it merely provides information without processing any feedback. This lack of feed back is also probably the main source of frustration with the NY City subway map. It shows the complicated network of intersecting lines but when delays or changes happen there is rarely a way for riders to know what is going on just by looking at the map. The subway also has many service nuances that can be listed on the bottom of the map, but is often not understood or misunderstood until the rider experiences the service first hand. The map in the station (or on the train) often acts like a hub for people to ask each other questions. Standing in front of the map, disoriented, people will many times just turn to someone and ask for directions.
But this got me thinking about google maps and why they are so popular and useful. I think the main reason is because it is a resource with infinite information, but it is designed so that you can go into a simple interface and retrieve only what you want (which of course would be impossible with a static map like the subway). This got me thinking about customization.
Many of the examples of bad design that Norman gave were bad because the designer either had trouble understanding the needs of the user or the designer tried to create something that was too universal and accommodated the needs of every possible user. So would it be better if each user could easily design their own products to fit their needs. Is there a more customizable or even a DIY Model for our everyday products?
I guess this is another consideration for the designer. Instead of just throwing new features on a product is there a way to make the product easier to customize. Is there a way that someone who wants a button for popcorn, frozen pizza, and a turkey sandwich on their microwave can have that, while the same product could just easily be stripped down to starting and stopping a timer? I have no answer, but i think designers should also consider a consumer’s need for the feeling of choice and agency, and the value of making those options clear and functional as well as the primary operations of any given product.
When I saw the “Productivity Future Vision” video I found myself impressed with certain aspects of Microsoft’s future vision. The cleaner design and total integration of technology is beautiful to look at and the actors seem to be able to work and communicate very efficiently.
But, the tools being used are not much different from the email, search, video chat, and cloud sharing functions that already exist on our clunkier desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. It seems to me that these visions of technology are redundant. They are glossy and pretty, but not much more innovative than the . Do we really need an app to tell us what’s in our refrigerator? Just open it! Look at the actual objects in the fridge with your own eyes. Crawford might say that this is an example of form superseding function. This would be a case of products being superfluously redesigned.
By Victor’s working definition of a tool (addressing human needs by amplifying human capabilities) the tools being used in the video do not necessarily “amplify” the users capabilities. The only thing that seems to be amplified is the space between all the users. They are estranged from their families and co-workers and they interact almost exclusively through technologies which mediate their interactions. Yes, their ability to share information while being apart from each other is amplified. But if the goal is increased interactions between humans, then this vision of the future is only slightly more successful than the technology we have now. For the people working together on a spreadsheet at their job, this technology is successful. It is successful because their primary interaction before the introduction of the “future technology” was based around efficiently processing and manipulating spreadsheets and data.
But for other interactions such as the businesswoman and the hotel attendant, the technology does not do much to help the people interact with each other. Instead they act more like research tools. If you are working at the hotel you can download the client’s information and facilitate a speedy transition from the taxi to the hotel room. But this could easily be done with out a human attendant at all. After all the attendant was simply silently accompanying her to her room. Presumably a system of conveyor belts for the luggage and prompts from the screens for directions could have provided the same service.
In the house hold all the screens were larger and on different surfaces, but they did not necessarily enhance the person to person experience anymore than what we have already done. The child is playing video games and video chatting with mom. The husband is updating a digital calendar. But this is not necessarily innovative or even much more efficient. It seems like more of a novel reformatting of existing tools.
I don’t think that all technology has to cater to human to human interaction. But I do think that the technologies presenting themselves as communications tools should better facilitate human to human interaction. Meaning they should not just make all human interaction faster or more efficient, but they should somehow enrich our experience so that we do not feel like we are just looking at “pictures behind a glass” but rather that we are actually connected in a tangible and physical way to the world around us. Can there even be a technological analog to shaking an attendants hand and introducing yourself? Or being with your spouse and child in person? I’m not sure, but I think this is something we should keep in mind when designing new tools for interaction. After all human interaction is often more than just productivity.