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Thinking about explorative Reading

I thoroughly enjoyed Bret Victor’s article on exploratory reading.  It was a concise and to the point article that left space for my mind to work while reading.  Engaging the participant has been a part of almost everything we have done at ITP so far, thus it was good food for thought.  The author is basically discussing how and why to make reading an interactive event.  I like that he laid out the article into sections that moved me through the concept, it was easy to digest.  It bode well for an author who’s topic is exploratory reading

 

Discussing user behavior is very important.  I like that the author points to “laziness” in readers.  It is very similar to watching television in this regard.  I feel that the attempts at interactive television have been a complete failure and we can learn from the television industries mistakes.  One of those mistakes was not understanding that the user was lazy and desirous of a passive type of interaction.

 

With the proliferation of smart phones and tablets connected to the internet the paradigm of explorative reading in education has incredible potential.  Access to the internet in this fashion is quickly reaching new areas of the globe where the need for education is great.  A rumor I recently heard was that there where five billion cell phones and only four billion tooth brushes. (insert link here)  What needs to happen is a globally understood “rules of engagement” for exploratory reading so it becomes a common language.  The implications for places like Guinea and Afganistan are great.

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Conceptual Blockbusting: Think about how you think about ideas.

I have read many books on creativity, but this is the first on the subject that doesn’t assume that the reader is (or considers themselves to be) a creative person. It is interesting to analyze the process from this view.

The goal of Conceptual Blockbusting is to make aware the process of conceptualization- more specifically, what’s going on in your mind while creating ideas. It asks you to acknowledge the thought processes you use when solving a problem. For example, you may instinctively and quickly arrive at an answer, but it’s not often that you consciously choose (or become aware of) the thought process you used to get it.

The book suggests becoming aware of the many psychological obstacles or “blocks” that arise while generating ideas. In my opinion, the most useful and universal to be aware of are the emotional blocks. So, I ask that you read through my summary and pick one to focus on in your next creative assignment. If you have a good or bad experience from this past semester please share! What will you do differently next time to enhance your creative performance?

Have a great break everyone!

🙂 Natasha

 

Emotional blocks- (so basically, Stop being safe and you’ll do fine.)

Fear of Failure – Realistically assess the consequences- he suggests writing a detailed and precise prediction of what would happen in the worst case scenario.

No Appetite for Chaos- If your thoughts are too orderly, there will be little opportunity for new ideas to combine from others. Allow your thoughts to be ambiguous.

Judging ideas –  If you criticize ideas too early, you may feel superior to the idea-haver, but know that this is a habit you will likely use to exclude your own ideas prematurely.

Not incubating the problem- Don’t force it. If you are stuck on an idea, take a rest, stop thinking, and the answer will magically appear at a future time. Give the unconscious a chance to do the work for you.

No Challenge and Quick Satisfaction – Find a way to care about the outcome of solving the problem. Take the time to come up with the right solution rather than the first one.

Reality vs Fantasy- Use all of your senses to imagine. “Creativity requires the manipulation and recombination of experience.” Imagination is powerful and should be set free of the constraints placed on reality.

Flow vs Angst –  Creative people are not all depressed and unstable. Creative flow is the state in which time passes freely and you are in a positive emotional state. Know what causes this in yourself and try to cultivate it.

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A No-Brainer

I had been recommended the book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug a few times in the last few years.  After all the chips had fallen and my 20s wound down to an end I found myself as a Creative Director with no creative training.  I have an undergrad Biological Anthropology degree and my last Masters was in media research.  Yet, along the way I had helped someone with a wordpress site here, edited a video there and in the end became a generalist in enough software packages to be functional enough to guide a research company’s creative direction.  I immediately jumped on the chance to read this book and find out its insights on functional website design so I could at least hold my own in conversations with my focus group moderating co-workers.  I had seen many sessions, but had never thought of myself as a usability expert like they were.

The first thing I noticed was the 2006 copyright.  While lolcats may have not changed that much in 6 years I am sure that functional websites have.  Maybe I should have read the book when it was released instead of around the time that it needs a new edition.  Still common sense hasn’t changed and therefore the approach should be the same.  Essentially the book says that people shut their brains down to a low roar and navigate the path of least resistance.  What this book hopes to provide is a break down of what those obstacles are that impede the flow of traffic to the end result (often a sale or a relevant article) and showcase web design conventions to facilitate these results.  The books begins with many quotes of praise saying that it practices what it preaches by being short and to the point.  I argue  otherwise.  How can a book repeat the same thing over and over again for 200 pages and be considered good.  Why make a slew of chapters about different parts of a webpage if your only suggestions/recommendations are to cut down all excess images and text and make things like like their functionality.

I feel like these tidbits of advice aren’t so groundbreaking since the advent of web 2.0.  People in my generation have embraced large striking photography and minimalist wordings.  The current trend is away from verbose blogging to succinct tweeting and image tumbling.  I understand that monolithic websites are still used and needed, but anyone making those sites would need more than this book by their side.  As a book for general lay people this one is only good for a quick browse over a coffee table, if only to laugh as they reference Yahoo as the major search engine of the web.

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What can we do with the memory of Funes?

When I am browsing on many websites and social media, I often forgot how many hours I keep doing that. It is already around 2~3am when I am aware of that I wasted so much time on it. It is certain that I read more than a couple of thousand words. But if someone ask me to represent a line from what I saw on the web, I couldn’t do that. Because, I’m not thinking about what I encounter in order to make it my own knowledge. That’s why we call if as an internet ‘surfing.’ There are incredible amounts of information on the internet like a tsunami, and its massive volume makes me just float on it, not reaching deeply.

The same thing happens in Jorge Luis Borges‘s short story “Funes, the Memorious,” As regards narration, Funes becomes to possess a speciality of unlimited memory after an unexpected fall accident. “Without effort, he had learned English, French, Portu- guese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details.” The only common thing between the internet and Ireneo is that most of things in memory is just a series of words without meaning.
Recently, we can frequently hear the term, ‘Big Data’. As the next issue in technical business, many IT companies are carefully reaching their arms in order to get priority. It somewhat reminds me the Gold Rush. Meantime, Some experts and journalists alerts that big data itself is not a big deal, but how to pick out the useful information among garbage data. If Funes knows this way to deal with his memory, he would not have to live hiding in the dark. Maybe, he could be the best contributor all over the world. Borges seems, through this story, to give us the question what can we do with big data rather than internet surfing in the close future.
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The Art of Interactive Design

After I read this book ,I always thought about “How would you define physical interaction?””What makes for good physical interaction?”
In my opinion,
1. According to Crawford, “interaction: a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak.”
In human- machine interactive process, the 3 steps above of listen, think, speak could be considered as input, process and output.
Reacting is not interaction and Interactive communication is superior to conventional, one-way communication.
Interactivity design people integrate form with function.

2. Then let me add “physical” before “interaction”:
If the physical is space, physical interaction could be a space including virtual space.
Physical interaction could let the cyber space not only providing numerous information but also creating orderly virtual space, so people could communicate with each other easier and more comfortable.
And physical interaction could also include the connection with virtual space and real space.
Virtual social relationships not only challenge the traditional social relationships but also improve the traditional social relationships closely. That’s why we enjoy Facebook and other social network.

If the physical is material things, just as Bret Victor ranted in A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design, The touch screen of computer and mobile should open and develop our human’s hands ability.
Why we use hammer when we drive a nail into the wall? it just addresses human needs by amplifying human capabilities. All material things should adjust to human including physical interaction.
So when we use electronics stuff, they need to amplify human capabilities, relate to a person’s expression. There is a closely relationship between human, computer, electronic stuff.
Moreover, it is not the work only focusing on making something to imitate and replace human, our goal is connecting human with each other by computer.

If the physical is natural features, it is similar feeling when we using material things to interaction. When we use hands to touch the future mobile and computer, we couldn’t ignore the natural feature of human( we also couldn’t ignore the natural feature of all tools).
As Bret Victor said Hands feel things, and hands manipulate things. All human body could be considered like this when we are communicating with computer.
Recently, I have watched a Japanese movie, its name is Departures. It talked about old job of a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. As in Asian countries, we believe our life is a just trip and could be continued after we are dead. Most people in the movie including the leading actor‘s wife and others don’t understand the job, it is change, but the leading actor felt so good when he are cleaning and improving the dead body with tediously step in the process, the process is very gentle and suitable and could reestablish the dead body’s look and human dignity. I think interactivity design have similar nature as the man’s work. When we use technology, our interactive design should meet human’s needs with gentle, suitable way, help human communicate with each other better in world.

Are there works from others that you would say are good examples of digital technology that are not interactive?
They are television, Fridge, Camera, Video camera, Some of Robots focusing imitating human’s nature and so on. We don’t communicate with them.

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Good design tells story

 

I stepped into the flow of interactive design for the reason of enriching my ways of multimedia story telling.

Chris Crawford, the author of The Art of Interactive Design, mentioned that interactivity is superior to all other forms of human expression in one way. He also claimed that interactive design engages the human mind more powerfully than another form of expression. When we truly interact with someone or something, we are truly engaged. I personally confirmed this by asking my friends who have been to MOMA that what was the most impressive exhibition to them. Most of them responded with “Talk to Me”, an exhibition of interactive projects. Among all the projects, according to my friends, those based on stories were more memorable.

Although interactive media is a better way of story telling, the story itself is more important. For example, the Oscar winning “The Artist” is just a black-and-white silence movie without many advanced techniques utilized. It is the plot that seized audience’s heart. Therefore, techniques, no matter how fancy they are, should always serve the story instead of being the gimmick of box-office. The recently popular movie in theatres, “Life of Pi” directed by Ang Lee, is a good example that hi-techs such as breath taking 3D screening supported the story telling.

As we grow up, the store tellers could be changed from our moms to anyone else, but the story remain unchanged. Since all arts forms carry stories, such as song, pint, opera, movies etc., what we learn and enjoy from the media is stories. Even if we now have a better technology, I keep asking myself why to make a project, what do I want share with others.

Thinking over and over again, I find the main concept of communication is empathy.

“Empathy” is the best friend of communication. Only if we share with the real concern about our audiences can we get better communication effect. That is to say, we need a good story to tell.

What is changing now is only a method, what is not changing is human’s need for communication.

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A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

I have written comments about Ethan Zurkerman’s article “A Small World After All?” but I would also like to pin point to some other issues concerning the issue.

While the empowerment we get from the internet is undeniable, as the article suggests, it cannot be said that we completely understand and use that power, neither is it very easy to do so. First of all, using that power would mean taking responsibility and action and while we’re busy living our lives, it may not always be what we want to do (unless the situation threatens us or the ones we love). Secondly, most of the times we are not aware of the cultural dynamics of a country (which is totally understandable) to be able to use the power we have. How do you decide on the right action or how to help people when you don’t know what the right action to take is. Continue reading A Small World After All? by Ethan Zuckerman

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Imitation or Create, Acquaint or Strange

The Essay ‘Designing For and Against the Manufactured Normalcy Field’ isn’t a long story, you don’t need too much time for reading it, then, that doesn’t mean it’s meaningless, actually, the philosophy of its author Greg is quite smart. It stated a good way of thinking different and design –  I won’t talk more about its content, I am going to talk about the normalization design.

First topic, Apple’s imitation design. We are all super familiar with the interface of apple’s productions, iOS, MAC OS, let’s grab some specific example, Photo Booth, when most American saw the icon on their first time, they knew what this app for, the red curtain and wood chair has told you all of the message about this application. let’s move on, glass icon, all of the icon in iOS will get this beautiful effect. With the in-cell technology and reatina display, the virtual stuff look like physical things, real matters exist in our physical world. And the metal drawing effect of Mac OS, with the physical laptop’s material, are perfect harmonious. These design had got so many praises, till the Metro design style published by Microsoft. Argument started. Some people stated that the technology should not let people feel strange, the unfeeling pure color block will cause sense of panic, and then get disgust feeling to technology. In the other side, people argue that physical matter has its own feeling, and virtual interface should has its different style, it is not real, so there is no need for it to imitate real world, that’s  a kind of masturbation for spirit. That’s the backward of development. Electronic production should have its special style other than physical matter, to always imitation mean lose of soul.  Actually, I am the guy who stand against apple’s side.

Imitation design is a good instance for explain normalization design, make that strange things to be more familiar with, would be a good way for learning, and make the user more comfortable, but is it a method for long time conceive? What if after hundreds of years, physical matter would have been disappear in human’s life(just like BlackMirror’s view of world), what would we imitate? The matter come from one century ago?

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On being a strait white male.

I found the comments and descriptions in this article to be very good.  Being a straight white male it made me think a lot about my position in the world.  The analogies where precise and non threatening.   One thing that is clear is these positions have been rapidly changing.  There is great proof of that and we should be proud of it as a culture.  Women in the 25-30 year old college educated professional categories in several urban markets are now making more money and have higher job security than men (from a cnn poll, don’t know the details or testing methods). I know for sure that being a privileged white straight male does not guarantee the kind of position it did even 10 years ago.  The roles of males are changing as well.  Increasingly, they are required to fill different positions in society.  It is amazing how far we have come in the last 50 years with racial and gender equality.  Now, we not only need to continue this trend but find a way to keep women’s life expectance from continuing to decrease.  Eventually we will all be doing the same jobs, valued the same, and be responsible for ourselves in the same manner.  I think we have a very bright future to look forward to when it comes to the race, gender, and sexual preference divide.  We will be able to advance much farther as a people.

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CoTLN 2, and The Techno-Human Condition

Omer has already encapsulated the basic premise of the 10,000 Year Clock, which stands as the scaffolding within Stewart Brand’s  “The Clock of the Long Now” . One part epochal timepiece, one part library for all mankind, the CoTLN (book, clock, and library) aim to foster multi-generational responsibility and function as a monument to the whole. With the large version (a smaller, city version has already been built) presently under construction in Nevada and embedded into a mountain, the clock and museum are to be a lateral step outside the ever-accelerating moment. We can follow their progress online.

For me, one of the most interesting frameworks discussed in the CoTLN(the book) is this notion of different strata operating at different speeds but influencing one another in due course. In this model, Art & Fashion sit at the top as the fastest and most turbulent layer, with change percolating down through the remaining five (in order: Commerce, Infrastructure, Governance, Culture (read: religion, custom) and then Nature) The basic premise: Change at the natural level should not / can not happen at the same speed as change on a fashion or commercial level. This is difficult to disagree with, and as such, I think it a valuable tool for framing what is wrong with, say, nearly everything about our current governmental/commercial/industrial machine. Examples which affect this balance feel illustratively self-destructive, i.e. Chopping down an entire forest for one short term payoff, vs. sustainably harvesting lumber over generations for long-term steady, greater profit.

I recently read another text, titled The Techno-Human Condition (TT-HC) by Braden Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz. This book explores the trans-humanist debate – whether or not we are, or are becoming, a wholly new thing. It also contains much discussion of strata – three levels of technological innovation.

Level I. Direct cause and effect > i.e. Tim Berners-Lee invents the Web to facilitate sharing at CERN.

Level II. The network that a level one technology exists within > i.e. the communications system. (mail, television, radio, telephone, etc., etc.)

Level III. The even messier structures beyond that – a.k.a. the “earth system”, which is a fairly awkward catch-all for everything and includes both human and natural systems, in which we have practically no idea how level II and III developments will play out.

This model’s divisions, understandably messy, underscore the more important point – The ideas we’ve inherited from the enlightenment (steady, rational progress, the value of the individual, separation of mind and matter) no longer serve the increasing resolution with which we understand the complexity of our underlaying level II and III systems. Must we abandon the notion that we can possibly predict what sort of fruit our pioneering efforts will bear? Ethically, how do we put any of this into practice?

The CoTLN(book) sets out a handful of guidelines.

  1. Serve the long view
  2. Foster Responsibility
  3. Reward Patience
  4. Mind mythic depth
  5. Ally with competition
  6. Take no sides
  7. Leverage longevity

Like a pretty photo of a sunset, this list is hard to disagree with. However, it also doesn’t give us much in the way of concrete guidance. At its best, these bytes are worthwhile principals, but difficult to translate into practical, immediate implementation, especially at an individual level. At worst, it lands as grandiose, new-age techno-spiritualism. As a reader, do you take anything away from the seven points outlined above?

I believe a better list – not sound bytes, but instead, valuable questions – is to be found towards the end of the TT-HC. I copy them here because I believe in them.

  • What are the values that motivate a particular investment in science or technology?
  • Who holds those values?
  • Who is most likely to benefit from the translation of the research results into social outcomes? who is unlikely to benefit?
  • What alternative approaches are available for pursuing such goals?
  • Who might be more likely to benefit from choosing alternative approaches? who might be less likely to benefit?
  • Have alternative scenarios (or models) been explored? If so, what do they say about the preceding questions?

So now I’m supposed to ask – what do you think about the bulleted questions above? Worth considering while designing systems for others? Too slow and difficult given the current pace of market-driven competition and development ?