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I very much enjoyed the ubicomp paper by Di Salvo this past week. It had an explicit political tone which brings up a lot of important questions about the technologies we create. When and where do we draw the line? How do we draw the line? What does the power structure around this tech determine? Etc.
I wanted to post this video I saw today of a little
kid wizard playing with the TV. It’s adorable, give it a watch.
I immediately thought of ubicomp and how cool it could be for kids to play with their environment with this sort of interaction. All the
things toys that could be placed in a space could react to the cues providing ample opportunity for entertainment and learning. Imagine the opportunities if the star mural on the wall engaged someone this young instead of a video game. The implications on the future, especially with children, are endless.
Of course, the implications are endless. Where does this lead? What does the internet of things become for someone this young? We already live in a world where children are given devices at a young age and are subsequently glued to them as they develop. What about automation? We’ve seen the impact of robots doing the lifting and computers doing the deciding on auto industry. What skills could ubicomp render moot?
In my mind ubicomp is a slippery slope. I’m not sure I am ok with a WALL-Esque dystopia of slovenly unskilled self-centered society hell bent on ignoring the harsh realities of life. Yet, I can imagine so many other opportunities beneficial to our ability to learn and better society. The design of these technologies is highly dependent, as Jeff has often said, on us. Creating the right thing for the right reasons is super important.
A post from Deepak on Facebook which led me to research the author introduced me to Marc Hemeon, Senior UX Designer at YouTube and Google. The original post from Deepak interested me in that this entrepreneur Hemeon cancelled a project somewhat prematurely when it ran into a child pornography issue. 6 months of work down the drain for an issue that almost every tech startup has to face, but I digress.
Further research into Hemeon’s posts lead me to one titled Design Process is a Myth. Intriguing, right? Here’s some choice quotes:
“Every designer has their own unique way of solving design problems.”
“Bad product design is fixed by hiring good designers not by adopting a better design process.”
“I create products and ideas by instinct, derived from my own aesthetic tastes and personal beliefs of how a product should look and feel after I have studied the problem. Here is a loose outline of how I tackle a design problem (just don’t call it a process).”
“I let my idea soak until I can clearly picture how to solve the problem. The solution arrives as a clear eureka moment. A eureka moment is pure, and provides an elegant and obvious solution (at least thats how it feels in my brain). The eureka moment comes randomly when I don’t expect it. If I sit down and try to force eureka I freeze and end up wasting time.”
I can’t tell if this guy is trolling or for real, but it raises the question: are these the kind of designers we will work with in the future?
Something I’ve been thinking about a bit electronic dance music (EDM) and its connection to design. Music is traditionally considered art, correct? And production is more towards design. So what is the mashup? How does one go about creating a mashup or even recognizing that two or more songs will sound good together? Moreover, what is the process like of creating a mashup? There seem to be both artistic and design aspects to this work.
I have two examples to share. The first mashes up three songs and, while definitely not the most technically challenging, the song weaves these three songs in and out very well. The second layers two songs directly on top of each other making few discernible changes to either song.
Perhaps this counts as sound design?
We’ve discussed critical design as something that happens when one designer/artist/whoever creates something that essentially makes us think. What happens when two designers, thousands of years apart make us think? Is it still critical design? Something else?
This would probably happen to a lot of us.
[I feel like a disclaimer should be put here. This argument is not fully thought out and may contain errors, fallacies, etc. At the very least this is an interesting gaming thing.]
TPP is a game of Pokemon Red/Blue for the Gameboy that is being played on the Twitch.TV steaming website. Through the chat, viewers control the character’s movements throughout the game world affecting everything from the path he walks to the choices made in battle. As of posting the game has been going for 6 days and 19 hours. Tens of thousands of people are viewing the game at any given time and a segment of that number are actually playing it. I’m not sure how many unique viewers are giving commands, but I’ll guess it’s at least in the thousands.
At the beginning of the game, the character’s actions were controlled in a first-come-first-serve basis. The chat entries were handled as they came. For a while this worked until the character got stuck in a maze room that is difficult enough to navigate regardless. Since then the creator has updated the game (I think, specifically, around day 3) to include two control modes: anarchy and democracy. In anarchy mode, the control system is as it was in the beginning. In democracy mode, a majority of votes is required to move the character after a given time period.
In either case, the game is pretty chaotic. Most of all in anarchy mode where one misstep, one person who decides to troll the game, can decide to ruin hours of progress with a simple command like “down” leading the character off a ledge that will take another day to get back on top off.
I think this is a critical design, whether the creator intended it or not. I think this design is speaking to the gaming community, a group of people who are often the perpetrators of chaos in the gaming world. TPP can be seen as a metaphor for the effect the gaming community has on developers. The massive number of people participating on this game, only a few of whom are contributing to the argument, is representative of the gaming communities reactions to the release of a new game. While some are content or are happy with the game as it is, there is a vocal group which is not happy and is actively attempting to derail the experience.
TPP brings to light the effects of those who want so badly for their voice to be heard. The trolls and haters that plague the community have an alive and active voice and the effect on the people who make the games is evident.
‘Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator of architecture and design, tells The Verge. “It’s so difficult to show people that it’s not about decoration, it’s not about superfluity — it’s about real life.”‘
This isn’t as much a reflection on Rowe as it is on my own learning of the design process.
So constraints seems to be the big theme in this paper, but it’s not the thing that resounded with me. What did stand out was the use of sketches to reveal problem points and issues with the placement and composition of elements in the design.
I remember not too long ago I would have some crazy idea for a design (generally a poster or something two dimensional). I would immediately dive right into the digital tools to make it possible. Generally, this attempt would end with an Illustrator or Photoshop file in the trash can and me playing a video game to try to forget about the frustration of the last half hour. I think it took an introductory course in graphic design to correct that, but not until I had rage quit on a hundred projects.
I really enjoyed this quote:
Another aspect of design thinking that was evident in the foregoing case studies is the tenacity with which designers will cling to major design ideas and themes in the face of what at times might seem insurmountable odds.
I had a similar experience last year with a project I was working on for a typography class. I was arranging based on their content and continued to run into trouble as I finalized pages. Going back to my sketches allowed me to quickly iterate on different page arrangements.
Prior to my understanding of the role of sketches in the process I probably would have had a harder time on that project. It might have taken longer, or I might have produced a product of lesser quality, or I might have scrapped the idea altogether. As it happened, though, I was able to fix these issues and concentrate on solving more fun problems, which made the entire experience enjoyable.
It might be a somewhat obvious observation, right? Sketches: who woulda thought? But, sketches can be so incredibly useful (and at times, overlooked) part of the design process.