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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.

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).”

Priceless!

And finally…

“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?

I am still playing around with my final paper topic somewhat, but I am thinking something in respect to what I want to call the post-Facebook political campaign (Mitch writing about political campaigns? Who would have thought?).  Here is what I’m thinking about and my basis:

In 2008, the Obama Campaign used social media heavily as a campaign tool to get the name and positions out there, much more and effective than, say the McCain Campaign.  However, since then, the use of social media has dropped off, in fact, did we really see that much of a push on social media to sign up on HealthCare.gov?  The Obama Administration appeared to have moved on from social media campaigns, other than a few paid Facebook ads here and there.  What happened? Are we now moving backwards to what it was before 2008?  How are we going to capture the youth vote now if they are moving away from social media?  Why are we moving away from social media?

My favorites are the Twitter trends which are many times put together by Super PACs to make it look as if everyone is feeling a certain way nationally on Twitter in an effort to persuade younger voters to be more conservative or liberal, but do these really have an effect?

That is where I am at with my paper. Right now. Exploring what I have already observed and personally think this is a topic I could shape into my capstone project.

Any thoughts?

What I cannot figure out with Joanne Entwistle’s book chapter is why she did not include any visual examples.  Sure fashion trends come and go, but she could have shown the same woman wearing different garments and point out the differences between how a woman is portrays herself.

Hilary Clinton was first lady from 1993-2000, where she had the role of being the president’s wife. It is not an official role and she did not get paid for being First Lady.  What she wore was feminine, had bright colors, lace, form fitting, etc. Could she have worn these same clothes and be taken seriously as a leader when running for President in 2008?  Compare the two images, the one above and the one below based on what she is wearing. What kind of message is she portraying? What is she saying about herself?

My point here is an attempt to give a visual example for Joanne Entwistle’s argument. Which I agreed with as I was reading, but would have had a better understanding of if she gave me visual examples other than just describing garments.  Over spring break, I remember watching the Today Show and there being a segment about the Wrap Dress turning 40.  Would have I understood what the wrap dress even was or it’s role in feminism was by Matt Lauer just standing there and describing it?

Raoul Hausmann. Der Geist unserer Zeit

Raoul Hausmann. Der Geist unserer Zeit. 1919 http://archives-dada.tumblr.com/post/66361789493/raoul-hausmann-mechanischer-kopf-tete-mecanique. Used here under educational fair use only.

Right now, there is a text book that I very much regret selling back to the bookstore as we had a whole unit on the Dadaism Movement and its role in design and culture during the Weimar Republic.  This time period in Berlin has always been described as a period where the arts were able to flourish.  I have a paper written about this, unfortunately it is not written in English.

Dadaism, as defined on Wikipedia,

The movement primarily involved visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestos, art theory, theater, and graphic design, and concentrated its anti-war politics through a rejection of the prevailing standards in art through anti-art cultural works. In addition to being anti-war, Dada was also anti-bourgeois and had political affinities with the radical left.

Known as the anti-art, this is the same art movement which Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain came out of (http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/duchamp-fountain-t07573).  It was an era of critical design, where one did not really want to look at the past, but rather look at the future critically, asking if what they have now is the path they should be following and using art to find these new paths.  The movement stripped away the conventions of all traditional art, design, and politics in order to find their own future.  As seen in the piece of our time, titled Der Geist unserer Zeit, which translates to The Spirit of our Time,   Unfortunately, many who took part in the original Dadaist movement did not survive the Second World War and the philosophy ended when Nazism began.

So what’s my point? As written in the chapter by Ilpo Koskinen, part of the argument focuses on asking are designers also artists?  Koskinen points out, “As they key early publication, the Presence Project, related, ‘we drew inspiration from the tactics used by Dada and the Surrealists, and especially, from those Situationists, whose goals seemed close to our own” (91).  He later goes on to quote Dunne, where he said that designers must fight being labeled as artists (98), stating that “What we do is definitely not art in terms of methods and approaches, but that’s it…Art is expected to be shocking and extreme” (98).  Is critical design not shocking and extreme?  Would anyone look at Dunne and Raby’s Poo Lunchbox or Blood Bag Radio and just shrug their shoulders saying they were expecting this?  Shocking and extreme was at the center of Dadaism, a movement that helped form an entire culture, through both art, design, politics, theater all working together hand in hand in order to shape the future together — why do they all need to be separate now?  In Der Geist unserer Zeit, by looking at that image, can you see all of those things?

While I agree with the general consensus that the Desiderata reading seems to be the most palatable view of design, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m not entirely comfortable with it. If anyone can tease out a bit more to this, please do so.

Originally in my notes I’d decried this sense I’d been getting of overlooking marginalized individuals. I don’t think that desiderata was necessarily (or even has to be) aimed in this way, this supposition that user’s needs are somehow not what we should be designing for, or that the designer needs to tease out secret hidden desires… Hell, there are tons of people where simple basic need IS the problem, and the design work comes into play (i’d assume) in understanding what systems are in place that are denying them that need, and subverting or establishing a new system.

I don’t really want to keeping harping on this ‘Consumerist! Capitalist!’ thing which has cropped up in half of my posts here, but I guess that the idea of desiderata to me seems to come from this idea that designers will be working within a company setting, or on products. Or that in order to create “the next big thing”, we need to take a deeper look beyond what people simply say they want and discover what they really do. (And of course this gets into the whole ‘designers knowing better than the user’ thing, but that’s been talked about a bit more already).

And I think that’s me just forcing that perspective onto the paper a bit. I think Nelson and Stolterman are a bit more closely concerned with a careful design of what values we *want* the future to hold, ala Dunne and Raby. Which overall I really agree with. But I guess my point is more – although yes, in order to design for the future we need to get at underlying desires and imagined futures, there are simply some issues for which the “need” is right there in front of us, and really *is* the main issue. Now maybe dealing with this ‘need’ will have to take into account the desiderata of the other players involved?

A deeper and much better critique I think is the way Jeff framed it this afternoon – Nelson and Stolterman are directly prescribing *how design should be done*. Even if I think they’re right on the money for a whole slew of design thinking, even in their wide net, they’re still limiting what design is or can be.

Jared’s post reminded me of the discussion we had on that day as well and I thought I’d ramble and write about the topic. Most of us are training to be “user experience professionals.” However, I don’t believe user experience professionals will ever able to be attain the same professional status as Medical Doctors and Engineers. Now, I believe most people won’t find that argument too surprising. However, I want to argue that it should be more gray and complex. A professional has many connotations, but the two I’m going to ramble about is that

  1. A professional acts in a professional manner and there’s an established code of ethics.
  2. There is an established body outside of the normal judicial system to hold them to said rules and punish members that do not adhere to them.

Both doctors and some engineers such as those who build bridges and nuclear power plants fit this definition. These professions and others have successfully argued to society that only they should have an exclusive right to practice their craft because others will get hurt if others besides themselves practice their craft. By this I mean that if any of us were to setup a doctor’s office and started to treat people, it would be shutdown, and for good reason; most people would hope that when they’re on an operating table the surgeon knows his saw from his scalpel or else you might find yourself with one less kidney.

Now where am I going with this? Design is dangerous. It changes the way people behave and how they should think and not always for the “best.” It’s why were taught in this school to be “human-centered” and that we should go through the process of figuring out what people really want before going down that direction. And yet, everyone designs sometimes. Cross calls

The evidence from different cultures around the world, and from designs created by children as well as by adults, suggests that everyone is capable of designing. So design thinking is something inherent within human cognition; this is a key part of what makes us human.

This is troubling for crafting a profession because of its exclusive right to practice its craft. It would be wrong to monopolize design thinking in what Cross calls design thinking. Now am I saying we should professionalize? It’s hard to say. There are probably organizations out there for UX professionals that are trying to do this, but obviously there are a lot of problems here. I will end this rant with one final thought. I suppose it is the utmost importance that our designs must come from somewhere and they mustn’t be “just magic” and that we recognize this. I would probably argue that thinking that our designs emerge from conjuration are more likely to lead to poor design decisions that influence people in “non-good” ways.

Okay, not sure if I have my full argument figured out here, so help me out if you see where I’m going or see gaps I can fill in. Especially since this got awfully rambly as I went.

As Fredric Jameson famously remarked, it is now easier for us to imagine the end of the world than an alternative to capitalism

Design became fully integrated into the neoliberal model of capitalism that emergedduring the 1980s, and all other possibilities for design were soon viewed as economically unviable and therefore irrelevant.

Market-led capitalism had won and reality instantly shrank, becoming one dimensional. There were no longer other social or political possibilities beyond capitalism for design to align itself with.

I don’t just mean “Are Dunne and Raby against capitalism” (yes), but the deeper question – is it possible to practice their holistic take on design within our capitalistic society of the now?

At the heart of their paper is this passage, which jumped out at me and endeared me to them immediately:

“it is becoming clear that many of the challenges we face today are unfixable and that the

only way to overcome them is by changing our values, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior. Although essential most of the time, design’s inbuilt optimism can greatly complicate things, first, as a form of denial that t he problems we face are more serious than they appear, and second, by channeling energy and resources into fiddling with t he world out t here rather than the ideas and attitudes inside our heads that shape the world out there.”

They seem to be claiming that these unfixable challenges seem to be brought on through deeply entrenched system, which must be rethought and reworked from the ground up. This is not dissimilar to feminist ideas of the patriarchy or deep systemic oppression* – systems which must be reworked and uprooted wholly, as they are all interconnected.

Which brings me back to the question about the user who doesn’t *want* to know about the issues surrounding his toaster. Can we lead lives as uncaring consumers and still bring about this deep-felt change? Dunne and Raby directly caution against the designer being the only individuals in the ‘meta critic’ role we discussed

Designers should not define futures for everyone else but working with experts, including ethicists, political scientists, economists, and so on, generate futures that act as catalysts for public debate and discussion about the kinds of futures people really want.

And in fact it seems important for them for all these issues and challenges to be discussed and grappled with in a deep way by any and all individuals – a sort of mega participatory design of our possible future. But in order for that to be possible, the consumer cannot be passive.

But how do we deal with this issue in the now? If I as a designer agree with Dunne and Raby, what should I do? Where should I work? Where *can* I work and still follow through on challenging our deeply set system? Their mindset seems to be set far in the future where most anything – probable, possible, or plausible could happen. But how do we start? Even within our very socially critical and aware HCI program, we as designers are still being trained and positioned in order to enter the realm of huge huge corporations, full of issues of power and privilege.

At the end of writing this I suppose I’m beginning to see Tiffany’s frustration (Maybe – might just be my own flavor) – What Dunne and Raby speak about is the need for design to…activate people. Perhaps that’s a way of putting it. Moving from the passive consumer spoon-fed by the markets, simply hoping that things will improve to an active instigator, dreaming of what futures they want to live in and challenging the present. But businesses won’t give that power up so quickly, and neither will the consumer. It’s easy and comfortable as hell.

I believe Stephen spoke to Jeff after class about the position critical design could/should take in the way we work, which may be the ‘real’ question I’m asking here. I’m not sure. What do you guys think? How can we begin to grapple with such a huge problem?

*As I understand it. Please feel free to correct.

(Apologies that this is a little late since we talked about this; I’ve been sick.)

I was really interested in the class discussion last Tuesday about juxtaposition and Soviet Montage Theory. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m not a huge film buff, so all of this is really new to me. I was trying to wrack my brain to think of examples of juxtaposition in interaction design, and I wondered if this might be one example.

Have you guys heard of the US politician Rick Santorum? He’s somewhat well-known for his anti-homosexual beliefs. Dan Savage, a gay rights activist and columnist, started a campaign to associate the word “santorum” with a byproduct of a sexual act. (You can see here if you really want more details.) Basically what happened was he encouraged people to link any instance of the word “Santorum” to his website with the new definition of the word, with the intent on messing up the results in a Google search. It was a huge success, and for a long time, a Google search for “santorum” would land first on the page with the gross re-definition of the word. This even came back to haunt Santorum when he made his bid to run for president.

But to me, this seemed like an example of juxtaposition (associating the politician with something gross) that was taken to the next level as perhaps only technology can do. And it was also kind of an unintended effect of Google’s algorithms (which I think have since been changed).

I REALLY enjoyed this movie however I could not establish why until I read the reading. As I was watching the movie, I felt it was particularly dry, yet intriguing at the same time. Was it the setting in Paris? The culture shock of 1950’s punishment techniques? Absolutely not.. I was intrigued because Truffaut predicted the future with arguably one of todays most controversial medical/mental conditions.

Ken Robinson gives a lengthy TED talk about ADHD, the conspiracy that this condition does not exist, and the “Invention” of this condition in recent years. While I do not agree with his ideology that ADHD does not exist, I do believe that this condition is not a mental disability, but an advantage.

Antoine exhibits all the characteristics of ADHD, however in 1958 there was no term for ADHD. Instead of the understanding that people with this condition have a different mental wiring, it is accepted that these people are “troubled” and should be put into mental healthcare. Sadly, this practice still happens today to a certain extent.

Clearly Antoine has a mental capacity that surpasses all other characters in 400 Blows, yet nobody gives him a chance to prove his intellectual capability. Unfortunately this is a prediction for a practice that is widely accepted fifty-five years later.