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Thursday, September 18, 2003

John Maeda

In Studio yesterday and in a workshop today as part of the Wats:On? Festival CMU was visited by John Maeda, the director of the Physical Language Workshop at MIT.

He introduced himself by saying that he didn't know how to teach a class anymore, just how to play games. So both times I heard him talk, we basically played games. He asked the design grad students to come up with adjectives for "art" and also for "design," then had us strip them away until only a handful were left (like "aesthetics" and "communication" for design and "passion" and "expression" for art). Then he erased the words Art and Design and commented that what was left was a great space to work in.

He spoke about his meeting with Paul Rand when Rand was 81. The great designer's advice to him? "Make a lot of money." That in mind, he's working with Mastercard on a plan for micropayments, which he hopes will give creative people a means to get "survival money" from their writing, design, etc.

He spoke a little about visionaries, and what the ones he'd met have had in common: cooking. All were good cooks. But more importantly, they were all in touch with what it means to be human, which partially revolves around food. Another of his projects is creating a virtual cafe with limited seating that sells virtual coffee. The "coffee" would be little works of art by designers that degrades in time, like real coffee. You'd pay for it with his micropayment scheme.

He compared graduate school to a vending machine that we keep putting money into. The most important thing that it gives you: friends.

posted at 04:02 PM in special guest stars | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Lots o' Articles

A mass of readings from interface class:

  • "The Computer for the 21st Century," by Mark Weiser
  • Chapters one and three of "Designing Effective Speech Interfaces," by Susan Weinschenk and Dean Barker
  • "Designing Calm Technology," by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown
  • "Intelligibility and Accountability: Human Considerations in Context-Aware Systems," by Victoria Bellotti and Keith Edwards
  • "Situation Awareness and the Cognitive Management of Complex Systems," by Marilyn Jager Adams, Yvette Tenney, and Richard Pew
  • "Time-Machine Computing: A time-centric Approach for the Information Environment," by Jun Rekimoto
  • "Coordinating the Interruption of People in Human-Computer Interaction," by Daniel McFarlane
  • "The Chatterbox," by Johan Redstrom, Patricija Jaksetic, and Peter Ljungstrand
  • "The Information Percolator: Ambient Information Display in a Decorative Object," by Jeremy Heiner, Scott Hudson, and Kenichiro Tanaka
  • "Designing Audio Aura," by Elizabeth Mynatt, Maribeth Back, and Roy Want
  • "Feather, Scent, and Shaker: Supporting Simple Intimacy," by Rob Strong and Bill Gaver

Guess what I'll be doing this weekend?

posted at 07:36 PM in readings | comments (5) | trackback (0) | link


Size Matters?

Looking over the list of HCI Master's students, I'm astounded by its size: 44 students, about 36 of them first-year students. Compared to the six first-year interaction designers, and the eight first-year CPID students, it seems huge.

posted at 08:41 AM in hci program | comments (9) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Scheduling Project

I turned in another project for Interface class today. We were supposed to design something that would let us schedule an appointment, cancel that appointment, and alert us when we've scheduled two appointments at once.

We were supposed to use the mood boards and taxonomy of mechanical objects we did earlier for inspiration. I focused on the Hearing mood board and made a programmable headphones (793k power point) that make different noises for different things. An auditory interface. I don't yet have a picture of the 3D model I made of the headphones yet.

posted at 10:44 PM in projects | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Night Off

No seminar tomorrow. Studio work is done. No classes on Thursday thanks to the Wats:On Festival. It's a rare night off to do nothing, just like in the days when I was working. A typical night for me now is to put my daughter to bed, then go back to work for another 5-8 hours, reading or doing projects. But not tonight. Bliss.

posted at 10:30 PM in student life | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, September 15, 2003

What is Interactive?

We also started what is bound to be a recurring discussion today: what are the characteristics of an interactive product? Is a poster interactive? A book? Every product designed for people's use?

Personally, I feel that for something to be interactive, it needs to be able to respond to what you are doing in some meaningful way or you are able to affect it in some meaningful way. A book or poster transmits ideas, but I can't transmit anything back. It is the dialog that amkes it interactive.

Strangely enough, we've also been having this argument over on the interaction architects list.

posted at 10:15 PM in big ideas | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Transactions Readings

Seminar readings for next week:

  • "Facial Engagements," by Erving Goffman
  • "Personal Thoughts on Teaching and Learning," "Significant Learning: In Therapy and in Education," and "Dealing with Breakdowns in Communication--Interpersonal and Intergroup" by Carl Rogers from On Becoming a Person

posted at 10:08 PM in readings | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Assumptive Worlds

Dick Buchanan is still in Australia, so for today's Seminar guest lecturers, we had Shelley Evenson and John Rheinfrank teaching us. Shelley is a new faculty member at CMU and John, is her husband and business partner and former Master Stategist for Sapient.

Ostensibly, today was about Dean Barnlund's article, "Communication: the Context of Change," but we spent a lot of time talking about lots of other stuff as well. But first, the article.

Barnlund's main point is that every human has a unique view of the world that is constructed inside. Meaning comes from us: we provide the meaning to the world. Our beliefs about the world are only challenged (or reinforced) by talk or by argument. It's only through conflict that deeply held beliefs can be changed. It's only through conflict that we can grow.

Barnlund is all about empathy: seeing how other people think. To me, he's like the father of user-centered design. You examine how people think of things (conceptual models) and build towards those. Knowing the users goals would be right up his alley.

He's also about the importance of dialog in communication: making sure that communication goes both ways, between things. It's important to create an atmosphere where this sort of dialog can take place.

He's also a big fan of groups and group thinking as a way of problem solving. And while there is value in groups, sure, some of his reasoning is dubious at best.

Launching off from the reading, we talked a lot about metaphor. Metaphors are used to systematically construct a rolling notion of reality. They are good in that you don't have to explain much (a whole world can be conjured up easily), but also bad ( can trap you into a way of thinking). If you want to think differently about something, shift the underlying metaphor. Marketing was used as an example. Marketing language is all about warfare: campaigns, targets, etc. But instead, think of it as landscaping: growing an audience, plowing a field, etc. There are three different types of metaphors: Orientational ("the peak of his life"), structural ("coming out of a coma"), and ontalogical ("let's combat inflation").

John and Shelley then asked us to shift our metaphor for communication, to instead think of it in terms of learning, both passive and active learning. Wrapping up the article and the discussion was this: You have to design things so that the users can use what is already inside them to figure it out.

posted at 10:00 PM in design theory, faculty | comments (2) | trackback (0) | link


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Communication as Change

Weekend reading for Seminar: "Communication: The Context of Change" by Dean Bernlund.

posted at 10:39 AM in readings | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


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All straight lines circle sometimes. - The Weakerthans