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Friday, November 7, 2003

Robot Walker Design
Even though we're supposed to be doing another round of user testing and refinement on this project next week, I'm happy enough with what we presented on Tuesday (200k Flash) to show it to you now.

For another look at this project and a solution, check out Rob's blog.

posted at 12:07 AM in projects | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, November 6, 2003

Rock and/or Roll
As it turns out, one of the second-year CPID students is dating a rock star. En route to Japan, the band stopped over in Pittsburgh last night, and some of us caught the show. Rock n roll, baby!

posted at 10:50 AM in classmates, extracurricular | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Design Research
Ethnography is the study of people as they go about their everyday work for the purpose of connecting deeply with the content and issues that matter to that community. Then you document in a regular, systematic way what is learned and observed so that you accumulate a record of activity. In this way, you gain a deep knowledge and insights into user processes.

there are a range of research methods, but what's important is to use multiple methods to help overcome your preconceptions. You triangulate your findings to get multiple views of what is being observed.

Targets of Observation:

  • activities
  • events (activity sequences that can be bounded in time and space)
  • settings (locations where behaviors and activities relevant to a study take place)
  • behavior
  • conversations
  • and interactions.

Working in groups or pairs is important; if you miss something while, say, writing a note, your partner can catch it. It's also extremely important to decide how you are going to record data before you go in.

If you can't directly observe something, use directed storytelling. Ask the subject to recall specific instances for you ("Tell me about the last time you bought shoes.") If you have props for the subject to use, that's good too.

There are a number of ways to capture your data. Video and audio recording are not recommended. Structured note taking during the conversation works best. If you can't take notes during the research, do it immediately afterwards. Always diagram the environment. Annotated drawings are good.

Features of good field notes:

  • exact quotes with selected words
  • pseudonyms for confidentiality
  • describe activities in sequence
  • no personal judgements
  • capture history or extended context where relevant
  • separate out your inferences, reflections, hunches, and emotional reactions
  • and name of observer, date, time, and place.

It's also good practice to treat your test subjects ethically. Meaning

  • get their informed consent
  • explain the risks and benefits of the study
  • respect their privacy
  • provide remuneration for their time
  • and provide data and research results to them.

Treating your subjects well helps immensely when it comes time for them to adopt the processes or product you've designed.

posted at 10:29 AM in big ideas, design 101 | comments (0) | trackback (1) | link


Wednesday, November 5, 2003

What is Information?
In the past, designers didn't talk much about information. The focus was on the physical artifacts, and information was just part of the object. Now, information is the object. Information seems more complex, rich, and diverse now. We look at information from the point of view of someone using the information, and it is this perspective that controls much of the experience.

And now, as Dick Buchanan said, we need "a little bit of a lecture on the history of Western culture." Some 300 years ago, there was a great effort by folks like Descartes, Spinoza, and Newton to understand the nature of things, to understand the principles of first things. Then came a period of trying to figure out how our minds work, attempting to delve into the faculties of the mind. Then, around 1890, what we say and what we do became the focus of thought, our words and our deeds came to be examined. We are still in this period and it shows no signs of slowing down. Western thought is now dominated by experience and expression. We're in a time when how we experience things is the key to how we think. Even discussions about things we can't experience are framed this way, such as death. A similar period was from the time of Cicero up until the time of St. Augustine.

How does this relate to information? In experience and expression, information is key. Information is an ambiguous word that either means data or the facts built on that data. We are obsessed by facts even though they are often ambiguous and contradictory.

We deal with the constant bombardment of information we get daily in two ways: we find connections among those facts, and we build principles.

Dick broke information down like this:

  • Data: 1 term, meaningless. "blue" or "seven"
  • Facts: 2 terms, a sentence. "It's blue."
  • Connections: 3 terms. "A is B. B is C. A is C."
  • Principles: N terms. Lots of connections.

Design, as Ralph Kaplan famously said, is all about making connections. Designers are judged on the quality of their connections. Facts are only useful when they are connected into a coherent argument. Knowledge depends on connections. Principles help you understand many connections. Wisdom depends on understanding principles and is about being able to compare conflicting principles and to make decisions between them.

There are three areas of information in design:

  • Information architecture: large structures of information
  • Information design: specific areas of information
  • Information typography: fine tuning in very small detail

Related entry: What is Data?

posted at 12:26 AM in design theory | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Rhetoric and Poetics Readings
Readings for Seminar for The Art of Communication and Interaction Design section:

posted at 10:41 PM in readings | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Flash Art Project
Another little project ended today for my Computing in Design class. I wrote a little program in Actionscript to make this fun, useless set of moving circles (2k (!) Flash SWF). Fun for the whole family. If the whole family smokes a lot of pot.

posted at 10:28 PM in projects, software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Grad Studio, 3:00 am
It's almost 3:00 am. I'm in grad studio with Jeff, Kerry, and Mathilde. We're eating Halloween candy and working on our project for Interface class, due tomorrow at 1:30. Oy.

posted at 02:44 AM in student life | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Skills Reading

For the unconscious competence project we have a reading: "Skills" by Michael Polanyi, from Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.

posted at 01:58 AM in readings | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Unconscious Competence Project

Our information visualization project mainly over (although we have a final final presentation in three weeks), we've moved on to a new project in Design Studio class, and a new instructor: Shelley Evenson, who is taking over for Dan Boyarski for the rest of the semester. She's also teaching Design Seminar II, which I (and the other first-year design grad students) have to take next semester.

The new project involves finding an activity that someone is "unconsciously competent" at, then documenting the processes around that activity. The purpose is to sharpen our research skills and train us to look carefully at a process and document it. And in documenting, to spark design ideas.

Now I just need to pick an activity...

posted at 01:47 AM in projects | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


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All straight lines circle sometimes. - The Weakerthans