These writings were done during Euroia 2017 in Stockholm.
Yesterday was an amazing day. It really sparked my imagination on things I want to achieve. The focus was definitely set on UX and IA in organizations. Today turned out to be focussing on UX practice and trends within the field.
Walking through information
The day kicked of with a workshop. Everybody settled down in the large conference room with their coffees. Notebooks were taken out of bags. Alastair welcomed everybody. “Now let’s stand up, and go outside”. That was kinda weird, and caught everybody off guard. Everybody gathered outside, Alastair asked one person where she was from. “Sweden”, was the quick answer. “Now, picture a map and position yourself in relation to Sweden”. Within 30 seconds or so, everybody spread out. And soon enough we had mapped out all the attendees. Very cool.
When everybody got back inside, the workshop kicked off. Lots of information about sensory UX. Somehow, we keep designing for the obvious, but forget all the other senses that we carry with us all day.
Our table worked started working on a sensory design journey map of Finding the Pool at the hotel. Soon enough we figured out that it was not just about signs, symbols or people we spoke to. But also about aromatic scents that fill the hallway towards the pool. The humidity that slowly builds up when inside the changing rooms. And that strong smell of chloride, the moment you enter the pool area. Using Jenga bricks, post-its and a lego figure, we mapped our journey. See the Medium post by Alastair on his workshop for some pictures.
A great exercise. Which really made me aware of all the senses. And not just the usual eyes and ears. “Maintain meaning across all senses” is the quote that stuck with me.
Alastair referred to this talk by Elizabeth Buie for more information on transcendent UX.
Ethics and Impact in UX
Donating old and unused clothing to poor countries. What a great and noble idea. But what most people don’t realize is that this process disrupts the local clothing economy. And that sucks. Or how about Toyota, with their highly improved fabrication process. An inspiration to companies all over the world. But to what end? Producing more cars, that lead to congested highways. Definitely a negative impact. Per advocates that the impact of a product must be taken into account during the design process. But there is an ethical side to this as well.
Input > Output > Outcome > Impact*
Milk can be found all the way in the back of the supermarket. Why is that? Because everybody needs milk. So you walk through a maze of impulses that make you buy more stuff. Stuff you might not actually need. This reminds me of this famous quote by Chuck Palahniuk, “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” from Fight Club.
So in a sense, UX and impact are abused, to get you to do stuff you did not actually anticipate on doing. A hidden persuader. A bad thing.
Jan-Wessel did some experimentation with a cultural probe. He designed a small diary with questions. He asked participants to fill out a page of questions daily. The first questions were rather general, but as days passed the questions got more and more into the private atmosphere. “Which Ex-partner do you still regularly contact?” Or even “What medical symptoms did you recently search for and did it turn out to be a chronic disease?”. Participants had increasing difficulties in filling in this information. Whereas most people search for these issues with Google without blinking. There is no barrier or obstruction. Very scary.
One of the questions I remain with though. “What would a Facebook subscription cost if there would be no data gathering?” If you have an answer to this. I’d love to hear it.
The Linguistic UI
Not that long ago, futurists still pondered the possibilities of talking to a computer. Now, we have (sort of) arrived in that era. Controlling a computer by telling it what to do. A big paradigm shift. The graphical user interface introduced us to windows, icons and a mouse cursor. Mid 2000’s the touchscreen was introduced and recently the first conversational interfaces have been introduced.
An entire new way in controlling a computer. Exciting, awkward and scary times. Conversational interfaces have been rolling through the hype cycle and are gaining a lot of traction with Google Home and Amazon Alexa.
However I do feel that these conversation based interactions still feel clunky. Whenever I use a voice based search for example, I tend not to ask a question. Instead, I just spit out keywords. That doesn’t sound very conversational to me. According to Jen, this is where new jobs will be born. Interactive dialogue writers, voice designers and soundscape designers will combine forces with UX and IA professionals.
Where movies still give us the idea that soon we will be actually communicating by voice. I think that is still far fetched. For the coming years it will most likely focus on shortcuts in processes (“Navigate to Football Stadium”) and frequent requests (“Order frequent groceries”). Also we should not forget that a GUI still outruns the CUI, Conversational User Interface, on comparing, complex information, long content and visual entertainment.
So, when we reach these full conversations with our computers, will we forget how to write? How is software going to be maintained? Interesting questions.
The Age of Design
The second day of EuroIA ended with a keynote by Luciano Floridi. He started with the word Cleaving. Split or sever something. That is what the Oxford dictionary gives us. But in German, it means quite the opposite. It is dirived from the word Kleben, which basically means to stick, paste together.
Presence is no longer equal to location, as you could be anywhere around the world (or our solar system) and still be present. Law no longer restricts to territoriality, modern products and services do not adhere local laws. Ownership does not equal usage, Uber does not own taxis, yet they use them for their own profit. Agencies no longer own all intelligence, instead the agencies rely on big organizations to gather intelligence. Authenticity plus memory resulted in a very important concept, the blockchain. Identity combined with information turned you into a data subject. There is no more offline or online, the internet is always present.
We are living in the age of design, many new concepts are born. We as people have the responsibility to make it an age of good design.
Out into Stockholm
After this inspiring (and tiring) day there was a cool boat tour around Södermalm. Drank some wine and had an interesting conversation on digital ethics with Jan-Wessel Hovingh. Good to be able to talk some Dutch after a full day of English. Went out for a good burger and a few beers with newly met friends afterwards.