Deep Metaphor: Exploring the Say-Mean Gap in Design Research

December 1, 2008

In recent posts I discussed different gaps, from the community gap in particular to the encompassing engagement gap. Each of those discussions attempted to size up a disparity between the attention currently given to the importance of community and social media by companies and the reality of the commitment of resources to them based on recent research in the United States and Europe.

We hear a lot of discussion these days about Web 2.0 and social media, especially on whether adoption is driven by demographics, lifestyle, or something else. Recently, while reading Marketing Metaphoria by Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, it struck me that regardless of the patterns of Web 2.0 and social media adoption, the applications tap into basic sensibilities for connection that we all share, regardless of age and lifestyle. As I note below, a sense of connection is an example of a deep metaphor that the Zaltmans discuss in relation to people, products, and brands.

Deep metaphors underlie the way people understand the context of problems they face in their everyday lives. Though the concept of deep metaphor was initially outlined in Lakoff and Johnson’s book Metaphors We Live By, Marketing Metaphoria takes it a step further by developing useful techniques for exploring how deep metaphors affect the perception of brands and products and, by implication, how to approach the say-mean gap in design research.

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Brand Dialogue Strategy in Social Media

November 18, 2008

question1At least since publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto, with its meme that markets are conversations, observers noted the importance of what customers say about a brand, online and off — but especially those online. However, a somewhat subtler point from Cluetrain is increasingly relevant to brands and social media. The point was made in the book’s Thesis 39: “The community of discourse is the market.” In fact, the thesis actually consists of several ancillary ones: Read the rest of this entry »


CABA’s Connected Home User Interface Project

November 14, 2008

cabaI received an email alert from the Contintental Automated Building Association’s (CABA) Connected Home Research Council indicating it is initiating a new project on the Connected Home User Interface. Our last post discussed these issues in the relation to Whirlpool’s CentralPark Connection and questioned designs that depend on a single user interface to “intelligent” appliances and, by implication, homes. CABA’s Connected Home Research Council’s research agenda on the Connected Home User Interface characterizes the issues in the following manner.

The evolution of the digital home lifestyle has been, in part, created by consumer demands that are driving tremendous industry change and opportunity. The connected home offers various promises to simplify interaction and engagement of consumers with family, entertainment, career and home system solutions

Two of the open questions that have yet to be answered is (1): How do product developers and managed solution/service providers best aggregate data into potentially, one single user interface that is both intuitive and adds value to the holistic connected home? And (2): How does the user interface solution support the delivery of the digital lifestyle promise?

CABA’s Connected Home Research Council (CH-RC) is sponsoring a consumer research study that will define the specific attributes or baseline criteria of a ‘connected home user interface’ for consumers when managing the connected home.

Current Steering Committee members seek answers to some of the following questions:

  • What type of information and/or control do consumers really want (passive versus interactive data)?
  • What type of access, convergence of services and data set to home service content is desired?
  • How can the whole home solution enhance the digital lifestyle?

What do you think about the questions posed by the Connected Home User Interface project?

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Metaphorical Refrigerators, Design, and Ubiquitous Computing

November 11, 2008
centralpark_frig

Whirlpool CentralPark Connection

I’ve been meaning to write about Dan Saffer’s Masters Thesis since reading it a couple of years ago. A recent post by Mike Kuniavsky provides an opportunity to do so. Also, it appears that Dan left his position at Adaptive Path to found Kicker Studio, a product design company. In The Role of Metaphor in Interaction Design, Dan noted that metaphors help users/customers understand new products and services by providing cues that orient and personify the experience of the familiar with the new.

In other words, metaphors help us understand one thing in terms of another by highlighting similarities between the two, while at the same time implicitly recognizing differences. Dan also added that metaphors introduced to facilitate adoption of a new product can also limit its innovation in other ways. He specifically pointed to the Workspace is a Desktop metaphor, which conceptualizes the computer as an office tool primarily. I would add that the metaphor contributed to the myth of the paperless office by obscuring the differences between desktops and graphical user interfaces. Specifically, Dan contended that,

it could be argued that the desktop metaphor has hindered the development of ubiquitous computing as much as some hardware factors (p.22).

At the same time, he observed that the desktop metaphor was much more effective in gaining the widespread adoption of computers when compared to the previous metaphor, i.e. computers as programming environments. He recommended that whenever designers use a metaphor in a new product they need to begin with what is new, the subject of the metaphor, rather than what the metaphor refers to. In other words, don’t force functionality into a metaphor. Use the metaphor to support a concept rather than the other way around. The point builds on the design principle of Cooper, Reiman, and Cronin in About Face 3.0 to, “Never bend your interface to fit a metaphor” (p. 279).

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Bringing Personas to Life in Social Media Marketing

October 22, 2008

David Armano recently made a distinction between interactive advertising and social media which he depicts in the image on the left. He noted that many companies mistake interactive advertising with social media and notes that the two differ in the place of PEOPLE in the strategy. Specifically, David points out that interactive advertising involves Human-Technology Interactions. Whereas, social media involves Human-Human Interactions enabled by technology.

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Experience Design using Bone Conduction

October 16, 2008

Skilful Minds reminded readers about place-based story  experiences like [murmur] recently after I visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens (MoBot) to see the Niki exhibit. The Niki exhibit showed forty mosaic sculptures done by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002). Each concept used cell phones to either allow visitors to places to share stories about the place, as in [murmur], or allow visitors to listen to stories about specific exhibit items, as in the Niki exhibit.

Yanko Design showcased a design recently called touched echo developed by Markus Kison. Touched echo makes a place-based story experience available to visitors without the use of devices like cell phones. Although the technology was anticipated in an early experiment by Laurie Anderson called the Handphone Table, applying it to place-based stories is a new and innovative experience design. The design works by using bone conduction for hearing rather than transmitting audio waves through the air.

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Stop with the Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’: Customers aren’t Targets for Social Media

October 1, 2008

Keeping up with social media is a real challenge these days. However, one theme seems constant whenever you read blogs about social media, especially among marketers and so-called optimizers who target, target, target to drive, drive, drive customers to their client’s social media asset, i.e. video, blog, community, etc. You would think advocates of social media are Rowdy, Gil, Jed, or one of the other actors on Rawhide.

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Ethnography and Second Life

September 25, 2008

I don’t usually discuss books or reports without contextualizing the discussion. However, I’ve just begun reading a book that merits mention before digesting how it fits either strategically or tactically with experience design issues.

Skilful Minds first discussed virtual anthropology several years ago noting the following.

 

The term points to the ability of customer researchers to now tap into the stories about personal experience that increasing numbers of people are providing online…But, keep in mind that the people offering their stories and experiences for your edification are not doing it for you.

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Closing the Engagement Gap and Customer Experience

August 29, 2008

A few weeks ago, we drew from the 2008 Tribalization of Business Study, sponsored by Beeline Labs, Deloitte, and the Society for New Communications Research, to discuss the gap between the importance many enterprises attribute to the development of communities and the accompanying investment in that engagement strategy, whether focused on internal stakeholders, or externally on customers.

We noted that the findings of the Tribalization study point to a Community Gap. Yet, drawing from Rachel Happe, we also pointed out the differences between the conversations characterizing social media and the conversations of a community. The distinction is important to keep in mind when considering an overall strategy for connecting with and engaging people online, whether they are employees, suppliers, or customers. After reading two recent research efforts, one from Fleishman-Hillard and the other from Forrester Research, it is clear that the Community Gap is one manifestation of a larger gap, the Engagement Gap.
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Engaging the Niki Experience

August 27, 2008
La Cabeza

La Cabeza

We initially discussed place-based stories back in 2006, noting the way [murmur] provided people experiencing a place to add a story about their engagement with it. To listen to the stories, visitors to that place simply called a number on their mobile device.

I was reminded of the [murmur] service this past weekend while walking through the Missouri Botanical Gardens(MoBot) here in St. Louis. MoBot is hosting the Niki exhibit, showing forty mosaic sculptures done by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002). Each sculpture is assigned a unique number that corresponds to an audio message for that work. For example, La Cabeza information is available at (314) 558-4357 11#.
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Call them Visual Tags (v-Tags), not 2D Barcodes

August 13, 2008

A vTag for Skilful Minds generated with Google Chart API

For those who think discussions of semantic value and meaning are pointless, with no relationship to technology adoption, you may want to skip this post. 

We first discussed visual tags in 2006. Many people today refer to them as 2d barcodes. However, a crucial difference exists between what things are like and what they in fact are. Calling visual tags (v-Tags) 2d barcodes is like calling YouTube a video database, Flickr a photo database, or Del.icio.us a favorites list.  Literally, the description is accurate. Functionally, it is meaningless. Read the rest of this entry »


Is a Social Network on Your Foot?

August 7, 2008

The social networking capabilities of Web 2.0 technologies provide numerous opportunities for product and service providers to engage customers. Two interesting examples of companies reaching out to engage their customers come from the footwear industry, specifically Nike and adidas. Some of you may already know about these two examples. However, the difference in social networking strategy between the two is worth thinking about.
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Innovation Process?

July 23, 2008

I ran across the following video illustration of the design process from Johnnie Moore’s blog. It points to several issues in the creative and research side of design and innovation with a humorous touch. Enjoy… 

Although the video makes its points through a degree of exaggeration, the history of the stop sign in the United States does reflect some of the uncertainties depicted.

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Empathic Research Methods and Design Strategy

July 20, 2008

Adam Silver, a Strategist at Frog Design, recently wrote an insightful article, “Calculated Design”, in the company’s online magazine — design mind. I want to discuss the article because it touches on several key issues relating to innovation and designing products and services for the experience of users/customers. Adam notes that as globalization and digitalization emerged in the 1990s the trend resulted in product and service interfaces with more culturally diverse and geographically distributed audiences and a fragmented market. The combination of these forces led designers to search for new methods to augment artistic intuition. Considerations of form and function also required attention to feel, features, and interactivity attuned to the needs, wants, and beliefs of specific users/customers.

As Adam observes, ethnography was one of the first new methods incorporated by design research to meet these challenges in the market. However, he thinks ethnography is, on its own, unable to provide the kind of information needed to validate product and service ideas across wide audiences. Read the rest of this entry »


ISO and User Experience

April 13, 2008

Tom Stewart indicates that the International Standards Organization (ISO) recently “decided to use the term user experience in the new version of ISO 13407 (which will be called ISO 9241-210 to bring it into line with other usability standards).” He is in a position to know, since Tom serves as Chair of the sub-committee of ISO responsible for the revision of ISO 13407 – the International Standard for Human Centred Design. The change might not seem significant at first glance, but its importance is easy to miss. Read the rest of this entry »


OLED Solar Powered Lighting

March 9, 2008

Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) technology promises to disrupt design and production of a range of devices as applications using it move into the commercial market. Cell phones, monitors, laptops and televisions are close to availability for consumers. Lighting is one of those application areas with a lot of promise, but in a more distant timeframe. Charlie White over at DVICE points to a recent concept design that uses nanotech with photovoltaics to make windows using OLEDs.


Cell Phones, Semacodes, and Impulse Buying

September 26, 2007

Back in January 2006, in a discussion of Peter Morville’s Findability, we noted two innovative approaches to using the built-in digital cameras of mobile devices, like cell phones, to input URLs for locating web sites to retrieve information using offline visual tags. Specifically, we noted,

Shotcode and Semacode make mobile information seeking over the web work like scanning a bar code to determine the price of an item. They make offline media interactive. It is pure pull, unless you consider the offline advertising “pushy”. The metadata necessary for accessing relevant information is largely in the context, the embodied situation of the user. Consider the experience of walking down the sidewalk past a bus stop with large sign displays for a musical artist. You see the artist, you read the title to their new CD, pull out your mobile phone, and take a picture of a symbol on the sign to call up a rich media advertisement, or informational message, on the artist.

H&M has recently taken the technique to the next step in Europe. Impulse shoppers can use their cell phone to snap a picuture of a semocode associated with a product, pull up a catalogue and make the purchase by charging the item to their cell phone bill. The semacodes are used on posters and in magazine advertisements so the buyer does not need to provide information to the seller, in this case H&M.

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An MP3 Player for the Future

January 27, 2007

Designer Lisa Kohanski offers a futuristic design, perhaps not all that far off, for an MP3/video player. Yanko Design offers the following description of the device:

Tripod is not only a unique triangular MP3 player, but a movie player as well! To transform, turn your MP3 player upside down and pull the two halves apart while holding the release button. As the OLED screen uncoils, a hinge will unfold and lock, stabilizing the unit. Remove the MP3 control and it becomes the remote movie player remote. Speakers round the top triangle corner for optimum sound projection.


OpenMoko and the Mobile Experience

January 26, 2007

Skilful Minds first discussed feature bloat in mobile devices here. We have mentioned OpenMoko as a potential solution to experience design issues related to users controlling the seams of mobile devices as well as providing vertical applications to better fit user needs. Well, OpenMoko has finally been opened up to the public so that we can follow the process of developing and implementing innovative sofware on an open source mobile device. OpenMoko is based on the Linux kernel and, unlike other mobile devices using Linux, the applications for OpenMoko are open source.

You can see a video interview with Shawn Moss-Pultz . He is the product manager for First International Computer’s Mobile Communications group which produces the Neo 1973 phone, the initial hardware platform for OpenMoko. In OpenMoko the entire software stack is open to developers to come up with innovative applications.


A function, a seam, or a point of control?

January 9, 2007

I know, I know, you are probably saying “Can’t he talk about anything but seamful and seamless design?” Well, I’ll get off that topic soon. Yet, in the meantime, here are a couple of examples of how a seamless interface to the user of a device is a seam for control by someone else. One basic point of those arguing for seamful design is that the user of the device, rather than the developer, is the agent whose control over the device needs maximizing by designers. Those who contend the goal of a seamless interface is a well-intentioned effort to relieve those using ubiquitous mobile devices from information overload often fail to mention up front that all connected devices provide seams of control. You might say that proponents of seamful design are the Libertarians of experience design, contending that control over the agency of any device belongs with the person who uses it, especially if they own it. Read the rest of this entry »