Everyware, Findability, and AI (Part 3)

January 7, 2007

As Part 2 in this series indicated, my interest in ubiquitous computing started with the sort of issues raised by Lucy Suchman’s initial research on artificial intelligence applications, specifically expert systems. I’ve been waiting to read Lucy’s second edition of Plans and Situated Actions, titled Human-Machine Reconfigurations before finishing this series of entries. It is an interesting read, and I think several themes introduced by Suchman’s most recent work nicely highlight the contributions in Adam Greenfield’s Everyware.

Everyware offers a number of interesting and provocative insights into the phenomena of ubiquitous computing. The most sensible, and provocative, insight offered by Greenfield relates to whether the design of ubiquitous computing needs to aim for seamless interaction with people using connected devices, or whether a rigorous focus is needed on how to make seamful interaction the guiding design practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyware, Findability, and AI (Part 2)

January 3, 2007

Part 1 promised that Part 2 would discuss Greenfield’s Everyware. However, before we get to that discussion, a few considerations on Moreville’s Ambient Findability are needed. The discussion of Moreville’s book will make clear the contributions offered in Everyware.

Greenfield and Moreville express skepticism about the ability of artificial intelligence to solve basic problems related to ambient findability and Everyware, what Greenfield terms ambient informatics. As more and more ordinary devices are available for people to engage as they go about routine activities, the sheer challenge of finding the right device among those available to support an activity promises to develop into a significant hurdle. Both authors recognize the challenge. Yet, Greenfield and Moreville both fail to discuss straightforwardly the challenges faced by attempts to manage relationships between connected devices. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyware, Findability, and AI (Part 1)

December 17, 2006

I read Adam Greenfield’s Everyware in August of this year, but haven’t written anything about it yet. I like the book, a lot. It led me to think again about a number of issues that I kind of put to the side over the last two decades as I’ve made a living as a knowledge worker, i.e. methods analyst, technical writer, multimedia developer, Professor of Communication, web designer, human capital manager, e-Learning researcher, learning architect, customer experience designer. However, Adam’s book made an impression on me initially, more because of things that I experienced in the late 1980s and early 1990s than for its relevance today, though it is extremely relevant to today’s challenges in relating human experience to the ubiquitous nature of computing technology. Read the rest of this entry »

Feature Bloat and Market Opportunity in Mobile Communications

July 9, 2006

Rachel Jones, founder of the UK user-centered design company Instrata reports in Usability News on research her company recently finished asking what mobile phone users in the United Kingdom and Europe over the age of 30 want in a product. She makes the following observations about the customer segments for mobile phones above the age of 30:

Some are technically advanced, using a range of other gadgets but with purpose and quality as their motivation. They primarily want to use their mobile for calls and texts, e.g. businesspeople communicating on the move – and would choose a simpler model over others, but only if it has the right look. They won’t use a mobile camera unless the photo quality is equivalent to their digital cameras, and so convergence will only be of interest if quality is undiminished.

Others may be uncomfortable with technology, but don’t want to advertise the fact. They often give up on mobiles, which come to live at the back of the desk drawer or in the bottom of the handbag.

Many potential customers just wish for a phone that is user friendly, and rate this as much more important than any other factor. Many in all groups have had free upgrades to phones that no longer suit their needs, and which have then caused unanticipated frustrations.

As Jones correctly notes, many customers want increasingly sophisticated functions in their mobile phones. Yet, as she adds, ” When phones are created for the older market they do not have the styling or personalisation that these consumers want, or if they do, the marketing concentrates on what they feel are the more patronising aspects of improved usability instead of innovation.” In other words, customers over 30 want mobile phones with simple features that provide a pleasant look and feel.

Jones research raised my interest because it provides insight into a basic change occurring in the mobile phone market. Read the rest of this entry »

Personas and Market Segmentation

June 9, 2006

I started reading The Persona Lifecycle by John Pruitt and Tamara Adlin over the past week, all 700 plus pages. The book provides a detailed overview of how to use personas, though mostly focused on interactive applications such as web design and software. I cannot review the whole book here, largely because of its length, but also because it does not seem like a book the authors designed for people to read through. It is more like a nicely woven set of concepts, practical insights, and toolkits around the topic of personas. In addition, it provides five original contributions, as individual chapters, by well-known authorities in user centered design. Read the rest of this entry »

On Findability and Visual Tags

January 4, 2006

Interfaces are not what they used to be. The computer-human interface is both more and less than it was a few years ago. Interfaces are not only, or even primarily, a screen anymore. Yet, screens remain important to most design efforts, even though interfaces are increasingly part of the environment itself. As John Thackara and Malcolm McCullough both recently pointed out, entire cities are developing into user interfaces as ubiquitous computing environments expand.

Peter Morville has outlined one approach to the challenges posed by ubiquitous computing for people who need to go places or find things. He calls it “ambient findability”: “…a fast emerging world where we can find anyone or anything from anywhere at anytime” (p. 6). Read the rest of this entry »