Archive for September 2008


Improving Our Ethical Choices: Managing the Imp of the Perverse

September 30th, 2008 — 11:06am

Design­ers inter­ested in the new chal­lenges of ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing / ubi­comp, ethics, and the future of inte­grated expe­ri­ences will enjoy Improv­ing Our Eth­i­cal Choices: Man­ag­ing the Imp of the Per­verse, pub­lished in UXMat­ters on Sep­tem­ber 8th.
Rang­ing from Baude­laire to the Big Chill, with Edgar Allen Poe as guid­ing spirit, this fourth and final install­ment of the Design­ing Eth­i­cal Expe­ri­ences series writ­ten for UXMat­ters pro­vides prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions — drawn mostly from busi­ness, psy­chol­ogy, and ethics researchers — on how to bal­ance the ten­sions of dif­fi­cult design choices. We’re not all philoso­phers, so as always the focus is on insights into how we make all types of deci­sions, not sim­ply eth­i­cal dilem­mas.
Align­ing The Deci­sion Cycle
ethics_4_recommendations.jpg
Here’s an excerpt:
Eth­i­cal fad­ing, the ten­sion between our Want and Should Selves, and our nat­ural ten­dency to cre­ate juicy ratio­nal­iza­tions are pow­er­ful obsta­cles to the mak­ing of eth­i­cal design choices. As UX pro­fes­sion­als, how can we bet­ter align our Want and Should Selves, ensur­ing that we cre­ate eth­i­cal expe­ri­ences?
I learned a great deal about myself and my out­look while research­ing and writ­ing this series of arti­cles. I hope read­ers find the insights and tools valu­able; either directly as a resource for deal­ing with eth­i­cal chal­lenges of the new inte­grated expe­ri­ences, or more gen­er­ally dur­ing the day to day ebb and flow of design work.

Comment » | Ethics & Design, The Working Life, User Experience (UX)

Cultural Clouds: A New Kind of Commons?

September 21st, 2008 — 8:29am

There’s a lot of buzz about cloud com­put­ing in the tech­nol­ogy world these days, but I think some­thing much more inter­est­ing is the emer­gence of cul­tural clouds as the newest kind of pub­lic com­mons. By cul­tural clouds, I’m talk­ing about the new layer of the human cul­tural stack we’re busy lay­ing down as a by prod­uct of all our social and cre­ative activ­i­ties in the inof­verse.
To be clear, I’m not refer­ring to the IT infra­struc­ture layer wherein cloud com­put­ing is defined as the “style of com­put­ing where mas­sively scal­able IT-related capa­bil­i­ties are pro­vided ‘as a ser­vice’ across the Inter­net to mul­ti­ple exter­nal cus­tomers.” [Thanks Gart­ner, via Busi­ness­Week]
These new cul­tural clouds appear in the ever grow­ing col­lec­tions of crowd­sourced col­lec­tively or socially accu­mu­lated judge­ments, cul­tural prod­ucts, knowl­edge, his­tory, rela­tion­ships, etc., encoded in the form of man­aged dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion. This quick illus­tra­tion shows some of the pools of activ­ity and judge­ment that that make up these cloud com­mons; includ­ing wikis, pub­lic media, rep­u­ta­tion state­ments, read­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, social net­works, wish lists, music lis­ten­ing his­to­ries, shared pho­tos, films and videos, cita­tion net­works, geo­t­ag­ging and mem­ory maps, com­ments and pub­lic dis­course, hash­tags and tags for pho­tos, URLs, and songs, link streams, sub­scrip­tion and feed lists, blogrolls, etc. These are social, cul­tural, and con­ver­sa­tional resources, not min­eral deposits or phys­i­cal topogra­phies.
New Cul­tural Clouds / Com­mons
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The com­mons is an old con­struct that embraces nat­ural resources — think land, air, water, the elec­tro­mag­netic spec­trum — and the more recent pub­lic domain of cul­tural mate­ri­als not gov­erned by copy­right law.
Ven­er­a­ble insti­tu­tions of cus­tom and law, such as sea­sonal access to pas­turage, the right of pas­sage across bor­ders for nomadic peo­ples, and com­mon law, define and reg­u­late the rec­og­nized forms of com­mons.
But socially col­lected, dig­i­tal, rei­fied human cul­tural prod­ucts and judge­ments are a new *type* of com­mons. I think they’re a new type of resource, brought forth largely by the cog­ni­tive sur­plus we enjoy. And as pro­found tech­no­log­i­cal per­me­ation and ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing bring on the age of every­ware, the cloud com­mons will grow (and frag­ment / spe­cial­ize / mul­ti­ply?).
Who and what will gov­ern the new cloud com­mons? How will we define and man­age these resources?
By form and makeup, the cloud com­mons is ephemeral and dis­trib­uted. But as dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion, it is emi­nently tan­gi­ble and action­able. Our basic social struc­tures and mech­a­nisms — sci­ence, the law, eco­nom­ics, art, agri­cul­ture, reli­gion, tech­nol­ogy — will rec­og­nize the emer­gence of cloud com­mons, and respond accord­ingly. APML (Atten­tion Pro­fil­ing Markup Lan­guage), from the APML Work­ing Group, is an exam­ple. The Dat­a­Porta­bil­ity project — “a group cre­ated to pro­mote the idea that indi­vid­u­als have con­trol over their data by deter­min­ing how they can use it and who can use it. This includes access to data that is under the con­trol of another entity.” — is another. [Advo­cat­ing for the right to free move­ment of data is a dig­i­tal ana­log of the ancient idea of right of way.] OpenID, OpenSo­cial, OAuth, OPML, and the rapidly evolv­ing Cre­ative Com­mons licens­ing sys­tem are other exam­ples of responses to the appear­ance of cloud com­mons.
What does the future hold? As recog­ni­tion of cloud-based com­mons grows, expect to see all the pat­terns of activ­ity typ­i­cal of new fron­tiers and zones of insta­bil­ity: wild­cat­ting, pio­neer­ing, piracy, squat­ting, pri­va­teer­ing, enclo­sure, slums and shanty towns (infor­mal set­tle­ments in the par­lance of archite­cuter and urban plan­ning) extrac­tive indus­tries, sov­er­eign claims, col­o­niza­tion, spec­u­la­tion, etc.
With his­tory as a guide, I’m espe­cially wary of enclo­sure move­ments, and extrac­tive indus­tries. Both prac­tices can rapidly dimin­ish the present value of a com­mons or commons-based resource. Worse, enclo­sure and extrac­tive prac­tices act as neg­a­tive feed­back mech­a­nisms, decreas­ing cur­rent esti­ma­tions of a com­mons or commons-based resource’s future value, mak­ing the tragedy of the com­mons a likely out­come sce­nario.
The U.S. radio spec­trum, as enclosed by the FCC
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Is this fram­ing of recently formed clouds of infor­ma­tion and activ­ity data as a new kind of com­mons accu­rate? Use­ful?
More on the idea of cul­tural clouds as the new com­mons forthcoming.

3 comments » | Ideas, Social Media

Ubiquity and Chrome: Modular Is the New Black

September 19th, 2008 — 10:23am

The recent launches of Ubiq­uity (Mozilla Labs) and Chrome (Google) show how sexy it is to be mod­u­lar on the web, from the user expe­ri­ence [Ubiq­uity], to basic appli­ca­tion archi­tec­ture of the browser [Chrome]. This shouldn’t be a sur­prise to any­one, but it’s not some­thing I hear much about in the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity. The frag­men­ta­tion of the web into a ver­i­ta­ble bliz­zard of ser­vices, feeds, wid­gets, and API’s that cre­ate tidal waves of portable and sharable socially rich objects makes think­ing about mod­u­lar­ity indis­pens­able. In all design con­texts.
It’s time the user expe­ri­ence com­mu­nity embraced this way of think­ing, not least because it has excel­lent pedi­gree. Fifty years ago, in his famous talk There’s Plenty of Room At the Bot­tom, physi­cist Richard Fey­man said, “What I want to talk about is the prob­lem of manip­u­lat­ing and con­trol­ling things on a small scale.” His point was sim­ple: think about *all* the lev­els of scale and struc­ture that are part of the world, from very small to very large. Feyn­man wasn’t talk­ing about design­ing ser­vices and expe­ri­ences for the web or the wider realm of inte­grated expe­ri­ences(nice to see the com­mu­nity pick­ing up my ter­mi­nol­ogy…), but his mes­sage still applies. Work­ing, think­ing and design­ing at [sm]all lev­els of scale means doing it mod­u­larly.
The micro­for­mats com­mu­nity has under­stood this mes­sage for a long time, and is very suc­cess­ful at cre­at­ing small, use­ful, mod­u­lar things.
So how are you think­ing mod­u­larly about user experience?

Comment » | Building Blocks, Information Architecture

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