Tag: identity

Anonymous Cowards, Avatars, and the Zeitgeist: Personal Identity in Flux

November 3rd, 2009 — 3:31pm

UX Mat­ters just pub­lished Anony­mous Cow­ards, Avatars, and the Zeit­geist: Per­sonal Iden­tity in Flux.  This is the lat­est install­ment of my col­umn on ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing and user expe­ri­ence, and it takes on the ques­tion of how per­sonal iden­tity is chang­ing is a result of the rise of dig­i­tal tools, ser­vices, and mea­sure­ments for iden­tity.   Iden­tity is a fun­da­men­tal aspect of expe­ri­ence, so it’s crit­i­cal that we under­stand what is hap­pen­ing to this uni­ver­sal ele­ment.  ‘Anony­mous Cow­ards’ is the first of two parts, focused on under­stand­ing how dig­i­tal iden­ti­ties work, and are dif­fer­ent from what we know.  Here’s an excerpt:

Dri­ven by dra­matic shifts in tech­nol­ogy, eco­nom­ics, and media, noth­ing less than a trans­for­ma­tion in the makeup and behav­ior of our per­sonal iden­tity is at hand—what it is, where it comes from, how it works, who con­trols it, how peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions use and value it. As a direct result of this trans­for­ma­tion, the expe­ri­ence peo­ple have of per­sonal identity—both their own and the iden­ti­ties of others—is chang­ing rapidly. As design­ers of the blended dig­i­tal, social, and mate­r­ial expe­ri­ences of every­ware, we must under­stand the chang­ing nature of per­sonal iden­tity. And now that human­ity itself is within the design hori­zon, it is espe­cially impor­tant for design to under­stand the shift­ing expe­ri­ence of dig­i­tal identity.

The sec­ond part will look at the impli­ca­tions of these changes for our expe­ri­ence of iden­tity.  As I put together my pre­dic­tions for what iden­tity will be like in 10 years, I wel­come input — what do you think?

2 comments » | The Media Environment

8 Waves of Change Shaping Digital Experiences

December 11th, 2008 — 5:21am

I’ve been focused on under­stand­ing future direc­tions in the land­scape of dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences recently (which nicely par­al­lels some of the work I’ve been doing on design and futures in gen­eral), so I’m shar­ing a sum­mary of the analy­sis that’s come out of this research.
This pre­sen­ta­tion shares an overview of all the major waves of change affect­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences, some of the espe­cially forward-looking insights around shifts in our iden­ti­ties, and the impli­ca­tions for those cre­at­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences.
The 8 waves dis­cussed here (are there more? let me know!)

  • Dig­i­tal = Social
  • Co-Creation
  • Dig­i­tal Natives
  • Itʼs All a Game
  • Take Away
  • Every­ware
  • Con­ver­gence
  • See­ing Is Believing

Comment » | Ideas, The Media Environment, User Experience (UX)

Egosurf.org: The Medium Massages You

January 10th, 2006 — 10:48am

ego­surf: vi.
“To search the net for your name or links to your web pages. Per­haps con­nected to long-established SF-fan slang egoscan, to search for one’s name in a fanzine.“
Now a con­sum­able ser­vice at: egosurf.org
From the about page:
“ego­Surf helps mas­sage the web pub­lish­ers ego, and thereby main­tain the cool equi­lib­rium of the net itself.”

Comment » | The Media Environment

Musical Signatures From Your iTunes Library

December 15th, 2005 — 11:51am

We rely on many ways of rec­og­niz­ing peo­ple, near at hand or from afar; faces, voices, walks, and even the scents from favorite colognes or per­fumes help us greet friends, engage col­leagues, and iden­tify strangers.
I was in high school when I first noticed that everyone’s key chain made a dis­tinct sound, one that served as a kind of audi­ble call­ing card that could help rec­og­nize peo­ple. I started to try to guess who was walk­ing to the front door by learn­ing the unique com­bi­na­tions of sounds — clink­ing and tin­kling from metal keys, rat­tling and rub­bing from ceramic and plas­tic tokens, and a myr­iad of other noises from the incred­i­ble mis­cel­lany peo­ple attach to their key rings and carry around with them through life — that announced each of my vis­i­tors friends. With a lit­tle prac­tice, I could pick out the ten or fif­teen peo­ple I spent the most time with based on lis­ten­ing to the sounds of key chains. Every­one else was some­one I didn’t see often, which was a fine dis­tinc­tion to draw between when gaug­ing how to answer the door.
There are many other audi­ble cues to iden­tity — from the clos­ing of a car door, to the sound of foot steps, or cell phone ring tones — but the key chain is unique because it includes so many dif­fer­ent ele­ments: the num­ber and size and mate­ri­als of the keys, or the lay­er­ing of dif­fer­ent key rings and sou­ve­niers peo­ple attach to them. A key chain is a sort of impromptu ensem­ble of found instru­ments play­ing lit­tle bursts of free jazz like per­son­al­ized fan­fares for mod­ern liv­ing.
The sound of someone’s key chain also changes over time, as they add or remove things, or rearrange them. That sound can even change in step with the way your rela­tion­ship to that per­son changes. For exam­ple, if they buy a sou­ve­nier with you and put it on their key­chain; or if you give them keys to your apart­ment. Each of these changes reflects shared expe­ri­ences, and you can hear the dif­fer­ence in sound from one day to the next if you lis­ten care­fully.
And like those other ways of rec­og­niz­ing peo­ple I men­tioned ear­lier, which all reach the level of being called sig­na­tures when they become truly dis­tinc­tive, the sound of someone’s key chain serves a sort of audi­ble sig­na­ture.
Until now, the sound of a key­chain was per­haps the only truly unique audi­ble sig­na­ture that was not part of our per­son to begin with (like the voice). Now that Jason Free­man has cre­ated the iTunes Sig­na­ture Maker, we may have an audi­ble sig­naure suit­able for the dig­i­tal realm. The iTunes Sig­na­ture Maker scans your iTunes library, tak­ing one or two sec­ond snip­pets of many files, and mix­ing these found bits of sound together into a short audio sig­na­ture. You choose from a few para­me­ters such as play count, total num­ber of songs, and whether to include videos, and the sig­na­ture maker pro­duces a .WAV file.
I made an iTunes sig­na­ture using Jason’s tool a few days ago. I’ve lis­tened to it a few times. It cer­tainly includes quite a few songs I’ve lis­tened to often and can rec­og­nize from just a one-second snip­pet. Cal­lig­ra­phers and graphol­o­gists make much of a few hand­writ­ten let­ters on a page: music can say a great deal about someone’s moods, out­look, tastes, or even what moves their soul. I lis­ten to a lot of music via radio, CD’s and even live that isn’t included in this. I’m not sure it rep­re­sents me. I think it’s up to every­one else to decide that.
But what can you do with one? It’s not prac­ti­cal yet to attach it to email mes­sages, like a con­ven­tional .sig. It might be a good way to book­end the mixes I make for friends and fam­ily. I can see hav­ing a lot of fun lis­ten­ing to a bunch of anony­mous iTunes sig­na­tures from your friends to try and guess which one belongs to whom. There’s real poten­tial for a use­ful but non-exhaustive answer to the inevitable ques­tion, “What kind of music do you like?” when you meet some­one new. Along those lines, Jason may have kicked off a new fad in Inter­net dat­ing; this is the per­fect exam­ple of a unique token that can com­press a great deal of mean­ing into a small (dig­i­tal) pack­age that doesn’t require meet­ing or talk­ing to exchange. I can see the iTunes sig­na­ture becom­ing a speed-dating req­ui­site; bring your iTunes sig­na­ture file with you on a flash drive or iPod shuf­fle, and lis­ten or exchange as nec­es­sary.
At least the name is easy: what else would you call this besides a “musig”. Maybe an “iSig” or a “tune­sig”.
Unique ring tones, door chimes, and start-up sounds are only the begin­ning. Com­bine musigs with the music genome project, and you could upload your sig­na­ture to a clear­ing­house online, and have it auto­mat­i­cally com­pared for matches against other people’s musigs based on pat­terns and pref­er­ences. Have it find some­one who likes reggae-influenced waltzes, or fado, or who lis­tens to at least ten of the same artists you enjoy. Build a cat­a­log of one musig every month for a year, and ask the engine to describe the change in your tastes. Add a musig to your Ama­zon wish­lists for gift-giving, or even ask it to pre­dict what you might like based on the songs in the file.
You can down­load my musig / iSig / tune­sig / iTunes sig­na­ture here; note that it’s nearly 8mb.
I’ll think I’ll try it again in a few months, to see how it changes.

Comments Off | The Media Environment

Better To Be Likeable Than Competent...

November 17th, 2005 — 10:14am

At least accord­ing to the Boston Globe arti­cle titled Don’t under­es­ti­mate the value of social skills, in which Pene­lope Trunk quotes an HBS fac­ulty mem­ber as fol­lows:
’In fact, across the board, in a wide vari­ety of busi­nesses, peo­ple would rather work with some­one who is lik­able and incom­pe­tent than with some­one who is skilled and obnox­ious, said Tiziana Cas­ciaro, a pro­fes­sor at Har­vard Busi­ness School. “How we value com­pe­tence changes depend­ing on whether we like some­one or not,” she says.‘
I guess this explains how we ended up with George W. Bush as President…

Comment » | The Working Life

Getting Across The River

October 28th, 2005 — 10:33am

I can’t take credit for writ­ing this para­ble about the rela­tion­ship of infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture and inter­ac­tion design — that goes to another mem­ber of the IAI — but I can help share it.
A scor­pion who was an Infor­ma­tion Archi­tect and a frog who was an Inter­ac­tion Designer were stand­ing on the bank of a rag­ing river of infor­ma­tion.
“Let’s define the prob­lem” said the IA. “I can’t swim, but I need to get across that river.“
“Well — I can swim” said the ID “I could take you across, but I’m afraid that when we get halfway, you might pull out a Venn Dia­gram and hit me over the head with it.“
“Never!” cried the IA. “Let us brave the river of infor­ma­tion together!“
And so they dived in.
When they were halfway across the river, the IA took a out a wire­frame and stabbed the ID in the back with it.
As they both slowly sank beneath the waves, the ID cried “Why did you do that? Now we’ll both drown!“
Replied the Infor­ma­tion Archi­tect: “Because I was defined that way.“
I think the mes­sage is clear: What truly mat­ters is get­ting across the river. But that can be very hard to see, if your per­spec­tive doesn’t allow it.
Case in point: Spring of 2001, lit­er­ally a week after the bub­ble burst, I was in Vegas with the rest of the Expe­ri­ence Design Group from Zefer. We were in the mid­dle of one of those impos­si­ble to imag­ine now but com­pletely sen­si­ble at the time 150 per­son design group sum­mit meet­ings about the company’s design method­ol­ogy, prac­tice, group struc­ture, etc.
Our IPO had just gone south, very per­ma­nently, but that wouldn’t by clear for sev­eral months. After a mini-rebellion at which we the assem­bled design con­sul­tants voted to skip the summit’s offi­cially sanc­tioned train­ing and dis­cus­sion activ­i­ties in favor of lots of self-organized cross-practice some­thing or other ses­sions, I ended up sit­ting in a room with the rest of the Usabil­ity and IA folks from the other offices.
Who promptly decided to define all the other design spe­cial­i­ties in detail, because doing so was the key to under­stand­ing our own roles. From here we were to move on to item­ize all the tasks and design doc­u­men­ta­tion asso­ci­ated with each dis­ci­pline, and then define the implicit and explicit con­nec­tions to the spe­cific IA deliv­er­ables. In alpha­bet­i­cal order. Using flip charts, white boards, stick­ies, and notepads.
After five min­utes, I went and to see what the Visual Design­ers were doing. They were sit­ting in a cir­cle in a large and quiet room, dis­cussing their favorite exam­ples of good design in prod­ucts, expe­ri­ences, typog­ra­phy, inter­faces; their goal was to help show the value of design prac­tices to clients. Some of them were also prac­tic­ing yoga, though I’m not sure that was related. The over­all expe­ri­ence was quite a bit more — engag­ing. And use­ful / effec­tive / rel­e­vant, espe­cially out­side the bound­aries of the group. The visual design­ers wanted to get across the river, while the IA’s were taken over by the com­plu­sion to be dili­gent infor­ma­tion archi­tects.
Maybe it’s a per­spec­tive difference?

2 comments » | Information Architecture

Who Says User Research Can't Be Funny?

September 24th, 2005 — 6:39pm

User Research can be so relent­lessly earnest and pur­pose­ful that it gets to be a bit sti­fling. After a few dozen well-crafted per­sonas work their way pur­pose­fully through a set of mildly chal­leng­ing but inevitably suc­cess­ful sce­nar­ios for the tenth time in one week, a dili­gent user researcher is likely to be hun­ger­ing for some­thing a bit more sat­is­fy­ing; some­thing akin to the per­sona, but more fully-rounded; some­thing that con­veys the ambigu­ous com­plex­ity of human char­ac­ter with hon­esty; some­thing not only insight­ful, but con­sis­tently forth­right across a mul­ti­plic­ity of aspects. Per­haps even some­thing that is gen­uinely mala­pert.
Food Court Druids, Chero­hon­kees, And Other Crea­tures Unique to the Repub­lic is that some­thing. Writ­ten by Robert Lan­ham, it’s a hilar­i­ous col­lec­tion of idio­types — stereo­types out­side the design world, per­sonas within — couched as the out­come of seri­ous sci­en­tific inquiry whose method is called idio­syn­crol­ogy.
I advise read­ing with humil­ity close at hand, since it’s likely you’ll find your­self inside, and it’s only fair to laugh at every­one if you’re included…

Here’s the descrip­tion:
Lan­ham, author of The Hip­ster Hand­book and cre­ator and edi­tor of the Web site www.freewilliamsburg.com, extends his anthro­po­log­i­cal exam­i­na­tion of Amer­i­cans beyond trendy Brook­lyn neigh­bor­hoods to the entire coun­try, where Yank­necks (“rebel-flag-waving red­necks who live out­side the South”), Sig­mund Fruits (“peo­ple who insist on telling you about their dreams”) and oth­ers have existed thus far with­out being for­mally stud­ied by “idio­syn­crol­o­gists” like Lan­ham and his team. Pre­sented with the author­i­ta­tive tone of a seri­ous anthro­po­log­i­cal study, com­plete with an Idio Rank Scale that assesses the weird­ness of each type, many of Lanham’s pro­files are hilar­i­ously accu­rate descrip­tions of co-workers, fam­ily mem­bers, friends and other acquain­tances that almost every Amer­i­can has encoun­tered at some point in their lives. There are the Cor­nered Rabid Office Work­ers (CROWs), who “claim to be poets or play­wrights” when dis­cussing their work with strangers, “even if they just spent the last nine hours doing data entry on the McFlan­nery acqui­si­tion,” and Hex­pa­tri­ates, Amer­i­cans who decry every­thing about Amer­ica yet never actu­ally leave the coun­try (and who “refer to the Loews mul­ti­plex at the mall as ‘the cin­ema’ and the Motel Six by Hard­ees as ‘the pen­sione”). Illus­tra­tions by Jeff Bech­tel, depict­ing the fash­ion sense of Holi­dorks (peo­ple who wear holiday-themed cloth­ing) and Skants (women with shapely butts who always wear span­dex pants), enhance Lanham’s characterizations.

Comments Off | Reading Room, User Research

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