Tuesday, December 25

When the user makes the difference

User-driven innovation

The report “User-driven innovation: when the user makes the difference” aims to clarify the awareness and use of user-driven innovation in the Nordic countries.

The authors — a group of students from the Norwegian University of Science And Technology (NTNU) — have contacted numerous companies and experts in their effort to show the variety and diversity of the awareness and use of user-driven innovation among Nordic countries.

Although the report has a professional graphic design, the same cannot be said for the style of writing — which betrays its student project origins — and for the quality of the English.

In the report’s first part the student authors introduce the term user-driven, its relation to other types of innovation and the diversity of the definitions. The history of user-driven innovation is also presented.

The report then continues with an overview of which companies in the Nordic countries have utilised knowledge of their users in developing new products and services, including a shortlist of success stories.

Featured companies are Electrolux (Sweden - white goods), Lego (Denmark - toys), Coloplast (Denmark - medical products),Nokia (Finland - mobile phones), Laerdal Medical (Norway - basic and advanced life support training products and emergency medical equipment), Tomra (reverse vending machines), Trolltech (Norway - computer software), Plastoform AS (Norway - Nordic Seahunter), Funcom (Norway computer and console games), Deuter (Germany - backpacks, suitcases and bags), Sweet Protection (Norway - protective sports clothing), Cycleurope (DBS) (Norway - bicycles), and HardRocx (Norway - bicycles).

via Putting People First

Monday, December 17

Nick Foley: Pear Light


A hand forged hollow steel tree is the charging station for three urethane pear-lights.

Each pear contains ten ultrabright white LEDs, an autonomous charging circuit, and rare-earth magnets that allow it to be "picked" from the tree and remain fully illuminated for over an hour

via Coroflot

Eight business technology trends to watch

The McKinsey Quarterly has published an article on eight technology-enabled trends that will help shape businesses and the economy in coming years.

The authors James M. Manyika, Roger P. Roberts, and Kara L. Sprague have grouped the eight trends - which each come with their own further reading suggestions - within three broad areas of business activity: managing relationships, managing capital and assets, and leveraging information in new ways. Obviously, the first area is most relevant for this blog. It covers four trends:

1. Distributing co-creation
Today, in the high-technology, consumer product, and automotive sectors, among others, companies routinely involve customers, suppliers, small specialist businesses, and independent contractors in the creation of new products. Outsiders offer insights that help shape product development, but companies typically control the innovation process. Technology now allows companies to delegate substantial control to outsiders—co-creation—in essence by outsourcing innovation to business partners that work together in networks.

2. Using consumers as innovators
As the Internet has evolved—an evolution prompted in part by new Web 2.0 technologies—it has become a more widespread platform for interaction, communication, and activism. Consumers increasingly want to engage online with one another and with organizations of all kinds. Companies can tap this new mood of customer engagement for their economic benefit. […]
Companies that involve customers in design, testing, marketing (such as viral marketing), and the after-sales process get better insights into customer needs and behavior and may be able to cut the cost of acquiring customers, engender greater loyalty, and speed up development cycles.

3. Tapping into a world of talent
As more and more sophisticated work takes place interactively online and new collaboration and communications tools emerge, companies can outsource increasingly specialized aspects of their work and still maintain organizational coherence. Much as technology permits them to decentralize innovation through networks or customers, it also allows them to parcel out more work to specialists, free agents, and talent networks.

4. Extracting more value from interactions
Technology tools that promote tacit interactions, such as wikis, virtual team environments, and videoconferencing, may become no less ubiquitous than computers are now. As companies learn to use these tools, they will develop managerial innovations—smarter and faster ways for individuals and teams to create value through interactions—that will be difficult for their rivals to replicate.

via Putting People First

Read full story

peterme and “The Don” Norman in Conversation

by peterme

We’ve just posted an hour-long conversation I had with Don Norman [MP3]. This is a prelude to the conversation we’ll be having on stage at UX Week 2008.

I really enjoyed this chat. If we did The Believer-style keywords for it, they would read:

adaptive cruise control, ubiquitous computing, human plus machine, “user experience,” “affordances,” asking the right questions, coupling design with operations, busting down silos, TiVo has never made any money, Palm, many reasons for the Newton’s failure, boss as an absolute dictator, Henry Dreyfuss and John Deere, design evolving from craft to profession, systems thinking, “T-shaped people,” observing the world, water bottle caps.

Sound interesting? Take a listen!

via Adaptive Path Blog

Thursday, December 13

Why design? ( Philippe Starck )

Learning from Lagos

Urban planning of the future will be characterized by chaos. But, according to architect Rem Koolhaas, chaos can be productive. A case in point: the development of the city of Lagos, Nigeria.

Superstar architect and Priztker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas spends considerable time traveling through cities around the world; in fact, he estimates that he is on the road 300 days a year. When he is not working, he enjoys the calm that swimming affords. His schedule is so tight, the best place to interview him is in a car—usually one taking him to a meeting or a departing flight. Koolhaas loves motion, both as a personal state and as a fundamental aspect he looks for in a city. On the drive to the airport, he talks about his vision of a hyper-mobile city of the future—a city in constant flux that is both spontaneously self-organizing and pretty much in chaos.

Koolhaas points to cities exemplifying this new urbanism in two geographic regions that seemingly have little to do with each other. One is portrayed by China’s new, quickly growing epicenters of Asian capitalism. Surprisingly, the other is the chaotic Nigerian metropolis of Lagos. Koolhaas’s thought-provoking verdict is that “In many ways, Lagos shows how other cities may look in the next 100 years.”

For years, Koolhaas and his colleagues have studied how urban structures are created in Lagos, and how the city of 10 million continues to survive despite poverty and disasters such as exploding oil platforms. The answer he provides, which will also appear in a forthcoming book, is that the city gets by on self-organization and improvisation, economic and otherwise.
Economic improvisation is best characterized by markets spontaneously appearing amidst cars and trucks stuck in Lagos’s daily traffic jams. The city’s streets are prone to gridlock that lasts several hours, and the associated sudden emergence of a market atmosphere. Within minutes, hundreds of roving sellers swarm around the vehicles offering all kinds of things, from food to basic services to auto parts (some of which will have been just removed from another, functional car immobilized by traffic).

The market as an organizing principle for a city was something that Koolhaas saw for himself in his youth in Indonesia. “Asian societies have always been strongly influenced by markets,” he says. “In this part of the world, markets produce their own social structures.”

Lagos: In a state of permanent flux

It should be noted that these social structures are never long-lasting; instead, they quickly morph into another form. Consequently, cities are no longer static, but continuously evolving phenomena. Lagos is one such urban center, characterized by its constant state of “becoming.” The failure of one form of planning is recycled as an opportunity for something new. If bridge parts do not meet properly, then the entire bridge is quickly assigned another function, such as a lively pedestrian zone. This type of improvised urbanism is what intrigues Koolhaas about Lagos.
The idea of cities turning into centers of flexible self organization does not mean that urban planning has become superfluous. Instead, it tends to occur at a moment’s notice rather than according to a master plan. And that, says Koolhaas, is what Lagos has in common with China. The economically booming giant does put up massive urban structures in green spaces, and well-known Western architects do stay busy designing new urban regions in China. However, there seems to be no overarching aesthetic or uniform vision at work in this planning.

“They put up huge buildings in no time, but they can become obsolete just as quickly,” says Koolhaas. The result is that planners do their planning and architects do their designing for projects not oriented toward any kind of permanence, but intended more as a provisional measure until the next organizational shift.

“Capitalism is a demanding, stimulating system”

Simultaneous fascination and skepticism also reflect how architects are generally dealing with the present situation. Visions emerge that are anything but comfortable. Koolhaas loves the confrontation between harmonic humanistic aspects and hard, structure-destroying ones.

The biggest source of structural change is the globalized economy. Capitalism is a destructive force, but it also forges innovation and frees creativity. “Capitalism is basically a demanding, stimulating system.” This particular characteristic is increasingly losing ground. “These days, capitalism is interpreted less and less as a self-organizing concept. Instead, companies and governments are relying on rigid controls.” They are moving away from an understanding of the market economy as a place of spontaneous self-organization and reflexivity.

Koolhaas himself has demonstrated that capitalism is capable of reflexivity and criticism of its own principles, in his design for the Prada flagship store in New York. His method can be described as “participatory criticism”—the idea is that to understand something it is necessary to be part of it. This approach also explains why he is building a 500,000-square-meter building for China’s state-run television station CCTV in Beijing, to the great displeasure of many political observers. Critics argue that he is thereby symbolically supporting a regime that undermines the freedom of the press. Yet the CCTV building is not evidence that Koolhaas is an apolitical architect. He sees China’s ambivalence but he is also aware that “the country as a whole is developing in a very impressive direction.”
His work in Europe is also testament to the fact that he is a political architect, evidenced by his designing an alternative European flag for the EU Commission. Furthermore, he defends his idea of a creative Europe at events such as the lecture series titled “Speeches on Europe,” which is sponsored by the Allianz Cultural Foundation.

These views do not mean that Koolhaas would agree to sing the praises, as many do right now, of the “classic European city.” It is “not a model for the rest of the world,” and its approach to controlled growth would not function anywhere else. The bottom line, he says, is that “people in China or the Middle East don’t want simple Americanization.” Thus he believes the concept of ever-bigger shopping malls is outdated.

In the meantime, our car has arrived at the airport 40 minutes before his boarding time. “Perfect timing,” says Koolhaas—the chaos enthusiast who is still occasionally surprised that things sometimes work out as planned.

This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in the August edition of Roland Berger's award-winning magazine think:act.

Fred Water at The PSFK Conference

by Jeff Squires

Adam Gayner, founder [and friend] of Fred, discusses the creation of agile, inviting, stangely meaningful brands and the process he uses to make them. Have you met Fred?

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

via PSFK

Wired Pop-Up Store


The online Wired Store gets an offline component starting November 18th in New York's Soho (160 Wooster at Houston). Timed to coincide with the holidays, the store will feature a wide range of Wired-approved gadgets for just under six weeks, closing its doors on December 24th. Products for sale include the coveted new Motorola PEBL phone as well as over 65 others from Wired's cadre, which will be purchased via digital checkout kiosks (i.e. their website), eliminating the hassle of shopping bags. On weekends they'll provide a free Volkswagen car service to shoppers' next destinations and other events, like Flavorpill DJs and product giveaways, will occur throughout the week. And, for the person who has everything (and to benefit a good cause), a Space Adventures trip to space (valued at over $100k) will be auctioned to benefit the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation.

via Cool Hunting

Monday, December 10


Personal Transport Concept - Toyota's i-Real (VIDEO)

(TREND HUNTER) Besides violin-playing robots and hybrid vehicles, Toyota is tinkering with personal transportation devices. The i-Real prototype is an intelligent, three-wheeled vehicle that strongly resembles a Segway. It is Toyota's stab at what urban transportation will be like in the not-so-distant future. The… [More]

Luxury Underwater Hotel in Dubai - Hydropolis to Open This Month (GALLERY)

(TREND HUNTER) People have long been attracted to the mysteries of marine life, and fascination with aquariums is seen world wide. Scheduled to open this month is the Hydropolis Dubai, a much anticipated luxury underwater hotel in the middle of desert. It will include 220 suites submerged under 66 feet of water. T… [More]

Breathtaking Bedrooms - Interior Design to Stimulate the Senses (GALLERY)

(TREND HUNTER) In what room are all major life decisions made? The bedroom, of course. So, make sure you have put more thought into the design of this room than any other. You want a relaxing, friendly, loving and exciting room to be your respite from the challenges life puts in front of you. Here are five bedroom… [More]

Bath/Shower/Sink & Shower/Sink Combo - Ebb Concept

(TREND HUNTER) I have this bathroom... in my dreams. I love this look, sleek, ultra modern, but my 23-year-old Brazilian maid might worry about keeping it clean. The Ebb bathroom concept is made of LG HI-MACS, a natural stone material, and has a wonderful sculpture look to it. Check out the shower combo. I want th… [More]

Friday, December 7

Rado watch by Jasper Morrison


The Ceramica Chronograph Limited Edition by Rado is restyled by Jasper Morrison. It features new dials and proportions. The three counters, as always like three subtle random comets, have been redesigned and highlighted in gold, as all the other details on the dial. The minute indexes emphasize the highly graphic character of the model and form a rounded square towards the corners. Scarcely emerging from the case, the pushers signal the functions of this watch and are perfectly integrated into the profile of this model. Standing out: the golden crown matching each dial. As for the legendary ceramic, an innovative new development: matt appearance and exceptionally dense color, offer a striking contrast to the radiance of the gold and the brilliance of the black metalized crystal.



via David Report blog

Connecting Cultures Through Film

pangea-day.jpgNokia has just announced it’s global partnership with Pangea Day, a project created by TED Prize winner Jehane Noujaim. The aim of the organization is to create a greater understanding among different people and cultures through the power of film. On May 10, 2008 - Pangea Day - they plan to broadcast a live 4-hour long program of “powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music” to sites in Cairo, Dharamsala, Kigali, London, New York City, Ramallah, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv. In addition to the physical sites, the program will also be broadcast live to the world through the Internet, television, digital cinemas, and mobile phones.

Nokia is able to contribute to the cause by distributing video-enabled phones to aspiring filmmakers in disadvantaged areas and conflict zones around the globe. With this technology, marginalized peoples are empowered to create and share their own stories with the world.

Pangea Day

by Jeff Squires


source your label and your products via PSFK

We’ve been regularly looking at the trends of ‘local‘ and ‘craft‘ in these pages, but the future-focused December 07 issue of Monocle magazine explores these trends further by looking at the concept of ‘provenance‘. Monocle says:

Provenance became a big issue for brands low, medium and high in 2007. A spate of scares involving Chinese-made products saw the world’s largest toy maker, Mattel, recall 21 million toys due to concern over lead paint. Gap was stung when it was found that children in India were employed to make garments for their Western peers. In the showrooms of many luxury brands, buyers were starting to question if the clothes and accessories were really made in the UK, France and Italy.

In 2008, provenance is going to become more important at luxury goods companies as CEOs decide whether to downgrade their brands (they wouldn’t call it this, but we would) by shutting workshops and moving the work to Asia to improve margins, or take a long-term view and keep investing in craftsmanship, education and maintaining manufacturing facilities above the shop.

The decision should be a simple one. The fake handbag might be made in China, but if 90 per cent of the real thing is made there as well, where’s the point of difference other than price? Against this backdrop, a growing movement for authenticity, craftsmanship and heritage is creating greater opportunities for artisanal companies.

The magazine lists five brands that have ‘territorial ties’:

Imabari towels
Orcival T-shirts
KPM Berlin porcelain
Moritz beer
Fiskars furniture
Ludwig Reiter leather
Abdul Rahman sweets
Jo235l Thi233bault’s veg
Bruichladdich whisky
Swedish Match

Monocle Magazine

Thursday, December 6

New Nokia site lets consumers have the last word on what's cool...

Nokia announced today the launch of "N酷邦" (Ncool), China's first online meeting point for the brand's core audience of 20 to 30-year olds. Users are invited to post, discuss and argue about what's cool and what's not.

The centrepiece of the Ncool programme is a website where users congregate to exchange opinions, photos and links. Ncool is designed to be a truly interactive destination and is optimised for Social Networking Site (SNS) users. Visitors can submit their profile to be shared with other users, as well as engage in real-time commenting on submissions coming in.

"This is a website for individuals who are not just seeking another online activity, but a real viral community where they will find a depth of involvement with their peer group," says Simon Xue, Digital Marketing Manager with Eight's team in Beijing.

At the heart of the programme's theme is the "Battle for Cool", challenging users to compete and vote to rank cool. The topic for battle is chosen each month by well-known personalities from the media, the arts, show business, creative industries, sports, etc. The first guest is Kelvin Kwong. Further engagement will be driven by exclusive one-to-one video interviews with the celebrities.

The Internet site has been extended into a WAP portal allowing users to upload cool findings directly from their mobile phones, as well as preview the monthly winners. The site is also designed to support and promote Nokia's N-series range of multimedia enabled mobile phone products, and there will be an exclusive NSeries user section on the WAP site to reward existing Nokia phone holders.

A comprehensive activation plan leveraging a variety of channels has been designed around the site itself to generate noise, traffic and participation.

Video virals will be seeded in national online SNS destinations across China, supported by online, print media and mobile advertising. The viral films were produced by One Production and shot by Beijing director Wuershan 乌尔

Click here to view the viral TVC.


via Shot
Not content with creating the advertising, Fallon London has branched out into package design for Orange's latest mobile phone handsets.
The advertising agency renowned for groundbreaking spots for the likes of Sony Bravia and Skoda is nothing if not fearless and initially approached its client Orange about a package design brief. It has now taken its first steps in creating physical identities for the packaging of a new series of Orange mobile phones.

"The client was in for a meeting one day and we just mentioned it," explained the agency's head of design Hugh Tarpey. "They didn't actually realise that Fallon had a design department. We thought we'd love to have a go and that's basically how it came about."

Tarpey and creative director Micah Walker began thinking of ways to illustrate the character of the phones, each of which is named after a famous city. According to Fallon head of art, Mark Ellwood, who oversaw the project, the main obstacle wasn't unfamiliarity with the process, rather avoiding urban clichés.

"The names were given to us by Orange to work with. The idea was that we didn't want to do the usual cityscape angle which makes it look like more of a travel situation," he said. "It'd be very easy to pick out famous buildings in Tokyo or Berlin, so it was a lot nicer to do something more thought-through and not so obvious."

"We looked at different sort of props to spell out each name," added Tarpey. "We wanted it to be 3D; a sort of environment. We basically searched out how we could make little objects of each of the actual letters. Also, there are some nice little things going on inside the box when you open it up which are hidden from the outside."

After two months of work the packaging was finally revealed for the Berlin and Tokyo handsets, and with five more designs being developed over the next few months, Fallon has plenty of opportunity to perfect the process in readiness for any other similarly adventurous and willing clients.

Creative wine decanter


Etienne Meneau has constructed a nice series of wine decanters/sculptures. It’s quite big with a height of 65 cm. Here is a short film when wine is poured into the carafe and you can really see how the wine is coming in contact with air. My main concern is when it comes to cleaning it…


via David Report

Bang & Olufsen and Samsung launch the Serenata Mobile Phone

Check out this funky new mobile phone from Bang & Olufsen and Samsung.

bang & olufsen samsung serenata

It has 4GB of memory to store your favourite tunes, and will play AAC, MP3, and WMA files and also features a scroll wheel for navigation

bang & olufsen samsung serenata

It comes with a dock which feature line out so you can hook it ub to your HiFi and also a USB connection to sync with your PC or Mac and it will also work with iTunes.

It is limited to a 900/1800/1900MHz GSM radio with 3G Internet access available only on the 2100MHz band that goes unused in North America.

I love the design, it is great to see a company move away from the normal look of a mobile phone and try something different.

No pricing details have been released yet.

via Electronista

via Gadgettastic


The Age of Organic Electroluminescence Dawns

The world's first 11-inch organic electroluminescence TV set, Sony Corp.'s XEL-1, will go on sale in December 2007. At its thinnest point, this model is just three millimeters thick. This model was on display at the CEATEC JAPAN 2007 exhibition held from October 2 to 6. In addition to being extremely thin, the high contrast provided by organic electroluminescence (a rate of over 1,000,000 to 1) is a great advance on current TVs, and visitors flocked to see the 43 units lined up at the event.


This organic electroluminescence display is flexible.

How Organic Electroluminescence TVs Work
Organic electroluminescent material itself emits light, so there is no need for backlighting. In order to make best use of this characteristic, the display includes only the panel and the surrounding case; the image-processing system, the power supply, and the rest of the circuits are all located in the base of the set. The panel is composed of two 0.7-mm glass plates with enough electroluminescent material between them to emit light - just a few hundred nanometers thick. In other words, the panel itself is only 1.4 mm thick. The entire display is just 3 mm thick at its thinnest point.

Supported by an aluminum cantilever arm, the screen appears almost to be floating in space. The display can be tilted 15 degrees forward and 50 degrees backward, and all of the sockets for connecting the TV are located on the base.

The screen resolution is 960 x 540 dots, and the sets come equipped with a three-wave tuner that allows them to receive terrestrial, broadcast satellite, and 110-degree commercial satellite broadcasts. Production has been set at 2,000 units per month, and the TVs will retail for about ¥200,000 ($1,818 at ¥110 to the dollar).

EL Set to Change the Future of TV
The panel used in the XEL-1 was designed by Sony and is called Organic Panel. This refers to "organic" not just in the sense of living material but also in the sense of being environmentally friendly. Sony plans to develop further organic electroluminescence panels under this brand name.

Organic electroluminescence panels are able to provide high contrast by virtue of emitting no light whatsoever when black is called for. Additionally, as the amount of light can be controlled at all gradations, vivid colors and deep shadows can be conveyed, too.

Sony has employed its own technology called "Super Top Emission" in the production of the Organic Panel. Because it can produce a high level of brightness, this panel can accurately convey images of reflected sunlight and flashes from fireworks and cameras. A high level of color reproduction is also possible thanks to the system's microcavity structure, which efficiently extracts light from an organic membrane using multireflection. This allows for the reproduction of beautiful and transparent natural colors.

The response time of an organic electroluminescence screen is measured in microseconds, meaning that the emission of light can be controlled almost instantaneously. A drive circuit was developed to take advantage of this characteristic, and the result is moving images with virtually no distortion.

Soon it will be possible to hang a TV set on the wall like a painting. If the circuits are made even smaller, the way TVs are placed in rooms may change completely. A TV in a stationary position is often the focal point of the living room, but the relationship between the TV and the layout of a room may change dramatically with the advent of organic EL televisions.

via Trends in Japan

Free Universal Music Downloads on New Nokia Phones


LONDON, Dec. 4 — Nokia, the telecommunications company, and the Universal Music Group, the recording company, said on Tuesday that they would offer unlimited free downloads of Universal songs to buyers of certain Nokia phones as a way to promote cellphones as media devices and to develop new revenue for a music industry struggling with piracy.

Under the agreement, Universal will let users download its entire catalog at no cost for 12 months, and keep the songs at the end of that time. Users will be able to download the songs to new Nokia phones or to their computers via mobile or fixed-line broadband connections.

For Nokia, the announcement is a step toward its goal of becoming an Internet company like Google. The service will operate through an online music store that Nokia started last month, establishing the company as a rival to iTunes from Apple and to the music download and subscription services run by mobile network operators.

Universal, meanwhile, will get a portion of revenue from sales of the phones.

Despite a proliferation of digital business models, including subscriptions, paid downloads and free music services supported by advertising, the music industry has not come up with a solution to online piracy.

“It’s one thing to have people downloading free music illegally,” said Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Jupiter Research. “What is bold and strategically important about this is that they are tacitly accepting that they will never get digital youth to pay for music.”

Details of the service remained sketchy. Nokia said that it would start in the second half of next year and that it was negotiating with other music companies in an effort to get them to join Universal.

Nokia declined to say how much the phones would cost, though analysts said it was likely that only premium models would be compatible with the new service. Customers would receive a voucher giving them access to the free songs on the Nokia Music Store; digital rights management technology would prevent further copying.

While cellphone manufacturers, network operators and music companies have hopes high for this model, so far the biggest source of revenue for the music companies has been sales of customized ring tones.

“Nobody can claim to have gotten it right yet,” said Martin Garner, an analyst at Ovum, a consulting firm. “There’s room for experimentation, and that’s what this is.”

Nokia Raises Forecast

Nokia, the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, has raised its forecast for profit margins while predicting a further decline in selling prices next year.

Shares of Nokia fell $1.32, to $38.92. The company said yesterday that operating profit would be 16 percent to 17 percent of sales in one to two years, up from 15 percent predicted a year ago. Nokia also foresees some decline in average industry prices.

It also said the industry would grow about 10 percent in 2008 from the 1.1 billion units this year and that industry volume growth in 2008 would top 15 percent in Asia, China, the Middle East and Africa.

via New York Times

Wednesday, December 5

Intel’s Urban Atmospheres research project

Urban Atmospheres The Urban Atmospheres project (video) is exploring how people who live in cities might want to use technology, how it could help them develop a sense of community or belonging, or play into their emotional experiences of urban living.

“By gaining a better understanding of what matters most to people in the daily experience of city life, we hope to inspire useful new technologies for urban dwellers, perhaps unlike any we have seen before. We believe this is an ideal time for our research, because of the growth in urban populations; rapid expansion of ad hoc sensor networks and mobile devices with Bluetooth wireless technology; and proliferation of wireless technologies.

Part of our research involves urban probes. These are provocative interventions designed to engage people in direct discussions about their current and emerging public urban landscape-and in the process, reveal new opportunities for technology in urban spaces. For example, as part of Jetsam, an urban probe into public city trashcans, we distributed more than 100 self-addressed stamped postcards, with individual stories on them, around San Francisco. We recorded where we dropped each postcard, then waited to see how they were returned to us, what kinds of messages people left on them, and how people interacted with them.

From the Jetsam study (video) we exposed an active curiosity towards trash and the people who once owned it. Ultimately, the study revealed that a seemingly banal, yet ubiquitous, part of the urban infrastructure is actually a focus of rich human activity, a microcosm of social ecology. It influenced our final interactive trashcan design by focusing it more heavily on the use of digital technologies to reinterpret the social archaeology, presence, and movement of people and artifacts throughout the city while provoking and facilitating a public discourse about such patterns and flows.”

Urban Atmospheres is a collection of newly emerging urban based research projects being conducted across Intel Research. This included not just the work at Intel Research Berkeley but also related projects at Intel’s People and Practices (PaPR) Research group in Oregon and others.

Eric Paulos [personal site] directs the Urban Atmospheres research as a Research Scientist at Intel Corporation. Many of the projects and research conducted within Urban Atmospheres are released openly to the public through this and other web sites as part of Intel’s network of university research laboratories.

via Putting People first

Friending, Ancient or Otherwise

Gary Fogelson

THE growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life has thrust many of us into a new world where we make “friends” with people we barely know, scrawl messages on each other’s walls and project our identities using totem-like visual symbols.

We’re making up the rules as we go. But is this world as new as it seems?

Academic researchers are starting to examine that question by taking an unusual tack: exploring the parallels between online social networks and tribal societies. In the collective patter of profile-surfing, messaging and “friending,” they see the resurgence of ancient patterns of oral communication.

“Orality is the base of all human experience,” says Lance Strate, a communications professor at Fordham University and devoted MySpace user. He says he is convinced that the popularity of social networks stems from their appeal to deep-seated, prehistoric patterns of human communication. “We evolved with speech,” he says. “We didn’t evolve with writing.”

The growth of social networks — and the Internet as a whole — stems largely from an outpouring of expression that often feels more like “talking” than writing: blog posts, comments, homemade videos and, lately, an outpouring of epigrammatic one-liners broadcast using services like Twitter and Facebook status updates (usually proving Gertrude Stein’s maxim that “literature is not remarks”).

“If you examine the Web through the lens of orality, you can’t help but see it everywhere,” says Irwin Chen, a design instructor at Parsons who is developing a new course to explore the emergence of oral culture online. “Orality is participatory, interactive, communal and focused on the present. The Web is all of these things.”

An early student of electronic orality was the Rev. Walter J. Ong, a professor at St. Louis University and student of Marshall McLuhan who coined the term “secondary orality” in 1982 to describe the tendency of electronic media to echo the cadences of earlier oral cultures. The work of Father Ong, who died in 2003, seems especially prescient in light of the social-networking phenomenon. “Oral communication,” as he put it, “unites people in groups.”

In other words, oral culture means more than just talking. There are subtler —and perhaps more important — social dynamics at work.

Michael Wesch, who teaches cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, spent two years living with a tribe in Papua New Guinea, studying how people forge social relationships in a purely oral culture. Now he applies the same ethnographic research methods to the rites and rituals of Facebook users.

“In tribal cultures, your identity is completely wrapped up in the question of how people know you,” he says. “When you look at Facebook, you can see the same pattern at work: people projecting their identities by demonstrating their relationships to each other. You define yourself in terms of who your friends are.”

In tribal societies, people routinely give each other jewelry, weapons and ritual objects to cement their social ties. On Facebook, people accomplish the same thing by trading symbolic sock monkeys, disco balls and hula girls.

“It’s reminiscent of how people exchange gifts in tribal cultures,” says Dr. Strate, whose MySpace page lists his 1,335 “friends” along with his academic credentials and his predilection for “Battlestar Galactica.”

As intriguing as these parallels may be, they only stretch so far. There are big differences between real oral cultures and the virtual kind. In tribal societies, forging social bonds is a matter of survival; on the Internet, far less so. There is presumably no tribal antecedent for popular Facebook rituals like “poking,” virtual sheep-tossing or drunk-dialing your friends.

Then there’s the question of who really counts as a “friend.” In tribal societies, people develop bonds through direct, ongoing face-to-face contact. The Web eliminates that need for physical proximity, enabling people to declare friendships on the basis of otherwise flimsy connections.

“With social networks, there’s a fascination with intimacy because it simulates face-to-face communication,” Dr. Wesch says. “But there’s also this fundamental distance. That distance makes it safe for people to connect through weak ties where they can have the appearance of a connection because it’s safe.”

And while tribal cultures typically engage in highly formalized rituals, social networks seem to encourage a level of casualness and familiarity that would be unthinkable in traditional oral cultures. “Secondary orality has a leveling effect,” Dr. Strate says. “In a primary oral culture, you would probably refer to me as ‘Dr. Strate,’ but on MySpace, everyone calls me ‘Lance.’ ”

As more of us shepherd our social relationships online, will this leveling effect begin to shape the way we relate to each other in the offline world as well? Dr. Wesch, for one, says he worries that the rise of secondary orality may have a paradoxical consequence: “It may be gobbling up what’s left of our real oral culture.”

The more time we spend “talking” online, the less time we spend, well, talking. And as we stretch the definition of a friend to encompass people we may never actually meet, will the strength of our real-world friendships grow diluted as we immerse ourselves in a lattice of hyperlinked “friends”?

Still, the sheer popularity of social networking seems to suggest that for many, these environments strike a deep, perhaps even primal chord. “They fulfill our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community,” Dr. Strate says. “We all want to be told: You exist.”


via New York Times

Nokia predicts that you will control 25% of entertainment by 2012

Nokia Nokia’s latest study, ‘A Glimpse of the Next Episode’, predicts that within five years a quarter of all entertainment will be created, edited and shared within peer groups rather than coming out of traditional media groups.

Trend-setting consumers from 17 countries were asked about their digital behaviors and lifestyles. Nokia also used information gathered from its 900 million customers and views of leading industry figures to reach the conclusion that you will control 25% of the world’s entertainment by 2012.

:From our research we predict that up to a quarter of the entertainment being consumed in five years will be what we call ‘Circular’. The trends we are seeing show us that people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up and pass it on within their peer groups - a form of collaborative social media,” said Mark Selby, Vice President, Multimedia, Nokia.

Nokia also looked at four emerging trends that will make entertainment more collaborative and creative as we move towards Circular Entertainment. These trends are listed as, Immersive Living; Geek Culture; G Tech and Localism.

- Read full story (MobileCrunch)
- Read press release (Nokia)

Service Design and Advertising

In postindustrial societies, not many days go by before a new kind of service emerges (at this site alone you'll find quite a few such as this, this and this.). The trend is reflected in both the public and private sector, and so naturally also in the advertising industry.

Services, if well designed, can offer dynamic and alternative touchpoints between the user and the brand, thereby allowing new kinds of interactions and experiences that are not necessarily so tightly controlled as ad agencies and brands traditionally prefer them to be.

To my knowledge, Nike is one of the front runners, when it comes to creating brand experiences through services but lots of others are exploring the field and coming up with interesting concepts, some of which are very basic.

A recent example that I like because of its relative absurdness is Broad Shoulders, which is a service provided by the mobile carrier Optimus to festival goers at music festivals in Portugal.

Basically, Broad Shoulders is made up of ten strong men who offer (female?) members of the audience the possibility to climb on their shoulders in order to get a better view of the concert or to find a lost friend amongst the crowd. Perhaps a bit sexist and possibly also annoying for those standing behind them but nonetheless, a simple way of addressing mobility without dealing wih complex technology.

Broad Shoulders is created by the ad agency Torke.

YouTube: Broad Shoulders

via Guerrilla Innovation

e-Wash wins Electrolux Design Lab 2007

electrolux designlab winnerElectrolux have finally announced the winner of their 2007 Design Lab, the student competition to design eco-friendly and sustainable household appliances for 2020. This year’s winning design, the ‘e-Wash’ by Levente Szab from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art & Design in Hungary, is an attractive and compact washing machine that uses soap nuts instead of regular detergent. According to Gizmag the e-Wash took inspiration from India and Nepal where people have used the soap nut (sapindus mucorossi) for centuries to clean their clothes, and where a kilogram of soap nuts would last the typical person a year: “I was looking for a substance that could replace the detergent.”

electrolux runer up- pebble

Second place went to the Pebble, a portable solar food cooker by Laura Pandelle from École Boulle. “inspired by the fact that we use very powerful appliances for little uses, particularly in the kitchen,” the Pebble uses spray-on solar cells and induction heating for precise, energy-efficient cooking, combining sustainability with modern nomadic lifestyles.

electrolux runner up- go fresh

Third place was awarded to He Cheng Fei from Jiangnan University, China for his Go Fresh fridge, an energy-saving fridge with 12 individual, honeycomb-shaped compartments that are temperature-controlled and automatically close the air inlet when the correct temperature is reached

All the runners up are also worth a look- in particular the very clever Fog Shower that uses a mere 2 litres of water for a 5 minute shower, compared to the 26 litres used by today’s water-saving showerheads in the same time. Check them all out at Electrolux Design Lab

via PSFK

New Value by Design/ Investigating the Unknown

Scientists send probes into deep space in an attempt to get a better understanding of the unknown. Philips Design does something similar with its own probes projects. These ‘far-future’ research initiatives often track trends and developments that are no more than tiny blips on the cultural radar, but which may ultimately evolve into mainstream issues that have a significant impact on Philips’ business.

“Obviously it’s extremely difficult to accurately anticipate what’s going to happen in the future,” says Clive van Heerden, Senior Director of design-led innovation at Philips Design. “That’s not our goal. With probes, we study emerging trends and behavior and examine the link with associated technologies that, in a number of years time, may be relevant for our business.”

This involves tracking developments in five main areas – politics, economics, environment, technology and culture. This could be anything from assessing the impact of the dwindling oil supplies to studying cultural migrations in an increasingly homogenized world, e.g. how a phenomenon like ‘hip hop’ emerges in the Bronx in New York and influences the way in which kids in Poland are dressing two years later.

What is also important, according to Van Heerden, is understanding events in their historical context. “If you relate social development and technical innovation to the cycles and patterns that have occurred down through the years, you have a clearer picture of why things happen and what to expect in the future. As an example, the development of the aircraft was accelerated by the World War 1, while the same can be said for jet power in World War 2. Crisis is a major catalyst for innovation and understanding contemporary tensions is a pointer to the direction of social and technological development.”

Challenging conventions

There are three main phases to each probes project; generating what is known as a disruptive scenario, creating a provocation based on the scenario, and then carrying out an evaluation. “One of our main aims is to challenge conventional ways of thinking and to come up with concepts that really make people sit up and take notice,” says Lucy McRae, Body Architect at Philips Design. Although some of these concepts may seem at first glance to be extremely ‘off the wall’ and far removed from everyday Philips activities, they are none the less valuable seeds for the innovation process. As Van Heerden says; “If you can’t lay an egg once in a while, nothing will ever hatch.”

Three main probe projects are currently being carried out; SKIN tattoo, SMELL and Sustainable Habitat. The SKIN tattoo project follows on from the work that saw the creation of ‘the Probes dresses’ (see new value by Design issue 30). “We believe that the body is a platform for interactive technology,” says McRae, who has been heavily involved in numerous probe projects. “In this context, it is fascinating to examine the growing trend in extreme body adornment like tattoos, piercings, implants or scarring and how this will evolve 15 or 20 years from now.”

The tattoo that changes
This led to the concept of the electronic tattoo. By using electronic, addressable ink, people could have dynamic tattoos that offer an infinite number of display options. “Fashion is impermanent” says McRae, “and people are using more temporary ways of expressing themselves. In much the same way as women can put on and take
off make-up to suit an occasion, your tattoo could morph and re-morph itself whenever you desired.” The tattoos could even change in response to gesture or emotion; interacting and growing with the touch of a lover, this opens up indirect ways of communicating and interacting with others.

“It’s time for people to take the body seriously as a platform for expression,” adds Van Heerden. “Technology is going to be invading the body in a variety of different ways. It’s necessary for us, as a company, to anticipate potential applications for these technologies but also the ever changing culture that we introduce applications into.”

The SMELL probe is currently being carried out together with James Auger at the Royal College of Art in London. “There is a great deal of cultural taboo about body odors,” he adds. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth exploring. Tests have shown that women can identify the most genetically suitable partner for reproduction purely on the basis of smelling a T-shirt he has worn. We wanted to find out more about the power of fragrance.”

Blind date with a difference
In SMELL, a prototype apparatus was created which basically captures odors from the body and not only communicates them to the wearer but also to other people. “James Auger called it Blind Date,” says Jack Mama, Creative Director of the program. “It’s very provocative, yet it’s also relevant. Dogs are reputedly able to sniff
out cancer, so our work may initiate dialogue around the possibilities of smell-based diagnoses. Who knows? That would be an extremely interesting proposition for our Medical Systems division.”

But how are the topics selected for probe projects? “On the one hand there is a kind of evolutionary process going on,” says Van Heerden. “Early explorations into electronic wearability, like New Nomads, made us curious about the space between apparel and the body which led to the first SKIN probe and then SKIN tattoo. SMELL is another extension of that. But, we also investigate subjects where there is a more obvious imperative, such as sustainability.”

The Sustainable Habitat probe falls into the last category. It looks at scenarios in which oil prices continue to rise and environmental damage is irreversible. “One possible outcome is that the built environment becomes active; the walls, roofs and floors have much more than just a structural function,” says Van Heerden. “Outer shells of buildings may be constructed to trap rainwater so it can be purified on-site for drinking. Sunlight may also be
captured to provide electricity and water heating, while the wind outside could conceivably be harnessed and channeled into the building for air-conditioning.”

Not just another brick in the wall
This is an extraordinarily relevant issue. In China, the focus of Sustainable Habitat, there’s talk of 200 new Chinese cities being created, each with a planned population in excess of one million. Shanghai may have 40 million inhabitants within a couple of decades. New apartments will be produced on a scale similar to tins of baked beans, and in some cases not a great deal larger. “A living space of 40m² may be the norm,” says Van Heerden.

At the same time, the country already has massive energy issues as well as shortages of water and raw materials. “This is a tremendous opportunity for a more sustainable approach,” he continues. “And maybe a probe like this could conclude that Philips’ future might take new directions such as intelligent and dynamic materials for mass
housing which incorporate electronics and offer a whole variety of functions. That 40m² has got to behave like 80m², so we have to rethink the performance requirements of everything from a brick to a wall or door.”

Generating business ideas
The probes program, according to Van Heerden, has resulted in research being carried out in many different areas over the years, but is now being formalized in a way that gives a lot more structure. “And, more importantly, we want to focus on generating new business ideas,” he says. “We look so far forward because we can then extrapolate backwards and positively influence our activities in the near future.”

“If you look at Sustainable Habitat, some of the product and service concepts are already generating interest, because the notion of sustainability has firmly become rooted in mainstream consciousness,” he continues. “Two and a half years ago when we talked about this kind of issue people thought we were being alarmist – now it makes perfect sense. That’s how quickly the cultural tide can turn, and it shows the value of our probes program.”

via Philips

Tuesday, December 4

Miniaturized Accidents

This project is a series of fictionalized, miniaturized accident scenes that are discovered, constructed and plotted on a map by the acute pedestrian.
Miniaturized AccidentsRubble
This project is a series of fictionalized, miniaturized accident scenes that are discovered, constructed and plotted on a map by the acute pedestrian. These accident sites create new landmarks and destinations for urban travelers, and strange objects in the environment serve as “architectural� props and become buildings, doorways, and rubble in a miniaturized setting; they serve as anchors for the site of an accident. Found accidents add an extra dimension to the peripatetic journey by highlighting a smaller scale of experience.

The inspiration for this piece came from looking at some of the architectural remnants in front of the unused McCarren pool across from McCarren Park in Williamsburg. Its desolation has always seemed mysterious, and rumors of death and accident abound. Sometimes I find my thoughts wandering as I gaze at the remaining building fragments and imagine how people might have once walked through the space. The pool area is inaccessible, but there are strange, smaller fragments outside that are suggestive of buildings and doorways. By using these strange objects as props for a fictional accident scene, I can begin to create my own urban narrative that offers a parallel urban tragedy; other urban wanderers can also concretize flights of fantasy and share them with others.

One can contribute to the project on an ongoing basis given the following materials: (1) plastic figures (to denote scale), (2) a found, unusual, pre-existing structure in the environment to anchor the accident, and (3) a camera to take a photo and to add it to the map. If one takes a photo with a cameraphone, it can be sent to an email address that will plot it on the online map. There will also be an interface that allows you to upload it from your own computer, and position it onto the map accordingly. Over time, users can begin to share another dimension of reality and recognize it in their walks, and point out the locations of miniaturized accidents.

Event Information

Saturday, September 15, 2007
11:00am — 12:30pm

Luna Lounge
361 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Phone Battery Street Charging Services

Jan Chipchase is Principal Researcher in the User Experience Group of Nokia Research Center. A part of his fascinating job is to observe and describe how different cultures use mobile technologies differently - often in ways unintended or unpredicted by the industry that he represents.

He has carried out ethnographic fieldwork around the world, such as in Uganda where access to electricity and mobile phones is limited and the user need thus quite basic.

As a consequence of these limitations, people have developed an alternative solutions and service economies, such as phone-sharing systems and battery-charging services (photo) where batteries can be recharged for a relatively small price.

Documentation of this and other of Jan Chipchase's interesting findings are available for download at Nokia Research Center.

Street Charging Service Uganda (PDF file)