Posts tagged “theory”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lost Garden: Ribbon Hero turns learning Office into a game – If an activity can be learned; If the player’s performance can be measured; If the player can be rewarded or punished in a timely fashion, then any activity that meets these criteria can be turned into a game. Not only can you make a game out of the activity, but you can turn tasks traditionally seen as a rote or frustrating into compelling experiences that users find delightful.
  • With Rival E-Book Readers, It’s Amazon vs. Apple – [] – Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle at Amazon, said he expected developers would devise a wide range of programs, including utilities like calculators, stock tickers and casual video games. He also predicts publishers will begin selling a new breed of e-books, like searchable travel books and restaurant guides that can be tailored to the Kindle owner’s location; textbooks with interactive quizzes; and novels that combine text and audio. “We knew from the earliest days of the Kindle that invention was not all going to take place within the walls of Amazon,” Mr. Freed said. “We wanted to open this up to a wide range of creative people, from developers to publishers to authors, to build whatever they like.”
  • Pushing Military Styles to a New Level of Ferocity [] – A stepped-up demand for vests, blazers and hoodies tough enough to deflect a .22-caliber blast but sleek enough for a night of clubbing suggests that body armor is not just for the security-conscious. Fake or real, it exerts a pull on those inclined to flaunt it as a flinty fashion statement. “The trend to protective gear is pretty strong right now,” said Richard Geist, the founder of Uncle Sam’s Army Navy Outfitters in downtown Manhattan. “It’s big with rappers, alternative types and even some women.” Uncle Sam’s sells protective gear to the military. But most of its clients are civilians who snap up authentic bulletproof vests for as much as $1,000 or trade down to look-alike versions stripped of their armored lining ($24).
  • ComScore Calls Shenanigans on Gartner’s 99.4% App Store Figure [Maximum PC] – Gartner says 99.4% of app sales in 2009 were from Apple. ComScore disputes the figures but Gartner stands by its determination.
  • Amazon launching Kindle Development Kit so third parties can develop apps – Active content will be available to customers in the Kindle Store later this year. Remember that unlike smart phones, the Kindle user does not pay a monthly wireless fee or enter into an annual wireless contract. Kindle active content must be priced to cover the costs of downloads and on-going usage. Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • HERMENAUT: Fake Authenticity: An Introduction – Equaled in fake authenticity only by Restoration Hardware, which sells new-but-old-looking pencil sharpeners and fire irons to people who apparently want to live inside a catalog, The House of Blues doesn't bother to lacquer its walls with old Ebony magazine covers, like the recently deceased bluesman Junior Kimbrough did at his juke joint in Mississippi. Instead, Ackroyd & co. just bought Kimbrough's place as soon as he died and carved it up for cufflinks. That might not be exactly accurate, but it is how you feel when you step inside a HoB. They do sell "outsider art" cufflinks, though. Did you know that HoB has its own curator? who's aggressively acquired for that chain the world's largest collection of outsider art? A questionable category anyway, this kind of painting is freely mixed at the Harvard Square HoB with old signs advertising everything from shoeshines to churches, and faux-aged signs entreating you to "Have mercy & say yeah!" and directing you to the T-shirt display.
  • Zara Logue's Contemporary Design class at University of Oregon – This semester's theme is Authenticity. I'll be giving a guest lecture (remotely) on April 29.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • PETA (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) attempts to rebrand fish as "Sea Kittens" – Sorta reductio ad absurdum re: my latest interactions column, Poets, Priests, and Politicians
  • Rug company Nanimarquina brings global warming to your living room – "If there is an iconic image that represents the natural devastation of global warming, it is the lone polar bear stuck on a melting ice flow. Now eco rug company Nanimarquina has teamed up with NEL artists to create a beautiful ‘Global Warming Rug’ – complete with stranded polar bear floating in the middle of the sea – to represent the most pressing issue of our time. Rugs have been traditionally used throughout the ages to tell stories and communicate messages, and we think this is a lovely, poignant new take on a time-honored tradition." What effect does it have when an issue like global warming gets iconified and aestheticized like this? Does it drive home the seriousness of the situation, or make it more palatable?
  • Asch conformity experiments – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) Asch asked people about similarity of height between several lines. Confederates answered incorrectly and this influenced the subject themselves to support this incorrect answer.
  • Confirmation bias: the tendency to seek out information that supports what we already believe – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) The 2-4-6 problem presented subjects with 3 numbers. Subjects were told that the triple conforms to a particular rule. They were asked to discover the rule by generating their own triples, where the experimenter would indicate whether or not the triple conformed to the rule. While the actual rule was simply “any ascending sequence”, the subjects often proposed rules that were far more complex. Subjects seemed to test only “positive” examples—triples the subjects believed would conform to their rule and confirm their hypothesis. What they did not do was attempt to challenge or falsify their hypotheses by testing triples that they believed would not conform to their rule.
  • Overcoming Bias – Blog by Eliezer Yudkowsky and others about (overcoming) biases in perception, decisions, etc.
  • Hindsight bias: when people who know the answer vastly overestimate its predictability or obviousness, – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky)
    Sometimes called the I-knew-it-all-along effect.
    "…A third experimental group was told the outcome and also explicitly instructed to avoid hindsight bias, which made no difference."
  • Planning fallacy – the tendency to underestimate task-completion times – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) Asking people what they did last time turns out to be more accurate than what they either hope for or expect to happen this time
  • Cognitive Biases in the Assessment of Risk – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) Another example of extensional neglect is scope insensitivity, which you will find in the Global Catastrophic Risks book. Another version of the same thing is where people would only pay slightly more to save all the wetlands in Oregon than to save one protected wetland in Oregon, or people would pay the same amount to save two thousand, twenty thousand, or two hundred thousand oil-stroked birds from perishing in ponds. What is going on there is when you say, “How much would you donate to save 20,000 birds from perishing in oil ponds,” they will visualize one bird trapped, struggling to get free. That creates some level of emotional arousal, then the actual quantity gets thrown right out the window.

    [I am not sure that's the reason why; I think there could be other explanations for the flawed mental model that leads to those responses]

  • Conjunction fallacy – (via Eliezer Yudkowsky) A logical fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than a single general one. Example: Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

    Which is more probable?

    1. Linda is a bank teller.
    2. Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

    85% of those asked chose option 2 [2]. However, mathematically, the probability of two events occurring together (in "conjunction") will always be less than or equal to the probability of either one occurring alone.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Scopophilia – Literally, the love of looking. The term refers to the predominantly male gaze of Hollywood cinema, which enjoys objectifying women into mere objects to be looked at (rather than subjects with their own voice and subjectivity).
  • Fabula and Sjuzhet – Fabula refers to the chronological sequence of events in a narrative; sjuzhet is the re-presentation of those events (through narration, metaphor, camera angles, the re-ordering of the temporal sequence, and so on).

Disciplinarity and Rigour? My keynote from Design Research Society conference

I was recently in the UK to give the opening keynote at the Design Research Society’s Undisciplined conference. I detail some of my academic and professional history and talk about the concerns of a practitioner, perhaps an alternate take on what many in the audience (designers from academic settings) are thinking about themselves.

Here are slides and audio in separate widgets. You can start the audio and advance the slides manually to follow along. The talk goes for about 45 minutes and the discussion for another 25 or so.

< Audio [audio src="StevePortigal_DRS2008.mp3"] Also, see my London and Sheffield pictures here.

User Research Theory

As I’ve written about recently (here and here), this issue of theory within the practice of user research is challenging and at least, provocative. To that end, I’ve started an online study group that will be looking at theory from, well, social sciences, I imagine. We’ve got a diverse group of people signed up, more than 80, with a good range of experiences, and some great discussion around where to start (i.e., who to read) and how to interact together.

We’ve just launched our first assignment and I’m reading Clifford Geertz’s essay on Thick Description. Here’s an interesting passage:

And it is in understanding what ethnography is, or more exactly what doing ethnography is, that a start can be made toward grasping what anthropological analysis amounts to as a form of knowledge. This, it must immediately be said, is not a matter of methods. From one point of view, that of the textbook, doing ethnography is establishing rapport, selecting informants, transcribing texts, taking genealogies, mapping fields, keeping a diary, and so on. But it is not these things, techniques, and received procedures, that define the enterprise. What defines it is the kind of intellectual effort it is: an elaborate venture in, to borrow a nation from Gilbert Ryle, “thick description”

He goes on to explain the difference in meaning between the same gesture – an involuntary eye-twitch and a wink.

Good stuff!


About Steve