Tuesday, July 14, 2009

IDEO's free Human-Centered Design Toolkit

You know, I felt just a touch self-conscious about my last post which suggested that we should look deep into ourselves to recognize our desires as a means to look forward to our possible technological futures.

But it appears that I might be in good company with this approach. I smiled to myself as I read this passage from the Introduction to The Human-Centered Design Toolkit (pdf):

The 3 Lenses of Human-Centered Design

Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a process and a set of techniques used to create new solutions for the world. When we say solutions, we mean products, services, environments, organizations, and modes of interaction. The reason this process is called “human-centered” is because it starts with the people we are designing for.

The starting point of the HCD process is to examine the needs, dreams, and behaviors of the people we want to affect with our solutions. We seek to listen to and understand what they want. We call this the Desirability lens. It is the lens through which we view the world through the entire design process.

Once we have identified the universe of what is Desirable, we begin to view our solutions through the lenses of Feasibility and Viability.

The Human-Centered Design Toolkit was developed by design firm IDEO in conjunction with International Development Enterprises (IDE), Heifer International, ICRW, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was created to inspire new solutions to difficult challenges within communities of need.

Our technological desires are forecast in fiction

I can't seem to get my LibraryThing widget to render properly with this template, so I'm just going to have to tell you that I'm reading a remarkable book called Killing Monsters: why children NEED fantasy, super-heroes, and make-believe violence. There are so many passages that I want share with out but I'm going to start out with just one:

What draws a child to any fantasy is its emotional power. No six-year old seizes a toy or TV show because he thinks it will improve him or feels it validates his taste or opinions. That's why Isaac Bashevis Singer said that "children are the only honest readers." Every toy marketer knows that no advertising will induce a child to want something that doesn't match up with the fantasies he already has. A little girl who already yearns for the power of glamour and the chamleonsque versatility of dress-up may have her fantasies focused and intensified by a Barbie commercial. But not even a thousand viewings of that commercial will make her macho brother want a Barbie. Either children connect with a fantasy at the profoundest emotional levels or they quickly toss it aside.

There are two reasons I wrote out this quote. First, I wanted to showcase what rare combination of common sense and emotional understanding that Gerard Jones brings to the subjects of children, violence, gender, media and desire.

And secondly, I want to borrow this idea that many of our decisions are made because they, often unconsciously, connect with an underlying desire or fantasy. For example, I would suggest that many people over the course of history has held the dream of a single, portable book being able to express the entire sum of the world's knowledge. Before it became manifest as Wikipedia, it existed and was expressed as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

So in order to understand the future of our technology, perhaps we should read a little fantasy first. I personally hope that Jakob Nielsen is right and that In the Future, We'll All Be Harry Potter.

And now its time for my audacious prediction: I predict that in the future that our laptops will develop and evolve to become our dæmons/familiars.

I'm also writing at tech-ink.net

Not sure why I didn't mention this sooner, but I have been making the occasional contribution to the collective blog, tech-ink.net which is dedicated to emerging technologies.

I've written two posts there:
- What we can learn from Nike’s Persuasive Technology &
- My new fave search engine is Zotero

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The library is a macroscope

I am a non-designer who wants to bring better design into the library. Nurses have designed better environments for themselves and their patients. We can do likewise.

So that's why I think you should watch this video of a presentation called Scope by Matt Webb from the most recent Reboot conference [Boing boing]. Matt Webb isn't a Designer but he is part of a four person company that does design work.

He begins his talk with some of the definitions of design that he has collected, including:

"Design is the conscious and intuitive effort to impose meaningful order".
"Design is not about problem solving. Design is about cultural invention".
"The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public."

If the parallels between our work and the work of designers isn't yet clear at this point, then please watch the first five minutes of Webb's talk in which he introduces these ideas in context.

Oh yes, and around the 8 minute mark, Webb introduces the concept of the macroscope. "Designers -- in order to see things really big, like culture, need macroscopes."

The library is a macroscope of recorded human knowledge. And it needs to become a better one to help the reader make sense and make use of the recorded knowledge in their culture. And we need to design better library space for as Beth Jefferson has said, as paraphrased by Rochelle Mazar,

We, also, are less about our content than about the medium in which we can present them. Our devices are buildings; while “the library without walls” meme has been going around for a while, the reality is that people still need space, and our spaces are popular as spaces to work, think, be and be seen. At the very least. When we move into things like ubiquitous interfaces, maybe our space becomes the medium, the device.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Using Wikipedia for Collection Development

Most students start their research work with a visit to Wikipedia.

Knowing this, doesn't it make sense that your library have copies of the works mentioned in the Wikipedia's lists of references and their further readings sections of the subjects that you know they are writing assignments about?