April 25th & 26th
287 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Information spaces are changing more rapidly than we can design for them. As context-aware computing and artificial intelligence are advancing into consumer markets, the need to structure information and meaning around adaptive systems has never been more important. The past century has seen significant variation in the ways that information is ordered, disordered, constructed, and broken down. Information architecture is about creating order, but these new technological systems are calling for a form of order that borders on paradox: a flexible structure, an adaptive constant, an information cartilage. Context awareness and artificial intelligence are making us think about information in new ways; the big question, the one this paper will hopefully help answer or at least usefully frame, is how we design for such systems.
A large part of the modern era was spent amassing things. The Industrial Revolution gave us the means of producing consumer products in large quantities, and capitalism gave us the motivation and means of self-justification for such excess. But not only with consumer culture: art and literature also changed in the modernist era, especially high modernism, from relatively ordered realism to chaotic abstraction and purposeful transgression. What is unique about all these objects we collected is that they all existed within the bounds of physical space, at least until the mid 20th century. As information technology came into being, we saw a shift from physical objects to digital objects at the same time as we embraced disorder in art on a larger scale than ever before. It seems cliché to refer to an ‘information explosion,’ as it has become wrapped up in everyday life to the extent that we don’t notice it anymore, but we must note that the tendency toward production, coupled with the ability to transgress the bounds of physical space, has resulted in an abundance of information analogous to our abundance of physical objects. As “informational objects” became a reality, we were already conditioned to think in terms of disorder. So we collected them, cherished them, fetishized them, but we didn’t do a great job of organizing them.
The problem associated with too many physical objects compared to too much information is a question of organization and space. It seems unlikely that we will run out of space for our digital objects because we have the capacity to create more space. The challenge, however, is to organize these objects in such a way that we can maintain volume and create meaningful associations. Without organization, information becomes a burden.
Information architecture was born out of the need to organize web-based information into a network of meaningful interactions. Mobile computing allowed digital information to slip off the desktop and into the pockets of users worldwide, resulting in a staggering amount new sources, types, and potential categories of information. It created new information spaces that are not only digital but also transitory, fickle, and unpredictable. In the coming years, as artificial intelligence and contextual computing refine themselves, we are looking at yet another source of information that could prove even more transitory, fickle, and unpredictable. Information architects play a crucial role—if not the crucial role—in ensuring these informational objects will remain meaningful.
The success of this organizational project depends on our understanding of the interplay between physical and digital spaces, concentrating on two of the most interesting movements in computing, which have been gaining momentum for decades: artificial intelligence and context-aware computing. The new information spaces these movements create—i.e., adaptive spaces—call for a re-examination of how digital information relates to physical space. Using Jean Baudrillard and Martin Heidegger’s work as a basis, I argue that the ways we understand contextual and intelligent systems, and subsequently their ultimate success, depends on how their information is organized and its ability to adapt.
I’d like to read the rest of this paper, please.
Chris Dixon makes the observation that new user interface paradigms lead to new notions of ‘productivity app’, by which he seems to mean so-called ‘office apps’.
We are just scratching the surface on the kinds of apps for the iPad…I think there are lots of kinds of content that can be created on the iPad. When I am going to write that 35-page analyst report, I am going to want my Bluetooth keyboard. That’s 1 percent of the time. The software will get more powerful. I think your vision would have to be pretty short to think these can’t grow into machines that can do more things, like editing video, graphic arts, productivity. You can imagine all of these content creation possibilities on these kind of things. Time takes care of lots of these things.
If you go back and look at the history of productivity apps you’ll see that each major user interface shift led to new classes of productivity apps. Back in the 70s and 80s, when computers had text-based interfaces, word processor applications like Wordperfect and spreadsheet applications like Lotus 1-2-3 were invented. In the 80s and 90s, when graphical interfaces became popular, presentation apps like Powerpoint and photo editing apps like Photoshop were invented. If the historical pattern repeats, productivity apps that are “native” to the tablet will be invented.
Chris doesn’t make any predictions, but I will make one. Gestural displays are already having an aesthetic/kinesthetic impact, with tools like Clear showing the way.
But I think the biggest breakthrough will come from apps that allow groups to co-curate better than how we do it now. The activity stream is now the dominant social motif of social tools, but we are being streamed to death in a dozen siloed apps.
There is an opportunity to place social in the OS on our proximal devices. Imagine if iOS 8 (9?) arrived with a social stream baked in (they should have bought Twitter when it was cheap), and that applications could use to push and pull messages into. We could have a single context for all our streaming information, and we could share with people rather than with apps. Google could play along with Android, and we’d see the next generation of apps sharing a model of sociality, just like apps do today for the file system and the web.
I am often asked what UX means. I then give a slightly different answer depending on who I’m talking to (and what their assumed level of base knowledge is). I came across this great excerpt in a blog post from Teresa Neil on Hiring Top UX Talent (seems it’s not just HK [Hong Kong] that has difficulty finding “talent” then):
UX isn’t graphic design and it isn’t web design and it isn’t (just) making wireframes. An experienced UX practitioner will guide you from research to product launch. They should be part of your strategy team, not brought in at the tail end of the design phase to tidy up the wireframes.
If you are hiring a consultant, they should want to be part of your team through launch (and afterwards too). UX isn’t about a hand-off, it is a cornerstone of your project’s success.
Infographic: The Intricate Anatomy Of UX Design
THIS MEGA GRAPHIC ATTEMPTS TO TACKLE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN UX AND ALL OTHER ASPECTS OF DESIGN.
Timo Arnall debunks the current infatuation with the #NoUI concept, suggesting that it demeans the user and oversimplifies the difficulties involved for design to make complex things seem simple. His argument is directed both at the metaphor of an invisible UI, but also the value of what it rejects.
Timo Arnall, No to NoUI
1. Invisible design propagates the myth of immateriality
We already have plenty of thinking that celebrates the invisibility and seamlessness of technology. We are overloaded with childish mythologies like ‘the cloud’; a soft, fuzzy metaphor for enormous infrastructural projects of undersea cables and power-hungry data farms. This mythology can be harmful and is often just plain wrong. Networks go down, hard disks fail, sensors fail to sense, processors overheat and batteries die.
Computing systems are suffused through and through with the constraints of their materiality. – Jean-François Blanchette
Invisible design propogates the myth that technology will ‘disappear’ or ‘just get out of the way’ rather than addressing the qualities of interface technologies that can make them difficult or delightful.
Intentionally hiding the phenomena and materiality of interfaces, smoothing over the natural edges, seams and transitions that constitute all technical systems, entails a loss of understanding and agency for both designers and users of computing. Lack of understanding leads to uncertainty and folk-theories that hinder our ability to use technical systems, and clouds the critique of technological developments.
As systems increasingly record our personal activity and data, invisibility is exactly the wrong model.
By removing our knowledge of the glue that holds the systems that make up the infrastructure together, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to begin to understand how we are constructed as subjects, what types of systems are brought into place (legal, technical, social, etc.) and where the possibilities for transformation exist. – Matt Ratto (2007)
In other words, as both users and designers of interface technology, we are disenfranchised by the concepts of invisibility and disappearance.
His other points:
2. Invisible design falls into the natural/intuitive trap — ‘does not give any insight into how complex processes might actually become simple of familiar’.
3. Invisible design ignores interface culture — ‘To declare interfaces ‘invisible’ is to deny them a cultural form or medium’.
4. Invisible design ignores design and technology history — ’we must critique the clean, orderly, and homogenous future that is at the heart of these modernist visions’.
Go read the whole piece.
PaperTab: Revolutionary paper tablet reveals future tablets to be thin and flexible as paper. (by Plastic Logic humanmedialab)
Fascinating to see bending the paper used to scroll, and touching papers to exchange information.
Rumors have been flying about Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall’s hurried departure from Apple. Among other misdeeds he apparently was unwilling to sign the iOS 6 Maps apology letter, leaving it to CEO Tim Cook.
From the viewpoint of someone who loves most Apple design, I am not surprised to learn that Forstall was the man behind the ugly ugly skeuomorphs in iOS and Mac OS X, like the stitched leather in Apple calendars. He and Jony Ive apparently couldn’t stand each other, and Ive will now be leading Apple’s user interface efforts.
Apple stock should shoot up on this news, but the average market analyst is unlikely to be able to parse the impact of this on Apple’s future.