The design of the simple, everyday things that surround us speaks volumes about culture, and how we see the world. They're intimately linked, and this enlightening post demonstrates this with a comparison of eating utensils from the West vs. the East (cutlery and chopsticks)
I would have never realized that "chopstick culture" is a result of "group oriented, human relation oriented thinking", but it sure makes sense. Think of this as a great way to talk about "herd" theory via usability and design.
The two comments below from a Planner and and Experience Designer point to what I think is a fundamental truth about the starting point for everything we do: begin with thinking about what we want an audience to feel, and work backwards to figure out how to get there.
Dylan Williams from Mother on planning and making people feel something:
We in advertising tend to start with our message and work outward. We are spending too much time on what we want to say, rather than what people want to hear. Maybe we should flip the traditional planning process. From message-out planning to audience-back strategy. Dispense with propositions and focus on more thoroughly understanding what people are into. Spielberg said he wanted to make everyone in a cinema feel joy. Then worked back to ET. What would we make if our development process worked this way around?"
we should really be designing like game designers do: you start from the opposite side of the equation. We should figure out the aesthetics--what should this feel like? what is the emotional response to this application?--and work backwards from there. What dynamics will create these feelings? And what mechanics will support that?
(here is the source of the image. I included it a sneaky way to say that for a DJ the audience is always the first thing we think about as well: how do we want them to feel? what emotion should they take away with them when they leave the club? The creativity comes in doing that-getting there in a more interesting way than another DJ would)
This is a couple of weeks old, but I hadn't seen it, and I really agree with Mr. Steel's feelings on the importance (and dangers) of listening to consumers/your audience, and also the importance of remembering the unchanging aspects of communication, regardless of medium (human motivations, influence and interestingness).
Is it already that time of the year when we start reviewing "Best of 2007" lists? I think it's a bit early, but I'll give Popular Mechanics a pass as I've always liked their year-end picks. Sure there are a few obvious choices (Microsoft Surface, the iPhone), but they deserve to be there (OK?!).
I'll likely be getting one of these Wii Fit boards soon, as they promise to turn getting fit into a game. It might be the motivation I need.
Rex Sorgatz has penned a brilliant, must-read article for Wired, making the case that gaming has become "the prevailing narrative our time". It's one of those articles that makes everything seem so obvious in hindsight,connects a number of related themes, and makes you (or, me at least) feel like you hadn't been noticing something right in front of your face.
He cites a number of examples, from our attempts to "game" the system (a la Technorati) to navigating our RSS reader in Pac-Man like fashion. But really, it's a compelling argument for gaming in a very general, pervasive, as the mode of many of our interactions and experiences. Rex states: "Sometimes the interactions are social, sometimes they are you versus a computer algorithm. But once you've noticed them, they suddenly become ubiquitous."
Brilliant, and dead on.
I urge you to read the article, but if you need more convincing, here's something to think about (via Rex's blog)
How did we end up with a world we play like a game? It's no historical coincidence that gaming ascended right along with the rise of the information age. As the ever-rising flood of new data threatened to inundate our lives, we developed tools to organize all that information — sort it, filter it, cut it, mix it.
And from the article itself:
We use game models to motivate ourselves, to answer questions, to find creative solutions. For many, life itself has turned into a game. Our online lives are just twists on the videogame leaderboards, where we jockey to get our blog a higher rank on Technorati and compete to acquire more friend-adds on MySpace than the next guy.
Even on more serious social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, you rack up friends, accrue hipster points, try to score high on identity tests.
Some thoughts that Rex triggered in my mind follow (and hopefully I'll get some inputs from the likes of Leland, Adam, Paul, Russell and Morgan, who have informed some admittedly half-baked ideas around the theme of game/play)"
-I like the fact that thinking about games/gaming as the mode of our experiences and interactions places the emphasis on our individual motivations; the social/cultural context is always important, but it's equally important to concentrate on what motivates us individually to do stuff (in other words, the rewards of gaming address the question "what's in it for me" in a clear, distinct way. The reward with gaming/play is individual satisfaction and/or advantage, which is admittedly a little less noble than some "community" idealists would lead us to believe (?)
-I've been amazed to see the extent to which something like music production/remixing has become more game-like as it's become "democratized", and I've long suspected that the remix ethos has more in common with gaming than anything else, so Rex's thesis makes a lot of sense from this perspective.
-I wonder what Leland thinks of this, and what how the idea of a gaming meta-trend might fit with his thoughts on "hacking". They may not be that far off?
-Adam recently made the distinction between gaming and play, and I have to admit that reading Rex's piece, I found both gaming and playing applicable (as Adam defines and distinguishes them). Whereas Rex talks about gaming as in gaming the system, I suspect that unstructured, free-form play is also relevant and applies here.
-Lisa Reichelt recently wrote a post about "gardening tools for social networks", by which she mean tools that help us cultivate our networks. Seen through the filter of gaming, Lisa's "tools" makes even more sense: cultivating our network can mean more ways to play with our myriad connections and interactions (and I'm not talking about biting Zombies!). It's the cultivating of the network that's the fun part, and as it stands, the cultivating part is sorely underdeveloped. You amass friends, then just kind of eventually get stuck with nothing interesting to do. We need cultivating tools that are game-like.
-It can be a bit weird to think about it in this way, but for social networks, the idea that "people are the content" makes sense if we think about what we do there in gaming terms, too. Most of our conversations about social networks and communities focus on the touchy-feely connecting parts, but a lot of what we actually do is more self-centredly playful (yes, I think there is a valid distinction).
-I was re-reading some of Morgan's comments in a previous post here on play and flow, because I think it's useful to include flow in the discussion. Have a peek.
(the image for this post comes from the very excellent ffffound, the source of many flow-like moments for me over the last couple of weeks as I've been playing with it.)
I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself getting increasingly tired (sometimes, even irritated) when I encounter one of the many "new marketing" buzzwords out there.
"Conversation" is one of those words; it's just starting to really bug me, and I'm not entirely sure why. It could be a combination of the self-righteous/pious way in which it is tossed around and the mostly rhetorical way in which it's used. But it might also have to do with my belief that, taken as a tactic, it's shallow and utterly meaningless. There have to be deeper motivations for a brand to mean it, conversation has to be baked into the DNA as Umair Haque puts it.
[I want to pull an excerpt from Brian Oberkirch on this subject. He knows what he's talking about, and he has a good way of putting things:
firms underestimate the deep changes in marketing and go for surface improvements. What Foucault would call a discontinuity in the very mode of knowledge — there is a gap between marketing as we knew it and what we will come to practice.
So, we get ‘conversational marketing’ and other examples of what I call Advertising By Other Means. Or you add a ’social media strategy’, a ‘facebook strategy’ or an iPhone app to the mix. You spam people via bookmarking services. Add them as ‘friends’ on their social networks. Invite users to co-create ads. [Note: the only people who want to make ads are would-be ad people. Please to stop with the DIY ad campaigns. Your self-centeredness is showing.] Such tactics are stop gap, incremental, often disengenious, and they fundamentally misunderstand the radical nature of the shift.