For those with access to academic papers, this comes recommended. The authors quite persuasively show that some of interaction design’s highest held principles must be re-evaluated in the light of play and game design.
Some more catching up with things that occurred recently; on Monday February 23 we1 had our second This happened. I am quite satisfied with how things went.
For one; we had some unplanned cohesion2 amongst talks.3 Three out of four talks discussed the use of field research (to use the term broadly). It was good to have some discussion of how this is put in practice, as I often find ethnographic techniques being presented as some kind of silver bullet, but without any clear demonstration of its application. It was also cool to see field research being applied effectively in such different contexts (primary school, the elderly, South Africa).
To my relief, a significantly larger percentage of the audience (compared to last time) was female.4 This was something we had worked consciously towards, since the first edition’s testosterone quotient was a bit too high. In my opinion, a more diverse audience is conducive to the kind of relaxed, open and honest atmosphere we are pursuing. The main way we tried to draw in a more balanced mix of people was by inviting more female speakers. Three out of four talks were by women. All of them were great. It seems to have worked.
I love that This happened seems to be a venue for the kind of unassuming and honest presentations we somehow stop giving once we leave design school (or at least I have). I can’t think of other events where I am treated to such wonderful war stories from the front-lines of interaction design.
The discussions after each session were good again as well. Lots of thoughtful questions, critical, but fair. Alper was kind enough to keep minutes, and has blogged the most salient parts over at his site (in Dutch).5
Our friends in London launched a new website that now contains videos and slides of all talks from past events. The Utrecht sessions are on there too, so go have a look. It already is an amazing collection of high-quality content. Some of my current favourites are Troika, Crispin Jones and Schulze & Webb.6
The next This happened – Utrecht (number three) is set for June 29. Hope to see you there.
- Alexander, Ianus and I [↩]
- Iskander spotted it first, this is a blog post in Dutch discussing the parallels between the talks [↩]
- Honestly, this was not something we had aimed for beforehand. [↩]
- I realize in the tech scene this has once again become a hot topic, see for instance this discussion over at Chris Messina’s blog. [↩]
- I’ve collected more posts on our second edition over at Delicious. [↩]
- While you’re there, why not vote for This happened in the Brit Insurance Design of the Year 2009 awards at the Design Museum? [↩]
Jonas Löwgren has created a deck of cards with a nice example of information visualization on each (122 in total).
Julian has published a piece that tries to answer (amongst other things) the question: “How do you entangle design, science, fact and fiction in order to create this practice called “design fiction” that, hopefully, provides different, undisciplined ways of envisioning new kinds of environments, artifacts and practices.” Which sounds mighty interesting. On the to-read list.
Timo superimposes dashed circles on still and moving images to highlight the spatial and embodied properties of wireless technologies. A simple technique, but it works beautifully.
Monobanda, a studio that is also based in the Dutch Game Garden (where I have my office) goes out to the main city square of Utrecht each Friday at 12:00 PM to play. They often make up the rules to their games as they go along. This is a blog where they post videos of the sessions.
Catching up with this slightly neglected blog (it’s been 6 weeks since the last proper post). I’d like to start by telling you about a small thing I helped out with last week. Peter Boersma1 asked me to help out with one of his UX Cocktail Hours. He was inspired by a recent IxDA Studio event where, in stead of just chatting and drinking, designers actually made stuff. (Gasp!) Peter wanted to do a workshop where attendees collaborated on sketching a solution to a given design problem.
Part of my contribution to the evening was a short presentation on the theory and practice of sketching. On the theory side, I referenced Bill Buxton’s list of qualities that define what a sketch is2, and emphasized that this means a sketch can be done in any material, not necessarily pencil and paper. Furthermore I discussed why sketching works, using part of an article on embodied interaction3. The main point there, as far as I am concerned is that when sketching, as designers we have the benefit of ‘backtalk’ from our materials, which can provide us with new insights. I wrapped up the presentation with a case study of a project I did a while back with the Amsterdam-based agency Info.nl4 for a social web start-up aimed at independent professionals. In the project I went quite far in using sketches to not only develop the design, but also collaboratively construct it with the client, technologists and others.
The second, and most interesting part of the evening was the workshop itself. This was set up as follows: Peter and I had prepared a fictional case, concerning peer-to-peer energy. We used the Dutch company Qurrent as an example, and asked the participants to conceptualise a way to encourage use of Qurrent’s product range. The aim was to have people be more energy efficient, and share surplus energy they had generated with the Qurrent community. The participants split up in teams of around ten people each, and went to work. We gave them around one hour to design a solution, using only pen and paper. Afterwards, they presented the outcome of their work to each other. For each team, we asked one participant to critique the work by mentioning one thing he or she liked, and one thing that could be improved. The team was then given a chance to reply. We also asked each team to briefly reflect on their working process. At the end of the evening everyone was given a chance to vote for their favourite design. The winner received a prize.5
Wrapping up, I think what I liked most about the workshop was seeing the many different ways the teams approached the problem (many of the participants did not know each other beforehand). Group dynamics varied hugely. I think it was valuable to have each team share their experiences on this front with each other. One thing that I think we could improve was the case itself; next time I would like to provide participants with a more focused, more richly detailed briefing for them to sink their teeth in. That might result in an assignment that is more about structure and behaviour (or even interface) and less about concepts and values. It would be good to see how sketching functions in such a context.
- the Netherlands’ tallest IA and one of several famous Peters who work in UX [↩]
- taken from his wonderful book Sketching User Experiences [↩]
- titled How Bodies Matter (PDF) by Klemer and Takayama [↩]
- who were also the hosts of this event [↩]
- I think it’s interesting to note that the winner had a remarkable concept, but in my opinion was not the best example of the power of sketching. Apparently the audience valued product over process. [↩]
I cannot help but love what people have been putting together for Russell’s speculative modelling thing.
Ton shares some preliminary results from a project aimed at opening up government data sources to the public.
Jeroen Bennink reports on an Amsterdam UX Cocktail Hour I helped organize and also presented at. The majority of the evening consisted of a sketching workshop. I did a brief presentation on the virtues of sketching, and talked about a recent project where we used sketching with great results.
“Siftables aims to enable people to interact with information and media in physical, natural ways that approach interactions with physical objects in our everyday lives.”
An interview with Kathleen Alfano, director of research for Fisher Price. Gives some good insight into the company’s view on the value of play.
Teaser trailer for in interesting-looking documentary film on play in public space, featuring some fine parkour & free running.
“A plugin that allows the user to select SketchUp faces and export the oulines of these faces to a Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file.” Handy for when I make my next trip to the local fablab.
Dutch games review magazine Hoogspel went out of business in 2000. This is where they explain why (in Dutch). An interesting read that uncovers some of the questionable practices prevalent in the games industry of today.
A crazy Dutchman one can be proud of. Theo Jansen builds autonomous beach animals using mainly electrical tubing.
Bas zooms in on one aspect of a presentation at the last This happened – Utrecht (in Dutch): Irene van Peer’s remarks about the failure of many Western products to truly fulfil the needs of people in developing countries.
Adrian Hon on what it takes to be a chess master and an awesome Street Fighter match. Interesting parallels here.