Monday, November 04, 2019

Monday, October 28, 2019

New book by Stephane Vial "Being and the screen - how the digital changes perception"

The latest addition to our MIT Press book series "Design Thinking/Design Theory" is by Stephane Vial with the title "Being and the screen - how the digital changes perception".

It is great to see this text finally translated to English and we are happy that we can publish it in our book series. Read and enjoy!!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Predicting the future of interaction

Having lived through highly dynamic decades of technology and changing forms of interaction, it may feel as if it is impossible to predict what will come. And in many ways it is. We have over and over been surprised by new forms of interaction and interactivity. When we experience the new, we usually think "of course, why did we not see that coming".

One of the reasons why prediction in this field are rare and maybe not always so interesting is that it is a field dominated by people who are thinking as designers, that is, they focus on what can be done for certain people, in a specific situation and time, and on people's  particular needs and wants, etc. Designers are focused and driven by the particular (or as we have labeled it the "ultimate particular" in our book "The Design Way").

When the particular is your focus, the general or the universal becomes secondary. However, shifts in technology and technology use take place in the general and universal. Recognizing such broad and often deep changes requires a different way of looking. It requires a serious ambition to reveal and understand underlying structures and processes. This is not done by only being involved in design, it requires analytical investigations and conceptual and theoretical precision.

I have personally experienced this in my own work. For many years I have with my colleague Lars-Erik Janlert been working on developing fundamental definitions and theoretical concepts relating to the 'nature of interaction' or the elements of interaction. We have tried to create a general understanding of interaction and interactivity that is broad and deep in the sense that it should be helpful in describing any form of interaction. I think we have been quite successful and the result can be seen in our book "Things that keep us busy - the elements of interaction" (MIT Press).

We never set out to predict the future of interaction at all. Only to develop a way of describing and explaining interaction. At the end of our work, we realized that when you have such a fundamental understanding you also have a 'tool' that makes it possible to project and to some extent predict the future. This is why our book ends with some future-looking projections or speculations of what we will see in the coming years. These are not predictions in the sense that they are wishes or personal speculations, they are more logical projections from where we are.

This has led me to even more appreciate what some might call 'basic research', that is, research that only has as its goal to capture, describe and explain existing phenomena. And, as a consequence, it has also led me to understand that the field of HCI could definitely need more basic research.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Future of Interaction

Yesterday I watched the movie "Minority Report". It has been many years since I saw it. During these years I have often used the movie as an example full of futuristic forms of interaction. And I have argued that it is good to watch it for that reason.

And again, yesterday, I realized that the movie is still forward-looking even though a lot of the futuristic forms of interaction are now not so futuristic. We live with several of these interactions today, for instance, conversational agents in our homes.

Watching the movie shows that predicting the future when it comes to technology is possible (and maybe not even so difficult), as long as we only think about what can be done. However, the design challenge is to understand what it should be used for.

In our book "Things that keep us busy -- the elements of interaction" we are analyzing interaction of today and we also project it into the future. We do not argue about what is good or bad, useful or not. We just find ways to describe, analyze and understand interaction. Today, maybe more than ever, such understanding is crucial if we want to understand what all design decisions today may lead to.

So what is your idea about the future of interaction, what are the forms of interaction you see as viable and useful, and what are the steps you take today to move in that direction? To me, the lesson from watching the movie again is that it is definitely possible to predict technological advancements, but where we end up is not a question of prediction but of choices and intentions. To be able to make those informed choices we need to have a good sense of possible alternatives.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Lack of Organizational Design Competence

We see a great interest today in design thinking as a way to foster the creative development of products and processes. However, most of the efforts we see are directed towards the individual. Individuals are encouraged to take courses, go to workshops, to increase their ability to think as a designer.

Having worked with many professional designers over the years I know that one of the most frustrating experiences for these designers is the lack of support from their organization. Sometimes there might be an expressed support but real support is missing.

As with every approach, a designerly approach cannot thrive unless it is embedded in a larger system that understands and supports the approach. Unfortunately, we do not see many ideas out there on how to assess the level of an organization's design competence and how to intentionally develop it. But there are ways to do it, and it makes a difference. Designers who find themselves in design competent organization can thrive, feel safe, take on bigger challenges, deliver exceptional outcomes.

Monday, August 26, 2019

We all need professional mentoring

A while back I started to offer mentoring and coaching to design professionals. It has been exciting. Even though I have been doing this kind of mentoring and coaching for a very long time, every new meeting and session leads to new insights. Some of the most important insights are simple and obvious.

The most simple insight is that whether you are successful or not in your job, you need to talk about your situation, your career, with someone who is not involved in your workplace, and someone who is not your family or friend. You need an external view. Someone who can challenge you and offer new perspectives. You need someone who actually doesn't know you too well. 

Professional mentoring is about your whole life. You cannot separate your professional life from the rest of your life. This is also one reason why good mentoring is problematic to get from family and friends who are entangled in your life outside work. They are personally involved in what they are trying to mentor you about.

Professional mentoring is about how to combine and compose all levels a professional position: the mind set, knowledge set, skill set, and tool set. There is no simple division possible. You cannot 'fix' your career by only dealing with one level. They are intermingled. 

So, if you do not have a professional mentor. Find one. You do need one.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Life of a paper

In 2004 I published a paper with Anna Croon Fors. The paper was not recognized by anyone really for quite many years, and then it got some citations. I just mention this since it shows how difficult it is to predict the interest and importance of what you do as an academic. Here is a screenshot from Google scholar about the paper.

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