Friday, December 30, 2005

The Expanding Design Space

Really short. When the digital material grows in scope and dimensions, and more aspects of our reality becomes digitized, the technology will not become more stable and defined. Instead, the design space will expand. This is contradictory to what happens with most other technologies where we over time see an increasing focus and stabilization. There is a complex logic behind this that I will come back to. For now, happy new year!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Infoaesthetics and design

I was made aware of the blog called "Infoaesthetics". The page is devoted to information design. You can find a number of really interesting examples linked from there.

I think it is important for anyone working with information technology, and especially in HCI and interaction design, to have a good understanding of visualization. We are entering an age where we will more and more work with digital material, and that material can take any form and shape we want. It all becomes a question of design! We can interact with invisible aspects of reality as well as the physical reality. So, we will face questions on how we want to interact with that combined reality. Where and how do we want to interact? Do we want to fill it with visual representations of the invisible reality or do we want to keep the physical and digital apart? My guess is that we are being drawn and pushed into a situation where we will always interact with a combined reality. What humans have seen as invisible aspects of reality will become "real".

We will be more and more interested in, what my previous PhD student Andreas Lund labeled his thesis, "The Massification of the Intangible".

Friday, December 16, 2005

Question Technology

I just found this blog with a lot of good information on technology and society. A lot of useful links and book references. Good work, Kevin Arthur! I have also added the link to my link list.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Information Systems research...and happiness

The International Conference of Information Systems is a conference I have attended for quite some years now. I have never really liked the conference, since the research presented is not what excites me. It is usually heavily oriented towards business interests. I have no problem with that, instead it is the kind of research that bothers me. The research is often conducted as studies where someone tries to find out what factors influence a certain phenomenon. The studies are usually done in a rigorous and detailed way. However, to me they are seldom well formulated from the beginning, use methods not suitable for the issues at hand, and almost never end up in results that are at any level of abstraction that would make it interesting for practitioners or the layman.

This year I actually found some interesting sessions and that made me happy, and a little bit more optimistic about the future of the field. Maybe there is hope. Maybe we will see a new kind of research that is interesting, that surprises us, and makes us see the world of information systems in a new way. Maybe we will also see results that will be useful.

One observation is that the views presented are generally on the level of systems, networks or structures and processes. Almost never is a real human being present unless as a statistic outcome, describing the "users". As someone who sees information systems as an interaction between humans and the digital material through "windows" made possible by technology, the existing theories are too focused on a level of abstraction that makes the views almost like engineering models of a huge machine. Especially when theories like structuration theory and Actor-Network Theory are used. They seem to "force" the researcher into a perspective that becomes almost completely detached from any experiential aspects. Even though this is not the "fault" of the theories, it seems as if researchers use them that way.

What I am looking for is a different approach in IS research. An approach where interaction is at the core of the studies. People live with these systems. They interact with them. Some of this is of course possible to describe on a systems level, by the use of statistics and mechanisms. But some of it has to do with the individual experience of the interaction. If all research is kept on the very abstract systems level, we can end up with knowledge that really helps us design effective and efficient systems that serves the organizations purpose, but that created interactions and work places that make people unhappy, stressed, tired, and fully interchangeable. And of course, that is not what we want. We need IS research that also takes as its purpose to critically examine the existing systems, opens up for new ways to interact and act, that creates experiences for "users" that makes them happy as well and feeling needed and rewarded for their skills and knowledge. Well, I just want to see more of that in future IS research.

Hmm, anothor long text, maybe this is not what a blog should be like....

Friday, December 09, 2005

Outsourcing Game Playing

In New York Times today there is an interesting article on the new industry growing in China -- the game playing industry. It is not about businesses that designs and builds games, it is people playing games for richer people that don't have the time or energy to do it themselves. So, you pay someone to play the boring parts of the game, or the difficult parts to get some rare treasure. This is a consequence of the growing new economy in virtual worlds. In some games you can use tools and powers that you can buy from someone else. This has created a whole new economy. Some weapons are very expensive. You buy or sell them at places like eBay.

Anyhow, this is not new (except for the outsourcing of playing, at least for me that was new), but it is one more evidence that the two worlds are getting more and more involved in each other. The virtual is not "only" virtual anymore, and the physical is not the only "real" world. It is a consequence of the digital transformation, the transformation of our traditional world into digital material. It is a fundamental change of world matter -- a new material.

Even though we know about the digital transformation and understand its mechanisms it is still difficult to envision where it will take us. I actually see it that way, we are "taken", we are not moving intentionally in a direction that is driven by our desires. So, what kind of ideas and theories do we need to better understand the transformation, better understand where we are going, better understand our own role, and maybe even to better understand what we really want to do with this technology.....?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Marcuse, design and technology

I did read parts of this book a while ago, but now I am reading it again. The book is "Heidegger and Marcuse -- The Catastrophe and Redemption of History" by Andrew Feenberg. I have not spent so much time on the parts on Heidegger, instead I have focused on the chapters on Marcuse and especially the chapter "Aesthetic Redemption". If you are not used to texts by "real" philosophers, this is not an easy book to read, but if you have an interest in an alternative way to understanding our society and how it relates to modern technology, then the book is for you.

I would recommend any reader to start with Marcuse's famous book "The one-dimensional man". One of the best books dealing with our problems of understanding our society, since we are so completely entrenched in it. The two books together advocates the idea that radical change is not found in empirical observations, instead we have to develop our ability to both stay close to our experiences of the world while we also keep, develop and explore radical critical theoretical analyses. Difficult -- yes. Useful -- certainly! For me, Marcuse presents a position, different and refreshing, that can be read as a foundation for any design thinking. Read, think, reflect, be challenged!

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