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New new media.Chris HeathcoteDesign of Understanding 2011
The specialist designer.It’s thin ice to come to St Brides and talk about type, but I really respect the holistic view thattype designers had. They understood how their design would sit on the page, what it wasworking with and near, how it would be printed, what kind of paper would be used, how inkﬂows, and still came up with designs that incorporated all of this technical knowledge andproduced things with ﬂair and beauty. I often wish that I could be a specialist and have anintimate understanding of how one thing worked. Unfortunately the modern world doesn’toften work that way...
makes callsI’ve designed pretty much every different aspect of mobile phones for the last 8 years. When Istarted, this was the model to get. It was amazing.
makes callscolour screentakes photosWithin months, this phone had come out. It had a colour screen! It had a camera! I was livingin the future. This totally changed what a phone was, and what it could be.
makes callscolour screentakes photosbrowse webAnd the next month, this came out. It could browse the web. (just). This totally changed whata phone was, and what it could be.
makes calls record videocolour screen listen to radiotakes photos Facebookbrowse web run appsplay gameswrite emailplay musicvideo callknows where it isAnd they just kept on changing. In less than a decade we went from a phone that magicallyhad no wires to mundane Star Trek.
makes calls record videocolour screen listen to radiotakes photos Facebookbrowse web run appsplay games be your ticketswrite email be your keysplay music pay for thingsvideo callknows where it is(and it’s not stopping, yet)
makes calls record videocolour screen listen to radiotakes photos Facebookbrowse web run appsplay games be your ticketwrite email pay for thingsplay musicvideo callknows where it isContrast this with how digital cameras have evolved. 10 years ago they could take photos andhad a colour screen.
makes calls record videocolour screen listen to radiotakes photos Facebookbrowse web run appsplay games be your ticketwrite email pay for thingsplay musicvideo callknows where it isNow they can record video too. No wonder mobile phones ate their lunch. It’s only the factthat certain cameras are *really good* at taking photos that digital cameras still exist.
Designer, engineer, anthropologist, sociologist.Designers have to understand what stuff is available, they need to know some of how itworks, how people will use it, and how it will ﬁt into their daily life. I counted 26 differentways I can communicate with people with this iPhone. That’s illogical, but each fulﬁls aslightly different role, and humans are great at understanding just the right way tocommunicate with the right person in the right context. It’s impossible to design holisticallythese days.
A thing.But at least it’s still a thing. It’s an understandable object. This used to often be what mostdesigners cared about.
An action causes a reaction.With the introduction of electricity right through to the Internet, this became the designchallenge - interaction and experiences.
Things happen... other things happen... something happens to you.But we’re entering a weirder world now. We’re now able to collect large amounts ofinformation, piece together lots of different data and then act on it. Actions can be displacedby time and space, and transmogriﬁed into outcomes no-one would have predicted.
Although you’re still acting on the world, it’s all quite seemingly innocuous passive actions.The fact that doing anything can now have a reaction generates a real sense of unease.I received this email yesterday. I’d been to the Tate the day before, they’d scanned mymembership card at the entrance to the exhibition.It felt weird for two reasons: the ﬁrst is that you don’t expect everything to be joined up. Youdon’t think your membership card is linked to your email address. Secondly, it’s reallypersonal. It’s not from Tate, it’s from Jessica Morgan. It’s addressed to me.
Another example. TfL mine Oyster data to see what routes you frequently use, and email youif there are long-term engineering works.
A world of sensors and the sensed.So we’re in a world of sensors, where all kinds of things can be sensed and reacted upon.
This is a Japanese vending machine. It looks the same as many others, but it’s actually a 47inch touch screen. It’s got a camera built in, recognises age and gender, and tailors drinksuggestions accordingly.Using the same technology, there’s also a digital screen network that changes the adspresented based on who’s walking past.Pretty much all screens will have a camera built in - they’re really cheap. But how does itchange the relationship between people and public space?
Adding a network connection changes any medium.Even media we’ve had centuries to perfect and understand suddenly changes when you plugthe Internet into it.
Even something like a receipt can change when you add a network connection. This is from aproject by Dentsu London and BERG exploring incidental media. Print can be fast. Live data,the news, the weather could be included... the purpose of the receipt can be changed.
Similarly, what happens if a TV gets a network connection? Why isn’t the ticker made up ofinformation important to you?
Design is about wrangling invisible ows of data.personal data, private data, friends data, public data, urban data. They’re unseen andintangible, and it’s our job as designers to both instantiate them - make them real - andmake them understandable.
40p o a latte.The cliche of ubiquitous computing is that as you walk past a starbucks, your phone willvibrate with a coupon for 20p off a latte. It’s an unscalable, unsustainable example, but letsunpick what could be going on.First off - what ratted on you? Your Nike+ talking shoes, using a credit card nearby, your carnumber plate being recognised, your phone reporting your location, or your Oyster cardinforming the system that you’ve just come out of Oxford Circus tube?Next, why you? Maybe your credit card or Foursquare checkins told them you prefer CafeNero. Your age and gender are mixed with your home address’ purchasing proﬁle, plus yoursocial standing from Facebook and Twitter.And why now? The store has lower sales this hour than normal - in fact there’s no queue. Youdidn’t take them up on the offer last time - they’d only offered 20p off - but you really wanta coffee, and as you enter the store, the barista greets you by name, as your details andphoto have popped up on her till.That’s a lot of work to sell a latte.
Magic is an awful lot of hard work behind-the- scenes.To appear effortless in real-time takes a lot of work. Computing is cheap, thankfully. Let’shave a look at a few less creepy, more useful ideas.
A car that knows where the nearest free parking space is to your destination.I think of a car as a big mobile phone you sit in. It has many of the same capabilities andcharacteristics (other than moving at 90 miles an hour). This seems like an easy problem -after all nearly every car has GPS in now.
But how do you know if a space is free? Well, modern carparks now have parking guidancesystems.
Every parking spot has a sensor and light above it. It detects if the space is free, and sendsthat information to the central computer, that knows where every space is, and can directcars accordingly.This is large scale infomatics - Westﬁeld London has 4500 spaces, Heathrow Terminal 5 has3800. Some also incorporate number plate reading cameras, so if you can’t remember whereyou parked you car, they can ﬁnd it.This data is only useful to us, however, if it’s networked, and available in real-time.
Food that texts you when it’s going out of date.OK, another example. Your shopping basket can answer back. Again, we’re nearly there withthis...
Supermarkets have to know when food goes out of date for stock control. Ocado provide thisinformation on paper, on your receipt.But what if you could choose to receive a text message each day? Or if your shopping had aTwitter account?
If anyone’s going to help people understand what’s going on, it might as well be us.These examples just scratch the surface. The world is going to get magical and strange, andpeople will be confused and fearful. Designers have to do what they do best, helping peopleunderstand the world and the way they live in it, and make the tools that people can use toshape their own lives.