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Learning from Interactive Design Failures

November 11, 2013
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ASTC INTERACTIVES DISCUSSION PPT_Page_3-ThumbI was fortunate enough to participate in a panel session recently entitled “Learning from Interactives that Suck” at the 2013 ASTC conference in Albuquerque, NM.  I felt quite humbled to be onstage with veteran exhibit managers and designers in a frank discussion of the challenges of exhibit design.

It’s a stretch to say I design exhibits.  It’s not a stretch to say that architecture and information systems are deeply concerned with interaction issues.  Interactivity is a field of concerns almost imperceptible to everyday life.  We enter a building.  We peel an apple.  We make a phone call.  These are routine activities, whose constituent components we barely give a second look.  Until the door, the peeler or the phone fail to meet our expectations.

For the last 20 years I have been working at smoothing out these interactions in the increasingly novel everyday experiences we have. 

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500 Office Designs Reviewed in 4 Months, 2010 Census

November 10, 2013
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places - 2010 Census GraphicEvery ten years, the US Census Bureau does an official count of the general US population.  We all get a paper form that requests some basic information about us.  For those of us who don’t return the form, the Census Bureau is required to follow up, in person.  The following up is known as NRFU, (nar*foo, non-response follow-up.  Seriously.)

NRFU is performed by temporary workers operating from over 500 cities in the US.  Every morning for 6 months, these workers pick up forms and addresses from a local Census office, knock on doors and return in the evening with results.  The US Census Bureau has 6-8 months to lease, design, build and outfit them all.  This is what we call a tenant interiors roll-out.

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A Clean, Fast Computer

November 17, 2012
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I have some pretty fast machines for the money I spent.  But they are still computers, with operating systems.  Yeah.  I say that like everyone should know the implications.

Sorry. Let’s try another tack.

A car is still a car.  No matter how reliable and trouble free, the tires wear out, the battery goes, the oil needs to be changed.  Similarly, if you spend any time on the Internet,  computers accumulate all kinds of gunk under the hood so to speak. Every time you visit a web site, your browser places images, cookies, data sets in temporary locations on your hard drive.  Over time, these files will slow your performance.  You can fix that.

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Why Rural Tanzania?

July 16, 2012
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Three years ago I made a commitment to return to a dedicated ecological concern professionally. To that moment, my practice in other firms and within Landwave had adopted renovation and efficiency in practice through better IT as erstwhile ecological contributions. While tech driven practice efficiency does not have direct ecological impact, it is a good discipline and kept me thinking about practical applications of lofty tools. On the other hand, renovation has a significant ecological benefit in utilizing previously built structures. No forest turned parking lot. No need to excavate and dispose of soils. A fraction of the materials required-and therefore a fraction of the energy to extract, fabricate, ship and install. The list goes on and on. And while construction of any sort has an impact, renovation takes advantage of sunk energy and resources.

Though perfectly reasonable and necessary, I never felt as though these were a sufficient fit for my skills and interests. If our colleagues are half right, the issues facing us are urgent. What’s more there is a need to capture the collective imagination to reinvent our approach to material life on a massive scale. Efficiency and renovation are hardly inspirational. We need better motivations. I need better motivations.

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Kabanga School Structure Concepts for Asante Miriamu

June 13, 2012
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My colleague Peter Ozolins suggested I will unlikely get anything completed while on our journey.  However, I would learn who can accomplish things and how it can work.  That said, I am working through three differing needs:

1.  Market Stall just outside the gate for residents to sell their goods and

2.  Wash Stand Canopies to provide shade when using water facilities.

3.  Shelving that divides a sewing room from a library

Thus far, I have very little information about availability of materials, tools, specialized labor and their relative costs. Without that information, there is no way to plan their construction.

Design Issues:

1.  Materials:  Availability, expense, means to fabricate, and assemble.

2.  Labor:  Availability and expense.  Dependent on materials selection and tool availability.

3.  Can the Kisulu and Kabanga communities work together sufficiently to replicate the results on their own?

4.  Are the designs desirable?

The images below are simple concepts that could be fabricated from a variety of materials.

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Valuing Ideas vs Content vs Experiences

May 27, 2012
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Jonah Lehrer points out that early copyright law created the notion that ideas are valuable. The claim of the legal world is that ideas are valuable enough to provide legal protection. But this is a tricky point. I’d like to know if the economic data bears that out.

Someone help me attribute this story.  An author is challenged that his material is not unique.  “I could have written that.” goes the challenge.  The author responds, “Perhaps you could have written this, sir. But you didn’t. I did.” In this case, our author makes an interesting point: he delivered.  His response accepts that the idea was not inherently unique. Perhaps many people had the same thought, the same idea. But it was our author who wrote, packaged and delivered the idea in a manner that others valued.  Valued enough to pay for it.

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