TOTAL EXPERIENCE explores designing for experience: its theory, its practice, and how designing for experiences affects us socially and in our personal lives.


  • Bob Jacobson
  • Paula Thornton
  • BOB JACOBSON is fascinated by the experience of experience. A planner and technologist, Bob has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning & Design from UCLA. He's been a policy researcher, technology CEO, science writer, and consultant. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied cellular telephony's impacts on transborder communities in the Nordic Arctic Circle. Bob edited Information Design (MIT Press 2000) and is now writing a book on the theory and practice of creating edifying, transformative experiences.
    ( Archive | Contact Bob )
    CORANTE PAULA THORNTON says, "Understanding human behavior (economics), optimizing interactions (design) and facilitating conversations (markets), are the means to achieve strategic differentiation. This is the focus of our discipline. It is not a 'nice to have'‚ and is not, like documentation once was, an afterthought. It is the means by which to start a strategic discussion and the means by which to drive a tactical initiative. All design should be evidence-based."
    ( Archive | Contact Paula ) >

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

    Experience Design Websites
    Core 77 Website & Forum
    Business Week|Innovate
    InfoD: Understsanding by Design
    The Wayfinding Place
    Wayfinding Focus
    Design Addict
    L-ARCH (Landscape Architecture Mailing List)
    DUX 2007 Conference
    Digital Thread
    Enmeshed, Digital Arts & New Media
    Ludology (Game Playing Theory)
    Captology, Persuasive Computing
    Space and Culture
    Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces
    timet (acoustical design)
    Steve Portigal, Ethnographer
    Jane McGonigal's Avant Game
    Ted Wells' living : simple
    PingMag (Japan)

    Experience Design Blogs
    Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
    Experience Designer Network (Brian Alger)
    SmartSpace: Annotated Environments (Scott Smith)
    Don Norman
    Doors of Perception (John Thackara)
    Karl Long's Experience Curve
    Work•Play•Experience (Adam Lawrence)
    The David Report (David Carlson)
    Design & Emotion (Marco van Hout)
    Museum 2.0 (Nina Simon)
    B J Fogg
    Lorenzo Brusci (acoustics)
    Cool Town Studios
    Steve Portigal
    Debbie Millman
    MIT Culture Convergence Consortium
    Luke Wroblewski, Functioning Form|Interface Design
    Adam Richardson
    Putting People First (Paul Vanderbeeken/Experientia
    Laws of Simplicity (John Maeda)
    Challis Hodge's UX Blog
    Anne Galloways's Purse Lips Square Jaw
    Bruno Giussani's Lunch over IP
    Jane McGonigal's Avant-Game The Future of Work

    Experience Design Podcasts
    Ted Wells' living : simple Podcast
    Design Matters Podcast, Debbie Millman
    Icon-o-Cast Podcast, Lunar Design

    Experience Design Firms and ED-Oriented Manufacturers
    Barry Howard Limited
    Hilary Cottam
    LRA Worldwide, Inc.
    BRC Imagination Arts
    Stone Mantel
    Experientia s.r.l
    Herman Miller
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Doblin Group
    Fit Associates
    Strategic Horizons LLC (Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore)
    Cheskin Fresh Perspectives

    Education and Advocacy
    Centre for Design Research, Northumbria University (UK)
    Center for Design Research, Stanford University
    International Institute of Information Design (IIID)
    Design Management Institute
    Interaction Institute IVREA
    Design Research Institute (UK)
    UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design Research
    History of Consciousness, UCSC
    Design News Magazine
    Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
    Design Museum London
    Center for Sustainable Design
    Horizon Zero, Digital Arts+Culture in Canada
    Design Council UK
    First Monday

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    November 8, 2007

    The (ever more painful) Dow of Experience, Redux

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    WA little over a year ago, I published an entry here, “The (ever more painful) Dow of Experience.” I was critical of the frequently recurring, almost unavoidable repetition of a rising Dow Jones index as a feel-good economic mantra. I wrote:

    We take reports of the Dow for granted. They flicker on tickers on during the TV networks' evening newcasts, on CNN, Fox, and Bloomberg, and are part and parcel of almost every radio station's news broadcasts. For a long time, the Dow's ups and downs were taken to be synonymous with the strength of the nation's economy, all boats rising and falling with the Dow. But investment income and wages have become disconnected, radically. A rising Dow no longer means good times for the working class (which comprises that 80 to 90 percent of the American people who do not receive substantial investment income). Each time Americans hear about the Dow's climb, it reminds them that things are getting worse for the majority in terms of falling purchasing power, rising household indebtness, and a general decline in their quality of life. The American Dream vies with a nightmare reality.

    I also wrote,

    According to critical theorists, people can indulge in hopeful thinking for only so long before their objective living conditions start to breed intolerable dissonance, dismay, and resentment. That's when societies experience dramatic tensions, often resulting in political upheaval and even revolution.

    Now things are different. Today, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress that the economy's rotten and that things are likely to get worse -- much worse -- before they get better. Gas prices will go up. Buying during the all-important Christmas season will go down. More banks will be in distress. More people will lose their homes and their jobs. (Yet, according to a report on public radio's Marketplace business-news show, investors in hedge funds -- the few individuals who are already the richest in our society, those who can afford multi-million-dollar investments -- are doing very well, better than ever before, some earning as much as 10% on their investments.) The last week has been hell for the Dow. But there's not a hint of domestic political upheaval, let alone revolution. People are in shock and denial rather than rebellious. Probably, because they have no past referents.

    What's the experience of living in a down economy? Most young adults never had the experience. What's the experience of living in a recession? Only the Boomers remember. What's the experience of living in a depression? I had to ask my Dad, who's in his 80s, to get an answer.

    The answer? Harsh. Very, very harsh.

    It's difficult for me to understand how people go about their day-to-day lives, minding the store, designing products, innovating ideas, going to conferences, chattering on the Web, watching their iPods and plasma TVs, making love, raising families, commuting to work and (via a corps of official spokespersons) reassuring themselves with forecasts of better times to come and better lives. Few, it seems, are preparing for the coming crisis -- crises -- in any substantial way, except perhaps for the survivalists, who don't look so stupid anymore. Oh yes, and the hedge fund investors, who are sharpening their claws in expectation of fresh meat, dining off the carcasses of dead and dying enterprises and their employees. It's not just an American problem, either, although for many reasons, the consequences of the crises are likely to be felt here first and foremost. It's a world problem. So who's working on preserving global stability? Certainly not the American government, which is out raising havoc and planning for more. Not the United Nations, already wracked and worn by a million demands on its limited resources. The people of the world? You and me?

    It's difficult also to escape the impression that we are wearing the sandals of the Romans just before the collapse of their Empire, only this time with universal repercussions. Religious and political mania will no doubt continue to manifest, more severely with time, before reason reasserts itself and solutions are proposed and implemented. So how do people get on? How do they deal with the sense of impending doom, now reinforced for them every time they hear the Dow -- this time, going down, down, down....

    How do we live with unremitting crisis, the social equivalent of psychological stress? What are its consequences, personally and collectively? Who's doing research on this most important aspect of our experience? As usual, there are far more questions than answers, though you'd hardly know it from all the smiling faces going places.

    (Image: Yahoo! Finance)

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings

    November 5, 2007

    DUX 2007: A great conference, but fundamentally off the mark

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Dux07 The DUX 2007 conference begins today in Chicago. Thematically, content-wise, and in terms of approach, this is the consummate conference on cutting-edge design. The speakers are top-notch, too. If I could, I'd be there. But ideologically, DUX is discomforting. For all its virtues, DUX embodies a set of values that, while commendable, are incomplete and off-kilter.

    Despite its aspiration to be universal, DUX remains user-centric, not human-centric. And experience, inherently and essentially, is human and thus, holistic.

    DUX stands for “Designing for User Experience.” It's the "user" part that continues to annoy me, while others seem blithe to its portent. According to Wikipedia, (quoting sage designer Don Norman's 1999 book, Invisible Computer: Why Good Products Can Fail, the Personal Computer Is So Complex and Information Appliances Are the Solution):

    "User experience design is a subset of the field of experience design which pertains to the creation of the architecture and interaction models which impact a user's perception of a device or system. 'The scope of the field is directed at affecting all aspects of the user’s interaction with the product: how it is perceived, learned, and used.' "

    200711051709 Designing for experience is about holism, understanding and working with the totality of human experience. “A user's perception of a device or system” seems a peculiarly narrow niche in which to ply one's experience design skills. Of course, it's important: devices and systems are what drive the machinery of commerce and government, and even how we as consumers conduct ourselves at home and in leisure time. But so mechanistic a conception of the human being is antithetical to our knowledge of how people holistically perceive, think, act, and experience their lives. Maybe that's why Don himself on more than one public occasion has eschewed the term he invented, “user experience design,” advising that we'd be better off without the “user.”

    DUX could more realistically portray the challenges facing experience designers, and champion their successes, by replacing “user” with “human” and thereby symbolically and practically opening the conference to a wider audience of designers and composers of experience.

    (BTW, I'm not reactive to the use of “user” in all R&D contexts: I'm about to take part in a multiyear, overseas study of “user-driven innovation” that aims to understand and enhance this innate human capacity. In this context, "user-driven" makes sense. Innovation by design is instrumental and goal-oriented. Innovation serves. But experience happens.)

    This isn't a trivial matter. Many of the presenters at DUX are willing to generalize beyond the scope of device and system development. This attempt to apply mechanistic theories best suited to things and systems to the larger world of human affairs can and likely will breed skepticism and perhaps even resistance to design for experience. The backlash against “social engineering,” a counterpart to DUX once advocated by structural-functionalist social scientists in the 1950s and 1960s could easily be repeated in our own time, especially since so many designs for experience fail in important settings at crucial moments.

    A potential reason why DUX and its organizers and participants haven't grasped this relationship may be that they haven't a long history in the work they do or sufficient familiarity with the scholarly study of experience. Perhaps it's a function of the organizing process, but it appears to me that with only a few exceptions, most of the speakers and workshop leaders -- and I suppose, attendees -- appear to be shy of 40 years of age. That means they would have been born sometime after 1967, when systemic thinking was king and every person was treated as a cog in some larger device; and that they came of age in the mid-80s or later, as information technology was replacing systems as the predominant archetypal metaphor. The inclusion of Harper's and The Huffington Post's
    Thomas de Zengotita within DUX, as an invited speaker -- a man who wears his years proudly and who's the antithesis of a “user-experience designer” -- is a welcome breath of fresh air. More like him would leaven the persistent technophilia that many other speakers manifest.

    It feels to me that the concern for audiences as human beings present in the work of such great designers of the past as, for example, Chermayeff, Bel Geddes, and the Eames, has evaporated in the fiery breath of Moloch aka The Machine (per Lewis Mumford's 1967
    Technics and Human Development: The Myth of the Machine). Even those presentations at DUX that sound wonderfully focused on human fancy -- art and dance and travel to strange places -- seem prone to converting that fancy into factors that are part of technical solutions: making products and services. They don't really depict or serve edifying human experiences, although they may well fit the interests of those seeking to exploit experiences. This dog won't hunt.

    Doors of Perception's Designs of the Time (Dott07), a 23-month participatory project that will continue through year's end, is an illustrative counterpoint to DUX. Dott's slogan is, “Why our design festival has no things in it.” Besides being overtly human-centered, Dott's participation ranges more broadly by age and is geographically more diverse. Its participants are as often involved in public as they are in commercial projects. DUX's youthful audience, by contrast, comprises a bucket-load of North Americans, a moderate serving of Brits, and a dash of Dutch and German presenters mostly working in the world of business and academic/brain-trust institutions serving that world. Pragmatic instrumentality, the dominant ideology in North American, British, and Germanic cultures driven by economic, thing-maker philosophy, pervades most of what DUX is about.

    Transformation designers tell us that in order to change constituent experiences, one has to first change the constituents themselves. Broadening DUX and its focus requires broadening its base of its participants, and vice versa. Here's my call for “Designing for Human Experience” in 2008. To preserve the delightful waterfowl homonym, use the acronym, DhUX. Or continue to call it DUX -- but for gosh sakes, at least make the "U" mean ... “hUman."

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    “From Information Design to Designing for Experience”: Keynote at 3rd International Conference on Information Design (ICID), Curitiba, Brazil, October 8-10, 2007

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I gave this presentation on October 8th by Skype, speaking before the 3rd International Conference on Information Design (ICID) that took place in Curitiba, Brazil, 8-10 October 2007. It sums up well my current thinking about information design, user experience design, designing for experience, and the composition of memorable experiences. My thanks to event organizers Carla Spinelli and Stephania Padovani, and technical helpers Tiago Maia, Re-nato Bertão, and Charles Costa. Your comments are welcome. © Robert Jacobson 2007

     Archives Img1 BOM DIA! It’s a pleasure to join you this afternoon, albeit by digital communications and not in person as I would have preferred. Thanks to organizers Carla Spinelli and Stephania Padovani, and media men Tiago, Renato, and Charles, for making this presentation possible. Our plan is to have me make a short presentation and then for us to interact via Skype. You may see me working at the keyboard occasionally, to keep the connection running smoothly. In the film, the Wizard of Oz, the Mighty Oz loudly tells Dorothy, with great blasts of fire, “Ignore the man behind the curtains!” That’s me.

    200711042321 This is an interesting study in information design. I’m speaking to you from the living room of my home in Tucson, Arizona, in the heart of the Sonora Desert. The video you are watching today was edited in the camera, harkening back to the early days of the 1970s-era, worldwide “Radical Software” movement, when activists around the world used portable video cameras to elicit honest communication in a formerly media-dominated information environment. Theirs was authentic video, without embellishment. So, 35 years later, here is my authentic video, no frills….

    200711042328 I was invited to speak to you as the editor of the anthology, Information Design, a collection of essays by world-class designers, published by the MIT Press in 1999. In the eight years since, there has been no satisfactory revisiting of the issues we raised in ID – especially the questions: what is information design and what will it become?

    Today, I’d like to talk to you about why and how I believe information design will evolve into a new practice, “designing for experience” or, as I prefer to call, it, “composing for experience.”

    200711042328-1 Experience is the proper center of the design universe. An environmental outlook comes next. Conventional design in many ways is pre-Copernican in this regard and new approaches to conventional design, like user experience design (about which I’ll speak later), only add more epicycles. I’m optimistic that information design will more quickly adopt the new paradigm.

    200711042329 In eight years, a lot has changed, not least the quantity and quality of the information environments in which we live and work. Today, technologies of communication and information are abundant, and networking computing is more pervasive than ever – many would say, invasive – changing how we live, work, play, educate, and communicate.

    Despite information designers’ high aspirations, the sheer volume of informational activity has nearly overwhelmed their ability to design for it.
    (Image: Artem)

    Our anthology anticipated this future. Our collective concern was not for better construction of representations and artifacts. Instead, unanimously, we called attention to the ever more complex information environments into which people, individually and collectively, are plunged almost at birth and through which they must navigate their entire lives. We agreed, on this if on nothing else, that information design, as it had been practiced for 25 years – rationalizing the presentation of information, usually in graphical form – must grow conceptually as well as technically, even epistemologically: information design must become experientially and environmentally wise.

    200711042332 Eight years later, the concept of information environments is no longer exotic. We are more cognizant of the systemic relationship between information and the environments – physical, social, and personal – in which information is produced, shared, and acted upon. There is a change in orientation among information designers from the particular to the global, even universal context. (Image: David Armano)

    In the name of informational environmental awareness and holism, all sorts of recipes are being promoted for messages that are more easily assimilated.

    200711042333 Apparent is the intrusion of the market: information is now more often than not treated as a commodity that must be designed for consumption. One narrow but broadly applied variant of information design, perhaps responsible for the majority of information designs these days – on the Web and incorporated in products and services – is called “user experience design” or more baldly, “customer experience design.” Say it loud and say it proud, its practitioners have one purpose: to get people to use things and to buy things.

    200711042335 Over the last decade, “interaction” has been added to the stew as a necessary element of instrumental design, a way to draw “users” into the purchasing process. Dan Saffer of Adaptive Path in san francisco has written a pretty good how-to book on Interaction Design and IDEO co-founder Bill Moggridge has published a mighty tome of interviews with “interaction designers.”

    200711042336 BJ Fogg, a professor of design at Stanford, whom I admire, has the gumption to call this branch of information design captology, the science of persuasive technology that captures and keeps an individual’s attention. (Image: Cache Creek Casino)

    But technology can’t do the job alone.

    200711042336-1 Vast armies of ethnographers, anthropologists who study culture, have been deployed to observe, describe, and annotate the lives of those whom their mainly business and occasional government clients wish to affect via “user experiences.” These costly cultural explorations are justified by the unique insights that ethnographers can supposedly provide to designers. (Image: Business Week)

    In these circumstances, however, for these insights to be acted upon, they have to relate to business, and so does the design that results from these insights. Ethnography and design thus form a neat little tautology that offers employment for ethnographers, validation for designers, and comfort to the business executives who pay for each.

    What’s remarkable is that the success rate of designed user experiences, even those informed by ethnography, is anecdotally reported to be a sparse five to ten percent. It might even be less. The vast majority of products and services designed according to the tenets of user experience, supported by ethnographic findings, do not achieve their goals.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (7) + TrackBacks (2) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    October 2, 2007

    SRI "Discipline of Innovation" Express Workshop, St. Petersberg, FL, Oct 10

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    0a0476be642b4d54b301624da3790d96.jpgSRI International, for whom I worked as a futurist and commercialization expert in the late 1990s and 2000s, is presenting a "Discipline of Innovation" Express Workshop for the Tampa Bay (FL) Technology Forum in St. Petersberg on October 10, 2007, at the Poynter Institute.

    I'm glad to see SRI coming out. SRI, located in Menlo Park, CA, is the original home of scenario planning and the Mother Ship to such better-known spinoffs as the Global Business Network. Long before "innovation" was a household word and "ethnography" the darling of the business set, SRI was plugging along developing tools like the unmatchable VALS (Value & Lifestyles System) and SCAN to track new technology and social trends. Perhaps because it's nonprofit, SRI maintains a relatively low profile -- but its social and technology innovations are impressive. They often get implemented because the organization cultivates a sterling client list of Global 100 corporations and governments, long-time clients here and abroad. When SRI comes up with a good idea, there's money to move the idea forward to prototype and implementation.

    Presenting at this event are William W. Wilmot, Co-Creator, SRI Discipline of Innovation Workshop; Co-Author, Innovation: The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want; and Peter Marcotullio, Director, SRI Business Development of Engineering and Systems. Innovation comes to Florida. Sounds tasty.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Innovation & Concept Design

    September 26, 2007

    Design Thinking 2007, Dallas

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    DT_07_Fullcolor.png As we try to catch Bob up with conversations already going on in the industry, let me illustrate the significance of having Design Thinking conversations by offering notice of an event planned for the DFW area.

    For those of you in the area October 19th, plan to join us. For the rest of you, this is an experiment for continuing face-to-face annual events in local venues. The idea being that there is much needed energy bringing local companies together and sharing their stories and progress with others (including the press, academia, and generally interested souls).

    Updates will be provided as we see where the conversation goes this first round. Already there are signs of a focus on organizational changes including new roles and new business models, but we wouldn't know these things were happening if we weren't coming together to talk about what we're seeing.

    We hope to challenge participants to return to their own circles of influence with actions to influence change, and seed deeper understanding through related programs throughout the following year in existing local professional organization chapter meetings -- e.g. UPA, STC, AIGA, AMA, PMI, etc. (that's the adaptive/integrative gene).

    Each year we'll convene to share and talk about our progress -- catalyzing latent Design Thinking DNA already floating in the organizational ether.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    June 28, 2007

    New Courses Available

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    While we typically wouldn't blanket copy an email announcement here, I think this one is significant in what it means as to 1) the potential to grow the discipline and 2) that someone can justify offering such courses (e.g. there's enough demand for them -- because there IS!). And Victor Lombardi is just a really sharp industry resource.

    If anyone gets a chance to attend, please share your experience!
    [Don't miss the discount code...]

    What's also interesting is the 2.0 aspect of this. While only for New York City right now, imagine leveraging this 'community' and its infrastructure as a means to offer your own single session/event in your city (e.g. an upscale craigslist for classes/seminars). While we all might not have material to go into training full-time...sharing our own special knowledge for one course a year might be doable.


    Smart Experience is a new school in New York City offering
    classes for Internet professionals. We intend to cover
    state-of-the-art topics taught by the most experienced people in
    town. The school is organized as a marketplace, so you can tell
    us what classes you want us to offer, and what classes you want
    to teach. Learn more...

    Use discount code "Beta" when signing up for 20% off tuition...

    How do you proactively design an experience that expresses your
    brand? We will address the complexities of applying traditional
    brand guidelines to interactive environments, the relationship
    between the traditional brand elements of brand promise, goals,
    positioning and how to translate these to interaction and
    experience guidelines. Taught by Karen Hembrough who has worked
    with AOL, National Geographic, and iXL and just earned her MBA
    from Columbia University.
    1 two-hour workshop, Thursday, July 12. $70.

    This class will introduce the topic of business strategy and
    illustrate how Internet strategy is practiced by online and
    traditional companies. In class we'll discuss how Internet
    strategy applies to our particular situations and create our own
    fictional business by applying a particular strategic method.
    Taught by Victor Lombardi, the Director of Smart Experience, who
    also consults on Internet product development and is a leader in
    the field of information architecture. 2 two-hour workshops, Tuesdays
    7-9pm, July 10 & 17. $140.

    There are more classes on the website, as well as a listing of
    the best Internet events in New York city available via iCal,
    RSS, or email newsletter...

    Victor Lombardi
    Director, Smart Experience
    NYC Internet, mobile, and software education

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    June 11, 2007

    Spirituality and Experience: The universe intervenes....

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    For those anxiously awaiting my scribblings on spirituality and experience, and for those who wrote so many outstanding Comments regarding past entries (all published this evening), thank you for your patience.

    No, I did not have a desert epiphany and get singed by a Burning Bush, ascend to heaven on my steed, or assume a solitary perch atop a column to contemplate the world. (I did have a run-in with a scorpion on the back step, however. Contrary to Carl Stephenson's classic short story, "Leiningen Versus the Ants," in this case the skinny arachnid won, chasing me back indoors.)

    The universe intervened, but not in such dramatic fashion. First, I contracted an enormous cold in Santa Monica that fully bloomed only after I landed in Tucson. What an irony, to be sneezing and snuffling in such a sunny place. Then, on leaving the airport, my G4 Powerbook took a tumble and ended up completely whacked. (I'm using a borrowed laptop, a PC [holding nose], to post this entry. It doesn't have Ecto on it and so is unfit for blogging.) Fortunately, I brought along my G3 Powerbook as a precaution. Once new memory for it arrives, giving it the semblance of a modern Mac, I'll share with you the first installment of what is turning out to be a complex and highly entertaining story of humankind, spirituality, soul food -- I mean, food for the soul, and experience. It's more than I bargained for.

    In the meantime, my cold's gone, we've had our first seasonal lightning storm -- Tucson is the world's Lightning Capital! -- and I'm thinking seriously about exporting my experience-design practice and me to the Oresund region, where Denmark and Sweden are connected by the new Oresund Bridge. It's like Silicon Valley all over again, only with better food, real seasons, and an information economy at least a generation ahead of "Web 2.0": one based solely on innovation and creativity. Ah yes, and did I remark on the natural beauty of the inhabitants?

    All this and more when the chips show up and I return. See you online...!

    (Image: Weather Underground)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Theories of Experience

    May 15, 2007

    I've returned from Esalen

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    My time at Esalen was richly spent, with new and inspiring experiences. One was life-changing.

    (It's difficult to imagine how a “user experience” expert could have improved upon them.)

    I'll report in full next week....

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    May 4, 2007

    URGENT! OIL CRISIS! “World Without Oil,” alternate in-the-world reality game, launches

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Wwo LogoI received the following email today from Jane McGonigal, the reigning Queen of In-the-World Game-Based Experiences, now Game Designer at the Institute for the Future. It describes “World Without Oil,” a new alternative-reality game that responds to a very real crisis in our world: Peak Oil, the eventual running out of petroleum in our lifetimes. Get ready for the crisis: follow Jane's instructions. You're in for an entertaining and educational, but excruciatingly real experience -- and one that unfortunately, in the future, will not be a game to play but the reality in which we live...

    I have some exciting news: Earlier this week, World Without Oil launched. It’s the first alternate reality game to address a real-world problem: U.S. oil dependency. The official motto: “Play it – before you live it.” And you can play right now!

    It takes literally less than 30 seconds to sign up as a game hero. I hope you’ll go sign up right now! Here’s the link.

    (Signing up just gives you a unique identity in the alternate reality. It means the game will know who you are if you come back and play. Unlike other ARGs, the game won’t start emailing you or burying things in your backyard.)

    Once you’re signed up, there’s lots of fun stuff to check out. The game launched on Monday, and already there are hundreds of player created documents to browse—-not to mention the official backstory created by the game’s puppet masters. The latest game updates include video footage of an underground car vandalism effort, instructions for how to throw fuel-free parties, and an eyebrow-raising transcript of the new Secretary of State’s address to the nation.

    But most importantly – please take 1 minute today to sign up to play and help make this experimental game project a success!

    More information about the project below; email me if you want to hear more.


    Jane McGonigal
    Resident Game Designer, Institute for the Future

    This press release explains the game:

    First Alternate Reality Game To Confront A Major Social Issue: A Worldwide Oil Shock

    All Web Users Invited to Witness the Oil Shock, Document Their Experiences, Apply Collective Imagination to Solve a Real World Problem

    “Play it – before you live it!”

    (San Francisco, CA)—Everyone knows that “someday” the world may face an oil shortage. What if that day was sooner than you thought? How would your life change? On Monday, April 30, ITVS Interactive and Independent Lens will launch WORLD WITHOUT OIL, a live interactive month-long alternate reality event to explore this very real possibility.

    Produced by the design team at Writerguy, WORLD WITHOUT OIL is the first alternate reality game to enlist the Internet’s vast collective intelligence and imagination to confront and attempt to solve a real-world problem: what happens when a great economy built entirely on cheap oil begins to run short? This grassroots experience looks at the impact on people's lives—work, social, family and personal—and explores what happens when our thirst for oil begins to exceed supply.

    “Alternate reality gaming is emerging as the way for the world to imagine and engineer a best-case-scenario future,” says WORLD WITHOUT OIL’s participation architect, noted futurist Jane McGonigal. “It’s been summed up this way: ‘If you want to change the future, play with it first.’”

    Beginning April 30, the nerve center for the realistic oil crisis is at, with links to citizen stories in blogs, videos, photos, audio and phone messages posted all over the Internet. At the grassroots website, people will learn the broad brushstrokes of the crisis, such as the current price of a gallon of gas or how widespread shortages are. Players will fill in the details, by creating Web documents that express their own perspectives from within the crisis.

    “The ‘alternate reality’ of WORLD WITHOUT OIL is not fantasy, it’s a very real possibility,” says Writerguy Creative Director Ken Eklund. “And the game challenge is one of imagination. No one person or small group can hope to figure out the complex rippling effects of an oil shock, but the collective imagination can. And understanding it is a serious, positive step toward preventing it.”

    People of any age or Web ability can participate in the game. Player communities are already forming to prepare for game launch, and pre-game play has started. Use these links:

    WORLD WITHOUT OIL is produced by the Writerguy team, presented by ITVS Interactive (Independent Television Service), and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. An Independent Lens Web-exclusive presentation (PBS), WORLD WITHOUT OIL is an ELECTRIC SHADOWS project (ITVS).

    About the Game Creators

    The Writerguy team includes some of alternate reality gaming's most experienced “puppetmasters” in addition to a Web producer, designer and outreach manager. Ken Eklund, Writerguy and creative director, has been working as a game writer and designer for 20 years. He is credited on over two dozen games as well as many Internet-based educational projects. Jane McGonigal, participation architect, is currently the resident game designer at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA. Previously she was a lead designer at 42 Entertainment, most notably for I Love Bees, an award-winning alternate reality game. In Fall 2006 MIT Technology Review named McGonigal one of the top 35 innovators changing the world through technology.

    Electric Shadows and Independent Lens Web-Exclusives

    Independent Lens presents interactive features throughout the series website and is proud to be a portal to Electric Shadows projects which feature the unflinching visions of independent media makers via the Web. These award-winning Web-originals invite visitors to interact through non-linear storytelling and social issue games created by independent media makers. Presented by Independent Lens and ITVS Interactive and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Electric Shadows sites explore the arts, culture and society through innovative forms including nonlinear storytelling and interactive gameplay and meet the ITVS mission of giving voice to underserved communities. Since its inception in 2002, the initiative has funded six online projects. Electric Shadows projects have garnered a People’s Choice Webby Award, two SXSW Web Awards, highlighted as one of’s “50 Coolest Websites”, Yahoo! Picks, Cool Site of the Day and numerous other accolades. Explore the projects and learn more about Electric Shadows.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Education | ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    May 2, 2007

    3rd Information Design Intl. Conference & 39th Intl. Visual Literacy Annual Conference, Curitiba, Brazil, Oct 8-13, 2007

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Brazil Info Design ConfThe Third Information Design International Conference -- also known as the 2nd infoDesign Brasil conference -- will take place in Curitiba, Brazil, near Rio, October 8-10, 2007.

    It's followed immediately by ivla 2007, the 39th International Visual Literacy Annual Conference, also in Curitiba, October 10-13, 2007. The conferences are separate, but collaborative arrangements have been made for those who attend both.

    Their calls for papers have gone out. The Information Design Conference's call has been extended to Monday, May 14 (details here). ivla's window closed on April 30.

    These will be this year's two major, relevant Latin American conferences, taking place in South America's (and possibly the Hemisphere's) most dynamic social and cultural milieu. Their respective themes are:

    3rd Information Design International Conference

    • Education: aspects and issues regarding the role of information design in education. Studies about information design programmes in higher education, educational material, methods and approaches for teaching and learning within an information design perspective
    • History and theory: historical and/or theoretical approaches and contributions to information design. Researches on early information design and designers, proposals of taxonomies, frameworks and models
    • Technology and society: aspects and issues of information design concerning the use of technology by individuals and/or its effects on society. Researches on topics such as human-computer interaction, hypermedia design, broadcasting design
    • Information systems and communication: the effectiveness of information systems in communicating messages. Investigations on instructional design, wayfinding information, sign systems, graphic symbols, and forms design

    ivla 2007

    • Education, Teaching, and Learning
    • Societal and Community Issues
    • Cultural Influences, Impacts, and Considerations
    • Historic Uses and Approaches
    • Research, Theories, and Definitions
    • Transformative Functions
    • Future Trends and Directions
    • Communication and Artistic Expression
    • Ethical, Social, and Philosophical Concerns

    Unlike designing for experience, which is a discipline still in formation, information design and the study of visual literacy have been around awhile. Their literatures and practices are solid. For practitioners and employers of practitioners, these two conferences offer a rare opportunity to acquire broad state-of-the-art knowledge. BTW, I'll be speaking at the Information Design Conference and attending ivla. And listening to bossa nova whenever I can.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Education | Events and Happenings | Theories of Experience

    April 23, 2007

    Edward Castronova announces Ludium II, a Conference-Game on Virtual Worlds and Policy

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Header01Professor Edward Castronova has announced Ludium II, a conference built around a game that will examine virtual worlds and possible policy responses. It's part of his continuing groundbreaking work at Indiana University's Synthetic Worlds Initiative.

    According to Ed, the reigning sage of online-game economics and policy,

    The consensus Platform will emerge from the game CONVENTION that has been designed specifically to help disparate groups of people come to common understandings. The game, designed by Studio Cypher LLC, puts conference attendees in the role of delegates to a political party convention whose objective is to hammer out a common platform. CONVENTION’s incentives will lead the group to a set of policy recommendations believed by most participants to be important, sensible, and feasible.

    The rules of the game are available at

    What a great idea! After all, isn't all policymaking a game to win, in real as well as virtual worlds?

    The Ludium II conference and game will take place June 22-23 at Indiana University. Registration starts today. For more information and to register, visit The Ludium II website.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design

    March 15, 2007

    Next week: Mobile Nation conference explores “mobile experience design,” Toronto, March 22-25

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    MobileDespite the cellular industry's uninspiring (in fact, sickening) plan to saturate the mobile environment with advertising, hope lives eternal in the hearts of mobile experience designers that there is another way -- in fact, many other ways -- for the medium to develop.

    Next week, the Mobile Nation international conference, hosted by the Mobile Digital Commons Network and the Canadian Design Research Network, will offer participants a chance to explore deeply the emerging field of mobile experience design. The conference theme is “Creating Methodologies for Mobile Platforms.”

    Participants will share expertise with WiFi, Global Positioning System (GPS), Bluetooth, Radio Frequency ID tags, intelligent garments, ambient media applications, and geo-locative gaming. The conference features keynotes, live demonstrations and hands-on workshops.

    It will take more than better platforms to avoid the advertising onslaught, but certainly, better platforms will make possible other uses of mobile technology other than those constrained by arbitrary, self-serving industry limits. And then truly creative design for the mobile experience can take place.

    The event takes place at the Ontario College of Art & Design, 100 McCaul Street, in Toronto. The speakers and sessions are knockout. Highly recommended. (Nice website, by the way.)

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    March 8, 2007

    CHI 2007, San Jose University, April 28-May 3

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Sigchi-Logo-OnlyChi2007Lest anyone's missed the news, CHI 2007 -- the annual conference of the ACM's Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group, SIGCHI for short -- will take place next month at San Jose University (California). It's a worthwhile event for those who make their livings studying and applying lessons learned about how people connect with technology (and vice versa).

    SIGCHI has long been a mainstay for those interested in how computing and information technology generally have altered human experience. Throughout the 1990s, SIGCHI was poor cousin to the more glamorous SIGGRAPH, the SIG devoted to computer graphics and glitzy, entertainment/defense-driven conferences. But SIGCHI's finally come into its own with the recognition that UX (“user experience”) is a central and important factor in the success of online and device-driven environments. Just how important is indicated by CHI 2007's registration fees -- at this point in time, north of $1,000 (not including travel and accommodations) for everyone but students -- and its roster of A-tier corporate sponsors. I suspect that this and the full week required to attend all of the events, including tours of local interaction labs, may discourage many people from attending. But CHI 2007's roster of talks is fascinating, as always, and this is a great opportunity to recruit UX researchers and so forth to keep the wheels of digital commerce turning. Also, day registrations are available. So no doubt the halls will be full.

    So which conferences will you attend this year? I count at least 25 that get my attention, with topics ranging from expo design to ethnography to digital technology to landscape architecture; even children's emotional development. If I had a cool $100,000 to invest in my education and edification -- for my readers' and clients' benefit, as well as my own -- where would I best put the money? I hope to read in your Comments good suggestions.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    February 19, 2007


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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    wikinomicsglobetop.jpgLeveraging the common model to combine a book with a discussion, Wikinomics claims to focus on how mass collaboration changes everything.

    The thoughts framed by this concept were central to the discussions that went on at the recent FASTforward 07 event (which I'm already planning to attend next year). Conversations around the event and the thinking that went on, continue with high energy. Aside from the uniqueness of the event in the pre/post use of the blog which was seeded with some high-energy thinkers in the intranet / Enterprise 2.0 space, the event was unique in that although hosted by a vendor (and sponsored by several others), it was clearly an event to bring together bright minds and allow for deep conversations to go on around the topics and possibilities for this space -- such that the vendor(s) themselves can learn from the discussions as equal participants.

    What was refreshing is that principles of Experience Design were front and center in the conversations. It was clearly a 'design thinking' sort of event.

    One concept that came out of the discussions, which is reinforced by the Wikinomics artifacts, is that we need to embrace the power of the 'individual as a channel'. Major companies are thinking through new business models to both embrace and capitalize on this reality. Related discussions were quite heady.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    December 13, 2006

    Time Warner Communications gets customer experience right

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Too few companies get customer experience right. “Customer experience” is a hidden component of experience design, how an organization -- governmental, commercial, or membership -- employs social processes, standards for employee interactions with customers and the like, to enhance and deepen relationships with its customers, constituents, or members. It's common these days for organizations to rely on market researchers, ethnographers, communication experts, and CRM (customer relationship management) technology to develop complex systems for improving the customer experience. But often, a simple phone call or email communication with a customer is more effective and easier to implement on a continuous basis. This simple method requires a motivated staff that knows its customers inside and out.

    Time Warner CableBut some companies do get it right. A case in point: Time Warner Cable (TWC). In this regard, in the past, large communication companies have been no one's favorites. The The phone companies', TV networks', and early cable TV operators' past poor management of customer experience -- a vice of which cellular phone companies are now most guilty -- has tainted the image of all communication providers. But my recent experience with TWC was definitely heartening.

    My lovely city and hometown, Santa Monica -- now often referred to as “Hollywood West,” for all the media that's moved here in the last decade -- used to be served by Adelphia Cable, a company that provided high-quality service for its customers but not enough profits for its shareholders. (Its owners were convicted of various crimes having to do with financial mismanagement.) Adelphia declared bankruptcy. Recently, it was purchased by TWC. According to all accounts, the switchover strained TWC to the limit. The company did well alerting customers to the coming customer handoff, including telling us about future inspections to ensure proper infrastructure. It did less well, however -- in fact, it did terribly -- preparing us for outages and downtime associated with actual technology porting of its cable TV and Internet services. Also, the changeover of billing and service-order methods confused customers who had little or no warning about the changes. Lastly, the cantankerous but user-friendly Moxi boxes provided by Adelphia to cable TV viewers were swapped out for generic Motorola DVRs, with a loss of navigation and content on which Adelphia customers had become accustomed. All of these taken together resulted in a tidal wave of customer inquiries and complaints that even the City of Santa Monica's telecom officers were unable to staunch. The transitional staff's answer: voicemail and endless waits online, which added fuel to the blaze, not just here but in many cities where TWC was assuming ownership of cable TV systems.

    Cherie and I were two among thousands of TWC's unhappy new Santa Monica customers, many of whom are media industry influentials. A new California law allows telephone companies to provide video service, and many of us, forgetting our past experiences with the phone companies, were seriously considering them as providers. Imagine customer service so bad that it made TWC's inept phone-industry competitors like AT&T (the former SBC) and Verizon (the former General Telephone) look good!

    imagine my pleasure, then, at receiving a personal call from TWC's VP of Community Affairs, Patricia Fregoso-Cox. (The call was arranged by Kate Vernais in Santa Monica's City Manager's Office, to whom I personally complained.) A former Adelphia corporate officer, Patricia told me she was proud of the service Adelphia had maintained despite its stressed financial circumstances and alarmed at the state of affairs as TWC took over. Her answer wasn't to call in consultants. Instead, she seized the bull by the horns and start talking with city officials and their constituents about improving TWC's service in Santa Monica and Southern California generally -- not just the technical service, but the customer experience, too. Patricia told me about TWC's plans to cut response time on the phone and online, explain how the new system works, and even implement a new service that will replace the now-missing navigational assists that Moxi boxes formerly provided for cable TV viewers. Once having done that, it was time to engage technical staff in creating the necessary CRM.

    Patricia was even open to discussing an idea I've had for a long time, since my days as a telecom analyst for the California Legislature: to use the company's cable TV and Internet assets to alert consumers of each when one or the other service was going down. An email to cable TV customers or a visual state-of-the-system on a cable TV channel and the TWC website, informing us of planned maintenance and outages, would go a long way toward dampening dischord among customers (now, almost all of us) who rely on their cable TV for entertainment and information, and their Internet service for conducting business. Patricia further referred a specific problem we were having to a task force empowered to deal with problems, all part of TWC's customer-experience learning process.

    Everything's not fixed yet, but it's getting better. I suspect that most customers who now know the score, like me, will cut TWC some slack, even look forward to coming service improvements. Thanks, TWC and Patricia.

    If you'd like to stay informed of developments in the customer experience arena, check out Karl Long's avant-garde blog on the subject, Experience Curve, and Mark Hurst's always thoughtful Good Experience.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design

    December 5, 2006

    Information Design redux

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The importance of information design (ID) as a discipline with much to loan other design disciplines -- especially those that deal with human-human and human-system communication -- was brought home to me by two events.

    The first event is happening as I write: a passionate, even fierce conversation taking place online among the practitioners of information architecture (IA), a subset of ID that deals almost exclusively with Web design. (You can read a summary of the argument with numerous comments and links to other blogs on the IA website, Bokardo, “Thoughts on the Impending Death of Information Architecture.”) The IA practitioners tend to agree that the contours of that discipline, all wrapped up with computer interaction, are becoming confining, though they are at odds how to liberate themselves from these strictures: Change the name of the practice? Change the practice? Or give it up entirely for other pursuits?

    For a decade, IA eclipsed ID, Web design being a lot more glamorous (and for a time, more lucrative) than designing mundane artifacts like signage or brochures (the ID legacy). Now ID is looking quite attractive as an overarching discipline absolutely relevant to IAs -- and other designers -- pushing the envelope of their professions.

    SbdiThe second event was receiving an unexpected but welcome invitation from Carla Spinella, an editor of InfoDesign, the journal of the Brazilian Society of Information Design (SBDI) to attend and keynote the Third Information Design International Conference 2007 taking place next year in Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, October 11-13. I presume the invitation honors the contributors to a book I edited, Information Design (MIT Press 2000), who together described the applications of information design principles to fields as varied as exhibition design, the design of learning methodologies, architectural wayfinding, interaction design, book design, media design, and about a dozen others. Information Design sold out and went to a second printing on the basis of audience expectations as much as what it delivered. The Brazilian conference's broad themes -- education, science and technology, cultural effects, etc. -- demonstrate the pervasive influence of ID everywhere in the world.

    Two other conferences with long-established traditions complete next year's official ID trilogy. (There are many smaller events, of course. See the excellent
    InfoDesign website and news digest for a calendar.):

    Logo1-V3The Information Design Conference 2007 hosted by the Information Design Association in the UK takes place March 29-30, 2007, in Greenwich, London. “Our overall aim this year,” reports the IDA, the first national information design professional organization, “is to construct an eclectic event, particularly strong on interdisciplinary learning and practice. The purpose, as ever, is to share ideas about how to make information easier to understand, in such diverse fields as..

    • Government and administration
    • Healthcare and health promotion
    • Technical instruction and user guides
    • Reference and learning materials
    • Transport information and wayfinding/showing
    • Forms and transaction interfaces
    • Financial and billing information
    • Web and interface design

    Iiid LogoThe IIID Vision Plus 12 Symposium, taking place in Schwarzenberg, Austria, July 5-7, 2007, ”Information Design -- Achieving Measurable Results.“ It's hosted by the International Institute for Information Design. The theme for Vision Plus 12 is ”measurement“: how can we measure and quantify the impact and results of informational communication? This has become a hot topic both in business and academia, a daunting challenge. Vision Plus 12 will explore this controversial question from all sides:

    • How and to what extent can we measure the success of a given work?
    • How do we quantify the role and impact of intangibles like design?
    • What techniques and technologies can be used to get measurable results?
    • How are information designers building the necessary metrics into their projects?

    The IIID, headquartered in Vienna, is a nonprofit organization partnered with several national ID organizations (in the US, the AIGA). It's also the the driving force behind initiatives to establish an Information Design University under the auspices of UNESCO (similar to the Experience Design Institute championed on this blog). The IIID ID Summer Academy, in the Cape Verde Islands, in August 2007, has as its purposes ” defining the requirements of branding, communication, and related vocational education, enhancing sustainable tourism at the Cape Verde Islands.“

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Theories of Experience

    December 3, 2006

    CHI 2007 Workshop on User Centered Design and International Development

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Chi2007 Logo

    Via the Experience Design newsgroup, I received the following invitation to the forthcoming Workshop on User Centered Design and International Development, scheduled to take place during CHI 2007 (the annual conference of the ACM special interest group on Computer-Human Interaction). Educated in part as a regional development planner, I found it interesting that interaction researchers and designers feel a need to become involved in international development, a field more commonly occupied by regional planners and economists, politicians, and an infinite number of think-tanks. I asked Susan Dray of Dray & Associates, one of the Workshop organizers who posted the announcement about this. She replied,

    We used the term “user centered design” (rather than human centered design, also used in the field) because it is the most common moniker for the computer-human interactions (CHI) audience (and we first had to get the workshop accepted to the conference before inviting others to come.) That said, we think it’s the user-centered/human-centered process that is most critical – not only the interfaces, which are more the norm in the CHI community as the object of interest. Some people and projects do better at this than others in all spheres, from building technology to planning water projects in a village. Interestingly, the original title was “Participatory Design and International Developmen” – but in the CHI community, PD has a specific political meaning (developed by the workplace democracy folks in Scandinavia), so we decided to use the term UCD instead to avoid confusion.

    Sounds good to me: I'm a fan of interdisciplinary design whenever it occurs, for any purpose -- especially one with a concrete, global benefit: equitable development.


    User Centered Design and International Development

    A workshop at CHI 2007
    Saturday, April 28, 2007
    San Jose, California USA


    Much work in international economic and community development emphasizes empowering host communities in designing and controlling development projects. Many development projects make use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as part of their plan. However, there have been few explicit efforts to bring together the international economic and community development, user centered design (UCD) and interaction design communities to find ways of designing more appropriate and effective solutions that truly meet local needs. The aim of this workshop is to initiate such a dialogue.

    Specifically, we hope to extend the boundaries of the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) by spurring a discussion on how existing UCD practices can be adapted and modified, and how new practices be developed, to deal with the unique challenges posed by the context of international community and economic development. We call this User Centered Design for Development or UCD4D.

    This workshop will provide a space to exchange experiences, explore differences between developed and developing world contexts, to develop new partnerships, and to learn from each other about problems we have encountered, the solutions that we have proposed and ways of working that we have discovered.

    Topics that we hope to cover in the workshop include:

    • Experiences of interaction design in developing countries or with traditionally underserved populations in developed countries
    • Uses and adaptations of participatory methods in economic and community development projects
    • Cultural factors in designing for economic and community development
    • Innovative techniques for engaging users in developing world contexts
    • Examples of solutions that are sustainable in context

    We also hope to use this workshop to begin to build an international community of engaged scholars and thoughtful practitioners who understand each other and who can bridge between disciplines and boundaries to create appropriate, effective and sustainable community development solutions.

    Expected Outcome of the Workshop

    Outcomes from the workshop will be reported in the MIT Press journal, Information Technology and International Development. In addition, based upon submissions and the review process we expect to publish a special issue of the journal on the workshop themes.


    We anticipate obtaining limited funding to allow participation from those in soft-currency economies. If you need financial assistance to attend, please let us know.

    More information

    Click here for more information on the workshop. Or contact the organizers directly.


    This workshop will be open to anyone with relevant experience or interest in UCD4D and/or ICTs in international economic and community development. To participate, please submit a 2 page position paper describing your experience, findings or interests relevant to the themes of the workshop. Participants will be chosen to represent a good cross section of communities and key themes. Papers should be submitted by email to Andy Dearden. Accepted papers will be posted on the workshop website.

    Important dates

    January 12th 2007: Submission deadline
    February 1st 2007: Notification of acceptance
    April 28th 2007: Workshop

    Please note: As with all CHI workshops, at least one author of accepted papers needs to register for the Workshop and for one day of the conference itself.


    Andy Dearden - Sheffield Hallam University, UK
    Michael Best - Georgia Tech, USA
    Susan Dray - Dray & Associates, Inc., USA
    Ann Light - Queen Mary University, UK.
    John Thomas - IBM, USA
    Celeste Buckhalter - Georgia Tech, USA
    Daniel Greenblatt - Georgia Tech, USA
    Shanks Krishnan - Georgia Tech, USA
    Nithya Sambasivan - Georgia Tech, USA


    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    November 25, 2006

    BRC: Adler Planetarium's “Shoot for the Moon”; BRC Founder Bob Roberts awarded THEA Award for Lifetime Achievement

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    SftmBRC Imagination Arts, a paragon among visual and experiential exhibition designers, has announced the opening of a new attraction at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, “Shoot for the Moon.” It's a rich experience that showcases BRC's new slogan, “Showmanship Meets Scholarship”TM. BRC's press release describes “Shoot for the Moon,” which includes an interactive theater, interactive displays, galleries of videos and photography, and a collection of artifacts that illustrate “stories told through the firsthand experiences of Captain James A. Lovell, Jr., the Gemini and Apollo astronaut best known for the leadership role he played in transforming the Apollo 13 accident into one of the most successful missions of all time.” BRC describes this as one of its “experience museums,” a 21st-Century approach to presenting educational information.

    Bob-Rogers-With-The-Ghost-OSeparately, BRC announced that its founder, Bob Rogers, has been awarded the THEA Award for Lifetime Accomplishment by TEA, the non-profit, international organization representing the creators of compelling places and experiences. Rogers joins a remarkable group of previous Lifetime Achievement recipients, experience designers including Harrison “Buzz” Price (1994), the economic feasibility science inventor of the themed entertainment industry; Marty Sklar (1995), the creative head of Walt Disney Imagineering for a quarter century; John Hench (1998), Walt Disney Imagineer and master art director for 65 years; and Yves Pépin (2005), creator of world expositions, special events, and international event spectaculars including the Millennium firework celebration at the Eiffel Tower. (More about TEA in a future entry.)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings

    November 22, 2006

    Thanksgiving, the Harvest Festival

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    PumpkinTomorrow is Thanksgiving, the American harvest festival, rich in traditions...and contradictions. Like most things in life.

    Whether you're an American or not, I hope this season that you'll enjoy community, reflection, and liberties that are the American ideal, whatever the reality.

    Over the long holiday weekend, I'll be blogging, blogging,and blogging. No. 1 among my pent-up entries:

    “If experience design is such a hotbody, why is information design a truer love?”

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Bring in the crops.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings

    November 16, 2006

    November 8, 2006

    The Lifting of a Great Weight

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    LeverAmericans awoke today to a changing of the guard in the US House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate, followed by the resignation of Iraqi war “strategist” and soon-to-be-former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. People of all political persuasions, here and abroad, are experiencing a sense of new possibilities: The Lifting of a Great Weight. Anxieties about the future haven't yet been assuaged, but the prevailing expectation of change is a pervasive psychological factor, one that may elude traditional market researchers. Experience designers would do well to factor it into their plans.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings

    November 7, 2006

    The experience of voting

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    1099417908 1139The occasion of mid-term elections in the United States -- a fateful election on which many critical issues turn -- is a fit time to examine the experience of voting.

    In California, where I live (and in most other American jurisdictions), elections always happen on the first Tuesday of November, a day hardly conducive to getting working people to the polls. (This election, fewer than 40 percent of eligible voters are expected to cast ballots.) Voting polls, our Shrines to Self-Rule, are tables and booths and boxes stuffed into schools, churches, social clubs, and shopping malls. There's always a big American flag out front, conveying civic sanctity to these otherwise mundane locations. Polls are staffed by volunteer workers, nice people, usually retirees; lightly trained, they may even be paid (though it's likely they're not). As an alternative to voting at the polls, a citizen can choose to submit an "absentee ballot" that's prepared at home and mailed to the County Clerk. Absentee ballots are convenient all right -- I've used them -- but they negate the collective esprit that voting at the polls instills. I guess it depends on how time-pressured or agoraphobic you are, which method of voting you choose. Or like a vast number of cynical or uncaring Americans, neither.

    Why is voting such an ambiguous experience? Subjectively, it's lauded as the citizen's highest calling. Objectively, the process is generally taken for granted and underfunded, on top of which we now have to deal with the controversy surrounding expensive, unreliable, and insecure digital voting systems. For months, citizens have been bombarded with political ads, direct mail, and opinions learned and lame, in print and online. From that noise we're expected to distill wise (I hope) choices, little smudges on a ballot.

    After all that effort, I'm left with contradictory feelings: “Mission Accomplished!” versus “Is that all there is, my friend?”

    The electoral privilege/chore/complicity of voting is the iconic way in which political decisions supposedly are made in democracies. Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not. But standing before the God of Choice is always empowering -- and humbling. The poet Henry David Thoreau observed, “All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong.” Perhaps one day our political culture will mature and politics, with its deadly serious outcomes, will no longer be played as a game. In that better future, Americans, like their counterparts in parliamentary democracies, will become politically aware and active all of the time, not just every two or four years when an election rolls around.

    Following are some design-relevant references to voting that I found informative and entertaining, each raising as many questions about the experience of voting as it answers:

    • WQusability, “Voting for Usability: Background on the Issues.” In the aftermath of the botched 2000 general election, Whitney Quesenbery examines issues of usability associated with ballots and casting votes; candidate identification; how measures are presented to the electorate; and the sad inattention given to the voting process in most regimes, democratic and otherwise, as a way of reliably deciding the direction a society should take.

    •, “Resources: voting and e-voting user experience.” Louise Ferguson compares conventional voting (using the ballot or a voting machine) with e-voting (conducted via a touch-screen or online). Her website includes over 200 references dealing with the voting experience.

    • The Smithsonian Institution, “Vote: The Machinery of Democracy.” An attractive, comprehensive, multipage compendium of graphics and texts relating to voting. It contains among many other things voting trivia (the word “ballot” comes from the Italianballota, for the “little ball” that citizens in earlier democracies dropped into boxes to "cast a vote"), descriptions of the voting process past, present, and future -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- and “Design for Democracy,” a Chicago-based project to redesign the entire voting experience.

    Commission on Federal Election Reform (CFER). Not that anyone in government paid it any attention, but CFER, chaired by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and Republican Secretary of State James Baker, in September 2005 issued an extensive report containing 87 recommended reforms to voting as it's conducted in the US. As I write this entry, few of the reforms that CFER recommended have been implemented despite hundreds of millions of dollars having been allocated for this purpose. You can download the Commission's report in PDF format and view streaming interviews with Carter and Baker on the CFER website.

    Victorian Electoral Commission (Australia), “A Virtual Voting Experience in 19 Languages.” “Enter into a virtual world of election day voting.” Very charming; you'll need Flash. The Cambodian version is the most lyrically graphic, though I couldn't read a single word. If only real, inane initiatives could wear such smiley faces. Hey, wait, here in the US they do: just turn on your TV!

    * * *

    The poet Robert Frost has the last word:
    “Thinking isn't agreeing or disagreeing. That's voting.”
    So go vote.

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    November 6, 2006

    Core 77's Design 2.0 event, November 15 in Boston, asks, “What should we make?”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Core 77 Design2.0 BosNext week, Core 77, the “industrial design supersite”-plus-online community that's become central to the design profession, is holding its third Design 2.0 event, in Boston on Wednesday, November 15, at Vessel.

    The theme of the event is “Design, Technology, and the Future.” Panelists include John Maeda from MIT Media Lab, Natalie Jeremijenko from UCSD and ITP, Bill Cockayne from Change Research, and Jason Pearson from GreenBlue. Allan Chochinov, Editor of Core77, will be moderating.

    Here's your invitation, by way of a challenge:

    As products and systems become smarter and more technologically imbued, the mandate of the designer is thrown into question. If we can make anything, what should we make? And if all of our activities have consequences -- environmental, economic and social -- what are the opportunities for moving positively into the future? How can we balance serving interests with setting agendas? Join us for a panel discussion on the front lines.

    Design 2.0 will run from 1 PM to 6 PM, with check-in and snacks, presentations, panel discussion, Q&A, networking, and a cocktail reception.
    Click here for more information.

    Pics and podcasts from Core 77's New York and San Francisco Design 2.0 events can be found here.

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    November 2, 2006

    TODAY (Thursday): Geoffrey Nunberg public lecture on “The Paradox of Political Language" at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Nunberg Geoffrey TToday, Geoffrey Nunberg, linguist, author, and NPR commentator, is speaking today at PARC (the former Xerox PARC) in Palo Alto, CA, on “The Paradox of Political Language.” Political discourse, in its many forms -- overt, covert, annoying, and edifying -- defines our times, culture, self-image, and experience. Nunberg, insightful and funny, can be counted on for a very smart presentation and Q&A. Bay Area readers, don't miss this event.

    PARC Forum, “The Paradox of Political Language,” Geoffrey Nunberg
    Thursday, Nov 2, 2006, 4:00-5:00 PM
    George E. Pake Auditorium
    Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)

    This forum is OPEN to the public.

    ABSTRACT: There's a paradox in modern attitudes about political language. Left and right may disagree as to which expressions count as deceptive packaging and which are merely effective branding, but both sides acknowledge that the American public is particularly susceptible to linguistic manipulation. Yet it's also fair to say that there has never been an age that was so wary of the mischief that language can work or so alert to the dangers of political euphemism and indirection. How did we come to this point? Are political and public figures really more mendacious than they used to be, or does it reflect a changing media role or an increasingly polarized political climate? Why is widespread sophistication no impediment to the misleading use of language, and why do many of the most successful linguistic maneuvers pass our radar undetected?

    ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Geoffrey Nunberg is an adjunct full professor at UC Berkeley's School of Information Management and Systems. He was a researcher at Xerox PARC from 1987 to 2001. He serves as chair of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, offers regular commentaries on language on the NPR show “Fresh Air” and writes on language for the Sunday New York Times Week in Review, as well as for other periodicals. His 2004 book Going Nucular, was selected by as one of the Ten Best Nonfiction Books of 2004 and as one of the “Top 10 Books of the Year” by the San Jose Mercury News.

    His most recent book Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned LIberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show was published in July 2006 by PublicAffairs.


    Palo Alto Research Center Inc.
    Phone: (650) 812-4000
    3333 Coyote Hill Rd
    Palo Alto, CA 94304

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    November 1, 2006

    IDEA 2006 Presentations now available on IDEA conference blog

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Idea-2006-1Proceedings and presentations from IDEA 2006, recently concluded in Seattle, are available for streaming and download on the IDEA conference blog. Featuring a stellar cast of speakers in an appropriately open setting (the Seattle Public Library), the conference proceedings provide an excellent cross-section of theories, design approaches, and practical applications that might constitute an ideal experience-design practice.

    Organizer Peter Merholz offers a thoughtful epilogue -- and a challenge for the future -- on his blog, PeterMe. Peter's blog also features a rousing closing keynote by always-in-the-forefront science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    October 31, 2006

    Ah, Halloween! The experience sublime.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    610Px-Jack-O'-Lantern 2003-10-31Halloween is here! How it became an American holiday is a mystery to me, since our British cousins don't celebrate it, but it's the best! And now, retailers and cultural observers report, it's not only my, but also most Americans' favorite holiday experience (Christmas being too obligatory).

    Halloween -- originally, the Celtic Samhain (“sow'-whain”) -- is the day when the material and numinous worlds conjoin. When people and spirits cross over.

    Sure, now it's mainly about kids and candy, and partying and costumes. Nothing wrong with that. Just remember, though: there's more happening on Halloween than meets the eye...!

    For some Otherworldly fun tonight, check out Ghost Studies. "Hey...did you see THAT?"

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    October 30, 2006

    Digital Hollywood LA Report (complete)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    290X50La06Fall-1If it's one thing they should tell you when you assume the mantle of a not-for-profit blogger is not to promise anything with a deadline attached. Lots can happen (and did this week) to retard this blog-in-progress.

    But my delay in publishing this entry is a direct result of my lingering inability to get my head around Digital Hollywood LA, until now. conference is one of the best of its type. Few publicly-accessible conferences in any domain or at any cost (let alone DH-LA with its modest registration fee) bring together so many high-level executives, technologists, academics -- all do-ers -- and the press to talk about their subject. Even fewer conferences examine as topical and shifting a target as the morphing media in their multiple roles of information channels, places to sell things, political soapboxes, an infinity of forms of entertainment, and cultural events; and for most of the people at Digital Hollywood, also their livelihoods. The Loew's Hote provided an intimate, personal setting. Everyone was approachable. DH-LA was a kaleidoscope of ripe meanings just waiting to be plucked. Congratulations to Victor Harwood, Digital Hollywood's founder, who persevered in his vision of a conference populated equally by people in media, entertainment, and technology, before convergence was cool.

    DH-LA was so rich in meanings, however -- overt and subtextual -- it could also be confusing. Several smart people told me they were bewildered by DH-LA and “what it all means.” For many participants, the conference is a stage on which to play out the part of New Hollywood types, characters you'd cast in a 2006 remake of The Day of the Locusts or Sunset Boulevard. For others, high level executives who didn't “get it” before, it's a chance to hop on the digital-media bandwagon before it leaves town. Technologists are there to pitch their latest “enabling” products while the producers, big and tiny, use lots of video to hawk their products for mobile, locational, in-the-workplace, at-home, while-you're-out-having-a-good-time, and morning-after-edification purposes. A few press types like me, fairly low-key at this conference (perhaps because so many attendees are bloggers themselves and can publish a thing or two about too-intrusive inquisitors), are checking it all out, trying to capture the infinity of announcements -- some made off-hand during panels -- and spotlight what they consider the most salient points about this gathering.

    As you readers will know, I covered the Preview Day in an earlier posting and the rift it revealed between those who see the Internet as a service to the Broadband Nation and those who see it as something to be sold. I missed Day 1 due to my own affairs. Day 3 was pretty much a repetition of Day 2 and I used it to cruise the exhibition hall. (So I didn't attend the panel on adult entertainment, “The $10B Opportunity”? I didn't think the thesis, that adult fare drives technological innovation, needed further defending.)

    I'm going to concentrate on Day 2, because the three panels I attended together tell the story most of interest to experience designers: the errant, often-unclosed loop joining technologists, media monetrizers, and the people whose sensoria and pockets they're trying to reach -- known respectively as the “users,” “consumers,” and “us.” Media's ability to shape our society and cultural values is immense. Yet, it turns out, there's no Invisible Hand working to ensure that anything turns out right. The disconnects among the actors who are deciding the future form of our media environment, and between them and the rest of us, whose quality of life will be enhanced or diminished, are dramatic -- which all readily admit. For all the learned dissertations churned out by media scholars and visionary forecasts dispensed as corporate white papers on glossy stock (or now as podcasts), theirs is not The Media Future that actually will be. Personal agendas may be partly at fault, but there's more than a little Heisenberg Principle at work here, too. Speak the Next Big Thing and suddenly it's not, it's Something Else. No wonder they pay people so much to worry about what comes next, and how to plan for it. It never stops.

    The first panel I attended on Day 2 was “The Networked Entertainment Home -- the PVR/DVR -- the Set-Top & PC Entertainment Server,” to see what the technologists had to say, the people building the pipes and devices. It turned out that the panel, smartly chaired by Strategic's Gary Price, was about a lot more than just media centers. I took copious notes, but the bottomline was that the scientists and engineers who are responsible for developing the technological infrastructure that make possible today's and tomorrow's media wonders don't get much guidance from the media people who guide their work -- and when they do, it's often contradictory within and among the industry sectors and the companies and agencies they comprise. The complexity of working on a global basis, Motorola's Nick Chakalos reported, makes vendors slow to roll out services because of all the different markets, strategies, and channels that now must be served. This affects technologists' planning and development activities, emphasized Nvidia's Scout Vouri, right down to the level of the microprocessor: the “chip.” There was a vigorous debate about how to deal with security in the Net. Many panelists and attendees side with individual user, whose identity must be kept secure, thus requiring all sorts of interoperability bridges (and opportunities for them to fail) between standards-setting and solutions. Others, like Sun's Bill Sheppard, believe that identifiable personal devices are our best bet to create the “Open Media Commons” (an open DRM -- digital rights management -- regime) that provides equal open access to services.

    During the Q&A, I questioned whether the industry, while the FCC dithers about decency, is taking its own steps to learn what it is that users want, need, and will use. It turns out, it is, but in a somewhat indirect manner, through its own technology councils and standards groups. These IBM's Stephen Mannel advocated as worthy of greater industry participation. CableLabs' Frank Sandoval noted that TV (particularly as cable) is now the entry point for most new media -- largely, TV shows and movies, and gradually, interactive experiences -- suggesting that their success on cable, because of its large audience, is a reliable de facto metric for their success. (Now and in the future?) He also made the trenchant observation, seconded by the other panelists, that “the distinction between devices, service vendors, even content providers, will disappear.” Disney's Phil Lelyveld, in the audience, had several important things to say; two stayed with me as relevant to media designers. First, interoperability, as much as it may be the technologists' Holy Grail, is a danger to artists' rights in a environment that's universal, where content can flow without regard to the artists' wishes. If one repository is cracked, they all can be. Second, Phil lamented that none of this is very sexy and thus it's not large in the public's consciousness.

    But all of this reconnoitering among the technologists left my question still unanswered: why is the infrastructure segment of the media industry still disconnected from its end users? Perhaps because the middle-men and -women, the media vendors, are as benighted as anyone else.

    This was the impression I got from the second panel I attended, “TV & Interactivity: Evolving Content & Business Models: Content, Commerce, and Branded Entertainment.” It's not that the self-moderated panel (four interactive TV executives and one advertising researcher) didn't appreciate the environmental changes taking place. They do. But most of their employers don't.

    The four interactivists -- FOX Reality's Ed Skolarus, A&E's Jim Turner, Showtime's Chris Lucas, and NBCi's Jon Dakss -- were strong, proponents for the case that the established broadcast and cable media should embrace interactivity as a way of more closely aligning with their audiences. The examples they gave were really stunning, particularly NBCi's exciting interactive promotions that spice up some very uninteresting shows; Showtimes' portal art forms, employed most recently exemplified by the Dexter and Weeds websites; and Turner's videogames, prepared in collaboration with Kuma Reality Games, that will allow viewers to simulate historic battles depicted on The History Channel's “Shootout!”, debuting November 3. (I intend to download my share). The problem is that, for all their successes, these imaginative folks' work is hamstrung by enormous inter- and intra-organizational bureaucracies -- once again centering on who owns properties and who earns from their reuse -- and budgets that, in my opinion, limit their scope. Sure, as with any Internet offering, it's possible to measure various aspects of an interactive audience and its opinions. But the interactive audiences, though growing, remain barely representative of the larger TV-viewing population. Through lack of vigor in funding and promoting the interactive services, it remains distressingly disinterested in them.

    More broadband access is one solution that doesn't require voluntary media transformation; in fact, it's driving transformation, involuntarily. (FOX's Ed Skolarus predicted the emergence of virtual channels online in the next year.) Still, what's it all about? Lydia Loizides, VP for Consumer Experience in Interpublic Futures Marketing Group, disconcerted everyone with her unit's survey research that found that for all the hoorah, most people still haven't warmed to mobile media forms, let alone more sophisticated inter-media packages. As a result, a good deal of her time is spent brokering relationships among advertisers, media, and technology vendors in order to create a more hospitable business environment. Her goal is to realize potential alternative media synergies -- which she characterized as “permission-forming,” gaining viewers' acceptance -- especially in underexploited markets.

    Following on her comment, I speculated during Q&A that if the panel had been titled “Interactivity & TV,” rather than the other way around, it might have revealed a very different point of view. Interactivity would properly be seen as the potential growth market, rather than stagnating TV for which the demographics are declining. Obviously, that's why the TV moguls have brought all of these very bright people onboard (most of whom, BTW, were experienced, of middle-age, and not post-teenyboppers) -- to stem the bleeding. Yet few TV executives are making the necessary investments to find out how to grow this market and then support it. They hardly know their audience. No wonder the technologists are baffled.

    The third and last panel I attended on Day Two, “Venture Funding and Leadership in the Entertainment and Technology Space: Games, Wireless & Broadband, decisively tipped me toward my conclusion that the technology-media-entertainment circle is broken. The panel, moderated by spunky business consultant Joey Tamer, consisted of three well-known VCs, two investment bankers, and a corporate VC, all with strong histories of media investing -- Charles River Partners' George Zachary, ComVentures' Roland Van der Meer, Spark Capital's Todd Dagres, UBS' David Higley, Oppenheimer's Sun Jen Yung, and Intel's Mike Buckley. Although all trek to “Hollywood” occasionally, only Higley, so far as I know, lives and works in Southern California. In fact, This weak link in relations between those who fund the development of new media and those who will deploy it is only one of the impediments that afflicts the cutting-edge of media innovation. Another is the unspoken tension between the traditional investment community and the media industry -- the production houses and producers, not the product technologists trying to sell into the industry. Venture investing is big on risk reduction and high on reliable growth and earnings, two factors that make non-entertainment investors skeptical of working with the industry, where risk is abundant and growth/earnings are a binary deal: they briefly skyrocket before descending or, more often the case, vacillate and then plummet.

    As for coordination between the media industry and the investors whose money defines the media environment five or ten years out, it's a little thin. Roland Van der Meer cuttingly commented, “When it's hot, it's already not.” He meant that whatever is currently in the public's eye, or the eye of media executives, is already passe from an investment standpoint. MySpace, GooTube, and their ilk regardless of their merits, held little interest for investors for most of this year and generate less now. George Zachary told us: like the others, he's investing in “do-able, innovative Web services that haven't been done yet.” Taking George at his word (and knowing him well, I do), the results of most early-stage technology investments will manifest over the horizon, well beyond the state-of-the-art technology and services currently deployed or about to be. A cognitive gap separates them. It's not actually a disconnect. The VCs are pathfinding; but the medial industry will be able to follow only a few of the paths that the investors are breaking, and then only slowly. Which ones will they tread? Why, of course, the one's the users -- us -- want them to. And there's the rub. No one knows which they are.

    I respect investors. VCs, made had my last company, also visionary, possible. Investors, like designers, rapidly suck up and process information, maintaining real-time situation awareness about the sectors they care about. Their limited partners, large pension firms and the like are often less intuitive and sometimes exert pressures that result in unwise investments. Investment bankers and corporate VCs tend to be more conservative, but those in the media/entertainment domain are likewise more intuitive than their mundane counterparts. All successful investors -- those who survive -- develop a sixth sense about what will work and what won't based on many factors. They may write and speak prolifically about the orderly manner in which they do this, but the sagest among them will admit that experience, heuristics, and a hyper-sensitive business radar, plus a wise personal network, have more to do with their success than lessons learned in management school. In the same way that designers often turn up good designs without knowing why, smart VCs and other investors make guesses about the future that are right more often than wrong. Most of their portfolio companies fail, but usually from poor management, not misdirection. Trusting to investors, however, we're consigning our media future to a tiny handful of men and women whose personal judgments, no matter how informed, are a weak substitute for “what the people want, need, and will use.”

    One of the reasons for ferment on the leading edge of media invention is the fact that “too much capital is flooding the domestic market,” several of the panelists agreed, motivating investors to take chances that share characteristics with investments made during the Dot-Com Bubble. “Too many successful companies today are blood-soaked ticks that arbitrage services carried on others' infrastructure,” Todd Dagre sneered. “And I support them. That's capitalism. But it doesn't build a future.” Eventually the free-flowing capital will dry up and investors will retreat. The legacy they leave behind will be the companies that are tomorrow's new media. For now, there's a glut.

    Nevertheless, as David Higley pointed out, “Two years ago there were all these tech types at Digital Hollywood, and the media guys just watched from their offices down the street and smirked. Now it's changing. Suddenly it's all media types, and the tech guys are in the minority.” Is that good? Is that bad? Does it mean more on-target media in the future, or more of the same? Digital Hollywood brought the players together, once in a very long time. Whether it achieves the melding of visions and interests that remains Victor Harwood's goal remains to be seen. I know, as an experience designer, that I'd be a lot happier if there was a discernible common strategy among those creating our new, digital media environment. There's nothing like a road map to know where you're going. But there isn't one. For the foreseeable future, we're driving -- or being driven -- by the seat of our pants. Hand over your A Ticket and buckle up: we're on a Mr. Toad's Ride into the future!

    * * *
    I was proud to see at Digital Hollywood so many members of METal, the Media-Entertainment-Technology Alliance, actively participating on DH-LA's panels and in the audience. METal, a collegial, professional men's group based on LA's Westside, is an organization with possibly the greatest concentration of new-media experts anywhere. Its founder, Ken Rutkoskwi of leads one of the industry's greatest resources. Thank you, METal Men, it's an honor to be among you.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    October 24, 2006

    Digital Hollywood LA, Report No. 1 -- “Two Internets, Coexisting”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Digital Hollywood LA on its Preview Day has already proven a very interesting conference. Beyond it's “Hollywood” theme and flavor -- lots of beautiful, politely aggressive people pushing product -- unique among the Internet conferences, DH features a striking subtext. Here more than ever, the Internet Dichotomy separating those who see the Internet as a service from those who see it as a product, has become a yawning chasm. Having worked on both sides of the gap, and intending to again, I make no value judgments. I merely observe: two Internets coexist on the same global network, and which (if either) will be dominant remains to be seen.

    This was revealed most starkly on Preview Day, when I attended two panels that couldn't be more different.

    The first panel, “Citizen Media -- Blogs, PODs, Activist Media & Personalized News,” was one of four dealing with user-generated media. It was a contentious free-for-all on social and personal media, during which eight very sincere people (like AOL Weblogs Jason McCabe Calacanis, Reuters SVP Dean Wright, social media theorist and critic JD Lasica, and moderator and venture capitalist Shelly Palmer -- who did a great job adding fuel to the fire) debated such weighty topics as the pros and cons of the “wisdom of crowds,” collaborative journalism; the role of the professional editor in filtering scurrilous reporting; and those Siamese Twins, truth and opinion. It was taken for granted by most of the panelists that Google's AdSense advertising model is the most efficient way to fund citizen media, and perhaps the best indicator of media quality. As Palmer put it, there are three ways to fund anything: “with your money, with my money, or with someone else's money.” Advertising seems the best bet to conserve the first two.

    Calacanis repeatedly had the most trenchant comments, including two that will remain with me. First, he said, studies have repeatedly shown that bloggers practicing their often lonely craft are motivated by three things: “recognition, affiliation, and a distant third, compensation.” He also noted that “the key ingredient to successful expression on the Web is authenticity.”

    Perhaps, but authenticity had nothing to do with success for the panelists of the second event I attended, a lengthier show-and-tell, “Mobile Video & TV -- The Who's Who of Content.” The secret for these panelists was monetization, turning packaged media, sometimes user-authored, more often professionally produced, into revenue streams. The speakers were representatives at the top of the current mobile-media production and distribution pyramid: Sling Media, HELIO, Sony Pictures TV, Sprint, MobiTV, and a half-dozen others. One by one they promo'ed their fare, short videos intended to be seen on the tiny screens of a cellphone, iPod, or portable computer, presumably while wearing a headset. Some were lyrical, a couple poignant, but most were blaring, edgy, and trivial: try-to-hard humor, sports, rap, and all the other genres that appeal to pre-teens. The future of this panel's Internet will be very different from the first panels, in scale and direction.

    The most memorable comment was an observation by moderator Frank Chindamo of Fun Little Movies, an accomplished teller of five-years-too-soon, arrow-in-the-back pioneer stories, of which he has a admirable collection. (Thank goodness FLM has become successful in his lifetime!) He reported that studies have shown that the length of time a viewer spends with a production is directly proportional to the size of the screen on which its presented. This means, until Bluetooth and its descendants make it possible to point your cellphone at a big wallscreen and gain dimension, we are blessed that most future mobile productions will be short. Hallelujah.

    Pretty much for the entirety of the rest of DH, it's the monetization crowd that will rule the roost, in keeping with the conference's Hollywood half of its moniker. “Monitor, syndicate, and monetize” is a mantra I heard reported frequently.

    After the first panel, a senior participant with years of experience in media, online and offline, turned to me and asked, “So what's it all about?” I could almost hear him add, “Alfie?” “No one really knows,” I replied. “If you took 100 people from the four conferences on the Internet and communications that are taking place simulatenously right now, maybe we could assemble a mosaic. But this is Digital Hollywood, and this is what it's about, now.”

    * * *

    Regrettably, a personal project kept me away from the official Day One, but I'll be back for Days Two and Three. These promise actual insights as to what it may be all about in our multiple futures, online and off.

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    October 21, 2006

    Total Experience covers "Digital Hollywood LA" this week!

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    290x50LA06Fall.gifThis week I'll be covering Digital Hollywood L.A, courtesy of the event's founder and president ,Victor Harwood. (Thank you, Victor.) The annual entertainment-business extravaganza this year takes place Monday through Thursday, October 23 through 26, at the Loew's Hotel in Santa Monica, CA.

    Digital Hollywood is a veritable circus of activity serving up a cornucopia of ideas and insights about how traditional media can transform into new media, and how new media are changing the way we experience our world. I'll be blogging regular feeds from the event itself, keeping you informed.

    Check out Digital Hollywood LA's daily agendas. If there's an event you'd like me to cover or someone you'd like me to interview, send me an email pronto. I'll do my best to comply.

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    September 25, 2006

    Down Under, Anecdote brings storytelling to the business world

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Around the world, Down Under, a daring but charming young company, Anecdote is touting that most ancient of experience-design crafts: storytelling -- relabeled by Anecdote, “business narrative.” Led by experienced electics Andrew Rixon, Mark Schenk, and Shawn Callihan, the Australia-based company is pioneering the use of business narrative in Australia, Southeast Asia, and other (for North Americans) exotic realms. It's also reaching out to other Asian, European, and Western Hemisphere markets.

    Anecdote is offering several opportunities to delve into the business narrative experience:

    Toppic11. If you're in Australia in November, you can attend one of several storytelling and improv workshops led by the Anecdote team and American Izzy Gesell CSP, one of the first people to bring improvisational theater concepts to organizational life. The workshops are entitled -- take a deep breath -- “Change your Story, Change your World: How storytelling and improv theatre skills can help you honour your past, understand your present, and shape your future.” Izzy will be touring the Australian Eastern Seaboard with Anecdote, delivering this workshop in several commercial centers.

    Evolve2. You can get a taste of this workshop by participating with Anecdote (it's free!) in an EVOLVE ‘Leading Light’ webinar that Anecdote will conduct on Tuesday, October 10, at 10 AM Sydney Time. (For North Americans, the webinar takes place the preceding day, Monday, October 9, at 8 PM EST.) All you need to participate is a telephone. Having Web access will enhance the experience.

    Zahmoo3. Later this year, Anecdote is launching a new online service based on storytelling, Zahmoo. It's designed to help organisations big or small, public or private, government or non-government, to address the challenge of evaluating intangible, hard to measure projects. Rixon writes, “Some call it a story approach to organisational learning. Others know of it as Most Significant Change. We call it Zahmoo and we'll be releasing it live into the world later this year.” You can visit the Zahmoo website to register and be notified when the service launches. In the meantime, you can read more about it on Anecdote's Zahmoo blog.

    I visit the Anecdote website frequently. It's full of good ideas, case studies, white papers, and the proprietors' own insights -- all told in a charming, easy to assimilate manner, as you might expect of professional storytellers. (Something to think about for our too often buzzword-confounded design profession.)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    September 10, 2006

    Experiencing Chabad: a delightful fusion of tradition and techno-savvy

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Faf Template BannerI was directed to tonight's Chabad Telethon by Rabbi Yossi Marcus with whom, while living in San Mateo, I enjoyed a weekly debate on issues great and small. Tonight, Chabad commandeered local TV channels in several large markets and in five hours of music and testimonials, raised $5 million for its operation and good causes. Chabad, a religious community, is well-known for its aggressive encouragement to other Jews to live according to Biblical precepts. It also provides services for the disabled, elderly, children, and the less fortunate around the world, regardless of religious persuasion. For Chabad, every time a Jew does a Jewish thing, it's a “mitzvah,” a blessing, bringing the world one step closer to the arrival of the Messiah.

    So much for the theology. It's Chabad's use of social technology that amazes and delights -- one of the more paradoxical social phenomena I've experienced.

    MosesChabad is culturally bidextrous. One one hand, it's an Orthodox stream of European Judaism that emphasizes the mystical (like the Kabbalah) and the charismatic as pathways to knowledge. It dates from the 16th through the 19th Centuries, when most European Jews lived in the Pale of Settlement, a kind of mega-ghetto in between Poland and Russia. Chabad carries on an oral tradition that it claims has coexisted with more legalistic Judaic traditions since the origins of the Torah, the Bible's first five Books. Chabadists believe in the literal meaning of the Bible, separation of men and women during worship, and strict observance of biblical laws governing everything from eating Kosher to child-care. On the other hand, Chabad is one of the savviest users of modern media. Chabad's website, though complex, is wonderfully designed. For its telethon, Chabad not only secured the use of several TV stations -- it also leased two satellite transponders to provide simultaneous national coverage for the LA-produced event., Chabad's online rabbinical academy, provides almost instant chat answers to questions posed by Jews and non-Jews about biblical matters and Jewish culture (from a Chabad perspective).

    I'm not Orthodox. My personal philosophy is Taoism, which resists thinking in terms of the miraculous and views technology as merely a standing wave in the river of human invention. But tonight's telethon caught my attention and held it with a clever juxtaposition of tradition, music, testimonials, and high-tech. Plus very good intentions (uncommon to TV).

    Chabad's mix of orthodoxy and state-of-art technology, creating the "Chabad mystique," is one of the better unintended consequences of our information age.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings

    September 2, 2006

    August 29, 2006

    Design Council's RED Open House during the London Design Festival, Sept 22, 2006

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    RedRED, the (UK) Design Council's “do tank,” has published several papers about its groundbreaking projects on the Design Council's attractively redesigned website. RED's modus operandi is “Transformation Design,” which it deems a new design profession: “Creating future services with and for the public.” Projects include those on aging, democracy, sustainability, energy, open health, and citizenship. You can download RED's seminal paper on Transformation Design [PDF]. Authored by Colin Burns, Hilary Cottam (RED's director and 2005 Design Museum Designer of the Year), Chris Vanstone, and Jennie Winhall, the report begins...

    In June 2005 Hilary Cottam was awarded the title ‘Designer of the Year’ by the Design Museum, London, for her work redesigning prisons, schools and healthcare services. The public, who had overwhelmingly voted for Cottam, knew that they had seen a good thing.

    The design industry, however, was in uproar. Cottam is not a trained or traditional designer of ‘things’. Instead, she has applied a design approach to some of the UK’s biggest problems: prisoner re-offending rates, failing secondary schools and the rising burden of chronic healthcare. At the Design Council’s RED unit, where she is Director, she forms multidisciplinary teams – with designers working alongside policy makers – who use the design process as a means of collaborating with pupils, teachers, patients, nurses, prisoners and prison officers to develop new solutions.

    RED is applying design in new contexts. We use product, communication, interaction and spatial designers’ core skills to transform the ways in which the public interacts with systems, services, organisations and policies.

    RED is not alone in doing this type of work. A new design discipline is emerging. It builds on traditional design skills to address social and economic issues. It uses the design process as a means to enable a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders to collaborate. It develops solutions that are practical and desirable. It is an approach that places the individual at the heart of new solutions, and builds the capacity to innovate into organisations and institutions.

    This new approach could be key to solving many of society’s most complex problems. But the community of practice is small, and its emergence has already caused controversy. There are those who argue that it’s not design because it doesn’t look or feel much like design in the familiar sense of the word. Its outputs aren’t always tangible, and may be adapted and altered by people as they use them. It is a long way from the paradigm of the master- designer.

    Companies and public bodies are, however, increasingly faced with more complex and ambiguous issues. At the same time there is a growing desire among designers, both young and old, to tackle society’s most pressing problems.

    Through our work at the Design Council we are in a position to stimulate demand for new design-led approaches to complex problems, and to show that the potential market for a new design approach is clear. But is the design industry ready?

    Welcome AmmendRED's hosting an Open House at the Design Council on September 22, 2006, during the London Design Festival, September 15-30, 2006, an affair with its own heady themes and execution.

    For years, the Design Council has pioneered themes in the design profession that eluded higher profile design organizations. It deserves commendation and attention.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    IDEA 2006 in Seattle, Oct 23-24: Designing complex information spaces (in the real world)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    I received this from Peter Merholz, cofounder and partner at Adaptive Path and president of the Information Architecture Institute:

    Idea-2006The IDEA Conference, organized by the IA Institute, takes place October 23-24 in Seattle, WA.

    The event is a unique offering on the conference scene -- practitioners from a wide range of fields will present on the subject of designing complex information spaces. Disciplines represented include museum design, interaction design, information visualization, librarian, network guru, environmental design, architecture, design for mobile devices, and research. See the Program here.

    Seattle1This event is designed for those who recognize that design problems are larger than any one medium, channel, or device, and that in order to succeed in an increasingly complex world, we need to work with one another to understand how to address the situations people find themselves in today.

    Discounted registration ends September 15. Register soon!

    See you in Seattle!

    Peter and I had a super schmooze about IDEA 2006 (among other things) during his recent homecoming to Santa Monica. I highly recommend this event as one that encapsulates and expands upon many of the ideas expressed on TOTAL EXPERIENCE.

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    Mark Hurst's euroGEL happens in Copenhagen this week

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Gelman-Eurogel06euroGEL 2006 takes place in Copenhagen later this week, August 31-September 1. It'll be a joyous as well as informative event.

    GEL stands for Good Experience Live. Mark's made a career of helping to create good experiences and decrying bad ones. He explains why this first European GEL is being held in Copenhagen:

    I've always thought that good experience is a universal way of looking at the world - at design, technology, art, architecture, work, performance, and life - and not merely an American idea. To find out whether that idea is true, the Good Experience team now heads to Copenhagen, Denmark to run our very first Good Experience Live in Europe, or euroGel, this Thursday and Friday (Aug. 31 - Sept. 1).

    The question I usually get about euroGel (other than “what is Gel?” from people who haven't attended) is, “Why Copenhagen?”

    Here are a few of the reasons:

    - The Danish experience. As I wrote in June:

    Copenhagen 1Certain aspects of Danish culture capture the spirit of “good experience” - attention to quality, an attitude about life and work that's refreshingly free of cynicism and irony, respect fo the past and enthusiasm for the future - and just plain friendly people. (The Danes also happen to be very good at design, but I'm here because of the overall experience - including, yes, design as just one element.) ( )

    - We've made a number of friends and supporters already:

    - Denmark is the happiest place in the world:

    - It's very photogenic - here are my photos:

    Even if you can't be there, take a look at who will be joining the now global Good Experience community, both as attendees and as speakers:

    - Partial euroGel attendee list:

    - Full euroGel speaker list and schedule (and registration link):

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | The Practice of Experience Design

    August 9, 2006

    July 27, 2006

    Chronographic opening in Detroit celebrates the Public Clock

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    According to Michael Doyle on Archinect,

    Chrono2 Chronographic was dedicated in Detroit this morning [Monday, July 24], to celebrate the city's 305th birthday. Chronographic is a public time keeping machine (read: clock) designed and fabricated by o2 Creative Solutions. Located in the front window of the historic Himelhoch Building, the hands of Detroit's newest pedestrian-scale landmark are tubes of light which track across two large photo-murals on custom designed robotic carts.

    st-imier.jpg Public clocks once played a significant role in the experience of civic life. Everyone within earshot simultaneously experienced the same passage of time and organized their lives accordingly. Louis Mumford is perhaps the best known historian of science and technology to have examined the importance of public clocks. The personal wristwatch and now, digital clocks in every appliance, by eliminating this shared experience, have played a tacit role in the dissolution of community. Perhaps Chronographic can turn back the hands of time and help to restore Detroit's sense of community, hard pressed of late by changes in the global economy and the composition and spirit of Detroit itself.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Events and Happenings

    July 19, 2006

    HGTV's “Design Star” cable series: 21st-Century Rococo

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Hgtv Design StarFor me, interior design is to architecture what “styling” is to industrial design: spiffing up design objects that can't make it on their own. Stylists put fins on automobiles, and now big shiny wheels; interior designers engender “flair” or “adventure” or “personality” in built environments that otherwise are savagely dull or downright uninhabitable. So when the Home & Garden Channel -- HGTV, for non-channel surfers -- recently promo'ed “Design Star,” a new reality/competition show, I gagged. Not only does the show demean “design” (as does interior design generally), it presumes to identify “stars” among the practitioners of this 21st-Century Rococo.

    Extreme Makeover HomeHey, I'm not against reality shows dealing with human habitats: I find ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition entertaining and enlightening. Ty and his team of oddball carpenters and contractors philosophizing are fun and their banter is always grounded in the practical realities of home construction. Interior designers, on the other hand, play with fluff.

    Project Runway

    For fluff, I prefer to watch Bravo's Project Runway, where supermodel-producer Heidi Klum depicts the stressful business of high fashion in a way that makes me want to care for the aspiring fashion designers. At least “star's" meaning is appropriate for the runway, more akin to celebrity than to the important business of designing habitable, comfortable living spaces for human beings.

    Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    July 17, 2006

    “A Beautiful Conference”: SIGGRAPH 2006's creative schizophrenia

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Sig2006SIGGRAPH 2006: The 33rd International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, happens this year in Boston, MA, close to MIT and...? Well, sure, there's more happening in the Northeast than interminable rain, blistering heat, and high-humidity -- but Boston isn't the epicenter of computer graphics that LA, the longtime home of SIGGRAPH, has been and remains. (For those that do not know, SIGGRAPH is the Association for Computing Machinery's “Special Interest Group” -- SIG -- on “Computer Graphics” -- GRAPH. The ACM is the world's largest organization of computer-associated professionals, academics, organizations, and fans.)

    This year's SIGGRAPH is truly fascinating, in that its organizing committee has slipped the surly bonds of computer graphics to fly high with interaction design. SIGGRAPH's keynoter is Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering VP and Executive Designer responsible for Disney World's Animal Kingdom attractions, most recently Expedition Everest. (I like the DW website's request to “Choose Your Experience.” Very nice.) Themed attractions are interaction design raised to a very high level.

    The result is a creative schizophrenia that on the one hand thematically subordinates computer graphics (CG) to the creation of experiences (mainly interactive) -- the conference's main draw -- and on the other hand continues to focus, via expert panels, on the specifics of creating, producing, and selling/using CG technology and techniques. Don't get me wrong: I applaud this blurring of boundaries. CG is a computer-science concept. Sequestering CG from the broader human context within which it's being applied -- to increasingly holistic experiences, beginning with film but now expanding to full-blown experiences like Expedition Everest -- has always been an artificial distinction. Attendees noticed this in the mid-90s, when virtual reality exploded on SIGGRAPH's stage as the Next Big Thing. (It's once again the Next Big Thing, I happily note, now that Web hysteria is subsiding after a decade, “Web 2.0” notwithstanding.) Synaesthesia is the Bomb.

    Sigchi-Logo-Homepage(How does SIGCHI, the ACM group on Computer-Human Interaction, feel about this? SIGCHI's April conference came and went without much fanfare, that's for sure. Since SIGs compete for members and vendors to survive, does SIGGRAPH's poaching signal hard times ahead for SIGCHI -- or a merger?)

    TruckI'm sorry I can't be at this year's SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH is always a wonderful event, full of surprises, a lively gathering of unusually knowledgeable, talented, and adventurous people. Plus, the exhibition floor, at least for me, is far more interesting, involving, and provocative than such circus affairs as E3, which features nothing more than loud “ka-booms” and dead avatars. On this point, I draw SIGGRAPH attendees' attention to the Sandbox Symposium on videogames, colocated with SIGGRAPH 06, and organized by my friend and colleague, and noted CG authority, Alan Heirich (now with Sony). Have fun in the Sandbox...!

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    July 14, 2006

    June 29, 2006

    Good-bye Magic Mountain? "Mega-Monsters" vanquished by shopping malls.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Top Nav Logo MagicmountainThe impending sale or more likely, closure of one of LA's landmark entertainment venues, Six Flags Magic Mountain, is analyzed by Theme Park Insider's Robert Niles in "Good-bye Magic Mountain? Six Flags puts six parks up for sale or closure.". Faced with declining revenues and more advantageous land-development opportunities, Six Flags, Inc., a holding company, has put six of its properties on the block (including, besides Magic Mountain, Elitch Gardens in downtown Denver, Darien Lake near Buffalo,, Wild Waves and Enchanted Village outside Seattle, Six Flags Waterworld in Concord, and Six Flags Splashdown in Houston).

    D TatsuMagic Mountain is home to six world-class roller-coasters, including the new Tatsu, a so called “mega-monster” ride. What will happen to them if Magic Mountain is closed down remains to be seen. Their fate could be a bellwether of what lies ahead for other highly-engineered roller-coasters and experience rides. While they may be dismantled, finding new homes for them may prove a problem -- for exactly the same reason that Magic Mountain is imperiled: rising land prices in urban regions where theme parks generally are located.

    I'm reminded of Santa Monica's once-splended Pacific Ocean Park, which when it expired turned into an ugly ruin of rusty pilings a quarter-mile offshore. (No land-development possibilities here!) So far as I know, none of POP's rides survived its demise. Most were kitschy, but some, like the Flight to Mars and the Diving Bells, were unique experiences at the time, strangely immersive and up-close despite their apparent simplicity.

    In the case of Magic Mountain, land economics is in the driver's seat. The park in the past was plagued by gangs, deaths attributed to careless ride maintenance, and an over-emphasis on “youth culture” marketing -- ignoring the fact that families spend far more at theme parks than teenagers. Recently, however, Magic Mountain seemed to have gotten its act together. Although reports of closed rides and inadequate crowd control persist, the park's marketing is definitely more universal than before and the new rides, like Tatsu, are drawing crowds. But it's simply more profitable, as LA expands into Magic Mountain's neighborhood, to turn land in LA into homes and shopping malls. So extreme experiences will give way to mundane ones. Such is life in our Age of Hyper-Commerce.

    Niles offers this tragic observation:

    It'd be ironic if Magic Mountain were sold off for real estate development, given that real estate development is the reason the park was built in the first place. Magic Mountain was not always a Six Flags park. Its builder and original owner was the Newhall Land Company, the developer that built many of the communities around the park. Newhall Land thought it needed a big attraction to lure families over the pass from the San Fernando Valley into the Santa Clarita. So it contracted SeaWorld's designers and built Magic Mountain. How ironic, now, that the park might fall victim to the success of the real estate market it was built to inspire.

    More homes, more homes!

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    June 25, 2006

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    February 22, 2006

    Big Changes at experience-design Mecca, Disney Imagineering

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    The departure of Marty Sklar as head of Disney Imagineering, a Mecca of applied experience design, signals the end of an era, writes LA Times staff writer Richard Verrier. In “Disney Legend Steps Down,” Verrier notes that Sklar's exit was precipitated by Disney's acquisition of Pixar and the appointment of Pixar creative chief John Lasseter as chief creative officer of both studios and more importantly, head designer of Disney's theme parks.

    Disney Logo TcPixarlogo

    Sklar, widely regarded as one of Disney's old guard, “was the Jiminy Cricket for the organization,” according to former Disney executive James Cora. Sklar's credited with “Mickey's 10 Commandments” for creating great themed attractions like the new Mission Space.

    Sklar was a jack of all Disney trades: he managed Disney's forays into ship cruises, interactive TV, idealized residential communities, and the redesign of New York's Times Square. He even defended former Disney CEO Michael Eisner when Eisner was under attack by everyone. Sklar's now charged with recruiting new talent and maintaining Disney's institutional memory.

    “Disney CEO Bob Iger got it right,” said one of my friends at Pixar. “He sees where things are headed.” A cryptic comment, indeed.

    It'll be interesting to see how Lasseter and his Pixar team, with a sterling performance in the 2D world of animation, will translate their vision into the 3D world of theme parks where audiences aren't constrained by theater seats or couches, their eyes locked on a flat screen.

    I hope to offer an interview with Lasseter, to see where he's going with this in the future. What do you think?

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | The Practice of Experience Design

    February 18, 2006

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    November 22, 2004

    "The Future of Digital Product Design," SF, Dec. 8

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    From Pabini Gabriel-Petit (, IxDG Face-to-Face Co-Coordinator:

    IxDG, the AIGA Center for Brand Experience, AIGA-ED, and BayDUX are co-sponsoring an event on December 8:

    The Future of Digital Product Design

    Dirk Knemeyer will speak about the present and future of digital product design. Following Dirk's presentation, professionals working in various aspects of digital product design will participate in what should be a lively panel discussion on this topic. In addition to Dirk Knemeyer,panelists include Neil Day, Pabini Gabriel-Petit, James Leftwich, and Luke Wroblewski. Frank Ramirez will moderate the discussion.

    Every attendee will receive a free copy of the newly published book, The Dictionary of Brand, from the AIGA Center for Brand Experience.

    For further details, including time and place, please go to the BayDUX website.

    If you'll be in the San Francisco Bay Area on December 8, we hope to see you there.

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    November 16, 2004

    Midwest cross-organizational UX event, Nov. 18, Minneapolis

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    AIGA logo .jpg(Reposted from AIGA Experience Design mailist list)

    Please join representatives from AIGA ED, UPA, and MiMA for a special happy hour with Peter Merholz and Marc Rettig. This free event is sponsored by AIGA Experience Design and the Carlson Marketing Group.

    November 18, 6-8 PM at 222 Event Centre, 222 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN.

    Open to everyone, espeically those who develop, design, research, and validate products and services that require software or digital life: information architects, HCI experts, usability engineers, interaction designers, interactive designers, graphic designers, industrial designers, and others.

    [I think experience designers should attend, also, as the event's named after their profession. Why is it so hard to say "experience designer"? -- Bob]

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    October 22, 2004

    Saffo talks in Palo Alto

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    Posted by Steve Portigal

    The dynamic and compelling Paul Saffo is presenting The Case of the Blind Venetians as part of the PARC Forum Series on Innovation in Palo Alto on October 28.

    It is fashionable, but premature to write off the future of the US info tech sector. The dot.bomb collapse and offshoring are quite real, but hints of the path forward are hidden in the history of Silicon Valley and the tech sector. And the secret is this: innovation advances from failure to failure, not from success to success. The time has come to understand and embrace this hidden source of the US' technological dynamism, lest we end up like Venice in it's last century, trapped by old habits and sinking beneath the sea that once sustained it's economic and innovation miracle.

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    October 20, 2004

    Frontier Town's Demise: Who Needs a Past?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    frontier.span.jpgFrontier Town, in Essex County, New York -- an attempt from the 50s to recreate the Old West in the Old East -- has closed down ("Western Theme Park Turns Into a Ghost Town," New York Times, Oct. 16. Frontier Town was typical of recreational attractions scattered across America, re-creations of imagined Golden Ages in the nation's past: Williamsburg, Plymouth Rock, Tombstone, Frontier Town, Disney's Frontierland, etc. Said Keith Delafrange, the last owner of Frontier Town, who still lives nearby, "I'm 59 years old and to have played cowboys and Indians for a living isn't the worst thing in the world."

    da_1_b.JPGFrontier Town relied more on the personal enthusiasm and performances of its cowboys and Indians, dance hall madams and saloon keepers, and the Indians attacking the railway, than it did on SFX. In fact, the horses, wagons, and guns were real, although the guns were loaded with blanks.

    Of course, America had no Golden Age -- even in the times of the Native Americans, intertribal warfare, draught and starvation, and disease created tension -- but it's necessary in this land of constant immigrants to have a National Mythos that brings everyone together. In the past, we used the past as a launching pad for our dreams about the future. But the American long view is increasingly misty these days, unclear to most, terrifying to many. And without a future, who needs a past, even one so enthusiastically re-enacted?

    Credits: Poster on eBay, Photograph from NY TIMES

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    October 13, 2004

    "User Experience: Why Do So Many Organizations Believe They Own It?" -- Part II

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    baychilogo.giflogoScreen.gifLast night's meeting was tremendous. Large turnout (200+), lots of exchange, and much to think about.

    Best quote of the night, from Mark Rolston, SF-IDSA and Frog Design, describing how industrial designers plan for the product experience: "We aim for a singularity, a point, where the product, the user, and the designer all come together." I'll publish a fuller report later today.

    This was an important undertaking. Kudos to organizers Richard Anderson and Rashmi Sinha, keynote interviewee Don Norman who set the tone, and sponsors BayCHI and the fledgling UXnet.

    Once a year is too long to wait for us all to get together. I'm volunteering right now to help with the next one.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    October 11, 2004

    TUESDAY: Bay Area "User Experience" Gathering, Tuesday, Oct 12, Stanford U.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    This looks to be a can't-miss-it event -- the first of its type to my
    knowledge -- bringing together the entire Bay Area UX (user experience)
    community in one place. I hope I'll see you there! -- Bob

    (Click on the link below for the full information on the event.)


    Don Norman and a panel of representatives of UX organizations (Rashmi Sinha & Richard Anderson, moderators/organizers). Tuesday, October 12, Stanford's Kresge Auditorium. 6:30-7:45 pm–Socializing, 7:45-9:45 pm–Program.

    Years ago, Don Norman coined the term, "user experience," which has since become a prominent label for a multidisciplinary field. But what did Don intend the term to mean? What is "user experience," really? Why do so many professional societies believe they own it? Why do so many organizations in a business believe they own it? Don Norman tackles these and related questions in a conversation with Richard Anderson.

    A panel discussion with representatives from multiple UX organizations (UPA, SIGCHI, AIfIA, IxDG, SIGGRAPH, STC, AIGA Experience Design, HFES, IDSA, and UXnet) will follow. The panel, moderated by Rashmi Sinha, will explore the goals and interests of each organization, and how they come together to form the mosaic that is UX.

    Special Networking Hour

    An opportunity for User Experience professionals to network and learn about participating UX organizations (AIfIA, UPA, BACHFES, IDSA, SF & Silicon Valley SIGGRAPH, BayCHI, IxDG, and STC), complete with food and drinks. Each organization will have an information table and representatives at hand to answer questions.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    October 1, 2004

    WAVE REPORT on Display Interfaces Symposium 2004.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    In the current edition (#0438, Oct 1, 2004) of the WAVE Report, Publisher-Editor John Latta offers a thorough report on and discussion of the Video Electronics Standards Association's Display Interfaces Symposium 2004 held in the Bay Area last week. I've reprinted John's observations in full (click on the "Continue reading" link just below.) I highly recommend visiting the WAVE Report website when this issue is published online, to garner Latta insights on other techno-societal issues.

    John, BTW, has been publishing the WAVE Report since the early 1990s, in one form or another. It's one of those cognate newsletters that helps us to bound experience design, but doesn't get into it per se. Think of the WAVE Report as a technological lighthouse topped with the flapping arms of a large societal semaphore.

    ...continue reading.

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    August 30, 2004

    Innovation Convergence, Minneapolis, Sept 26-29.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Innovation Convergence 10 looks like the place to be this September. Featuring an all-star cast of innovators, including our own new co-author, Tom Mulhern.

    One question: why do these innovation conferences always cost upwards of $2,000 (in this case, $3,000 with workshops)? Distilled wisdom dispensed by experts is one thing, but an audience distilled on the basis of wealth -- that's not innovative, it's pure showbiz.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    August 16, 2004

    Call for Papers (AIGA): "The Sensual in Contemporary Design"

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson


    Whither The Touch?

    The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is pleased to share this call
    for papers. This call is for the AIGA special session of the College Art Association annual conference in Atlanta 2005.

    The AIGA is seeking papers that address the question, "What is the place of the sensual in contemporary design processes and education?" The sense of touch is evident in the results of consumer product design and has been documented by the exhibition catalogs of the first two National Design Triennials, “Design Culture Now” and “Skin."

    This session seeks to investigate how the sensual is currently integrated into the areas typically associated with the process of creation in design, and, in what way is the sensual evident among the design disciplines in digital internetworked modes / environments of creation?

    Further, is there a role for the sensual in pedagogy where digital, instrumental training occupies ever larger proportions of classroom time? Your responses are sought across the spectrum of design disciplines, and are sought of practitioners, educators, theoreticians and critics.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    Next GEL Conference scheduled for 2005.

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson


    Mark Hurst has announced the next GEL (Good Experiences in Life) Conference , scheduled for April 28-29, 2005, in New York City. According to Mark,

    "GEL is the only conference of its kind, focusing on experience itself, rather than on taxonomies or frameworks that only indirectly relate to experience. We all know a good experience when we see it; at GEL you'll hear the user's perspective, since (designers or not) we're all on the receiving end of experience most of the time.

    "GEL brings together over a dozen eclectic speakers who are experts in a number of fields. Internet-related topics (on e-commerce, research, journalism) will be interwoven with offline topics (photography, performance art, education) to create a day focused on experience in all its forms."

    GEL's special. Don't miss it. Sign up now and get a discount.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings