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By (February 1, 2009) (,,,)

There are always intentions behind design. Some are less careful about what the objects or spaces designed portray, and in many cases the intentions don’t come through as they should and the user goes in another direction than intended.

The first thing I thought about while reading through the links is the iPod. It modified our behavior, as consumers of music. It made the object of the cd useless and changed the way we interact with the actual product and even think of it. Suddenly it wasn’t about the CD anymore, the music became something to be extracted from it, almost freed from it’s physical object. The songs became files, and easily shared. It was possible to attempt to make platforms for sharing them and to interact in an entirely different way with our music. It became much more portable. With this came the possibility of buying single tracks. The song became the object, instead of the CD. Album artwork had to adapt to this new medium and took a different role in the life of the music consumer.  It completely changed the market for music.

In my own work, the design of the iphone app, remmbr, is meant to be persuasive. I find myself often finding things i find it useful for. Recently i saw a poster of an exhbit i would like to go and see. An image of the poster with a map saving the location for me would be great! There’s another app that is doing something similar, it is called Whrrl. In it, you can rate places (restaurants, bars and such) and then share those ratings with your friends. While I liked some of the things they’ve done, I think that in remmbr, it is all about the object you want to remember and also the physical space. The object can be a poster or a bottle of wine or simply an image of a person in a place you’d like to remmember. But just recommendations by your friends, rating every possible restaurant, doesn’t really capture me (of course, i am biased!). Similarly to Dodgeball, the data you collect can be given other uses.

Google maps on the iphone is pretty persuasive. With the level of detail and the possibility of walking/ driving or public transportation directions, they have me giving them a daily recount of everywhere i go! I don’t particularly intend to stop this persuasion, it is just too useful, but I do think they have a lot of info on the places i go. Their disguise for all this collection of data is simply their service. This is info that perhaps the phone company has access to as well, looking at how much time i spend on the different cellphone towers, but Google maps has more specific ideas o where I go since I tell them! Signing into the Google browser has similar consequences. In this case they also disguise it with services they provide while you’re signed into your account. Then they use my serch terms as optimizers of their system, figuring out what adds to use on me and also to continue to improve their service as they draw conclusions from my searches. Another use of this technique is in the programs to identify images based on users naming them. There it is a service to them, not just a byproduct of the info I give away by searching with their engine.

While on this subject, browsers are pretty persuasive to get us to use google, when they include it as a part of the interface. We don’t even need to see the main google page anymore, it’s always right there so why would we bother looking up another browser? I guess this is also an example of defaulting. Metro cards machines use this as well, they dont really make it easier for you to reuse the card, it’s the same as getting a new one. They decided to tackle this problem by putting a small deposit on the card, extra cents that stay behind when the card runs out of credit but maybe they could also help change behavior by making it a default option to re-use your card. I find it strange that the option in the screen says “Metro card” and not refill your card or something that is more clear and also makes us want to keep using OUR card instead of defaulting us to a new piece of plastic.


February 1, 2009