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  • Review: What Things Do (Part 6)
    bleak view one step further noting that Western societies are mostly built upon this background of technology and consumption Technology hooks up seamlessly with a specific constellation of ideas about freedom equality and self realization By making ever more goods available technology makes it possible for human beings to realize their desires without imposing a content on how they go about it Liberal democracy Borgmann writes is enacted as technology We need to consider democracy not just as a political system but as a set of institutions which do aim to make everything available to everybody Technology while making it seemingly possible for everyone to have the good life also radically shapes the world to make that goal possible in order to make the device paradigm work The liberal ideal of free self realization appears in practice to involve mass consumption and work in order to make more consumption possible In fact Borgmann claims liberal democracies rely on technology to keep them stable The promise that technology will bring prosperity to all through availability has prevented social unrest because the lower and middle classes acquire the perspective that tomorrow they will wake up to what the rich have today To obtain a true good life Borgmann feels we need an alternative to to technological consumerism yet one that still exists within the device paradigm To which he offers focal things and focal practices Focal things draw together human involvements things that invite engagement with themselves and what they make possible and that concern things greater than just ourselves These focal things create focal practices sponsor discipline and skill which are exercised in a unity of achievement and enjoyment of mind body and the world of myself and others and in a social union Focal things and practices are meaningful and not necessarily efficient like a machine would be Verbeek uses the example of a marathon no one runs one because it is more efficient than a car Focal practices aren t the most convenient path to reach a goal but are more about the realization of a goal Verbeek justifiably takes Borgmann to task for his stark view of technology He notes that Borgmann does not see that technology can not only reduce engagment but also amplify it Technology not only gives rise to disengaged consumption but also to new possibilities for engagement Technology indeed makes things available but the lack of human involvement in the process does not mean that humans are not involved in the product Reduction of one form of involvement usually goes hand in hand with the amplification of other forms Looking at involvement Verbeek contrasts Borgmann s views then with Latour s from the previous chapter Involvement can be direct or indirect By encouraging particular actions invitation and discouraging others inhibition some forms of involvement are called forth and others are suppressed or excluded Verbeek rightly notes that devices themselves instead of being simply machinery for delivery of commodities can also invite involvement both with

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  • Review: What Things Do (Part 2)
    that which is done with them What makes a tool or piece of equipment what it is is that it makes possible a practice But a remarkable feature of the ways tools are present is that they withdraw from or hide in as it were the relation between human beings and their world Generally human beings do not focus on the tool or piece of equipment they are using but on the work in which they are engaged Verbeek goes on to say that The more attention that a tool or piece of equipment requires the more difficult it is to do something with it How true this is and we see this all the time in interaction design The more users fumble around with a lousy piece of software looking for a hidden feature that shouldn t be hidden say the more their task is disrupted When a tool is being used Heidegger refers to it as readiness to hand But when the tool itself becomes apparent and users have to focus on it Heidegger calls this present at hand When a tool becomes present at hand the relationship between its user and the world revealed through it is disrupted The in order to of tools shapes the world Tools call for a particular way of working which discloses the world in a particular way Thus tools are decidedly not neutral as Jaspers claimed but instead suggest ways of making the raw material of the world useful Tools refer to not only what is made with them but also to their future user What makes a useful object useful Heidegger observes that a useful object is present as such when it withdraws from our attention in favor of the work being accomplished To this Heidegger now adds that a

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  • Review: What Things Do (Part 3)
    and world constitute each other Reality arises in relations as do the human beings who encounter it For Ihde Things are not neutral intermediaries between humans and the world but rather mediators they actively mediate this relation Ihde has a term for this technological intentionality by which he means that technologies have a certain directionality an inclination or trajectory that shapes the ways in which they are used The example is writing People write differently with a quill pen typewriter or word processor T he technologies in question promote or evoke a distinct way of writing Verbeek notes Technologies have their own implicit user s manual Things can only be understood through the relationship that people have to them Technologies have no identity outside of their use and can only be understood in this context The same technology can be put to different uses in different contexts Ihde calls this multistability A single technology can be stable in multiple ways in multiple contexts In part 4 What role does technology play in how people interpret reality Originally posted at Sunday November 19 2006 Comments 0 Trackback 0 Previous Entry Review What Things Do Part 2 This is part two of a review of the book What Things Do Philosophical Reflections on Technology Agency and Design Read part 1 for the overview Recent Entries New Book Designing Gestural Interfaces An Interaction Designer s Thanksgiving Missing Britpop Presentation Gaming the Web Using the Structure of Games to Design Better Web Apps Connecting07 Rethinking Product Design Why We Can t Wait Connecting07 Medical Device Design 10 Things You Need to Know Connecting07 Brand Design and the Brain An Open Letter to the Producers of the new Bionic Woman Review The Reflective Practitioner Part IV Presentations on Slideshare Archives November 2007 October 2007 September

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  • Review: What Things Do (Part 4)
    plays itself out Mediation for Ihde is indissolubly linked with a transformation of perception Naked perception and perception via artifacts are never completely identical Mediation always strengthens specific aspects of the reality perceived and weakens others Verbeek calls this amplification and reduction He writes Mediation always strengthens specific aspects of the reality perceived and weakens others Ihde has a much more ambivalent attitude towards technology than does Jaspers or Heidegger discussed earlier Our technologies don t control us nor do we control them Instead humans are intertwined with them and visa versa Technologies can be extremely transformative but this is because of their position within the culture already not from any imposition from the outside As mentioned in chapter 3 artifacts are always related to the humans who use them This is what gives them stability and what Ihde calls multistability Artifacts can have different meanings in different contexts and in deed different cultures can lead to the development of radically different technologies Technology has turned much of human culture into pluriculture Ihde argues Thanks to the media we are confronted with many other cultures than our own it effects an exchange of cultures on a daily basis This isn t multiculturalism instead it s about being able to pick and choose from the fragments of cultures all around us and using our compound eye place them into a mosaic like framework in which we are able to see several different ways at one time But it s not all positive Verbeek writes technologies also create a decision burden because of the many new choices they make possible It is less and less obvious that events or occurrences unfolding now will forever remain what they are because ever more things that hitherto seemed inescapable are now falling under human control

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  • Review: What Things Do (Part 5)
    deeply intertwined Objects aren t simply neutral objects but mediators that actively contribute to the ways in which ends are realized Latour calls this technical mediation and it has several facets Translation Technology can translate a program of action Verbeek uses a gun as an example a gun can translate the action of taking revenge into a new action of shooting someone Both the gun and the person change in the mediated situation they are transformed in their relation to one another Composition Mediation always involves several actants that jointly perform an action Thus action is simply not a property of humans but an association of actants Latour calls this composition Reversible Black Boxing The blending of humans and objects in a network is usually invisible a black box but it can be untangled if say an object in the network breaks revealing all the interconnected relationships Delegation and Scripts This is the most important facet of mediation especially for designers Latour uses the example of a speed bump to illustrate this concept Engineers inscribe the program of action they desire to make drivers slow down in concrete the speed bump Thus not only is it a transformation of a program of action but also a change of the medium of expression The task of a policeman getting people to slow down is delegated to the speed bump This creates a curious combination of presence and absence an absent agent such as a designer can have an effect on human behavior in the here and now notes Verbeek Latour says we should think of technology as congealed labor that can in Verbeek s words supply their own user s manuals They co shape the use that is made of them Latour calls these built in actions or behaviors that an

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  • Books | O Danny Boy | Page 3
    role do things play in human life and action To answer this the author Peter Paul Verbeek looks closely at the philosophy of Bruno Latour particularly his actor network theory Verbeek writes For Latour reality cannot be adequately understood if humans and non humans are treated asymmetrically The two cannot be had separately but are always bound up with each other in a network of relations Only by virtue of this network are they what they are and can they do what they do The actor network theory basically states that agency the ability to act isn t limited to humans alone Objects can also act when in relationship a network with other actors or actants Things don t have an essence until they are part of a network although they do have existence In a network there is no real difference between things and humans Both only are present and have meaning from their relationship with other nodes human and non human on the network Actors can be as much human as non human and networks are not structures but relations in which translations take place of entities that assume relations with each other Verbeek writes The separation of things and humans subjects and objects in Enlightenment thinking is becoming less and less believable We re now surrounded by things that straddle the boundary between human and non human embryos expert systems digital machines sensor equipped robots hybrid corn data banks psychotropic drugs whales outfitted with radar sounding devices gene synthesizers audience analyzers and so on That is many of the things that interaction designers have to create and work with every day In Latour s view humans and objects are deeply intertwined Objects aren t simply neutral objects but mediators that actively contribute to the ways in which ends are realized Latour calls this technical mediation and it has several facets Translation Technology can translate a program of action Verbeek uses a gun as an example a gun can translate the action of taking revenge into a new action of shooting someone Both the gun and the person change in the mediated situation they are transformed in their relation to one another Composition Mediation always involves several actants that jointly perform an action Thus action is simply not a property of humans but an association of actants Latour calls this composition Reversible Black Boxing The blending of humans and objects in a network is usually invisible a black box but it can be untangled if say an object in the network breaks revealing all the interconnected relationships Delegation and Scripts This is the most important facet of mediation especially for designers Latour uses the example of a speed bump to illustrate this concept Engineers inscribe the program of action they desire to make drivers slow down in concrete the speed bump Thus not only is it a transformation of a program of action but also a change of the medium of expression The task of a policeman getting people to slow down is delegated to the speed bump This creates a curious combination of presence and absence an absent agent such as a designer can have an effect on human behavior in the here and now notes Verbeek Latour says we should think of technology as congealed labor that can in Verbeek s words supply their own user s manuals They co shape the use that is made of them Latour calls these built in actions or behaviors that an object invites scripts The perception of which I would add are what we designers after Gibson and Norman call affordances In the next installment what role does technology have in obtaining the good life 21 November 2006 Dan Leave a comment Review What Things Do Part 4 This is part four of a review of the book What Things Do Philosophical Reflections on Technology Agency and Design Read part 1 for the overview Chapter 4 A Material Hermeneutic continues where chapter 3 left off examining the work of philosopher Don Ihde This chapter s central question is What role do technological artifacts play in the manner in which human beings interpret reality Ihde according to Peter Paul Verbeek the author takes as his basis this premise Technologies help shape the way in which reality is present to human beings not only how they perceive the world but also the frameworks in which they interpret it Ihde outlines three ways that human beings relate to technological artifacts Relation of Mediation The human isn t directly relating to the world but only through the artifact For example when we wear glasses or watch television There are two types of mediated relations The first is embodiment relations in which technology is part of the experience and thus broadens our physical senses such as the wearing of eyeglasses The second is hermeneutic relations in which the artifact isn t transparent The example of this is a thermometer which presents a representation of something humans can t otherwise perceive the temperature Alterity Relation A relationship not to the world but to the artifact itself for instance when we play a video game or operate a machine Background Relation When technology shapes our relation to reality but remains hidden For instance the heating system in our houses Technology has two roles to play in how humans interpret reality a direct role and an indirect role The direct role is about the mediation of sensory perception being able to experience more and thus have more ways for reality to be interpreted The indirect way is about the frameworks of interpretation that technology provides Verbeek writes Humans and the world they live in are the products of technological mediation and not just the poles between which the mediation plays itself out Mediation for Ihde is indissolubly linked with a transformation of perception Naked perception and perception via artifacts are never completely identical Mediation always strengthens specific aspects of the reality perceived and weakens others Verbeek calls this amplification and reduction He writes Mediation always strengthens specific aspects of the reality perceived and weakens others Ihde has a much more ambivalent attitude towards technology than does Jaspers or Heidegger discussed earlier Our technologies don t control us nor do we control them Instead humans are intertwined with them and visa versa Technologies can be extremely transformative but this is because of their position within the culture already not from any imposition from the outside As mentioned in chapter 3 artifacts are always related to the humans who use them This is what gives them stability and what Ihde calls multistability Artifacts can have different meanings in different contexts and in deed different cultures can lead to the development of radically different technologies Technology has turned much of human culture into pluriculture Ihde argues Thanks to the media we are confronted with many other cultures than our own it effects an exchange of cultures on a daily basis This isn t multiculturalism instead it s about being able to pick and choose from the fragments of cultures all around us and using our compound eye place them into a mosaic like framework in which we are able to see several different ways at one time But it s not all positive Verbeek writes technologies also create a decision burden because of the many new choices they make possible It is less and less obvious that events or occurrences unfolding now will forever remain what they are because ever more things that hitherto seemed inescapable are now falling under human control or at least influence through technological developments Having children for instance is no longer something that simply befalls us but has become a conscious decision Technology creates more instances and kinds of choices people have to make In part 5 Bruno Latour on agency Can things act on their own 20 November 2006 Dan Leave a comment Review What Things Do Part 2 This is part two of a review of the book What Things Do Philosophical Reflections on Technology Agency and Design Read part 1 for the overview Chapter 2 The Thing About Technology takes a look at technology and objects from the point of view of philosopher Martin Heidegger This is a meaty chapter that is nearly a quarter of the book so my summary is going to be inadequate and for you philosophy scholars out there probably wrong I m a designer not a philosopher But bear with me since I think there s a lot interaction designers can get from Heidegger despite his Nazi leanings It s almost obligatory to mention that when discussing Heidegger According to Peter Paul Verbeek the author Heidegger believed that what a thing does can only be understood by examining the thing itself as a physical object that plays a role in the world For Heidegger and unlike Karl Jaspers technology is not a means to an end nor is it a human activity Instead it is a way of revealing the world Revealing is how all reality presents itself to human beings in a specific way and always related to human beings What gets revealed is what is available to be controlled by humans Technology reveals the standing reserve of reality the storehouse of available raw materials I have to note at this point that there is much about this philosophy that makes my skin crawl Heidegger is the kind of guy who looks at a tree and sees firewood But moving on Heidegger on things is much less creepy For Heidegger things in the form of tools are how human beings relate to the world Thus tools can only be understood in their relationship to human beings And what makes a tool a tool It has to be something useful From the perspective of praxis a useful thing is something in order to it is useful helpful serviceable tools and equipment never exist simply in themselves but always refer to that which is done with them What makes a tool or piece of equipment what it is is that it makes possible a practice But a remarkable feature of the ways tools are present is that they withdraw from or hide in as it were the relation between human beings and their world Generally human beings do not focus on the tool or piece of equipment they are using but on the work in which they are engaged Verbeek goes on to say that The more attention that a tool or piece of equipment requires the more difficult it is to do something with it How true this is and we see this all the time in interaction design The more users fumble around with a lousy piece of software looking for a hidden feature that shouldn t be hidden say the more their task is disrupted When a tool is being used Heidegger refers to it as readiness to hand But when the tool itself becomes apparent and users have to focus on it Heidegger calls this present at hand When a tool becomes present at hand the relationship between its user and the world revealed through it is disrupted The in order to of tools shapes the world Tools call for a particular way of working which discloses the world in a particular way Thus tools are decidedly not neutral as Jaspers claimed but instead suggest ways of making the raw material of the world useful Tools refer to not only what is made with them but also to their future user What makes a useful object useful Heidegger observes that a useful object is present as such when it withdraws from our attention in favor of the work being accomplished To this Heidegger now adds that a useful object can only be useful when it is reliable When it wears out when for instance the sole of a shoe wears away the useful object loses its reliability and therefore its usefulness It changes over time into a mere thing According to Heidegger therefore reliability is the way of being for equipment In part 3 Do technologies have an agenda 18 November 2006 Dan Leave a comment Review What Things Do Part 1 This is part one of a review of the book What Things Do Philosophical Reflections on Technology Agency and Design Because this is a book steeped in philosophy reading it isn t going to be for everyone In truth parts were tough going for me But it contains a lot of juicy insights as to what the relationship of people to objects and people to technology is and I think it has a lot to offer interaction and industrial designers in particular So I ll be reviewing the book and explaining its ideas over a series of blog posts this being the first What Things Do sets out to establish a new way of thinking about the role objects play in human life and activities and what effect objects have on human existence To do this the author Peter Paul Verbeek begins by looking at how several philosophers have thought about this issue in the past He starts with Karl Jaspers existential approach to technology Jaspers take on technology can be boiled down to this technology alienates people from their authentically human selves turning them us into accessories of mass culture As Verbeek describes it technology suffocates human existence Although technology for Jaspers is seen as neutral more on this in a second the byproduct of technology plus population growth is to turn human beings into cogs in a vast machine The human race is utterly dependent on technology now to survive and to maintain that technology is a tremendous burden Technology creates more needs than it fulfills and simply the operation and maintenance of the machines that keep us alive requires huge organizations and extensive bureaucracies Everything must be planned and coordinated with everything else Verbeek writes The tightly organized society that results according to Jaspers itself has the character of a machine Jaspers calls this technological society that is the world we live in now The Apparatus and it increasingly determines how human beings carry out their daily lives Human beings stop becoming individuals but are instead interchangeable parts in The Apparatus With this bleak picture of technology it s hard to grasp that Jaspers although thinks of technology as essentially neutral Technology follows no particular direction only human beings can give it direction it is in itself neutral and requires guidance It is in no position to give itself ends and is only a means for realizing ends provided by human beings While Jaspers claims that technology is not an end unto itself he knows that people often view it as such allowing it to function as an independent and menacing power while not being so itself Human beings need to reassert control over technology and not make it the goal lest everything that can be done technologically is Another interesting note for designers is that Jaspers says that the only way to really control technology is not think about the problem in a purely intellectual way because that will only lead to solving technical problems and not the real problem The only way to solve human problems to turn general situations into personal situations to make the problem ours and to take on personal responsibility We need to recover a sense of responsibility for technology When we are responsible for technology failure to act becomes a choice we make Verbeek notes that the idea that technology is neutral is an unusual one in philosophy Most philosophies of technology claim the opposite that technology is decidedly not neutral and does much more than simply achieve the goals for which they were designed Indeed says Verbeek T echnologies reshape the very ends that we use them to reach a technology does much more than realize the goal towards which it has been put it always helps to shape the context in which it functions altering the actions of human beings and the relation between them and their environment Verbeek goes on to say that a serious flaw in Jaspers thinking is the separation of technology from culture As he gets into later in the book technology and culture are deeply entwined Human beings aren t sovereign with respect to technology but are rather inextricably interwoven with it In part two Heidegger answers the question What makes a thing useful Jump ahead to parts 2 3 4 5 6 and 7 16 November 2006 Dan 2 Comments Review The Evolution of Useful Things Henry Petroski s The Evolution of Useful Things is ostensibly about how things like paperclips and zippers came into being And sure that stuff is in the book But what is most interesting for me and probably for other designers as well is his debunking of the design dictum Form Follows Function replacing it instead with Form Follows Failure Petroski looks at the diversity of objects 131 knives in the Montgomery Ward catalog say and asks Why What underlying idea governs how a particular product looks he asks All designed objects Petroski asserts leave room for improvement Nothing is perfect Even things that have been perfected over a millennia such as tables and chairs can be improved upon It is the one common feature among made objects and it is exactly this feature that drives the evolution of things for the coincidence of a perceived problem with an imagined solution enables a design change What form the solution takes can vary widely given the same basic problem Petroksi offers up the example of the fork and chopsticks as an example Both designed for manipulating food from a hot pot which would burn and dirty the fingers to the mouth but two very different design solutions Form does not follow function Instead the form of one thing follows the failure of another thing to function as we would like

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  • What is a Microinteraction? | O Danny Boy
    The difference between a product you love and a product you tolerate is often the microinteractions you have with it Microinteractions are the details of a product and details as Charles Eames famously said aren t just the details they are the design Details can make make engaging with the product easier more pleasurable even if we don t remember them Some microinteractions are practically or literally invisible and few are the feature that you buy a product for although many apps and devices are created around a single microinteraction see Chapter X instead they are usually pieces of features or the supporting or so called hygiene features For example no one buys a mobile phone for the mute feature but as we ve seen mute can create all sorts of experiences for good and bad Think about it Almost all operating systems be they mobile or desktop do basically the same things install and launch applications manage files connect software to hardware manage open applications windows etc But the difference between operating systems at least from a user s perspective are the microinteractions you have with it on a daily even hourly basis 23 July 2012 Dan Post navigation

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  • Designing Devices: The eBook | O Danny Boy
    Designing Devices is a great read Highlights device design challenges and how to work through em Karen Kaushansky Buy Designing Devices on Amazon 10 January 2012 Dan Post navigation My 2011 Bibliography FOO Camp 2012 Report Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published Required fields are marked Comment Name Email Website Wordpress Hashcash needs javascript to work but your browser has javascript disabled Your comment

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