Oct 172005

PB Pier San Diego ©Gary Hayes 2005Having just led an immersive, emerging media lab last week (I link to one of my presentations below), I have been thinking a lot about ‘influence’. Namely ‘Who we are ‘being’ influences those around us’ and similarly the collective energy in medium to large groups can influence the individual with something far deeper and richer – the connections between us become the dominant force. This is beginning to be reflected in society as we move forward quickly into a world where the personalized fabric of social software is beginning to represent us far more explicitly. But what really interests me is the level that sits above and wraps around blogs, wikis, im, user content, interest groups, pervasive computing and mobility – the cross-media wrapper, the reading between the ‘lines’ of media types or the ‘connection cloud’ that permeates us. At the moment we are still in a rather neolithic world where humans are forced to adapt to the ‘system’ on a unit-by-unit basis and it is far from being resonant and personalized. How will this change? It is an area too large to explore in a blog post (of course!) but as usual I am always sensitive to connected strands…in fact

“it is the connections between media types that are becoming far more important and pervasive than that which it connects” me, just then 😉

Always wondered where quotes come from – maybe not that original? Anyway, an old BBC colleague called Dan Hill (interactive radio and music) runs an excellent blog called “City of Sound” which is firmly rooted at the crossing of old and emerging media. He recently posted a great excerpt from a DTI paper he co-wrote called ‘Innovation through people-centered design’. This is part of the UK’s DTI ‘global watch’ initiative. Obviously the paper, based on various trips to centers around the world, looks at pioneering social software initiatives and personalization led services. Here is an excerpt;

7.4 Adaptive design
In the field of informational product design, there has been much recent focus on social software, as well as ubiquitous or pervasive computing, and mobile data products (see Dourish 2001). All these advances relate to potentially new markets and applications, and are increasingly highly personal:

* in the case of the cellphone, virtually worn on the body
* in the case of ubicomp, an always connected life, from RFID tags in their shopping through to ‘home media hubs’
* in the case of social software, it’s about representation of self across multiple facets of your life (conversation, diaries, photo and music collections etc)

All these spaces feel quite different to designing a generic cooking utensil for mass market or building Microsoft Word. Although there was no discussion around these implications at our various encounters in the USA, it could be argued that, in this social software context, ‘user agency’ is more relevant than it’s ever been; that the user’s ability to mould these software spaces in their distinct image may necessitate a whole new kind of practice. A participant in these kinds of markets and spaces will feel the need to adapt a product to their own image, their own needs, far more so than previous software products, which have generally been based on efficiency obtained through generality and economies of scale (arguably hence the effective but generalising tools of personas and scenarios.)

I have always warmed to the idea of any technology moulding itself to you, which is part of my passion of ubiquitous, interconnected personalization across the board. I like the personal touch 😉 In the early days of course with the level of processing power where it is this will be a half-way house between customisation and true personalization. But it is on the right path. Dan goes on to talk about ‘self-centered’ design which is where the designer simply creates the basic framework for social interaction and users ‘personalize’ this collectively. We have seen this with ‘Blogger’ and ‘Wiki’s’ of course. I am keen to develop the next rich media levels of this especially collaborative creativity (vs a little too much remediation, structured play and opinion about opinion about opinion) – more social productivity that will be part of our evolution. In the early days we are still trying to empower humans with the tools to create and understand themselves better. Here is the PDF link to a beginners guide to personalization service design I gave last week – minus quite a few demo pages. (I will comment on other mentors presentations at LAMP 1 soon). It contains themes covered in previous posts and to provide some context to it, an excerpt from a relevant philosophy in this time of interaction transition, part of our journey from crude electronic networks to truly ubiquitous interconnectivity:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities;
In the expert’s mind there are few.
If you discriminate, you limit yourself
If you are demanding or greedy,
Your mind is not rich and self-sufficient.
If we lose our original self-sufficient mind,
We will lose our precepts.

If you keep your original mind,
The precepts will keep themselves.
In the beginner’s mind there is no thought,
‘I have attained something.’
All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind.
When we have no thought of achievement,
No thought of self,
We are true beginners.”
Excerpt from Beginner’s Mind By Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005