SIMPLICITY - the art of complexity - ARS ELECTRONICA 2006 - Festival für Kunst, Technologie und Gesellschaft - Linz, Do 31. August – Di 5. September






Conferences  |  posted by  Wolfgang Bednarzek  |  at 17:00:00

Recommended Reading: “Mobile Interaction Design”

What more and more people are now demanding from their high-tech paraphernalia is that it be easy to use—a key aspect of “Simplicity.” Matt Jones and Gary Marsden have been dealing intensively with this issue and have documented their experiences in the book “Mobile Interaction Design.” In it, their focus is more on human needs, wishes and capabilities than on technological parameters and preconditions.

The book elaborates on the key factors that make for good interaction design in the field of mobile technology in a way that is enlightening, lucid and reader-friendly. Its case studies and “maneuver critiques” of current high-tech gear are easy to read and deliver effective tools for crafting the user-centered applications of tomorrow.

In the words of the authors: “This book is about shifting the mobile design perspective away from ‘smart’ phones, to people who are smart, creative, busy, or plain bored. Our aim is to help you to overcome the frustrations of the previous disappointing handheld ‘revolution’ by providing the billions of potential mobile users with future products and services that can change their (or even the) world.”


Conferences  |  posted by  Wolfgang Bednarzek  |  at 16:00:00

Design Ethnography for Better Technologies

A piece of high-tech equipment like an mp3 player should ideally be able to get across what it’s designed to do and how to operate it just as simply as a wedge, a sledgehammer or a saw does. You have the device in front of you, consider its form, try it out and, after a couple of attempts at most, you have all of its features down pat.
Blanket statements like this can get designers, programmers and engineers really worked up. Their critique might well maintain that comparing a highly complex instrument that represents the culmination of thousands of technological advances that this civilization has brought forth—from gramophone cylinders and shellac discs to radio and all the way to fiberglass cables, the PC and digitization—with a simple wedge is pretty farfetched to say the least.
But even companies like Microsoft, Intel and Adobe are increasingly coming around to this way of thinking. What other explanation is there for the fact that their efforts to achieve design breakthroughs are concentrating on collaboration with ethnologists and anthropologists? After all, these are precisely the fields of social science that deal with mankind’s interaction with tools. Here, the focus is on intuition, which is controlled by a number of different cultural factors and which enables us, among other things, to swiftly grasp how a particular object can be employed.

“Design ethnography” is the techno-speak term that has been coined to describe these scholarly disciplines that have been stripped down to their practical essentials and placed in the service of information technology.

We can only hope that a holistic approach that takes human beings and their overall cultural settings into account doesn’t get lost in the shuffle here.
In any case, when you consider the fact that ethnographic teams have been developing guidelines and generating studies for major players in the IT industry for at least five years, the results that this has yielded to date appear to be pretty meager.
More info and interesting articles on this topic are available online in “gotoreport” at

Design Ethnography on



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