The dominant feature of modern technology is not how productive it makes us, or how it has revolutionized the workplace, but how enjoyable it is. We take pleasure in our devices, from smartphones to personal computers to televisions. Whole classes of leisure activities rely on technology. How has technology become such an integral part of enjoyment?
We turn on the lights in our house from a desk in an office miles away. Our refrigerator alerts us to buy milk on the way home. A package of cookies on the supermarket shelf suggests that we buy it, based on past purchases. The cookies themselves are on the shelf because of a “smart” supply chain. When we get home, the thermostat has already adjusted the temperature so that it’s toasty or bracing, whichever we prefer. This is the Internet of Things—a networked world of connected devices, objects, and people.
In Taking [A]part, John McCarthy and Peter Wright consider a series of boundary-pushing research projects in human-computer interaction (HCI) in which the design of digital technology is used to inquire into participative experience. McCarthy and Wright view all of these projects—which range from the public and performative to the private and interpersonal—through the critical lens of participation.
On the eve of Google’s IPO in 2004, Larry Page and Sergey Brin vowed not to be evil. Today, a growing number of technologists would go further, trying to ensure that their work actively improves people’s lives. Technology, so pervasive and ubiquitous, has the capacity to increase stress and suffering; but it also has the less-heralded potential to improve the well-being of individuals, society, and the planet.
Geologists in the field climb hills and hang onto craggy outcrops; they put their fingers in sand and scratch, smell, and even taste rocks. Beginning in 2004, however, a team of geologists and other planetary scientists did field science in a dark room in Pasadena, exploring Mars from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) by means of the remotely operated Mars Exploration Rovers (MER).
All design is situated—carried out from an embedded position. Design involves many participants and encompasses a range of interactions and interdependencies among designers, designs, design methods, and users. Design is also multidisciplinary, extending beyond the traditional design professions into such domains as health, culture, education, and transportation. This book presents eighteen situated design methods, offering cases and analyses of projects that range from designing interactive installations, urban spaces, and environmental systems to understanding customer experiences.
Computers were first conceived as “thinking machines,” but in the twenty-first century they have become social machines, online places where people meet friends, play games, and collaborate on projects. In this book, Judith Donath argues persuasively that for social media to become truly sociable media, we must design interfaces that reflect how we understand and respond to the social world.
Our contemporary concerns about food range from food security to agricultural sustainability to getting dinner on the table for family and friends. This book investigates food issues as they intersect with participatory Internet culture—blogs, wikis, online photo- and video-sharing platforms, and social networks—in efforts to bring about a healthy, socially inclusive, and sustainable food future.
Ubiquitous computing (or ubicomp) is the label for a “third wave” of computing technologies. Following the eras of the mainframe computer and the desktop PC, ubicomp is characterized by small and powerful computing devices that are worn, carried, or embedded in the world around us. The ubicomp research agenda originated at Xerox PARC in the late 1980s; these days, some form of that vision is a reality for the millions of users of Internet-enabled phones, GPS devices, wireless networks, and "smart" domestic appliances.
Today designers often focus on making technology easy to use, sexy, and consumable. In Speculative Everything, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby propose a kind of design that is used as a tool to create not only things but ideas. For them, design is a means of speculating about how things could be—to imagine possible futures. This is not the usual sort of predicting or forecasting, spotting trends and extrapolating; these kinds of predictions have been proven wrong, again and again.