Is the future of techology to be found in fiction?

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When Jurassic Park was on at the cinema, I remember laughing out loud with a couple of my computing mates when the young girl, Lex, looks at a computer screen and says: “It’s a UNIX system. I know this.” At the time, UNIX didn’t have much in the way of a graphical-user interface (GUI), unless you wanted to write one yourself. And it definitely looked nothing like the screen she recognised. Nowadays, a quick look around the many Linux and UNIX distributions demonstrates that GUIs are everywhere. There are probably some as fancy as the screen she was looking at before she got the Jurassic system up and running again to save them all from being eaten by dinosaurs.

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Design creativity: harnessing your inner genius

cloud patterns

I am typing this as I listen to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. I love all kinds of music but can only work whilst listening to jazz and baroque. Researchers have show that baroque music creates a mentally stimulating environment in which the brain can work. Apparently, it has a calming affect on brainwaves. J S Bach always lifts my mood and I love that fiction writer Douglas Adams in Dirk Golightly’s Holistic Detective Agency attributed Bach’s music to aliens who ‘helped’ the poet Coleridge to write Kubla Khan – a poem partly about inspiration and genius. Amongst the theories explored in Adams’s fiction is Jung’s collective unconsciousness. Jung says that mankind has a reservoir of experiences that anyone can dip into, which is why people come up with the same ideas simultaneously, yet independently. One example of this is the theory of evolution. Charles Darwin developed his idea of natural selection over 20 years but didn’t publish it until Alfred Russel Wallace wrote to Darwin with the same theory he had developed on his own. Continue reading “Design creativity: harnessing your inner genius”

The eight tasks in an artefact lifecycle

full image at http://www.sumsol.co.uk/schema.pdf

A bridge, building, or piece of software may exist for many years. Or, as often happens in the case of new software, be scrapped before it is put into use. My mate Wayne, a professional software developer for over 12 years, has worked on several projects which were canned before they were completed. In a world of ever changing requirements and circumstances, ‘it’s not unusual’ as Tom Jones would say. Software development can take months, even years of effort, so scrapping the results is a waste. To counteract this, we have libraries for software reuse, design patterns and templates to avoid reinventing the wheel.

But why just reuse the product template or pattern? Why not template the tasks the artefact underwent during its lifecycle? By extending the theory of function, structure, and behaviour, there are eight tasks in an artefact lifecycle. Continue reading “The eight tasks in an artefact lifecycle”

Inside Your Users’ Mind: The Cultural Probe

cultural probe pic - camera and a diary

Cultural probes are quick and dirty way to get inside the users’ minds in a way that standard user testing doesn’t. Probes can take the form of diaries or blogs and are easy to put together using open-ended questions which encourage users to say all the things they never would during a testing session. With this insight into users thoughts and feelings, usability consultants can identify behavioural patterns and design better products which satisfy user needs (even ones they didn’t know they had). Probes go beyond the ‘know thy user’ rule to read the user’s mind.

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Design using function, behaviour, structure

English Heritage pic of Rievaulx Abbey
Last month, at the Architectural Association, Bill Hillier described how English Heritage often want to reinstate the paths and roads of the historic sites they are trying to preserve. Hillier argued that these sites need new pathways as the way people interact with them now is not the same as when they were built. One example of this is Rievaulx Abbey. It was once a place where monks lived and worshipped, until Henry VIII dissolved the monastries to get his hands on their money.

Today, Rievaulx is a tourist attraction, which is occasionally used as a place of worship and the change in its functionality is reflected in the pathways around it. They can be described as paths of desire, which have come about because visitors wander across the grass or clamber over a wall to get to a specific part of the abbey instead of walking about retracing the routes the Cistercians may have used, which would give visitors a better insight into the way the abbey and its inhabitants behaved. Continue reading “Design using function, behaviour, structure”