Category Archives: interpretation

being there

Being There

a little discussion about Behavior Modes

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Photo provided courtesy of C. Nancy Niu

Once again — I’m fortunate enough to in life to engage with The Boston Area UX, Design and Tech Community by giving talks on topics I am deeply passionate about within the realms of creativity, collaboration, experience and story.

Akshat Pradhan invited me out to UX Boston last week to present Behavior Modes for UX, an important sub-topic to my larger concept of designing with a storyFirst human-centered design approach. And I got to give the presentation as part of an evening of talks called Ideating Mobile, Prototyping w/ Sketch, and Behavior Modes! that included a talk on The Mobile Ecosystem Matrix from The Meme Design’s Carlos Cardenas and a super helpful prototyping walk-through by Aquent Gymnasium’s Jeremy Osborn.

So, here’s a quick, high-level fly by
on what I’m calling Behavior Modes:

 

Behavior Modes for UX

behaviorModes_concept

In a nutshell — as a now near-20-year-spanning, lifelong experience designer in New England, I feel that UX teams embedded in various firms in the area nicely use all the amazing industry-standard tools and tricks, but we sometimes seem to just go through the motions of assembling the toolkit while missing the core point and actual tactical unique benefits of why we’re using some of these tools to begin with, ya know?

My case in point for this particular talk — personas

Companies develop personas. Sometimes they outsource persona development and invest a lot of big money to conduct painstaking research to craft a fantastic batch of 10 or so personas per user type within a company’s anticipated target audience. And this is all wonderful. It shows that firms are really starting to step up and take research and user-centered methodologies seriously because hopefully they understand that serving people is what we need to be all about.

But …

In 2015 most teams seem to almost treat personas as some sort of Fine Art object we put on the wall. We see faces and little blocks of stats and commentary pinned to the wall like strange dossier-like posters to remind us that there’re people on the other side. Its a bit reminiscent of the hunter’s lodge tucked so politely away in a wooded Vermont hillside cabin, nicely decorated with the dead, static remains from that huge invoice —from all that research — like a pristine, captured set of kills strangely stuffed and mounted to the wall like a museum-like reminder of the people that we once knew and talked to and taxidermically preserved. We got ’em. Check! Task done!

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But I’m not sure that this is how Alan Cooper intended teams to leverage personas in our daily work. And I’m certain they’re not supposed to simply be flowers on the wall. We’re, at the very least, always supposed to keep the faces, names and motivations of our personas in mind as we design — and I’ve noticed at least a dozen occasions over the last 17 or so years where someone does the whole ‘Do you really think that’s the way TechSavvy Simone would want to create a new user profile on ProductX?

That’s not enough though, right? Just a dozen times in nearly 20 years? C’mon!

I mean, besides UX professionals digging into putting together a list of potential user types and maybe referencing one of the personas as a way to advocate for a semi-fictional real person in a design review meeting, not once have I seen anyone fully embrace the entire potential and value of tuning into your personas.

This is why I am talking about putting our personas into a situational context to bring them to life.

As creatives, I feel that its quite sad how flat and dead our design processes can feel. It seems that you get the gig, set up at a desk, start attending the meetings and doing the work ‘n all — but we all tend to hang up the power of our imagination somewhere else entirely. And this is a shame. After all, these powers and skills are forces we were actually hired by a company to use in our daily design work. But somewhere along the line we all tune out of The Imagination Channel and tune into whatever readymade, prescribed policies and processes make the most sense to use at work because we’re used to them.

I want us to tune back into The Imagination Channel.

Personas are the best way for us as designers to get out of our own heads and into the minds, hearts and emotions of our human users. Its literally a way for us to channel the users in that fuzzy kind of New Age way and wonder from somebody else’s perspective. But I think there’s a reason why our personas remain on the wall in their frozen taxidermied state as these cutely named posters on the wall. Personas need context to come back to life. We need to not only understand the statistics we’ve researched around real people that use our products, but in order to best design for real people we also need to understand:

  • when they’re using the experience(s) we’re designing;
  • how often they use it;
  • why they’re using it in a certain temporal context;
  • how often they might get interrupted mid-task;
  • when and how they might re-engage and continue an interrupted experience with your product or service;
  • where they’re using it;
  • what version of a holistic experience design our users are engaging with ( mobile, desktop, tablet, wearable, kiosk );
  • who else is around when they’re using it;
  • how people use it within different levels of criticality ( if that even pertains to the experience );
  • etcetera, so on and so forth

This is what Behavior Modes are all about.

Behavior Modes are bits and pieces of modular context to map to your personas to better dream up and understand an actual person’s story within a temporal situation as they might experience what you’ve design for them.

I think of Behavior Modes as different than a formal use case scenario, although I imagine you could leverage the contextual factors that come together to make up your behavior modes to develop interesting, near-real-life use cases to consider for your design processes and reviews.

I’m working on formalizing my thoughts around Behavior Modes and my storyFirst Approach to Human-Centered Design and will post more to my blog here as my concepts come together.

Stay tuned!

does your dog bite?

peterSellers

sometimes i feel a lot like a human, wetware mash-up between Larry David and Peter Seller’s version of Inspector Clouseau from Blake Edward’s Pink Panther films of the 1970s and beyond

i always feel like that dream we all have where we’re walking around in a very familiar place but you know that you need to hide away for some reason — maybe you’re at school or at work or at a club or restaurant or something, but you’re overwhelmed with embarrassment and the need to hide yourself away — its only at about three quarters of the way through the dream that you realize that you’re ashamed and hiding all because you don’t have any pants on — hell, you don’t even have under garments on for that matter, and even though nobody seems to even notice you just know that you need to keep a low profile and sneak around until you can find something to cover your naked genitals and ass with

bumbling — i’m constantly bumbling

i mean — let’s say i get up and i’m in a hurry and i slide my jacket on, put my laptop bag over my shoulders, grab my coffee and water bottle and start to head out the door and then fwoOoOOop! — somehow the strap on my bag or a pocket on my jacket loops around the door handle and i’m yanked back into my ungraceful, clumsy reality again

i seem to have a bad relationship with inanimate objects

and i seem to get myself into probably just as many awkward and painful social scenarios as Larry David gets himself into on the show Curb Your Enthusiasm

its just not usually that funny to me in the moment — it only seems to grow into something of a funny story as my temporal distance from the immediate fumbling moments recede into the nebulous past

what’s kind of interesting and funny to me in thinking back to Seller’s Clouseau right now is a certain para-cosmological and symbolic connection i might have subconsciously made to a similarly hilarious character that can be watched on an almost nightly basis in our current television mass media substreaming archetype generation machine

and i think you know exactly who i’m talkin’ ’bout here Willis

that’s right — its none other than … dun dun duhhhhh!

Horatio P Caine

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when you watch an episode of CSI Miami, you know you’re supposed to take Horatio Caine dead serious — there’s this almost over-the-top ridiculousness to David Caruso’s delivery as Caine — its bad acting at its best

Caruso’s over-tense, tough as nails style of hard-guy cliché muttering at the scene of the crime actually becomes the perfect comedic counterpoint to the world of drug dealing and wheeling, murder and dark crime sizzling up from the heat of downtrodden, criminal Miami — and as unintentional as the humor may be, its a rather brilliantly clumsy-confident portrayal that truly brightens my nights when and if i get myself into a CSI jag to piss my time away

Horatio Caine almost comes across as the Anti-Clouseau in many respects, or at least that’s what i gather as the intention behind the writing and direction for CSI Miami — investigation mistakes for Caine have a far less light-hearted set of consequences than those made by Clouseau in a movie like A Shot in the Dark — you can feel that the character of Horatio Caine is supposed to come across as dark, troubled and mysterious as Tim Burton’s Bruce Wayne in 1989 Batman, but the delivery goes way too far and the result then turns into far more of a farce than anything — and for this reason, as much as Caine and Clouseau are bi-polar opposites on the spectrum of hard-assed smoothness and emotionality, i feel their intrinsically connected on a pseudo-psychic level of the collective subconscious

the dog that Horatio Caine might pet in Miami would surely bite,
but it would most likely actually be Caine’s dog

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dolphins

Dolphins-talk-language

we’re not all that different from dolphins

myOwnMind, LLC and a little storyFirst out @ the UX Boston Conference #1

logo_myOwnMind

i recently established a new concept based on a slew of back-logged experience design ideas i’ve decided to revisiting again and really start actively digging into — i’m calling this latest self re-invention design exercise myOwnMind, LLC, and the original idea came out of my own improvisational humor in a passing conversation with friends

in a fun back-and-forth exchange of energetic and fun discussion, i told my friends,

‘yeah, i actually used myOwnMind { to do that } — its, like, the original app’

as if my brain were some mysterious technology that i somehow ‘tapped’ into in the process of getting some design work done for a client

 

i’ve actually evolved the idea in a very wonderful sort of way into an actual, semi-realistic business concept by putting some company information up on LinkedIn … and i seem to keep getting a lot of amazing positive response from the brand and the concept — here’s the basic gist behind myOwnMind as copy-pasted directly from my LinkedIn Company Page Description:

By leveraging a variety of somewhat nebulous experimental cyberSurreal techniques — the interdisciplinary consulting team at myOwnMind deeply focuses on both client- and self-initiated project-based work to create change for good. 

Don’t just think about it — and definitely don’t merely complain about the frustrating state of the world as we’re experiencing it today — work with us to actively engage in collaborative efforts to change the world.

in just the last 2 to 3 days since posting the newly-designed logo, wordmark and tagline to LinkedIn and to the myOwnMind website, i’ve received more than a dozen congratulatory messages for people in my network as well as other messages from several companies and individuals reaching out and expressing interest in finding out more about myOwnMind — which is truly cool news by me, right?

 

one last tidbit i need to mention before folding up this little twisty origami blogPost is how happy i am and how lucky i feel to get the opportunity to present my storyFirst talk out at the very first UX Boston Conference at the Microsoft NERD Center on Saturday, July 19th

i first presented storyFirst out at MassArt as part of the Continuing Ed Lecture Series back in February of 2013 — and although i previous discussed ways to better leverage storytelling { and aspects of story via narrative and various narrative elements } in some casual settings, organizing my thoughts on the topic and presenting at MassArt gave me the tremendous opportunity to really hone in on how to initially articulate my ideas and discuss the benefits of putting story at the center of such an interdisciplinary and complex set of processes

now, thanks to this fantastic opportunity to revisit the talk via this public speaking engagement out at the UX Boston Conference, i’ve taken a few steps back and thought through the core message in a far deeper, richer way — i truly feel that this second installation of ‘A storyFirst Approach to Human-Centered Design‘ will more succinctly and more powerfully reveal the core message of the talk while also elaborating on the significance and value of putting story smack dab in the middle of the process

i’m really looking forward to giving the talk at the UX Boston Conference and i hope to see you there!

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a little game

info_art

my art can sometimes feel a little ‘all over the place’

i don’t like to limit myself too, too much when it comes to my vehicles of expressive delivery — that combined with my natural tendency toward a scattered but exciting sense of ADHD plus my rather lengthy and continually-expanding collection of influences and inspirations makes for a rather eclectic body of work that i sometimes try to organize into threads or streams of my work

in my design thesis from Dynamic Media Institute, ‘confounded: future fetish design performance for human advocacy,’ i purposely chose the term ‘streams‘ for a few reasons:

  1. i feel like my subconscious is a far more present and powerful force in my creatively expressive, personal work;
  2. i enjoy following my subconscious — my streams of subconscious — to archeologically mine for the deeper, personally-symbolic inner significance that i’ve accumulated like a patina over the course of my life;
  3. i know that i naturally tend to bury certain emotions, memories and stories in the strange style that a chipmunk saves away little morsels for the long winter ahead — these might be feelings that are far too shocking and powerful for me to handle in any conscious manner in the current moments i am living in, and i am almost certain, for the most part, that a significant amount of people partake in this similar activity as a mere means of surviving the ‘day to day‘ dysfunction and chaos we all encounter along our life’s journeys;
  4. i also tend to hide away from time to time, sometimes for large spans of time, greatly depending upon my mood and certain life events — i can nicely attribute this behavior, to sort of tuck myself away inside my shell, to being born under the sign of Cancer — the symbol for Cancer, of course, is the crab — and after spending many an afternoon tide pooling with my wife and son, flipping rocks along the shallow shoreline out at Lynch Park in Beverly among other beautiful Atlantic coastline seaside retreats, i’ve developed an observational understanding of not only the ‘tough, outer exterior’ of the crab and the notion of ‘crabbiness’ that might be somewhat symbolically mapped to the drastic shift in moodswings i experience on a fairly regular cycle, but i also now better ‘get‘ how these little pinchy critters live — tucking themselves away, a bit under the sand or between the rocks as the tide ebbs and flows — its an interesting lifestyle to study and reflect upon, especially knowing that there are definitely some similarities between my own behavior and that of these amazing little moody crustacea;
  5. i guess i’ve veered away from exploring why the term ‘streams‘ so nicely captures the nature of my work and certain categories of recurring episodes in my work — this last enumerated bullet point, to get back to the concept of these streams of subconscia, pertains to the rather interesting evolution within certain streams of my work — as i tend to, at times, act more like a chess player than an artist, as i move and follow both the journey of certain objects and installations from literally geopolitical ‘place to place’ as well as the state of its existence into the next, and sometimes even beyond itself out into the metaphorical afterlife of the piece or its sub-componenture

today’s update on the information kiosk i purchased from Border’s Bookstores prior to the closing of the bookseller chain brings us just a few yards away from where it previously resided over the last 6 to 9 months or so — i don’t think this will be its final destination, by any means, however, i can see an interesting new stage in the piece’s evolution coming together in my mind’s eye

i original purchased the kiosk to build out a prototype for my Laugh Observation Library back at DMI @ MassArt — the LOL included a bookcase collection of 100 bottles containing a variety laughter samples per bottle along with this oddly orange information booth housing a laughScan Station to actually activate each sample for further faux-scientific research into humor and the human phenomena behind laughter

the original and only installation of the Laugh Observation Library appeared in The Pooka Lounge in Bakalar Gallery at MassArt as part of forensicEvidence — the name of my final showcase of work in the 2011 MassArt Thesis Show from my DMI @ MassArt experience

in retrospect the statement that my micro-installment made perfectly fit the bill regarding my discoveries around both MassArt and gallery exhibition in general — and this particular piece, although not exactly aesthetically matching the clinically sterile environment of a traditional scientific laboratory setting, especially that of a forensic investigation crime lab, really seemed to appropriately comment on my personal feelings regarding what Brian O’Doherty describes as the ‘white cube‘ controlled context of the gallery space associated with High Art

in fact, this installation and my personal aesthetic not only provided a silent and polite, subtle sociological commentary on both Art and Science as rather haughty professions, but the rather organic, make-shift style of my work also appropriately mocked the institutionalized aspects of high formality associated with not only Art and Science, but even with Design itself for encouraging a somewhat exclusive attitude within its highest of the high socio-professional, pseudo-political circles

the pieces i presented in forensicEvidence were the dead remains from my work at MassArt — the physical evidence of my work, but also of the pretend criminal activity i either partook in or witnessed while researching and working on my art at MassArt — now, of course, art-making is not exactly a criminal activity, although sometimes it can feel like such an endeavor when living and working outside of the inner protected sanctum of academia and its related artedness, but in some ways i felt like i definitely witnessed what i came to call ‘Crimes Against Creativity‘ — i won’t elaborate too, too much here on these crimes i witnessed, but i definitely felt a bit disappointed in some of the people and vibes i encountered while working toward my graduate degree at MassArt and unfortunately these were events, policies and behaviors that i will not soon forget and nor would i ever expect an institution of higher learning to simply grin and bear without pursuing some follow-up activity to properly set the record straight and rectify unacceptable, malicious and ignorant behavior

… anyhow …

following forensicEvidence — the kiosk remained in the back of my truck, nicely sheltered from the elements, but definitely getting in the way of any sane semblance of life

a month or so after i took the information booth out of my truck and left it at the head of my driveway — although a bit silly-looking in its now more ‘natural’ surroundings in this highly wooded area of Boxford, i actually loved seeing this ugly, orange desk-like fixture from a typically highly-corporate retail environment now planted in the midst of trees and lush, green ferns and other fertile elements of the great outdoors — and i was extremely happy not to have followed my original bad instinct to just leave the kiosk in a nearby cemetery { after, of course, taking some choice photodocumentation of this potentially-strange, satiric gravestone tribute to The Information Age — which would’ve certainly been bound to be an entirely illegal but hilarious act of vandalism or refuse disposal in the eyes of the court, i’m sure }

but now, many months later, after surviving an Autumn, Winter and Springtime out in the driveway, i decided to drag the information kiosk up the steps into our backyard and set it out just at the edge of our deck

here i hope to festively decorate the kiosk with some simple crushed stone around its base — maybe arranging some beautiful potted plants on the tabletop and around its stable and heavy periphery — perhaps this Summer and into the Fall, this will be our funerary preparations for the kiosk before finally allowing myself to emotionally let go of a piece that never quite got beyond the prototypic stage — this might be a truly wonderful way to commemorate the short lifespan of this mysterious object that i’ve carried around with me from place to place, an object that has come to symbolize the weight of the personal information we carry around with us in life

its time for me to prepare

these are the last few months i will live with this bizarre physical manifestation of my memories, feelings and unnecessarily burdensome set of heavy experiences i still find myself hanging onto

i will be certain to document these last arrangements i make with the kiosk — i hope to focus on growing something positive and beautiful on, around and through the information booth — to evolve some of the confounded emotions and energies that remain into / toward a blossoming garden of new vegetal information for further maturation and growth and positive seed for the future

Sara June @ Woodstock4

i absolutely LOVE this clip of Sara June’s collaborative, improvised public intervention performance with Endguys out in Boston Common for Woodstock4

Sara June Woodstock4 from Uncle Shoe on Vimeo.

Movement artist Sara June in performance at Woodstock4, presented by Whitehaus Family Record on the Boston Common August 18-19, 2012. Improvised music by Endguys (Steve Norton, bass clarinet / Matt Samolis, flute). Video by Douglas Urbank.

Why babies cry in their native tongue

originally written and posted on November 8th, 2009 

This is a bit of a rePosting … the original post is here on AllTop, but also included here below …

Baby-CryingFlickr

Just days after birth, babies are much too young to control their vocal cords or the muscles that shape the mouth to make specific sounds. But that doesn’t stop them from communicating in their mother tongue, new research suggests.

The study monitored thirty French and German newborns, and noted distinct differences between the cries of the two tiny groups. The wails mimicked the patterns, rhythms and intensity of their native language. Scientists believe fetuses start to learn the melody of ambient language during the third trimester in the womb. By imitating what they hear, they endear themselves to their mothers.

Plenty more on babies.

And as part of my running commentary and observations about translation and interpretation … I added in the following bloggish commentarium :

i also believe that laughter is something that can reveal mother tongue … we can modify our behaviors, study the specific dialect of varied regions of the word, but when we laugh, when we cry, when we express some intense emotion ( such as anger or grief ) we return to an area of honesty … we are brought back to the place where we grew up, to that area where we first learned our own voice + the voice of our own people

are there other expressions of human emotion that help bring us back to our ‘real’ selves?

for me, its laughter

my laughter, as much as i might try to disguise it, comes with the original accent of my mother tongue … North Shore, Massachusetts ( well, actually i’m originally from Watertown )

i also notice that i am almost good at correctly pronouncing all of my Rs … that is, until i get totally wound up in some sort of anger about something … mostly on the road, perhaps … but i completely lose my Rs and return from whence i came ( language-skills-wise, that is ) when i am totally frustrated and wanna knock somebody’s lights out

not that i speak The Queen’s proper English by any means

but i am keenly aware of what Revere sounds like, what Cambridge tries to sound like, that horrible stigma we have of either sounding like we’re The Jordan’s guys or a Kennedy ( bad actors seem to study the Kennedys to master their New England accent … very bad idea … only the Kennedys talk like that … super annoying to hear top notch talent butchering our accent, just completely missing the bus altogether )

where are you from? is your accent different than you hear it from your childhood days? what aurally returns your voice to that voice of origin? how can we map voice? the delta in voice? inflection? dialect? accent? etcetera?