Table of Contents

VOLUME XVI.3 May + June 2009

  • WELCOME
    • WELCOMEInteractions

      Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko

      In our cover story, Bruce Sterling notes: “We have entered an unimagined culture. In this world of search engines and cross-links, of keywords and networks, the solid smokestacks of yesterday’s disciplines have blown out. Instead of being armored in technique, or sheltered within subculture, design and science fiction have become…

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  • Rethinking the fundamentals
    • FEATUREIs usability obsolete?

      Katie Scott

      Usability and HCD grew to prominence with the expansion of the Web: We’ve written the standards, developed the testing protocols, and had a hand in designing the leading systems. While the roots of the field are much older, growth has been significant in the past 15 years. We’ve gone from…

    • SUSTAINABLY OURSUser centered is off center

      Eric Schweikardt

      I listened to a talk by the head of a prominent design school recently. He explained that the school’s philosophy is to train students to analyze the needs of their users in order to design reasonable products. Ethnographies, focus groups, cognitive modeling: Interaction design, at least, has become a process…

    • FEATUREAs we may speak

      Charles Hannon

      In 2006 Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens infamously described the Internet as a “series of tubes.” He spoke in opposition to the concept of network neutrality, instead supporting the argument that large cable and telecommunications companies should be allowed to charge a premium to Amazon, Netflix, eBay, and other Internet businesses…

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  • The importance of constraints
    • COVER STORYDesign fiction

      Bruce Sterling

      I’m a science fiction writer, and as I became more familiar with design, it struck me that the futuristic objects and services within science fiction are quite badly designed. Why? That’s not a question often asked. The reason is pretty simple: Science fiction is a form of popular entertainment. The…

    • (P)REVIEWHe’s at it again

      Ryan Jahn

      Bruce Sterling’s The Caryatids is a masterful, though at times haphazard, collection of egos, high-tech devices, and immersive environments that paint a terrifying picture of the future for anyone familiar with the potential of technology. Sterling takes on a massive scope, depicting a world nearing apocalypse by pollution, a supervolcano,…

    • FEATUREWhat’s design got to do with the world financial crisis?

      Elaine Ann

      It’s a common perception that if you want to make money, you shouldn’t become a designer. Instead, head toward investment banking, where annual bonuses are in the millions, certainly more than any designer—or doctor—will make in a lifetime. However, since late 2008 we’ve seen this world order turn upside down,…

    • FEATURELearning from activists

      Tad Hirsch

      Over the past decade, a growing movement of politically engaged designers and engineers has been quietly building technical infrastructure for contemporary protest movements. The efforts of these “contestational designers” have largely gone unrecognized by the mainstream technology development community. A slew of articles and books in both the academic and…

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  • Three very different design paths
    • FEATUREPhysical games, beyond mini-games

      Andrew Hieronymi

      What are the challenges and rewards facing designers developing digital games using alternative input devices? How can these games engage participants and give them unique interactive experiences beyond the casualness of mini-games? In an attempt to answer these questions, I will describe the design process behind two physical gaming installations…

    • TIMELINESWikipedia

      Joseph Reagle

      “Wikipedia was an accident.” I sometimes offer this (admittedly) exaggerated claim in response to those who confuse Wikipedia’s current success with its uncertain origins. At the start, it was but the most recent contender in an age-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia: a dream that the latest technology would provide…

    • UNDER DEVELOPMENTReconstructing Australian Aboriginal governance by systems design

      Peter Radoll

      The way in which Western European societies organize themselves reflects other aspects of their world. The governance structure of a community is one example. The small rural community where I reside in Australia has a population of 1,200, but the shire itself has approximately 11,000 residents. Recently, we voted for…

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  • Models and principles relevant to design
    • Ps AND QsDigital order

      Elizabeth Churchill

      Sneaky little devil, that iPod shuffle. The beauty of this well-designed object is that, in its simplicity, it unmasked the digital complexity of the rest of my life. It has started a whirlwind of digital tidying in my house that is driving not just me but all my friends mad.…

    • ON MODELINGModels of models

      Hugh Dubberly

      Models are ideas about the world—how it might be organized and how it might work. Models describe relationships: parts that make up wholes; structures that bind them; and how parts behave in relation to one another. For example, the sun rises in the east, moves across the sky, and sets…

    • THE WAY I SEE ITCompliance and tolerance

      Donald Norman

      We are failing. Are products getting more or less usable? Every year products do get better; every year shows a growth in good design. But the number of new products—and most important of all, new product categories—grows even faster. We preach the virtues of good design to the converted, so…

    • LIFELONG INTERACTIONSPersons with disabilities and intergenerational universal usability

      Paul Jaeger

      I recently received an email from a doctoral candidate, in a field unrelated to my own, seeking career advice about the process of finishing a dissertation and navigating the academic job market as a person with a disability. Such a request is not that unusual in my experience, primarily because…

    • TRUE TALESShips in the night (part I)

      Steve Portigal

      In 2005 I attended a BayCHI panel discussion entitled “User Research Strategies: What Works, What Does Not Work.” The panel featured user research leaders from key design-y Silicon Valley tech firms: Adobe, Intuit, Yahoo!, eBay, and Google. After a number of (perhaps deservedly) self-congratulatory pitches from companies that had worked…

    • INTERACTIONS CAFEOn changing the world while paying the bills…

      Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko

      Jon: Bruce Sterling’s really done it this time—he claims that not only are technologists full of hot air, but so are designers. Recently, I was at the IxDA conference, and the buzz was about the ability to effect behavioral change at a cultural level. Robert Fabricant, Dan Saffer, and even…

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