Table of Contents

VOLUME XVI.5 September + October 2009

  • WELCOME
    • Interactions

      Richard Anderson, Jon Kolko

      The creation and ongoing refinement of a political system is a slow, gnarly, and often flawed-by-design process that is rarely transparent. The United States government, for example, offers “checks and balances” in order to ensure that no changes transpire too quickly, and while politicians may claim “change you can believe…

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  • The democratization of design
    • FEATURENo pain, no gain

      Bernd Ploderer, Peter Wright, Steve Howard, Peter Thomas

      “I broke my foot. I was leg pressing at about 1,450 pounds and ... the bone just snapped. But I had to keep it up. I couldn’t flex my leg properly. I couldn’t walk without crutches for probably three months. ... I was still training, and I competed, too. I…

    • FEATUREAnything is a fridge

      Ron Wakkary

      Kerry and Beck are everyday designers. An everyday designer remakes or modifies systems and appropriates design artifacts as creative resources through design-in-use [1, 2]. Beck is also an electrician who works at the city port, and on weekends and the odd evening plays bass guitar with his band. While not…

    • COVER STORYCitizen-centered design (slowly) revolutionizes the media and experience of U.S. elections

      Jessica Hewitt

      Most designers and usability professionals can readily identify the weaknesses of the infamous Palm Beach ballot from the 2000 election. And most Americans are now well-versed in the foibles of “butterfly ballots.” With national consciousness focused on improving ballot design—and available resources to ensure that it was done properly—why, eight…

    • Design advocacy in government

      Richard Grefé

      Most designers and usability professionals can readily identify the weaknesses of the infamous Palm Beach ballot from the 2000 election. And most Americans are now well-versed in the foibles of “butterfly ballots.” With national consciousness focused on improving ballot design—and available resources to ensure that it was done properly—why, eight…

    • SUSTAINABLY OURSThe new energy interface

      Peter Honebein

      We are in the early stages of a revolution that will change how people think about and use energy in their homes. Utilities around the world are implementing smart meter systems for their electric and gas customers. Smart meters are digital, wireless meters that replace existing mechanical-analog meters. With smart…

    • FEATUREWeb 2.0 in government

      Francesca Barrientos, Elizabeth Foughty

      In 1450 the Ottoman Empire rejected Gutenberg’s press. To this day, scholars argue over whether or not this event was the beginning of the end of an empire that had until then been at the technological forefront of civilization. Whether or not it actually caused the eventual decline, it almost…

    • UNDER DEVELOPMENTThe six habits of highly effective “humanitarian” projects

      Gary Marsden

      Designing digital systems for developing regions can be an immensely rewarding experience. Working in areas where there is little digital infrastructure affords the designer the opportunity to have a large, positive impact with relatively small interventions. Of course, with a nonexistent digital infrastructure, the design challenge can be immense. Much…

    • PS AND QSResearch automation as technomethodological pixie dust

      Elizabeth Churchill

      Like many people in these times of cost saving, I have lost my sense of humor. Why? Because what constitutes reasonable economizing—determining what costs are or are not optional—reveals some curious assessments of value. I am referring to human-centered research and the peculiar assumption that qualitative research methods—like qualitative interviewing…

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  • Breaking traditional boundaries of interaction
    • FEATUREIn search of models and visions for the web age

      Virgílio Almeida

      It has been said that the power of literature lies in its ability to give a voice to what the social or individual unconscious has not expressed. As computer science evolves beyond its boundaries—influencing and being influenced by other disciplines—new models and abstractions are required to expand the frontiers of…

    • FEATURETranscending disciplinary boundaries in interaction design

      Eli Blevis, Erik Stolterman

      As an interaction designer or researcher, chances are you’ve collaborated in a team of contributors with different disciplinary backgrounds. You may remember such collaborations warmly, painfully, or anywhere in between. Communications between collaborators in working teams may be effective or fraught with misunderstandings. People may have differing ideas about the…

    • THE WAY I SEE ITSystems thinking

      Donald Norman

      A product is actually a service. Although the designer, manufacturer, distributer, and seller may think it is a product, to the buyer, it offers a valuable service. The easiest example is the ATM, or as many people think of it, a cash dispenser. To the company that manufactures it as…

    • FEATUREMyth of the design process

      August de los Reyes

      During our college days at a small, boho-prep institution tucked away in a sleepy corner of New England, my Bulgarian friend Iskra studied philosophy while I spent my time running between the arts building and the computer labs doing “that design and computer thing”—back then, none of my classmates knew…

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  • Exploring the future
    • ON MODELINGBuilding support for use-based design into hardware products

      Tim Misner

      Editor’s Note: Use-based design is a new model of product development. It is a process of measuring user behavior and applying the resulting data to improve the next version of a product—creating a feedback loop between user and designer. (We might refer to the process as data-driven design, but that…

    • LIFELONG INTERACTIONSData mining for educational “gold”

      Shalom Fisch, Richard Lesh, Elizabeth Motoki, Sandra Crespo, Vincent Melfi

      Two eight-year-old girls are playing a computer game in which they have to fill gaps in a railroad track with different-size pieces of track: “I think we’re supposed to use the 1 and then the 10.” “Uh-oh. Can [we] subtract?” “This is too confusing.” They clear the pieces from the…

    • TIMELINESReflections on the future of iSchools from inspired junior faculty

      Jacob Wobbrock, Andrew Ko, Julie Kientz

      Most academic units primarily either “describe things” or “invent things.” They are either Einstein or Edison. Very few are Pasteur, who did both [1]. But as the recent article by Gary Olson and Jonathan Grudin entitled “The Information School Phenomenon” [2] made clear, this is exactly what dozens of emerging…

    • TRUE TALESWe are living in a sci-fi world

      Steve Portigal

      In 1993, on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” science fiction author William Gibson famously said, “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.” In the work of Gibson and his fellow writers, we often find the tension between two key pillars of future thinking: our future stuff and our future…

    • (P)REVIEWOld school, new school

      Alex Wright

      New York City has long ranked as one of the world’s design capitals, but the city’s interaction design community has been slow to find its feet here. Historically, user interface designers first flourished in the cubicle farms of the Bay Area, while many industrial designers plied their trade in the…

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  • Interactions Cafe
    • On creation and consumption

      Jon Kolko

      While the design of democracy is a wonderful thing, democratic design is less positive. We’ve heard over and over that “everyone is a designer,” and that through a combination of user-generated content, ubiquity of access, and new tools, design has finally made its way out of an ivory tower and…

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