Notes from Midwest UX 2015 Day 2

These are my notes from day 2 of Midwest UX, held October 2-3, 2015 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Table of Contents:

Morning Keynote

Jesse Schell (@jesseschell)

(I missed the beginning of this one)

  • Observing mind vs thinking mind: simultaneously participate in experience while you sit back and watch your emotions, will help you analyze the experience
    • Takes practice: difficult to obsserve your breathing without changing it, same applies to observing your thinking
  • Can’t just layer rewards and badges onto every experience
    • Game design is hard, extra hard when you start with something that isn’t a game
    • Rewards can decrease incentive for tasks that were previously intrinsically interesting–but may be ok for taks that someone really isn’t motivated to do?
  • Glued to Games - Self-determination theory applied to games
    • Fun isn’t why people play games, may play even though frustrating
    • Games are good at providing people’s mental needs:
      • Competence: feel like you’re good at something
      • Autonomy: freedom to do what you want when you want
      • Relatedness: connect with other people
  • “Hafta” vs “wanna” activities–e.g. taxes are “hafta”, games are “wanna”
    • But not intrinsic to activity, different people may disagree about which is which
    • Major difference between work and play software: efficiency is “hafta” (make the task as short as possible), pleasure is “wanna” (want to make longer)
  • Different parts of the brain are used in avoiding negative consequences vs seeking positive consequences
    • Farmville starts with positive rewards, but then uses negative consequences of ugliness, shame to get people to keep playing
  • What kinds of pleasures do you want to have in your game?
    • Discovery, laughter, thrill, triumph, etc.
    • What are the existing pleasurable moments in the experience, and how can you make them more pleasurable?
  • Don’t want high interest all the time, people will burn out
    • Graph interest level over time: start by grabbing with hook, drop a bit, then gradually increase with peaks to climax (3 act structure)
    • Interesting experiences are still interesting when they’re done, know when to quit
    • Interest graphs are fractal, e.g. game has overall 3 act structure, more 3 act structures for each level, and a 3 act structure for a boss fight within the level
  • Factors of interest
    • Inherent interest: potential for dramatic change (e.g. chainsaw juggling)
    • Poetry of presentation: beauty (e.g. violin concert)
    • Psychological proximity: things that happen to us most interesting, to those we know next most interesting, to everyone else least interesting
  • Can’t control everything in an interactive experience, need indirect control
    • Constraints: only some choices are available, e.g. go any direction vs. 2 doors leading out of a room (often people don’t want infinite choices)
    • Goals: people will probably choose the option that will bring them closer to the goal
    • Interface: presentation sets expectations, changes what people want to do
      • e.g. there is a steering wheel, you don’t expect to do anything but drive
      • e.g. lines in screen subconsciously draw attention to where you want people to go, and then they go there
    • Characters: sympathy, emotion, desire to help (but emotion can backfire, e.g. Clippy)
    • Music: e.g. busy restaurants play fast music so you eat faster

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Designing for Social Impact

Gretchen Anderson (@gretared)

(I somehow missed the beginning of this one too)

  • Be as inclusive as possible, take down barriers, especially for the most needy; missing people leads to infighting between those you need to help
  • Can’t focus on one group, may make it worse for others
  • “Don’t do it to me”, “Nothing about us without us”–participatory design
  • Most systems don’t communicate well, beaurocrats desensitized to user needs–help humanize the system
  • Mission matters, you need to care passionately
  • Diversity of experience counts, and you need a variety of roles, e.g. business, policy, research, design
  • Lessons learned
    • Get invited: don’t just barge in to fix things
    • Get introduced: there may be an existing org with aligned goals that can help
    • Respect the environment–durability, cost, simplicty
      • Can’t just give, may not fit the situation
      • May break existing community by introducing change
      • Need participatory design, check assumptions
    • DIY or training the trainer? Who is doing the intervention, and how do you spread best practice?
    • Be prepared for trolls: white-hat interaction design
      • How can someone screw you up? How can you stop it or turn it to a positive?
      • Don’t assume no one wants to take you down, there’s a reason this problem exists. Who benefits?
    • Agile and fast-cycle research: can’t wait to release social impact projects, move quickly and test for impact
    • Inform and provoke: show them the fear and lead them to hope (but don’t leave them hanging at pissed off or despair–if there isn’t hope, give a baseball bat instead)
    • Check for understanding: emotional baggage that comes with the design can change how people react in inappropriate ways
    • Demystify the system: What infrastructure is missing? Broker the middle ground.

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Interaction Design Practice and 21st Century Work

Paul Pangaro

  • Bill Gross TED talk - study of 200 startups, 42% of success depended on timing
    • How to take advantage of timing? Need to align what we do and what the world allows us to do, be evolutionarily appropriate
  • Differences in 21st century work
    • Experiences, not products
    • Services, not objects
    • Moving information, not material
  • Design for interaction: user experiences are enabled by systems of systems, e.g. ecosystems of internet of things
  • Collaboration literacy: designers don’t make all the descisions, but it isn’t a production line either
  • Code: need to know what a digital device can/can’t do
  • Design for people: intent, goals, and the interactions to achieve them
    • One can model emergent goals and means as they develop in the mind as conversation and negotiation (Pam’s note: he had what looked like an interesting model diagram, but I couldn’t really see it)
    • Can model evolution of understanding over the course of using the system
  • Bio-cost: time, cognitive effort, emotional effort
    • Can graph over time, measure bio-cost area under curve
    • Parts of bio-cost are inter-related, e.g. cognitive load is stressfull
  • Understand choice and create new ones
    • Everyone can be supported to design their own life
    • Every choice is a constraint by the designer, let user participate and design their own experience–but then too much choice, chaos (Pam’s note: see morning keynote)
  • Design conversation instead of team:
    • Who is missing in this conversation?
    • How can we make the conversation better?
    • Did we answer the question, and who/what do we need to answer it better next time?
  • Value is creating order out of disorder, lowering uncertainty, increasing clarity, decreasing risk, and descreasing bio-cost for business and users
  • Difference between value and ethics: “do this” vs “I believe”

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Keynote: Wicked Ambiguity

Jonathan Colman (@jcolman)

  • Stephen King - “the shape under the sheet”–could be your body, could be anything
    • fear creates ambiguity, makes us want to run away
  • Designers of all kinds are united against ambiguity
    • Abby Covert - “We make the unclear clear”
    • We solve problems together or not at all
  • Wicked problem: a problem so interconnected that you can’t even describe it
    • Can’t solve because there’s no final solution, just temporary mitigations of constantly changing factors
    • Wicked problems perpetuate themselves
    • They hide in plain sight
    • Solutions are unraveled by deeper, interconnected challenges
    • They sap our will to try to fix them
  • Ex.: London map of cholera outbreaks was not a wicked problem, had isolated factors and clear solutions
    • vs Ebola outbreak: population spread, war, further exploration and spread, diminishing natural resources, etc.
  • Ex.: Urban planning, gentrification increases gap between rich and poor while decreasing diversity; how do we make sure everyone has access to opportunity?
  • Ex.: War on drugs has made little progress despite lots of money spent and people in prison
  • Ex.: Designing for alien beings
    • Joseph Littro: use Sahara as a billboard for passing aliens
    • Charles Crow: use Martian deserts as a billboard to talk to Martians
    • Drake equation–is there anyone there to talk to anyway? Somewhere between 0 and 36mil alien civilizations in the universe
    • Carl Sagan: Voyager plaque and golden record–will aliens be able to decode and understand?
  • Ex.: Warning for future generations of dangerous nuclear waste sites
    • Needs to be stored for ~4 half lives–that’s 100k years for Plutonium, 2.8 trillion years for Uranium–what message can last that long? Colors, words, symbols lose their meaning over time
    • Human Interference Task Force asked to create message that would, last 10k years, convey that this was a message from the distant past, convey that this place is dangerous and should be avoided, convey why it is dangerous
      • There is no way to test the solution, and every scenario has week point
      • Atomic priesthood to comunicate danger–religion is durable, but it can fall
      • Global network of satellites–but these are vulnerable to meteors, etc.
      • Special plants that grow in presence of radiation, messages encoded in their DNA–but what if destroyed, or the future loses the ability to decode the message
      • Radiation cats engineered to glow in the presence of radiation
      • Giant thorns to make the place look as dangerous and forbidding as possible–but could decay, or become tourist attraction
      • Comics–but what if people read in the wrong direction
  • Maybe solutions don’t need to last forever to be significant
  • Wicked problems change us as we fight them, ignite our creativity, help us innovate
  • Trying to solve them doesn’t require fearlessness, recognize and understand fears
  • 5 ways to respond to wicked problems:
    • Be open and direct, acknowledge presence of ambiguity, make sure you and partners agree on problems and intents
    • Take rists: accountability shouldn’t deter, it should let people feel supported and secure enough to take risks
    • Stop being perfect, there is no such thing and distracts from making things better
    • Reward learning, failure increases understanding so don’t punish it
    • Try, even if you don’t succeed

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