“You cannot not communicate. Every behaviour is a kind of communication. Because behaviour does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behaviour), it is not possible not to communicate.”—Paul Watzlawick’s First Axiom of Communication
This is the first rule of UX. Everything a designer does affects the user experience. From the purposeful addition of a design element to the negligent omission of crucial messaging, every decision is molding the future of the people we design for.
We’re pleased to announce the 2011 IxDA conference, to be held February 9-12, 2011 (Wednesday through Saturday), with pre-conference events on Wednesday the 9th.
The 2011 conference will be held in stunning Boulder, Colorado; Boulder boasts gorgeous scenery, outdoor adventures, and a vibrant design community. A call for participation will be posted in the summer of 2010. Registration is open now, though - be sure to register early, as the conference sold out in 2010!
Presented by IxDA in partnership with Boulder Digital Works (BDW)
- IxDA presents interaction’11 | Boulder - save the date!
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 emotional payoff of the science fiction genre is the sense of wonder it conveys. Science fiction “design” therefore demands some whiz-bang, whereas industrial design requires safety, utility, serviceability, cost constraints, appearance, and shelf appeal. To these old-school ID virtues nowadays we might add sustainability and a decent interface. The classic totems of sci-fi: the rayguns, space cruisers, androids, robots, time machines, artificial intelligences, nanotechnological black-boxes. They have a deep commonality: They’re imaginary. Imaginary products can never maim the consumer, they get no user feedback, and lawsuits and regulatory boards are not a problem. That’s why their design is glamorously fantastic and, therefore, basically, crap. On occasion, sci-fi prognostications do become actual objects and services. Science fiction then promptly looks elsewhere. It shouldn’t, but it does. I like to think that my science fiction became somewhat less flaccid once I learned to write “design fiction” as I now commonly do. I believe that I’ve finessed that issue, at least in my own practice. However, when science fiction thinking opens itself to design thinking, larger problems appear. These have to do with speculative culture generally, the way that our society imagines itself through its forward-looking disciplines. Many problems I once considered strictly literary are better understood as interaction-design issues. Literature has platforms. By this I mean the physical structures on which literature is conceived, designed, written, manufactured and distributed, remembered and forgotten. Literary infrastructure has user-experience constraints.
Being the bad guys As Molleindustria’s McDonalds’ video game, Oiligarchy places the player in the shoes of the “bad guys” in order to articulate the critique. Our belief is that power structures can be understood more clearly if represented from a privileged position. The player tends to perform actions with both positive outcomes (profits, advancement in the game) and social or environmental costs (a.k.a. negative externalities) dealing with responsibilities in a system that does not really punish unethical choices. The unethical gameplay is designed to reflect the free market system, which is ultimately, the object of the critique.
Moreover, a mirrored point of view can avoid the trap of the “simulated activism”, a cathartic illusion of empowerment and normative “do the right thing” enunciates. Games do not work as Skinnerian conditioning devices: games rewarding (virtual) social change do not produce activists for the same reasons games rewarding (virtual) violence do not produce violent players. As a result of taking a look at the players’ feedback, it is apparent that pushing the people to explore the dark side, especially if done with abundant irony, does not undermine the overarching game objectives.