Context: How we broke it, and how we might be able to ﬁx it. Andrew Hinton @inkblurt=====>>>>>>
Context: How we broke it, and how we might be able to ﬁx it. Andrew Hinton @inkblurtThank you for coming. Iʼve been asked to introduce this topic in a span of about 15 minutes, and then leave the rest of our time forconversation, so Iʼm going to do my best to make that happen. So forgive me if I just jump right in ...
Language ContextThis is a urinal. Itʼs also probably the most inﬂuential work of art in the 20th century.To be exact, itʼs a urinal that Marcel Duchamp submitted to an art show in 1917.He didnʼt just submit it, though. He scrawled R. Mutt, 1917 on the side, like an artistʼs signature, called it “Fountain” stuck it on a pedestal, and *then*submitted it.It was a splendid act of Dada. But it ended up being more than merely a joke.>>By labeling it,>>and putting it in a different context,Duchamp changed the frame of reference for the object. It was a challenge against everything that had come before: every cultural assumption or taboo. Iteventually affected how people thought about art, high and low culture, everything.Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Duchamp_Fountaine.jpg
Visual Placement UI Behavior Past experience of similar functionality. CONTEXTHereʼs a screenshot from my iphone, using a 3rd party browser.Notice the little x icons in the top right.How do we know those two almost identical shapes donʼt do exactly the same thing? ...Itʼs because of a *lot* of factors, actually. Some are ...>>The user needs to understand that because of their placement and how theyʼre contained,>>as well as when and how they became visible -- experiencing their appearance gives some idea of what theyʼre connected to in thisinteraction.>> It also assumes the user has enough background and experience to know *anything* about whatʼs happening here, including experiencewith little x-icons.>> All of these are part of the context of the experience.One thing this interaction has going for it is that itʼs at least all right there in front of you, if you know how to read the cues. But I bring thisexample up only because itʼs small and easy to point out. What about when itʼs a bigger deal, and harder to see?
WTF? Where am I? What “mode” am I In? Does “mode” change what “where” means?Earlier I searched Google for “information architecture context” to see what would come up ... and discovered that my blog comes up asnumber 3 for that search result! Awesome!!!>> But then I open a different browser and run the same search, and ... Iʼm nowhere to be found...>> Itʼs a real WTF moment...>> Until I realize Iʼm logged in on one and not the other ... but thereʼs nothing telling me this is an issue, explicitly.>> As a designer I ask questions like these ... where am I? what mode is this? and does mode change what “where” means to begin with?
Hereʼs a fun one with ecommerce. After my ﬂight in from Atlanta, I get to my hotel in Portland, and I decide I need some duct tape. So I visitthe Ace Hardware site to ﬁnd a store that has duct tape nearby.>>So I go there, and see a map.>> I see a store and select it, and it shows me the details about the store. Iʼm thinking awesome let me check this nearby store for duct tape.But when I click it...>> Iʼm asked to LOG IN or create an account! How annoying. Oh well, luckily I have an Ace Hardware account, so I log in ...
And now when I search for duct tape, I can see that the Portland store is at the top of the page. That must mean Iʼm looking at the inventoryfor that store. Perfect.>> I select the kind of duct tape I want ...>> And oddly enough I have an awful lot of text here about how I can or canʼt get it ... the only thing that speciﬁes anything about ﬁnding it rightnow in my local store is this, so I click it ...
WTF?And I get yet another map ???>> And this one is in North Carolina???Oh itʼs because earlier, I signed in and it had my old address from when I lived in North Carolina last year.There are all sorts of contextual disconnects happening here, even though each individual *page* works pretty well -- it doesnʼt hang togethervery well as a system that accommodates life complexity.
Google Buzz Facebook BeacomThere have been a number of spectacular disasters with privacy in the last few years. Google Buzz connected people in ways they didnʼt wantto be connected, because Google assumed if you emailed someone a lot they were a close friend.Facebook assumed youʼd want to share with everyone labeled “friend” information about everything you bought online.
Friend? In the information dimension, labels are architecture.Both Facebook and Google made huge mistakes about what the word “Friend” actually means. Language is powerful, and labels are powerful.And now weʼre living in a world where thereʼs an ever-present dimension of information that shapes our daily experience.>> >> in the information dimension, labels are architecture. The semantics of that dimension can affect us just as strongly as the physicalarchitecture of our cities and buildings.
One thing Google and Facebook did wrong ... They each created an overly simplistic model for connecting people, and then trickedthemselves into thinking that model reﬂected everything important about the complexity of the contexts we live in every day.>>They give us a few little boxes to label ourselves with,
When in fact, our lives are much more organic, analog and full of facets and shades of identity and relationships.
Location-Awareness Multi-Presence (Physical Context / Digital Response) (Digital Context / Cognitive Response) Pictures Personal Facebook Wall Email Reply to Shopping Mall Message Friend Individual Request Reply to All Invitation Tags Mailing List (s) Group Pictures LinkedIn Reply Direct Business Message Workplace Phone / SMS Post Sharepoint Home Email Phone/SMS WorkplaceOne important difference I want to point out is between what those of us designing and researching mobile digital behavior think of as context,and what Iʼm focusing on here, though theyʼre both relevant in the examples I mentioned.>>In the ﬁrst type, we have the ability for our devices and the physical places we visit to interact and be location-aware. They change theirdigital response based on our physical context.>> In the second type, the one Iʼm focusing on more here, we the person can be anywhere physically ... but cognitively theyʼre inhabitingmultiple “places” often simultaneously, and itʼs our cognition thatʼs supposed to respond and comprehend it all.The ﬁrst one is getting a lot of attention in research and in the marketplace, but I think itʼs the second one that is a bigger present problem.
Shopping Mall Personal Pictures Facebook Wall Email Message Reply to Friend Individual Request Reply to All Invitation Tags Mailing List (s) Group Pictures LinkedIn Reply Direct Business Message Workplace Phone / SMS Post Sharepoint Email Home Phone/SMS Workplace The Full Context ClusterfrackIt gets even worse when you mix these up into one big contextual soup.
danah boydThe digital researcher and sociologist danah boyd recently ﬁnished her dissertation on this very issue, and her work has been very inﬂuentialin the social computing space. She makes the case that this problem is, at core, a context problem.danah image: strandgreen.com
“The problem is not lack of context. It is context collapse: an inﬁnite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording.” - Michael WeschSociologist Michael Wesch, who has done a great deal of research especially around YouTube, says that this technology has created acondition he calls “context collapse” where we simply cannot comprehend the sorts of places weʼve created, and how theyʼve all essentiallycollapsed into one. It takes everyone by surprise, and we still havenʼt ﬁgured out how to work within it.
Embodiment Our brains evolved in physical space, and use those categories for comprehending digital experience. guardian.co.uk We have huge blind spots in our cognition for this new kind of space we have invented.At the center of why we struggle so much with contextual cognition online is the fact that we use the same brains that evolved over millenniaby comprehending context as physically bounded, explicitly demarcated space. We have HUGE blind spots in our cognition for this new kindof space weʼve invented.image guardian.co.uk
“Existential Space” “In pervasive information architecture, context is personal, social, existential context, connected tightly to the concepts of place and place-making, and spans channels.” - Resmini & RosatiThe new book from Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati does an excellent job of pushing us as practitioners further down the road forunderstanding this kind of space ... they call it Existential Space. I canʼt recommend this book highly enough, by the way.
We have themethods... but do weuse them properly?
Task Task Need Cognitive Task Situation Physical Task Need Need Emotional Task Task Task Task TimeThis is a diagram Iʼve used for a while -->>it describes how a person has physical, cognitive and emotional aspects that we should keep in mind. (aka a Persona)>>They also have a life situation that gives rise to needs in their lives, which then spawns tasks theyʼre having to do (aka Scenarios).>>And they move through this experience over a period of time, during which things can shift and change.We know how to generate this information. But from what Iʼve seen we ignore most of it.
Task Task Need Cognitive Task Situation Physical Task Need Need Emotional Task Task Task Task TimeIn the rush of project work, we focus on the tasks. In fact a lot of our methods encourage us to focus on activities and tasks, extracted fromtheir life context. The full scenario goes away and we only think about the parts of it that are neat & tidy and that ﬁt the requirements weinherit. So, no wonder this goes wrong.
Systems In Context Situation Need Cognitive Task System Person System Organic, Artiﬁcial, Analog Binary Physical Emotional Bridge between = the work of UXSo if we take the models I showed before, and turn them slightly, adding the system, we see how the system lives in just one island within avast ecosystem of human context.>>Much of our job is to bridge the gap between the harsh, artiﬁcial logic of the system and the living reality of people trying to get things done.
Let’s Talk andrewhinton.com | @inkblurtSo if we take the models I showed before, and turn them slightly, adding the system, we see how the system lives in just one island within avast ecosystem of human context.>>Much of our job is to bridge the gap between the harsh, artiﬁcial logic of the system and the living reality of people trying to get things done.