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["I Forgot My Phone" video playing as an intro]
Who had seen this video before? Uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago and already has more than 20 million views. So who does recognize herself or himself in this video? We usually start talks and workshops about multi-device design with a few questions …
Does this feel like home? My personal answer is a clear yes! Who does NOT use a mobile device during watching TV?
Here's a last picture – a new favorite from a newspaper in Hamburg: The caption reads "although this guy's hurt, he's staring into his smartphone".
During these talks and workshops, the recurring question almost always is: What do all these new devices and services do to us – to our behavior and social interaction? This is the point where very excited discussions start to emerge.
But there are typically around 130 slides on multi-device design to go and the discussion needs to be postponed, unfortunately. Today we're going to skip these slides … [5 sec hi speed animation of 133 slides] … so we can now concentrate on the implications of the multi-device world — and the opportunities for design.
If you do some research on the topic, you'll find a lot of chatter and reflection. In movies or TV shows, for instance. Let's have a look at some examples.
"Black Mirror", a mini TV series, started in 2011 on Channel 4. According to Wikipedia, it "shows the dark side of life and technology".
Spike Jonze seems to be thinking about the implications technology has on our relationships. Here's an excerpt of the trailer for his upcoming movie "Her". [Character has an "intimate" conversation with device on nightstand]
And here's the intro sequence of a "Horseland" episode called "TalkTalk" (it's a kids program). [Narrator talking about one of the characters that neglects the horses and might lose close friends due to her new cellphone]
It's also in newspapers, magazines, blogs and on social networks.
There's a lot of buzz going on!
There are plenty of articles telling you how to "unplug", to spend "tech free" time – or enlighten you about your "smartphone addiction". Try searching Twitter for #unplug, it's very lively and interesting to observe.
There's now even "#unplug: The complete, printable guide" by FastCompany.
I found this quote in the "New York Times" Bits Blog especially intruiging: "At least once a month my wife and I jump in our car and drive until cell service drops off (yes, this is possible) and spend the weekend engaged with all things analog".
… and have you heard about "The national day of unplugging"?
or about "Camp Grounded"? It's a summer camp for adults – feat. Yoga, Meditation, Hiking, Art, Baking, Organic Meals and other "analog things" …
Since a few days, "Digital Detox" is part of the Oxford Dictionary (online only, of course).
Two new and related books: "The Distraction Addiction" and "The Big Disconnect".
So this multi-device reality seems to introduce a few challenges.
Our devices have become extensions of our minds and bodies. We use them unconsciously, almost mechanically. We don't think about it much, we just do it.
The average smartphone user checks her or his device every six and a half minutes , which works out to around 150 times a day. A study lead by Helsinki Institute for Information Technology and Intel Labs in 2011 identified something they call a "checking habit".
You might have heard of "ringxiety", also known as "Phantom vibration syndrome". People diagnose themselves with "Fear of Missing Out" (#fomo) and post their experiences on Twitter.
So what can design do? That's the question we should think about. What can design do to help people better understand their behavior and the implications? And ultimately support them to find a balanced and mindful use of technology?
Let's have a look at some well known everyday situations. For each context, I will take you through a few design driven examples that try to tackle a problem.
You all know this: You're trying to focus on something like reading a book, but permanently get distracted by notifications on your device. You could surely just turn it off – but you usually don't.
"Do not disturb" modes are an important step for smartphones – you can disconnect, but still be available for the ones you love (by "whitelisting" them).
"Pause" is an app that aims to help you disconnect. You choose an activity like "read a book" or "go for a walk", set a time span and start a countdown by enabling "Airplane Mode". If you're cheating, you need to try again. The idea is to "compete others to see who can stay ‘offline’ the longest"
Or think of glanceable interfaces, that don't require your full attention. Like the public transportation schedules by James Darling of BERG fame. A screen that doesn't glow and distract, just sits somewhere in your kitchen. Or "Moves App", that sends you summaries of your last day's activity as push notifications every morning and you actually never need to open the app.
And in the work context: You have to finish something, so you really need to get productive. There are a lot of Books, Methods and Tools on "Productivity" …
One example is "SelfControl" – you set a time span, add domains to a blacklist and press "Start".
Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access blacklisted sites – even if you restart your computer or delete the application.
My dear colleage Henryk has built a browser extension for himself called "Self.Glitch". This is what it does to blacklisted websites.
There's a great plugin for "Ableton Live", an audio production tool: You push a button and get freed from a busy and distracting user interface …
… being able to focus on what really matters when working on music: listening to it.
We need to be in the right "flow" to be really productive. But it can also be the other way around – we're totally lost in an activity and don't recognize we need some break.
There's a BenQ Monitor that has "smart reminders" built into the hardware, asking for a rest every now and then. Also, Wii Sports occasionally reminds you to take a break.
A new technology by Volvo analyzes your driving data and reminds you when it's better to stop for a while. In this case, it's not just based on time, but on your actual driving behavior.
That's something everybody knows – and for sure more than just texting. Go out, it takes only a minute until you see somebody doing it (it might be you).
(It has drawbacks, actually.)
The numbers speak volumes: In 2011, 1.100 people were treated in hospital emergency departments across the US (national estimate through extrapolated data from 100 US Emergency Departments). That's old numbers, and there are for sure a lot of people that won't admit their injuries are from texting while walking.
One approach to tackle this is called "Type n Walk": you can see through the device while typing and catch sight of potential obstacles.
There's also an academic concept called "CrashAlert", exploring ways to alert people through sensors and visual feedback. People will keep using their devices while walking, or even on their bikes. So it makes sense to address this with design solutions.
This is not funny and very dangerous. Car manufacturers for sure take care of driver and passenger safety in their vehicles. But what happens if you bring your own devices and don't connect them to the car? There are laws in some countries that prohibit any kind of device use while driving – but will this solve the problem?
Since this is mainly an issue with young adults, there's a product called "CellControl": parents can mount a little hardware into their kids' car that …
… blocks their smartphones while the vehicle is moving.
And last, not least: the screenlight dinner. Sounds familiar?
I'm sure you have heard of "The Phone Stack" ( http://www.getkempt.com/the-code/the-phone-stack.php ). In a restaurant or bar, people agree on putting their phones face down on a stack. The person pulling their phone first pays the bill.
Somebody turned this idea into an app – it's called "Downside". You connect with people around you, turn your phones face down. The person turning their phone first loses the game.
Blokket is a simple, analogue object that blocks phone signals using a smart material made of nylon and silver, like a soft Faraday cage.
The Way We See The World, a NYC based design studio with a mission to design for a better world, describe the concept of Blokket like this: "The manual act of wrapping your phone up creates a new ritual; embedding the awareness of a newly formed ‘digital etiquette’ within its use."
Without doubt, the topic is quite omnipresent – even if you didn't think about it much, you all know the everyday situations we've just seen, I guess. Let me finish with a conclusion.
We need to find meaningful ways to orchestrate our use of information technology. The frog in our smartphone game is as much reality as is the frog in the woods. Today, "The real world" and "the digital world" inseparably coexist in our everyday lifes. We need to understand this world better and find the right balance. We need to find out how to behave well in this multi device world.
In the past, we "went on the internet" alone, at stationary places. And we were sort of swamped and did not fully understand how to behave towards all these other people on the internet! But over time, a "netiquette" emerged. People agreed on certain "online behavior" rules.
Today, we're constantly connected, wherever we go and whatever we do. Our devices augment and overcharge our human capacities at the same time. So we need an updated etiquette that deals with information technology being much more present in all kinds of situations of our everyday lives. And today, our devices are mostly recognizable. They have screens and explicit input and output. What happens if they become wearable and embedded, or connected things without screens? We have developed from "internet users" to something like "multi-device cyborgs" and we still have to learn how to handle it.
We can probably start by observing and challenging our own behavior and habits around information technology. As parents, we need to think not just about our own behavior, but also how it influences our kids. They're born into another world than we are. How can we convey "good manners" without old world finger-wagging? Anyway, it's not about what we tell our kids, it's what they see us do …
As designers, we have been tasked to shape this world in big and small ways. We have a hunger for better behavior, and we are, if nothing else, optimistic! We envision better behavior and decide to work towards it by shaping the world around us with every process we are involved in, every project we do and every product we design.
How to behave well in a multi-device world
How to behave well
in a multi-device world
#behavewell — @preciousforever — precious-forever.com
Even the Tech Elites leave Gadgets Behind New York Times Bits Blog
No-Tech Sundays Geekwire
Simplify your TechLife,
Thoreau Style Wall Street Journal
How to #unplug in 6 steps Fast Company
4 signs you're addicted
to your cellphone Men's Health
At least once a month my wife
and I jump in our car and drive
until cell service drops off (yes,
this is possible) and spend the
weekend engaged with all things
analog. Evan Sharp, a founder of Pinterest
digital detox (n): a period of time during which a person refrains from using
electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an
opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world:
break free of your devices and go on a digital detox