The Awful Design of Everyday Things - Rethinking our workplaces and homes in the IoT Age

Thirty years after its publication, Donald Norman's seminal book "The Design of Everyday Things", which examined how the tiny usability touches in everyday items matter so much, remains relevant and important. In fact, Don just this year wrote that the technology industry badly needs to re-focus on the true meaning of Human Centered Design, observing that despite his decades of advocacy, the same kinds of design flaws continually recur.

We are just a handful of years short of the centenary of the publication of Modern Architecture pioneer Le Corbusier's maxim "A house is a machine to live in", yet our architecture remains stubbornly steam powered.

My position is that we ought step back and critically reexamine the shape and detail of our workplaces and homes, and in particular how we interact with the computer software that is coming to pervade our workplaces, vehicles and even bodies. The great labour saving devices of the 20th century freed us from much physical drudgery, but significant cognitive burden remains. I will examine, in the abstract and concrete, how much cognitive load is imposed on us by our environment; it has been written that a modern human makes approximately 30,000 choices every day.

For example, why are our light switches placed for the convenience of builders, not inhabitants. Why do so many of our labour-saving appliances require us to spend so much time monitoring and pampering them. Wouldn't it be great if your various "intelligent agents" could work thing out among themselves without involving us. How often do you stumble about in the dark fumbling for a light switch. Wouldn't you prefer to discover the failed refrigerator or flooded storeroom before the contents are ruined?

Join me for an imagination of how Living In The Future could truly be better.

 
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Outline/Structure of the Talk

Introduction: a summary of current thinking and seminal resources on design in technology and architecture.

Problem space: Examples of high-friction user interactions with our technology. Derivation of the key classes of flaw. Pointing and laughing at egregious failures of usability.

Desiderata: how can we make our workplaces better. What are the properties we should strive for in our machines, and how can technologies such as IoT assist.

Solutions: Using well designed software (particularly in the arena of IoT) to improve our lives. Examples are wireless switching, intelligent lighting, human-centered user interfaces, remote monitoring and cooperation between devices. My integrated office project as step toward a exemplar solution.

Learning Outcome

The attendee will be gently taken by the shoulders and shaken, while being told "everything is awful!".

Then you will be taught to look at the world in a way that leads to solutions. Each time you figuratively or literally stub your toe on technology will nudge you toward a better life.

In less abstract terms, you will learn about

* Fostering cooperation between notionally incompatible software agents

* Techniques for reducing cognitive load by implementing intelligent monitoring and response

* IoT solutions to retrofit remote-control to lighting, hvac, security and appliances

Target Audience

Design Thinkers

Prerequisites for Attendees

Consider your daily routine. What cognitive chores do you wish you could eliminate. How often do "stupid objects" waste your time?

schedule Submitted 7 months ago

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