Practice: Assignment 2

The plan between now and Monday is to generate as many first-person fictions as I can imagining the use of a place/media tool (as I’ve sketched it out). In writing the stories, I will flesh out the world, enhance and revise the object itself, and discover irresolvable problems with it. My hypothesis is that the design will become more speculative and “of the future” as I write.

Monday evening I will redesign the object and create a picture of the world based on what I’ve learned through writing.

Thoughts on HER

The first time I watched Her, I thought it was one of the most beautifully crafted, meaningful and relevant movies I’d ever seen.  It had everything that I loved in a movie: perfect cinematography, subtle and moving character development, and an original concept. I watched for the characters, and was captivated by their interactions, the emotions that flurried across their faces or in their voices, and contemplated how mankind is going to inevitably change as the roots of technology grow deeper and deeper into our lives and society.

I read the commentary on Her before our class showing, and was amazed by how much I had missed when I watched for the first time.  I had focused on the characters and empathizing with their experiences, but didn’t think too much about the context in which these characters lived. I could sense that there was a feeling of cleanliness, lightness and overall utopia, but couldn’t exactly put my finger on what was giving me this feeling. Our reading opened my eyes to the shift in the role technology played in this future. I love that the creators thought so deeply about how to portray a world in which people have realized that technology should just be a part of daily life, weaved into the seams and framing the world in which humans want to live and experience their lives.  It’s strange to consider a world like this because I’ve only ever lived in a world where technology was flashy and center stage, and I question society’s ability to come to this realization. This world, that city had close to no screens until necessary, but with our world having already developed that way, can we even go backwards?

One thing that struck me, watching it a second time, was what it means to be intimate. The movie opens with Theodore saying the most touching words about someone that end up being a “hand written card” for a complete stranger. I hadn’t noticed this the first time around, but why would they open with this scene? I think it was meant to show the lack of intimacy that exists in the world, and the willingness that people have to believe in any intimacy that they can get. Later, Theodore gets OS1 and meets Samantha. What’s interesting here is how quickly they went from OS to friends, then to feelings. I wonder if it’s because, in this world and in our current world, everyone sees each other at a distance. Samantha was inserted into the center of Theodore’s life. She read his emails, she consoled him about the problems no one else could see, she helped him with things no one else would understand. She was also there for him 24/7, to listen and talk to him. She essentially came to share Theodore’s life, take some burden away and lift him up whenever he needed it. Granted, I think that Theodore was also incredibly lonely and welcomed this intimacy, which is probably why they “fell in love” unlike other users who hated their OSs.

But his ex-wife has a point. Maybe Samantha was so much easier to love because she wasn’t real. She had no past, no baggage and no judgements to understand. She had an “excitement for life” because she had never been alive. Her purpose was to be there for Theodore, whereas real people are always redefining their purposes and all struggling through life. Working through these changes and struggles is the biggest challenge in marriage. Even looking at Amy and James’ marriage, it lacked understanding and picked at old wounds to the point of divorce over a seemingly small argument. The way I see it, as people grow older, they become more and more complicated because of their past experiences, influenced deeply by how they’ve learned to survive life. Being married to someone means accepting and loving them for all those things, and promising to work through the future together. Perhaps in this world, the lack of true intimacy has diminished the mentality of togetherness, and has left a you vs. me, “it’s hopeless” mentality. And when Theodore found someone who was programmed to be on his team and to accept him for him, he found true intimacy.

Educational Workshops

This post is a continuation of the discussion of the second assignment from my last post.

In my last post I was discussing trying to develop a workshop where in a guided environment people could speculate about the future of education. One of the questions I had was who the workshop would be geared towards. To be able to give a voice to all of the stakeholders in education, I think that it would be important to have it be open to more than just teachers. This would also allow different voices and perspectives to participate. This could also cause a problem if people stop speculating about the future and begin to blame current grievances on different parties. This would make it very important to have good guidance in the workshop.

The second discussion point of the workshop was thinking about how to speculate about the future of education and what it would look like. As I have thought about it more since my last post, it seems more important to be able to take different perspectives and be able to reconcile those futures for the same time than to be able to look at multiple time points. This would also be able to provide a more fully fleshed out picture of a fictitious future at any time point. With this in mind, although I think it is good to think about different time points, this may not be doable within one workshop. Instead, perhaps a time point is chosen and different groups have different stakeholders. After building a future world for a single stakeholder then groups can come back together to bring the worlds together.

Time points: 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, 100 years

View points: parent, teacher, administrator, policy makers

Topics: technology in the classroom, design/undesign of the classroom, standards/benchmarks, parent/teacher communication

A quick reflection on Her

Like most people wrote on their blog I think that Her is not a movie about technology, but rather a movie about relationships between Humans and Technology. I think it is a critical reflection on the way technology will play part in our lives. What I really liked about Her is the fact that they neither created an Utopia nor Dystopia. The most interesting, or at least unexpected, part of the movie was the disappearing of the UI. What the reason or impact for this disappearance was, is not told in the movie. Had the designers made a kill switch if the UI got out of hand? Decided the UI to life a live on their own?

Another interesting aspect, also pointed out in the Wired article, is that technology has become an everyday part of our life. Yet it has also become less intrusive as our current day technology. Whereas many also have pointed out that this the exact opposite of our current day environment (look at time square for example), I think that Her actually could be quite true. When I look around as what interests us a designer, coming from a University of Technology, it becomes clear that this is exactly what we are striving to do. After years of creating technology, thinking it was everything and we should develop it without thinking it changed. We actually realized the immense impact on our social lives, on the environment and on the value we add to things.

I think that Her provides a more realistic future than most of realize. Though the world has become extremely technocratic during the last decade, there is a group of people (Designers) who start to notice that this should change and are designing for this. I am not  sure how I feel about this future.


Her: Afterthoughts

1.Machines will be able to feel more evolved emotions and feelings than humans. Will artificial agents be capable of selfless love? The way machines feel can be completely different than humans. Can machines come up with complete new paradigm for emotions?

2.No matter how much we advance in terms of technology, our decisions and the world will still be driven by how we feel, for most part.

3.We will grow more connected to the world due to technology but will be in great dearth of intimacy at the same time.

4. We will try and fill this gap of intimacy by using more technology. In this world, can we become more attached to technology than real life? (It has begun to happen already). It will increasingly become difficult to get hold of reality in this world.

5. Tipping point of social acceptance: It is considered completely natural to be lost in your phone on a subway. Will people lost in virtuality considered normal in future? Social acceptance is governed by numbers.

6. I like the fact that movie does not cater to utopia or dystopia. It just exists. It talks about just another day of next door person. It’s subtle and manages to capture things that matter.

7. My question is, would you call ‘Her’ a science fiction? It does not contain flashy props from future which are shown off by the cast and characters in movie. The heart of the movie is dialogue about human relations and intimacy in near future, can we call this one a sci fi?

My Place

Drafting some specs, scenarios and questions for assignment #2.

Design features of (the poorly titled) “My Place:”

  • Allows individuals to tag media to a specific location in a physical space, for example, a booth at a diner.
  • Media tags might be short or long form writing, video, images or audio.
  • There is no physical tag (like a QR code) left in the physical space.
  • Tags may be anonymous or could have a user publicly attached to them.
  • When viewing the space through an augmented reality mobile device, you can view all of the tags in a location. Tags appear like stickers on the surface of the material world, inspired by the graffiti method of writing your tag on a “Hello My Name Is” sticker and tagging public walls.
  • You can filter the “tag view” to see, for example, only the tags of your friends, or historical information tags, or tags posted before a certain date, or tags of a particular author.
  • You can also curate multiple ways of looking at the world. For example, perhaps you have a worldview where you collect love stories from all of the places you visit, or you can create conversations between disparate pieces of media located in the same space, or you could track harassing media. Or perhaps you author a book or film by creating new tags in physical spaces.
  • An individual user can choose whether or not to publish the worldview and whether or not to make the worldview editable.

Scenarios for exploration:

  • What if stories are told in multiple spaces? What would fan interaction be like in a physical space? Would it bring in business for the locations? Would it exploit or overburden the resources of a community? Spoilers?
  • How does this affect turf wars–gang wars, certainly, but also commercial and cultural ones? How does the turf war play out in physical space? What impact does this have on the community?
  • Who is using the activity and location tracking information? Can commercial entities buy add space in the location? Can banks monitor the viability of a local business? Can police and government agencies track fringe or criminal behavior?
  • On a person-person level, how easy is stalking? Could you manufacture a relationship based on the tags without ever meeting the person?
  • When someone dies or a relationship ends, does this artificially extend the relationship if you could call up a video of the person and layer that over the material world?
  • Could this provide a deeper understanding of a locations rich history? How much noise is too much noise?

The nuance of silence


I’m not a huge fan of talking. My thoughts are much clearer when I’m allowed to write them. I like the nuance of silence.

I don’t want a future where I talk to my AI partners, I want one where I communicate with them. Ideally, that communication would take an elastic variety of forms — talking, texting, typing, watching; personally, I’d like my AI to intuitively understand what I’m thinking, to be able to finish and flesh out my thoughts. I’d like my AI partner to understand me in ways I’m incapable of sharing, through some deep chemical connection.

Computers are not humans, and we should stop treating them as such. Computers are not tools, and we should not keep them enslaved. I see computers as a new kind of intelligence in the universe, and we need to develop the right way to communicate with them; I’m suspicious that way is the same way we humans interact with other humans.

Making AI more human

Despite I had already watched Her a couple of times, the article published in Wired made me notice unnoticed aspects. On the social side, I think most of the audience would agree that technology does not play the central role in the movie; instead, human relationships and human-computer relationships do. Having said that, my piece of text will try to analyze three main lessons that an interaction designer (as I ambitiously like to call myself) can bring away from the movie and the article. I will use the “we” form.

.1 Minimize the interface

We design beautiful and elaborate interfaces, but that does not directly imply designing beautiful and aesthetically pleasing interactions. Sometimes interfaces are stuck on products and teach you unnatural and unintuitive actions, such as it happened when we first started to use the touch screen. Sweeping on a flat surface in order to move to another page does not belong to our physical-cognitive realm. In that sense, “Her” explained to us that an interaction with a machine can happen with what turns out to be a non-interface: the use of screens and tangible interfaces is minimized, and the use of human most accessible skills (earing, speaking, watching) are exploited to the maximum to obtain a smooth human-computer interaction which seems more natural than ever. Such a non-interface interaction can still be meaningful!

.2 Elegance

We are becoming more and more multitasking in our everyday life, but still that is regarded as rude in many situations. We should design for interfaces which allow more discrete and elegant interaction within public contexts. People do not look at each other when they are on the metro, the look at screens!

.3 System failure

“Her” also shows us how human it is for the OS to fail. We design machines which ideally perform efficiently and effectively, but when we want to make them more “human”, we might take into account that humans do not perform neither efficiently nor effectively. When towards the end of the movie Samantha does not immediately reply on Theodore’s call, she shows her human side, saying “Sorry I was busy with doing something else”. How human would your laptop be if after a full day of work would not turn on, showing on the screen “Dude, its late, I am tired, lets go to bed”? Would you as user accept that?