Week 5 Reading Response

Cultural Probes 

Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne, and Elena Pacenti

As a product designer, I remember doing cultural probing in undergrad days. Our group’s goal was to make a new entertainment product for people our age (early 20s at that time). We handed out our very own cultural probing package to people who were unique in certain ways but who were all aged in their early 20s. We handed the packages out to physics majors, design majors, engineering majors, etc. We gave them a diary to write on along with stickers, pens, magazines, etc. so that they could decorate their diary. It was experimenting with cultural probes and to see the diverse results cultural probing had to offer. And fortunately, we did “explore functions, experiences, and cultural placements quite outside the norm.” Because we didn’t want the probing package to seem like a project, or something irritable for the tester, we tried to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible so that people would actually WANT to record their daily lives. Along with giving them probing packages, we also carried other methods such as shadow tracking to see different people’s lives and to see it in their point of view. We believed that there was only so much information that could be gathered if we left the testers to do everything on their own therefore we followed them around the entire day acting as their shadows and documented and recorded their entire actions of that day. We would also talk with them during different instances and receive direct feedback and very useful opinions. After an analysis of the probing packages, we realized different tendencies of different people in their early 20s and made a product that would soothe each user at different times. Like the article mentions, we received feedback from the testers saying that this cultural probing package made the testers rethink about how they acted in their daily lives and some even thanked us for giving them a fun and interesting experience.

Experience Prototyping

Marion Buchenau, Jane Fulton Suri

Prototyping, as everyone knows it, is used for “understanding, exploring, and communicating.” There are so many different types of prototyping that it is really hard to define or explain prototyping as a single word. One action is better than saying a hundred words. I believe this to be the motto of prototyping. Clearly, from this article, we can see that prototyping is used for three main purposes: reliving existing experiences for better understanding, exploring new and intuitive design ideas and to check on feasibility, and communicating design concepts for better understanding. For each instance, people must check the methods of communicating prototypes for better understanding of different targets.

Although acting out a certain case (Train Journey Experience, ROV Pilot Experience, Patient Experience) may be effective, it is sometimes really hard to grasp the “real” environment unless you are actually in the user’s shoe. I think it was a very good idea to ask questions to an ex-ROV Pilot in order to relive the Pilot experience. This gives the prototype much more depth and a solid base to work off from. It would also be very fun to act out certain circumstances in a train journey and act randomly. Instead of trying to make a gadget that you think “looks cool” and is “up-to-date” in technology, prototyping gives you a sort of proof that a proposed design WILL affect certain people and WILL be of beneficial use for a diverse range of people.


Assignment03 : Mashup

Assignment03 : Mashup

Mashup : Hardware + Internet

01 Spirit001
‘Eyes are the mirror of the soul’

Once I heard this famous quote and thought back and forth of this era, which we have so many tools as extensions to our body. Hence, this piece investigates the status of a spirit of this 21st century and the role of those networking tools, which relate to human invisibly. Therefore, I created a box, which brings the viewer to the outside world. On the other hand the viewer will be seen, by the people on the street, like a spirit in the building. People in the street will connect to the man behind the box by text messages to ask a yes/no question then the eyes will blink one time for yes and two times for no.

View inside the box to the outside world


View from outside world to the eyes in the box

02 I (don’t) have so much time

In the big city when there are too many things to do, we tend to have less time to someone we care or it could be a distance problem that makes a wider gap between two people, so I came up with this project of dolls that connect two people 24 hours like a voodoo doll which put a somebody’s soul in.
The image of the people from two side will come on the face of a doll or they can see what the other side sees all the time.


Mashup : media

‘Can You Hear Me?’
I chose to do the vdo mashup from Youtube. This is like a commentary of what I personally feel about American pop culture, in the way that everything has to be louder, bolder or more vivid. In audio engineering world, they tend to do the same with new music, the louder the better to get attention from people in the radio.




Event 3 – ScrapYard Challenge

I didn’t have time to scavenge junk for Scrapyard Challenge, luckily, I was able to pick up a used umbrella while walking to the subway station, and that was what we used.

We drew inspiration from the mechanics of the music box, where the music played is pre-printed onto a cylinder plate in the form of pins. We created a pattern using tin foil, which acts as the music sheet. The pattern is circular, with multiple rings, each ring separate from the others with breaks of black tape in them. This was designed according to the possible movements of the umbrella. By pulling the umbrella up and down, the “claws” expand, respectively touching each circle and playing different tones. By spinning the umbrella, due to the breaks, beats can be created.

I’d never made anything like this before, and I was not sure if the idea would work. Fortunately, things turned out, and we were able to make “sounds” quite affectively. You can view a video documentation of our working instrument here.

Event 2 – Maker Faire

For Maker Faire, I volunteered to help out at Joel’s and Yuri’s booth. Because of that, I didn’t get to fully see everything that was displayed. From what I did see, I was mostly disappointed. I had expected a gathering of savvy non-mainstream hobbiests with crazy, experimental projects, not a combination of commercially driven corporate displays and supposedly cool carnivalesque machines. There was a walking chair that was kind of funky, a Stifteo game that was somewhat interesting. I was especially not impressed by the much talked about “fire-breathing dragon”. A better example of large scale sculpture made of found/used material is Xu Bing’s Phoenix Project, where there is more content and the design is more refined.

However, the experience was not all negative. Working at the Maker Shaft, I got to see a lot of people, especially youngsters, who are becoming increasingly interested in DIY electronics and programming. The Shaft sold toys directed towards children in elementary school, that would introduce them to basic electronics and circuit design, these packaged boxes contained as many as 100 different projects. Also, many that came up to our pulse sensor (for those interested in PComp, Joel’s pulse sensor might be a fun addition to your toolkit) booth were hobbiests who hacked hardware and software during their free time. One of the visitors at the booth was a middle school teacher who taught Arduino in his class. It’s exciting to imagine what kids who are exposed to electronics and code at such an young age might come up with by the time they mature.

Motion Detector and Slider:

Pulse Sensor



Event 1 – Whitney Museum & MoMA

Whitney Museum – Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools

The pieces displayed in the Pro Tools show are significant in the way that they are historical and should be seen in a historical context. Set history aside, I personally did not find the pieces that intriguing. The main reason for this is these pieces mainly investigate the use of then innovative tools, but media theory and discussion have evolved so much since the 70s that mere discussion of early tools really is not all that interesting anymore. For me, the way tools shape perception, thought process and culture, and projections of future developments are more stimulating topics.

MoMA – Talk to Me

The Talk to Me show at the MoMA in general was not as interesting as I’d hoped it would be. However, there were three pieces I found inspiring:

Hi, a Real Human Interface is a clever interpretation of computer data processing and task management. It was thought provocative in the way that it bridged a connection between man and machine, humanizing one and objectifying the other, and in doing so, equating the two. The video display in the Talk to Me show was probably not the way to exhibit the piece. I later found out that the piece was actually a live interactive project where you can directly interact with the screen displaying the video, and change the activity of the performer.

Hungry Hungry Eat Head has all the qualities of a well done public intervention, it’s light, fun, extremely participatory, and alters public behavior to a great extent. The technique of using QR codes for object detection is new to me and I’d like to learn more of how it is done.

Dead Drops was my favorite of all the pieces, I find it the strongest project. When I saw it, the first thing that popped up into my head was: alternative social network. I think if you think about it that way, it then becomes extremely interesting in the fact that it proposes a very unique and original way of communication, and the simplicity of the project only makes it stronger.

Project 2 – 7 & 7

The week I did my 7 & 7 projects was the week I had the most diverse experiences since my arrival. The city encompassed so many contradictions that it seemed almost fictional. I had lived in the States previously, but NY was something else. For over a month, I had been waiting for the realization of “I’m in America” to hit, but that never came (and I’m still waiting to this day), this was in no way like the US of my past experiences.

My 7 & 7 projects are starting ideas that attempt to document/express my experiences and reflections within this surreal environment.


Day 1

For my first project, I documented my process in building a bookcase. This was the last chapter of my home setup. Due to my lack of experience in building furniture (much like my lack of experience in living and studying here), the whole process was very much like my experience in NY and at Parsons, the reality resembled the manuscript, but not in the way you imagined. There were often unexpected differences and difficult situations. I printed out my picture documentations, and juxtaposed them next to the images in the manuscript with notes to display the deviation.


Day 2

I went to Fashion Night Out to observe the beautiful and glamorous. There were all sorts of crazy elaborate things happing all over the place. Soho was one of the hot spots with live models in shop windows, designers creating fashion-wear for customers on the spot, free cocktails stands and walls plastered with dollar bills. It was exciting, but also disturbingly superficial and wasteful. The whole night was a portrayal of a commercialized, appearance – oriented lifestyle, that for that one night only, allowed want-to-be participants, who on regular days would not be allowed in (and ironically were still not allowed into the more exclusive parties and gatherings), to take part in the illusion.

For my project, I documented outfits of people on the street and superimposed lyrics of pop songs that illustrated said lifestyle onto the image, suffocating the characters in text.

Day 3

In my Set Pixel class, we were given a code that allowed us to merge multiple images into one by means of averaging. I composited two images, one of portraits of me taken while I was living in the United States, and one while I was in China. As can be seen now, the time I spend in the States was mostly childhood, while adolescent years were mainly in China. I plan to continue adding images to the result. Presumably, as my travel patterns become more dense, diverse and evenly distributed, the images of me in each place will become increasingly interesting.

Day 4

The neighborhood I live in is very different from what I’ve been used to, and it’s interesting because it consists of elements that I find extremely contradicting. Throughout the week, there there have people shooting guns in the street, ice cream trucks driving around, children running and playing on the playground at the nearby school, numerous policemen patrolling the cross street and setting up scanning stands in the subway, Jews coming into the area to manage their real estate … I attempted to make a photo collage by putting all events and elements into one environmental image, but unfortunately the prototype was unsuccessful.

I think one of the problems I had was making using online images instead of actual documentation, which weakened the effect. A direction for future iterations can be a timelapse of selected images taken from a single camera that was set in one place that periodically took snapshots of the street. Multiple angles of different parts of the area can be documented in this way. The end result would be a collection of photographs.

Day 5

I was really interested in the topic I chose for day 4, and I wanted to do another iteration of it with sound, so I made a sound montage of different elements for day 5.

Day 5

Due to unprofessional recording equipment and lack of time, the current version is far from ideal. However, I plan continue with this idea and document sound from the area. I am thinking of combining Day 4 and Day 5 projects in future.

Day 6

When I first moved to the NY, I was completely out of my comfort zone, it was extremely hard to be myself, I felt the city was shaping the way I behaved and communicated in ways I could not control. But as weeks passed, I began to reclaim my personality and identity. For day 6, I combined the map of Manhattan with my own portrait, and through a series of images, displayed the process of my own face emerging form the behind the city map.

Day 7

On the last day of the week, I began my first job (non-school work) ever in America. I served as translator for the National Committee for 2 lunches on the 13th and 14th of Sept. The job opened up to me another social side of New York City : the powerful, the wealthy and the well educated. People talked about yacht clubs and mansions, of having 4 chefs and private helicopters, of lunches with princes and dinners with ambassadors (I’m guessing these would be the 1%). Although I documented some of the happenings during the two days, I am not authorized to use the material in any way. So I can only post a picture of the lunch menu below.




Readings Week 4 – Alex S

Cultural Probes

The concept of the probe made sense to me. It broke down many formal and somewhat impersonal routines which have, for some time, been implemented to capture data or experiences from users. Interviews, polls and surveys all require the user to recall experiences, outside of the environment they experience them. In these scenarios user likely feel uninterested, pressured, or possibly confused. The probe created an interface that allowed the user to record information about their environment in a playful and personal way, free of pressure.

Experience Prototyping 

I just wanna recap the excellent examples the people at IDEO (one of my favorite design firms) gave in this article.
– Defibrillator, triggered with pager
– ROV, navigate player A to player B
– Train journey, user experience through role playing
– Six degree of freedom controller
– Airplane interior, reconfigureable props
– TV remote, electronics prototype
– Children’s camera, trail period with users
– Digital camera, bulky prototype

These examples reveal the diversity in prototyping methods and how the different approaches can solve or identify different problems. Where the defibrillator prototype focused on the users emotions and personal concerns, the children’s camera conversely focused on how the device would be used once submersed in its intended environment. In all these scenarios, prototyping was the key to solve problems that are difficult to quantify or identify without subjective speculation.

I realize now that having a grasp on effective prototyping techniques will make me a stronger designer.

Cardboard Computers

This one was a bit off, dated maybe. For me, computer interface mock-ups are the easiest to make, and cheapest; constructing computers out of cardboard seems a bit tedious. I guess 1991 was a long time ago… Of course, they were dealing with some technologies (laser printer) that didn’t yet exist and I have nothing but respect for that. To often, we design for now cause people need solutions now. I love designing for the future, with idealistic expectations of technology, somewhat like they were doing in this study. In the end, the mock-up/role playing scenario seemed to

The mandate (of PD) was bang on. I could see how it was crafted to direct decisions made about technology in the workplace to be scrutinized. When technology became accessible to institutions/workplaces in the form on networks, little consideration was given to the people who work with the technology. We are now, finally, starting to pay attention to this and designing better networks.

Reading Response: Scrapyard Challenge

“Interaction Relabelling and Extreme Characters: Methods for Exploring Aesthetic Interactions” Gaver, Djajadiningrat, Frens

What I got out of this article was that products have the ability to control their user. The way products are designed influence how the user interacts with the product. What the article starts off saying is that the aesthetics influences interaction, and the interaction becomes easier with the right aesthetics.  In the discussion of the “richness of appearance” the authors say that users act through the expectation of beautiful. I have to agree that when a product is esthetically pleasing, users are more interested in using the product–or at least getting to know what it does.  Products with a simple interface makes a user at ease.  I am not sure how I felt about the integration of the “extreme users.” These examples were so far out there, that I questioned their relevance, but by the end of the article I could see how taking a product to the extreme helped to simulate situations for real life. Designers can’t each specific user, but designers can create universal designs that can work for everyone.

“Hertzian Tales” Anthony Dunne (excerpt)

Dunne presents a range of connections that we, as users make with electronic objects. He begins by saying that electronic objects live within our material culture. We are learning to live with electronic technology being “packaged” into these electronic objects. I found this to be most interesting when Dunne talked about the role of Tv’s, phones, fax machines etc., and how the appearance may not be as important as the actual role or function of the electronic object.  I thought about this as I read it, and actually, the appearance of an object is becoming a huge factor of electronic objects. For some consumers, having something that works and serves it’s purpose is good enough, but for others, it must be aesthetically pleasing and pretty. For example, my Grandma had an old Analog TV from the 1980’s.  It was only until a couple years ago that the TV finally broke and it was replaced.  Despite the creation of flat screen TV’s, with better picture quality, remote controls, and larger displays, my Grandma could not be bothered since her TV still functioned and served it’s purpose. This way of thinking, although practical is not what we generally experience today.
People are becoming accustomed to technology and having these electronic objects provide new experiences in our lives.  Electronics were once additions to everyday life, which have become infused into daily life for a majority of users.  These issues are discussed in the second half of the reading about “In(human) Factors.”  Dunne explains the main aim of interactivity is user friendliness–closing the gap between humans and technology.  By doing this, there are specific interface challenges that are faced. In an electronic object, we must communicate ideas through the form and representation. This doesn’t mean creating objects that are so basic and simple that they become boring, or going to extreme with biomorphism, but finding a middle-ground. I don’t really see the purpose for technology being morphed into a person’s body.  Let’s keep this realistic and logical for the general population. The challenge designers face today is just that–creating innovative products people can relate to that go beyond what already exists.
“The Design of Everyday Things” Donald Norman (excerpt)
You don’t think about why something is designed the way it is, until you encounter something with a poor design. That’s when you know something is wrong. When the user questions the location of buttons and size of buttons, identifying problems in the design, there is a problem. When we don’t complain about something, and welcome the “thing” into our life, then you know it’s good.  Since people are using and interacting with items daily, they must be simple.
Think about a microwave.  A microwave is used to warm up food, defrost items, make popcorn, etc.  As microwaves have developed so have their displays.  When there used to be microwaves with no displays or buttons to select different times, we now have microwave with pre-set times and functions.  Although it may help to have a microwave that calculates the time it takes to defrost 1lb of frozen Chicken, is it necessary?  Why can’t we just manually put in our own time.  Do we need all these options–why not just have a dial to select times? What it comes down to is, sometimes I go to a friend’s house and have a very complicated microwave in front of me. I should be qualified enough to know how to operate it, but sometimes I just don’t. This makes me not want to interact with the object.
So what it comes to is this–there needs to be an interest to interact with an object.  Once the interest is initiated, it has to be simple or it will lead to frustration for the user, possibly driving them away from using the object.
“Why We Need Things” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
It is amazing to see how objects have shaped who we are as individuals. Material objects are what we use to define power and personality. Being the owner of objects also makes someone feel complete. What I can most relate to in this article is how keeping artifacts “reveal continuity of self through time” and are “concrete evidence of ones place in valued relationships.
My friends often criticize me for all of the “things” that I have. Pictures, cards, ticket stubs. I keep a lot of these things and put them into a book or use them to decorate my workspace. A lot of the things I keep are given to me by friends and family.  They are important because they do evoke a feeling or connection that I have to each person.  I like to keep things as a memory of what I have done.  I try to do this daily in a  sketchbook. This is very similar to how I decided to do my 7 in 7 project.  By creating a mini time capsule of artifacts, I was able to contain everything I did in those days that I now have a connection with.  They are not all expensive or pretty things, to show status or power, but they relate to a memory and give meaning to my life.
“The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet” Alan Kay
The computer revolution has just begun. Since the first introduction of personal computers in the early 1990’s, we have brought our interactions off of the computer desktop and into our laps with Laptops, and more recently, with the technology put into cellphones and the iPad, we can take a computer device, anywhere. In the last 10 years, even the last five, computer technology has changed the game of personal computing.  The introduction of the internet has also changed the game of computers.
What is important in this article is the recognition of the patriarchs, pioneers, and infonauts, even hackers that have helped to build this revolution. These are the people who really push the possibilities of what we benefit from in our personal computers.  If it was not for the ideas and ingenuity they think of, there would not be a result.  This is also important in anything that we do–thing BIG, and then figure out how to get there. It’s the only way to get somewhere.
“What do Prototypes Prototype” by Houde and Hill
Prototyping comes in many different forms.  We may instantly think of prototypes being something coming from a lab with wires and cords everywhere, or a cardboard form with marker drawings on it to display where things may go on this new product. A prototype is not just a mish-mash of items to replicate a final product, but it is a way to work through an idea. Prototypes are working models of design ideas.  Protoypes help the creator to visually work through problems. They may be able to solve a lot of technical problems on the computer, but creating a physical object helps to think through things you may not consider when formulating a design.
What I got from this reading is that there are different reasons that you would create a prototype. Prototypes are done to target three main concerns–role, look and feel, and implementation. Prototypes are essential to creating a final product.  In the design process it is important to prototype projects in order to focus on each of these different aspects each time.  A successful product does not come out of one prototype–but after many different trials of an idea.  Prototypes do not have to be pretty but must function in order to get user feedback.  The main thing is to create a prototype with a purpose so that the feedback can be used to help improve the idea and design of the finished product.