environment

Why I Need to Ditch My SmartPhone More

This is not the 6am I am used to. Where did my summer go?! #notready

A post shared by Beth Kelley (@mbethkelley) on

I have a “smartphone” I keep for work and a flip phone for personal calls.

Just by chance I left my smartphone at work last night, which meant I had no distractions on the way home, both waiting for and on the bus, other than the work I had in front of me. No emails coming in until I chose to check my computer. And no distracting feeds while I felt the cold clear first day of fall​ air on my face and hands this morning while waiting in the predawn for the bus. It was very still and peaceful.

We forget just how distracting our smartphones are, how glued we are to them, and how superfluous they really are in our lives. How nice it is to be still, to let things just be.

I will have to do that more often.

children · learning · play · school · technology

This Throwable Computer Teaches Kids How To Code | Co.Design

Learning is fun. Or at least it should be fun. Little kids are always exploring, experimenting, asking “why, why, where, when, why?!” (can you tell I have a toddler at home?). This is a great example of trying to keep learning fun.

This Throwable Computer Teaches Kids How To Code | Co.Design | business + design

Coding is a great skill for kids to learn but it can be a lonely, sedentary endeavor. Hackaball, a new toy created from a partnership between the design agencies MAP and Made By Many, promises to get kids off their butts and playing outside—all while teaching basic coding skills and empowering kids to invent their own kind of play.

It’s a lot to ask from one product which is why Hackaball had to be meticulously designed. The ball is bigger than a baseball but smaller than a soccer ball, and it comes with several simple parts that can be put together using basic instructions, so kids understand what’s inside, and get the chance to start creating from the get-go. Once it’s put together, the toy can glow different colors, make noises, and even vibrate. As for how to use it? The kids get to decide.

Using a space-themed app, kids write if-then rules, learning the syntax of basic coding. An example: if you drop a ball, then it turns red. Or if the ball hits something, then it will make a noise. These games can be as complicated or as simple as kids want.

read more at This Throwable Computer Teaches Kids How To Code | Co.Design | business + design.

The Hackaball is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, where you can pre-order one for $69.

learning · play · technology · work

Building Fun into Work (Just Don’t Call it Gamification)

People seem pretty sick of the idea of “Gamification” of things. But here’s the rub: a lot of jobs need to be more fun. And can be made more fun. And technology can have a strong hand in doing that.

One of the best pieces of advice a boss of mine ever received, he said, was that “people like getting points.” Even if the points don’t culminate in anything, just having the most points on a forum board or in an app is a great feeling for people.

History of Mario Museum from Deloitte Digital

Ambition (for example) focuses specifically on gamifying the performance of sales teams. Its software provides customers with a dashboard full of real-time metrics, such as calls made or leads generated or emails opened.

Through Ambition dashboards, employees (and of course, their managers) can track performance in relation to individual and team goals on their computers and mobile devices. The software syncs with a company’s CRM technology, as well as phone systems and spreadsheets and any other tools an organization might use. The cost is between $20 and $30 per employee per month.

Using whatever metrics a client wants to track, the software creates an Ambition Score, which is an aggregate of all the metrics. A score of 100 means an employee or team has reached every benchmark for a given time period.

more via The Hot Software Niche in Search of a New Name.

My company is currently working on creating a way to gamify a frankly otherwise quite boring piece of learning, specifically for employees only.

Many kids enjoy cleaning up their toys if you make it a race.

What are some surprising ways you’ve seen fun and play incorporated into an otherwise boring task? Leave it in the comments below.

creativity · design · happiness · health · mental health · technology · youtube

Cool Technology Allows Disabled People To Create Incredible Art With Their Minds

Art has the power to soothe, to heal, to empower, to raise awareness and to move people to action. Using technology to enable people to express themselves through art is great, whether it’s for a cause, or a brand in this case.

To raise awareness for their brand, an art supply company created this viral campaign featuring real people using technology to create beautiful abstract art. Sixteen disabled individuals in China (home to the world’s largest disabled population) were invited to participate in the project, which involved using advanced brainwave scanning technology in conjunction with detonator-equipped, paint-filled balloons. The video seems to show that by concentrating really hard, the participants were able to trigger the colorful explosions, resulting in some very unique pieces.

more via Cool Technology Allows Disabled People To Create Incredible Art With Their Minds.

behavior · emotion · psychology

The ‘Mood Graph’: How Our Emotions Are Taking Over the Web | Wired Opinion

Happy face high res
Do emoticons box you in or set you free?

 

More analysis and research looking into how we interact with and effect the digital space, and how that space in turn effects us, emotionally and mentally.

[Facebook, Bitly, Google+]… all these interfaces are now focusing on the emotional aspects of our information diets. To put this development in a broader context: the mood graph has arrived, taking its place alongside the social graph (most commonly associated with Facebook), citation-link graph and knowledge graph (associated with Google), work graph (LinkedIn and others), taste graph and interest graph (Pinterest and others).

Like all these other graphs, the mood graph will enable relevance, customization, targeting; search, discovery, structuring; advertising, purchasing behaviors, and more. It also signals an important shift in computer-mediated communication.

But placing a digital mood ring on users also has the power to change us — how we express ourselves. Especially when one considers that the data populating mood graphs comes from our encounters with behavior-altering interfaces packaged as fun little emojis and innocuous, “handy-dandy buttons”…

…drop-down expression makes us one-dimensional, living caricatures of G-mail’s canned responses — a style of speech better suited to emotionless computers than flesh-and-blood humans. As Marshall McLuhan observed, just as we shape our tools, they shape us too. It’s a two-way street.

more via The ‘Mood Graph’: How Our Emotions Are Taking Over the Web | Wired Opinion | Wired.com.

The author of the opinion, Evan Selinger, is a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology who focuses on the collisions between technology, ethics, and law.

He seems hell bent against putting a happy face next to his Facebook post, and I hear what he’s saying about the dangers of trying to sum up a concept with a parenthesis or semicolon. And I agree that companies are offering these emoticon options often just so they can collect more data on their users, rather than be focused on helping their customers express themselves more fully.

But, as Selinger also points out, spoken language itself can be nuanced and tricky, in the digital or non-digital world, and it can be nice to have more tools to express yourself in the digital space. People also post songs or pictures in order to share their mood or sentiment with others.

I feel that these are enhancements for people to share more ideas, not have them boxed in. Sometimes creativity is aided with a few rules. All language has restrictions, whether you’re coding or signing or chatting. Yes these restrictions should be recognized, but not

Do you feel that a smiley face or frowny face limits your ability to communicate and express yourself with others online? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

behavior · creativity · happiness · health

How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Creative Performance | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

I have been struggling, STRUGGLING!, lately with fitting play and relaxation into my new life structure and creating space in my life for everything that needs to get done. I’m curious how other people manage it, so I found this article intriguing:

About four years ago I started working for myself. I wanted the freedom and flexibility to own my schedule and the space to bring my ideas to life.

One of the biggest challenges was structuring my time so I was fully experiencing the benefits of working for myself while also being as creative and productive as possible. At first, the idea of systems and planning made me cringe. I felt like they would hold back my creative potential. Eventually, organization and effectiveness challenges pilled up and I decided to give structure a try.

I wondered:

How do I balance client service with working on my own ideas?

How do I avoid interruptions that mess with my creative flow?

How do I stop putting off the stuff I hate but still have to do?

Behold, her solution…

How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Creative Performance | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Find out more via How To Schedule Your Day For Peak Creative Performance | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

design · environment · Social

PONS + HUOT Office by Christian Pottgiesser » CONTEMPORIST

It already feels like Thursday, and it’s only Monday, ooy!

Thankfully my office space is a great space to work in and take a breather every now and then, and even play a little. And that idea of creating playful work spaces is catching on more and more.

The project accommodates the headquarters of two companies in Paris – PONS and HUOT – with a total of fifteen executives. Consequently the unit has seven individual rooms for each director and one open-space-office for the remaining eight clerks.

more via PONS + HUOT Office by Christian Pottgiesser » CONTEMPORIST.

Uncategorized

Playful Conference in London October 19

Conway Hall Humanist Centre, home of the South...

Does anybody know more about this event?

Playful 2012: It’s a one-day conference all about games, play, interaction, behaviour and everything that comes with looking at the world through fun eyes.

It’ll be incredible, enlightening, smart and gloriously silly. A bit like a really good game, or Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen.

Playful 2012 will be held on Friday the 19th of October at Conway Hall, London. Doors open at around 9:00am for a 10:00am start — don’t hang about. We’ll be done by 4:30 so that the tango class can get their hips shaking, when we’ll decamp to the pub.

Bring a pad, a pencil, your brain and a mug. Leave the rest behind.

If I had money and time I’d go just for the sheer awesomeness/curiosity factor. It’s sponsored by tech company Mudlark, but it looks like they’re pulling from pretty diverse areas of study/work.

Know anything more about it? Leave a comment below.

autism · behavior · children · cognition · creativity · mental health · psychology · technology

Using Play and Technology for Therapy

Griffin Wajda and Juan Pablo Hourcade in Iowa City, IA, play a collaborative-storytelling app.

I truly think technology (and play) are underutilized when it comes to all kinds of therapy, partially because it’s expensive, and partially because people don’t know how to implement it. This article in the Wall Street Journal offers a great example of how people are integrating play AND technology into therapy.

Multitouch technology—which turned smartphones, iPads and other tablet computers into consumer sensations—has a new function: therapy for cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders, as well as a range of developmental disabilities. Researchers from at least three North American universities, including Iowa, are developing therapeutic applications for multitouch devices. Games developed by the Scientists’ Discovery Room Lab at Harvard University, and by University of Alberta researcher Michelle Annett, encourage children with cerebral palsy and stroke victims to stretch their range of upper arm and wrist motion.

“It’s a very motivating tool for the patients. It’s visual, the feedback is instant and it’s fun,” said Isabel Henderson, vice president of Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, where games on a touch-screen table are part of stroke victims’ physical rehabilitation.

The new apps offer patients engaging ways to address their medical conditions over the long term, said Quentin Ranson, an occupational therapist at the Alberta hospital. They also could help reduce the time patients need to spend in expensive traditional therapy, Mr. Ranson said.

Children with cerebral palsy—a group of disorders caused by brain damage before or shortly after birth—work to improve their motor skills and coordination through repetitive exercises like wiping a cloth across a table, stringing beads on a pipe cleaner or throwing a ball back and forth. Patients recovering from stroke do much of the same, stacking cones and flipping cards to help them lift their arms against gravity.

more via the Wall Street Journal.

This is just one example of how using play and the right tools can encourage development and healing.

community · design · technology

Summary of National Building Museum’s “Intelligent Cities” symposium: Change Observer: Design Observer

Red, yellow and green (unlit) LEDs used in a t...
LED traffic lights in Sweden. Image via Wikipedia

What does it take to make a city “smart”? Not intellectual, but make traffic lights respond to traffic, have buses alert people if they’re running a few minutes behind, and large corporate buildings comfortable for all its occupants. Journalist Phil Patton offers a nice review of the takeaways from National Building Museum‘s “Intelligent Cities” symposium which looked at these questions and more in order to design a better, smarter future city; among the many takeways:

What is critical in making cities “smart” is not just data, it seems, but clear, accessible data that is often used for purposes government may never have dreamed of. Early in the symposium, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said that information to make cities smart was about “making it easier to do the right thing.”

Once-utopian ideas are now feasible, such as notions dreamed up at the MIT Smart Cities program, formerly headed by the late William Mitchell, author of City of Bits. “Smart parking places” that are RF-tagged could cut the energy wasted by circling vehicles. And systems that allow for hailing taxis and jitneys by mobile phone can provide “infill” transportation between private car and mass transit.

At the same time, there is concern about data that can make cities smart: fear of information used to justify policies imposed in a top-down way, and fear of loss of privacy.

more takeaways via Summary of National Building Museum’s “Intelligent Cities” symposium: Change Observer: Design Observer.

I’ve covered smart meters and “smart” monitoring of bridges and in cars before, so I’ve always thought of this kind of municipal monitoring exclusive to roadways or utilities.That last takeaway brought up a tough question for me: What data are you comfortable sharing with a municipality in order get a better experience navigating through and functioning in your community?