Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Post Last / Thanks for watching

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Since completing his Masters education in Interaction Design from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) in Sep 2008, Ash has discontinued the use of this blog to chronicle his work. So, he wishes a very warm good bye and see-ya-around to anyone who might still stumble on this lovely ol’ webpage as it is slowly relegated to the dusty attics of cyberspace.

As for Ash, he has since left the cushy confines of design school to return to the grime and grit of interaction design practice in the trenches of the world’s leading technology corporates … it is rumored that he has another blog in the works, but like they say: you never know with these things.   

Ash’s Final Project overview at CIID (which was in full throttle at the time of the last post on this blog) can be found here.  
Ash’s profile at CIID can be found here.

Ciao!

Written by Ashwin Rajan

April 30, 2010 at 8:39 am

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Exploring ‘information foraging’

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Information foraging theory has been central to my thesis effort here at CIID. Here’s a nice explanation about it from the wikipedia page:

Information foraging” is a theory that applies the ideas from optimal foraging theory to understand how human users search for information. The theory is based on the assumption that, when searching for information, humans use “built-in” foraging mechanisms that evolved to help our animal ancestors find food.

Informavores” constantly make decisions on what kind of information to look for, whether to stay at the current site to try to find additional information or whether they should move on to another site, which path or link to follow to the next information site, and when to finally stop the search. Although human cognition is not a result of evolutionary pressure to improve Web use, survival-related traits to respond quickly on partial information and reduce energy expenditures force them to optimise their searching behaviour and, simultaneously, to minimize the thinking required.


Information Scent

The most important concept in the information foraging theory is “information scent“. As animals rely on scents to indicate the chances of finding prey in current area and guide them to other promising patches, so do humans rely on various cues in the information environment to get similar answers. Human users estimate how much useful information they are likely to get on a given path, and after seeking information compare the actual outcome with their predictions. When the information scent stops getting stronger (i.e., when users no longer expect to find useful additional information), the users move to a different information source.

Information Snacking
Some tendencies in the behaviour of web users are easily understood from the information foraging theory standpoint. On the Web, each site is a patch and information is the prey. Leaving a site is easy, but finding good sites has not always been as easy. Advanced search engines have changed this fact by reliably providing relevant links, altering the foraging strategies of the users. When users expect that sites with lots of information are easy to find, they have less incentive to stay in one place. The growing availability of broadband connections may have a similar effect: always-on connections encourage “information snacking,” short online visits to get specific answers.

Sketching to understand complexity of foraging links, and the resultant scalability the system would need to handle.

Sketching to understand complexity of foraging links, and the resultant scalability the system would need to handle.

 

A mindmap of one foraging session on the web.

A mindmap of one foraging session on the web.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

March 19, 2010 at 12:16 pm

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Kicking off my Thesis with a video on “What is Architecture?”

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I love the spirit and the flesh of this one from Maya Design:

 

The original page.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

June 10, 2009 at 3:42 am

Ecopup – Final Concept for Intel

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Our industry project for Intel resulted in a video scenario for a service concept we called Ecopup. Since our target user was a young, upwardly mobile professional living in a big Asian city, we decided to situate the scenario around the typical lifestyle of such a user.

The service was visualized as being something that would be accessible through any standard Corporate Benefits program. It would use a combination of online communications, personal messaging, social networking, and location-aware technologies to prompt shifts in the lifestyle of the user towards more sustainable practices and choices. If the individual made such choices, he or she would be offered incentives, all of which would feed back into a reward system. The points earned in this manner would be held by the individual as a kind of currency or capital, which could then be exchanged, traded or used for other sustainable activities.

This video makes a demonstration of how one scenario for Ecopup might work.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

June 6, 2009 at 11:54 am

Provocations: Making Sustainable Practices A Currency

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Based on user feedback on the Elevator Buzz concept for Intel, my team quickly realized that systemic solutions designed to generate and sustain conversations around sustainable practices had viability. Then our next concern became the issue that some users had raised around ‘incentive’ – “I think this is a good thing to part of, but whats in it for me?” This got us interested in alternative currencies – can sustainable choices made by individuals translate into a currency with the possibility for real world use?

As an impromptu exercise for provoking new perspectives when exploring this area, here are some word clouds I generated on Wordle. I used the Wikipedia Community Currencies page and the Kashklash project home page to find make three different wordles. Interestingly, they had different characteristics as seen below.

Wordle of five random articles from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with http://www.wordle.net/.

Wordle of five random articles from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with http://www.wordle.net/.

When five random articles from Wikipedia’s ‘Community Currencies’ pages were wordled together, the word ‘currency’ obviously stood out, with ‘eco-money’ making a surprise leap into the forefront.

Wordle of almost all pages together from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with www.wordle.net.

Wordle of almost all pages together from Wikipedia's 'Community Currencies' page. Made with http://www.wordle.net.

But when almost all the articles from Wikipedia’s ‘Community Currencies’ pages were wordled together, ‘local’  was the clear winner, with ‘economic’, ‘services’ and ‘people’ starting to become prominent as well.

Wordle of text from Kashklash.com's home page. Made with www.wordle.net.

Wordle of text from Kashklash.com's home page. Made with http://www.wordle.net.

Finally, when the text from Kashklash.com’s home page was wordled, the prominent words were even more interesting: ‘sharing’, ‘communities’, ‘people’, ‘future’.

Driven by exercises like these and others, my team began to explore the question about whether communities of practice could be built around sustainability, which could also exchange any ‘wealth’ generated between the individuals in the community.

‘Elevator Buzz’ Concept for Intel

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Here’s the presentation for the Elevator Buzz concept that my team worked on for the Intel-CIID industry project. The storyline for the scenario is as follows: three office goers step into the office elevator, as as they arrive at differnt floors on their way up, a visualization inside the elevtor shows the energy efficiency of the floor. The performance of the floor is reflected in the expression of the person who works there, ranging from embarrassment to elation. At the end of the piece, the worker on a floor with low energy efficiency makes a small behavioral change (switches off the light in an unused office space) for the better.

The panels were then drawn up in a neater, crisper scanario to use as context-setting probes for acquiring later user feedback on the concept. The reactions and feedback gathered from users were used to define next steps, setting the agenda for the overall design direction of the project.

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 17, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Elevator Buzz Concept for Intel – Rationale

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On the Intel-CIID industry project: based on user research conducted with people in India and South Korea, my team decided to explore the particular idea that came out of brainstorming  – not as a final solution but as a critical exercise to understand the context for design better.

In retrospect, this turned out to be a very useful technique. In the constant challenge of choosing between zooming in or out, (reflecting on created material or designing forward) its nice to take the latter step now and then a little in advance of its time. Simply shifting into a ‘lets just build this out, shall we’ mode, while still in the process of understanding the design context, is a great way to prevent getting too bogged down by highly refined needs, and consequentially a stunted, myopic view of the whole opportunity landscape.

A work in progress - the sudio space while brainstorming

A work in progress - the sudio space while brainstorming

During our user research, we found that young educated professionals were a very appropriate group to work with for this project, mostly because our Indian and Korean subjects seemed to share many similarities in terms of lifestyles and aspirations. We also moved away from the residential context for several reasons. Firstly, there was much more consensus in the view of our research subjects in their office environments than their homes. Then, there really wasn’t too much common among ‘typical’ residential communities across India and South Korea. Also, office spaces seemed to offer much more potential to explore the main theme of the project ‘The Social Collective as an Agent of Behavioral Change”; office goers seemed much more a ‘collective’ of any sort, capable of exploiting existing group dynamics towards common goals. And finally, interventions to spark behavioral change in the office space had the potential to create huge impact on better energy management, as the huge (technology industry) office spaces in India and Korea with thousands of workers were not uncommon.

A work in progress - thought crunching.

A work in progress - me, thought crunching.

The key insight from user research we developed the idea from was:”How might we create opportunities for upwardly-mobile office workers to make visible contributions to sustainable issues?”

The idea was simple: how would a real-time information visualization in the office elevator motivate individuals to make better energy management choices. The concept and sketches to be discussed in a further post …

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

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