Ash at CIID

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

Posts Tagged ‘vinay venkatraman

Intel Project – The Social Collective as an Agent of Behavioral Change

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Working with Intel design researcher Jay Mellican (of Intel’s Digital Home group) and CIID faculty Vinay Venkatraman, we explored the role of the social collective in achieving sustainable behaviors towards the effective management of energy.  Here I will discuss the context of the project, and go into our process and solutions in future posts.

The focus for Intel was the emerging “smart grid” – the efforts promoted by many governments and utilities to modernize, from the bottom up, the integrated system by which energy is collected and distributed. In bringing the energy grids of yesteryear into the digital age, many of the technologies and standards that will make up the “smart grid” are yet to be defined, and the implications they will have on our patterns of daily living, as well as their likely success, will depend heavily on how they are defined.

The idea of the “smart grid” is a really interesting one. Here is a really nice video that covers the main aspects of the concept well:

Its hard to discuss the “smart grid” for long today without running into GE’s efforts in that space. As part of GE’s ecomagination campaign, the company has created this engaging augmented reality web object, as shown in the video below:

The virtual energy farm object can be accessed here. Nice website too.

Amongst others, Google has been working to bring visibility of energy use to the notice of individual customers; check out its Power Meter tool.

Given all that, in trying to envision scenarios and solutions for behavioral change for this emerging and very complex space, my team (classmate Mimi and I) quickly realized that the problem of visibility of use was a crucial one. According to the Environment Change Institute, for instance, “most householders have only a vague idea of how much energy they are using for different purposes, hence the importance of making energy flows more visible and controllable. There is a lot of interest in the potential for better feedback using improved (‘smart’) metering, more informative billing and direct display panels.”

As my team’s interest was in understanding the behaviors and influence of the “social collective” – networks of people connected by social technologies – in the context of smart energy use, we decided to explore the space beyond the use of individual control devices such as energy meters, and look at “visibility of use” aspects for groups of people. More on our contextual research and enquiry in posts to come.

On Analysis and Synthesis in Design

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Here’s Vinay Venkatraman (interaction designer and teacher at CIID) talking about the processes of analysis and synthesis, and how both are pivotal, complimentary skills in the designer’s set.

This ties in rather nicely to my earlier post on models of the design process (see my first post on this blog). The second model discusses abstraction from concretes and then the concretization of those abstractions back into designs that solve real needs – and provides an interesting elaboration of the process Vinay is speaking of here. 

Incidentally, I have stopped writing this post three quarters of an hour back, and have been reading ‘The Sign of the Four’ here, where I first read (more than 10 years ago?) Arthur Conan Doyle getting Sherlock Holmes to expound on the skills of analysis and synthesis, in his own special domain 🙂 

“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward. That is a very useful accomplishment, and a very easy one, but people do not practice it much. In the everyday affairs of life it is more useful to reason forward, and so the other comes to be neglected. Most people, if you describe a train of events to them, will tell you what the results would be. They can put those events together in their minds, and argue from them that something will come to pass. There are a few people, however, who, if you told them a result, would be able to evolve from their own inner consciousness what the steps were which led up to that result. This power is what I mean when I talk of reasoning backward, or analytically.”

Wow! That was in 1890! 

Its a cold night, much like the one in the novel when Holmes and Watson embark on their landmark adventure …brrr! Time for some dark chocolate now, and some more reading!

Written by Ashwin Rajan

November 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm