On an average day working as UI/UX designer, around 70% of my time is spent in the “digital world”. I do my work on a computer, communicate with people over social networks and listen to music with smart apps and devices. I collect memories in digital photo albums and finally I work for a company whose product is almost entirely digital (and I gave up trying to explaining that to my grandma). The remaining 30% of my time I spend offline in the real world – meeting up with friends, going on picnics in the beautiful Berlin parks, and sleeping (this is the world my grandma understands).
Back in the 1990s when Internet usage was taking off, people started interacting in two very different worlds – in the “normal”, physical world and on the “information superhighway” online. We would go home to our desktop computers and dial-up modems to use the internet. Choosing between the two worlds then was an active choice – we had to decide if we wanted to be in the digital or in the physical world. Today, these two worlds have become interconnected and the choice we make between the two worlds is more vague. Whenever I see the offline and the online worlds complement each other in perfect synergy, I get really excited. At ezeep, we are trying to do just that. The problem we are facing is a very physical and tangible one: paper printing. And we are working to solve that problem with a digital solution.
ezeep is not the only startup trying to connect the two worlds in new and interesting ways: Quarterly is a digital space, which connects people by sending out physical presents every quarter. Foodzie allows you to find “delicious discoveries” over the internet and have them sent to your home every month. Sifteo Cubes are toys that are both digital and tangible: the cubes have an LCD display and are able to interact with each other. And finally, the Little Printer collects online news from your social feeds and prints a personal mini-newspaper every morning. All of these are examples of companies connecting the two worlds in intelligent ways.
Technology pioneer Kevin Ashton introduced the concept of the “Internet of Things” in 1999, which takes the notion even further. Ashton noticed that the internet is made by humans that input data and that we, in order to broaden our horizon, should empower the “things in the real world”. He claims that if “we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things — using data they gathered without any help from us — we would be able to track and count everything and greatly reduce waste, lost and cost.” 
Today, more than 10 years after Ashton’s article, I find all these great digital ideas coming to life and interfering with my physical environment. And I am excited and curious to see how these ideas will affect and change my daily life. For the future of ezeep, it means simplifying the printing process and thereby turning printers into smart digital objects connected to the online world. Making printers not just physical objects, but online devices accessible from other devices connected to the Internet such as tablets and smartphones.
And what comes after that? Who knows. Perhaps it’s being able to 3D print anything we want at home, maybe it is making every object in the world able to print something? I don’t know but I agree with Ashton and his view on the importance of physical things in our world:
“We’re physical, and so is our environment. Our economy, society and survival aren’t based on ideas or information—they’re based on things.” 
 Kevin Ashton, That ‘Internet of Things’ Thing, 06/22/2009, http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/4986
Since the New Aesthetics panel at SXSW and more importantly the following essay by Bruce Sterling, the topic seems to pop up everywhere. And I have to say, I got very excited about the idea myself. Although, there are only vague descriptions (for example here) of what it is, everyone is talking about it. Interestingly the New Aesthetics movement seems to be something actually new and might become a nice addition to our retro, post and neo culture. Which reminds me of wonderful“Rookie Magazine” a fascinating piece of culture, which could probably be on the opposite end of the “New Aesthetics”. Rookiemag is an online magazine for teenage girls (makes me want to be 14 again), which publishes content 3 times a day, 5 days a week and is run by 15 year old Tavi Gevinson (she started her career with 13 and is now editor-in-chief and founder of the magazine).
A couple of month ago I found Luke Wroblewski’s PDF of the “mobile first” talk (image above) on the internets and was sold on the idea. It makes totally sense to me to start with the smallest component of a layout: the mobile screen and not the website. Since everyone wants to go mobile anyways this seems like a logical step and I seriously wonder if companies actually started doing mobile first, especial since agile layouts become almost inevitable.
So I was delighted to find the work of Valentin Fischer and Wolfram Nagel who started a website called “Multiscreen Experience” (unfortunately only in German). A collection of information all around the multiscreen experience (obviously). I like that this could be a reference site to designers, but much more importantly to clients. I haven’t gone through all of the site but the parts I read gave a nice overview and short explanation of “buzz” words (e.x gamification) that are flying around and that might not be entirely clear to everyone.
Uh and by the way, those guys also worked on the “Design Method Finder” which also falls in the category reference websites.
I think I tried almost every software for wireframing and I finally found the one that just works for me. I went from Illustrator (just a bad idea), to Omnigraffle (is there really no web template?) to Balsamiq (to sketchy) to finally ended up with Keynote. To proof my point, here are some of the advantages:
- Various canvas sizes
- Master Slides
- Click through is easy to build
- Export to PDF, JPEG, PNG
- Easy to use
And, of course, very important there are already toolkits out there: Keynote Kung-fu by Travis Isaacs is only $12 and very useful (also, his related slideshow is quite interesting). Keynotopia lets you buy 9 templates for $39 or you can get the smaller free version. I also found a free wireframe stencils set that I haven’t checked out yet.
Yeah, for boxes and arrows!
I was delighted to see that someone thought of Friendfund, because I can totally imagine using this in the future. To make it short: Friendfund is like Kickstarter but with your friends. The user and his/her friends can collect money for a present, a trip or what ever comes to mind and needs to be financially shared. Every pool is open for 10 days to reach the set goal.
I like the user flow of registering a new pool, which is divided into two steps (1st: open a new pool, 2nd: invite friends) and clean, simple and easy to follow. I wonder though if Kickstarter will have the same/similar idea in the future.
The Award is divided in 6 categories (optimizing, engaging, empowering, expressing, connecting and disruption) and the winner will be announced at the Interaction12 conference (the conference will be held in Europe for the first time, thumbs up for Dublin:).
I particularly like the fair entry fee structure, which is not only divided by professionals and students but also by region (region 01: student $50, professional $200; region 02: student $20, professional $120). The Jury comes from 6 different countries and includes Jonas Löwgren, Younghee Jung, Helen Walters, Janna DeVylder, Robert Fabricant, Matt Jones and Massimo Banzi.
I definitely will enter the competition and I am looking forward to October 2011, when a shortlist of up to 50 projects will be announced. I can’t wait to see interaction design projects from all over the world.
Core of the concept is seen on the button of the model: “The User is collecting/organizing a Legacy to leave for Heirs”. This already makes clear that there are really two users that interact with the system. First the aktive user who is collecting and tagging his/her legacy and second the heirs who will look at this legacy and potentially collecting a legacy on their own. The legacy itself is the element that connects those two groups of people and functions as a bridge over time.
The user maintains his/her digital property which is divided into spaces in order to define its scoop. The digital property is a big part of the users legacy but can not be seen without the context in which the legacy is becoming meaningful for heirs. As aid to generate value to the legacy the system will ask the user to contribute meaningful context to already existing content. In order to add this context the user logs into the system where he/she can see all the content that was produced a year ago – this can be from social networks, personal sites (blog) and owned computers. With this feature the user will be asked to reflect on a year old experiences and can then add stories, memories and thoughts. The system will ask the user to look once a month into his/her content. The memories added can not only be videos, photos and writing but also physical objects and the system will add metadata to all existing content.
Creating a legacy is about creating a shared space that reveals ones identity. The content in this space acts as seeds to remind not only the user of shared experiences but also the heirs. In this digital space the user can than add his version of the experience. Those experiences are closely related to time, place, object and people which will become the metadata connecting all experiences.
The heirs can not only see the the whole digital legacy but are rather encouraged to explore the content through the metadata. Time, place, object and people will be the seed for varying viewpoints on the content.
With time the heirs can see all the content related to age, so for example the 27 year old heir would so all the content from his/her grandmother when she was 27 in order to directly compare lives.
The same comparison is happening with place: if the heir is going to a relevant place, lets say grandmother birthplace, content connected to that metadata will be shown. The heirs can not only explore the physical space of their ancestors but also see the digital data related.
Physical objects will be tagged with digital data by the user (or already tagged) and when the heir is taking a picture of the object or if he/she is holding it in front of the computer this information can be seen. This allows to bring mementos that are part of a experience or a “seed” for a experience into the legacy.
People who shared a experience will be tagged in the system to allow to understand someone better through his/her network.
All the data will be saved online and the output of the legacy can have different forms. It can be physical letters, objects, a app or an email. Since this service is supposed to last for decades it will be up to the heirs how they intent to view the ancestors legacy. The service will provide the view through meta information and data will be stored as accessible as possible readable on as many devices as possible.
Uncertainties: What exactly is it that the user is leaving for the heirs? How can the legacy be “opened”?
Since I was stuck with my thesis last week, I used my learned knowledge from the Dan Brown workshop to try his concept of visual thinking. The model I came up with is a start and shows that there are elements missing around the heirs – the section I haven’t fully explored.
Things I know: I learned during my research that it is part of the grief to put shared objects that trigger memories out of sight (e.g in the shoebox in the closet). This helps to not be hurtfully remembered every day but rather to decide to look at the mementos at a chosen time. For my intended service I would like to have a carefully designed experience of “opening” the legacy. I also want the heirs to be able to explore the legacy, compare to own life and eventually learn.
My thesis is divided into two parts. During the last semester I concentrated on the first part: collecting and building a legacy. Here, I have to think a little more about the content strategy. Elliott gave me the good tip of looking into signpost and I will integrate them. The milestones (or signposts) in life will be highlighted to function as a guiding path through someones legacy.
The second part – the legacy as a heritage – is not fully considered yet. Since this is what will get inherited and what will survive as a reflection of someones life, it should be long-lasting and very meaningful. The problem is, that the digital world can not always compete with the physical world when we talk about long-lasting or meaningful objects and experiences. For the next few weeks I want to consider the integration of tangible objects into the second part of my thesis. Still, I have to figure out why and what this object should be and how the heirs would interact with it. Also, in case the key gets carried on, I would like to bring it back in the end in order to get a complete story. So, next step is thinking about the interaction of viewing the legacy and I would like to solve the following problems:
How does the object look like? Why?
Why is it important to someone (besides the content on it)?
How can the heirs view the legacy?
When will the heirs view the legacy?
Main touchpoints in the service design experience are a “key”, a website and the actual legacy that will be inherited (can be a book, letters, etc.).
The key is a physical object chosen by the customer. This object will be used as a password to open the website to his/her legacy, his object is unique to every customer. Once used to open the webside, the key allows to travel back in time so that the user can see his/her data uploaded or taken a year ago.
The website is linked to social networks, nevertheless it is a personal private space to the
customer. The content from social networks acts as a starting point to make it easier to add additional stories that bring pictures and data from social networks into context. The additional stories can be read a year in the future and there can be new content again so that the website can show age by a growing information stream. With this site a digital legacy can be build.
After one dies the site and the complete legacy can be inherited. The customer can give the object to someone else. By using this object a page can be opened and the form of the legacy can be chosen.
In order to answer the question how digital data is becoming meaningful I compared the properties and benefits of digital and physical objects. (more information can be found in the book “The Digital Afterlife” pg. 16)
Some insights I had:
Physical objects are tangible and can be held in the same way over generations, as a result owners can physically connect with each other. Digital object, in contrast, are intangible, to actually hold a digital object a device (like iPad) is needed. Therefore the meaningful digital data itself can never be held and the owner can only connect with previous owners through content.
Physical objects can break down and show age, that points out that the object has survived time and events: it tells a story. Because digital object do not age, they do not show this quality, but meaning can be added by additional information (metadata) which can grow over time.
Physical objects are taking up physical space, which can become a visible place in someones life. Digital objects require minimal space and is not necessarily visible, however the act of revisiting a digital object can be a good opportunity to create a meaningful experience.