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Meeting with Stefano Mirti in Milano, this period has been coloured by iterating on several concept directions and presenting them to several of my former professors at NABA; including Anna Barbara, Nicoletta Branzi and Giulio Vinaccia.
The meeting with Stefano included feedback from Line Ulrika Christensen, project supervisor at ID Lab. Several previous concepts were discussed, and as a report of the meeting’s outcome, I’ve composed the following to represent the critique given;
+- Concept critical review:
• Good intentions
• Good thought around combined use of emerging technologies
• “human touch”
• Open for misuse by “undesirables”
• Not specific for elderly
Cure Kit +:
• Could be an interesting design concept to create discussion around “ubisafety”, video communication and privacy
• Raises the psychological issue of presentation of self via online communication
• If executed with convincing visuals could seem realistic
Cure Kit -:
• Too unlikely for a mass product
• Not convincing enough as a critical design project
• Unclear purpose
RFID Overload +:
• Addresses the privacy issue
• Can be done fashionably
• If so, targeted specifically for elderly
RFID Overload -:
• Unsure about it being an efficient way to block RFID skimming
• Could be troublesome in use
• Control over ubi-transactions
• Simple in use
• Allows for sharing perhaps unknown to elderly users; a new way to look at net use for them
• Information overload for an elderly user
UbiSafe Software for mobile +:
• Emphasizes privacy issues and gives you control
• Simple interface design for elderly
• Can work on any mobile phone to ensure privacy
• Can be cheap, downloadable
• Like Ubibracelet, allows for sharing of transactions
UbiSafe Software -:
• Interface design not really my forte
• Unsure of technical requirements
Maneki Neko +:
• Simple RFID blocking, no fancy extras
• Emotional object
• To be used as apparel, not a necessary tech object
• Has a cultural link
Maneki Neko -:
• Other similar solutions exist; a more diversified angle is needed to create an appeal
Goggle News Paper +:
• Good idea for a service by/for the elderly
• Transcending media online to offline
• Earning possibility for elderbloggers
• Including also the internet shy elderly
• Possible appeal globally
• Tactile stable medium, nostalgic and safe
Goggle News Paper -:
• Could be seen as regressive, compared to an online version
• Subjective news written by citizen journalists? Editor, fact checking needed. Ref. OhMyNews.
Collective Memory +:
• Interesting thought and use of location specific technology (mobile phone/GPS)
• Experience oriented; memories and stories
• Large possibilities for a massive databank,
• Large possibilities for personal contribution
• Plays on several psychological levels; leaving something behind, curiosity of others, history dissemination, human
• Opens up for personal creativity and creatively made content, ref. Youtube
Collective Memory -:
• Can be misused, being location specific.
• Goes against previous statement about privacy
• Needs to exclude personal sensitive data
RFID Symbols +:
• Graphically nice
• Makes clear statement
RFID Symbols -:
• Originally intended for “Who’s Arfid: a guide to understanding RFID technology”, a discarded concept
• Perhaps a moot point to make
RFID Blockerwear +:
• Simple blocker tags as apparel
• Raises privacy issue, once again
• Could become a “street” symbol for elder libertarians
RFID Blockerwear -:
Another result of the meeting, that came out from discussing the types of concepts proposed, were the types of targets I indicate. The elderly prosumer is an interesting target, as online social networking among elderly is growing, elderblogging is growing, and the citizen journalism trend indicates a new way to earn on online activities, something that could be a very feasible, fun and interesting activity for a future retiree.
I still want to make a concept regarding ubi-security, since I believe it affects us all, and perhaps particularly members of the boomer generation that has protested, fought and become activists promoting social liberties throughout their adult lives.
The mobile service I indicate in the Collective Memory concept, is interesting as it offers some of the same aspects of the prosumer trend, motivating elderly to share content on the net, and opens up a new way to think about social networking; location specific. The feasibility of this concept relies on GPS technology, and active mobile nodes in cell phones, something that’s being researched and patented now.
As a conclusion, the prosumer target, the libertarian target and the nostalgic online target serve as basis for three interesting concepts I wish to finalize for this thesis.
I received a comment from a german mediastudent who is as concerned with privacy as perhaps many more of us should be, and told me about his reaction to his new RFID tagged passport he got for his coming trip to Mexico. He raised questions about the safety of this technology, and told me how he went about it to ensure that his data was safe. He found a company that sells aluminium covers especially made for passports to protect your data from unathorized access; as reported from this german newsfeed.
He also posts a scary reference to what he feels is: “a society which dictators would dream of”, in his hands..
See his blog here > (in german).
Although I`ve talked to older adults today regarding privacy issues, it seems that most of the people actively concerned with privacy issues today are younger people; it is more common among today`s elderly to accept to a greater extent the regulations and restrictions laid down by the government, but will the boomer generation feel the same?
Based on what I`ve heard and read, I would say they are as concerned about their privacy as younger people are; they are, after all, the ones who have tought us about the freedoms we enjoy today.
(This is a small article about the law giving you insight into your files in the Norwegian Police Sikkerhetstjenste that`s been recorded from the 1970`s until today. It was recently revoked. The norwegians who has been under surveillance include protesters from the leftwing movement in the early 70`s. )
As an input on the surveillance issue, as well as the future of video communication, on which I am doing a concept, I found this article from the Experientia Blog Newsletter:
Architecture and design magazine Icon has published a 4 page article on video ethnography in its latest issue.
“The video ethnographers’ findings are gold dust to their clients and video ethnography has become one of the fashionable research techniques that any forward-looking design company now offers. The technology of closeup, real-time observation, using lightweight digital equipment, plays an increasingly significant role in the design process. If you want to find out about the people who will use a product or service, or to explore the potential for creating new products, call in a video ethnographer to film your subjects where they live or work. […]
Video ethnography is an extremely powerful technique so it is disturbing that, at a time when surveillance cameras watch us around the clock, designers seem largely unconcerned by the ethical problems it raises. The outcome of a video ethnography research project might, of course, be entirely altruistic, yielding an understanding of human needs that can only be a gain. On the other hand, the findings might provide companies with insights into our motivations that could be used to prompt us to buy their products and select their services, without ever knowing how or why we took their bait. If subtle forms of persuasion turn out to be video ethnography’s most usual purpose, then is it a technique that a responsible design community should support?”
The article is quite concerned with the ethical implications of using video ethnography for market research and ends as follows:
“Despite the new rhetoric of empathy and inclusiveness, of involving the user and understanding people’s needs, the person pointing the camera still occupies a position of authority in relation to the subject. This is no less real just because it is concealed beneath a soft blanket of warm feeling. When the research outcome is socially beneficial, as it is in healthcare, few would find any reason to object to the technique. The problem lies in the very 21st-century confusion between understanding people better to help them and understanding them better to manipulate their behaviour as consumers.”
Most of my concepts now represent a critical, and perhaps a bit pessimistic, view of the future involving RFID, Wireless technology and the other side of all the useful applications they will bring; our being subjects to technology and the apparent possibility to use it for more and more surveillance of our lives. This approach represents my scepticism and my honest opinion that we need to seriously ask some critical questions to the development of this technology. Perhaps it`s naive; there are too many forces at work to ensure the implementation of RFID in as many applications and services as possible to stop it, and that is not my goal or desire either. But I do think that we need to stay very alert when designing for these types of technology, and the way in which we implement them, and with regard to my own project; when I explain the concept to today`s adults and elders, they mostly respond in the same way as I do; with great scepticism.
That is why I now try and create some critical concepts as well as “supporting” concepts, because they reflect this natural scepticism. “We are used to a certain degree of freedom, and we want to keep it that way. We certainly don`t want any less.” Scenarios like that of Wal-Mart, where you will be identified at the entrance and tracked throughout the shopping mall may seem like a small thing to some, but if this becomes the standard everyday life for us, it will surely become unbearable pretty soon.
The privilige and freedom to be “invisible” from the all-seeing eye of the network of sensors, readers and cameras will be harder and harder to obtain, perhaps only obtainable for the wealthy and priviliged, whereas those of us who need to stay connected for whatever economic or social reasons will have to subcome to being visible.
I`ve made some simple icons to illustrate the feeling of a surrender to, and struggle against, the surveillance that RFID can bring.
Current exhibition at MoMA. I don`t even need to comment…
The digital divide is today discussed as the divide between those who have access to The Net and those who do not (the “developed” world vs. the “developing” world). Projects like the Negroponti $100 laptop (also see “Poor People Need The $100 Laptop Because..) is applauded because it seeks to include yet more ‘technologically challenged’ (copyright..?) people into our information revolution. This is no doubt a pressing and interesting issue, and projects like this should obviously be recognized as a good initiative because of their motivation and good intentions. However, looking toward the future, when being online is no longer a option in the terms we think of it today, and unplugging or shielding oneself from visibility becomes a task in itself, being offline will be seen as a benefit, and a freedom.
I was very relieved to hear today in a Youtube clip from the Politics Online 2008, from Adam Greenfield who was on the panel, that this is exactly what a digital divide discussion will be about in our near future; to be able to exclude oneself from the ever present visibility on the network and to have the freedom to shut down, unplug and just be..
Adam Greenfield has admitted to be not a hundred percent optimistic about our future, and is concerned with how we design our ubiquitous future, giving much weight during his seminars on privacy issues, and the invasiveness of a pervasive technology environment. Also, listening to people like him as well as top researchers and technocrats worry about the same issues, leaves me only more secure in my hypothesis that our ubicomp future will come as a strange, scary and alienating experience particularly for elderly citizens (I have stopped thinking about them as “users” in this particular context, as they surely will become subject rather than active users of many types of coming technology).
This means for me, now walking several paralell concept paths, that the one regarding the freedom of being on the offline side of the divide is more interesting and urgent, while the one concerning bridging it, or rather ignoring it, could also render an elderly user somewhat more comfortable with being on the net, but it could also exclude itself precisely because it ignores this divide. Whether or not you will have people of the same age group and demographic on both sides of the divide is obvious, but as I see it, the more relevant issue for all of us, is the privacy issue. So now, working on different concepts very late in the project period, should I finalize the one adressing this very important and interesting issue, should I try to work around it, or should I choose to look on the bright side of it, and utilize the net for the possible rewards it could give elderly people? Certanly the latter would include them in a ubicomp society in a different way, perhaps balancing out the feeling of being unwillingly visible 24/7, or maybe making it worth while somehow, but would you be able to shake that feeling..?
Visuals of the concepts coming very soon.