Monthly Archives: May 2011

the what the hell effect.

This inspiring post from the frog design mind.

It reviews Genevieve Bell’s presentation at SXSW. Genevieve is a researcher at Intel, currently exploring the intersection of honesty and machine intelligence. Additionally, she compares some of her own work with ideas and experiments of Dan Ariely, to help us identify what-we-know-we-don’t-know about modeling ‘contextual awareness’, in operating systems and applications for so-called smart devices. 

For Genevieve the trick is in knowing how (humans cope) with the telling and receiving of little white lies.

 

“Giving Up on Being Honest

Can “smart devices” ever understand our intent in the range of ways with communicate with others? Can they understand when we are trying to be communal, rather than be an authority? And can they communicate in a manner that feels communal?

Genevieve noted in her talk that as human beings, we tell 2 to 200 lies a day. And while most of them are insignificant, the lies are often what smooth over friction in human relations.

But what kind of lies are these? Dan Ariely, in a somewhat unrehearsed session today with Sarah Szalavitz, walked the audience through his ongoing research into human dishonesty.

What he uncovered is that humans have a “fudge factor,” a level of dishonesty we’re willing to engage in and still consider ourselves honest. His insight into the behaviour isn’t huge, as we’ve all been caught in white lies (perhaps more in our lives than we’d care to admit). Instead, it’s rooted in what’s considered acceptable based on context and consequence.

In one example, he ran an experiment where people were given a test with a ton of questions, but only five minutes to solve them all. In the provided time period, it would be impossible to answer them all. When time was up, the people would grade their own tests, run them through a shredder in the back of the room, then tell the facilitator how many answers they got right.

The shredder was designed, however, to not shred the test. They could compare what people said to how many were actually right.

From this experiment, they saw that most people only lied just a little—if they only solved four problems, they’d say six. Makes sense, right?

But in an separate experiment, Dan saw if people would cheat with regard to remembering the 10 Commandments. In that case, no one cheated. One finding that came out of that research was that when we are reminded about own morality, we become more honest. But the honor code must come before we engage in an activity, not after it. Otherwise, we will be tempted to cheat.

But the third experiment he related was the following: You see two empty boxes, and then a couple of dots flash on the screen within those boxes. You are asked the question, “Are there more dots on the right or the left?” You receive 10 cents if you say right and one dollar if you say left, in all cases. This is repeated a hundred times with each research subject.

In the lab, they saw that people cheat a little bit through the process. But at some point, 80% of the people lose it, and they start cheating all the time. Different people switch at different points, depending on the context.

Dan called this the “what the hell” effect. In people’s minds, they’re saying: “I’m a cheat, I might as well enjoy it.”

via How Honest Should Smart Devices Be? | Blog | design mind.

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brainstorming. harder than it sounds to most..

Jason Hiner summarizes five ways that companies can kill innovation. The first two are structural. The last two are cultural. But the one in the middle is conceptual. The culprit is in an inability to brainstorm, competently. Who knew it could be be so hard? Ask your self three smaller questions:

1) What percentage of your colleagues use the words: ‘let’s brainstorm about…’ ?

2) what percentage of that group know, can recite the 4 rules of brainstorming, as defined by osborne?

3) What percentage of the group in number two, know the importance of building on the wild ideas of others? 

back to Hiner’s diagnosis:

“…The basic rules of brainstorming have been around since Alex Osborne coined the phrase in 1939, as part of his method for creative problem solving. However, it’s amazing how many organizations attempt to engage in brainstorming without following the rules and end up killing some of the best ideas because of it. Osborne once said, “It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.” In that spirit, true brainstorming should be always be a negativity-free process that encourages people to throw out their wildest ideas without fear of them being quickly shot down or ridiculed. Some of the craziest ideas could morph into something amazingly useful. You can find lots of variations of the brainstorming rules on the web, but my favorite are the ones that the Walt Disney World “imagineers” use:

Rule 1 – There is no such thing as a bad idea. We never know how one idea (however far-fetched) might lead into another one that is exactly right.

Rule 2 – We don’t talk yet about why not. There will be plenty of time for realities later, so we don’t want them to get in the way of the good ideas now.

Rule 3 – Nothing should stifle the flow of ideas. Not buts or can’ts or other “stopping” words. We want to hear words such as “and,” “or,” and “what if?”

Rule 4 –  There is no such thing as a bad idea. (We take that one very seriously.)…”

via How to kill innovation, in five easy steps | TechRepublic.

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on education as industry

“The present resistance to innovation [in education] is breathtaking,” Joel Klein writes in The Atlantic this month. The former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education was writing about public high schools, but he might as well have been talking about universities. Despite college costs rising faster in college than any institution in the country including health care, we have the technology to disrupt education, turn brick and mortar lecture halls into global classrooms, and dramatically bring down the cost of a high quality education.

Entrepreneurs like to say there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Is education innovation that next big idea?

via Is College (Finally) Ready For Its Innovation Revolution? – Derek Thompson – Business – The Atlantic.

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on reading. and what students do.

“Most e-readers were designed for leisure reading – think romance novels on the beach,” said co-author Charlotte Lee, a UW assistant professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering. “We found that reading is just a small part of what students are doing. And when we realize how dynamic and complicated a process this is, it kind of redefines what it means to design an e-reader.”

The study backs up what I, personally, found while doing a massive research project recently. The issue is this: leisure reading is a lean back activity while research reading is a lean forward activity. An ereader with touch interface and note-taking capabilities that interface seamlessly with the screen would be ideal – think an iPad app for note-taking – and heuristic abstraction programs could help with the skimming problem. However, there are still a number of cognitive cuing issues to deal with in reading on an ereader vs. reading on the page.

They also found the following interesting problems with reading on e-readers:

Students did most of the reading in fixed locations: 47 percent of reading was at home, 25 percent at school, 17 percent on a bus and 11 percent in a coffee shop or office.

The Kindle DX was more likely to replace students’ paper-based reading than their computer-based reading.

Of the students who continued to use the device, some read near a computer so they could look up references or do other tasks that were easier to do on a computer. Others tucked a sheet of paper into the case so they could write notes.

With paper, three quarters of students marked up texts as they read. This included highlighting key passages, underlining, drawing pictures and writing notes in margins.

A drawback of the Kindle DX was the difficulty of switching between reading techniques, such as skimming an article’s illustrations or references just before reading the complete text. Students frequently made such switches as they read course material.

The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues such as the location on the page and the position in the book to go back and find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.

via Study: Kindles Aren’t Quite All That With The Kids On Campus.

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the new journalism?

This has been forecast for some time now: PR writers out muscling journalists. to what extent is this aided and abetted by technology? Is this a socio-technical situation?? Or is the press failing to remain a competitive industry?

This from Propublica:

…Barstow realized as he glanced across the crowd, most of the people busily scribbling notes in the room were not there to ask questions. They were there to answer them.

“You would go into these hearings and there would be more PR people representing these big players than there were reporters, sometimes by a factor of two or three,” Barstow said. “There were platoons of PR people.”

An investigative reporter for The New York Times, Barstow has written several big stories about the shoving match between the media and public relations in what eventually becomes the national dialogue. As the crowd at the hearing clearly showed, the game has been changing.

“The muscles of journalism are weakening and the muscles of public relations are bulking up — as if they were on steroids,” he says.

via PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms – ProPublica.

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