Out for a Walk with Charles S. Pierce

For this position diagram, I attempted to translate “The Three Cotary Propositions,” a 1931 lecture by Charles S. Pierce, into contemporary language. I wanted Pierce’s views, which I consider quite transcendent, to be accessible to someone with a modern attention span and understanding of language. This is why I chose to illustrate a few of Pierce’s points, generously seasoned with my own views, in the format of a comic strip. Given the nature of the argument Pierce makes, I feel comfortable not only modernizing his points, but adding to them, as the frontier of these concepts have expanded considerably since 1931. Nonetheless, his work continues to be relevant and clarifying the polemics’ stance was a refreshing, fun, and engaging process.

Above is a random sample snapshot of Pierce’s lecture, which, at around twelve pages,  demonstrates the need for translation. Fortunately for me, my grandfather, the poet and St. John’s professor Charles G. Bell, who was friends with Einstein and was barfed on by Dylan Thomas one wild night, actually spoke like this. I was exposed to this type of language from an early age and understand it. However, in an effort to not default into the same highfalutin wordage, I translated the lecture, paragraph by paragraph, into Spanish and then back into English using Google Translate. I knew that translating it this way was crude, but I wanted to see what other word choices surfaced and be forced into articulating it myself.

My favorite part of this process was that “Abduction” consistently becomes “Kidnapping,” which is hilarious because I don’t think I could define the intended meaning of the word anyway. This process made distilling paragraphs into sentences very simple, I suppose because it was now a foreign language, the essence of which I understood. Like listening in on a Scottish conversation about something you are familiar with. I then started a comic strip from the paragraph sentences and presented it to the class last Tuesday.

The feedback was that it was too verbose (STILL!) and could better utilize illustration and the comic strip medium. It was also going to end up being insanely long and meandering. So, I continued the distillation process and came down with a few points that I wanted to illustrate. I got braver about my illustrating and more particular about the execution. I became clearer about my ideas and more comfortable sharing them in this way.  I would love feedback about the work and continued editorial suggestions from anyone who is interested in giving it. The final product is below….


302 Position Diagram 1

For this assignment we were asked to create a position diagram on the role of technology in the world, and to argue it’s importance. We read articles by ten different designers of influence and were expected t draw upon them in our argument.

Responding largely to Dourish, I created a graph that establishes the parameters of “context,” showing transitional layers of change. I then positioned each of the designers we read within the diagram where I believe they are operating, at least at the time of creating the article. Lastly, I inserted my own viewpoint on the topic.

When presented, the page builds, beginning with Marsden, and ending with me, Robinson. For the sake of viewing convenience on this blog, I will show only the final slide, which has everything.

I am proud of this work for many reasons. For starters, it is very clear that I’ve come a long way with understanding the purpose of a position diagram and how to make one that says something in an understandable way. That said, I’d very much appreciate feedback– did I accomplish that? Also, do you think this is agreeable, or potentially helpful? Do you understand my language choices? I will to continue to revise this position diagram until it is awesome, so any and all feedback is welcome.

Wireframes 6.0

In this final iteration for our wireframe assignment, I feel that I finally started to contain the scope of the issue in my mind while I worked. This resulted in a massive restructuring of the design and an overhaul of the look of the site after receiving help in basic InDesign skills and wireframe logic from Jon K. This final iteration is also a very new one and certainly could use a few more iterations before being called finished, however that seems to be the nature of wireframing such a complicated entity as a class scheduler. All in all I think this is a considerable improvement from previous versions and I am pleased with the accomplishment. I have found the entire project to be fun, humbling and educational.

As a reminder, the following is a template wireframe for a proposed academic scheduler, created specifically for athletes at UT Austin.






















Wireframes 5.0

This iteration continues to expand on the visual buttons and a tidier look throughout. It’s easy to see where the obstacles are in this because as the iterations progress, the hanging chads in the design become increasingly obvious. Nonetheless, it took user testing with a professor at UT, who wanted many changes made to this design, to see that I was still struggling with fundamentals of the layout and wasting time changing the button sizes. This was a heavy but necessary blow, as our instructions in the design process have been consistently guiding us to draw the layout completely before increasing the visual fidelity. Even still my ability to follow these instructions has been inconsistent, partially I think because these tools are all so new that I easily become preoccupied by basic adjustments to the look when I just meant to be correcting a typo. Therefore, some pages in this iteration are at their sloppiest version yet, as I began to return to pen and paper these pages became dumping grounds and place holders. This felt like the natural result of exploring beyond the “hero flow” and so I include them in this collection because I think they show a process.




















Wireframes 4.0

A few major evolution’s occurred in this iteration and all of them can be seen in the single slide below. I moved the status information to the right to reflect many popular websites, like Amazon, with the classes added listed under FALL 2012 and a calendar of the schedule   updating in the box. I minimalized and moved the profile picture to reflect sites like Facebook, and removed unnecessary personal information to decrease clutter. I changed the navigation to one that uses words to allow the user to know where they’ve been. The text in the body was described as shouting by more than one think-aloud tester, and was changed to be less loud. And finally, I began to explore making more visual buttons for classes.

Wireframes 3.0

For my third presentation of wire frames I thought through the entire navigation of the website in greater detail. Even still, there are a few easily noticed dead ends that were not revealed to me until the forth “think aloud” that I did with an astute UT undergrad. Certain other details, such as a ‘View Syllabus” option, and an enlargeable calendar in the dashboard are additions I will make thanks to talk aloud feedback. Over all, the feedback that I received from students was quite positive. They were relieved to use a site that told them their requirements, as more than one of them was an upperclassman who was now attempting to fit extra classes they hadn’t known were required into their schedules in order to graduate on time. They all became confused at the same points, so I know what to do next, which is a happy place to be.



















IDSE 202- Final Blog

Eric Boggs, Dave Gottlieb, Eli Robinson, & Callen Thompson

 Inspiration and Insights

Our group’s research focuses on seniors and the topic of Aging in Place. We’ve performed multiple stages of research, including contextual inquiries with seniors who use computing technology at home, interviews with experts on the subject of seniors, and two styles of cultural probes, one written and the other photography based, with both seniors and Baby Boomers. Our secondary research throughout the process has been pivotal in understanding what is and isn’t available or working well in this particular field, and helped us determine what insights we were having that were original. Through our synthesis and ideation period we generated 300 business ideas and presented on three of them three weeks ago. Following the presentation we pursued one of the concepts we presented, a concept of crowd sourcing solutions with Baby Boomers to tackle some of the wicked problems that they are most invested in resolving, like environmental issues. By creating a customer journey and touch points map of this idea we could see holes in the concept and realized that we were no longer working with a believable scenario of a user for the service we were designing.

Throughout this time period we were receiving responses to the two cultural probes that we sent out during our research phase. We noticed three very prevalent themes through the process, which greatly informed us:

1. Both boomers and seniors feel a strong bond to staying connected to their families, particularly their grandkids. We witnessed many seniors who use email and Facebook exclusively to see photographs of their family. Both groups sense of community and communication with family and friends helps motivate them, keep them happy, and ultimately alive and healthy.

2. Even the most technologically savvy of the participants struggled to return the photographic scavenger hunt through email. For some, the obstacle of finding their digital camera and getting it to turn on was enough of a roadblock as to stop participation, but for most, the challenge of getting the pictures off of their phone or camera, into an email, and adding text required extreme dedication that left many of them annoyed with us.

3. Almost everyone’s favorite room was the living room, where they described sitting and relaxing.

Due to these insights, the presentation idea we’d considered to be least interesting became the most, especially after creating a customer journey and touch points map. We want to create a mobile, visually simple app that facilitates family sharing and connection through whatever media an individual might use. We picture an analog aspect to this site that may involve book printing and cards, bolstered by an easily reachable customer support service. In reference to the third insight, we’re calling it “Den.”


Service Concept

Our goal is to give people a platform to share personal stories, photographs, and information with their families directly, allowing them to be more connected and open. Den connects families in a feed that’s exclusive to the group, allowing a degree of casualness and familiarity that is missing in most online networks. Den uses many of the successes of Instagram and Pinterest in its layout, but facilitates intimacy rather than publicity. A favorite recipe, story, photo, or letter highlighting special moments in a family members’ life can develop a connection. Additionally, a funny story about what happened at the grocery store this morning and the comments that follow are an essential part of creating personal knowledge and friendship. Den is a medium for families to get to know and help each other wherever they are, and whatever level of technical confidence they have.

Because Den is a feed that contains text, photo, video, and audio clips that update as they’re added, there is an element of surprise and fun, creating anticipation from the users. As a mobile app, Den fits seamlessly into the lives of the younger generations that the seniors are particularly interested in keeping up with. Many seniors we witnessed are leapfrogging 20 years of technology and going straight from a landline phone and large, slow, heavy desktop computers used for word processing, to a wi-fi enabled smartphone or tablet. Den recognizes the necessity of ease in photo sharing and is built accordingly. Den inspires seniors to get into the mix through prompts that target the entire family, whether generated from the app or by the family.

Den will be an app. At this stage of anyone could download it and we will scale accordingly.


Unique Elements

From the start, Den is different than typical apps. When a new member joins, they receive an email explaining to them how the services work and allowing them to mail personal postcards to family members to invite them. An invitation with instructions is created for those recipients; for example the first user invites their grandmother to join the app through a card she receives by snail mail, generated by Den. Users who prefer email would receive one. We consider it essential for Den to have abundant customer service support that works across all platforms of comfort including phone calls, live chat, email or printed tutorials.

As the new user arrives, she sees pictures of what her niece cooked for dinner in another city, a video clip of her cousin’s kids dancing, and a joke that her 8 year old grandson has just made-up and posted. She can comment on any of these on the app thru text, audio, photo, video, calling them directly, or sending them a physical card. If an individual or family chooses to, they can use random prompts of questions or assignments to share, generated by Den. They will have the option to receive weekly or monthly summaries of family activity via email. Once a relationship is established, she will see that they have the option to create digital and physical photo albums and other memorabilia through the service with the material that is being exchanged.


Big Questions

We recognize that the service we are describing has many elements, which would require exceptional work on our part. At this stage of the process, we have no way of knowing the feasibility of the design, and are rather being guided by imagination and the needs we witnessed in the design stage.

We have identified a number of websites as potential competitors for our service and will work to differentiate ourselves. We are comfortable with adapting Den to meet the needs of particular users, for example, people staying in a certain wing of a hospital or in a particular residential unit. It is important to us to provide a service that meets needs of older members of society that will improve their happiness and wellbeing. To do this successfully, the service must work across multiple platforms and be user friendly. It must respect the busy lives that people have at any age and allow them to connect with one another despite schedules. We don’t believe that any of the sites we are considering competition have achieved these essential design qualities.

We plan to do a great deal of user testing and prototyping in the next Quarter to evaluate the essential components of the service and to reflect users’ needs. Prototyping will inform our design further and ensure we are providing something that serves to benefit its users.

Service Blueprint for "Den"

Natural Habitats

This evening I went out for food in a recently reinvented sushi restaurant on South Congress. I asked the host about some of the design decisions as while he brought me to a seat. “It’s really much better for everyone involved,” he explained as I slid my chair under the table, “the servers, the customers, and the kitchen all have less work to do and we all like it better.” “Wow,” I thought to myself, “what an interesting metric for a job as dull as serving tables already is.” In my experience other places, waitressing had mostly been hours filled of scavenger hunts for something to do, the jackpot of discovering the sugar packets needed to be refilled could fight off the beast of desperate existence-questioning boredom for at least ten more minutes of the shift. I pressed the server to explain himself, “Now we just do work when it’s needed. See? If a customer wants their server, they just press the ‘Server’ button right here. It’s just more natural.” He points to the screen of the iPad on my table, the same as the one on every table in the restaurant.
This restaurant used to be called “Zen;” a quiet, take-out oriented, sushi-fusion, low-cost establishment on the medium-high end of the lowbrow food scale. It was not an ambitious place. Customers ordered at a register, the same person who they ordered from set their food on the counter when it was ready while hollering out their name, and that same person wiped off tables occasionally. Half the food was pre-made and all of it came in take-out containers for convenience. Though the business has not changed hands, it appears the owner has had a change of heart. Now renamed “Lucky Robot,” the atmosphere is at once upgraded by the large liquor bar and futuristic hanging lighting fixtures; Asian-urbanized by the rice-maker-as-Godzilla mural that wallpapers a majority of the restaurant, and of course, the iPads. If the names of the incarnations of the restaurant can be taken as literally as I think they can, then the Lucky Robot signifies a new era in the ecology of dining in Austin. As if to illustrate this, the host just described the process of ordering for oneself, including paying, from an iPad at the restaurant table as more natural.”
In his essay “Design in the Age of Biology: Shifting from a mechanical-object ethos to an organic-systems ethos,” Hugh Dubberly argues, “Where once we described computers as mechanical minds, increasingly we describe computer networks with more biological terms.” The impact of this phenomenon is perhaps unparalleled in modern society. We have moved well beyond anthropomorphizing our technology to take care of tasks that humans used to, and even those are still shocking to upon first discovery. Remember the first time you saw Pay at the Pump? It wasn’t that long ago, but not only is it no longer novel, it’s assumed. Gas stations without it are now throwbacks to a slower era and the inconvenience of being forced to walk inside the (“convenience”) store and interact with a person behind the counter is reflective of a value system that is being trained out of us by using anthropomorphic technology.
Lucky Robot is taking advantage of the improved experience of online ordering and placing it inside their restaurant. They’ve managed to maintain employing an extremely small staff while now giving the impression of table service. And so I wonder about the future of dining out. Will this catch on like Pay at the Pump? Will it become an option, like the self-checkout aisle? Will we start seeing it at drive-thru’s?
Why not? Why shouldn’t the customers take their own orders? After all, what is more natural than using your own hands to find your dinner?

Wire frames 2.0

In this second iteration of wire frames for a student scheduler I reconstructed the site in Indesign. This took a considerable amount of time but makes the navigation cleaner and much easier to apply rules within. I took the feedback that I’d received in the class critique and tried to make everything simpler and more deliberate. I haven’t finished Indesigning the new hero path yet, and as the next pages are where the challenging decisions kicked in, I predict much more time on it. I also have not resolved most of the secondary path issues. Nonetheless, in effort to resolve the hanging chads of unfinished assignments, I’ll post as is and look forward to improvements in the future. Happy Thanksgiving. Login Page

Final summary of IDSE 101

We learned a great deal about the use of technology in special education over the course of our first quarter at Austin Center for Design. The first segment of our research had us performing Contextual Inquiries in two very different AISD classrooms, both which are designed for special education. Contextual Inquiry is a form of research in which a subject is observed as a master of their natural environment and the researchers attempt apprentice under them, only interrupting to increase clarity about what the subject is doing.

The first classroom was a Special Ed math class in a general education middle school. We witnessed students who were enthusiastic about using technology, from the three desktop computers used for Khan Academy during group rotations, to simple calculators, which triggered a collective cheer as they were handed out. We saw the students adjust their behavior in order to demonstrate to the teacher that they were responsible, and therefore deserving of time on the computer. We saw them sharing their work and helping one another with the calculators in a way that had not occurred with pencils and paper moments earlier.

The second classroom we visited was in a school that caters to special needs and multiple disabilities. We saw many adaptations of technology being used, such as a custom-created computer program that taught history through a game projected on the front of the room and controlled by buttons the students pressed. Because many of the students were learning cause and effect, these buttons, or “switches” were an easy to see, hit, and grasp, method of accessing otherwise fragile technology. In fact, the teacher of the class had created many original systems to make technology more available, from a large switch that turns on a radio and disco lights, to units of time being taught through blocks and an egg timer.

In both environments the teachers were excited about technology and its possibilities in their classrooms. A teacher’s familiarity with technology made all the difference in how it might be used, and the integration of it into the curriculum seemed to be completely up to them. For example, each teacher said they wanted more technology and showed us the types of tools they wish they had full access to. In the first case the teacher wanted access to a newer Elmo device with a remote control style mouse and a way to project a laptop screen. In the second case, the teacher wanted iPads to play with and customize into versatile communication tools. Both teachers pointed out that unless technology is being used effectively at home in addition to the classroom, a student really couldn’t make consistent gains. This insight helped us focus the next stage of our research on Special Ed students and technology at home.

For this stage of our research we sought out parents for Participatory Interviews. Participatory Interviews are a collaborative conversation facilitated by three different activities designed to allow the participant to feel comfortable describing what isn’t working and imagining what might. In effort to narrow our criteria, we looked for parents of non-verbal students diagnosed on the Autism spectrum who were interested in discussing technology.

Each of the three mothers we interviewed was incredibly generous with her time and knowledge for our project. Their first assignment was to fill out a homework journal of home use between their child and technology, which gave us specific instances to draw from in conversation, so that we could ground examples in specific events as we began the interview. As with the Contextual Inquiry, the variety of technology used was vast, ranging from an iPad used for verbalizing words, pointing at a Letterboard to spell out words, and using a digital camera to illustrate perspective. In each case, communication with others was a major focus of their sons’ education, and so the role of technology as a communication device was of particular significance.

The second stage of the Participatory Interview had the participant and interviewer filling in a blank graph designed to demonstrate the spectrum of experiences they’d had with their son and technology, ranging from very negative to very positive. In each case, the positive end of the spectrum looked more like a list of criteria that they imagined a perfect device would adhere to, such as adaptable, durable, not dependent on the listener, versatile, and connecting rather than disconnecting. Interestingly, all three of the mothers placed the iPad closest to this end, even if they didn’t have one.

The third stage of this process had the participant decorate a canvas with provided images and words, showing us what the ideal experience would be like and would not be like. All three mothers emphasized a need for the tool to be fun to use, not just for their sons, but for others as well, so that he could build relationships and make friends. They shared many stories about technology being an equalizing device with other kids. Whereas adaptive technology once isolated a child and made their handicaps more obvious, new technology like Nintendo DS, digital cameras, smartphones, and iPads, are used universally and are attractive to others, which leads to socializing and increased independence, a quality that all of the mothers want to instill in their sons.

At the end of these interviews we compiled our data and sorted our insights into three different themes. These themes had subtopics that interested us and are listed below. Quotes from our research that are particularly resonating with a theme are below the subtopics.

Theme 1: Self-Expression: Technology enables externalization of inner thoughts and creativity.

  • For students dealing with communication barriers, technology helps facilitate basic requests as well as deeper conversations with parents, teachers, and peers.
  • Technology enables creative expression and communication to others of what a student is thinking, feeling, and hoping.
  • Technology empowers the student to have authority and autonomy.

“Technology is a gift for everybody. He isn’t special-needs when he uses technology. It’s a vehicle for him to show us his mind and show us how smart and creative he is.” – Lynn, Parent

Theme 2: Social Connection: For a population that is isolated, technology promotes and nurtures social relationships.

  • Devices serve as both virtual and physical gathering points that facilitate interactions among peers and adults.
  • The same hardware and software means kids “look the same” whether they have special needs or not.
  • Technology enables independence and gives a student confidence to work alongside students who aren’t in Special Education.

“Creative outlets like the iPad and Camera are equalizers that allow him to do the same things as other people.” – Lynn, Parent

“He sat outside playing Nintendo DS, and the neighbor kids got theirs and joined him.” – Lynn, Parent

Theme 3: Barriers to Entry: Small obstacles and repeated disappointments feel insurmountable in a situation that is already challenging.

  • Adopting new technology comes with an unknown return on investment. It’s expensive to purchase, breaks with frequent use, requires upgrades that change the user experience, and won’t work in every context.
  • A student’s likelihood to adopt a new technology is unpredictable and depends on their physical abilities. The technology must be customizable and adaptable to meet the physical and emotional needs so that the student adopts it.
  • Neither parents nor educators have obvious forums to learn about what technologies are available and therefore lack awareness and remain intimidated.

“Technology’s changing and to buy a high end item that you don’t know if the person will take to is quite a rigmarole. John, and many autistic people, don’t generally take to something right away, so you don’t know.” – Ann, Parent

Having done this research it is clear to us that technology has the potential to redefine the Special Education classroom. Seeing how technology encourages self-expression and social connection is exciting and filled with possibility. However, truly accessing this population would mean designing around the Barriers to Entry.

One barrier each participant spoke about—in both the Contextual Inquiries and the Participatory Interviews—was money. Though the price of digital technologies is much lower than a decade ago, participants repeatedly mentioned costs associated with technology. In addition to the initial purchase, maintenance and upgrades contribute to the expense of digital devices and software. In light of this, we would want to research the relationships between socio-economic factors, Special Education, and funding sources for adaptive technology.

Another barrier we observed was the feeling that technology is complicated. For the most part, the participants we worked with were excited about technology. Several would even qualify as “early adopters,” willing to experiment with new technology if it will help the student. However, we also witnessed intimidation and discomfort around trying out and learning new forms of technology. This hesitance was much easier to overcome when it related to adopting consumer technology (for example, cameras or iPads). A way to address the concern about technology being too complicated would be a way to bridge students, teachers, parents, and technologists to train one another and share their experiences.

Actually, these are just a few of the ideas we have for continued research in this field. Unfortunately, neither of us is pursuing this topic in the coming quarters at Austin Center for Design. That said, this topic has the potential to satisfy a great deal more study and investigation. We believe the benefits of designing for the improvement of the Special Education classroom are invaluable and of unlimited consequence for everyone involved.