diversification of minds - conversation in processes
design for communities

Tokyo, 07.10 - 09.10 1999

10 08 am<Models For New Information Design Interfaces>
Patrick Whitney, Illinois Institute Of Technology, Chicago, USA

Interaction and Strategy

In recent years, companies' knowledge of how to create products, information , and services has grown exponentially. The decreasing costs of computing, abilities to embed computing into physical products, and creating value by connecting products and services via networks, have exponentially increased the variety of offerings a company can create.

At the same time, executives have decreased ability to predict how users will use the new offerings.

This growing gap - between increased knowledge of how to create offerings on one hand, and decreased knowledge of the patterns of daily life on the other - creates a situation in which executives are unsure of what to make.

Designers can play a critical role in helping organizations gain a more detailed and relevant understanding of the patterns of daily life, thereby enabling executives to determine how to serve people's increasingly complex lives . Interaction designers play a particularly important role: they can create interactive products that adapt to different needs and meet the growing complexities of daily life. Understanding interaction as well as the related methods of prototyping, and observation, are becoming requisite abilities to help companies make better decisions about their offerings.

A good example of extending the traditions of interaction design to the level of strategy is the Interactive Home Project conducted in Hong Kong during the summer of 1998. A team of ID faculty and students and two students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology participated in the project.

Using life in and around the home as the arena, the team was asked to create value-added products and services that carried a strong cultural identity, but would also be viable in international markets.

During the ten-week study on Hong Kong life, the team identiŽed nine areas for fundamental innovations. Three of these, including systems to link family activities, assisting parents in teaching children after school, and shopping for fresh food, are described below in excerts from the Design Plan.

''Homebase', allows 'continuous connectivity' through mobile communications. Homebase enables users to maintain constant contact without the burden and interruptions of current telephone technologies. It affords a greater range of communication modes and enables family members to be present and involved in each other's lives in a relaxed and informal manner.

Many parents' efforts in assisting their children can be best described with 'stufŽng the duck', guidance. While an estimated that $1 to 2.5 billion per year is spent in Hong Kong on education materials and classes, this money and time is being spent with only marginal effect. Although academically successful, Hong Kong students generally fail in applying their knowledge to actual problems in later job situations.

The 'Thinktank' system will remotely connect parents and children and give parents access to educational content and expert advice. Parents will be able to remotely assist their children when it is most needed - while they are doing their homework.

The 'Foodchain' system streamlines the person selection and purchase of fresh food and integrates food-shopping expenditures with other family Žnances.

Alleviating the two major inconveniences of food shopping - wasting time and transporting the food home - Foodchain food selection and delivery services enable customers to choose fresh food in decentralized outlets and have it prepared and delivered to their apartment lobbies.'

All of the innovations included some degree of interactive media or products, but more importantly, the innovations met users' core needs. This understanding helped the companies understand not just how to do things, but what should be done to help people in their daily lives. It is these ideas that can become the core of strategy for an organization.


'Home-grown in Hong Kong', Design Plan published by the Insitute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1998. Interns: Ted Booth, Martin Ebert, Shiela Foley, Derek Lee, Wang Ying; Faculty advisor: Patrick Whitney.

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