Making Connections

In recent years, design theorists have coined the term “designerly ways of knowing” in an attempt to define what distinguishes designers and makes them successful. They argue that intuition and subjective experience acquired in the process of designing, is what empowers designers to create fitting designs.

However this is not a useful line of thought—more important to designers is the ability to draw connections between seemingly disparate elements or pieces of information, and to understand context objectively (or at least as objectively as humanly possible). This is for several reasons.

Firstly, it is through literacy in multiple fields rather than introspection that designers can be creative and better able to understand design across various contexts. Secondly, explicitly searching out and understanding the language of external precedents rather than reflecting on personal precedents can provide a better base for a good design to be built on.

The rapidly-advancing technological landscape also means that not only are we as people are getting overloaded with information, but we are also being faced with more wide-ranging design problems. However, there is a positive conse- quence in that we are also getting more exposed to unfamiliar and/or new ways of thinking about problems. Adapting to these new ways of thinking can lead to superior methods of solving design problems; however, this relies on us as designers being able to externalise these problems and think analytically.

Finally, “designerly ways of knowing” as a model for thinking about design is flawed, in that it fails to take into the contributions of different modes of thought, ignores the history and changing circumstances of technology and human civilisation, and hinders progress and the design process by needlessly sequestering design skills as unique and tacit, when it is more practical and constructive for them to be open and externalised.

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Spatial and Narrative Memory

The mechanisms by which people to this day use to memorise large quantities of information were first discovered in ancient Greece. Simonides of Ceos, an ancient Greek poet realised one way in which the brain can organise memories when he attended a banquet. At one point he was called away from the banquet, and just as he had left the roof of the building collapsed, killing all the remaining guests and leaving their bodies unidentifiable. Through remembering where each guest was sitting, Simonides alone was able to identify the bodies. In this way the principles of mnemonics (systems of aiding memorisation), and spatial and narrative mnemonics in particular were born...

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Minecraft: guided emergent game design

For the most part, in the relatively short history of computer gaming, players have had limited influence over the design of games. Games have lived and died by the reputation they acquire on release, and although they are play-tested while in development, most people who play games will never participate in this process of refining game designs. Therefore it can be said that the only realistic way for most people to determine the future of gaming is by voting with their wallets.

Increasingly these days though, we are seeing more and more so-called emergent gameplay. Gamers are creating their own fun, separate from the entertainment intended by game designers, by exploiting the idiosyncrasies and loopholes in the rules created by said designers. Minecraft is one of a new breed of game which has a strong emergent gameplay element. On initial release it had few rules and no designed goals for the player, making it almost purely emergent in its nature. Doubtless there are other games (such as Garry’s Mod) which have pushed players to create their own fun just as strongly as Minecraft, but this paper explains why Minecraft is different.

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Ambient intelligence, identity and autonomy

As technology has progressed over time, it has become increasingly closely adapted to the way we live and work. At the same time but to a lesser degree, we have also become adapted to technology. This mutual adaptation is inevitable due to the constant desire for greater efficiency and comfort both in our everyday lives and in the business world. More than ever though, this evolution is bringing with it serious issues that we as designers need to consider.

One way in which greater adaptation is being enabled is through the largely invisible integration of machine intelligence (i.e. computers) into a wide range of everyday products that in the past would have had no real intelligence of their own. This emerging revolution in consumer products is referred to as “ambient intelligence”.

This paper investigates how “ambient intelligence” is being introduced into the design of consumer products and the benefits that could be derived from it. In showing the development of such products and how they work, some of the ethical and existential issues facing product designers will be illustrated. In particular, this paper argues that the information gathering required to intelligently adapt to the user’s needs and the influence such smart products may have over the user could lead to the commoditisation of the identity and autonomy of the individual if we are not careful.

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The Loss of Anonymity

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Every day more and more things that we take for granted are integrating with the Internet, due to the many advantages of such connectivity. Arguably, one area where this is happening most of all is the world of gaming. Bringing the Internet into gaming has greatly expanded the possibilities of the medium. Virtual worlds and social games have brought otherwise isolated people together and enhanced the entertainment value of the medium.

In parallel to this increasing interconnectedness, is the advance of the surveillance society. CCTV cameras are increasingly being used in the real world to prevent crime across the planet, while governments introduce legislation to give them the power to track people’s movements through invasive identification and security measures (such as the proposed NZ Search and Surveillance Bill), brought on by threats of terrorism and crime, and the paranoia induced by them.

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