Tuesday, 21 February 2012

21st Century Human Centred Design

  It is clear that "things are going to be different" - hopefully with a move towards "betterness". How will ergonomics contribute to this change, and what will it look like?
Somewhere Steve Pheasant said that ergonomics usually begins with some sort of task analysis, and ends with some sort of a user trial. In 'Ergonomics- standards and guidelines for designers' he wrote:
The bulk of the substantive content of the discipline revolves around two key issues—human adaptability and human variability, both of which are measurable and both of which are amenable to standardization at least with respect to their limits."

The principles of Human-Centred Design are:
  • A clear and explicit understanding of users, tasks and environments.
  • The involvement of users throughout design and development.
  • Iteration.
  • Designing for the user experience.
  • User centred evaluation.
  • Multi- disciplinary skills and perspectives.
Let us take the above to be fixed i.e. that the core of the discipline doesn't change, but that its application changes in response to a changing world (i.e. ergonomics practitioners will face  a changing 'context of use'). If ergonomics can adapt to the changed context, the future is very promising.  The shift in emphasis looks like the following:

From:  Drug labelling, incident analysis, CHFG, MiniMe
To:   Empowered patients, individual differences with 'quantified self', application of functional medicine, community tool design, wellness support, recognition of 'healthcare' limitations


From: Classroom furniture
To: Personal Learning Environments

Hazardous industries

From: Safety management, alarms, control room design
To: Resilience, governance

Work design

From: Factory and workplace design
To:   Enabling home and community resources e.g. hackerspaces  (home office design, the dangers of sitting etc. will have been done by others)


From: Equipment design
To: Facilitating Open Source Warfare

Consumer goods, work equipment

From: Product design
To:   Tools for co-creation; design, assessment, certification, of products/services (where the distinction has become unimportant). Input to open source design.

Suggestions welcome in the comments.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Skills and Manners for Resilient Communities

A post by John Robb on the skills gap used the famous quote by Robert Heinlein 
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
John Robb is right about the skills gap, and this post is my twopennorth on the topic. 

The resilient community movement might sympathise with Henlein's bold statement of individual self-sufficiency - the Competent Man. (Presumably women are supposed to be pregnant in winter and barefoot in summer). The list has sparked a great many similar attempts, including this. However, it is clearly not practical as a universal prescription, up to date, or appropriate for all situations.
As a contribution to bridging the digital divide, I have attempted to expand it, update it where necessary, and use headings that merge digital and traditional skills. Bridging the digital divide will be an important factor at both individual and community levels (the list is an expansion of one developed in response to David Pogue's post on 'the basics').

To quite an extent, the specifics of the list aren't all that important. The skill requirements for a resilient community are likely to be an emergent property - skill development will need a number of safe-fail experiments (cf. Cynefin). What is important just now is to make an estimate of the size of the undertaking and have an initial plan of how to bootstrap ourselves, in this Resilient Communities may be lean startups - including customer development; "self sufficiency" might breed a dangerous introversion. Rob Paterson took the view that the first priority was to get fit, so that the other requirements could come more easily. This seems very sensible, but it may not be your priority.
One suggestion is that your priorities are driven by "what you are least worst at". Every community will need its own approach and idea of end-point, but it would be reasonable to be well on the way to using " five per cent of the energy throughputs that we are accustomed to now" (a must-read piece by John Thackara) by ‘the 2017 drop-off’ discussed in the 2009 BITRE report.
So,  we need informed skill development at an individual level, driven by hard reality like Rob Paterson has done, rather than woolly idealism. Perhaps we need Personal Learning Environments. At a community level, there is the need to spot potential skill shortages (as John Robb has done in the post mentioned at the top of this piece). What obviously won't work are:
  • Central planning
  • Doing nothing
  • State-funded institutions attempting to carry the load
  • Individualised efforts.
Here's the list. Ones from the Heinlein list are *

Make a phone call,  VoIP call
Txt on a mobile phone, Send a picture on a mobile phone (taken on its camera)
Send an email, know 'netiquette'
Subscribe to an RSS feed
Buy  online
Give a short talk e.g. welcome or thanks
Give a presentation without visual aids
Use powerpoint or equivalent sensibly (cf. Guy Kawasaki's Rule xxx)
Draw mindmaps or some other type of diagram
Read/produce engineering drawings
* Take orders
* Give orders
* Act alone
Run a personal kanban
Eat healthily
* Plan an invasion
* Balance accounts
Plan a menu
Do a household budget
Get kids to school on time and with the right gear
Set up a website
Plan or evolve the layout and planting of a garden
Organise a sports event
Prioritize risks and opportunities
* Co-operate
Run a workshop
* Pitch manure
Improve digital photos e.g. red eye removal, cropping
Prune plants
Care for pets
Clean the inside of a computer, displays, keyboards, mouse
Vacuum clean a house
Clean windows
Sew on buttons
Replace zips
Take up a hem
Change the wheel on a car
Check under the bonnet of a car (fluid levels, belts, battery etc.)
Secure people and assets
* Fight efficiently
Use a fire extinguisher or fire blanket
Have an escape plan
Set up and use internet security (firewall, anti-phishing, virus checking)
Wear a seatbelt
Avoid drinking and driving
Use strong passwords and not have them accessible
Test for counterfeit banknotes
Use a spam filter
Check a suspect email that has come through the filter
Check suspect visitors to the house
Stop junk mail
Know your post code/zip code
Know your IP address
Remember what you went upstairs for
Use search engines, desktop search
Use bookmarks/favourites for web pages
Have contact details for family and friends
Have contact details for emergency situations
Find useful people (plumber at the weekend)
Use a map and compass
Use a GPS device
Keep personal records organised
Keep account details organised e.g. bank, utiliities
File work documents in a system
Have a computer filing system for documents, images, music
Have a consistent filename convention
Make jam, pickle, chutney
Back up to CD, hard drive, web-based resource
Preserve with salt or drying, canning, freezing
Transfer digital photographs from camera to local and cloud storage
Take video, post to web
Program the video recorder or PVR
Use a photo sharing service, P2P music or video sharing
Use a group, forum, chat room
Raise money for charity, project
Host a party, barbeque
Write, distribute a newsletter
* Change a diaper
* Set a bone
Do CPR, resuscitation
* Design a building
* Write a sonnet
* Program a computer
* Cook a tasty meal
* Butcher a hog
* Solve equations
* Analyze a new problem
Paint in watercolours
Build a website
Use computer graphics
Grow plants from seed
Raise children
* Build a wall
Use a lathe or milling machine
Use computer 3D to create something
Build a drone, robot
* Conn a ship
Drive a car, tractor &  trailer
* Ride a bicycle, horse

* Comfort the dying
* Die gallantly
Find inner peace
Survive hardship
Survive success

As an aside, the story of Heinlein and Lazarus Long is an interesting one.

Update: As regards digital literacy, the European Computer Driving Licence is obsolete. Resources that look potentially useful include the Digital Survival Guide and Digital Citizens Basics.