Adam Greenfield's v-2 gets a redesign ... one of the smarter sites around just got smarter. As are his design notes on the project - honest, humble, but smart. As ever, the major achievements are invisible ("fully XHTML1.0- and CSS-validating, Section 508-compliant, RSS-feed-equipped, text-resizable" etc.), which leads us on to ...
Adam points to a startling representation of the digital divide in NYC, indicating wireless access points cutting off above 110th St. Sobering stuff.
But he also writes a quite brilliant piece around his experiences at the Ubicomp 2002,
Adam picks up a theme he'd previously mentioned, based around Matthew Chalmers' notion of seamfulness, which I'd meant to report on here but just ran out of time. Adam plays this idea (of making connections visible) off against that of Naoto Fukasawa's "design dissolving in behaviour" (although I'm not sure they're that oppositional/unconnected - and I'd guess Adam isn't either. Fukasawa asks for "not leaving traces of the designer" which is not necessarily the opposite of Chalmers talking of "seamful systems (with beautiful seams)" and suggesting that we'd better explore such approaches before heading for seamlessness by default. The system shows its seams, where necessary/useful/enlightening, rather than the designers showing theirs, perhaps). [Seamful Ubiquity wiki]
What Adam fundamentally reminds us is that we design for real human beings (not personae, no matter how good they are). Relating his (positive) experience with a real people's stories (True Tales of American Life), we could equally look at (negative) warnings that no matter how good our systems are in abstract, we're building for real people e.g. "two-thirds of commuters at London's Victoria Station were happy to reveal their computer password in return for a ballpoint pen." [as reported in The Economist recently - req. registration, possibly not free]
I'd rather accentuate the positive side of heterogeneity too though ... Either way, a real understanding of individual people is more relevant than ever, given the challenges and opportunities of ubiquitous computing. Last word to Adam:
"Thankfully, real ubiquitous computation arrives at a moment when we have the formal and methodological ability to account for this variability and imperfection. We've learned, the hard way, that ethnographic studies and contextual inquiry and repeated rounds of user testing improve our designs immeasurably, by forcing us out of the position of godlike arrogance we tend to adopt as designers (frequently without noticing) and into a more collegial relationship with the people we build systems for."