Shaul Schwarz/Reportage, for The New York Times
In an article nothing short of fascinating, The New York Times follows Nokia’s user anthropologist Jan Chipcase on his design research visits to the developing world. The mobile phone, one of many objects of convenience to most of us, is transformed within a new context.
Something that’s mostly a convenience booster for those of us with a full complement of technology at our disposal — land-lines, Internet connections, TVs, cars — can be a life-saver to someone with fewer ways to access information. A “just in time” moment afforded by a cellphone looks a lot different to a mother in Uganda who needs to carry a child with malaria three hours to visit the nearest doctor but who would like to know first whether that doctor is even in town.
Simple user insights lead directly to new design features.
Influenced by Chipchase’s study on the practice of sharing cellphones inside of families or neighborhoods, Nokia has started producing phones with multiple address books for as many as seven users per phone.
However, more than just an expose on user-centred design in practice, the article explores issues of identity, the role of technology in the lives of others and design for self-actualisation.
Of additional interest is Future Perfect, the personal blog of Jan Chipcase and a collection of “thoughtless acts” images and descriptions.
Pushing technologies on society without thinking through their consequences is at least naive, at worst dangerous, though typically it, and IMHO the people that do it are just boring. Future perfect is a pause for reflection in our planet’s seemingly headlong rush to churn out more, faster, smaller and cheaper. Somewhere along the way we get to shape what the future looks like.