Social complexity and somaesthetics (stuff that moved me today)

It’s 00:21 and I’m going to feel crap tomorrow, but I have to blog about this evening. Now.

9 to 5
It’s been an interesting day in the office… Started with a interim report on a competitive social landscape for client and a struggle to drive home the point that social media isn’t about creating extra communication channels, it’s about looking at existing information exchanges and exploring where you can add value. Too often clients focus on social media and networking as messaging mediums, when it is as much about information management and the increased efficiency of knowledge sharing through communities (that old dog Word-of-Mouth). Stop worrying about being cool and start thinking about being useful.

5 to 9
I rushed out of work today at 5:40pm to get to a Science Festival talk I thought started at 6pm, but that actually started at 8pm. Since I’d arrived at the Informatics Forum two hours early, I figured I’d attend the 6pm talk anyway, which turned out to be free because the Science Festival have an offer on, where you buy so many and get one free.

The freebie talk was “The Journey of LEGO and into the Future” and I was delighted to find a little pile of LEGO on each seat. The talk itself was less entertaining and despite the evident charisma of Steven Canvin (the LEGO man from Denmark), the presentation stumbled between a marketing annual report and a family show. Although there were some amusing YouTube clips, including Eddie Izzard’s Darth Vader Canteen sketch, which I’d seen before, it was an eclectic range of material that wasn’t always suitable for young children. Canvin also laboured on a dip in Lego’s fortune, which was frankly unnecessary and irrelevant considering the overwhelming love for LEGO in the room.

My 8pm talk was Kristina Höök’s “Mind, Mouse bad Body, Designing Engaging Technologies” which was presented with wit, flair and warmth. Höök took us through some of her projects at Mobile Life including eMote (mobile emotional messaging using gesture), Affective Diary (a way to remember your bodily and social experiences) and Affective Health (a mobile service empowering users to deal with stress). I’ve managed to find a similar talk on YouTube by Höök (below) and it’s well worth watching.

There also a number of online references to her work including:

Some of her thoughts I shall take to sleep with me tonight, particularly…. (and I hope I’ve captured these reasonably accurately)

Höök argued passionately that whilst AI (Artificial Intelligence) has a role in communicating data so it becomes accessible to us and design can make it beautiful… encouraging us to engage, decisions arising from that data and presentation should be left up to us. The decisions should be kept human, so interpretation is always at an individual level.

Sharing experiences is one of the cost difficult things about being human. Technology typically reduces our experiences to what can be measured, but not everything can or should be measured. Sometimes technology is applied to reduce the complexity in our behaviour, but it is this complexity that makes us human.

We are born with a body, a mind and emotions…. we are designed to move with/ display a range of physical expressions and yet who was it that decided we should spend our whole lives in front of a fixed screen?! We have all this innate mobility and do nothing with it! We spend most of time just sitting… which is a taught behaviour. “I don’t believe in “natural behaviours”, we are cultural beings, most of what we do is learned/taught.” She went on to add that we should be able to create meaning from our own data and make a system fit with our individual needs, ideas, hopes and dreams.

In response to her insight on “Affective Health”, a guy in the Q&A session asked if she’d ever been asked to apply this technology to a call centre context, where a system could detect the emotions of a call handler and respond appropriately. This question seemed to bemuse her… and she stated “This research is not about work” – affirming we work to live, not the other way round. Admitting she hadn’t really answered the question, she added “I’d rather see this technology applied for social support in a work context, to enable to call-handlers to operate closer together and support each other.”

And now it’s 02:09, this post’s not perfect, but hoping it at least inspires visitors to watch the YouTube clip of Höök and maybe you’ll find stuff that moves you today.