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Cargo cult design: on the boundaries between sketches, prototypes and mock-ups. Lars Erik Holmquist Mobile Life Center Stockholm University & SICS. The cult of the cargo plane in Melanesia.

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cargo cult design on the boundaries between sketches prototypes and mock ups

Cargo cult design: on the boundaries between sketches, prototypes and mock-ups

Lars Erik Holmquist

Mobile Life Center

Stockholm University & SICS

the cult of the cargo plane in melanesia
The cult of the cargo plane in Melanesia
  • They believe that planes come from paradise. Their ancestors sent them. But the white man, a crafty pirate, manages to get his hands on them by attracting them into a big trap of an airport.
slide3
You build your plane too, and wait with faith. Sooner of later, your ancestors will discover the white man's trap and will guide the planes on your landing strip. Then you will be rich and happy.
cargo cult metaphor i
Cargo cult metaphor I
  • Feinman: Cargo cult science
    • Looks like science – but it is not science!
    • E.g. astrology, UFOs, ESP
    • But can also be practices in established science without sufficient rigor!
    • It is easy to fool the public: ”Scientific research shows that…”
cargo cult metaphor ii
Cargo cult metaphor II
  • McConnell: Cargo cult (imposter) organizations
    • Mimic the working practices of an effective organization
    • Process-imposter: slavish devotion to process – yet do not produce anything!
    • Commitment-imposter: work really long hours – yet do not produce anything!
the story of the magic flower stick
The story of the magic flower stick
  • Someone once showed me a prototype of an “intelligent flower stick”
  • You would put it in your flower pot, and it would:
    • monitor the plant’s well-being
    • communicate with you and with your other plants
    • run forever getting its energy from sun and soil, etc. etc.
slide7
But hey... Isn’t that just an ordinary woodenflowerstick that you have painted in silver and glued some electronic components on?!
cargo cult design
Cargo cult design
  • The designer builds a “fetish” object that has the appearance of a real artifact - but it doesn’t actually do what it is claimed to do
  • Pretends to have solved the underlying problems - and is often successful in fooling others into believing this
    • C.f. design school grad shows; corporate product demonstrations
not just a case of design
Not just a case of “design”…
  • Research prototypes and products are often presented as “real”
  • However, just because something works technically doesn’t mean it will really work in the world!
    • E.g. social mediators - smart conference badges, Microsoft Zune
  • Here it’s not the electronics but the social setting that is “glued on”!
what s wrong with that
What’s wrong with that?
  • Prototypes and mock-ups can fill a useful role in a design process
  • However, they have to be handled with care
  • It is extremely easy to mislead an outside audience – or even yourself – with a seemingly polished prototype
forms of represen tations sketches
Forms of represen-tations (sketches)
  • Prototypes:
    • Represent function
  • Mock-ups:
    • Represent form
  • Neither are the real thing!
  • Representations in interaction design are extra tricky because the represent both form and function!
  • Holmquist: Prototyping: generating ideas or cargo cult designs? <interactions> 2005.
principles adapted from feinman
Principles (adapted from Feinman)
  • Am I fooling myself?
    • Do I really have enough knowledge of the technology and potential users to say this will work?
  • Am I fooling the layman?
    • Is there a risk that people will believe the representation is the real thing?
innovations
Innovations
  • An innovation is more than just a new idea! (Denning)
  • It must contribute to a transformation in a community, i.e. become widely adopted by users
  • Innovation “requires attention to other people, what they value and will adopt”
grounding innovation
Grounding innovation
  • Inquiry:
    • Finding out how things are
    • E.g. ethnographic studies, technical validation
  • Invention:
    • Finding something really new
    • E.g. brainstorming, ”flash of lightning” ideas
problems
Problems
  • Inquiry
    • Can be hard to transcend the material and develop new ideas
  • Invention
    • Risk to completely disregard human needs and/or technical possibilities
  • Both approaches can have cargo cult properties!
grounded innovation17
Grounded innovation
  • Grounded innovation is the approach we have been developing in my group (previously called user-driven innovation)
  • We consider both technology and potential users as a resource to drive innovation - ie. they are generators
  • Aim to be inventive and grounded without getting stuck in either!
transfer scenarios
Transfer scenarios
  • One method to systematically perform grounded innovation
  • Takes the grounding from a marginal practice and transfers it to new technology
  • Ljungblad & Holmquist: Transfer Scenarios: Grounded Innnovation with Marginal Practices, CHI 2007
robot applications
Robot applications
  • Interviews with owners of exotic pets
  • Development of “Personas”
  • Detailed transfer scenarios of a person and her relation to and interaction with agents
  • Implementation and testing of applications
  • See GlowBots at SIGGRAPH and NextFest!
thoughts
Thoughts
  • It is important to balance…
  • Handling different types of representations and function
    • Don’t fool yourself and don’t fool the layman!
    • “Put a meter on it”
    • A a sketch is not an end product!
  • Invention and inquiry
    • Is the ideal a high level of grounding and high level of invention?
thanks

Thanks!

Lars Erik Holmquist

Mobile Life Center

Stockholm University & SICS

leh@sics.se

www.viktoria.se/fal