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Here is a video of two bots having a chat by Igor Labutov, Jason Yosinski, and Hod Lipson of the Cornell Creative Machines Lab. I find it wonderful that two bots, created by man and machine, still have the same issues communicating that most of the world does. In fact if you try to read into it and blow the metaphors out of proportion you see how this robo chatter can relate to the entire history of the western world, just think like an undergrad, I know you can do it.

Really do watch the video its so funny.

Check out the original engadget post that Cora Albrecht shared on G+, after all that’s where I learned of this cool thing.

This is a concept video for the project Kate Saunderson and I are embarking on as we speak.

Creative Commons License
Live Ideation by Alicia Dudek & Kate Saunderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.youtube.com.

Grasping at the meaning of a message can leave us throwing our hands in the air.

Obfuscating correspondence during sign-mediated information interchanges between two parties, to the exclusion of the proletariat is a bourgeoisie affectation that succeeds only in disassociating and causing dereliction from the paramount intentionality of the initially initiated interaction.

What?!?…

Communicating is difficult. It is only made more difficult by using specialized jargon (slang specific to certain groups or situations). It is further complicated by making simple messages more complex in hopes of impressing, persuading, or generally making mountains out of molehills.

In all these long years of education, I have finally come to realize that it is a bigger challenge to make things simpler rather than more complicated. “It’s so true, distilling something to its elemental form is hard and sometimes nearly impossible,” was Rachel’s response to my probes about how she also came to this conclusion. Its been a long hard road to arrive on the side of simplicity and clear communication. In high school Rachel and I would constantly revise papers in order to “sound smarter.” We would inject our essays full of lovely words like defenestration, epiphanical, and antidisestablishmentarianism, hoping to give our writing an air of intelligence and sophistication. Little did we know this was the literary equivalent of  playing dress-up and putting on mommy’s high heels. Big words and complex sentence structures are fine when used  thoughtfully and carefully.

Above all else its important to find the core message and to communicate it as simply as possible. Cut out the bullshit because in our super busy world no one has time to sort through all the miscommunication in order to recieve the message.

I had the most amazing sculpture professor at the University of Tulsa. His name was Chuck Tomlins and he taught me one thing. Sculpture is not about adding things and building things. Sculpture is knowing how much you can take away and still leave the essence. Communication is just like sculpture you need to know what the crucial bits are and how much you can strip away before they lose their meaning. In order to construct successful clear communications we need to be able to take away the things that are in the way of the message, not add them.

There is a calling for us all, to take away instead of add, and maybe, just maybe those who listen to us may have a message to take away.

“Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.”   – Elie Wiesel

Earlier this afternoon I was asked, “what exactly is design ethnography?” A simple and common question that my classmates and I get asked chronically by a variety of people. I have answered this question in a plethora of ways in the past. Sometimes I would chirp back, “people watching with a purpose,” which is one of my favorite phrases. It came to me during one of the first assignments we had on our master’s course. We were exploring our personal definitions of the course. Other times I would launch into lengthy discussions of our mother subject, anthropology and the methods of ethnographic study that grew out of it. To designers and artists, I would emphasize the influence and relationship design ethnography has with design, by providing indicators and actionable insights (which basically means that it helps people tailor design better to actual needs and uses). Patrons of the pub I used to work at would ask, “what are you studying?” They had no idea of the can of worms they were opening. I would smile back and clearly enunciate, “design ethnography.” Then 9 times out of 10 the bloke or bird would roar with laughter and reply, “Design and PORNOGRAPHY?” I would crack up, they would crack up, and it was all good craic  in the end (craic = fun).

Two Polish people living in Oklahoma, who happen to be my parents, still don’t really understand what it is that I study. I can’t seem to be able to get the concepts to communicate correctly in Polish. The know its some kind of social science-y voodoo magic, and they hope it will make me happy and successful. Friends from my university days back in Tulsa find it hard to grasp as well. I will carefully explain it to them, and then it flies right out of the other ear. That’s because it’s a mouthful and it’s hard to communicate. I fail at this communication constantly.

No matter how I deliver design ethnography the transmission error makes communication failure imminent. Occasionally, I get so caught up in trying to make someone understand where I am coming from, this realm of design ethnography, that I completely botch the delivery. I end up sounding like a schizophrenic Frankenstein, who couldn’t possible study people for a living, because I obviously cannot communicate an answer to one of the most common questions we get asked, “so what do you do?”

Regardless of all these issues, I don’t live in fear of being asked, “what do you do?” I just view each person as a new opportunity to tailor my message, and maybe one day I will hit the nail on the head discovering the universally understandable definition of design ethnography. Though I highly doubt that will ever happen, because a new issue has arisen. I don’t think I know what design ethnography is anymore. Every time I glance in the direction of design ethnography it morphs. It melds itself. It is a shape shifting chameleon that everyone wants to use and abuse but no one seems to stand behind. We are constantly being pushed to higher and higher levels of insight and achievement within design ethnography. What is appropriate? Where do the demands end? How far can you stretch the powerful tool of design ethnography before it snaps?

Could it be that design ethnography will save us or will it implode under the pressure?

To some degree design ethnography is people watching with a purpose, but lately I am conflicted and confused.

Alicia Dudek


Design Ethnographer
User Experience Consultant
Design Thinker
Play Advocate
Post-it Note Junkie

p.s. These are all my own words, not my employer's.

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