Anne Aretz
A theoretical thinker, design lover, brand etc. in a digital product strategy and design studio.

A mix of my random thoughts, interests and opinions.
  • "…despite those disconnected, iPhone-obsessed people I dodge each day on the street, the impulse to connect is alive, and can lead to positive change."

    Face-to-Face 

    No matter the technological advancement, we are still animals with a need to feel connected to someone real, not just someone behind a screen. My question is, can robots, however far in the future, fill this need of face-to-face interaction? 

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    The growth of mediated interaction renders it unnecessary for ethnography to be thought of as located in particular places, or even as multi-sited. The investigation of the making and remaking of space through mediated interactions is a major opportunity for the ethnographic approach. We can usefully think of the ethnography of mediated interaction as mobile rather than multi-sited.

    As a consequence, the concept of the ®eld site is brought into question. If culture and community are not self-evidently located in place, then neither is ethnography. The object of ethnographic enquiry can usefully be reshaped by concentrating on ¯ow and connectivity rather than location and boundary as the organizing principle.

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    Virtual Ethnography - Christine Hine

    Ethnography is a fascinating tool. It has the power to really change the way that businesses approach and understand the people they serve, but also their own employees. Sure, there are still formal, written ethnographies out there and they are incredibly useful. However, they need to become more fluid. Anthropology and its methods have historically been very closely tied to place and time, examining a group of humans in that specific context. 

    That is the bit that needs to change. We are not interacting and living in permanent place anymore. Online exchanges have transformed perception of place. Digital space and physical space are equally relevant and play off one another. A physical space is never simply that and a digital space is never simply that. 

    How do we broaden our thinking and methods to include these new ways of thinking and acting? 

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    There’s a privileged notion that the next generation of technology should become an unavoidable path to self-improvement — and that efficiency and errorlessness are always inherently good. As one respondent notes, “The Internet of Things will help more things go right and help more dumb things do smarter things. Anywhere there’s currently a human in the loop, there’s an opportunity for failure, as well as an opportunity for a device to make sure things go right.”

    The problem with this is that those that don’t want to adhere to this world view may face new forms of economic discrimination. “Every part of our life will be quantifiable, and eternal, and we will answer to the community for our decisions. For example, skipping the gym will have your gym shoes auto tweet (equivalent) to the peer-to-peer health insurance network that will decide to degrade your premiums,” as another respondent cautions.

    Those not buying into the system would need to create new forms of retreat from an everyday life characterized by these activities. Respondents note the emergent need for “Google Glass-free zones,” “personal anti video firewalls around our bodies,” and “technology shabbats” — a day of the week where we figure out a place that’s off the grid.

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    Above all else, sociology helps us learn to ask critical questions about both individuals and their broader context. What factors shape an individual’s life chances? How do changes in policies and laws impact people’s daily lives? Is this person’s experience typical, or anomalous?

    Learning about sociology not only enhances a writer’s ability to tell interesting stories, it also helps us tell stories that will have a powerful impact on those who read them.

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    "Sociology for Storytellers"

    As a pseudo-sociologist, the skills I learned, namely the importance of the social context of, well, pretty much everything, changes everything. 

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    “Big data is a term describing the storage and analysis of large and or complex data sets using a series of techniques including, but not limited to: NoSQL, MapReduce and machine learning.


    The Method for an Integrated Knowledge Environment open source project. The MIKE project argues that big data is not a function of the size of a dataset but its complexity. Consequently, it is the high degree of permutations and interactions within a dataset that defines big data.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST argues that big data is data which: “exceed(s) the capacity or capability of current or conventional methods and systems”. In other words, the notion of “big” is relative to the current standard of computation.”

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    "The Big Data Conundrum"

    The new definition of Big Data. 

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    We are truly betwixt worlds, and as editor of a web-based journal, I’ve again and again felt the truth of William Gibson’s familiar observation: “The future is already here. It’s just unevenly distributed.” In my experience the distribution — contrary to popular perception — is less generational than temperamental.

    the focus on the hard copy — on the object — is natural enough. You can hold it in your hand and admire the design, feel its weight, appreciate what Nicholson Baker has called “a beautifully browsable invention that needs no electricity and exists in readable form no matter what happens.” But in the contemplation of the object, you do not necessarily consider the many systems — the intricate and overlapping networks of publishers, editors and proofreaders, of designers and typographers and printers, of marketers and distributors and transporters, of booksellers, libraries and archives — that have been activated in its service.

    All of which is to underscore that the heart of the matter is not the printed page versus the electronic screen; that what is being revolutionized is not simply the print publication but more broadly the larger systems within which it has played such a central and glorious part.

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  • "Twitter is not a startup any more. It doesn’t need to hide behind the skirts of its investors, or plead that it’s too new to understand how being a prominent company works. It has been in the trenches of every major world event for the past seven years. It could even be argued that Twitter is not really a tech company – because Twitter’s future is tied with the future of news itself, it’s a media company now. And as a media company, it should know that words matter. And the lack of words – a strange, uncustomary silence – says more than Twitter’s executives may think."

    "Twitter’s Secret IPO Undermines Its Mission of Transparency"

    While a very valid point, there are several pieces of this that bother me. First off, Twitter has not been a startup for sometime. Twitter is indeed a media, communication and entertainment company now. That mission of transparency lingers from the days when it was a social network, of sorts. A way to communication 140-characters of random thoughts or events with anyone who would listen. That was then. 

    The IPO is the symptom of a larger shift that has been happening within Twitter for years now. They are no longer a social network. That is not a plausible business option for them. Yes, Twitter is inherently social, but it is not Facebook. It’s currency is information, news. That is Twitter’s business now. It is a smart business decision to keep the news about their IPO under wraps because of that shift. 

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    The digital butler is a useful metaphor for how interactive systems can make our complicated lives easier to navigate. But recently the metaphor of conversation has begun to guide interaction designers as they develop systems and define how they should behave as we are using them. In the conversation metaphor, the system is interpreting and responding to our speech and gestures in real time, the way an engaged friend would—anticipating what we are about to say or do and responding in kind, sometimes knowing where we are headed in the interaction before we do ourselves, but also guiding the conversation based upon its own knowledge of our past together and the world we mutually inhabit.

    These two metaphors, the butler and the conversationalist, offer very different explanations for why users can become so frustrated when the exchange goes wrong, when our needs or intentions are misinterpreted or ignored. The digital butler, after all, is a servant, and that metaphor allows us to excuse the system even as we blame it—“good help is hard to find.” This reaction is also described by Alan Cooper as the “dancing bear” effect: We are so impressed that a bear can dance that we don’t expect it to dance very well [2]. But in this regard the conversation metaphor is superior because it suggests that we should consider our machines our equals, and hold them to a higher standard—a human standard—when it comes to our expectations in the conversation.

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    “‘Let me finish:’ Mirror Neurons and Empathy in Interaction Design”

    Talking to machines. The device is the mediator of conversation, so it must be treated as the other human element in the conversation. 

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