self-assembly

This is interesting to me for lots of reasons.

I'm quite interested in the persistence side of experience design and the whole issue of meaning/meanlessness in digitally enabled objects. Which probably sounds enormously conceited. But I'm going to try to explain what I mean.

There's been a lot said recently about how things will get really interesting when RFID and other technologies find their way into Argos. Maybe this is another way of saying the same thing, but I'm excited by the idea of seeing technology built into objects with meaning, at personal scale.

That's why Little Printer and Olly Factory feel like perfect little twists of social media to me. It's not about the physicality. It's about re-imagining something usually seen as highly disposable as something that is highly meaningful, has personality and meaning baked into it. They're not big, they're not epic. They have small gestures. But that's really why they are special.

They are intimate. They know their place. And, like Path, they are probably about more intense personal connections than Twitter or Facebook could ever handle.

That feels like an important space. Something a brand would struggle to operate within, anyway.

The same with RFID. There are lots of interesting RFID things out there, only a very few of which have anything to do with brands. It feels like RFID is still quite a hard thing for a brand to do meaningfully. There are a few great examples out there, if you look. But they are in the minority. Perhaps that's because the sudden ability of objects is not necessarily that compatible with the things upon which brands have traditionally built themselves.

One of the reactions to this is to design objects and experiences with some kind of emotional resonance built in them. Little Printer's little face is a good, persuasive example, while on the other hand Monocle's Revo Radio feels like a bad one. Monocle's Radio simultaneously seems like it's nostalgic for 30 years ago, and too much about its own brand, as opposed to you. Little Printer is an old technology, re-imagined and repurposed as a utility. It's about you and the way you choose to use it.

So maybe that's where I see lots of big opportunities for people making technology right now. In making objects that are essentially a platform for you to make something of your own.

We've all had that daydreaming moment where you see an object and imagine a different life or purpose for it. (For some reason there seems to be a strong anthropomorphic quality to that.)

 

air conditioning goggles

But we're entering a world in which that's more and more possible. Where some things will have more meaning precisely because they'll be able to do so much. They'll have no inherent purpose until you specify what you want from them.

If the Jawbone UP does fail (and not having tried it, I have no idea if it does), maybe it's because the friction is all in the wrong place. Maybe it's too easy to use straight out of the box, and becomes a chore through use. The classic UX thinking, understandably, is about getting going as quickly and smoothly as possible. But maybe if something aligns too easily and immediately to your life, it's equally simple and easy to leave it behind . Maybe in a world of connected, enabled physical things, you will need some flat-pack style chores to get you to truly invest meaning into any given object. Because if you frontload the friction in the experience, you have more reason to assimilate it into your existence.

And maybe that's why the idea of things like this are so interesting to me.

It's not entirely about what it looks like, or how automatically it hooks up to my other devices. It's about what kind of purpose I can invent for it.

So, yeah.

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