The context stealing universe

Today we have a problem, a significant lack of context. This problem shows up everywhere and it’s effects are quite worrying.

Take the instant written communication that most of us use today (SMS, Whatsapp etc) . I find it steals context in two ways . Since this means of communication is almost instant it puts users in a position to expect instant feedback/replies ( and gratification ). This leads to abrupt communication and sometimes the discussion of multiple topics in one confusing tangled thread. Leaving very little space for context. Since the replies are short and instant, you never have a full discussion of thoughts and ideas (No time for context).  Second because of the abstracted nature of the communication medium, part of the context like emotion is lost ( smileys/emojis  notwithstanding) . There is no facial expression , or voice inflection that we generally use to determine emotional context. All this leads to a huge number of misunderstandings

Then there are the social networks, they are supposed to let us see our friends lives. But they steal context again when we use them, we see only the parts our friends want to show us and the parts the networks deem worthy. So it’s never a full scene, we see only brilliant flashes of their lives . No context of the years that went into someone’s great work, no context into the nitty gritties of each other lives that actually matter. This happens even in networks for work ( LinkedIn, dribble etc) we see only final outputs and successes we don’t see the mistakes, the false starts the failed efforts . We don’t see the guidance received , the aid given. While all these help make the final product we see only the impressive final product. Hence you can never honestly evaluate or compare people’s work as it is never fair.

Lack of context is badly destroying the news industry. With a move to tweet sized headlines and attention capturing soundbites context is being left out. Then they made it worse by sculpting their articles to appeal to their d readers ( thereby destroying parts of the context ) Now since no one ever gets the full story they are forced to believe the parts they are shown. Fake news happened when people realised that you can say anything you want as no one asks for the context anymore. Now news people have no way of getting people to trust them again. And the public are left not knowing who to believe and what to believe.

Then there is labelling and stereotyping. The most dangerous and yet most common. The very act of labelling steals context and dilutes value. I’m not just talking about when managers or people call their employees their workforce or human resource. That allows them to reduce peoples lives to just another number on a spreadsheet. I’m talking about the more personal interactions where our lazy minds label people, just so that we don’t have to deal with their glorious multi-dimensional selves. This leads to a whole lot of stupidity like racism, religious intolerance etc. Then there are the career related labels that both managers and employees use to define themselves and the people around them, not realising that every time they label someone and say this is his/her work they are not only limiting that persons ability to do something else, they are ensuring that no other skills that person might possess come to the fore. Sometimes when people label themselves the damage is self inflicted.

Irrational AI

Are we setting up AI for irrationality?

Whenever we say someone is irrational, we say it because we can not understand the logic of the other person. If we were able to understand the other person’s actions it would be logical and not irrational anymore.

I have barely been able to keep track of the developments in AI and neural nets. But i seem to always find newer black-box AI. While the AI learns, there is no way of inferring or deducing , what lessons the AI learns . Most times with such AI we’re just mute impotent observers, who hope we’ve fed the AI everything it needs.

 

This has led to some really illogical AI actions

  • AI labelling African-American people as lower primates
  • Game-playing AI perpetually pausing Tetris, because it is the only way it can survive the longest ( Technically it is winning)

So tomorrow when a self driving car tries jumping a half closed bridge ( or seeing if it can fly). It will be because we abandoned rule based logic to the more mushy nature imitating black-box neural networks.

This is a little worrying to me. Sometimes dealing with Irrational humans is tiring enough , imagine having to worry about the irrationality of  my tools, devices and surroundings .

Car rental/ Ownership in the future

The recent buzz about self driving cars, and the increasing presence of electronics in cars, got me thinking about the future of car rentals and ownership. There is this future where you fly to another city and your self driving car follows you a little more slowly. So while you might not have it immediately after you land, a few hours/ a day later , your car is there  ready to take you wherever you want to. I think this is wasteful.

Especially when all your car personalisation settings  like seat settings, music preference etc.,  Can all be stored in the cloud since they are now increasingly electronically controlled.

I believe car ownership/rental in the future will be more like this

There will be three levels of rental

The Basic rental : All your digitally storable personal settings will be synced to your rental car, through the cloud. So when you get in your car it will be just the way you like it.

The premium rental: Here not only will your settings be synced, but you will get to choose what physical add-ons / customisations your car will have. So you can now decide which car fragrance you like, what brand of baby seat should be installed in the back etc.

The deluxe rental: Here not only will the car have the same settings, physical add-ons and all , but the car rental service will pack all your belongings ( papers in the glove compartment, sunglasses etc. ) and ship them on the same flight as you, or send them by drone ( This is the future after all) . Then the rental agency will place everything in the car the way you had left it .

 

I think in the rental service of the future, the more you pay the more the car will be yours , but you will never truly own it. ( You might not need/want to    🙂 )

ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY of Bangalore’s Public Playgrounds

Bangalore is one of India’s fastest growing cities. This growth has been fueled by the recent explosion in technology and its allied industries. This growth has put an enormous burden on pre-existing and upcoming infrastructure of the city. The burden is easily visible when one looks into the growth of the city’s limits and the stress vehicular traffic puts on its existing roadways. One of the consequences of this boom is the explosion of real estate and the sharp rise in land value.
With land becoming such a valuable commodity, the way a city’s non-essential infrastructure holds up and is maintained attains great importance. The way such infrastructure is used also is of great concern. With this in mind the authors of this paper have conducted a brief ethnographic study of Bangalore’s public playgrounds
For the study the authors mainly focused on five different playgrounds.
HMT playground , Yeshwanthpur
Government boys P.U College playground ,
BBMP playground, Malleswaram
Madhavan park, Jayanagar
Public Playground, Sadashivnagar

HMT Playground, Yeshwanthpur

This playground is quite large, but in many ways is a throwback to an older Bangalore. Because of its remote location, and current circumstances viz. the shutting down of the HMT watch factory, it is not among the most used playgrounds. Facilities wise it has nothing more other than a pair of football posts, poles for hanging volleyball nets and a shaded area. The ground hasn’t been renovated in the recent past, but its structure and condition suit the surroundings perfectly.
The number of people playing on this field is at an average less than twenty people. Due to large size and the small number of people playing it allows for a more expansive type of play. The kind of play is also more relaxed like its surroundings. The people who are at the field but are not part of the games also number a few. Some of them are passerby’s who stop for a few minutes under the shade and enjoy relaxing , watching the main game being played . Others are young people playing truant. Some of them are the audience, coaches etc associated with the game. There are also a few couples enjoying the atmosphere and the anonymity it allows.
Facilities:
A pair of football posts
Volleyball poles
Shaded Gallery

Boys P.U College

This ground while smaller has a much larger user base. The field is used by people from diverse backgrounds whose age group varies from 5 to 25 years. The most common activity on all the days was found to be cricket. It is played in both an organized and unorganized way. The organized way makes use of the pre existing facilities like the cricket nets. Though the unorganized groups might seem randomly scattered, their system is quite well defined. The area they occupy is directly proportional to the size of the teams and the total number of people using the field at the same time. No fixed boundaries were found between the various games being played simultaneously. Most of the incursions between games are ignored, thereby allowing for a peaceful environment.
The open grounds have seating curbs around its perimeter that are protected from the sunlight by large trees, making them ideal resting places for daily wage workers. The laborers take their siesta on these curbs. Similar to the site mentioned earlier, there are also a few couples who take advantage of the relative isolation offered by such environments. There were also a group of people who were test flying their drones.
Facilities:
Shaded Gallery
4 Cricket Nets
Storage area for sport equipment

Malleswaram BBMP Grounds

This grounds is the most recently renovated and is open for public. Full fledged Basketball court and football court is present with floodlights for uninterrupted play during nighttime. Though a public ground, the renovations allow for and invite groups that have the maturity to use the improved facilities. Various football teams can be seen practicing here. It almost seems that if the facilities are better, even people with access to more exclusive grounds have no objection to playing in these public grounds.
This ground has a security guard, who ensures that the only people who enter the ground are players, this limits the use of the playground for other activities.
Facilities:
A pair of football posts
2 Full fledged basketball courts
Floodlights
Restrooms
Protective manned entrance Gate

Madhavan Park, jayanagar

This ground has the most facilities, for organized sports. It has an outdoor gym , skating rink , dedicated volleyball, basketball and badminton courts. A full 400m running track and cricket nets . All the facilities are used by the public. In the mornings the track and the gym are filled with people of all ages who come for their morning exercise. As the day goes on, the other facilities get used, both by organizations (the various coaching camps) and unorganized groups of people who come just to play. Like all big public places the people who come in are from varied strata.
Facilities:
Outdoor Gym
400m Track
Shaded Gallery
Protective fence for inner athletic area ( Long Jump and Shortput pit )
Skating Rink
2 Basketball Courts
Volleyball Court
Cricket Nets

Public Playground, Sadashivnagar

The public playground in Sadashivnagar , is in the greatest state of disrepair. It hasn’t been renovated in the recent past and a large section of the land that was supposed to be a park has grown unmanaged. There is only one net, for cricket. The ramp for entry into the playground, allows for the playground to change into a place where people can use the expanse to learn how to drive a car. Because of its state of disrepair it is not used as a playground as much as it should be.
Mangled Cricket nets
Gallery on one side
A pair of football posts
Ramped entrance
Common features among the surveyed stadiums
All the playgrounds studied have vendors on their fringes. These vendors serve both short eats and refreshments. While a majority of their customers are the players who use the fields, their location is such that it allows for customers on the streets to also consume their wares.

Conclusion

As our study shows, most of these places also double as places for people to meet, relax and take a break from the stresses and tensions of the city. Whether they are playing or watching the sport these public grounds have become an integral part of the cities culture. Our research also shows that the consciousness of the consumers has improved. A discussion with dealers of sports equipments revealed that people have become more conscious of what kind of equipment they use, its brand value and its reputation. They are less reluctant to spend on a brand they feel will improve their game.

Authors: Nikhil Shivpuja, Arshed Hakeem

Importance of design fundamentals for digital designers

Design school is such a new experience for me. I have spent the last few days creating psuedo spheres (archimedean and platonic solids) out of cardboard. I was interacting with a senior during this activity when he said ” This is just cutting and pasting, true information design (The course i am pursuing) has nothing to do with this”

At first glance what he says make perfect sense. After all what does the construction of weird 3D solids have to do with creating digital ui/ux solutions.But a little deep thought makes me realize how wrong he is .

So what does working away at cardboard for hours, trying to make really bad spheres teach you ? (other than patience) . In my opinion it teaches you a lot of things like visualization, the ability to give meaning to space, and also the basic understanding of structures. In my mind all these things are fundamentally important to designers of the future. Even Google’s new philosophy seems highly predicated on the physics and structure of paper, and the way it folds and interacts ( That is if i haven’t misread the verge article ) . Even Google’s amazing Rubik’s cube doodle would have required a great understanding of the cube. To add to all this a recent adobe survey puts 3D modeling as one of the most sought after skills in the next year.

Barring all that as a designer i think you should be open to learning “unimportant” things as they might turn important in the future, or if nothing else it might enable future cross pollinated designs.