Computing has always been personal. By this I mean that if you weren’t intensely involved in it, sometimes with every fiber in your body, you weren’t doing computers, you were just a user.
The Cité du Design in Saint Etienne (France) had an exhibit about cloud computing few months ago. It was part of an initiative by Orange, the French telco, that asked design students to speculate about “the personal digital space of tomorrow.” The question they addressed are the following:
“What new uses? How to organize this space for storing personal data? How to avoid being overwhelmed by all the content that we unwinttingly store in it on a daily basis? How to make the memories that we capture on video and in photos more accessible? How can we easily send all or part of this special prvate space to the people we love? Can we find a new material or emotional value for this data?“
Note: the post I&IC Workshop #2 with James Auger at HEAD, brief: “Cloudy” presents the objectives and brief for this workshop.
After last week’s workshop at HEAD – Genève, we learnt that addressing Cloud Computing from a design perspective requires to take a detour. Instead of looking at data centers and cloud computing directly, we asked students to choose a domain of everyday life (religion, cooking, communication, etc.) and work on how this technology may influence it, the kinds of practices that may emerge and what kind of implications would surface. The projects reflect this diversity and we also push the student to adopt both a critical and speculative angle. Such requirements mean that the output of the workshop largely consists in a set of short scenarios/usage strategies exemplified by sketches and pictures. Each of them provides a subtle perspective on cloud computing by showing that the limits and the opportunities of these technologies are entangled.
Two posts have been added later as follow-ups to this one that propose an update to the direct results of the workshop:
Border Check (BC) is a browser extension that maps how your data moves across the internet’s infrastructure while you surf the web. It will show you through which countries and networks you surf to illustrate the physical and political realities of the internet’s infrastructure using free software tools. Click here to see the video.
We are currently conducting a series of 10 semi-structured, open-ended interviews (based on the following interview guide. They last approximately an hour and are conducted in face-to-face or via Skype depending on the location of the participants.
In order to conduct our field study, we defined the following interview guide. It will basically address the 3 main themes below and we expect the discussion to last approximately an hour.
1. Usage of Cloud Computing
- Who are you? How do you use Cloud Computing applications (in your personal and professional activities)?
- What kinds of platforms? What reasons lead you to this choice? Did you test them before? Frequency of use? What benefits and drawbacks?
- Is this usage of the Cloud is standard among your peers/community of practice? How?
- Can you think of other practices? Peculiar approaches/ways to use Cloud Computing services?
- What are your biggest frustrations (or surprises)? In what context? Can you tell us the last time you had a major problem (or surprise)?
- Do you use Cloud Computing services with your friends/colleagues? Does it change the way you use it?
Note: the post “Soilless”, an ethnographic research presents the objectives for this workshop.
A first step in our field research approach consisted in investigating various on-line forums in which people comment/complain/discuss cloud computing services (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.). These boards are fascinating places to observe users’ practices, and the range of topics discussed is quite broad. We quickly discovered that it could enable us to build two typologies about the main usage of cloud computing services, and the motivation of users.
We basically built a corpus of messages that we categorized and represented visually with the following diagrams. They shed some light on cloud computing main use cases, namely the practices the cloud help people undertake. We intend to use them in the upcoming workshops as a stimulus/framing/inspiration for designers.