Originally published on Strata3
So we’re off to UXLx in Lisbon this May, a User Experience Conference where some of the best UX professionals from all over the world come to share their experience, knowledge and ideas to inspire people in the industry — like me!
What am I most looking forward to at UXLx?
From the minute I saw Amber Case’s title “Cyborg Anthropologist” I was intrigued. I’ll admit it was actually the first time I’ve heard of Amber but since then I’ve researched her work, watched her talks and started reading her book Calm Technology and now I’m very excited to see her speak at UXLx.
What is Cyborg Anthropology?
Cyborg Anthropology is the examination of the way humans interact with technology and the consideration of how they evolve together to shape our lives in the modern world.
I mean… that’s pretty cool, right? As a designer I’ve always been fascinated with how technology can enhance our lives and Amber Case’s research provides fascinating insights into the evolving relationship between us and our tech.
We are all cyborgs now
If you’re already excited, head on over to listen to Amber Case’s TED talk: We are all cyborgs now
What fascinates me about this talk is how Amber explores the idea of technology as an extension not of our physical selves, but of our mental selves. The information they keep for us and the communication channels that they open are practically endless, as Amber says they are “our external brains that we’re carrying around in our pockets”.
When you stop and really think about it for a minute, it’s pretty amazing how far we’ve come.
Technology has also created our “second self” as Amber puts it, our digital persona that lives and breathes online when we’re not even present. Our devices allow us to be connected to everyone we know, all of the time without the need for us to even participate in the conversation, but simply observe and absorb information.
Another offshoot of this is that it creates an addictive culture — have you ever posted on instagram or Facebook and are secretly delighted when lots of people like it? Or relish the moment when something you say has been retweeted over a 100 times! We’re addicted to this social validation of our second selves.
Amber points out that we’re more connected than ever in the entire history of humanity…
“And it’s not that machines are taking over. It’s that they’re helping us to be more human, helping us to connect with each other.” — Calm Technology
Ready for more? Get on over and watch Amber Case’s talk at INBOUND 2015:Calm Tech: Designing for the Internet of Things
In this talk Amber takes the discussion to the next level by reflecting on what good technology is pointing out that a lot of “smart” tech is interruptive rather than an enhancement in our lives.
Notifications from every device, whether from appliances in our homes or when we’re on the move, doesn’t improve the way we live but is more akin to a noisy neighbour — seemingly constant, annoying and unwelcome.
“The most successful technology gets out of the way and helps us live our lives.”
Amber advocates instead for “Calm Technology”, a term introduced by Mark Weiser and John Seally Brown, meaning technology that gets out of the way and lets you live your life. In other words tech that doesn’t require all of your attention.
This is where it gets really interesting in terms of design when she speaks about how we need to find new ways to make use of people’s peripheral attention. We need to communicate in subtler ways so that our users are absorbing information around them instead of being pushed in front of them all the time.
“The more we pay attention to people’s attention, the more we’ll make products that people love.”
We can also tap into (pardon the terrible pun!) our other senses and use mechanisms such as haptic feedback with touch devices to communicate more subtly with our audience.
The talk ends on this pertinent note:
“A good design allows people to accomplish their goals in the least amount of moves. Calm technology allows you to do the same thing with the least amount of your attention.”
Takeaways from Amber Case
Technology and human interaction is evolving at a light speed rate and understanding this relationship is key to creating great UX.
The challenge here for me as a designer is to create a seamless experience across multiple devices while also offering the right type of interaction at each touch point — one size does not fit all when it comes to UX of different devices.
As a UX designer my goal is to explore new ways of interacting with users that doesn’t distract them from, but enhances their lives. Amber Case is an inspiration and I’m looking forward to hearing more at this year’s UXLx Conference in May.
More from Amber Case @caseorganic
Follow our UXLX experience @strata3
Originally published at blog.strata3.com.