I bought a ZOOM H4 Handheld Digital Recorder for my wife who plays cello. It is an amazing machine that records and reproduces the sound with clarity and depth. The problem is its design. Or the lack thereof. The whole user interface of the tool is completely disastrous. The ON/OFF button is awkwardly positioned on the left side along with other buttons that do minor functions. The ON/OFF button is tiny. Real tiny. It took few minutes for me to find it. The record button is to be used to stop and pause the recording as well. But it simply says, RECORD. In order to access menu, you have to click the center button. But, once you get there, you have to use a tiny "JOG" button which is located on the right side to move around and select different menu items. You also use the same center button to use Replay, Pause, Fast Forward and Rewind functions. But, it is so easy to start the menu option, rather these desired functions. The screen is tiny with very small fonts. The bulk of the screen is used to show the decibel level of the sound input during recording and playback. Yet, the name of the file that is being played is stuck in the corner of the screen, making it virtually impossible to know which file is being played. The screen does not show any information about how much memory you have left and how much batter power you have. For some reason, you must push the record button twice in order to start recording. When you first push it, it will take you from "STOP" to "Pause". What? Manual is thick and intimidating. Yet, there is no single sheet of "here's what you do to start recording as soon as you get this" kind of instruction. The whole packaging seems to say, "I know you just got me, but you cannot play with me. First, read all the instruction cover to cover and then come back to me." So, when I first managed to record my wife's cello sound after about half a day, I felt triumphant. Perhaps, that is the only positive aspect of a really bad design -- feeling triumphant and accomplished by merely figuring out how to use the thing.
Why can't things be designed like Dyson vacuum cleaner? Why can't they give us pleasure when we use them? Why can't they just jump out of the box and scream, "let's play", like my MacBook? Why can't these products be designed to put a smile on our face each time we turn them on?
1. Form a group of 5 or 6.
2. Everyone should put his or her key chain on the table.
3. Each person should explain what he or she has on the key chain and why.
4. Other group member should write down words on given Post-It notes (one word per note). The words can be noun, adjective or verb.
5. Once everyone tells his or her story, the group will post all the Post-It notes on the wall, pulling everyone's notes together.
6. Create clusters of Post-It notes by grouping similar or related words together.
7. Begin to organize clusters by noting relationship among clusters. For example, try to establish X- and Y-axis. Or try to establish timeline.
8. Complete the sentence, "A keychain is ..."
1. Do something with paper to make it stand.
On January 16, 2009, world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has announced the grand prize winners of "Celebrate and Collaborate with Yo-Yo Ma" competition that he ran in collaboration with Indaba Music. Ma invited musicians of all kinds to join him in performing Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace). He made the cello track of his recording of the song available to the members of Indaba Music community, a social networking music site that allows members to virtually collaborate to record music. Out of about 250 entries made by some professional, semi-professional and amateur musicians, two musicians - Toshi O. from Canada (although originally from Japan) and Kevin McChesney from Colorado Springs, CO, won the first place prize. They will be performing with Yo-Yo Ma for his next album. The movement of open innovation that started software has found its way to classic music industry.
In his book Remix, Lawrence Lassig has the following quote from American Composer John Philip Sousa.
"When I was a boy ... in front of every house in the summer evening you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or the old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cords will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."
A common thread that connects these two stories, separated more than 100 years in history, is the concern about the dominance of professionalism in the society at the expense of richness of everyday life experiences. This is the same concern that was expressed in the writings of John Dewey on art. In Art as Experience, he wrote:
"The collective life that was manifested in war, worship, the forum, knew no division between what was characteristics of these places and operations, and the arts that brought color, grace and dignity, into them. Painting and sculpture were organically one with architecture, as that was one with the social purpose that building served. Music and song were intimate parts of the rites and ceremonies in which the meaning of group life was consummated. Drama was a vital reenactment of the legends and history of the group life."
But he further notes, the arts that were so intimately integrated into everyday life experiences in neighborhood were slowly removed from the realm of everyday life and transformed into "fine arts" to be stored away in museums. Arts are taken away from common folks and safely guarded and sanctioned by professional curators and artists. In this case, the vocal cord was not devolved. It was emasculated. Dewey notes imperialism and capitalism as two driving forces behind this professionalization of arts.
"The growth of capitalism has been a powerful influence in the development of the museum as the proper home for works of art, and in the promotion of the idea that they are apart from the common life. The nouveaux riches, who are important byproduct of the capitalist system, have felt especially bound to surround themselves with works of fine art which, being rare, are also costly. Generally speaking, the typical collector is the typical capitalist."
Last century was the period that was marked with the scientific rationalism and the industrialization of economic activities in the society. The development of industrial technology and later information technology were the engines that carried out these two forces, which led to the emergence of large and complex organizations such as multinational corporations and mega churches. These large organizations as represented by General Motors and Wal-Mart require a large number of professionals who are specialized in a particular task. The emergence of professional class inevitably led to the separation of production function and consumption within the society. In a traditional society, producers and consumers were typically members of the same local community. A farmer buys meats from a butcher, who in turn buys furniture from a local carpenter, who relies on the supply of bread from a baker, who gets his eggs from the farmer. This is the time where Sousa saw young people singing together in the corner of streets.With the emergence of a modern industrial society, all of this changed. Consumers only consume products and services that were produced by these large organizations managed by professionals. Consumers consume products that were produced tens of thousands of miles away. At work, their roles were radically reduced in scope and skill in the name of specialization. Their vocal cords were emasculated.