Urban confusion x/of many

Wandering around the Southbank (was enjoying the markets before finding somewhere to settle to finish off work for the ‘Designing for Environmental Sustainability’ MOOC). If you want to know where my many thoughts on urban futurism or pervasive computing come from, it’s as someone whose been observing – and experiencing – the developments along the Southbank over the past 13 years.

A tunnel through some mixed use buildings on the Southbank that would take one through to the side closest to the bridge to carry on the walk towards the Royal Festival hall. There is a sign at the top that says 'No public access to river walk'

This here is another example of private vs public space to note. From a ‘user experience’ perspective, it’s not particularly great as one gets a sudden last minute warning with no prior context, no affordance (as other similarly built areas are public access). Once again, the private is the intrusion into the public space – this area is very easy to access if you’re taking the back route from the Tate Modern.

Ah, London. There you go again.

Why Having the Stuff Doesn’t Always Cut It

‘AI: More than Human’ is the soon to be closed extravaganza on the history of AI held at the Barbican arts centre. It’s in two parts, the first which takes you through how cultures have thought of creating non-human sentience, to the development of mathematical and computational models, the use of big data in machine learning and where A.I. could go in the future; the second part is an art installation where you can interact with pretty things on a wall (it was very pretty).

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Wild conference workshop: The co-designed city


This was a workshop hosted at the 2019 Wild Conference which had several goals:

  1. Spread awareness of service design methods to generate ideas and work collaboratively with the community, people from different areas of expertise and departments
  2. Raise questions about how smart cities are developed from a heritage and culture perspective
  3. Raise design questions to be focussed on in broader research regarding community led design practice for smart cities


Part design jam, part hackathon, part improvised performance, this session is a space to explore and prototype the future city, a place where pervasive computing meets social justice; a built environment which puts inclusion and sustainability at the heart of its digital and physical architecture.

As increasingly complex digital and physical infrastructure are developed to support our needs, who gets a say in how they get designed and implemented? What happens when techno-optimism meets the realities of social inequalities? How can we work as designers, technologists, activists and organisers to continually advocate for the needs and perspectives of the people most likely to be ignored and what are the challenges we face in doing so? Following collaborative design practice as we ideate and prototype, test and iterate, the workshop will be an opportunity to learn techniques for generating and embedding community centred requirements, testing at scale and sharing skills with the people we might think we’re designing for.

Will we find a way to the co-designed city of the future? Join us and find out!

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Useful HCI stuff: Kano’s model

I found this article a helpful primer on using the Kano model, particularly for discussing which features to focus on, when they give near enough value. If you’re a perfectionist, or find yourself in perfectionist mode, knowing at what point the detail lacks perceived usefulness, satisfaction and emotional impact can be helpful not just for prioritisation, but also for framing research.

Quite often our product team might find itself having one of those discussions which could go on forever which is basically about how much effort to put into refining something before letting users see it/test it. Now to be clear, this is for features that are in test mode and have passed user acceptance criteria, reach a minimum AA standard in accessibility etc. and the next test is to see how it behaves in the wild.

From prior testing of prototypes and interviewing people, you should have an understanding of what matters, what prevents them from completing a task or understanding what’s going on and so on. Combining these through Kano’s model provides another lens into what should be tackled first, like so (bold italics represent a Kano metric):

  1. I like it – the things that users have specifically called out during interviews/prototype testing
  2. I expect it – the things that users have naturally done without thinking during tests
  3. I’m neutral – didn’t mention it
  4. I can tolerate it – the things that people notice as a bit confusing or unnecessary but not to the point they prohibit them from completing an action
  5. I dislike it – again, the things that users can specifically called out during interviews/prototype resting

Hanging out with the Makerversity at ‘Remaking Place Civic Hack’


Although I ended up not being able to make it on Friday (the problem when work becomes a temptation is that for someone like me, work will always win out!) I did eventually head out to the City co-labs: Remaking place Civic Hack hosted by Makerversity at Somerset house.

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This is a project to create portraits of a variety of sorting algorithms. For each portrait, I started with one line of pixels, where each pixel is assigned a number. Larger numbers make brighter pixels, and smaller numbers make darker pixels. Then, I run the algorithm. Each time the algorithm moves items around in the list, I add another row to the picture showing the current state of the list. This continues until the list is entirely ordered, with black at the left, and white at the right.


Birmingham Design Festival: Even if we’re all doomed, can we try and design better?

This was a workshop hosted at the 2019 Birmingham Design Festival to:

  1. Spread awareness about using ethical frameworks to better understand the requirements needs of all actors working in a system to ensure ethical design practice
  2. Add to learnings about difficulties faced by designers to work in an ethical manner


Designers are increasingly aware of practices such as inclusive and speculative design in response to the pressing concerns or our time such as systemic oppression, algorithmic injustice, environmental impact and how designers can better acknowledge our role, whether in perpetuating or addressing these issues.

However, it might be easy to talk about radical shifts in practice, but what does all this stuff mean in the day-to-day? Whether a designer-of-one or part of an established consultancy, it can still feel we are barely touching the surface of the platforms we’re designing for and are still under siege from competing business priorities, yet alone be able to meet the demands of ethical and sustainable design practice.

Part design jam, part collaborative learning session, this workshop aimed at designers of all levels, will take you through the steps to create an inclusive design ethics framework and provide a space where we can link up and organise our respective collectives (and selves!) to support each other and take action towards a holistically ethical design practice within our individual contexts.

Original link for reference


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Black Futures Conference: Reconfiguring community led smart city design through the Black Quantum Futurist framework

I was really honoured to be part of the Black Futures conference held on 31st May 2019. Here is a link to the video. A transcript of the talk is available below.


As the infrastructure for the smart city of the future is being laid, is it possible to combine insights from community led and indigenous design approaches to counter the examples of historic and contemporary architectural racism and thus provide a strategy for survival in massively connected networks?

Created by Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips, the Black Quantum Futurist (BQF) framework provides a means to collapse linear time, bringing futurities to the present through communally generated artefacts. In this talk, we will explore how using the BQF framework to incorporate communally generated environmental memory and requirements-space into the design process can be a method for generating equitable and robust futurities of the built environment.

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YOUNG PEOPLE: What you need to know about the channels they’re using in 2019

One of the side research projects I’m working on is understanding perceptions of Natural History for digital young audiences. This is really helpful for initial context and would recommend checking out Dans other posts too 🙂

Dan Slee

alexGrown-ups have never really known how to communicate with young people.

TV, cinema and the dangers posed by novels all link in this chain of moral panic to today’s fears about the internet.

But moral panic about children has been a constant through every generation.

Today, it is the internet and 30 years ago it was television.

Go back further and you’ll find the moral panic about the corrupting influence of novels on Victorian children and the generation of Englishmen who remember the Spanish Armada appalled at how weak children were now they no longer slept on logs.

The challenge to the communicator in 2019 is to understand how young people are consuming the media and know that the secret sauce will quickly evolve in to something different.

How do children use the media?

Danah Boyd in her book ‘It’s Complicated: the Lives of Networked Teens’ discovered that children were…

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