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Resurrecting this blog — to discuss tech, ux, and the built environment

April 25, 2017

I haven’t blogged here for a while, but it’s time.

I want to start exploring the space of design, UX and the built environment.

The truth is, it’s a space I have explored ever since working on Adaptation: Architecture, Technology and the City. Adaptation made clear that many of the promises of the tech future were not exactly coming true or playing out completely differently when it came to actual buildings, infrastructure and even space. It’s a fascinating topic–thinking about how the inevitable integration of tech into everything will work from a user experience / design perspective.

So far, what’s clear to me — and this is essentially what we posited in Adaptation — is that technology moves so much faster than building actual things — especially ones as involved as buildings, roads, the city, etc. — that it feels like there will always be an inevitable disconnect between tech and the built environment. There’s this constant catch up on the part of architecture to adapt to the changing abilities of tech. How can an architect build a beautiful living room with a space for a wide screen TV if next year’s TVs will be even larger, or, god forbid curved?

The second part of this is that troubleshooting technology is different than spatial troubleshooting; think of how many lobbies you’ve been in with fancy screens that are stuck on the login screen or the frustration of sitting in a room with motion detector lights which constantly goes black because you’ve been sitting too still.

Another point that arises is that tech is owned by companies out to make a profit; how does this square with tech integration into public spaces? Are cities forever locked into service/data contracts with companies whose tech is embedded into roads, plazas, urban networks? Who owns the data? Is it publicly available? Etc. etc.

So those are some interesting things that come up for me when I think of UX and the built environment; from a meta point of view, the other interesting point is that there aren’t a ton of places doing research into this / thinking about it. Even naming is tricky; I always use the somewhat clunky “UX and the built environment.” An EU-funded project uses the term UrbanIxD, which is pretty good, if completely unknown. Urban Interaction Design is pretty good + succinct as well.  I’m actively interested in collecting more examples of places that are addressing this head on — please send me examples if you have them!


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