Monthly Archives: June 2009

Over the next two days, students from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design are offering design consultation services for everyone at Reboot! Pick a CIID interaction designer to help you take action!

“A day without the mobile-phone” is an installation in a public space that is made up of cell-phones collected from the people in the city. The phones are hanged on a tree where they create a light- and sound-installation.

More info at (thanks for the tip, Isabel)

Building on last weekend’s “Dispatch” experiment, I initiated another design probe which I also turned into a short video. This experiment, which took place on Saturday, started when I sent two text messages to 21 of my classmates and a few of our friends.

The first text from my personal mobile:

Dear Party People, I need your help with another experiment. For the rest of the day, please do not contact eachother directly. Instead, send an SMS to xxxx-xxxx and I will forward your message to the whole group. P.S. I heard about a party tonight, I will send details later.

And then a text from an old mobile phone (xxxx-xxxx referred to above):

Welcome to the Pilot Year Dispatch Line. To unsubscribe, reply with the word “bail”. Tak!

For the rest of the night, I used my mobile phones to manage a pretend service that allows friends to share updates with each other. I  unsubscribed people, sent confirmation responses, and forwarded each persons message to the whole group. As it turned out, I did not choose the best night to conduct this experiment because most people stayed in (although I wonder if conducting this experiment actually caused people to stay in). Like the last experiment however, it proved a good way to gain insights about people’s behaviors when it comes to using their mobiles as a tool to communicate and coordinate within a group friends.

You can watch the video above to see what happened or keep reading to see a log of all the correspeondance…

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Cards filled out by participant

Cards filled out by participant

Last night I met up with Sanne and Tommy, two Danish twenty-somethings that carried around my “Mobile Ideas” probe for a week. Amazingly, especially since Sanne lost her phone twice over the course of the week, the little envelopes filled with blank cards actually stayed attached to their phones the entire time.

They wrote 7 ideas each about ways to improve their phone based on complaints they had while using the devices in their daily routines. Some of the ideas were fairly obvious or were simple technical improvements, while others were quite unique and inspiring.

Some of my favorites:

  • Creating automated, self-service lost-and-found  boxes for phones left on the train. Sanna lost her phone on the train twice during the past week, and recovering it each time meant connecting the dots between a lot of people and mild embarrasment when actually picking the phone up.
  • More “pleasant” alarm functions for the morning. Since Tommy has the phone by the side of his bed anyway (in case someone calls, to recharge it, etc.), the phone has replaced his alarm clock. What if the phone could play a random song each morning? Or what if the phone could give you a reason to get up in the morning? I.E. Remind you of your goal to eat more healthy breakfasts, or remind you of that extra reading you still needed to do before class.
  • Text messages as email threads or chat windows. Tommy and Sanne both made note of this. More and more, SMS is used for carrying on conversations. So why not do what Google did for email - turn correspondence into a dialogue by visually displaying all messages as a thread. Or even make SMS resemble a chat window like MSN or Skype.
  • Services for Roskilde! Roskilde is the biggest music festival in Denmark and Sanne wanted a phone to fill her in when she discovered a new band or new song. For example, what if you can send a text to a stage and get a response with the name of the current song being played. Last year Sanne heard so many new songs, but didn’t know how to find them after the festival was over.

Sanne is a business student and Tommy works with a community/youth organization, so I was quite impressed with the ideas they came up just by carrying around some paper attached to their phones. But in the end, this wasn’t so much a tool for getting new concepts as it was a tool for getting stories. So having these ideas on the table helped us have a much more rich discussion and share our stories. Thanks Sanne and Tommy!

The City of Copenhagen has just launched an innovative program aimed at tracking down stolen bicycles.

The program is called “Få en lille chip på” or “Get a little chip on” and involves handing out 5000 free RFID chips that Copenhageners can put on their bicycles in order to participate in the pilot program that will run until May 2010.

The chips are placed inside a red reflector, which is installed on the bicycle. You have to register to take part - name, address and email.

There is a small army of people walking about the city everyday with the enviable job of irritating motorists. We call them Parking Attendents. :-) They are on the sidewalks of the city writing out parking tickets anyway so they will now be equipped with an RFID scanner so they can walk past parked bicycles, scanning happily as they go.

If their GPS-equipped scanner registers a stolen bicycle, you will immediately recieve an email with a map featuring a red dot where your bicycle was found.


I will continue to post observations, inspirations and anything else that I come across in the city or online which may be relevant to urban computing, one of the domains of my final project

Last October we had a lecture by Anab Jain who showed us several projects she has worked on relating mostly to interaction design and speculating for near-futures. The highlight of the presentation was Yellow Chair Stories, a project from her time at the Royal College of Art.  Besides being great fun to watch, I think this project stood out because it didn’t fit into any category but still seemed immediately relevant. Anyway, I have revisited this project a few times over the year and now that it has been posted on Vimeo, I can finally share it here. For more inspiration, I suggest having a look at Anab’s Superflux blog.

Envelopes fixed to the back of mobile phones

Envelopes fixed to the back of mobile phones

This afternoon I initiated another research probe called “Mobile Ideas”. It is an envelope filled with blank cards, fixed to the back side of people’s mobile phones. The idea is to collect inspirational and spontaneous ideas for imaginary mobile phone features based on problems experienced while on-the-go.

Inside the envelope are blank cards

Inside the envelope are blank cards

Each card leads with the sentence “I wish my mobile phone could…” and participants are asked to sketch quick ideas. They are encouraged to think beyond current mobile technology and consider problems not just with the phone, but with any situation where they might be currently using their phone. Fixing the cards directly to the device should encourage spontaneous ideas that address problems in a variety of situations.  I also hope to use these cards to lead more meaningful discussions and more fun interviews when I collect them sometime next week.