Essays & Articles
Sociable Design – Introduction
This is an abstract for the attached PDF file, “Sociable Design”
Whether designing the rooftop of a building or the rear end of a home or business appliance, sociable design considers how the design will impact everyone: not just the one, intended person standing in front, but also all the rest of society that interacts. One person uses a computer: the rest of us are at the other side of the desk or counter, peering at the ugly rear end, with wires spilling over like entrails. The residents of a building may never see its roof, but those who live in adjoining buildings may spend their entire workday peering at ugly asphalt, shafts and ventilating equipment.
Support for groups is the hallmark of sociable technology. Groups are almost always involved in activities, even when the other people are not visible. All design has a social component: support for this social component, support for groups must always be a consideration.
Sociable design is not just saying please and thank you. It is not just providing technical support. It is also providing convivial working spaces, plus the time to make use of them.
Sociable technology must support the four themes of communication, presentation, support for groups, and troubleshooting. How these are handled determines whether or not we will find interaction to be sociable. People learn social skills. Machines have to have them designed into them. Sometimes even worse than machines, however, are services, where even though we are often interacting with people, the service activities are dictated by formal rule books of procedures and processes, and the people we interact with can be as frustrated and confused as we are. This too is a design issue.
Design of both machines and services should be thought of as a social activity, one where there is much concern paid to the social nature of the interaction. All products have a social component. This is especially true of communication products, whether websites, personal digests (blog), audio and video postings mean to be shared, or mail digests, mailing lists, and text messaging on cellphones. Social networks are by definition social. But where the social impact is obvious, designers are forewarned. The interesting cases happen where the social side is not so obvious.
The PDF file, Sociable Design, is a draft chapter for a new book. Comments are welcomed. Send them to don at jnd which is in the domain org
Prologue: In the summer of 2008, I locked myself away in a secluded, secret location and wrote a book. My publisher didnâ€™t like it. “Boring,” he said. Boring! Me? And guess what: he was referring to this very chapter, among others.
So I rewrote this chapter, this time calling it: “People Are From Earth, Machines Are From Outer Space.” If you are interested in what I produced, it is available for you on this website: http://www.jnd.org/people_are_from_earth_machines_are_from_outer_space/