UX Australia: Technology as a cultural practice

Speaker: Rachel Hinman


Here’s my notes on a great talk by Rachel Hinman, in which she discussed the evolving nature of our role as people with the ability to shape culture – and that technology moving into the realm of media provides us with the platform to do so.

The slides and audio are available via the link above – I highly recommend it! :)

Rachel was involved in redefining the mobile user experience 3 years ago
But what she found was that much of the great ideas had been left on the cutting room floor


So she did a self-imposed rehab creating a mobile idea a day – this was called “90 mobiles in 90 days”
It reconnected her to her creativity.

Create things that connect people to the world.

Mobile – has a wild and unstable nature
Rapid development of cell phones kills legacy phones

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”
Marshall McLuhan

Viewing ourselves as problem solvers doesn’t give us opportunity to focus as people with the ability to shape culture.
Design is really a form of culural expression.

Our current processes and tools, don’t capture the ability to shape culture.

Behavior is now our medium.

It’s less about tools and methods and more about capturing and reflecting the value of human values.

Case studies:

Uganda – mobile money
People knew about it, but didn’t use it. Didn’t understand how it works.

Mobile money – the way it works:  you create an account with an authorized dealer, download to phone, give money to authorized dealer – they give you passcode, and recipient can retrieve it.

In Uganda, people did things like bury money in the ground. They had social lending groups. People didn’t trust banks. Many of them had few or little personal documentation, and banks were not even servicing rural villages.

The issue is that people had no mental model to base it off, therefore didn’t truly understand it.

India – mobile literacy
Some of the mental models used like an address book, doesn’t make sense where people don’t even have a mailbox, or even an address.
Indian culture is rich, vibrant and colorful. The physical design of mobiles doesn’t match this.

Literacy involves a continuum if learning in enabling individuals.
We are moving from computer as a tool, to computer as media.

When technology delivers media …

Mobile presents the opportunity to invent new ways of interacting.

On empathy:

Empathy is actually really really difficult.
It’s more than just checking a box of user research.

Stories are a great way to build empathy, and the story becomes a shared aspect that can help build empathy around.
Stories are addictive.

When the computer is a tool, literacy is the barrier. And when we move to computer as media, literacy becomes less of an issue.