Tag Archive for social gaming

Design for Social Good

Social engineering is way of designing products and situations which actively encourage people to behave in a desired way — Nudging for Good. EDF Challenge “Sharing energy in the city, 2030” seems an ideal circumstance for social engineering for the greater social good. The basic question is how do we as designers find ways to incentivize individuals to save energy? How do we make a bit of personal sacrifice an attractive option for most? How do we “nudge” people to behave in a socially responsible ways when it comes to energy use? First, it makes sense to break up the problem into several user categories: personal energy sharing, family sharing, neighborhood or community sharing, city or village sharing. At each level we expand the circle to involve more and more individuals, and so we need a different approach for each category. Each category has a set of pressure points on which social engineers can apply pressure to achieve the desired changes. Once we identify the user groups targeted for “nudging”, game theory can be used to find the most attractive options. While there are numerous strategies that can be borrowed from game theory to incentivize the desired energy sharing behavior,…

Ambiguity of Natural Language and Computer Language Interpretation

Bad Cop Good Cop Language Abmiguity

In his book “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature”, Steven Pinker gave the following defense of language ambiguity: Imagine you are stopped by a traffic cop for a violation. You would rather not get a ticket, and consider offering the cop a bribe. You have options: no bribe and definitely get the ticket; try a bribe and hopefully the cop will accept and let you go free this time. But what if the cop is an honest cop and doesn’t accept bribes? Then you just bought yourself a trip to jail for bribing an officer! That’s the worst possible outcome — a traffic ticket is better than a trip to jail AND a traffic ticket. But what if you just “sort of” offer the officer a bribe? Wave a wad of cash without actually offering it to the officer? A dishonest cop might take you up on the offer and let you go without a ticket. An honest cop could ignore the whole cash waving and write a ticket; or he could ask for clarification: “Are you trying to bribe me?” “On, no, officer. Of course not!” And you are left with a traffic ticket…

Design and the Olympic Games

Aerial Shot of the London Olympic Stadium

The Olympic Games are coming to a close and there are some interesting design decisions that seem worth mentioning. But let’s start with a cursory set of design requirements: safety, transportation, visibility and observability of events, entertainment, fairness, cultural sensitivity and appropriateness, and so much more. As with all design problems, divide and concur is a good approach: who are the audiences; what are their needs; what are the time, budget, and personal resources of the project; and what are the considerations (goals) of the sponsoring country. These are the basics of product design. From these variables, we can set priorities and deduce probabilities of errors and failures and how to accommodate them with design. Clearly, this is too much to cover in one blog, but here are a few thoughts… Safety There are many safety concerns in staging big, multinational events. Let’s first consider the different groups of individuals: safety for the participants, organizers, audience, supporting staff. We can break this down even more (by country, by sex, by religion, by location, by celebrity, etc.), but these are the large categories. It’s important to consider the safety for each group separately and provide supports as necessary. There are different…

The Trouble with Social Search

Cultural Mix of Search Results

There have been changes in Google search and Google analytics. There have been many discussions on this topics. But there’s one big problem that I see with adding the social dimension to search: community bias or, as we’ve been referring to it in class, cultural bias. Cultural bias is one of the sources of human errors that render problem solving more difficult. The problem comes from having one’s views on highly charged emotional topics (or social issues) continuously reinforced by the community. I’m writing this blog on Martin Luther King Day — particularly appropriate when discussing cultural bias and the difficulties of overcoming them. In the past, when we googled something, we got results based on the relevance to our query. This relevance had little to do with us personally and focused on the topic of interest. Google results to a politically polarized question looked the same whether one was a democrat or a republican: It didn’t matter that democrats tended to socialize with like-minded individuals — meaning other democrats. And republicans preferred other republicans, creating segregated social circles. In each such circle, people met, talked, and reinforced each other’s beliefs. BUT the Google results were the SAME for each…

Using Positive Emotion to Change Behavior

Games can be used to change our behavior — make something fun, and we are likely to do it again and again. Psychologists call is positive reinforcement. Pleasure triggers our amygdalas — makes us make strong neural connections between the activity and positive emotion. Thrills are memorable and we seeks them out in our daily lives. Here are two examples of using fun to change people’s behavior, to make us do something we ordinarily don’t particularly want to: climb stairs and recycle. November 17th Update A fellow member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), David Watts, recommended the following:

Rewired Brain

iTouch Baby

Our kids have grown up in the world where computers were always present and always on. They can’t conceive of a time when they can be cut off from the Internet (vacations in the Internet-dead zones are definite no go). Our kids are the generation of fully-connected always-on Internet users. What about the kids that are born right now? Not the Millennials, as they are being called, but these babies born in the age of the iPad? The iTouch Babies? How are their brains being rewired from the experience of having the iPad as their first toy? Check out this video of a baby girl growing in the iTouch World.