Friday, November 30, 2007

The art of critique!

As a photographer everyone of us has a vision. A style that we at the back of our minds follow and most (not all) of the photographs are actually in that style. The content matter can change from nature to portraits to landscape, but there is definitely a style that one would have developed.

The wedding vow...

There are different ways of critiquing... and being a designer and a photographer I am at the receiving end many a times! One of the things that we are actually taught here how to give and take critiques.
Critiquing is an art in itself, and people have careers out of it.

Art of giving a critique:
1) Start with a positive thing about the creation. This helps the designer / photographer to have more confidence in their work. There will definitely be something in the artwork that you as a critic like. For example after a presentation the first thing we say is the good things in the design / presentation etc.

2) Then point out one thing that you think is really bugging you and you do not agree to. Explain clearly but be short and sweet.. like KISS. (Keep it short and Simple)
If you have two or more comments make it known in the beginning. Like I have three comments to make. This keeps the artist alert to be awake till the end of the comments. Knowing that there is more to come.

3) Have a proper rationale as to why that thing is not appealing to you, and what you think is wrong. Its not OK to just say, I Dont like it. You have to say, I don't like it because xxxxxxxxxxx.

As an artist taking critiques:
1) SMILE throughout the Q/A . (often referred to as the critique section)

2) Appreciate the critics first, and only then put forward your argument, whether you agree or do not agree to that critique given to you. If your thoughts behind an artwork are not being put forward to a critic, go back to that artwork, reference it and state what you are trying to say. Opinions do change once things are made more clear.

In the end, its the artist's call. Picasso did not change his style just because some critiques thought it was crap!

Remember .. critiquing is most of the times THOUGHT TO BE a negative action. But not always is... I have attended presentations where the condition was that you are not allowed to make a negative comment! thats interesting.. isn't it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Experience Design : Drinking Tea!

One of the things that I really miss from India is the presence of small shops along side a street. The concept of a market is completely different as compared to here. The one reason why the streets look barren here are the absence of these shops.
The experience of going through different shops, finding about different prices and discounts is something that often I miss. Bargaining, which is perhaps very common in India is unheard of here. Atleast I never think of bargaining in Marsh or Kroger or any store for that matter.

In the Monsoon Wedding there is this one scene where the to-be bride and groom go outside the groom’s college tea stall and ask for tea. That set me nostalgic. How I miss having tea at those stalls. I often wonder, what takes us there? The hygiene levels are not at all commendable, but there is something in the stall, or perhaps in the tea that one gets there that makes the experience so wonderful. This is an experience that cannot be found in any Starbucks, or Barista or any coffee shop. For college students, especially back in India, these small tea stalls, have a multi-purpose fucntionality. They are often used for team meetings, sometimes to get stuff, most of the time to just chit chat over one thing and everything under the sun over glasses after glasses of tea and cigarettes.

So coming back to the point of experience design. What is the element that is creating this experience? Is is the tea in the glass? Is it the tea stall location, which is under a tree often? Is it the behavior of the teamaker? The way he presents the tea? The retro music that plays from the old radio..

Of late there has a been a huge rise in the usage of mobile phones across India. And technology is becoming more and more accessible to this class of people. So the point is, how do we as interaction designers, help in creating the same experience and give to these users, in return of the experience of the drinking of tea in his/her stall?

I believe as an interaction designer, now the focus if more experience of an entire system and not just a product or a interface. Its equally important for the designer to know the conditions in which the design will be working.

Oh and by the way, if you are ever visiting India, do make a trip to these stalls, (along with someone reliable of course) and ask for special tea. I am sure you will cherish the experience!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Teaching Computer Skills

I come from a remote area in Rural India.
The first internet connection came there just last year. In all there are just five houses that have internet in the whole town. Mine happens to be one of them.
Now that I am here, I had tried to teaching the basic usage of computers to my parents, so that they could be in touch with me over emails! This was seen as a “strategy” to save some cash over the phone. (Its a different thing that we talk on phone more and the phone bills have not really stopped)
I remember trying to teach my parents about the internet, and how it could help them find “ANY” information that they wan, thanks to Google, (which they confused for goggles! :P).

I thus was happy that I had made my parents “Computer Literate” which happens to be more important these days than the normal literacy programs run by the governments back home.

One day, my mom called and said .. Son , we want to see you! and how you look? and if you are well, whether you have put on weight thanks to American cheese.. or lost weight… thanks to the demanding graduate School!
Also, “email” us a recent photograph of yours.

So one fine day i said.. ok.. i will teach how to use SKYPE so that they could see their darling son! I tried for almost 30 minutes to explain them… And yes. u guessed it.. I failed. I could not teach my parents, both of who are doctors, how to use a simple program. This was also because of the fact that we both are on different platforms, XP vs Tiger.

The point is ..does the standard methods of teaching hold good in imparting computer literacy? Do the rules change? What kind of basics are stressed upon here?

I also happen to have a strong interest in rural education and whenever i am home, i spend hours with children from local school, answering their questions, watching them smile, hearing them shout.

One question that a child had heard a new word somewhere and had asked me was “What is a computer?”. I was dumb. I had no answer in which I could explain that to that kid. I tried… The kid believed me.. But I think i had failed.

Today I was reading Neilsen’s post on Life Long Computer Skills in this article

The points mentioned are really interesting and I do see a clear connection in what Marty said in class.

While I found it interesting, i was shocked at the fact that kids in America are taught how to use Excel sheets in grade 3!!!!

What are other people’s thoughts on this?