As Rumsfeld said: ‘There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.’
Product design. This is my definition, at least. The term is being used to describe any interface designer who happens to work on a product, which is unfortunate, but I’ll keep using this one.
But why us? Why should designers be in these roles? Well, one immediate answer is simply that I would like to be in control over the future I’m building. Right now, many of us can only change our answer to Wilson’s questions by just quitting and finding a new job where we’re bought into the vision.
But deeper, I think this is something designers can be really great at. We already understand how to induce utility, delight, motivation at the level of the interface. Expanding that toolset to apply to the bigger picture is not a huge leap.
This is a way of thinking about design that’s growing in popularity, but I recognize that it’s still a minority, maybe even an extreme minority. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic. When I look at the major shifts in our field over the past years — user-centered design, standards-based design, responsive design — years of advocacy have led to genuine, sustained progress. I’m confident we’ll get there.
David Cole, on Product Designers, via (86) Applied Discovery: Presentation from Build 2013 - Emesis - Quora
The beautiful Mrs Orwell remembers sneaking out at night and going to nightclubs when she was close to her daughter’s age. Her parents gave her rigid curfews and she rebelled. But the idea of her children engaging in the wildness she did horrifies her, which is, I think, a pretty common feeling. I say, “Well, we survived.” She says, “Only by chance.”
The city is by any external standard safer than when Mrs Orwell was slipping into a taxi downtown, but we are more fearful than ever of its perils. This is the tricky thing: many well-intentioned and psychologically sophisticated parents don’t want their children to experience the freedom they did, to have the slightly too exciting experiences they had in school. They want their teenagers to be innocent and safe, but safe in this context may be another way of saying “controlled”.
I’ve noticed this pattern a lot, too: parents seem to forget at what age they started doing things, or assume they were more capable than their children are.
Jonathan Franzen interviewed by Dave Haslam, Author and DJ - Official Site
So humanity has always relied on coping devices to handle the details for us. We’ve long stored knowledge in books, paper, Post-it notes. But when it comes to quickly retrieving information on the fly, all day long, quickly? We don’t rely on documents for the details as much as you’d think. No, we rely on something much more immediate: other people.
Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner—and his colleagues Ralph Erber and Paula Raymond—first began to systematically explore “transactive memory” back in the ’80s. Wegner noticed that spouses often divide up memory tasks. The husband knows the in-laws’ birthdays and where the spare light bulbs are kept; the wife knows the bank account numbers and how to program the TiVo. If you ask the husband for his bank account number, he’ll shrug. If you ask the wife for her sister-in-law’s birthday, she can never remember it. Together, they know a lot. Separately, less so.
Wegner suspected this division of labor takes place because we have pretty good “metamemory.” We’re aware of our mental strengths and limits, and we’re good at intuiting the memory abilities of others. Hang around a workmate or a romantic partner long enough and you discover that while you’re terrible at remembering your corporate meeting schedule, or current affairs in Europe, or how big a kilometer is relative to a mile, they’re great at it. They’re passionate about subject X; you’re passionate about subject Y. So you each begin to subconsciously delegate the task of remembering that stuff to the other, treating one’s partners like a notepad or encyclopedia, and they do the reverse.
Rat Park was a study into drug addiction conducted in the late 1970s (and published in 1980), by Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.
Alexander’s hypothesis was that drugs do not cause addiction, and that the apparent addiction to opiate drugs commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to it is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself. He told the Canadian Senate in 2001 that prior experiments in which laboratory rats were kept isolated in cramped metal cages, tethered to a self-injection apparatus, show only that “severely distressed animals, like severely distressed people, will relieve their distress pharmacologically if they can.”
To test his hypothesis, Alexander built Rat Park, an 8.8 m2 (95 sq ft) housing colony, 200 times the square footage of a standard laboratory cage. There were 16–20 rats of both sexes in residence, an abundance of food, balls and wheels for play, and enough space for mating and raising litters.
The results of the experiment appeared to support his hypothesis. Rats who had been forced to consume morphine hydrochloride for 57 consecutive days were brought to Rat Park and given a choice between plain tap water and water laced with morphine. For the most part, they chose the plain water. “Nothing that we tried,” Alexander wrote, “… produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment.” Control groups of rats isolated in small cages consumed much more morphine in this and several subsequent experiments.
You’re saying something with your appearance whether you mean to or not, so you may as well mean to.
…Fashion is communication, plain and simple. I don’t mean to sound as though I’m telling you something you don’t already know, because any self-respecting man with even a little common sense knows exactly what he’s saying and to whom he’s saying it as he gets dressed in the morning. We all wear uniforms of sorts that allow us to be accepted. There’s no shame in that.
If I were given carte blanche to write about any topic I could, it would be about how much our ignorance, in general, shapes our lives in ways we do not know about. Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. And unknown unknowns constitute a grand swath of everybody’s field of ignorance.
To me, unknown unknowns enter at two different levels. The first is at the level of risk and problem. Many tasks in life contain uncertainties that are known — so-called “known unknowns.” These are potential problems for any venture, but they at least are problems that people can be vigilant about, prepare for, take insurance on, and often head off at the pass. Unknown unknown risks, on the other hand, are problems that people do not know they are vulnerable to.
Unknown unknowns also exist at the level of solutions. People often come up with answers to problems that are o.k., but are not the best solutions. The reason they don’t come up with those solutions is that they are simply not aware of them.
David Dunning speaking to Errol Morris in The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1) - NYTimes.com