The 1st Annual Leapfrog Online Pinewood Derby

Leapfrog Derby Entrants, originally uploaded by The Hitmaker.

Part of the ground rules we establish when people join the team at Leapfrog Online is the notion of Fun. We take our work seriously, but ourselves, not so much. Part of the execution involves what we describe as Antics.

While there was a brief but intense flirtation with networked FPS games during the winter doldrums, by far the best single set of Antics for 2010 has been the Leapfrog Derby, a Pinewood Derby with a Cub Scouts™ official track and some serious engineering effort.

There were those who were working through past childhood issues around over-zealous and under-involved parents, those who just like building things, and those who were just in it for the glory.

A great time was had by all.

CHI-Squared Presentation

I gave a talk last Wednesday night at CHI-Squared, the local ACM SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction) group.

The talk was about Design Hermeneutics, a subject I’ve spoken on twice now. The first time was at the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design’s “about, with and for” conference last year. It’s also a longish article and a proto-book.

From the Abstract:

Hermeneutics is the interpretive study of texts, a method originally used for generating insight through iterative engagements with religious writings, and later applied to critical social inquiry. Applying the hermenutic approach to the design process offers an intersubjective view of designed experiences as a continuously updating hypertext describing the conversations between designers, experiencers, and the context in which they communicate.

The hermeneutic method interprets texts and artifacts through iterative examination of their specific details and general context, linking those interpretations to the investigator’s own knowledge. The approach starts from the notion that the way we understand things is always shaped by the personal, historical context in which we live, and that this ‘shaping’ is not always obvious. Far from preventing understanding, this ‘shaping’ in fact is what produces knowledge – each person’s process of fitting things into their own set of experiences.

This presentation attempts to provide a framework for discussing how hermeneutic considerations might inform or change the way we conduct design practices, particularly research and prototyping. Hermeneutics suggests we should not concentrate on detecting an objective “right” way to respond, but instead around mediating – making the possibility of mutual understanding through conversation. Accordingly, we suggest a focus on dialogue that carefully breaks some of the fourth wall between end-users and designers.