The Monsters in Our Minds

This essay has been written thousands of times by other people. Here’s how I explore the issue of genocide and remembrance, as it relates to my work in design research.

In 2014, the organization UX for Good is focused on how to bring the impact of visiting a genocide memorial into everyday thought or action. The description of the year’s challenge is as follows:

“The profound feelings genocide memorials elicit are a powerful fuel. What can we do to convert them into meaningful and sustainable action?”

The UX for Good website goes on to say that memorials and museums about mass killings are “intended as an antidote to genocide itself – teaching us and moving us to ensure we will never again be detached and complicit.” Most of humanity wants to prevent a recurrence of genocide. Yet, killing and abuses of human rights occur in the present day. Darfur. North Korea. Myanmar. Nigeria. The perpetrators keep appearing, over and over. Humanity’s fear of these powerful villains is omnipresent. The re-appearance of a monstrous despot permeates the storyline of much literature: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc. Even saying the villain’s name is considered bad luck.

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Why Get a Book Signed?

Why Get a Book Signed?

Signed title page of "David and Goliath"

Signed title page of Malcolm Gladwell’s book: David and Goliath.

When I was a new author, one of the more disorienting experiences was the first time someone came up to me with their copy of my book and asked me to sign it. I was happy to do it. I was also bemused–not that I wasn’t familiar with the behavior, but why would a person ask me to sign their copy of my book? It seemed to be a habitual thing: people who have a hardcopy of the book with them when they encounter the author ask for a signature. I was curious about this decision. What was going on in that person’s mind? My curiosity grew when another fellow said sadly, “Oh. I bought an electronic copy. I guess I can’t have your signature.” (This point is probably part of the ongoing discussion out there about digital rights and value.) Read More

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Recruiting Across Behaviors

I received an enthusiastic, but bewildered cry for help from a UX designer in South Africa, Jeanne Marias. She wrote, “I am pioneering a service design project, part of which I’m wanting to do a Mental Model of ‘The New Member Journey.’ I’ve charged ahead and gotten the whole team excited about mental models, but after reading the section of your book about defining task-based audience segments, I’m feeling quite daunted and out of my depth! Especially when you speak about the Story, Craft and Companionship continuum.”

She wanted to know if there was an easier, friendlier way of creating the audience segments, similar to the comic strip explaining mental models. (Never mind that we don’t know what industry this is for–”new members” appear in lots of difference scenarios, like insurance or teachers unions or book clubs. So don’t worry about which industry she’s talking about.)

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Journeys, Experiences, & Mental Spaces

The other day a university student named Maria Hernando wrote to ask me my opinion about the relationship between User Journey Maps, Customer Journey Maps, and User Experience Maps … and how a mental model diagram might relate to any one of them.

I told Maria that I think of the maps as the same, or similar enough. The maps try to represent an actual example of how a person (or persona) went through and did something they wanted to do. The maps are generally chronological, moving forward through the hours of the persona’s actions one stage at a time. I told her that I think the phrase “experience map” came about because we want to be agnostic of whether the persona was using digital tools or not, or a combination to tools. The map represents the journey a person takes from the idea of accomplishing something to having accomplished that thing in the end. We want to see how it all hangs together from the persona’s perspective.

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