You Are What You Carry (Chapter 4): Response

I do agree with Chipchase that we carry items that give us a sense of security, and sometimes this sense of security causes us to carry more than we need. This results in having many things in our bags, pockets and wallets and it can be a burden to carry, but if it is essential to survive and for us to go about our daily lives without any hiccups, why not?

An interesting example in this chapter is the life of Meili, where Chipchase accounts that her handbag never leaves her sight, and she was even upset when she realised that she had left her bag unzipped. In countries like China or India where theft is frequent, people become more vigilant and sensitive to their surroundings and belongings. On the contrary, in a relatively low theft rate country like Singapore, you would realise that leaving your mobile phone and wallet on the table while you eat is very common. This can result in forgetting about them when you leave the area after you have eaten because we are not being ‘forced’ to be sensitive about our belongings. This is similar to having all our information and essentials in our phones. Knowing that we have everything at the tip of your fingers would make us less aware, because we know that our devices will remind us of what we need to do. Being humans, we adapt to this instant lifestyle quickly and could make us be impatient if we cannot get things we want quickly and conveniently.

In relation to this where the future moves on to storing files and money in clouds and abstract or intangible places where you know it’s there, but you cannot see it, people start to be less aware and watchful of their items. For example Chipchase mentioned about having credits in your fare card and not tracking how much you have, resulting in carrying more cards than what you actually need. Of course, it is useful when your credits are combined and made available in a single physical form like the mobile phone, where you can link your fare card to your credit card, and you do not have to worry about insufficient credits. However, with everything combined into a single device, there is still a high risk of system failure or theft. One moment you could have everything in there and the next moment it’s gone.

With this in mind, people are starting to come up with ideas of owning something without it actually being yours. For example in a local context, we have the Obike, where you can rent a bicycle anywhere and ride it to anywhere you want. Like what Chipchase says, ‘There’s no way to steal something that has no owner.’, we do not have to worry about our bicycle being stolen because it is not ours to begin with. That being said, however, we cannot forget that out there it is the business that is losing money.

Lastly, as technology develops, our lifestyle changes and human behaviour will evolve. Like the vending machine in Japan, where we can check our credits to see if we still have enough to buy a soda or not, it is important to consider the endless possibilities of the human behaviour and experience when we want to design for the future.

The Anthropology of Mobile Phones: Response

In Chipchase’s 2007 TED Talk video, he pointed out three items that he felt was essential to us in our daily lives- wallet, keys and phone. Till this day, I believe that these three items are still as important as we go about our everyday lives and sometimes to the extent that we’ll panic and worry if one of these go missing.

I find it interesting that even in developing countries such as Ghana are also strongly dependent on money and mobile phones, which essentially proves that these are methods for survival. The method of transferring money using prepay cards reminds me of the term ‘reserve innovation’, where less developed countries or industries innovate and then these innovations are distributed into developed markets. From just a small business in transferring money through mobile phones as a means to survive, this proves that even with few resources people are able to adapt and come up with ideas to make life easier, which I feel how designs should be. In this case, Chipchase has correctly predicted the future of transferring money, which is now what we call iBanking.

Even though having a one-fits-all tool like iBanking that can be useful for people in both developing and developed countries, some technology may not necessarily fit the needs of everyone. For example, for someone who might only need basic applications like instant messaging, a universal phone like the iPhone would seem like a waste of resources. We get too caught up in having entertainment in our phones and we end up developing applications that do not serve the basic needs of some people who are suffering from real life issues like mental illnesses or starvation. I feel that to create something of worth, as Chipchase has mentioned, we need to move towards listening to people and get down to creating something that helps us to survive.

Calibrating Your Cultural Compass (Chapter 5): Response

Calibrating Your Cultural Compass by Jan Chipchase has proved to be an interesting sight for me personally as he talks about the importance of primary research mainly people-watching, observing the environment and connecting with your target consumers personally. With the rise of technology, it is much easier to get hold of information that we do not normally come across with just at the tip of our fingers. However, as Chipchase has pointed it out, I realised and agree that to understand other cultures, or even sometimes our own culture, the connection between our own perception and the people we want to observe is indeed very important. Although second hand information can sometimes be useful, nothing beats having to understand how a person go about their daily lives from the moment he wakes up in the morning to the moment he sleeps at night.

Not only that, people-watching from even before the sun rises can also reveal many things as Chipchase as mentioned like what people who start their day before the sun rises do before they go to work or rather for some people, coming home from work. Even though the information we get from research like these may be useful and plenty, I feel that this might not be the most exemplary as some events may not be happening on the same day as when we go out to observe. Thus, we could miss out some important information as well.

Another method that Chipchase mentioned that caught my attention was observing the signs in an environment. I realized that it is true that signs can communicate many non-verbal details about a country, their authority, their culture and environment that we may not typically see.

Lastly, connecting with the target consumers by interviewing and surveying has also made me discover the importance of knowing them personally rather can just assuming what they do or feel through research that may not provide you with smaller details about their habits or routines.

In conclusion, I feel that even though these three methods that spoke to me through this chapter were insightful and eye-opening, they may not reveal some secrets about a culture or their way of life entirely. With sometimes a chance of missing some information that might be useful or can change our perspective of things, I would like to ask then can we ever be designers that are able to design for every single one of our target consumers?

Also, another question would be how much research is considered as ‘overcollecting data’?