Further Benefit of a Kind of Inconvienience System Labratory

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Archive for 2007年5月

Inclusive Design workshop

I’ve been reading the discussion from 17th May “From a friend of mine with vision impairment” and remembered the Inclusive design workshop.
Sometimes there’s an important phenomenon within something that’s swept under the rug when pursuing convenience. One side of BoI is that we should dig that out and make it a key for a new design. We’re hoping to place the inclusive design workshop as one of these ideas that we’ve dug up.
I heard that in the workshop, when asking someone with a disability, “is there anything inconvenient?” oftentimes they reply “dunno…”. It may be that they don’t find their situation inconvenient without experiencing something convenient, but I’ve realized that oftentimes, it’s possible to handle the situation as is, as long as there are good ideas. On the other hand, tools which are a “bit too much” seem to be taking our motivation to think of some new ideas.

Making something that was once unnecessary into a necessity- I don’t want to thoughtlessly accept this as greater good.

[Society of Instrument and Control engineers- 34th Intelligence System Symposium (3/15/97) References, p272]
TV channel selection has been improved from a dial to buttons, and there is less need to strain our muscles. It’s also possible to place it on a remote control, so in that way it’s also become very useful, and on top of that, it’s reduced production costs and damage to the specific parts. These days, small things, for example, with a dial, it was possible to control the channel in the dark as long as you remember how the angle of the dial and the channel corresponded with your sense of touch, or feeling a sense of accomplishment or attachment to the TV which you’ve learnt to use without looking, are ignored. There are also some simple solutions, like backlighting the buttons with LED if they are to be used in the dark, for example. However, repeatedly releasing add-ons in order to make a product suitable for various users is not very smart. The aforementioned LED backlight idea is pointless for those with visual impairments, so requires more thought.

From a Friend of Mine with Vision Impairment

Today, I learnt that ATMs at banks and post offices can be used with your eyes closed. So I tried it with an ATM at my bank. It felt somewhat moving. It feels so comforting to know that it’s possible to withdraw and pay in by myself even if my eyesight worsens, as long as I know where the keys are.

And today, I took a paid day off to watch a lecture by a 70-year-old(!) lady who’s been teaching tips, inspired by techniques such as chado (the way of tea/tea ceremony) and kado (flower arrangement), on practicing actions in day-today life for the independence of the visually impaired.

Nowadays, on mobile phones, calculators, ten-key appliances have a protrusion on the 5th button. Back when that didn’t exist, apparently she taught to stick a “dot”, like a sesame seed, on with tape. Later, I asked her “how long ago was that?” (since I’ve always remembered there being a protrusion on number 5), and it turns out that was in the 1970s, around the time of the world expo in Osaka.

Also today, on telephone cards and train tickets, there are some notches on the bottom left as if that’s normal. These too, initially did not have these notches and so the lady would cut them out with scissors so that the visually impaired people can work out which way to insert the ticket.
However, nowadays, there are contactless cards, so we can buy things or ride trains without being concerned about direction of the card. Everything is so convenient, that it’s become an era where we can do anything without thinking. We’re losing the sense of “with a little ingenuity, it’s possible without seeing”. Being able to feel this might bring a sense of happiness that we seldom feel when we’re not feeling restricted.

In this convenient day and age, I’m very glad to have met 70-year old Mrs. Fujihara and learnt the joys of ingenuity.

BoI of Vision training

We’ve received a comment from an optometrist:

Interesting! I’ve been thinking the same thing when teaching at an optometry school in Hokkaido this week.
I started this job in the 1970s. There was this time I was examining the eyesight of over 300 patients in the summer holidays, with another optometrist, from morning to evening in a corridor or something of the eye department in the Kyoto University hospital.
Because those days, computer-aided refractometers (detects long/short-sightedness, astigmatism) didn’t exist, firstly we questioned whether the patient is long or short sighted, then whilst applying lenses, then circling between the eye chart and the patient, since there were no laser pointers at the time. But then, eventually I’d gained the skill to be able to predict if someone, especially children, have astigmatism, and estimate the level, by looking at the shape of their eyelids.

Also in the measurement of the corneal curvature, which requires almost professional skill, I could immediately see the tiny changes in the surface of the cornea, and felt that my attention to detail has been worked on thouroughly. The test data is laid out in my head as is, so I could select the curvature and strength of the patient’s contact lenses smoothly, and above all it was so fun that I could do it all day.

Today, optometrists just looksat the screen and, like a video game, can obtain the data just with a click of a switch, and then undergo further tests based on these, so I feel that optometrists realise less about the test results and the prescribed glasses or contacts. The basic principles of eye testing equipment haven’t changed for several decades. Many expensive, convenient machines using costly optical equipment have been released, but they only seem to be interested in measuring the minimum separable acuity and minimum visual acuity, and don’t seem to test what patients can and can’t see, particularly in those with severe sight loss.

If we stop using our wisdom, will humans just become idiots? This doesn’t tie in with the topic of inclusive design, but inconvenience certainly brings us wisdom.

Your Inconvenience brings me benefit Part 2

My Inconvenience is my benefit
If we think within the region where we simply define “Inconvenience = requires extra labor”, activities whose enjoyment is physical labor, such as sports and gardening, could be part of BoI. In this case, can you think of anyone who has to sacrifice something?

For example, in the case of making a PC,

  • It’s the process of making the PC that’s fun, (like making models). Using that PC is as most a side effect.
  • A PC is needed for a task. Buying one is costly, so (reluctantly) I have to make one.

The two could be grouped into different types of inconvenience. The former is the same as gardening and sports.
However there may not be people who scowl at the thought of making a PC, so, saving the fun for later doesn’t always work. But we can’t deny whether we feel the benefit or not depends on the situation.

What are the criteria for BoI as opposed to plain Inconvenience?

I personally don’t want to group Machines, like ATMs, as BoI because I feel resistance against them, but focusing on the benefits of things that are effort at a glance, like random key placement, is well within the bounds of studying BoI? It’s not that we’re accepting all ATMs as a system for bluntly exchanging money with a machine in order to avoid talking to the bank teller…

Instead of labelling the product itself as BoI, isn’t it about the importance of sorting the interaction when focusing on the purpose and function, and making the users aware of these?

How about this analogy: if, by chance, “complex street placement” worked well, it would gain a lot of attention and we’d think “that’s actually pretty good”. If we intentionally make the streets complex and asked “what do you think?” then, like ATMs whose buttons reorganize randomly, we may not feel all so impressed. If we design the keys on an ATM better, then we’d reach BoI, but we’re in a position where we haven’t quite got the skills yet.

Speaking of drawling lines, there are times when neither Word nor LaTex works as we want it. Personally, I find the former as just inconvenience, but the latter as Benefit of Inconvenience. I asked myself why, but at the time, there are answers to “what are you telling me to do!?” but not to “What are you on about!?”, in other, words, the inconvenience doesn’t link to the targeted understanding, so I labelled word was “just inconvenience”

Does TeX lead to targeted understanding?
Is that understanding of the TeX mechanism??
Even with word, you’ll start to see the personality of Word, so the structure for writing sentences, or characteristics of the text placement- it doesn’t seem impossible to achieve the subtleties are for both (If there’s enough effort to do so (^o^)).
One type of dislike? I feel towards Word, are those set-ups and help packages that I’ve never asked for. Like, “stop doing this without my permission!”.

My way of thinking is similar to the former- the layout of the menus where it’s hard to tell what is where- is just inconvenient if we don’t know it- and even if we just learn it, all we get is the ability to use that function. In TeX, there’s the inconvenience of having to look up the commands until we learn it, but once we’ve learnt it, there’s the benefit of smoothly entering symbols or whatever without taking my hands off the keyboard or stopping my trail of thought. (Also, I can use the editor※ I want, can edit with ssh)

This benefit can’t all be sorted as targeted understanding. As pointed out, if I’m asked whether I’ve fully understood the inner workings of the word processing program LaTeX, I’d have to say, hmmm not really, so for now I’ll turn down the targeted understanding idea.

Regarding city designs, no matter how complicated the streets are, the locals have an idea of the area so it’s not all so inconvenient. On the other hand, non-locals don’t have this, so just find it difficult. So basically, the city design discourse is slightly different to the BoI system theory, or there’s an important factor besides “targeted understanding” and “self-sufficiency” which I haven’t quite found yet. So “Knowing the area” ≠”targeted understanding”

Active problem-solving/targeted understanding (Including towards the third person)/self-satisfaction was only a hypothesis from the start of this project, so we should look for other factors.

Your Inconvenience brings me benefit Part 1

From the conversation about the inconvenience of the buses in Birmingham, it’s become “your inconvenience is my benefit.

Revisiting BoI vs Plain Inconvenience
“Your inconvenience brings me benefit” is something I definitely don’t want to categorize as BoI; it’s just inconvenience.

  • Buses in Birmingham require less investment from the bus companies, even at the inconvenience of tourists.
  • Because of you persevering on a crowded bus, the roads I take are safe.
  • Because of “ATMs whose keys change randomly”, I feel safe from thieves peeking from behind, even though the visually impaired can’t use it.

However, there are some which are awkward.

  • At a ring road or “no through road”, it may be inconvenient for those who try to pass through, but is more effective than a sign that reads “Private road- No entry” (In Kanazawa, during the Age of Provincial wars, they made the streets in the castle area like a maze, for protection).
  • My bag appears to have a clasp to push, but it’s actually a slide type. It’s inconvenient for pickpockets, but I feel safe.

By the way, a visually impaired person said that, because the numbers on the ATM keys change, they can no longer use ATMs independently.

Numbers on ATM on Advantage Disadvantage
Fixed Key Can learn with fingers Thieves can work out PIN from behind by looking at movement
Random Key Difficult for thieves to work out PIN
Requires thinking as it doesn’t use fingers
Effort, because your hands wander
Can’t learn with fingers
Impossible for visually impaired people

In reality, the advantages and disadvantages are just opposites of each other, but learning your pin with your memory, not sense of touch, and the fact that we only visit ATMs between once a week to once every few weeks, unlike the passwords for unlocking your PC, the frequency of use is completely different depending on person, so there may be an effect on the balance between the memory for the brain and fingers. If the keys swapped around every day for PC users, they might want to scream out in frustration (>_<).

After some struggling with MSDN-AA for acquiring the Volume License for Windows Vista, having re-installed Vista for a grand total of 4 times, in the end setting up an administrator server called KMS or something, only to find that the volume license isn’t handed out if 25 or more systems aren’t always connected, or some confusing license certification system- I have no idea where the benefit lies in such an inconvenient system (>_<)

To be continued to part 2…

Buses in Birmingham are inconvenient

From a conversation about how inconvenient the buses are in Birmingham…

Benefit of Inconvenience vs plain inconvenient
From April I have 4 fourth year students to supervise, and in order to make a BoI-esque system reality (actually we didn’t have the budget), I got them to make their own PC for research and install the OS (Ubuntu Linux) by themselves. It seems that their understanding towards calculators has been deepened, and I feel that they’re using their PCs with a sense of attachment, so there’s been plenty of benefit for the students. However, because there aren’t any Masters or PhDs who understands PCs at this lab, all the questions come to myself, and as a result, I’ve had to learn about Ubuntu as well, so there has been some benefit for me too, but I’m veering towards Inconvenience.

The difference between a BoI-esque Inconvenience and normal Inconvenience is refers to that, although the latter should function and be serviced as a system, when that’s betrayed, we think “oh, so inconvenient”. On the other hand, I think the former is, as it says, enjoying the inconvenience,

Buses in Birmingham
However, even so, I do think that “plain inconvenient” things do exist. For example, buses in Birmingham:

“Bus Stop” doesn’t indicate which bus stop it is.
Furthermore, it’s just a tiny plate fixed onto a lamppost, so if you’re not already aware of the bus stop, it’s hard to tell where it is.
On top of that, the bus doesn’t inform where the next stop is.

Basically, unless you check the area beforehand, it’s a system which makes it impossible to ride the bus. Of course you have to ask the driver beforehand, so it’s possible to interpret this as BoI since you have to communicate with the bus driver. However, the bus drivers are often from southeast Asia, so it’s difficult to communicate unless you have the ability to understand their thick accents and be able to pronounce the names of locations, which often have old spellings and pronunciations.
Also, if you’re standing at a bus stop, they won’t stop unless you wave. I’ve had two or three experiences where the bus drove straight past me because I wasn’t paying attention.

But, depending on your point of view, there are benefits too.
Due to the development of Satnavs, “escape routes” from traffic congestion are displayed. This is useful for users (in reality, it’s not the shortest route, so it doesn’t necessarily cut the journey time, but it does reduce the psychological stress. However, the locals who use the side roads in daily life might find it inconvenient because the amount of traffic there is increased.
The lcal buses in Kyoto have well put together information and are extremely useful. Therefore tourists can feel comfortable using them, but during the peak seasons, they are so congested that it’s distressing for locals.
Difficult bus systems might be useful in such a way that it limits who can use it (whether that’s the intention is another story). In this case, if tourists think, “It’s effort so let’s get a taxi even if it’s more expensive”, then it’s possible to separate the modes of transport (this may seem forced, but insuring separation?). In Kyoto, the capacity of the roads themselves is small, so either way it’s inconvenient.

How about the railways in Birmingham?
Like in Japan, there are systems which display the arrival times of the train, like “on time”, but unlike Japan, they’re very imprecise: one minute they say “on time”, so I wait about 3 minutes, and check the display again thinking it’s not coming, and it’s changed to “5 minutes late”, so I wait, believing it will come in the next 2 minutes or so, and then the display had changed to “10 minutes late”. The train was supposed to come once every 20 minutes or so, but I ended up waiting for about 15.

Furthermore, the trains don’t stop at exact points on the platform, or they might be specified but nobody follows them, but, everytime the train stops at a different point. Well, I managed to get used to this.

When I was there, there was an accident in Amagasaki with West Japan JR, and seeing the news about the train driver who panicked over “regaining the 1 minute delay” and “overrun”, and my colleagues were surprised, or perhaps more like, they looked as if they’d just seen an unfathomable world.

So this would be an example where the benefits differ between points of view (cultures). In summary, not feeling any inconvenience even if the train isn’t on time. In this case, perhaps the benefit would be “accident prevention”.