Generational amnesia: The memory loss that harms the planet

As each new generation inherits the world, vital knowledge is forgotten. Richard Fisher explores the language that has emerged to describe that phenomenon.
Read at BBC Future

I’ve had this thought a number of times over the years. It’s always felt more to me like a generational dementia though, which in turn, feels like a horrible simile to make.

I don’t mean it flippantly though. Having seen family members suffer with dementia, I know how hideous it is. It’s damaging, unfair, cruel and wasteful. But that’s how this generational loss feels as well.

Push the Platform lecture links

Collected hyperlinkable references from Teams, Friday 13 November 2020, with Kingston School of Art, BA Graphic Design Level 6. Shared here in blog post form, in my own little push, to the platform of presenting and following up on a lecture.*

It’s Mice That
A record from the day that mice took over It’s Nice That.

“Pair Up is a place for creatives to find and offer their time to others with the goal of sharing, learning and problem solving with each other.”

A fun little retro video explaining the idea of ‘affordances’, presented by Don Norman, who also features in the Wireframe podcast referenced below. It would be well worth your while to research more about Don Norman, his books and his influence. 

Thoughtless Acts
This blog post serves as a good summary relating to my rubber bands, my references to where others have hacked/fixed things, and to my shared observations of emerging user needs. All these things I feel can fall generally under the ‘thoughtless acts’ umbrella, and in turn, point loudly toward UX opportunities and insights. 

The affordance of Excel (drummachine)

The affordance of a record player (animation)

The affordance of pano mode (warped reality and massive hotdogs)

The affordance of a lamp (passive yet intimate conwnectivity)

The affordance of a wooden toy (Availabot)

The Alternative Uses Test
A little more background on the object affordance task.

Blu-Tack affordance as an advert
I randomly came across this while quickly checking the correct spelling of Blu-Tack (was it Blu-Tack, Blu-Tak, Bloo-Tak?). Interesting to see them pushing the multiple uses of the product as an intended feature.

Instagram slideshow ‘hack’
This was the first example I had seen of someone creatively hacking the horizontal slideshow functionality, shortly after Instagram added it to the app. By ‘hack’, I mean by using it in a way that it was not necessarily designed for. Pushing the boundaries of the designed parameters.

A lot of this pushing behaviour has occurred on Instagram over the years, in much the same way that the app itself has classically pushed the platform of the iPhone camera, image filters and image sharing.

Although, to be honest, I’ve always felt that Instagram was less an innovator, than the most successful trickle down supply chain, for innovations made by others. Much like a Madonna of the app industry. A posts on these accusations to follow another time, perhaps. 

Less a hack, and more a meta exploration of the instagram platform itself. 

Instagram layout hacks 
A collection of these, featuring the Rick and Morty example at the top, which sadly no longer works, as all the internal tags and links seemed to have died. 

On desire paths
“paths and tracks made over time by the wishes & feet of walkers, especially those paths that run contrary to design or planning”.

More on desire paths
I really am a big fan of desire paths. Also of this podcast. Subscribe and start listening now if you’ve never heard of it. 

Different types of Zoomers
Note links through to his various other parts. Again, consider here how relatable these little skits are. How quickly video conferencing has become ubiquitous, and in turn, parodied in such a relatable way. Every one of these types highlights a friction with the platform. An opportunity to solve or address a user need.

Room Rater
As above, a comedy account that only works because of the now common voyeuristic pastime, of looking behind people, into their previously private spaces. Note the double edge reality of this though, as people are doing the same to you. What future design solutions exist to address this behaviour?

Goats in meetings
Part business innovation in times when your farm is closed. Part recognition and solution to the issue of video conference calls being so damn boring sometimes. Come on design community! When a small farm is offering more innovative solutions to user needs than you, you know your falling behind.

Wireframe Podcast S03E02
Make particular note of the emergent use and related behaviour with the security camera. From impersonal, paranoid, and defensive security device, to intimate, familial and emotional portal. 

TV remote made easier
From Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge. An aside on the book that this image comes from: Consider how changes in technology mark the passing of innovation into irrelevance. When this book came out in 2007 it was still quite cutting edge – and a very attentive consideration toward user needs – to attach a DVD with supplementary video content. Now, it seems almost naive, that a book about designing good interactions could include such an inaccessible, unsharable and obsolete format. Note that the book remains to be a great historical document, and I encourage that you seek a copy for reference. 

WFH and the making of
One of my favourite video production companies, with a brilliantly smart and rapid response to life and work and getting on with things back when the first lockdown started. Watch both videos on this page. The first is simply a great advert. The second, is an even more impressive reveal of how the ad was made and the ingenuity that was employed to make it happen.

Video conferencing in the movies
Clip from Avengers Assemble (there’s also another good clip in Captain America Winter Soldier (at 00:23:00), and a great one (Thanks AOD) from Kingsman. This one could be even more prophetic in coming years as the AR glasses product market evolves). 

With the Avengers Assemble example in particular – consider how we accept (albeit in the fantasy narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) that this makes sense and would be possible for a super secret agency. It’s just a video call, right? Like we do, but with bigger screens and cooler seeming user interfaces. No big deal. 

But consider the conceit, of what it would take for all the meeting attendees to appear in the exact same way on screen. Each one must have a special little booth in their remote locations. Perhaps a stand alone box in their lounge? Or under the stairs, like some people have a little second toilet. Or in the garden, like those fancy studio sheds.

Now, consider that someone designed these boxes, and explicitly decided to install just one dim light, directly above the occupant, so that their face couldn’t be seen… IN A VIDEO CONFERENCING BOOTH. This design concept was signed off by the S.H.I.E.L.D Creative Director, and put into production.

Next, imagine the install team and tech support required. Each booth would have had a team of workers, traveling all over the world to install them, and will no doubt need ongoing support, like firmware updates and security patches, and maybe even light bulb replacements (in fact, maybe the lights are so dim because they’re all about to die?).

Finally, every attendee is wearing a suit. Nick Fury (the dude with the eyepatch, in case you’re not as invested in these movies as I clearly am), has just called them during an emergency. Do they all just wear suits all day? Just in case they’re called into a quick dimly lit conference call? Are some still wearing PJs and slippers under the desks? Or was this a scheduled call time, which Nick Fury previously spent hours emailing back and forth about, looking for a time that fitted with everyone? 

These thoughts go through my mind every time I see fictional tech in movies like this. It would seem I’m not the only one… 

Video conferencing in reality
Make sure you’ve watched the Avengers Assemble link above (and I recommend playing this at 1.5 speed to improve the timing a bit). Once more, consider how these jokes, parodies, frictions, classic issues and user needs, are all clear signals of room for improvement or innovation. 

Portl Hologram (not a hologram) video box
One company looking to improve in this space, although, as joked about above, who has the space for the equipment needed? A 7 foot box sure won’t fit under the stairs. But then, it’s not quite intended for video conferencing. But could it be? Or a version of it?

*A blog post? 
Is this a good way for sharing references after a lecture? Is this falling foul of the accusation above, with a book containing a DVD? Is this an obsolete and so, irrelevantly inaccessible format? What other way could / should we engage after a lecture? And is post lecture conversation and engagement a new issue, emerging from remote learning? Or has it always been a problem that we’ve previously just not noticed? 

Getting started in, and keeping up with the world of UX

TL;DR. Please share with me, your recommendations for sources of insight and inspiration in the (broad) world of UX**, for people that aren’t into it yet, but that want to be. 

Think about the little details though, not just classic beginner books. What are the niche little resources that you perhaps take for granted?

Essential people to follow on Twitter, invaluable newsletters with links to articles, agencies with a lovely ethic and portfolio of work, big famous agencies, that everyone ‘should’ know about, silly blogs with funny observations, serious and respected writers, Instagram accounts, and so on. Tell me your thoughts*, so that I can share with my students. 

Once collected, I’ll compose another post or page of links. And do by best to keep it up to date. Like Yahoo in 1994, but with more humble aims. 


*Here’s an example of my links. Sources and people and agencies that I almost intuitively read and check in on, but that are not at all obvious or all that findable for students in study, and interested in UX, UI, service design, and user first design and research in general. 

  • – On so many levels for me, Lou is really valuable to follow and be aware of. 
  • This deserves your attention, by leisa reichelt – Leisa’s links are like gold! Every reading list contains essential links that I only come across with her help.
  •,, – I’ve met people from all three, would be proud to work at all three, and feel it’s valuable to keep track of all three. 
  • – To those that know, IDEO is perhaps obvious, but I’m still stunned by the number of students that haven’t heard of them, and so feel like I’m giving a gift when I help with the discovery.
  • – This one’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. So nice to see someone else getting frustrated by little details.
  • – I wish he would write more. Like a more erudite and more positive version of in some ways, but like Leisa, very often the one to share ideas and articulate perspectives that feel too good to miss.

These are just a few examples, for giving an idea of what I mean by ‘sources of insight and inspiration’.

**Let’s not get into terminology and taxonomy here, suffice it to say, the world of design where we consider people, users, interactions, needs, services and experiences. 

Repair is as important as innovation

This article about the importance of repair, and a possibly emerging trend toward a celebration of maintenance (see Festival of Maintenance) has aligned with a few other philosophies on my mind of late.

Firstly, Kintsugi:

… the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum… As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

Which (secondly) emerges from Wabi-sabi:

… a world view centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

To a small extent, these ideas lead to a smaller, yet longer standing pondering, about iterative processes. In particular, how we seem almost biologically incapable (despite countless examples of brilliance only ever emerging from constant trails and refinements) to recognise that instant and ever lasting perfection is impossible. Great, or even just good things, need time and maintenance to emerge.

Fourthly, all these ideas point toward my simmering intrigue in the circular economy, defined and supported most impressibly by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:

Design out waste and pollution.
Keep products and materials in use.
Regenerate natural systems.

And finally, fifthly, and perhaps most tangentially, all these points seems to resonate with positive aspects connected to the trend of mindfulness, which I’ve heard talked about in the context of self maintenance (though I’ll be damned if I can find where I’ve seen that).

Not too sure where all this is leading, but like with an old post about chains of thought, it feels useful and cathartic to get the ideas out, and grouped together in some way.

Design Thinking is a reframing of design

I previously tweeted this link, but adding here for reference. Shh! Don’t Tell Them There’s No Magic In Design Thinking by Jared Spool, is a wonderfully level headed read on the topic of “Design Thinking”.

To those of us who’ve been doing this for a long time, design thinking doesn’t mean anything new. But it also doesn’t mean ‘make it pretty.’ And that’s why it works.
It changes the conversation. When you add ‘thinking’ to the word ‘design, it’s no longer about color or decoration. It’s now about process. It’s about getting to a more intentional outcome. It’s about thinking about the experience of the customer, user, and employee.

This is it in a nutshell for me – clear, simple, and useful – and so the seemingly large community of design thinking critics truly baffles me.

The Box That Changed Britain (and the world)

I was sure that I’d posted about this before, but apparently not. The Box that Changed Britain (which can currently be seen on YouTube) is BBC 4 documentary about the shipping container.

Poet Roger McGough narrates the extraordinary story of how a simple invention – the shipping container – changed the world forever and forced Britain into the modern era of globalisation.

It’s a premise that sounds incredibly dry, but the history of the box, the ideas behind it, the economics, and the open source factor (an inescapable world wide web metaphor) make for a fascinating watch. Would love to see a part 2 that covers the current movement for repurposing shipping containers into shops and homes.

TL;DR Existentialism

[we] are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.

David Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part 4, Section 6, ‘Of Personal Identity’

I’ve mentioned before that a friend once said something similar to this, in that ‘we are nothing but a collection of traits’.

While Hume said it more fancily, and perhaps validated my friend, I still like her version best.