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On gadgets and being a month old...

October 17, 2006 11:43 AM | At the showroom | Comments (6)

Digital Wellbeing Showroom at night ...dwb_at_night.jpg

So its nearly a month since our launch and its been amazing the kind of response we have had. Sarah Rich wrote about us in the Worldchanging blog on "Digital Wellbeing and deglamorising choice" She makes an observation -

"In our consumer experience, there are three things we value tremendously: choice, results and access. Each of these aspects feeds a cycle of spending, unpredictable satisfaction, and eventual disuse. Reducing overconsumption has to go beyond trying to make consumers want less, to giving their desire a new and more appealing target.

CHOICE: We feel a certain sense of power when we get to be selective. We want to be able to scan through hundreds of brands, and select a litany of special functions and features. Or at least we think we do. There are mounting arguments against this idea, suggesting that in fact our daily consumer decisions paralyze us and raise our blood pressure. But physiological effects aside, our purchasing patterns continue to indicate to manufacturers that the more choice a product offers, the more likely we are to buy it. iPod would be a rare example of a product with a singular offering that achieved phenomenal success, but even Apple has begun trying to hook new buyers with multi-functional models.

RESULTS: We have a perpetual tendency to conflate the outcome of an object's utility with the object itself. A classic example recurs on Worldchanging: Sometimes, we need a hole in our wall, so we buy a drill. But we don't need the drill, we need the hole. A system that offered the object on demand when we needed results would provide us with the hole but eliminate having a dusty drill sitting in our toolbox for 20 years.

ACCESS: We want our belongings at arm's reach on a moment's notice. There's safety and reassurance in ownership; it's the reason we buy the drill, and why we might even buy a shiny new model to replace the old one, despite the fact that they bore indistinguishable holes. It's one thing to recognize that what we desire is an end result, but another entirely to release our longing to be surrounded by all the means that take us to these ends. It's a deep shift that will lead us to long for an outcome, not an object. "

She then mentions how Digital Wellbeing is :
"developing systems and infrastructure that can unsnarl the consumer paradox and take simplicity and sharing into trendsetting domain."

By putting -
"heavy emphasis on the relationship between user and object, and the streamlining of options to facilitate more authentic customer satisfaction while marketing less stuff."

Sarah has captured succintly our remit and we are grateful for Worldchanging's support on what we are setting out to do.

One more thing we keep hearing is we are a cool designer gadget shop that's better than Colette or similar type lifestyle- fashion stores. The word "gadget" always makes me slightly uncomfortable. I have always found gadgets to be slightly besides the point, throw-away, and something that one gets weary of rather soon. Also, it has this weird odour of "made-in-a developing world-sweatshop" type feel. Everything that we aren't. So Alexander pointed out let's get down to the etymology of the word "gadget". It proved to be really interesting.

According to Wikipedia-

"A gadget or gazza is a device that has a useful specific practical purpose and function. Gadgets tend to be more unusual or cleverly designed than normal technology. In some circles the distinction between a gadget and a gizmo is that a gizmo has moving parts, whereas a gadget need not have them. For example, a nifty digital watch would be a gadget, while an analog watch would be a gizmo.
In contrast, a device of clever design that has no practical purpose is called a novelty item."

Wikipedia site the Apple iPod as a "popular gadget". Personally for me the iPod and iTune is a an ecosystem of a set of parts of which the physical iPod is incomplete unless it is connected to its umblical software-iTunes. The complexity of interactions within the iPod and iTunes is staggered in a way whereby a lot of the heavy-duty interactions is leveraged on iTunes, leaving the "gadget" iPod to be pretty simple with its browse' framework.

Philips_Simplicity_Event_L.jpg

I have been reading Maeda's Simplicity rules and bumped into him at the Philips Sense and Simplicity event hosted early October. He makes some good observations on the use of gestalt in the iPod product design. I should probably write a separate entry about the whole Philips Sense & Simplicity event".

Getting back to the definition of gadget. It gets historically more interesting-

"The etymology of the word gadget is disputed. Some sources say it was "invented" when Gaget, Gauthier & Cie, the company behind the casting of the Statue of Liberty, made a small-scale version of the monument and named it after their firm. Other sources cite a derivation from sailors' terminology; the French gâchette which has been applied to various pieces of a firing mechanism; the French gagée, a small tool or accessory; the French engager, to engage one thing with another; or even a diminutive of the Scottish engineering jargon gadge, a form of measuring device. The spring-clip used to hold the base of a vessel during glass-making is also known as a gadget."

Reading that made led me to believe that 'size' seemed to be important to the gadget-ness of a gadget. That notion was soon put to rest when I read the next line...

"The first atomic bomb was nicknamed the gadget by the scientists of the Manhattan Project, tested at the Trinity site."

So the term gadget was definitely lost in that particular instance as it didn't "have a useful specific practical purpose and function" as per Wikipedia's previous definition.

In fiction, gadgets are best known in popular spy films, especially in the James Bond series (See List of James Bond gadgets). Superheroes, especially ones like Batman and Iron Man whose premise revolves around equipment, have numerous gadgets themselves. There is a cartoon character, Inspector Gadget, whose super powers come from an assortment of gadgets. Also, one of the main characters of the Disney cartoon show Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Gadget Hackwrench, possess an innate ability to create tools and other technology out of trash and junk.

Occasionally, "gadget" may be used as a placeholder term by an economist discussing a hypothetical situation as the competitor to a widget."

There you go, its enlightening when you try to get to the bottom of things and discover there's so much more to a word than what you thought it stood for. Also a month on after we started the showroom, We have been covered in a number of blogs and were recently covered by Sky TV where they sent Jemma and Jodie Kidd to shop at our showroom. We have had a steady flow of customers ranging from 9 year old school-girls who drop in after school to play with our software such as Visual Thesuarus, and play once more on the Troika music box to celebrities shopping for Nabaztags and software art. We have had people revisiting us and looking at our products and services multiple times. So much so that now we know some of them quite well :)

Here's a list of couple of blogs that have bee writing about us:

PSFK ideas, trends, inspiration: London Design Week: the Digital Wellbeing Showroom

mocoloco: MoCo Loco - Modern contemporary design & architecture

Coolhunting: Hulger pip phone at DWB

we make money not art: Interview with Tom Igoe ( Tom has been our soundboard and wellwisher from the start. It was great meeting up with him at the NY ITP show earlier this year. Also we had some amazing mind-altering martinis together in this bar around ITP. It was called Angel something. The best martini place ever, straight from a David Lynch film)

Usernomics

Blink Blog

Phicons: Digital Wellbeing Labs - purveyors of fine digital delicacies

Pixelsumo: digital wellbeing launch

Emil Kozak at the Digital Wellbeing Shworoom

The Next Retail experience: Digital Wellbeing Showroom: London

Plus Six: Technology, Music & Geekery : Digital Well Being

Chris garrett media One of the best developers I have worked with.

Angel Gambino from MTV networks blogs our opening.

Post-launch, stock update and observations

September 18, 2006 12:10 PM | At the showroom | Comments (745)

We have been now open for the last 4 days and it has been amazing. We succeeded in building and creating it to the vision we had.fashion%20view.jpg
Chris Shea fromPixelSumo has some lovely pictures here and Halle Unnarsson made this little video for us.

We have people coming an try out all our products from the lovely Theatre from Marcel Wanders to Hulger phones Nabaztag- Wifi bunny appliance and Visual Thesaurus. Lots of really interesting questions, but the one that everyone has been asking us is when can I buy one of these. We have everything for sale or on a pre-order.
For example the digital photo displays have sparked lots of interest. We are in the process of ordering more and should be in store shortly (exact date waiting to hear back from Philips).
Also are online store should be fully up with prices and all the products/services we stock.
One of the more satisfying aspects of running a showroom/store has been listening to your customer, understanding their daily lifestyle needs. This has been an eye-opener. As a designer, having undertaken ethnography, projects driven by user-centred design, to translate those practises in the context of the retail environment has been great.

One thing I have also noticed is a lot of people desiring for simplicity but expressing complexity. For example if a customer is interested in a simple mobile phone they can make calls, pick voicemail and text but then ask whether the phone is a 3G phone with bluetooth in it and has a mp3 player. That's quite ironic as it contradicts what they first said. On closer enquiry, I understand that this is what much of the current marketing around digital technology has been, and this is what people pick up. If you ask them how many pictures they take typically on a holiday, how many do they end up having time to really view etc, you get to see a very different consumption pattern than what's being advertised.

For me this geeky feature/tech posturing is best exemplifyed by the watch industry where watches can withstand surviving couple of miles under sea and still function, even though the diver might be long gone and not survive that level of sea-pressure.
I guess it must be helping our psychological well-being to know our watch can survive long after we are gone...If you are interested reading more about objects and material culture, I recommend Mihaly Csikszentmihaly's book on The Meaning of Things; Domestic Symbols and the Self.