Life in Taiwan 8

Fireflies in Neiwan
One of the interesting things about living in Taiwan is discovering the lengths that people will go to to see even the most seemingly sublime things. I have oftened marvelled at how the Taiwanese will travel for hours, fighting incredible traffic, with a car load of screaming children just to see a particular flower bloom. One side of me thinks this is a most strange activity while the other finds this absolutely charming. Perhaps after a life of growing up in Canada where these events seemed entirely ordinary and thus didn’t necessarily deserve “a pilgrimage to Mecca” like attention explains my mixed feelings.
Well last night a number of the 1 year students in my Grad. program made a short pilgrimage to view fireflies in the woods in Neiwan (I’m sure I have mispelt the word) — along with a multitude of tour buses and in total, thousands of others. Despite the fact that I spilled pork filling all over my shirt and it rained, it was a good laugh. After spending all your days in front of a screen in a artificially lit room, I think I am beginning to understand the mass atraction to these activities.
The above picture is a group photo of us all.

The Power of Maps

“I think that if space is deed the “final frontier” then we are all in big trouble-at least in so far as social and political theory go. Perhaps the contemporary shift to metaphors of space as modes of intelligibility is architecture’s triumph-the conquest of dense urban spaces and inhabited building by the principle of open space. It is not clear to me what ‘a new kind of space” Schutz has in mind, because, like architectural space, it seems uninhabited and uninhabitable. I want to ask – where are the people?”
Link: Shari Popen – The Power of Maps

Conceptual Presentations

5{ns are becoming increasingly visual and less textual. Converting every concept into an image is the challenge and, at the same time, the solution.
Presentations with visual support, typically running under PowerPoint, have become ubiquitous. All of us have been at some time in need of making one of them and they are, increasingly, a part of our daily work.”

Start your Research

The expansion of the Internet and the development of the World Wide Web over the past decade have had a significant impact on research. The Internet can serve as a tool for finding information, a medium for networking and conducting research, and a means for the rapid and widespread dissemination of information.
This section of Yenza! contains information about some of the online tools which can assist you in doing research in the humanities and social sciences. It is not intended as a textbook on how to do research. Rather, these pages offer resources and links to resources relating to various stages and aspects of the research journey.
Link: Yenza! – Start your research

Differences between Information Architecture and Information Design

I believe I gleaned this originally from Jesse James Garrett some time ago and have found it a useful explanation for both myself and others.
Between the two names we have different concerns. Information architecture (IA) is primarily about cognition ? how people process information and construe relationships between different pieces of information. Information design is primarily about perception ? how people translate what they see and hear into knowledge.
Also I consider IA to be far broader in scope to include whole regions of information while ID is concerned with what the people are involved with now.
Both require different skills. Information architects come from a variety of backgrounds, but I sense that a majority of them display an orientation toward language. Information designers, on the other hand, tend to be oriented toward the visual arts. As a result, the majority of information designers come from exactly one discipline: graphic design.
Information architecture belongs to the realm of the abstract, concerning itself more with the structures in the mind than the structures on the page or screen. Information design, however, couldn?t be more concrete, with considerations such as color and shape fundamental to the information designer?s process.
Be mindful that organization and presentation are different concepts. Data can only be organized with in a few principles: Magnitude, Time, Numbers, Alphabet (Chinese by stroke?), Category, Location, and Randomness.
Magnitude, Time, Numbers, and Alphabet are all sequences of some type, which we can use to organize things based on a similar characteristic shared by all the data.
Category and Location are organizations that also use some inherently meaningful aspect of the data around which the data can be orientated.
Randomness is the lack of organization. It is important when we are trying to build an experience that isn?t necessarily easy ? an exploration or game.


Don Juan pointed directly to a boulder in front of us. “Look at the shadow of that boulder,” he said. “The shadow is the boulder, and yet it isn’t. To observe the boulder in order to know what the boulder is, is doing, but to observe its shadow is not-doing.”
“Shadows are like doors, the doors of not-doing. You may say that there is movement in them, or you may say that the lines of the world are shown in them, or you may say that feelings come from them.”
-Carlos Castaneda

Futuristic visions and old school thinking

Last week I attended a speech given by an executive of Liteon corporation on futuristic visions of the future as delivered through 3G communications etc. Unfortunately I forget his name as he was introduced so quickly in Chinese that I didn’t catch it. I was going to ask them to repeat it more slowly for those of us, me, whose translation engine runs as fast as a Commodore 64 but common sense prevailed. I have heard all this particular propaganda before so I brought a good book. It was a big room and I was discreet.
What was most interesting about his presentation was the final three videos. The videos were supposed to present 3 visions of the future as told by 3 different companies, one each from Japan, Taiwan, and America. What a telling comment on Taiwan corporate culture they provided.
The first video shown was from Japan (I forget the company). It was an utopian view of the future where families were brought closer together no matter where they were living in the world. The design was like something from the Bauhaus (see previous post), cold and functional. Lots of images of people walking on the beach, high blues, blurry dreamy like images, and smiling grandmas. Highly effective and no doubt an expensive production.
The video from America was a presentation of .Net by Microsoft. Microsoft’s vision of the future seems to be that students will never leave their bedrooms. The main characters life, a teenager, in this vision statement spent all her time interacting only with her computer and her car. I’m not sure if this is the reality of American life or simply what Microsoft is striving for. Naturally the technology was all centred around a big PC of some sort running Windows, requiring direct initiation of some sort between person and machine. The first videos vision integrated technology into everything -everywhere. Lots of new cameras too.
Despite the expected one sided nature of both these video presentations and the view that interacting with a machine or an image of a person is somehow as good as the real thing, they did show something. They showed Vision, though actual end user use, of the future that these companies are trying to achieve.
Now what did the Taiwan company show? A damn talking head. A cheap, badly produced video of the president of the company talking about how he thinks the future with be great due to the hard work and diligence of his company. The other companies can be seen as leading. They want you to believe, to believe that their vision is a good one. The Taiwan company wants you to believe that their leader is a good. Trust in him. There was nary a mention of Bill Gates in all of the Microsoft video, a name with far more “brand value” than most Taiwan company presidents. I was left wondering if the company had any original ideas and if they did how would they effect me and not just there company’s bottom line.
I haven’t quite come to terms with the near blind reverence to leadership that I sometimes experience here. I’m certainly not qualified to make change outside my area of expertise but it’s interesting to observe the differences brought on by culture.

Typography of the Bauhaus

Typography is an instrument of communication. It must communicate clearly in the most urgent form. Clarity must be emphasized because, in comparison with prehistoric pictographs, it is the essence of script. Our intellectual attitude to the world is individually precise (this individual precision is today changing to collective precision), as opposed to the old individually and later collectively amorphous forms. Therefore above all, unambiguous clarity in all typography. Legibility communication must never be allowed to suffer for an aesthetic code adopted in advance. (Whitford; Masters and students p.186)
Link: Typography of the Bauhaus

Dynamics of multi-cultural multi-lingual teams

“It’s the journey not the destination”
The process of building or the act of creating something is infinitely more enjoyable than the appreciation of the product itself. There are so many variables that affect a products development, an end product can never reach the level of perfection envisioned in the creators mind. As such when you define a successful project as one with an enjoyable process, the way in which we work and who we work with are central to this ideal. I am working on a short essay with regards to the dynamics of design teams in Taiwan and here are some of the issues which I am addressing.
1) Language
This is this most obvious. When working with multi lingual teams language will always be a problem. There are many ways to deal with this problem including setting a one language policy (usually English), active translation, excessive documentation, excessive illustrations, and the most fun a mixture of rich illustrations and Chinese and English language. The language of design and art tends to stay in the realm of the abstract for extended periods of time making shared understanding difficult in any language. Add the inherent difficulties with communicating across different cultures and languages and this difficulty with increase exponentially .
2) Term definitions
What does information design mean to you? What does it mean in relation to the project at present? How do you develop storyboards? When? It is essential to start a project definitions document at the beginning to ensure that everyone has a common understanding.
3) Lack of equality
The strict hierarchy present in so many teams and groups.
4) Resistance
5) Individualism
Its always more efficient to go it alone.


More from “Understanding”…
Conversation is the most natural, effective, yet most complex mode of human connection. The goal of conversation is understanding between the participants. Successful visual communication design can be defined as frozen conversation much as wonderful architecture is referred to as frozen music.Understanding information is power.

You Do It, You Just Don’t Know It

“This article has so far explored how technical communicators can incorporate the skills and thought processes of information architects to greatly improve the user’s experience of Web-based and information products. But for technical communicators who wish to make a career shift, it is important to consider what’s shaping the field of information architecture today…”
Link:Information Architecture: You Do It, You Just Don’t Know It

Humanistic Virtues in Information Graphics

However unmoved, the news media cannot be seized as a scapegoat for the objectivity of information graphics proliferating the discipline of information design. Information graphics have traditionally upheld the role as a constructor of clarity in visual communication; where interpretation experiments explicitly create obstacles in the exchanges of highly sensitive, impermeable data.

Roxane: A Study in Visual Factors Affecting Legibility

Roxane is an original typeface designed by the author in response to a design analysis of visual attributes that enhance the legibility of font characteristics. The author takes issue with scientific legibility studies which focus on isolating variables to obtain verifiable results, but which are not useful in the more complex and holistic design of specific type faces. Visual analysis of type form attributes and visual principles provide the framework for this more holistic enterprise. The principles and attributes are demonstrated visually throughout the article, ending with Roxane, a type face developed with these principles in mind.

Design Research: Why you need it

“…design research is a necessary ingredient for creating, developing, and delivering a successful product. Marketers need solid market research to guide their decisions about product positioning, revenue potential, and target markets. Likewise, designers need solid design research to guide their decisions about the product’s interaction framework, feature set, and overall appropriateness for its users.”
Cooper: Design Research: Why you need it

Mental models: a gentle guide for outsiders

I’m on a mental model kick today.
“Mental models are psychological representations of real, hypothetical, or imaginary situations. They were first postulated by the Scottish psychologist Kenneth Craik (1943), who wrote that the mind constructs “small-scale models” of reality that it uses to anticipate events, to reason, and to underlie explanation. Like pictures in Wittgenstein

An Audiovisual Environment Suite

Real-Time Systems for Fluid Abstract Expression: Painterly Interfaces for Audiovisual Performance
“The Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES) is a set of five interactive systems which allow people to create and perform abstract animation and synthetic sound in real time. Each environment is an experimental attempt to design an interface which is supple and easy to learn, yet can also yield interesting, infinitely variable and personally expressive performances in both the visual and aural domains. Ideally, these systems permit their interactants to engage in a flow state of pure experience.”
Link:Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES)