I just read a couple interesting posts on something called The Implicit Web which relates ideas of the Semantic Web, social computing, “clickstreams“, folksonomies, sophisticated search systems, intelligent software assistants, crowdsourcing, etc. By tracking the activity of people and analyzing semantic content on the web the Implicit Web can automatically discover networks of people and interests without the explicit kind of work one does in Twitter, Facebook, or Google search.
In other words, by tracking what you and others do and create (emails, blog entries, tweets, browsing activity, shopping, etc.), and by scouring the web and analyzing its content, these systems make sense of the web in a much more sophisticated way than the brute force kind of searching that Google does. So it could find correlations, generate connections, optimize searches, make you aware of implicit networks of interest, and generally act on your behalf to both filter the incoming avalanche of data, and provide better/faster means to get to interesting information that you might not otherwise find.
While this idea is related to the kinds of recommendations that Amazon and other sites do, it is stronger because it aggregates a lot more activity and content beyond the silo of a single site. Plus, the ultimate expression of the implicit web (I hope) is that the user will have more control, and can “dial-in” the criteria of a search or automated task to their specific interests at that moment, rather than being stuck with some company’s idea of your interests. This idea relates to my essay on Productive Interaction, where the design of these systems is not about creating enveloping, persuasive experiences (as experience design dictates), but designing contexts where users are empowered to create their own meaning spaces.
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How can we make computational design and code understandable to design students, and how can they define the designer’s role in regard to coding? I was recently explaining to a student the importance of timing when a project responds to a user – a difference in milliseconds can make a big impact. We were also talking about how designing and developing code requires a different way of thinking and abstraction compared to visual design. In interactive design, the 4th dimension of time and the definition of behavior in code is very different from the see-it-all gestalt one can get from looking at and refining a 2D visual design.
I think the way to go is to cast it in terms of designing behavior. There are many principles and concepts of designing interesting, rich, meaningful behavior that I think could be developed, some of which is instantiated in code, other aspects in the mechanical design (the turning of a doorknob or the page of a book for example), and others in the conceptual design. This shift to behavior design as an overarching concept that encompasses computation may make it more interesting and relevant to designers.