During  my first semester of third year I will be undertaking a cross disciplinary module that will join both PD and DIXD together under our Social Digital banner. The name of the module is Physical Digital Products and will focus on the interaction between people and analogue information in a digital way.

Our brief asks us to “design a domestic, dedicated, daily data-driven digital device ––by which we mean an internet-enabled information appliance that gives a householder a specific and appropriate piece of information as they leave their home at the beginning of their day.

Its historical precedent is the barometer, a mechanical device that was found on the wall in the hallway of many homes. Tapping it on the way out of the front door each morning gave an indication of the weather (Stormy, Rain, Change, Fair, Very Dry) but more importantly the direction of change, and with this a prompt to pick up an umbrella or a sun hat.

Today, information need not come from pressure gauges and other sensors within a product itself, but remotely from the internet.

Returning to the direction of change of the digital itself, with ever more ubiquitous mobile platforms and the trend towards ‘anytime, anywhere’ information, when could it be compelling to fix a much simpler box to the wall, albeit one based on similar technology and infrastructure?”

After only seeing the brief for about half an hour we were asked to find some source material for the other half and then quickly present an insight. I decided to use the library and a book I have become quite fond of ‘Thoughtless Acts?’ written by Jane Fulton Suri. To quote the Amazon description, ‘People unconsciously perform ultraordinary actions every day, from throwing a jacket over a chair back to claim the seat, or placing something in the teeth when all hands are full. These “thoughtless acts” reveal the subtle but crucial ways people behave in a world not always perfectly tailored to their needs. “Thoughtless Acts?” is a collection of dozens of (often humorous) snapshots capturing such fleeting adaptations and minor exploitations. This method of observation demonstrates the kind of common-sense approach that can inspire designers and anyone involved in creative endeavours.’

Using this time I have decided that I wish my take on the 21st Century Barometer to be ‘unobtrusive.’ Something that seamlessly fits into the user’s life while still impacting positively. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at the three separate design paths of Design Ethnography, Disability Design and Naoto Fukasawa’s ‘Without Thought’ Design Philosophy.

Read more from James Rice at http://www.jamesricedesign.wordpress.com