Presence: How to Use Digital Technology to Live a More Analog Life

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So much of modern technology is inherently designed to distract. But what if its aim was to provide calm and focus instead? Presence outlines a suite of electronic products that enables users to regain control of their attention and limit the negative impact of digital distraction on their daily lives.


  • Presence

    Kathryn McElroy

    How to Use Digital Technology to Live a More Analog Life

  • PresenceHow to Use Digital Technology to Live a More Analog Life

    Kathryn McElroy

  • 2014 Kathryn McElroy. All rights reserved.

  • 347










    One: Introduction

    Two: Goals

    Three: Audiences & Market

    Four: Research Reading Interviews with Experts

    Five: Part One Speculative Objects Social Intervention Brand

    Six: Part Two Concierge Cortex Juice Bar Tempo

    Seven: Looking Forward

    Eight: Endnotes

    Nine: Bibliography

    Ten: Appendices A: Resources B: Acknowledgements C: About the Author

    Table of Contents

  • 4Introduction

    Distraction by devices

    photo by Flickr user Mr. T in DC

  • 5In America today, the digital age is in full swing. Cellphones are pocket-sized, computers lightning fast, and people, enabled by their gadgets, are busier than ever. This tech boom has largely been positive. However, a Harvard study shows that people spend 47% of their waking hours distracted and not thinking about the task at hand.1 Technology-based distractions result in over 3,000 deaths and half a million injuries every year because of distracted walking and driving.2 Distraction also lowers productivity in workplaces; one study found that office distractions waste 2.1 hours each day and that workers switch activities every three minutes.3 Due to this annual loss of 525 hours, employees will require more overtime to complete their work.

    A popular proposed solution is to limit technology usage through digital detoxes, technology-free vacations, and unplugging from the internet;4 however, it must be

    Chapter OneIntroduction

  • 6Introduction

    acknowledged that technology is an integral part of modern life, and it is not easy to separate from it. Technology, as a human tool, must be part of the solution to the distraction dilemma. Taking this into account, my goal is to design technology that limits distraction and allows users to be more focused in their work and present in their experiences. A series of experiments and case studies, using concepts I have developed, have tested different approaches to limiting distraction through software, apps, smart objects, and experiences.

    Interviews with experts in multiple practices, including the field of human ergonomics (the science of user-friendly design) revealed parallels between the concepts of physical and mental comfort. Robert King, founder of office furniture design firm Humanscale, explains how he uses ergonomics to limit users keyboard and chair adjustments, so as to not damage their wrists and spines. The field of neuroergonomics, which combines human performance and emerging research in neuroscience, is used to design systems that are safer for humans, but is not currently applied to technology design. If applied more broadly to design, neuroergonomics may lead to technology that measures its success on the amount of time users are focused rather than the total amount of time that the technology is used.

    This book shows the evolution of the thesis topicfrom mindfulness and meditation to focus and technologygrouped into a series of chapters. Chapter Two discusses the goals and objectives of the thesis work. Chapter Three addresses its audiences and markets, both the objective and personal audiences of the project and the markets and competitive landscape for the

  • 7solutions. Chapter Four describes the research done throughout the year, which includes reading and speaking with industry experts. Chapter Five explains the work done during the first semester of the thesis year, including the prescribed methodology of lenses, and design work done for each lens. Chapter Six dives deep into the case studies and experiments conducted in the second semester of the thesis. Finally, Chapter Seven examines possible future plans for the work if it were to continue on after the end of the thesis year.

    My experience in the first year of the MFA Products of Design program greatly guided this topic choice. Two of the most empowering classes I took were Making Studio, taught by Becky Stern, and Smart Objects, taught by Carla Diana. Making introduced me to the Arduino microcontroller, an open-source electronics prototyping platform,5 and was my first experience designing with electronics. It enabled self-driven learning about programming, coding, and making fully functional prototypes. The Smart Objects class allowed me to apply these new electronics skills in the area of emerging technology. Smart objects are wirelessly networked objects that relay sensor information and other data to users through the internet.6 These products are becoming less expensive and easier to make, and companies are filling the market with internet-connected products.7 From this class, an insight emerged that has been a major theme in the project work: in a world where everything can be connected to the internet, what really needs or deserves to be smart?

  • 8Goals

    Computers allow for flow in many tasks

  • 9The exploration, experiments, and case studies of this thesis are aimed at limiting distraction caused by technology and allowing users to be more focused in their work and present in their experiences. Focus and flow (the mental state when a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus in a task1) both contribute to increased performance and improved morale in the workplace.2 Information technology allows flow, but it also distracts from flow by providing unlimited access to information and social media, which are designed to capture attention and reward constant checking for updates.3 This behavior affects all areas of life, at work and at home, and design needs to approach this problem in multiple ways in order to affect beneficial change, increase productivity, and also increase well-being.

    Chapter TwoGoals

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    Prototyping in progress

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    Each experiment is designed to test a different approach for limiting distraction through a variety of media, including software, smartphone apps, smart objects, and experiences. Each experiment has elements designed to entice the user, but also features sophisticated and savvy interventions for limiting distraction. Testing data and user feedback will aid in improved design, function, and usability. The overall intent of these experiments is not to create final, polished products ready for market, but rather to conduct quick iterations across numerous directions to learn as much as I can through the process of rapid prototyping and user testing.

    Skill building and hands-on making are also a focal point of this project. I am using this time as an opportunity to learn about emerging technology, and to work with new advancements in sensors, microcontrollers, Bluetooth-enabled processors, and internet-connected devices. I will use this knowledge to improve my electronics-making skills and build numerous prototypes.

    I also want to share my findings and designs with the open hardware and open source communities, which allows other makers to build on my work and continue these projects in new ways. I want to increase my ability to design and build functional prototypes with which to conduct user testing. In order to do this, I need to be able to make simple, robust models that will withstand heavy wear and tear. These skills will allow me to invent new devices for alternative interactions with digital technology.

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    Audiences & Market

    The Vatican during the unveiling of the past two popes

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    The elements of this project, which combine emerging technology and thoughtful interactions, are of great interest to large technology and design companies. The goal is to present my work in a clear and professional manner in order to gain employment and to continue working in the smart object and wearable technology areas. Companies like IDEO, frog design, IBM Design, Google, and Apple are leading thinkers and change makers in design; using human-centered design to speculate the future of technology and how users will interact with it.

    The products described in this thesis have one audience but two target landscapes. The audience consists of early adopters of technologypeople who are comfortable taking a risk on new hardware devices and are tech-savvy. They own a smartphone, and are up to date on the latest operating systems and apps. However, these users have very high expectations for new technology and can be easily disappointed. This audience expects a fully thought-through and designed experience, from introduction to the products end of life. They have a sweet spot for the

    Chapter ThreeAudiences & Market

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    elements of an objects interface, and prefer that one is not too complex so that its quick and easy to learn, but not too simplified that lacks functionality. Products for this target must be simple to grasp, but robust enough to deliver useful features, and this is a balance that is very difficult to achieve, as high-level users prefer to be slightly challenged when discovering and learning a new device.

    The first target landscape is the individuals social lives. In this landscape, the individuals acknowledge that they have a distraction problem and want to improve their focus. They use information technology throughout their day to accomplish tasks and connect to social networks. They are interested in being in better control of their time and attention, but dont know where to start or what to change. These people have read articles about technology sabbaticals and detoxes and are considering adding a tech-free day to their week, but they are still attached to their devices and do not want to give up the convenience. They enjoy the feeling of connectedness with their peers online, but are beginning to realize that they may not be in full control of this feeling and that it is driving an increase in their technology usage.

    The second target landscape is the typical workplace. In this landscape, people regularly take breaks from their projects to check social media and email, losing up to two hours a day to distractions and task-shifting nearly every three minutes.1 Due to their high stress jobs and high expectations of work quality, this demographic allows themselves to become distracted when uncomfortable, and often eat lunch at their desks to make up for lost time or to avoid work interactions and conversations.2 They enjoy their work and want to be productive and efficient, but are still drawn by the allure of what is new or happening online. They dont want their internet access restricted,

    Audiences & Market

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    The office landscape

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    Competitive market

    Audiences & Market

    Signal Jammer Phonekerchief Headspace

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    but would be open to receiving help to train their ability to focus. Their employers are also interested in productivity solutions that not only increase profitability, but also increase employee well-being. The ideal offices for testing the thesis projects are high stress, and high reward, environments including start ups, co-working spaces, and small companies.

    For this target audience, changing their interactions in one landscape will affect the other. If an individual uses a smart object to improve her focus, she will also be more focused in her work. If a worker learns how to control his impulses to check social media during a project, he will also be less likely to do so at home. By approaching both at the same time, the solutions will function in all areas of this audiences lives.

    Market and Competitive Landscape The competitive landscape in limiting distraction and increasing focus includes four main types of products: programs and apps, smart objects and devices, low-tech solutions, and mental training programs. The largest field of competitors are programs and apps, due to their low cost to build and buy. These programs limit or prevent distraction for specific tasks, like writing, by defaulting the program window to take up the full screen. Others limit access to certain websites or disable wifi and internet completely to stop users from being distracted by the Internet. Since companies have developed so many programs like these, technology designers must address the issue of distraction in their initial research and plans.

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    A collection of articles and videos

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    Research to establish the problem area began with looking at emerging technology and mindfulness. The definition of mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience,1 and it is one of the seven factors of enlightenment in Buddhism. Although mindfulness is a popular and interesting area, the continued research for this thesis shifted over the course of the first semester to include more neuroscience and information about attention. The terms focus and presence, and their counterpart distraction, made more of an impact on this project. This chapter contains an overview of readings and insights collected from speaking with subject matter experts.

    Chapter FourResearch

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    The number of stories about distraction, focus, and technology in top magazines during 2013-2014, including Fast Company,2 the New York Times,3 the Huffington Post,4 the Atlantic,5 Wired,6 Popular Science,7 Popular Mechanics,8 and TED,9 show the immense impact of these topics. In addition to news and online articles, many books have been helpful in learning about this topic.

    The early research conducted about presence and mindfulness has been from varied sources, and according to The Happiness Project,10 by Gretchen Rubin, and The Happiness Hypothesis,11 by Jonathan Haidt, mindfulness and happiness are correlated. However, although there is similarity between the two, they are not necessarily equal. Mindfulness, with practice, creates a calm and distraction-free mind that is less stressed and occupied. Once the mind is free from distraction, one is more likely to feel happy. A few suggestions from these books are to clear

    Research | Reading


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    A selection of relevant books

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    mental clutter and create space for awareness and mindfulness rather than to focus on the end result of happiness.

    Nathan Shedroffs Make It So12 examines the technology of science fiction and analyzes how the design of fictional interfaces shapes future technologies. Shedroff disassembles technology found in television shows and movies to see what is feasible to make and when it may become reality. These far-fetched devices are seriously analyzed for clues into the future of interface design, and the most poignant insights often come from science fiction that improperly predicts the future.

    Michio Kakus The Physics of the Future13 takes a more scholarly approach to speculating future technologies by gathering the viewpoints of more than 300 experts, researchers, and scientists. Kaku compiles them into an interesting collection of future scenarios, including advancements in eight different areas: computers, artificial intelligence (AI), medicine, nanotechnology, energy, space travel, wealth, and humanity. His viewpoint is optimistic, even when he predicts that within the next 30-50 years14 Moores law (the observation that computers double in power every two years) will no longer be true. To that point, Kaku predicts computers will be invisible, and will silently and seamlessly carry out the users wishes. They will be treated as a utility rather than an object, charging only for the amount of time or energy consumed by the user. Both Shedroff and Kakus perspectives on near and far-future technology help to inform the viability of the experiments and case studies presented by this thesis and pushed the designs to become aware of imminent changes in technology and interactions with technology.

    Douglas Rushkoffs Present Shock15 provides a non-fiction bridge between technology and focus. Rushkoffs observations resonate well with this project,

    Research | Reading

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    especially his second chapter, titled Digiphrenia, which he describes as how technology lets us be in more than once placeand selfat the same time.16 Living simultaneously in multiple worlds consumes more cognitive energy, and the relentless onslaught of updates and information makes it difficult to find focus. Rushkoff states that humans should be concerned with how much they are changing themselves to suit technology and proposes that machines be programed to conform to the rhythm and pace of human operations, such as biological or business cycles, instead. The book concludes that,

    the solution, of course, is balance It means we can stop the onslaught of demands on our attention; we can create a safe space for uninterrupted contemplation; we can give each moment the value it deserves and no more; we can tolerate uncertainty and resist the temptation to draw connections and conclusions before we are ready. For just as we can pause, we can also un-pause.17

    This quote not only addresses current technology, but the attention and awareness users need to apply as a lens for their interactions with technology.

    Alex Pang presents one form of awareness in his book, The Distraction Addiction.18 He explains eight principles of contemplative computing, using information technology in ways that help the user be more focused and mindful instead of distracted. Just as humans have used analog tools as physical extensions of their bodies, digital technology is a positive part of the extended human mind. Pang discusses ways to be mindful of when and how one uses technology, and promotes programs that allow for focused writing work (called Zenware), digital detoxes, and the value of nature as a restorative niche. He shows that Buddhists monks also use technology, but in a way that promotes its meditative qualities. His point of view is to focus on

  • 24

    Research | Reading

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    changing personal behaviors and awareness, rather than making changes to technology. Although this point of view is helpful, and prevalent, it does not address the cause of the distracted behavior, merely the symptoms. Since technology is in part a tool for extending the human mind, designers have an obligation to shape that tool to the best of their ability. All designs have unintended consequences, but the results can be altered by changing the design for the next iteration. If technology designers are not thinking and addressing distraction while creating devices, then humans will always be dealing with the symptoms of broken interactions.

    Clive Thompsons Smarter Than You Think19 also addresses the benefits of technology as an extension of the mind. He uses the term centaur to describe the combined force of humans and technology for the overall improvement of human abilities. These improvements allow new literacies to emerge from the democratization of once prized skill sets; for example, the power we have to take shoot, edit, and upload our own videos has only emerged in the past decade.

    Neuroscience and psychology writings helped my understanding of how the human brain works and find optimal areas for influence. The Optimism Bias,20 by Tali Sharot, discusses different ways that the brain affects human perception. The optimism bias is a pattern of thinking that causes one to believe he or she is less at risk for a negative event or experience compared to others.21 Two other conditions stood out in the book: temporal discounting and the free-choice paradigm.22 The former shows the tendency to value the present over the future in decision-making, especially in investments. The latter states that a person values something more if they choose it, due to the brain rewiring itself after the choice is made. This explains why people dont second guess themselves on the hundreds of decisions they make each day. These insights help frame solutions that will work with the cognitive biases that all humans have.

  • 26

    The research process included reaching out to industry leaders and subject matter experts to gain their unique perspectives. Industrial designers, interaction designers, a smart object designer, and the founder of an ergonomics-based design firm all contributed helpful and informative expertise. Each discussion created a new path of research, and seemingly unrelated topics gave insight into conversations with other designers. The information gained from these experts has grounded the project in current work being done in the field.

    Research | Interviews with Experts

    Interviews with Experts

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    Subject matter experts, left to right: Carla Diana, Eric Baczuk, and Jared Ficklin

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    Research | Interviews with Experts

    Carla Diana

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    Smart Interaction Lab & personal studio

    Carla Diana is a product designer, artist, and creative consultant who also works as a Fellow at Smart Design. When discussing the limitations of quantified-self, she suggested applying the Knowledge Pyramid to the thesis work. The pyramid has a base of raw data that is refined and applied at three higher levels: starting with information, then knowledge, and finally wisdom at the top. Diana believes that the quantified-self movement (using technology to track data about many areas of ones life), generates large amounts of data, but little of it is applied to the information level and even less to the knowledge or wisdom levels. She believes designers must push smart objects to process data and output it in a way that provides knowledge and wisdom to its users, providing more meaningful results. Diana also discussed Alone Together,23 by Sherry Turkle, and the feeling of missing out24 which occurs from constant connection with the internet. Both of these phenomena are new, and smart objects, especially smartphones, have worsened their effects.

    Carla Diana

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    Research | Interviews with Experts

    Adam Pruden

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    frog design

    Adam Pruden is an Interaction Designer at frog design, where he recently completed a project about the future of the personal drone.25 The two main topics Pruden discussed in-depth were Big Data26 (the collection of data sets so complex and large that it is difficult to process and gain meaning from them) and the future of ubiquitous computing (the idea that any and all objects can or will become computing inputs). As mentioned by Carla Diana, the quantified-self movement adds to Big Data by gathering information about individuals, but it has not yet reached its full potential in its application of this data for improving individuals lives. Puden believes the next step is to fully-integrate ubiquitous computing with Big Data to passively influence and engage people in better behaviors. Sensors have lowered in price to the point that the Internet of Things27 (a network of everyday objects connected through sensors and the internet) is becoming a reality. Once these connected objects can utilize Big Data to seamlessly influence the persons environment, users will benefit from the individualized interactions.

    Adam Pruden

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    Research | Interviews with Experts

    Eric Baczuk

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    frog design

    Eric Baczuk is a Senior Interaction Designer at frog design, where he is currently working on technologies for aging generations.28 The future pervasiveness of data and sensors is a hotly contested topic in frog designs office, but Baczuk believes it will only increase. He feels that designers must take a visionary approach to how to best utilize this technology for the benefit of its users. With this technology, computing may even become a distributed system of sensors and outputs rather than one central device, similar to ubiquitous computing29 (decentralized computing through many separate inputs and outputs). Contextual awareness will also play a large role in future servicesproviding location-based suggestions in an intuitive manner. To deal with privacy concerns, Baczuk says services must be an opt-in system, with the user understanding the balance of the value they receive compared to location data the company receives. Incoming generations are already comfortable with this balance of benefits, and their influence will force companies to become more transparent and adopt new practices.

    Eric Baczuk

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    Research | Interviews with Experts

    Robert King

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    Robert King is the founder and CEO of Humanscale, an office furniture design studio that focuses on ergonomics for the design of their famous Freedom Chair and other furniture. His mantra is continue to make things easier to use, and he believes that the best products must maximize adjustability for the user, within safe limits. For example, Humanscales articulated keyboard can change angles for easier typing, but only within the safe angles for the wrists, whereas other companies allow all angles of adjustability regardless of risk. Instead of viewing safety issues as constraints, King sees them as an opportunity. He believes if a chair is comfortable, people will naturally sit with good posture. Designers must understand how people use products and what matters to them, then design simple and elegant solutions.

    Robert King

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    Research | Interviews with Experts

    Jared Ficklin

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    Jared Ficklin is the Chief Creative Technologist at argodesign. He states that technology does two things: it increases capabilities or it does something in a new way. Ficklin believes that the most successful design projects today are devices that close small gaps in user experience. A good example is the Nest thermostat and smoke detector, which was recently purchased by Google. Nest focuses on making typical home controls engaging and accessible anywhere through a smartphone app. Ficklin also feels that projection is one of the least used but most valuable technological interfaces. Projection will allow for interfaces to be on any surface, and for the breakdown of computing devices into smaller, mono-tasking units.

    Jared Ficklin

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    Part One

    Designs from the various lenses

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    For a design to be sound it must take into account many situations and users. It was key, therefore, that several forms and approaches to this thesis topic be explored. The overarching methodology examined the topic with a series of lenses through which to view the project. The lenses forced the project to navigate through different media, including physical objects, writing, public interventions, and videos. Some lenses helped the project move forward in new ways. Three lenses that resonated well with this topic were the lens of speculative objects, the lens of social intervention, and the lens of branding, all of which are described further in this chapter. They advanced the discussions, research, and results the most and informed the second phases work. Other lenses were less productive, but still contributed valuable insights and addressed less comfortable and less established precedence. Overall, the lenses divided the semester into manageable segments, changed the focus every two weeks, and compelled a shift in perspective to inform additional research and designs.

    Chapter FivePart One

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    Speculative design formalizes ideas into a medium that explains the idea and opens it to discussion and interpretation. As the first lens, it took initial ideas with little research and forced them to be quickly realized and made into concepts. They were not meant to be final, polished designs, but rather a suite of offerings that addressed different aspects of the thesis topic. Although many of these concepts did not move forward into refined prototypes, the dialogue they created directed the next steps and continued research. The following conceptual products reached varying levels of finish and contemplation.

    Speculative Objects

    Part One | Speculative Objects

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    The initial speculative objects diagram

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    Part One | Speculative Objects

    Top: haptic system map, bottom: implanted sensor concept

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    The Haptic Feedback System is a design for a future where computers are integrated with the human body. Haptic vibration points, implanted throughout the body, direct humans to live the healthiest life possible. They accomplish this optimal life through visual and pulsed promptsto drink water, eat vegetables, exercise for ten more minutes, etc. An integrated quantum supercomputer uses a sophisticated algorithm to determine the needed actions, and indicates with lights, symbols, and pulses what necessary action to take. The system has many other integrated uses; for example, it could offer an alternative to physical money by featuring fully electronic payment options and prompts. This concept generated many discussions, but the most pressing were the question of how to design such a system to be accepted by humans, what the ethical implications of haptic systems are, and how easily they can be used for nefarious means.

    Future Implanted Haptic Feedback System

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    Part One | Speculative Objects

    Tempo speculative prototype

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    Tempo is a haptic pacing bracelet that creates a slow rhythm of pulsing on the users arm to slow down the automatic, fast-paced speed of movement and thought. It uses two vibration motors to pulse the rhythm, and gives the user an alternative pace with which to move. One use case is slowing down while walking on the busy New York sidewalks, instead of being pulled with the speed of the crowd or to a musical tempo. Another use is to provide a steady beat while working on stressful projects at a computer, to keep the user engaged with the work instead of losing focus or becoming distracted by outside sources. This concept has been refined during the second phase and is discussed in more detail on page 94.

    TempoHaptic Rhythm Bracelet

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    Part One | Speculative Objects

    Motion Lock when activated

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    Motion Lock is a smartphone that does not function while in motion, including walking, driving, and on public transit. The lock functionality can also be accomplished for existing smart phones through an app, an added option in existing operating systems, or as a new operating system, In Focus, described in the branding lens on page 73. The user must stop moving for two seconds to unlock the phone to make calls, send texts, or look at directions. This constraint allows users to be more aware of their environment and the people in it and decreases distracted walking and driving accidents and injuries. In a car, it will not only decrease the distraction of the driver, it will also encourage conversations between the driver and passengers. This design asks us to think about how far technology design needs to go in mediating human distraction.

    Motion Lock Phone

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    Part One | Speculative Objects

    Top and bottom left: Loop cosmetic model, bottom right: Loop functional prototype

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    Pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers often consult their smartphones for directions, dangerously taking their eyes off of the sidewalk or road. Loop is a directional, haptic feedback accessory that uses vibration points to intuitively direct the user without the need to look at a screen. Loop pairs with a smartphone through Bluetooth and works with existing apps, such as Google Maps, to direct users based on their destination. It uses eight tiny motors, equally spaced around an arm band, to direct the user by pulsing in a counterclockwise pattern for left turns and a clockwise pattern for right turns. It can be worn on the wrist, upper arm, ankle, or other locations, and by using it, people are more present in their environment, looking up at each other instead of looking down at a screen. Loop is currently a working prototype with six vibration points and simulations for left and right turns. It was originally designed with Joseph Weissgold, and was a finalist in the 2014 International Design Excellence Awards.


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    Part One | Speculative Objects

    Edible Email Notifier functional model

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    Receiving new email messages delivers a boost of dopamine that incentivizes the distraction of constantly checking email inboxes. The Edible Email Notifier (EEN) is a motivational tool that incentivizes reading and replying to emails in an efficient manner. It drops an M&M into a glass each time theres a new email, and releases the candy to eat when the email is read, creating a dopamine effect for reading email instead of merely checking it. The EEN is a fully functional prototype, and has been shown at Maker Faire in New York and featured in TimeOut New York.1 In future versions, it would allow the user to choose what behavior is rewarded, for example: reading email, replying to email, or accomplishing the emails task.

    Edible Email Notifier

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    Part One | Speculative Objects

    Chameleon Bag functional, final product

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    The Chameleon Bag is an interactive messenger bag that uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), the same technology used in security badges, to control a reactive front panel made of 49 LEDs that change color and animate. As the user places tagged items into the bag, the front panel lights up with different colors and patterns. The bag acts as a memory aid by warning the user if one of their important items is missing, putting the users mind at ease while they pack their bag before heading to work. This prototype is fully functional and was a featured tutorial in Make Magazine issue 37.2 It also won runner up in the DIY category of the 2013 Core77 Design Awards.3

    Chameleon Bag

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    The social intervention lens applied a framework called the Five Levers of Social Change.4 This framework is a series of five steps that develop interventions to address a single issue and to create a behavior change. The first step is to decide on the issue, the desired behavior change. Once the issue is determined, the second step is to create a metric for success that will show if the interventions are successful. The metric must be specific and use quantitative and qualitative measurements. The third step is choosing an audience and determining their position on the adoption curve, or diffusion process, developed by Joe Bohlen, George Beal, and Everett Rogers and written about in their book Diffusion of Innovations.5 The curve goes through five different audiences: innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), and laggards (16%), starting with those most likel to change behavior and ending with those that resist change. Choosing an audience allows for the development of interventions that will more likely work for that specific group.

    The fourth step is to determine the barriers to the desired behavior change. These barriers are then addressed by the fifth step, comprised of five levers: Bright Spots, Disruptive Technology, Policy Shift, Data Insights, and Public Perception. Each lever is a different approach to behavior change. Bright Spots look at existing programs

    Part One | Social Intervention

    Social Intervention

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    Five levers of social change framework

    Issue Metric forsuccess



    Barriers tochange

    The five levers

    1 2 3 4




    Disruptive Technology

    Bright Spots


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    Part One | Social Intervention

    The audience for the distraction issue


    Early Adopters13.5%

    Early Majority34%

    Late Majority34%


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    or interventions that work, and provides insights on why they work. Disruptive Technology shifts traditional behavior patterns; for example, email is a disruptive technology to postal mail, changing how and how often users communicate with people far away from them. Policy Shifts are a top-down approach and can be implemented on many scales from governments to neighborhood boards. Requiring the use of seat belts in cars is one successful example of a policy shift. Data Insights and research provide users with information to apply and change their perspectives on the issue. Finally, Public Perception uses public campaigns to disseminate information about the issue in poignant ways.

    The social intervention framework informs this project through its application. The first stepcalled the issue addressedis how to combat the mindless, automatic use of technology. The second step, the metric for success, is the calculated percentage of time people use information technology that is focused on the chosen object of attention, as opposed to an object of distraction. The metric data will be gathered by using Rescue Time (a productivity tracking program) on computers and surveys to determine smartphone usage. The third step is to determine the audience, and the audience here is a group that lies between early adopters and early majority on the adoption curve. These users have thought about how distracted their technology makes them, but find it difficult or are unmotivated to make changes in their personal habits.

    The fourth step is to identify the barriers to change, and there are quite a few in this case. Free wireless internet and cell phone signals are present almost everywhere, making it easy to access the internet and the distractions it allows. The perception that multi-tasking is productive permits people to feel good about juggling multiple tasks. Another obstacle is that the audience might not care about being distracted, understand the benefits of being focused, or realize the downside of distraction. Finally, each time users receive a new email, for example, or get a text message, the dopamine effect rewards their checking of the email, creating a feedback loop that supports distraction. The following pages describe the fifth and final step through interventions for each of the five levers, using one existing intervention and four designed for the individual levers.

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    Part One | Social Intervention

    KitKat produced a video about their campaign

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    The KitKat Free No Wifi Zone6 was a promotional piece and temporary installation in Amsterdam designed in conjunction with the advertising agency JWT Amsterdam. KitKat, the candy brand, created a bench with an integrated wifi dampener, eliminating any wifi signals in a five meter radius. This installation promoted their catch phrase of Have a break. Have a KitKat, and suggested reading a book or having a conversation in person. The campaign was successful and met with wide approval in person and online reactions to KitKats promotional video.

    Bright SpotKitKats Free No Wifi Zone

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    Part One | Social Intervention

    Maps of where the Signal Free zones would be located

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    I designed Signal Free in NYC to apply the successful aspects of KitKats campaign in a larger context. It is a conceptual public installation at Bryant Park that uses signal dampeners to block wifi and cell signals from the grassy area of the park. Public spaces usually promote having free wifi, but people in urban settings may appreciate a park promoting a completely signal-free area. Signal Free creates a space for intentional disconnection and analog interactions. If successful, Signal Free would expand to Central Park in a number of permanent locations chosen to provide a quiet, slow space in the busy city.

    Disruptive TechnologySignal Free in NYC

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    Part One | Social Intervention

    Top: the CEMEDOS logo, bottom right: an example of defaulting notifications to off

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    In a fictional near-future scenario, there is escalating pressure from an uprising of distraught consumers who are fighting for devices that are less cognitively damaging. The top four technology companiesApple, Microsoft, Android, and Linuxcreate the Consortium for the Ethical and Mentally Ergonomic Design of Operating Systems to develop industry limitations and standards. The Consortium focuses on: developing focus-centered defaults, e.g. notifications defaulting to off; emphasizing mono-tasking; developing fullscreen applications and programs; and using nudges7 to help change user behavior. These guidelines would then be disseminated through all other technology companies via a global policy shift. As a policy shift, this fictional consortium opened a discussion around the incentives for large companies to change their products to be less distracting.

    Policy ShiftThe Consortium

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    Part One | Social Intervention

    Data about the dangers of distracted walking and driving

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    Data and research about the mortality caused by distraction will help users to understand the consequences of their actions. In 2012, more than 500,000 people were injured in distracted driving and walking accidents and 3,331 people killed.8 Distracted driving now kills more teens than drunk driving.9 With more access to this information, the audience will begin to understand the consequences of distraction.

    Data InsightsDistracted Walking and Driving Stats

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    Part One | Social Intervention

    Mono-tasking public campaign through spray painting and online sidebar ads

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    Many people pride themselves in their ability to multi-task, but scientific studies have shown10 that multi-tasking divides cognitive ability between all the tasks, and lowers the output quality of all of the work. Mono-tasking is the new Multi-tasking is a speculative public service campaign that draws attention to distracted walking, driving, and the connection between distraction and technology usage. The campaign emphasizes mono-tasking (focusing on one task at a time) and will be present in many different contexts, like on sidewalks and as ads on websites. The goal is to guide people to be more focused in their use of technology and take more time to complete one thing before moving on to another.

    Public PerceptionMono-tasking is the new Multi-tasking

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    Branding the overall project created a visual language to represent the position and goals in a clear way. The brand of the entire project then is applied to the individual designs, to create a unified family of products. The branding pyramid directed the design of the brand by collecting its descriptors in one place and assigning them a hierarchical value. The top of the pyramid is the brands essence, which is focus. This word is the heart of the brand, and everything else is subordinate to it. The center is the brand filter, displaying the values of the brand through individual words. The filters for this thesis are flow, calm, and simple, which describe the type of end result the thesis projects will have. The final section of the pyramid is the brand attributes, short statements that embody the feeling the user experiences when interacting with the brand. These are mono-tasking is the new multi-tasking, creating flow in all you do, distraction-free work and play, and design interventions for ergonomic computing.

    Part One | Brand


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    Brand pyramid, logo, and color ways

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    The elephant and the rider consciousness metaphor

    Part One | Brand

    photo by Flickr user Infidelic

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    The brand pyramid directed the design of the logo, which is an abstracted infinity symbol. This symbol represents the constant, continual battle between focus and distraction, and visually describes the dichotomy between them. In psychology, the conscious and subconscious are feuding forces, but with unequal strengths. Plato describes them as the driver and the chariot horses11 respectively, as a metaphor to demonstrate the partial control that the consciousness has over the wildness of the subconscious. Buddha uses a similar metaphor of a rider on an elephant.12

    In each instance, the rider directs the animal, until there is a distraction and the animal takes control. It is a wrestling between control and automatic responses. In this thesis, the control takes the form of focus and the automatic response is the distraction. The final logo has the duality of the metaphor and uses a palette of various blues to create an overall harmonious and calm feeling.

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    Part One | Brand

    In Focus operating system for desktop and smartphone

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    This new design was created specifically as an exercise in applying the brand concept to a product. In Focus is a conceptual operating system for smartphones and computers that promotes focused work by clearing out the dock and menus of all visual clutter. In Focus can be uploaded to any phone or computer, and defaults programs to open in full-screen mode to limit multi-tasking and distraction. The smartphone version also includes the option to turn on Motion Lock to prevent use while in motion, as discussed in the speculative objects lens on page 47.

    In Focus Operating Systems

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    Part Two

    Designs from the second phase

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    The second phase of this project was executed with the help of an adviser, Carla Diana. Ms. Diana greatly supported the design process through one-on-one meetings; in these meetings, she provided critiques, user testing advice, and encouraged constructive risk-taking.

    Writing prompts were a big part of this second phase, and they helped generate new thoughts and ideas. Prompts included questions, like what are your overall goals, and what makes the target audience love or hate this? In other instances, a prompt dictated form. The forms were varied, from an elevator pitch to personal statement. These exercises helped to further develop the audience and begin to target the users pain points and issues for the deliverables to solve. The writing routine became part of my morning ritual, with a goal of writing 500 words around discoveries, new ideas, dreaming, and corollary topics. The routine improved my writing style and ability, along with helping to create the final book and providing content for the process blog.

    Chapter SixPart Two

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    The weekly making assignments were similar to the previous lenses, but were quicker and more focused on ideas rather than execution. They promoted thinking through making and learning from the process in addition to iterating on the creations. The making topics included: something the target audience will hate, something that allows two people to talk about the project topic, an aid for the elevator pitch, and a pitch video for the final project. Many of the prompts supported the creation and testing of the project prototypes.

    At the same time, the topic was pushed forward from different approaches including: service design, screen-based interactions, futuring stories, business models, and experience design. Through the combination of classes and working with Carla, I designed my final offering as the Presence Lab. The lab presented a series of case studies and experiments around designing technology that limits distraction and promotes focus. The experiments were a set of tools that can be used by the target audience to aid in their goal to be more focused and present. Each experiment reached a varying degree of finish, and contributed to creative dialogue about the future of interactions with technology. The initial designs were for various device interactions: smartphone, laptop or desktop computer, or wearable devices. Each experiment went through an iterative process of making a prototype, testing the prototype with users, making adjustments to the prototype from the testing insights, and repeating the process. The four experiments explained further in this chapter include: Concierge, Cortex, Juice Bar, and Tempo.

    Part Two

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    Prototyping Tempo

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    There are a multitude of self control programs and apps on the market that block specific websites or internet access with the goal of stopping a user from procrastinating. Each is slightly different, but the main downfall of these programs is that they control only the computer. Users can easily access the restricted sites or the internet in general through their smartphone or tablet. This loophole provides a space in the market for an all-encompassing app that works in unison on multiple devices.

    Concierge is a conceptual smart phone, tablet, and computer app that synchronizes internet and notification controls across all of the users devices. The app is a tool that streamlines the users ability to control all the parts of his devices that may distract him. It is surprisingly difficult to turn off notifications from all apps. The user must manually turn off each individual app in the settings menu. Concierge takes care of this issue by disabling all of these

    Part Two | Concierge


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    Concierge app

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    Part Two | Concierge

    Top: app design

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    notifications at once. Concierge makes it easy to temporarily change these settings, without needing to manually re-enable the notifications. The more focused the user is during individual tasks, the more time they will save, and later spend on more enjoyable endeavors. Concierge allows its user to Lets focus on whats important.

    The interface is simple to use. First the user chooses the settings for the session, including: notification sounds off, all notifications off, calls and texts off, and social media access restricted. Then the user chooses the amount of time for the session. When he hits the focus button, the app seamlessly syncs the settings to the users other devices.

    Sallys example user journey will explain Concierge further. Sally has a deadline tomorrow morning, but she doesnt want to stay in the office all night. Shed rather be at home with her family. Sally knows her favorite procrastination habit is Facebook. She opens Concierge on her phone, and chooses all notifications off and social media off. She selects three hours, and hits the Lets Focus button. As Sally gets back to work, the smartphone app transfers the settings to her computer and tablet. At the end of the three hours, Sally finishes her work and has saved herself from more than an hour of Facebook distractions and even more time from phone interruptions. She rewards herself with a quick check of what she missed on Facebook before heading home to have dinner with her family.

    The next steps for this project would be to work with a developer to program the final apps for smartphone, tablet, and computer. The beta version would be built for the Android platform for smartphones and tablets, with accompanying Windows and Mac computer apps; due to iOS restrictions, an app for iPhone will have to wait. Beta testing would take place in corporate offices and in-home settings to gain user feedback in many areas. After testing, the app would move forward to release, with later support for iPhones.

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    Advances in neuroscience and technology have led to an influx of new EEG brain sensors and headsets. These headsets are still in their early phases, but are opening new interactions that will drive the future of computing. EEG sensors are worn on the head, and pick up the electrical activity that results from neurons firing inside the brain. Examples of existing headsets include Muse for brain training,1 Melon for self-tracking,2 Mindflex for toys,3 Neurosky for gaming.4 Medical sensors can distinguish between many channels of brain waves, but the aforementioned headsets use a general level of mental focus as a way to trigger tasks within an app or game. For Mindflex toys, the focus-level determines how hard a small fan blows, which then balances a ball, making it look like the user is levitating the ball when they focus harder. The current outputs are simple and visual. The challenge for this experiment was to leverage this emerging technology to create new, seamless interactions to promote focus when using computers.

    Part Two | Cortex


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    Clockwise from top: Muse, Melon, Mindflex, and Neurosky

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    Part Two | Cortex

    Top and bottom left: Mindflex with Arduino hack, bottom right: trying out the EEG sensor

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    Cortex is a speculative software program that pairs with many mainstream EEG-sensors to allow a computer to automatically react to different brain patterns. The main function of Cortex uses the focus and distraction indicators to visually inform the user when she loses focus while working on the computer. Instead of displaying a notification or using distracting, blinking lights, the computers whole screen slowly dims in relation to the distraction level. When the screen darkens, the user must focus her mind in order to make the screen lighten and to return to work.

    The Cortex prototype consists of a hacked Mindflex headset that allows an Arduino microcontroller to transfer the brain wave numbers to the computer. Using an existing Processing program,5 the focus and distraction levels are visualized in a variety of ways through line charts and bar graphs. The headset was tested on a few different people, which returned inconclusive and unreliable results. After conducting thorough research into how to adjust the brightness of an Apple computer screen through a software program, an obstacle arose: coding a functional program was too difficult for the scope of the experiment. Instead of wasting time developing the computer program, an analog test was used; it displays the level of focus through eight LEDs, one for every two brightness levels, and a person manually changes the screen brightness as the LEDs are turned on and off with a users fluctuating focus level. The test itself was distracting, making it difficult to fully decide if this idea is viable. However, it showed how the interaction between the users

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    Prototyping the interaction

    Part Two | Cortex

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    focus level and the computer brightness level may work which was helpful to see. It also began a conversation with the testers about how they would use this program and what other functions they would like.

    Cortex as a program could exist today, but the EEG sensors available to consumers are not robust enough to provide a reliable experience for the user. Within a few years, the technology will improve to the point of making this idea a viable option. The next steps for this project would be to do further testing with the EEG sensors on a large variety of people until there is a standard result. The software design could then move forward with the initial function of focus-based screen brightness fluctuations. Afterwards, additional functions can be developed for the software to provide new uses.

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    Social interactions are one area where smartphone distractions become very apparent. Research has shown that one-third of adults use their phones continuously during meals, and seventy-three percent checked their devices at least once.6 Organic solutions have arisen such as a cellphone basket,7 where each person places their phone when entering a house for a party, or a cellphone stack,8 where each person places their phone in a stack in the center of the table when eating out with others. However, smartphones are an important and valuable part of modern life. They are an external extension of the brain,9 and contain information, contacts, and the ability to search for unknown answers easily. Instead of treating the smartphone as the villain in a social situation, how can delightful experiences be designed to include the smartphone?

    Part Two | Juice Bar

    Juice Bar

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    Clockwise from top: interrupted social situations, cellphone stack, and cellphone basket

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    Part Two | Juice Bar

    Prototyping the vessel and smoothie experiences

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    The Juice Bar experiment seeks to design a dinner party for people and their smartphones that creates a balanced experience for each group. The first iteration was to give smartphones their own table at the party in an enclosed vessel. Instead of the negative connotation of banishing the phones, Juice Bar creates an equal space for these devices. The vessel takes cues from a comfortable conversation pit, creating an environment for the phones, and the cover hides the smartphone party from view of their owners. During a human dinner party, the smartphones would partake in their own specialized meal of energy through inductive charging (using an electromagnetic field to transfer energy into the phone wirelessly) in the base of the conversation pit. At the end of the evening, the owners are presented their fully-fueled phones with the flourishing removal of the serving cover.

    The human side of the experience developed from an exploration into recharging through food, pulling from my personal experience with fresh vegetable smoothies and juices. I designed a series of green smoothies, full of energizing fruits and vegetables, to test if the event should be orchestrated in a specific tasting order, or if it would be best to have the attendees choose their own drinks. The main insight that came from this test was that the smoothies were too thick to sip, and that juices were preferred. Another insight was that the order did not have a large effect on the overall experience.

    The final Juice Bar event was an energizing pop-up social hour held on April 22nd, 2014. It invited students from three SVA MFA programs: Interaction Design, Design for Social Innovation, and Products of Design. This Juice Bar gave students a much-needed break to recharge during their finals week. It energized the students through conversations and fresh vegetable juices,

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    Part Two | Juice Bar

    Clockwise from top: The Juice Bar cart, inductive charging bar, and attendees

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    while charging their phones through an inductive charging bar which included a beautiful view of wheat grass. The smartphones were occupied during the event, freeing the humans to engage with one another. More than thirty-five people attended, and the atmosphere was warm, friendly, and excited. The students enjoyed the break from their class work, and mentioned that their phones looked like they enjoyed the charging bar and view. One attendee commented that she appreciated the wonderful, uninterrupted conversation she had at the event. Overall, the event was successful, and created conversations around designing engaging events for people and smartphones alike.

    The next steps for the Juice Bar is to find partnerships and bring the event out to the public in different contexts. It can partner with a juice shop as a promotion or pop-up, or it can pivot and be reimagined as an experience for smartphones in other social settings, like restaurants and coffee shops. The main goal is to continue the conversation around how to treat smartphones in social situations that maintains respect and balance for these valuable devices.

    Left: smartphones charging, right: the smartphones view

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    Tempo started as a speculative concept but began a valuable conversation about rhythms and the effect they have on human interactions with technology. The original idea was to bring a sense of time to users who would otherwise lose track of the hours they spend on their devices, as discussed in Douglas Rushkoffs book Present Shock.10 Rushkoff writes, we can program our machines to conform to the pace of our operations, be they our personal rhythms or the cycles of our organizations and business sectors. Currently, internet media is constantly and instantly updated on a continuous cycle, creating an ever-flowing stream of information. The onslaught of information never ends, and users lose valuable time trying to keep up with whats happening. Additional research has uncovered new health issues that are directly related to computing, including screen apnea shallow breathing caused by poor posture and prolonged engagement with computer screens.11

    Part Two | Tempo


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    Prototyping Tempos code

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    Part Two | Tempo

    First prototype of Tempo

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    Tempo uses gentle pulses to provide a sense of passing time, allowing the user to choose the amount of time they spend in the information stream. Haptic vibration is used due to its subtle nature and as a new sensation that the user can not easily ignore. As this product developed, I continued to do research into studies around haptics usage and competitive analysis on wearable technology.12 I discovered that haptics are slowly being implemented in wearable devices such as activity trackers and smart watches as an intuitive output and silent alarm clock, but not yet used for rhythm.

    Simultaneously with research, I began prototyping Tempo to test the sensation and uses. The first prototype, version one, uses a Trinket, a small microcontroller, as its brain, has one potentiometer wheel for user input, and two small vibration motors as outputs. The wheel allows the user to speed up or slow down the pattern of pulses, with the idea of being able to test different patterns on the same person. However, the prototype did not last long, and ended up being too large and bulky, difficult to wear for extended periods of time, and broke easily.

    Using the insights from the first prototype, I quickly created version two. I did not use a base board, decreasing the size by half. I made supports for the fragile vibration motor wires by hot-gluing rigid pads to the connection points. Finally, I attached the finished device to a slap bracelet that users can easily take on and off and that fits different sized arms. Version two did not allow the user to change the pattern of pulsing, like the previous one, but the goal was to conduct conclusive user testing with it to obtain feedback about the sensations in general.

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    Part Two | Tempo

    Version two prototype of Tempo

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    Initial testing with version two

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    Version three prototype and user testing

    Part Two | Tempo

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    Using two copies of version two, I tested Tempo with a variety of people, asking about their initial reaction to the pulsing sensation and discussing different ways they imagined using Tempo throughout their day. The first feeling users had is usually one of anxiety, that their phone was ringing or an alarm was going off. Within five minutes of wearing the device, the users say the feeling had become soothing or calming. They wanted to use it for counting poses and breathing in yoga, regulating their pace when walking or running, as a silent metronome, to help them fall asleep, to time tasks, and breathe deeply and slow down when giving presentations.

    I also asked how they would want to alter and control these settings throughout the day. The most requested control was the speed and the intensity of the pulses. Other users also want to time how long it ran or have patterns suggested by professionals or doctors. I was surprised that most of the desired interactions were around activities, movement, and relaxation, rather than productivity and getting things done. This insight allowed me to shift my target for Tempo to be broader and allow additional uses for each individual.

    The reactions and feedback also informed the third prototype. With insights from user testing, I knew that the final design of Tempo would include Bluetooth allowing the user to change the rhythm pattern wirelessly through a smartphone app. To simulate that experience in a testable model, I included two dials to allow the user to adjust the power and speed of the pulses. The band for version three is elastic and easy to pull on for use on the lower or upper arm, and wires stretch from the band on the arm to the controls in the users pocket. This version allows me to test how users would adjust

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    Part Two | Tempo

    Version four aesthetic model

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    the pattern, and it is reliable enough to allow for long-term use throughout the day. I personally wore this version for an entire day, in addition to regular uses over the course of a month. My favorite uses were to keep me calm and to remind me to take deep breaths during tight deadlines, and during presentations to ground me and keep me speaking slowly.

    Each person I have try Tempo comes up with a unique use for it in their life. One surprising use was to massage a users carpal tunnel from her wrist. People regularly react by saying they want to walk away with the prototype and keep it.

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    Part Two | Tempo

    Smartphone app to control the rhythm pattern; the orange center circle pulses with the rhythm

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    Left and center: saving a pattern, right: the pattern options menu

    The final design of the band is colorful, thinner, and shorter, allowing it to be worn underneath the clothing or visible on the users arm. The smartphone app allows the user to change the power and speed, save their favorite patterns for easy access on their smartphone, and use preset patterns that come with the app.

    The next steps for this project will be to finalize manufacturing details and partnerships and decide on final materials before creating a Kickstarter campaign to fund an initial run for Tempo.

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    Looking Forward

    Prototyping, testing, and finishing

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    Over the course of this year, these projects have ignited a passion in me for learning about, designing, and speculating about emerging and future technologies. Im excited about the future of physical and digital interactions, the evolution of interfaces, and the development of smart objects and wearables. I have also strengthened my physical prototyping and electronics skills. I use my Tempo prototype daily, and feel empowered to design and make more projects in the future that will help my life and others lives. I have learned so much in the past year, and past two years, not only about my topic area, but also about myself as a designer and person. The confidence I have in my work and skills have grown immensely, and I look forward to putting this experience to good use in my career.

    As for the future of the Presence Lab, Tempo is the only idea that I may move forward. The other projects serve as useful experiments, as a means to open a dialogue about distraction in technology, and to engage other

    Chapter SevenLooking Forward

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    Tempos future Kickstarter campaign

    Looking Forward

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    professionals in this conversation. Concierge asks how we might streamline or create better controls for users to regulate the distraction caused by their devices. Cortex explores the future of brain-computer interfaces and how we may design the computer to automatically react to the brain state of a user. Juice Bar asks how we can lessen distraction in social situations by designing incentive for users to put their smartphones down. These three projects, and those from the first phase, have created a well-rounded viewpoint and discussion base around how technology can be designed in the future.

    Tempo will move forward as a commercial product. The immediate next step is to work with an industrial designer and material designer to decide on the final form and materials for the band. I also need to decide on manufacturing partners for production, in order to determine the final material and labor costs. Once these pieces are in place, I will launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial run of Tempo bands. The budget will include material and manufacturing costs, shipping costs, and development costs for the Tempo app.

    Once Tempo is funded, and orders are being delivered, I will promote the product through a series of workshops that teach how to make a DIY version of Tempo and other electronic projects. These workshops will also act as an outreach program to increase interest in hands-on making and learning electronics, for both children and adults. I felt empowered once I learned how to solder and make circuits, and I would like to share this skill with as many people as possible. The workshops will also be a launch pad for me to speak about the power of learning through making, and I would like to continue speaking at different conferences and schools around the world. These engagements may include a making workshop, or be a smaller seminar with challenges for students and attendees. I see Tempo as a useful product, but also as a starting point for my career and for outreach to give back to the making community.

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    Arduino microcontroller, breadboard, and RFID reader from the Chameleon Bag

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    Chapter One1 Bregman, Peter. How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking.

    Harvard Business Review. N.p., 20 May 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    2 Distracted Driving | Facts and Stats | Texting and Driving. Distracted Driving | Facts and Stats | Texting and Driving. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.

    3 Pattison, Kermit. Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching. Fast Company. N.p., 28 July 2008. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    4 Hoque, Faisal. #Unplug: Not What You Think It Is. Fast Company. N.p., 21 June 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    5 Arduino - HomePage. Arduino - HomePage. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. .

    6 Smart objects. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    7 Smart Objects: Do You Want A Talking Kleenex Box?. Science 2.0. N.p., 1 May 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    Chapter Two1 Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of

    Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1990. Print.

    2 Flow (psychology). Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    Chapter EightEndnotes

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    3 Brogan, Jan. Constant Distractions Can Take a Toll. The New York Times, 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    Chapter Three1 Freedman, David H. Whats Next: Taskus Interruptus. N.p., 1 Feb.

    2007. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.2 One-Third of Employees Lunch at Their Desk - Right Management. Right

    Management., 11 Aug. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    Chapter Four1 What Is Mindfulness? Wildmind Buddhist Meditation. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr.

    2014.2 Hoque, Faisal. #Unplug: Not What You Think It Is. Fast Company. N.p., 21

    June 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. 3 Richtel, Matt. Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. The New York

    Times. The New York Times, 20 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.4 Gregoire, Carolyn. Theres A Technology-Free Oasis... The Huffington Post., 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.5 Rosin, Hanna. The Touch-Screen Generation. The Atlantic. Atlantic Media

    Company, 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.6 Dadich, Scott. The Age of Invisible Design Has Arrived. Conde

    Nast Digital, 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.7 Boyle, Rebecca. No More GPS Voice. Popular Science. N.p., 23 Mar. 2012.

    Web. 28 Apr. 2014.8 Del-Colle, Andrew. Will the NHTSA Curtail In-Car Info Systems? Popular

    Mechanics. N.p., 13 June 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.9 Killingsworth, Matt. Want to Be Happier? Stay in the Moment. YouTube.

    YouTube. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

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    10 Rubin, Gretchen Craft. The Happiness Project. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Print.

    11 Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic, 2006. Print.

    12 Shedroff, Nathan, and Christopher Noessel. Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction. Brooklyn, N.Y., USA: Rosenfeld Media, 2012. Print.

    13 Kaku, Michio. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.

    14 Kaku, Michio. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.

    15 Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.

    16 Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.

    17 Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New York: Current, 2013. Print.

    18 Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul. New York: Little, Brown, 2013. Print.

    19 Thompson, Clive. Smarter than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.

    20 Sharot, Tali. The Optimism Bias. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.21 Sharot, Tali. The Optimism Bias. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.22 Sharot, Tali. The Optimism Bias. London: Robinson, 2012. Print.23 Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and

    Less from Each Other. New York: Basic, 2011. Print.24 Wortham, Jenna. Feel like a Wallflower? Maybe Its Your Facebook Wall.

    The New York Times. The New York Times, 9 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

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    25 Vanhemert, Kyle. The Drones of the Future Wont Kill... Conde Nast Digital, 16 Nov. 0013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    26 The Big Data Conundrum: How to Define It?. MIT Technology Review. 3 Oct. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    27 Internet of Things. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    28 Green, Emma. For Elderly New Yorkers... The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 06 Dec. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    29 Ubiquitous Computing. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    Chapter Five1 Wood, Jennifer M. What Youll See at the World Maker Faire 2013. TimeOut

    New York. 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.2 McElroy, Kathryn E. Chameleon Bag. MAKE: Projects. MAKE. Web. 28 Apr.

    2014.3 Chameleon Bag. Core77 2013 Design Awards. Core77. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.4 Hurst, Aaron. Five Levers for Social Change: Part 1 (SSIR). Stanford Social

    Innovation Review. 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.5 Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free, 1969. Print.

    5 Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free, 1983. Print.6 Uluak, Fethi. Kit Kat: Free No-WiFi Zone. Digital Video. Vimeo. Web. 28 Apr.

    2014.7 Thaler, Richard H., and Cass R. Sunstein. Nudge: Improving Decisions about

    Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2008. Print.8 Distracted Driving | Facts and Stats | Texting and Driving. Distracted Driving

    | Facts and Stats | Texting and Driving. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.9 Ricks, Delthia. Study: Texting While Driving Now Leading Cause of Death for

    Teen Drivers - Newsday. Newsday. 8 May 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

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    10 Sullivan, Bob, and Hugh Thompson. Brain, Interrupted. The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 May 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    11 Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic, 2006. Print.

    12 Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. New York: Basic, 2006. Print.

    Chapter Six1 Muse - Home. Muse - The Brain Sensing Headband. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    2 Melon - Home. Melon. Melon. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. 3 Mindflex - Home. Mindflex. Mattel. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.4 Biosensor Innovation. NeuroSky. NeuroSky. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. 5 Processing 2. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.6 Ross, Philip. Cell Phone Addiction: Not Just For Kids Anymore. International

    Business Times. 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 20147 Falcone, Alex. I Wont Leave My Cell Phone In Your Stupid Basket. Portland

    Mercury. 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.8 Tell, Caroline. Step Away From the Phone! The New York Times. The New

    York Times, 21 Sept. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.9 Thompson, Clive. Smarter than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our

    Minds for the Better. New York: Penguin, 2013. Print.10 Rushkoff, Douglas. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. New

    York: Current, 2013. Print.11 Stone, Linda. The Connected Life: From Email Apnea To Conscious

    Computing. The Huffington Post., 07 May 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

    12 Compare Activity Trackers/Fitness Bands. Smart Watch News. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

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    Babauta, Leo. Focus: The Age of Distraction :focus. Focus RSS. Self-Published. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. .

    Baek, Raphaella. Apps Block Social Media Because Users Cant Stop Themselves.NPR. NPR, 23 July 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. .

    Berg Cloud. BERG Cloud. BERG, 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. .

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    Chapter NineBibliography


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    Prototyping Tempo


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    Appendix A: ResourcesAppendix B: AcknowledgementsAppendix C: About the Author

    Chapter TenAppendices

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    Appendix A | Resources

    Clockwise from top left: Trinket microcontroller, adafruit learning system, Arduino Pro Mini, Spark-fun Electronics

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    This appendix brings together many of the resources that I used to make the prototypes and final products. They are also available on the Thesis Blog,, but are listed here as reference and inspiration for others who want to make electronics and improve their hand-making skills. This repository includes websites for tutorials and learning systems, websites for materials and electronics, the website of my inspiration and readings around this topic, and a list of books that I recommend reading.

    MakingLearning Websites


    Appendix AResources

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    Bluetooth Low Energy Information





    Mindflex Hacking


    Chameleon Bag

    Material Websites Trinket - Arduino Pro Mini -

    Appendix A | Resources

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    Thesis Inspiration

    Reading Alone Together, Sherry Turkle Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and

    Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi The Distraction Addiction, Alex Pang The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin Make It So, Nathan Shedroff and Christopher Noessel The Optimism Bias, Tali Sharot Physics of the Future, Michio Kaku Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, Douglas

    Rushkoff Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Cant Stop

    Talking, Susan Cain The Ship of Theseus, V.M. Straka Smarter than You Think, Clive Thompson Thinking: The new science of decision-making,

    problem-solving, and prediction, John Brockman The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts

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    Appendix B | Acknowledgements

    The work Ive accomplished would not have been possible without the support and guidance of my many mentors, teachers, family, and friends. I must first thank my husband, Dan McElroy, for his trust and continual support throughout these past two years. Thank you for taking a risk with me, through this move to New York City and for your encouragement as I went back to school. Youve stuck with me through the tough parts, the black cloud days, and helped me celebrate the wonderful parts. I could not have completed this work without you. Thank you to my parents, Mike and Debbie Marinaro, for encouraging me to reach for the stars and take risks. You inspire me constantly through your own work. Thank you for believing in me, and for not scoffing when I first mentioned reading about this brand new design program in New York.

    Thank you to Allan Chochinov for creating this new program, and allowing me to be part of the inaugural class. Your vision and mission have always inspired me

    Appendix BAcknowledgements

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    to put my full effort into this work, and the results speak for themselves. Thank you for guiding us through this new territory and first run, which paves the way for future classes. Thank you to Gabrielle Kellner and Marko Manriquez for the massive amount of work and support you provide to me and the other students. Your organization skills and technical wizardry helped me make it through the difficult weeks, and I thoroughly appreciate your direct feedback and friendship.

    Thank you to Carla Diana for first inspiring me through her class, and second taking me under her wing as my thesis advisor. You introduced me to smart objects, and set me on a path to design, prototype, and build devices that work like magic. Thank you for guiding me and providing support and critique along the way. Thank you to Abby Covert for your encouragement over the final semester of this program. You not only helped my thesis evolve and deepen, you also grounded me and understood me in a way that I thoroughly appreciate.

    Thank you to my classmates for their extremely inspiring talent and continual support. Your work pushed me to think deeper and design stronger, and your feedback and critique were invaluable throughout this entire process. I will be ever connected to you, in a bond strengthened by our pioneering experience. Thank you for your help when I needed it, fun times and karaoke, and the passion that you brought to your work.

    Thank you to Adam Pruden, Eric Baczuk, Bob King, and Jared Ficklin for taking the time to speak with me about your areas of expertise. Thank you to Rosa Jurjevics for your expert editing skills. Finally, thank you to all of the faculty of PoD and everyone else who helped push this thesis work forward through conversations, interviews, critique, and support.

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    Appendix C | About the Author

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    Kathryn McElroy is an award-winning, published designer and photographer. At her core she is a maker and is passionate about near-future technology, smart objects, and open hardware. Kathryn thrives on making actionable prototypes that can be tested and refined and has built projects and written about wearable technology for Make Magazine. She has experience in many design areas, including interaction design, print and publication design, website design, identity and brand design, custom laser-cut stationery, and handmade books.

    Kathryn graduated in May 2014 with an MFA in Products of Design. She also holds an MA in visual arts and graphic design and a BS in environmental design (architecture). She is excited to begin a new chapter of her life as an interaction designer at IBM Design, creating the user experience for IBMs enterprise software.

    See more of Kathryns work on her website:

    Appendix CAbout the Author

  • So much of modern technology is inherently designed to distract. But what if its aim was to provide calm and focus instead? Presence outlines a suite of electronic products that enables users to regain control of their attention and limit the negative impact of digital distraction on their daily lives.

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