March 20th, 2013 Mobile UX Design Series: The Theory and Practice of Mobile UX (Part 1 of 4)

On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, OLC attended New York Tech Council's first of four part series on Mobil UX Design. The first session was on Theory and Practice of Mobile UX. The speakers for the event were Tim Reis, Head of Mobile & Social Solutions at Google, and Jason Farman, Assistant Professor at University of Maryland. The event, however, was cut short as Tim Reis could not make it to Franklin Kurnit Klein & Selz's office and Jason Farman became the night's sole speaker.


Jason Farman is an Assistant Professor at University of Maryland. He has authored Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media, which focuses on how the worldwide adoption of mobile technologies is causing a reexamination of the core ideas about what it means to live our everyday lives.

"Since 2009, globally, data transfer has become more prominent than voice communication over mobile mediums," Jason Farman said. "This is a trend that's growing today. Mobile phones also become obsolete very quickly," he added.

"The theory behind mobile interface is that a tenet of our current cultural shift is less about the devices and more about an activity" Farman said. "The activities will have a whole shelf life. It's less about the device," he said. "The history of mobile media is vast. To define mobile, you'd have to start with clay tablets. To shift from physically going to read a message to having the message come to you is a huge difference. The cultural shifts in mobile changed from calling to a place to calling to a person. It's transforming communication, it's transforming social relations. To define mobile media broadly is to think about relationships," Farman said. "Think about the interfaces of each and every object you carry around."

Farman quoted Sherry Turkle, first prefacing that he doesn't quote Turkle very often, but that this particular quote fit in with what he was talking about. "We think with the object we love. We love the object we think," he quoted. "These objects that we love are the gateway to social relationships. The core of your identity is based on these objects," he said.

Farman switched gears and talked about how people think that the newest innovations are completely revolutionary ideas, but he said that they are merely remediated ideas. "We like to think that the latest and greatest is that light bulb idea, when instead we have an object that comes from somewhere else. It's called remediation," Farman said. "Mobile devices are like a pocket watch. You take time everywhere with you. You shape space and social relationships. Mobile devices standardize time," he said.

"The internet collapsed geographic distances—at least that's what we've been told," Farman said. "Mobile media is disproving that. The rise of proximity is causing a shift from geographic to local," he said. Farman explained Information Landscapes as "the place you're at that will affect the content you're interacting with." Basically, location matters. It's also "the content you're interacting with that will affect the place you're at.

What you're looking at will transform the place you're in. The landscape around you is full of information and mobile media is the key to unlock and extract that," Farman said.

On medium-specificity, Farman asked, "What do these technologies do well? This is a key question to ask. When an old medium is remediated, the new medium pays homage to it. Mediums do certain things well and users need to use its positive affordances. People also need to realize that content is not all media transferrable. It's not seamless transfers between media. Users know the difference. This is the dawn of ubiquitous computing. We embrace the visibility of mobile media and technology, but mobile phones are the most pervasive form of technology in the world," he said. Farman briefly described "virtual," which he called "layering, and the doubleness and virtual is the appreciation of that," he said.

Farman discussed the power of creative misuse and he revealed that it was a good thing. "It's the shock of the new to broad adoptive power in getting people to use their device in unexpected ways," he said. Farman explained that intentions might not always be the best uses of design. "Build in flexibility to your product," he suggested. "Learn from global use of mobile media and just thinking about the various ways of creative misuse is fantastic," he said.