This is the fifth edition of D&T Special, a more in-depth view of topics that interest the Canvs team. Today’s topic – Tech is a necessary evil in today’s day, and design can help ease the pain of needing this resource on a constant basis. We hope you enjoy the read.
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✍️ From the Canvs Research & Editorial Desk
In 2008, iPhone kickstarted the mobile app industry with a simple line — “There’s an app for that.” It’s been almost 15 years since, and this context has slowly shifted to “You need an app for that.” With this call for needing an app (a proxy for digital interface) for everything, comes a unique pain of the anxieties of tech – so much so that most people find it a privilege now to be able to stay away from their handheld/work devices.
This week the Canvs R&E team has spent some time pondering this concept, let’s dive into some details.
We have become accustomed to staring at a wall of apps every day. Apps have become integral to how we interact with the world and each other alike. The mobile app industry has gone from non-existent (or scorned, rather) to becoming an over 150 billion market.
Millions of apps are now fighting for that precious 1 cm square on your home screen. Companies are pouring in boatloads of money just to get the user’s time of day. Some companies, however, are taking an alternate approach to products and product design, all using the principles of ‘Calm Technology’ – which originated in 1995 at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center by three researchers Mark Weiser, Rich Gold, and John Seeley Brown.
The philosophy is rooted in the idea that computing systems should “simplify complexities, don’t introduce new ones.”
Key takeaways from this read:
1. Try to be peripheral to the user
According to this framework, technology should always be present at a person’s periphery and become available exclusively when required. This is becoming a lot more common with payment gateways and other financial products in the BNPL category.
2. Care about people’s attention
The second feature of calm technology is its ability to dissolve into the fabric of everyday life. Products need to consider users’ attention and provide solutions that don’t pull users away from their lives.
3. Respect the human condition and try to prevent overstimulation
Products should respect human psychology. Technology has always been a tool to solve complex social problems, but lately, it has become a key generator of a litany of issues and disasters. Over the last few years, it’s become abundantly clear that people in charge of designing technology have exploited our psychology and developed unethical practices for capital returns, it’s never directly anybody’s fault — just a sign of the times.
Whilst the first article we wrote discusses what principles a designer can take on in order to guardrail design to be ‘calmer,’ our second piece for you today covers a view on the cognitive effects of certain paradigms in game design.
After consistent exposure to games, the brain starts viewing gaming as another skill that it needs to learn. In order to learn and replicate certain actions every single time, it needs to learn micro-skills first, and then connect the dots by literally connecting its neural networks. Since the average gamer does not limit themselves to one game, or even just one genre, this is a herculean task — that in most cases, the brain is achieving rather easily.
Key takeaways from this read:
1. Increased activity = Faster brain
Studies also show that VGP have better brain plasticity. Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change, adapt or grow through its neural networks. You can see here how VGP have a beefed-up entorhinal cortex, as compared to NVGP (Not Video Game Players). The fact that their brains can beef up, shows evidence of higher neuroplasticity by itself.
2. Higher neuroplasticity = A brain that is more flexible
But does any of this jargon really affect life outside of virtual realities and fMRI machines? Absolutely, and in more ways than we realise. But game design, and it’s fidelity, have a very large influence on any and all of these effects. Since high-fidelity games are the only ones that are really consciously striving to make gamers smarter, those are the ones that we’ve selected to reference here.
📚 What we were reading this week
Kids in the Philippines were earning hundreds of dollars from a play-to-earn Minecraft game, until new rules sent the community into a tailspin.
The North Atlantic Fellas Organization is fighting the Kremlin’s propaganda machine — and winning.
Some highlights from the past month of D&T