Conversation + Intention

by Brian Haven
@ 5:28 PM

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Intention is the first of four themes comprising Conversation (the first concept of the Ontology Of Participation). During the design and creation of a product, certain considerations are made that influence its final outcome. Some are specifically related to the product itself (interface affordances, shapes of buttons, functionality, outcomes of a service, etc.), some are the enterprise's needs (cost break even, profit, governance, competitive advantage, etc.), and others processes from which the product is realized (ethnographic research findings, identified customer needs, flexibility of materials or technologies used, etc.). These considerations make up the characteristics of the product and define how it will be used once in the hands of the customer. As products (or services, systems, environments) are designed to solve problems, satisfy needs, or encourage behaviors, designers embody within the form of the product the intention for its use.

For example, consider the Apple iPod. (Note: I acknowledge that Apple examples can get tired. That being said, I'm using Apple here for two reasons. First, because I originally used this example back in 2003 before Apple examples were tired. Second, Apple is always an example because they get so many things right. Going forward, I'll do my best to use fewer Apple examples.) 1st-gen-ipod.jpg
[First Generation iPod from Engadget via iPod Republic]
The first iPod was meant to be an MP3 digital music player. Songs were to be downloaded only from a Macintosh computer and the player would serve as a portable device to listen to music. While the original functionality was simple, its goals were also simple: store and play digital music. That's it. (Obviously, today's iPod is much more robust, but the first iPods were far more simple. Check out this history of iPod and iTunes functionality.) Of course, aesthetics and other sub-cultural attributes (i.e., die-hard Mac fans) play a significant role in how products are treated. It's all of these attributes that likely acted as a key motivator for individuals to choose the iPod as the hub for participative behavior on the part of the early adoopters.

From a functional standpoint, alternative uses were not Apple’s intention. Shortly after its release, some owners began to analyze how the device worked at the software level and envisioned other uses it might serve. Individually, people began to create their own applications for the device, such as a tool for synchronizing the iPod with a computer running Microsoft Windows. EphPod was one of the first applications launched that provided this functionality by tricking the iPod into thinking it was connected to a Macintosh mounted drive. Native Windows connectivity wouldn't come to the iPod until almost a year later (using Yahoo! MusicMatch) and a Windows version of iTunes wouldn't come until a year and a half after the original launch. The adapting enterprises brought the desired functionality long before Apple (originating enterprise).

The specific functionality that Apple planned to offer for the iPod was not initially clear. Regardless, nothing in their public placement and branding indicated that the iPod was to be used in this way. The adopters of this product took it upon themselves to enhance its functionality.

The possibilities of the first iPod, coupled with its aesthetics and cultural heritage, fostered intention for its owners to push its functionality into new design spaces.


09 Jul 2009
The first concept of the Ontology Of Participation is Conversation:...

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16 Jul 2009
Expectation is the next of the four themes comprising Conversation...

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