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设计推动智慧城市新变革(英文分享)——Paul McConnell


现场录像:天府TV 川台设计与品牌 

Paul McConnell 保罗·麦克考诺,现为谷歌全资子公司INTERSECTION设计总监,利用前沿数字技术,为城市空间增添居民和公众体验设计。其中,LinkNYC项目,将纽约街头无数个电话亭,改装成数字导航与信息服务终端,提供免费上网和充电服务,成为设计创新知名案例。


工业设计推动智慧城市变革,城市系统变革需要设计师充分发挥才智补充来人文细节。上世纪九十年代,电子邮件第一次出现在人们的视野中…而在新世纪,当我的母亲第一次使用Iphone处理邮件的时候,她发现人工智能并没有科幻电影中描述的那么可怕…我们所有人都应该接受智慧城市时代带来的所有新挑战。


I am going to talk a bit about change because we come to events like this to try to make sense of changes. Cities are about changes. That’s where design really comes in.

 

I’m not an industrial designer. I actually head up the design department at Intersection, a design and technology company that focuses on physical spaces in cities. We are a mixed team of interaction designers, service designers. We make projects and civic products like LinkNYC, which is replacing payphone in New York City as well as in other cities. We work on cultural institutions, on connecting spaces and retail stores and a lot of transit projects, like this project in New York that helps with way-finding. Finally we work on more and more like smart districts and smart city projects. All of these things are coming together, a lot of digital master planning.

 


When you think of this concept—smart cities, it’s a very cold topic. You want to put technology in the cities. How do we consider people within these cities? This is really important because cities are drastically changing. In the 1950s, about a third of the population of the world lived in cities. A few years ago, we passed the half-way point. By the year 2050, over 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. It’s going to require some new solutions. What would work for us then in the 1950s will not work for us now. It’s a great opportunity.

 

There are four major revolutions when it comes to civic technologies. Cities are really always about taking advantage of the latest technology of the day and applying it to solve a human problem. So going back about two centuries ago, steam was really one of the major innovations. It helped us to heat our cities, it powered our industries, and it ran our railroads to bring goods and services in. Soon after that came electricity. We were able to light up our cities, and the advent of the OTIS Elevator allowed us to build up. And soon after that, the automobile came on and many would say that this would possibly destroy a lot of the great work in the great planning of cities. Cities that were not designed on automobiles still suffer these challenges. But really, it took about 100 years for the next wave of technology to hit in cities. And probably in the last ten years we have seen a wave of these kinds of five forces of technologies coming together to transform the urban environment. Rooted in connectivity using 4G or 5G infrastructure if we are going out, low cost of computing, sensors that are being put in everything, and we see in these products.

 

And you start to think about these different ways technology is impacting our life in the cities. As you’re passing through these buildings, you are going through these spaces and there are all this information that’s been collected by the buildings, these cities, the spaces we are in. Some of the systems in the buildings don’t share that data with other systems. So there is an opportunity to make sense of the data for people within the spaces.

 

So often, when people think of cities, they think of a city like New York, from this perspective: this is an antiquated modernist urban planning view of a city of skyscrapers and infrastructure, and bridges. But most designers like to think of cities from this angle: the street perspective from the sidewalk because we think of people. We come to these cities for people. We come for ideas, for education, for opportunities that maybe change our life. And this is really the heart of what makes a city work. So you want to be really careful of your quick-to- help designing for these changing cities not to be just too top-down—this is the way it is when you are making a big decision that you might have to live with for years and years like the automobile. You try to find a way to set a vision while trying to understand the needs of people living in that city, to learn, to prototype, and to make it a better place for them.

 

So this is a real big opportunity for design. I think designers are needed because they can make sense of technology. Designers have the ability to dance between the system-level detail, the system-level overview, and the small details, and it’s a very rare skill, this ability to connect people and say, “This is not going to work for them. Let me revisit it.” Some of it is just about making artifacts that people can respond to. You make a crude, rudimentary prototype and give it to people. And they stumble with it. And then you make some additions. Make and crack artifacts, it’s a pretty rare skill.


I am going to go back a little bit to the history of New York because I think where New York was is where a lot of Chinese cities are right now. About 200 years ago,  millions of people were coming to New York for new life, for new opportunity, for work. Territorial disputes were happening, and people just didn’t know how they could grow into themselves. That led to the vision of the 1809 Commissioner’s Plan. This system that defined avenues and blocks, zoning for residents, industry, businesses looked like a loose vision for the city to grow into. But there were some things about it that were really ahead of their time. Where they were keeping things like sidewalks and streets, were still public space, so you could have industry, businesses, setting up shops, but certain places were for the people. Even today, in cities like New York, some of the most expensive real estate in the world, about 35 percent of the real estate are for the people. It’s the streets, the plazas, the parks. And these are the kind of things that keep coming back to you: even if you have the technology, you still want these livable places for people.

 

One thing I find interesting is the zone for public use. It allowed the modern city to grow into itself over the next 100 years when the population went up to about 6 million. So over that 100 years, you started seeing things like transit, sewage systems, clean drinking water. It had a space to grow into, to evolve. All of these things benefited people, but it had room to grow into that. Maybe if I describe something like this in the early 1800s, you would think I was out of my mind. But it based on the need through experimentation, we were able to grow into ourselves.


A lot of the applications of technologies are still pretty scary. This is a firebox. You still see things like this all over most cities, like relics of a forgotten time, which I find really interesting. But they are still pretty scary. Think of other technologies in the cities. InAmericawe still use cash a lot. When you walk up to a cash machine, you look over your shoulder to make sure no one comes up behind you while you try to take your cash. Another example of scary interaction in a city.

 

So how do you start changing this behavior? I’m using frameworks around experience design, interaction design, which is the kind of process taken from industrial design practices, just applying it to a larger city scale. That’s really the history of my project. It’s as simple as this. Interaction design is the study of people in their context (What are they doing? Are they in their house? Are they on their way to work?) in order to design new tools and to let them achieve their goals.

 

There is always this kind of assumption that a lot of businesses have. They say: “This is our new product.” They spend a lot of time, and then they go on the market. They didn’t try to understand people in their context to design new tools to help people to achieve their goals. It’s not about the designer, it’s about recognizing what people need. Design has always been trying to do this, at least designing for technology.

 

We’ve always been trying to make the machines less scary to people. For anybody that has ever seen the old 1970s or early 1980s movies about computers like War Games or maybe the show Halt and Catch Fire, computers were always these black, dull screens with green fonts. And it was always a stressed programmer that was trying to save the day. And if they didn’t do it right, the whole system would melt down. This was really scary. It wasn’t inviting for some kind of design. Soon came the Apple Mackintosh. They use interface, making it pretty simple to understand basic things like word processing and basic creative applications. The next wave came with email in the early 1990s with the simple interface to make the machine less scary. And the next wave, smartphones. For the first time, my mother could use an iPhone and not have to call me for IT technical support every two hours. Again, it was simpler. And now this wave of conversational commerce where it’s removing these barriers. When we had dinner at my house a few months ago, my daughter called out and said “Alexa” to play a Taylor Swift song. My grandmother, who had resisted all these waves of technology, finally said: “What did she just do?” We explained that you can ask Alexa to play anything you want. That just made the whole machine less scary.

 

Beyond the products, we are starting to not only build up these complex services, but the systems and the organizations. You might learn something about the product, but how quickly can the company that you work for really embrace that learning and apply it? It’s not only a product designer’s ability to learn and to apply it to their product, but it’s a kind of business designer’s ability to guide an organization to change. I want to share some of the considerations for Project Link that I have led in New York city. Across the city we have about 7000 payphones that were put in 100 years ago. No one was using them. They were just dirty, and in the way, and the city needed to rethink and reimagine them because the land is public land.

 

We came up with a proposal called LinkNYC. This was part design concept, part business plan to reimagine payphones. Here are some of its features. One, it was really fast. Gigabit WiFi, ten times as fast as normal service in NY. It’s a pretty big service, cheap free WiFi. You can also use the tablet to make free phone calls, get access to local services, call emergency services if there is an issue, charge your phone. And inside this, as it looks like a large cellphone, there are a lot of different sensors, environmental sensors, cameras, everything that helps us to gather data and information about the city, but leaving enough room, as technology changes, and there are new hardware to replace and to pull in. and this was essentially completely paid for by the advertising on the side. That’s part of the business plan. We typically follow a process that every designer knows well. You start by trying to understand who your people are, their needs, their behaviors, their perceptions of what this might mean to them. Making concepts or whatever artifacts you need, so people can get your idea. And then you launched working with engineers, fabricators, field techs.  Once we worked on a project with NYC. I had a little bit of that panic when you start thinking: I’m not designing for one, I am designing for many. Where do you start? It gives you a pause. So one of the methods was starting to think about how we could meet with a wide group of people that represent the community, the extremes, people that might have been highly connected, like, friends of yours that have the latest and greatest phones to people who are digitally behind, like my grandmother who did not have a phone.

 

We’ve also really been trying to build relationships with people in the new communities. Every city is different. Almost every block is different within the city. So we try to spend time in every neighborhood. We cannot talk to everyone so we just budged in, talked to people, young people who want to be a part of the community. You try to talk to a range of people and oftentimes when you understand what their perceptions are, what their needs are, you can get a sense of “How might our technology help them? How might we communicate to them?”

 

We also run a series of workshops. We would invite government leaders to be on a team with our designers, with other community members. So you are not just going to the city three months later trying to reveal to them something. They’re coming with you through every step of the way, and they see the pain for themselves.

 

And then you start to see these things, how they change city by city. We’ve since been working in four or five cities acrossEngland. And air quality is a major issue, and things like gentrification. New people coming in to price out old existing communities. So there is this kind of ‘fear’ thing. “Is this a new thing that’s going to eventually price me out?” You have to deal with that, along with things like crime. So you get a sense of what people are nervous about. What are their hopes? And as a design team, you can use that to fuel your next app. And it starts with all the prototyping. That’s what you are going after before you have a factory start producing something, or before you put armies of programmers behind it. We’ll just say: “Does this solve the problem for people? Is it worth spending all this time in realizing it?”

 

Over time, design systems evolve. One of the things we launched at the tablet was a kind of new services for the homeless population in NYC. If someone comes up and says: “I’m cold, I’m hungry, I need a job.” Maybe this can post them to something within a few blocks of where they are right now. Make the city less scary to those who are interacting with it and maybe getting people back on their feet again.

 

And the ability to start design different systems. How can design start seeping through the organization? We did an exercise where we put the designers on teams with some of the support staff, going out to the fields to see how they repaired the equipment, and we started making new suggestions. These are people that have been working with me for years and they finally said to me: “Oh, that’s what design is. I thought design was like pretty pictures.” It’s like an epiphany moment, like you’ve got a kind of convert, like you try to redefine what design is. You start to see every part as a potential failure point or pieces that might come off and you need to replace and how easily that can be done as well as starting to pilot and prototype failure points with certain pieces. You are counseling, trying to test things and responding and being resilient to them. And then you build an organization around them. And I think that’s the power of design.

 

In NY, we show a lot of transit time so people know when their subway or their bus is arriving. Something like that helps a little bit. We also donate a lot of free advertising space to local businesses, promoting local economies. How to use technology to connect people to place is something that we keep coming back to.

 

And experiment with different things. InAmerica, we had election last week, but not many people go out to register, to vote. So we just said,  “Can we get them register on the Link while they walk by?” It helped spike some voter registrations. Also, it is funded by advertising, so if we know where the Link is, can we use this to help advertisers? Say, maybe it’s raining outside, there is a Uniqlo a block away if you want to buy a raincoat or an umbrella. We can invest more in the product to make it better. So we have a third-party research company that go out and do surveys of New Yorkers to get their perceptions. We are constantly checking the pulse of a city.

 

Has anyone ever played around with eye-tracking goggles?The fun is to put it on your head and walk around the streets. That’s how we try to understand how people are using technology in the streets. It’s interesting when you compare the data. Where people are looking, and what they are seeing. Eye-tracking looks at their retinas, versus what they actually say they remember afterwards when you interview them. It’s really a fascinating way of changing your design. And we are pulling information together to see what we can learn about the larger city. We are looking at a lot of curb-mapping data, data from autonomous vehicles, to try to make sense how we could help people.

 

Like cities, technologies, people are always changing. They are changing faster than ever before. They need design methods and designers to help adjust to these challenges. And it’s really important for everyone to consider because you have this ability to bounce between not only at the system level, but at the bottom level. And then also bounce forward, that’s something as well. I think design and technology has a role to play in what the city becomes and helps shape it.

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