Journal Entry 8 – Emotional Computing

This week, we learned about designing systems to include emotional components. Research indicates that happiness, aside from it’s inherent pleasantness, also leads to more creative thought processing (and, in practice, more likely to seek successful alternatives to a problem). If a company’s employees can be happier, then they are more likely to be able to solve real world problems better than unhappy employees.

So how do we design things to make people happy?

In the lecture, one of the more fundamental elements of happiness-inducing design is attractive design. If a system or product design is attractive, it is more likely to make us happy to use it. The Japanese ATM experiment (followed by the Israeli replication of this experiment) seem to bolster this line of reasoning.

With this in mind, an relevant example of design I experienced this week is the Living Earth HD software. It is an excellent example of attractive (and therefore emotional) design, as it is just such a pleasure to use and look at. At a glance, you feel instantly aware of the weather conditions everywhere in the world, but even importantly is the understanding you get when you look at the world as it is with the sun on it. How many times we try to calculate the time difference between two different places around the world, and we memorize the time zone differences with little memory tricks and such things… but nothing quite matches the deep understanding achieved when seeing the world as it really is, something like what one would see from space:

This experience delivers on all 3 emotional levels discussed in the lecture:

Visceral – the immediate feeling you get when gaining a deep understanding of the world as it really is from space.
Behavioural – the ability to estimate time zone differences more easily so you can call your relatives in other countries without having to look up a time zone reference.
Reflective – a deeper understanding that makes you feel like you’re watching the planet from just above the atmosphere.

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