Human Activities and Relationships

The essential nature needs and goals have not been changed by the introduction of any technology. Technology merely provides an alternate way for achieving those goals - and when positive, it has facilitated their fulfillment. EN: farming did not erase the need to eat, just made it easier to fulfill that need, so less time and effort is spent in its fulfillment).

The author refers to Maslow's hierarchy, and goes into painstaking detail for the sake of anyone who never took a Psych 101 class. A quick rehash:

  1. Physical Needs - Fulfillment is required for immediate survival of the individual
  2. Safety Needs - Fulfillment is required for ongoing survival of the individual
  3. Social Needs - Consideration of the needs of others
  4. Esteem - The desire for personal power in social situations
  5. Self-Actualization - The desire to achieve aesthetic goals

EN: he also gets a couple of them wrong - what's noted above is the correct hierarchy)

The author then goes on to provide several examples of activities done in the modern world and shows how they are merely extensions of the most basic caveman needs. (EN: fluff and filler, which I will elide).

Four Circles of Relationships

The author describes four "circles" of relationships, defined by interdependence, shared knowledge, and trust. (EN: I strongly suspect this is ripped off, but he does not cite a source)

  1. Self - The personal space, in which is a person is utterly secure, private, and safe
  2. Family and Friends - A space including a small number of people (5-20) with whom you have an enduring relationship, and there remains a high level of trust and openness
  3. Colleagues and Neighbors - A larger group of people (50-5,000) with whom you have frequent encounters, sometimes with common interest, but with a much lower level of trust
  4. Citizens and Markets - A culture or nation with which you identify and interact infrequently, do not have much in common, and are wary

EN: I would add a fifth circle, which would be the hostile outer world, of people you don't know, encounter only by chance, and are strongly suspicious of).

He ties this to technology: the use of a personal computer, communications sent to others, participation in an online community, and communication to the Internet. Especially since the author is a champion of collaboration and networking, there's the sense that technology needs to consider the body of people with whom an individual is in contact, in determining how much interaction and trust will be granted.

He also sees technology as a means to expanding the circles - moving people from the closed-off private world of the personal computer to the open environment of the Internet, though he concedes that these four circles will always exist and need to be accommodated.

Four Stages of Activities

The author describes a four-stage process for creative activity (EN: again, no reference, so it's either ripped off or pluctus rectus): collect, relate, create, and donate. The author's description of these steps is high-level and vague ("relation involves relationships with others") and bears no information that seems remotely useful. He later uses the same terms to suggest that these are not stages in a process, but kinds of tasks a user may perform. In the end, I don't see what he's getting at.

An Activities and Relationships Table

The author creates a matrix, placing the four kinds of activities across the top and the four levels of relationships along the side, and suggests it may "help you solve some of your problems in fresh ways." It's pretty obvious: you can place a task on the matrix. How that yields any sort of "fresh" approach is beyond me.

Visual Information

The author considers photographs: especially with the ready availability of cheap digital cameras, the amount of information contained in photographs is increasing, but they are not as readily accessible as text information. He suggests that there's a need for better search capabilities to enable people to "spend more time with their personal photos."

Annotation is the solution - associating data (words) with the images so that they can be categorized and searched. The problem is the difficulty of analyzing photos to determine their content. There is no good software solution, and human annotation is time consuming and subjective (hence inaccurate).

The author has an approach for personal photo libraries that enables a person to compile a list of the names of their family and friends and use a drag-and-drop tool to identify people in a photo.

EN: aside of the "whizzy" drag-and-drop functionality, this really isn't that bright an idea it's one dimensional and lame, but he natters on about it for quite a long time. Seems to be that it's nearly identical to the way people indicate the names of individuals in their Facebook photos. And he never does come up with a practical use for it, other than letting people browse photographs for entertainment and reminiscence.)

Mobility and Ubiquity

The needs of an individual for access to information does not need to be tied to a specific location, as demonstrated by the MP3 player and the cell phone. The author foresees mobile computing taking hold, enabling users to access information and applications in any location they might need them.

EN: Much of this section is dated (the book was written in 2002) and laughable (he is amazed by the Palm and the Newton, which have long since failed. He indicates that they are "brilliantly focused on a few portable information needs" (nice way to spin what most called "pathetically insufficient functionality") - making a calendar, address book, and note pad portable (evidently, he's never used a day-planning notebook). He then begins spewing a list of "gee whiz" features that are either already available (being able to find restaurants in a strange city) or completely frivolous and bone-headed (two words: "Web Bushes").

And so, I'm skipping the rest. There's not much to be learned here, though it's an object lesson in how writing about the wonders of the future can make you look like a total idiot.

The Skeptic's Corner

The author concedes that he has engaged in a number of "exploratory fantasies" in this chapter, but only to demonstrate some of the possible innovations that can only be uncovered by considering human needs first. The value in technology is not its capacities and capabilities, but in its application to address human needs.