People in architectural drawings, part 4; complicating factors

By Gordon Rugg

This article is the fourth in a short series about finding out what people would really like in life, using architectural drawings and fantasy buildings as a starting point.

The first article discussed how if you show people a range of possibilities, including possibilities that they would probably never have thought of, then their preferences can change dramatically from what they would initially have told you in an interview or questionnaire.

The second article looked at regularities in people’s preferences; the mathematics of desire, applied to buildings.

The third article examined changes in preferences and in fashions over time; it also examined the issue of practicality, and how practicality could change over time as a particular technology becomes obsolescent.

In today’s article, I’ll look at some complicating factors which need to be kept in mind when examining this area. For instance, why does the sun always shine in architects’ drawings? There are sensible reasons, and they aren’t just about optimism…

Sunshine and rain: Two scenes from Japanbanner4 v2Sources of original images are given at the end of this article; first image slightly cropped to fit.

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People in architectural drawings, part 3; requirements, obsolescence and fashions

By Gordon Rugg

This article is the third in a short series about finding out what people would really like in life, by looking at images of dream buildings.

In the first article, I looked at why the obvious approach doesn’t work very well. If you just ask people what they want, you tend to get either no answer, because people don’t know, or to get low-aspiration responses, for various reasons that are well known in requirements acquisition research. If, however, you instead show people a range of possibilities, including possibilities that they would probably never have thought of, then their preferences can change dramatically.

So, in this series I’m looking at fantasy and concept art images of buildings, which explore as broad a range of possibilities as the artists and architects can imagine. I’m looking at them to see what regularities emerge within those dream buildings; what sort of world do the creators of those images, and the people who like those images, desire?

In the second article, I looked at how human biases affect our aesthetic preferences. I concluded that a lot of people like really, really big buildings. Those buildings look awe-inspiring, but when you stop to think about details like how anyone is going to clean the windows, you start to realise that maybe those buildings aren’t terribly practical. However, how can you tell what will be practical within the lifetime of a building, when the available technology and the functions of the building are likely to change? There’s the related risk that tastes will change, and that today’s beautiful building will become tomorrow’s eyesore.

In this article, the third in the series, I’ll look at the issue of practicality versus obsolescence, and at changes in fashion.

Thinking big, in fantasy and realitybanner pt3

Thomas Cole, the Titan’s Goblet, and a Vauban fortification; full image credits at the end of this article

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People in architectural drawings, part 2; the mathematics of desire

By Gordon Rugg

This article is the second in a short series about finding out what people would really like in life.

The obvious approach doesn’t work very well. If you just ask people what they want, you tend to get either no answer, because people don’t know, or to get low-aspiration responses, for various reasons that are well known in requirements acquisition research.

If, however, you instead show people a range of possibilities, including possibilities that they would probably never have thought of, then their preferences can change dramatically.

This series is about showing people a range of possibilities via images of buildings, which are intimately linked with a lot of other lifestyle choices.

In the first article, I looked at artistic representations of future and fantasy buildings, to see what trends emerged there, and what they could tell us about people’s desires. One trend that emerged strongly was for those buildings to be awe-inspiring, with lofty towers and huge portals.

This, however, raises one of those issues which are so familiar that we seldom think about them. Why are lofty towers and huge portals awe-inspiring in the first place, given that they can be wildly impractical?

Part of the explanation involves human cognitive biases and human preferences, which are the subject of this article.

In this article, I’ll look at those topics, and look at their implications for competition and change, with particular reference to concepts and literatures that give deeper insights into what’s going on.

From humility to hubris: Doors and desiresdoors2

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People’s dream buildings, part 1

By Gordon Rugg

This article is the first in a short series about what people would like their dream world to be like. Finding out what people would really like isn’t a simple matter of asking them. Most people only know about a limited number of possibilities, so their dreams tend to be correspondingly limited. When you introduce them to new possibilities, their dreams usually change dramatically, in scope and nature and aspiration. That’s what I’m exploring in this series of articles.

One way of introducing people to what’s possible is to show them pictures. The pictures don’t need to be of real scenes; often, the most interesting possibilities are the ones that are completely feasible, but that haven’t been built yet. So, one place to start is with images of imaginary scenes, in the form of fantasy landscapes and of architect’s drawings. In this article, I’ll look at common features in those scenes, to see what they tell us about those dream worlds. Some of the answers are surprising.

I envy the people in architect’s drawings and in the happier type of fantasy world (I’ll look at dystopias some other time). Their world is sunny and pleasant, full of contented people walking and standing elegantly in broad, inspiring plazas, in front of tall, impressive buildings that are clearly destined to win architectural awards. It’s a world where nobody gets caught in the rain, a world without graffiti or grime or the hassles of trying to negotiate a buggy and two small children through a narrow shop doorway in a crowded street.

It would be easy, and unkind, to write a humorous article on this theme. The full story is a lot more interesting, and has deep implications for how we think about the design both of buildings and of the human systems within which those buildings are located. It’s a story of the mathematics of desire, and of physical constraints, and of why we can’t know what we really want until we see it, and of what we can do about building this knowledge into the design process.

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The Knowledge Modelling Book

By Gordon Rugg

Over the last year, we’ve blogged about various aspects of knowledge modelling. That’s allowed us to go into depth about specific topics.

We’re now pulling that information together into a structured format, as an online book. This article contains the core structure of the book, with links to our previous blog articles about the topics within the book. Those articles cover about half of the material that the final version of the book will contain.

We’ve gone for this format, rather than a single downloadable document, because it’s more practical at this point. The knowledge modelling book covers a lot of topics, and even the current partial draft would be a very large document, with a lot of illustrations.

We’ll update this draft fairly frequently, via further blog articles. Some of those articles will be case studies showing how concepts from the book can be applied to real examples. Other articles will be about the broader and deeper context of the book; in particular, the introductory sections and the discussion sections for the main sections. At some point, we’ll put a more reader-friendly version onto the Hyde & Rugg website, which we’re currently updating.

We welcome constructive feedback and suggestions.

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Timelines, task analysis and activity sequences

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a re-blog of part of a previous article about assessing whether or not you’ve met a client’s goals in a product design.

I’ve re-blogged it to form a free-standing article, for anyone interested in systematic approaches to recording and analysing people’s activities. I’ve lightly edited it for clarity.

The examples I’ve used below relate to product evaluation, but the same principles can be applied to other human activities, such as how people make decisions when shopping, or how people find their way around in an unfamiliar place.

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Systems Theory

By Gordon Rugg

Systems theory is about what happens when individual items are connected and become a system. “Items” in this context can be anything physical and/or abstract, which gives you a pretty huge scope. Systems are ubiquitous. Examples include mechanical systems such as vehicles; social systems such as organisations or countries; and logical systems, such as software. Many of these systems can cause disasters when they fail, as in the examples of nuclear power plant safety systems or autopilot systems in aircraft; systems are important.

There are regularities in how systems behave, and some of those regularities are both counter-intuitive and extremely important. That’s a potentially dangerous combination.

If you understand systems theory, then the world makes a lot more sense, particularly if you combine it with game theory, which will be the topic of one of my next articles. Most questions that start with “Why don’t they…?” can be answered either with “Resources” or “Systems theory” or “Game theory”.

In this article, I’ll look at some core concepts from systems theory.

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How complex should models of education be?

By Gordon Rugg

There’s an old joke in the physical sciences, often attributed to Einstein, that a model should be as simple as possible but no simpler. The converse is that a model should be as complex as necessary, but no more complex.

In this article, I’ll discuss what the most useful level of complexity might be for education theories.

golden gate croppedClarity emerging from the fog: Cropped image from wikimedia

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How long is an education good for?

By Gordon Rugg

There has been a lot of debate over the centuries about the purpose of education. The fact that the debate is still active suggests that either the question is unanswerable, or that it needs to be rephrased.

One way of looking at the problem is graphically. If we represent a lifespan as a timeline, then what insights does that give us about the possible purpose, or purposes, of education?

lifelinev2

That’s the topic of this article.

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