Design, HCId, Journalism

HCI Connect Podcast with Interview with yours truly

Tucked under warm blankets in below freezing Chicago weather on my birthday, I got on a video chat with two HCId students from my alma matter, Indiana University. I really enjoyed hearing about what they care about and want to know. Getting your career started can be hard and scary but I’m excited about how thoughtful and hungry the future of our design community
Listen here:

In this episode of ConnectCast, with Stephanie Poppe and Jordan Hayes. Poppe and Jordan speak with designer and visual artist Nina Mehta. Nina graduated from Indiana University’s HCI/d program in 2011 and currently works as a product designer at Pivotal Labs in San Francisco. In this segment, Nina discusses her graduate school experience, the challenges she faced as a young designer, her liberating foray into experience design through projection live visual art installations, her passion for social activism and the importance of creating real products for real people.


Design, HCId, Journalism, Language, Travel

What the travel industry has to do with journalism

Airports are among the most magical places on earth. By design.

Some say we’re in an age of ignorance. And why? We have more information than ever before. It’s just too much.

I’d like to revisit some thought’s I’ve explored about reinventing the news. Let’s discuss how I expect to see news storytelling taken out of the traditional vacuum of websites or apps and integrated into our lives when its most useful.

Though my days as a traditional journalist are over, I still frequently think about this problem. Well, that and how my reporter friends can get paid to report.

Why don’t people read? Why don’t I read? Why don’t people care? Why is it so hard to know what’s happening in the world? Why isn’t there more time? In fact I spent a year of graduate school working on this problem.

Context in storytelling

I made Newskite which collected audio snippets from people around the world. Each caller answered a question what they were hearing about a certain global event like the Earthquake in Japan or the protests in Egypt. What this did was give a global and real context to a geographically centralized problem–truly showing the human impact on world events.

Personalized News

What I’d like to see is something similar to, a personalized news concept I made that predated Newsite. It leveraged the power of social feeds and individual data to write news stories for you. It did not recommend news your friends liked–that does not work in an age if ignorance. It figured out how you, the reader, are linked to some news story that any one of us might otherwise ignore.

Steve Crisp/Reuters

Today on the New York Times Front page I see Kenyan Part Says Vote Count Should Stop. An article that seems unrelated to my daily going-ons. But if smart machines could scrape my data and see I once participated in earth hour, am potentially concerned about energy conservation, the elections in 2007 led to power outages and it’s a risk again, what impact that could have on other energy resources and how that influences what happens in my backyard. There are infinite ways to draw links between what’s happening somewhere far away in the world to what happens in my daily life. I then wanted to use natural language processing to rewrite stories, using the inverted pyramid, actually personalized for each reader. And beyond that, have editors, actual people, prioritizing news topics and stories about what to display on the ‘front page’.

But now is not a good time for that. For people uninterested in news, they just will not visit your app or website. No matter how incredible your site. If people don’t care, they don’t care. In this case, we’re not in the business of changing behavior. However, integrating news into people’s lives where it’s useful and welcome is a smart thought.

Let’s look at the travel industry

It’s still quite difficult to get around the world. Flight costs, hotel prices, cost of food, etc. It’s getting easier, and in a few years transportation technology will change how we geographically move around the world. We’ve already seen this happen in lodging and flight bookings. Services like Airbnb, Tripit, Hipmunk all have a vested interest in making

  1. Planning a trip easier
  2. Going to a place easier
  3. Having a wonderful time while you’re there

Because of this, I see an opportunity for travel services to have a vested interest in integrating global news stories with truly personalized smart content into their products.

Perhaps my upcoming trip to Costa Rica has potential to be seriously influenced by the recent news about Hugo Chavez. Or if I’m choosing which dates to go to Buenos Aires, it’s great if they can tell me the wine season has been wonderful. There are so many tasks that come with planning a trip, reading the news rarely is a priority and it’s nearly impossible to even know about what to start reading. Knowing what’s happening in the world can help me decide where, when and how to go there.

A service to do this doesn’t exist yet and I’m not interested in becoming a founder right now, so please by all means, take this idea and run with it. And as always, if this idea is hogwash, I want to hear your thoughts.

Let’s get out of the business of shaming people for not being informed, but of making relevant information available when they need to know it.

HCId, Music, Travel

Three San Francisco experiences to have in the dark

Close your eyes, there’s so much more to see. Here are three spots in SF caught in your blindspot that you won’t want to miss. Oscillations

1. Oscillations – sound and lightscape
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the Room for Big Ideas, Th-Sa, 3 minutes, Free

Dip into the the YBCA for an immersive and sensual experience. The installation space, curtained off for one person, made with wood, electric fans, lights, speakers and custom technology takes you through a 3-minute intense 360 light and sound experience. I attended the live performance of the scape but actually much prefer the solitary experience off the YBCA lobby and have been three times with many more to come. The installation will be on display until 13 January 2013, so it’s not to be missed. Read more about artists Surabhi Saraf & Sebastian Alvarez’s but wait to watch the video until you’ve felt the warm heat on your face and cool fans on your arms, yourself. You have one more month to enjoy this city’s gem.

Audium 2. Audium – Sound theater
1616 Bush Street San Francisco, CA 94109, Fri, Sa at 8:30, 1 hour, $20

Enter this sound-sculpture space created in 1975 and seems to have barely changed since for a truly unique experience. Artist Stan Shaff hosts an hour-long expression of live and recorded audio pieces for those seeking something truly experimental to hear ranging from obtusely abstract to comfortably familiar sounds. It’s rumored that the 40-year old theater will be shutting down and the shows change from month-to-month, so there’s no better time than now.


Moon Dipperton3. Float Matrix – Sensory Depravation
Nob Hill Wellness Building, 815 Hyde St. Lower Level, Mo-Su by appointment, 1hr, $75+

Lay your mind and body down in a shallow pool of water and 1,000 pounds of salt. With earplugs in, the lights off and the scentless water the temperature of your body, this is as close to feeling nothing as you’ll ever get. Your mind, relieved of all the sensory input processing takes many into deep relaxation or significantly emotional and creative places. I’ve experienced all three and have been twice. The owner has changed into good hands since I’ve last attended but this has been one of the best and most rewarding San Francisco experiences I’ve had. I cannot recommend this enough. In simpler terms, it’s the best tool for meditation, focus on the present and self-awareness.