The Importance of Shadowing

Michael Flomen - Littoral Zone 11

At the end of March I made a survey where I asked several questions about environment, social networks and phone cases. One of my last question was:

Do you consider your phone case as:
a way to express your style?
a way to protect your smartphone?

I was surprised by the answer. 99% of the 80 people who took the survey answered that it was mostly a tool to protect their smartphone. Before, I really thought that it was a way to protect the smartphone but also a way to express our personality (colors, shapes, excentric cases). This made me think of considering the phone case I wanted to create as useful object to protect both the smartphone and the environment.

Recently I decided to pay more attention to the way people use their smartphones in the daily life: at home, in the street, while driving, in the subway, at work. My main motivation was that since I wanted to use the back of the smarthpone I needed to see if it was oftenly covered or hidden.

How are their hands placed arround the phone when they text of when they call someone.
How is their smartphone placed on the table ? Face down or up ?
What part is mostly hidden ?

I will try to briefly explain my reasearches.

First, a lot of people are playing with their smartphone when they have it in their hands. I mean, they are are not playing videogames on it, they are just playing with the real object. Sometimes it falls, sometimes it breaks. When they got a call, 50% to 65% of the back of the smartphone it covered by the hand. When they place their smartphone on the table, it’s usualy for two reasons. The first one is that they don’t want to damage the screen, which seems to be more important than the back. The second one [thanks Jonathan] is that they usually want to check on their notifications while chatting or working. These are constant reminders of their connected life. So they want to be able to tap on the screen, check briefly the title of the notification and go back to their activity if it’s not important.

I think that it would have been kind of a mistake to use the back of the smartphone. I was thinking that it was the most visible part, but I was wrong. Paying attention to people and the object they use everyday helped me to make really important choices for my project. I also found great opportunities ! It gave me the idea to focus on the screen and the phonecase covering the screen. Because this is the most fragile part of the phone for the users. If everything takes place here, then I don’t need to have a connected objects on the back using energy and think hardware. It could be very discrete and less intrusive, and it could just use some battery of the phone by displaying minimalistic informations. Another opportunity is that, by covering the screen or a part of it, I could prevent people from checking on their notifications. Maybe this little friction would make them to constantly be tempted to use their social networks at every time during the day.

How can humans & machines judge ?

I called Frederic because I had some questions about data centers. We also talked about the paradox of using energy to promote environmental behaviors. And he said:

Of course we should let a tweet which can saves life spread on the Web. Because it's useful and it has meaning.

Of course I already shared his point of view. What was interesting is the notion of being able to judge the content and the context of a message on the Web. A powerful video, a powerful article. But they are sometimes hidden by “noise” generated by useful content on the Internet. How could it be added as a parameter ? How can we create a parameter that decide of the importance of a message ? Can a human do it without risks of censoring ?

Working on our efficiency index

I called Frederic Bordage on skype to tell him about my modular installation. He gave me a good feedback but a phrase caught my attention. In fact, when an object like a smartphone is produced, the biggest part of it’s energy is already consumed. The use of natural ressource is the real problem: when you buy a product, the consumption already happened. The user can still have a positive impact on the environment! Now, his role is to optimize the use of the device. It means that he can optimize the time spent on social networks, the way he charges his battery, the level of luminosity on the screen. It’s possible to calculate an efficiency index. It doesn’t mean that someone needs to change brutally his use of his everyday services and objects, but need to make the best of it.

img-lampAt the moment I’m visually prototyping a connected lamp which has the apparence of a plant. The plant is useful because it can emit light, as a lamp. The more your efficiency index is positive, the more the plant will evolve and emit light. On the contrary if the index is negative (not efficient) the plant will emit less light [lose it’s main utility] and fade.

So I need to avoid to think in terms of “energy” and “electricity”. I dont set standards and default parameters people need to follow but I should give advices and educate people to explain them how to make better use of the devices and services they have. It’s a direct answer to the danger of greenwashing and brands giving abstract numbers people can’t understand like the 0.02gr of CO2 of a tweet.



Interview of Christophe Clouzeau: complete interview

I was recently announcing that I made an interview of Christophe Clouzeau. This post is a condensed version of the 2 hours interesting discussions we had about Green IT, the Digital Revolution and how to change someone’s behavior.



UX designer at Neoma-Interactive
Creator of



After these two industrial revolutions which transformed our world, don’t you think there will be a third ? Or maybe we are already living in it ?

Christophe C.
We are in a third industrial revolution. I call it the digital revolution where all the fields are concerned. Concerning information and communication I use to say it influenced our society in a way where we consume too much medias at a high speed. Some system now exist to counter this as slow food, slow information, adding latency to things we usually access very rapidly.
In a way, this is also because of marketing: to tell people to buy and consume, find the main parameters that will influence us to buy the product. But if it always goes this way, maybe it’s also because there is a positive answer. I mean, a part os the society reacts positively to this system and encourages it. More and more services are dematerialized, leading people to have a longer “test period”. For example it’s possible to test a product, a service before buying. But it’s easily noticeable that people added this behavior to their social life: when you meet someone you test before getting engaged, then it’s a sort of test before getting married.

How did you get the idea to create ?

Christophe C.
The idea of creating happened when I was sill working with books and papers: print era. Every year I was told to print a document at the same period, but it started to changed when we became conscious of the problem of the deforestation. Then I was told to create only a digital version and to upload it on the web so it wouldn’t consume paper. But I felt like it wasn’t right since there was still energy consumption, energy used in the servers (data), but also to cool it (water) and then to display it. Even more, a print version is done, it can’t be edited or you need to print it again. A digital version can still be constantly updated and viewed by an infinite number of people (because people can come again and view it of course). Then in 2011 I took part in the WebParis 2011 edition and made a conference. At first I was anxious to speak about a field I had knowledge of, but I was doubting of this knowledge, I don’t consider myself as an expert. Later, I understood this conference was the beginning of a growing idea in the mind of digital actors.

What do you think of the notion of “Cradle to Cradle” ?

Concerning the theory of Cradle to Cradle (C2C), I think it’s great to think that way but many experts found that it was a bit utopian. If you want to use this system you must think in terms of circular economy, where there is a loop and your source materials are always re-used. In simpler terms: they are used once to create a product, then the product doesn’t work anymore so you need to disassemble it so you can separate each raw materials. You re-use these materials to re-create the same product.
But it can’t be easily applied ! Imagine a glass container where all kind of glass with different colors are mixed. You won’t be able to recover the main materials if you melt them, or you need to use more energy to remove the color at first but it’s still more energy consumption.


Cradle to Cradle principle

And what do you think of the role of the designer ? Could he have an impact on the question of recrycle, reuse, object conception, service etc.

Christophe C.
It it the designer’s role ? I don’t think so. Indeed he is in the loop and he is a main element, but I don’t think this is his main role. I think more in terms of information, I think it’s our role to tell people what’s happening (by creating a blog, creating interactions leading the user to understand) but it’s also the role of scientists and journalists.
But in any case he has the abilities to achieve his goal. The designer is a creator of experiences. He manages to change or canalize the behavior or people through impactful interactions. He gets to know for who he is working and who will take benefit from it. The first references I have are Charity Miles & CarrotMob. In the first example the energy of the user is converted to donations to the foundation of their choice. In a way they contribute to their own health by running and being in shape, they also have the choice to give to someone and it’s easier because they don’t do any money transactions, and finally people in need are helped.

The Charity Miles app

The Charity Miles app

But the designer’s role could be to change the behavior of someone so he can adopt a more sustainable way of living right ?

Christophe C.
In a way yes. There are many ways to change someone’s behavior. I think the main part is to create engagement. To create a link. For example if you go to the beach with your smartphone. You drop your towel on the beach, you let your smartphone inside your bag next to someone and you run to the sea. If someone comes to steal it, the person who was next to you has low chances to move to run after the thief. But if you re-do the scenario by telling the person next to you “can you please check if somebody tried to steal it?” then you create a connection: engagement. The person will feel responsible for your smartphone and it will increase the chances for this person to run after the thief.
If someone is too deeply concerned by its hobbies then the designer must create an impactful experiences. I think about “Sortie en mer”, a first person point of view experience where you simply drown because you didn’t wanted to wear a lifejacket on the boat earlier. You lose your nails, you scream, you become dizzy and then you die, during five long minutes.
So the answer is yes. If there is too much attraction (to someone, to a hobby, or to a brand) then an electroshock can make the user take a step backward.

Sortir en Mer - Hand

Sortie en Mer

How does works with nature

How does works with nature

The designer changes the behavior of someone but should also use green practices when working.

Christophe C.
Concerning the notion of Green IT I want to say that yes it’s possible to work with a sustainable mind. First at a low scale: in your house, at your workplace, but it’s also how you use connected services. For example if you create a website you should tell your client to invest in a green hosting, who are concerned with the questions of sustainability. I once visited in Norway. It’s an old NATO’s bunker (OTAN in french) on an island which is now used as a data center. It works in synergy with nature. For example, the hydroelectricity helps with the energy consumption and the water helps with the cooling system.
For the record I like to use the term of Grey IT because as I said earlier all fields are concerned.

Green data center

Green data center

I will soon publish the interview I had with Philipp Aaron Becker, student in the Technische Universität Darmstadt, in Francfort’s region.

Two main axis to think sustainable design

Illustration of sustainable design

Mankoff offer a now widely adopted categorization of sustainable HCI into two orientations: SUSTAINABILITY IN DESIGN (mitigating material effects of software/hardware), and SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH DESIGN (influencing sustainable lifestyles or decision-making). Mankoff, Kravets and Blevis identify ways computer scientists can help reduce energy usage: by reducing computers’ energy consumption and electronic waste through, for example, control systems or educational applications, and by supporting climate data collection and science.

CHI 2010: Mapping the Landscape of Sustainable HCI April 10–15, 2010
Carl DiSalvo, Phoebe Sengers, Hrönn Brynjarsdóttir