Extrastatecraft, the Game of Go and Digitalization as an Oxymoron

In “A Thousand Plateaus”, in a chapter entitled “Treatise on Nomadology: The War Machine”, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari utilize the model of the game Go to illustrate the dispositions of the “war machine” – an array of conflict that is “exterior to the state”.

What might be the implications of this notion when it comes to the infrastructure of the internet?

Any infrastructure is a setting that controls our lives to a certain extent.

“Microwaves bounce between billions of cell phones. Computers synchronize. Shipping containers stack, lock, and calibrate the global transportation and production of goods. Credit cards, all sized 0,76 mm, slip through the slots in cash machines anywhere in the world. All of these ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous features of our world are evidence of global infrastructure. – In the retinal afterglow is a soupy matrix of details and repeatable formulas that generate most of the space in the world –“

So begins the dystopian story of the infrastructure of our time, “Extrastatecraft” by Keller Easterling. This epic book describes the prevailing conditions of the global digital and physical capitalist system.

In this book, Easterling sets out to analyze the current situation via the themes of “zone”, “disposition”, “broadband”, “stories”, and “quality”. The approach, case studies and perspective in this book are very leftist, but will carry relevance to anybody interested in these topics.

As reflected upon by Easterling, the sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour has written that networks and infrastructure are composed of both social and technological actors. Think about the most popular social networks. According to Easterling, they may be “conglomerates of many surprising sets of agencies”.

Whichever corporations control the algorithms of these conglomerates, however, have rapidly taken over the framework and infrastructure where we operate in our daily lives.

I would argue, in the spirit of Easterling, that the algorithm of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, for instance, are very powerful ones, in as much as they control our current social lives and actions online.

As Easterling describes, for Deleuze and Guattari, “the war machine conquests operate in the “smooth” space of Go, instead of the “striated” space of chess.” The main distinction here is that whereas chess offers hierarchy, and each game piece operates via established hierarchical routines, Go only allows areas of black and white stones to move on a grid as each attempts to conquer ever-changing territories.

What are the implications of this notion for the 21st century and the digital industries?

Coming back to algorithms, and taking the algorithms of our most powerful social media tools as example, any attempt to run an agile and successful software company should be based on the game Go, rather than the game of chess.

My next question, then, is, how to make the algorithm appealing to masses, and  what might then be the driving values that eventually make successful companies with this operating system, as these must matter as well? Or do the values matter?

Digitalization is an oxymoron in the sense that it implies to a change, whereas now it seems that in our current economy it only adds a layer of infrastructure upon it.

I firmly believe now more than ever any aspiring startup entrepreneur must consider the social and global impact of their service and product, and play a game of Go.

Get “Extrastatecraft – the Power of Infrastructure Space”, 2014, by Keller Easterling on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Extrastatecraft-Power-Infrastructure-Keller-Easterling/dp/1784783641/

or

Get “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia”, 1987, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari:

https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Plateaus-Capitalism-Schizophrenia/dp/0816614024/

Culture Still Eats Strategy for Breakfast?

Working time takes up a grand majority of our lives. The overall impact of working life conditions in the mental and physical well-being of employers is huge.

This weekend, I am attending a well-being hackathon event related to solving and reducing the negative impact of burnouts. The event is organized by the Finnish insurance company called Varma.

In philosophy, the term ‘well-being’ (and ‘welfare’, ‘utility’, etc.) refers, in a nutshell, to the manner of how an individual’s life manifests desires, objectives, and needs—among myriad more diverse variables—and how these affect the individual’s perspective.

Keeping up motivation for working and working life in general has sprouted numerous efforts at workplaces to improve upon the employer experience. Some workplaces offer free fruits, others set up a lounge with Fatboys for breaks. It is a common practice everywhere to host office parties, even working holidays.

I took part in an inspiring workshop last week that I feel deserves some attention in this blog while preparing for the hackathon. The workshop was organized by the fab Antti Harjuoja of a company called Milestone, devoted to improving upon the working life conditions via researching and recording the atmosphere at workplaces.

The groundbreaking notion in the tools developed by Milestone is that any improvements upon the customer experience are largely dependent upon the mindset of the employees involved in delivering the customer experience of a certain organization. The main methodology to solve commonplace issues and to make improvements in working life culture of Milestone here is to utilize a quantitative matrix that highlights with different color codes the several factors affecting the employer experience.

With the 5 people, most of the attendees being HR professionals, attending the workshop and discussion facilitated by Harjuoja the atmosphere was relaxed and easygoing with results that will hopefully be of assistance in developing these tools further.

Agile is a buzzword with a huge relevance in the evolution of organizational culture. “Agility is about flexibility and the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt and steer itself in a new direction. It’s about minimizing handovers and bureaucracy, and empowering people” says Bart Schlatmann, as quoted by Nordkapp’s Creative Director Sami Niemelä in a speech he recently delivered in New York.

I suggest you read the full paraphrase of “The New Invisibles” by Niemelä, I think this has very much to do with how the employees are being empowered and how design can have a positive impact in solving prevailing global challenges.

With trickle-down hierarchy, it is hard to make people realize their full potential as employees and the pace of change is slow. Waterfall hierarchies being still commonplace, I think we are in dire need practical tools to improve upon the employer’s attitudes and motivation towards their work, as well as the agility of organizations.

Design sprints can certainly be of assistance in this as well as solving many other problems. This weekend’s VarmaHack event will be a chance to see several practical digital solutions to these commonplace issues and burnout rehabilitation being prototyped by several teams. Excited to be attending the event and to see the outcomes.

This is the 50th blog post on this blog. I feel like I have reached a preliminary goal I set myself ex tempore around 1,5 years ago.

Read the paraphrase of the speech delivered at IxDA global conference 2017 New York by Nordkapp’s Creative Director Sami Niemelä: https://blog.nordkapp.fi/the-new-invisibles-a-look-into-the-changing-face-of-design-31531b7326d6

or

Get to know Milestone (site only in Finnish): https://milestone.fi

The Emerging Trends and Seismic Shifts in CX, UX and UI Design

What are the major issues dominating the field of design right now? As the holiday season is now over, it is time to skim through the relevant details.

Let’s get started with a few statistics. By 2017, a whopping 89% of marketing people expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator at the global and local marketplace, says Gartner Group. Furthermore, 72% of businesses now say that improving the customer experience is their “top priority”, Forrester states.

This year makes for a highly interesting era as for the evolution digital and service design then.

In a recent article “Service Design Trends for 2017” John Knight describes the current “seismic shifts” in customer experience and user experience design right now.

The inevitable huge strides technology, internet of things and artificial intelligence are changing the landscape of digital services. “As smart machines start to replace human actors, UX will need to move from delivering simple usability to dealing with more complex domains that blend human and technological agency”, Knight states. Many others in the field of service design seem to agree.

While I do not consider this to be the main concern for many companies still during this year, in the very near future this shift will be one most designers and businesses will simply have to find a way to deal with in order to keep up with the others.

Knight views micro-interactions and micro-moments as another important trend for this year. “Beyond removing barriers to conversion, building value creation into all touchpoints and weaving it in as a design element. It will no longer suffice to make check-outs easy but instead UX will need to deliver sustainable engagement”, Knight says.

Accordingly, maintaining a sustainable and striking visual and contextual consistency over different devices and different mediums will be more important than ever before in service design. With more people spending more time on various devices, designers will need to maintain their attention and create engaging experiences. I think, like many others, that the use of video clips and fresh illustrations, and a bolder use of colour and typography, will be growing trends in UX next year.

Another emerging trend seems to be that UX design is a more widespread discipline than ever. “Just like the eponymous DJ, everyone is a UX designer nowadays”, Knight exclaims. I agree with Knight as for the fact that “has many repercussions for UX as a discipline, practice and job. In the longer term, everyone doing UX will require a tighter, more focused and stronger core discipline”.

In an article in Forbes magazine online, Shep Hyken says, almost as if stating the obvious, that this year customer service is getting better (even if it doesn’t look like it), value and experience created continue to trump price, and that personalization eventually creates a better customer experience. Coming back to Knight, he says that “this shift will require a much more agile approach to design where rather than single solutions there will be multiple segmented and highly tailored interaction patterns.”

When it comes to personalization, privacy, security and trust will be the next issues involved. As Knight states, “The robustness, clarity and visibility of organisations trustworthiness and security will become a primary part of the customer proposition”, and I firmly believe that statement is true.

Data supplied enables every customer experience to be personalized, starting with the browser cache and cookies and with our latest online orders lists. However, it seems a growing number of people are not that willing to share even this much information with the corporate world.

Engendering the feeling of trust in a product or service is now an important task for any good CX or UX designer.

I am currently working full-time for the small service design and marketing consulting agency Steps Helsinki since the beginning of this year. Exciting times!

As the discipline of service design remains largely unknown in many companies over in Finland, not including many big companies and startups of course, I will need to work hard to cut the first deals.

It seems to me that traditional marketing and graphic design is by far easier to sell here in Finland than service design, but I find these two must come second to well-designed digital services and streamlining the overall customer experience. To me, it all starts with an approach that involves multidisciplinary stakeholders from the start and takes them through the entire process of design.

Also, happy to tell you that the blog has had around 1,000 unique visitors last year, even though I have only managed to push around three posts per month online. A warm thank you to you all for reading.

I wish for an excellent new year for all!

 

 

 

Happy Independence Day 2017 Finland!

With the unique Slush 2016 tech event of last week now behind us here in Helsinki, Finland sets out to celebrate a hundred years of independence in 2017.

Independence day celebration being about history and looking back on our accomplishments, 100 is a very nice round figure for not only reflection on the past – but also to contemplate where we want to go next.

It goes without saying that there is a major cultural paradigm shift going on for our country, and as for the rest of the world, perhaps too. Over the next one hundred years, Finnish companies, like others, will have to make services and products that put the needs of the customers first, without compromises.

The global stage, especially the digital, is a very competitive one.

Finland has a long tradition of approaching product and service design from a technological standpoint. Perhaps this is a key element in what originally placed Nokia cellphones, as well as many other innovations, firmly on the global market. But equally importantly, we tend to base our design on the needs of our customers, as well as to approach industrial design and IT from a Nordic aesthetic standpoint.

Take the Iittala products, spatial design by Alvar Aalto, Visit Finland’s brand, and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as prime examples.

For me, this year’s independence day celebration incorporates mixed emotions, as our current government seems to emphasize values that differ from many things that I most value in Finnish culture.

Finland is currently facing heavy cuts of budget on the overall education and cultural sector, and the startup spirit of the Slush event seems to have not hindered our decision makers from reducing the education budgets in Finland to the bare minimum.

However, without our education system and most Finns in the field of IT and design being professionals with a polytechnic institute or university level background, we would hardly be able to host such amazing events as Slush and we would certainly not have witnessed the success of Finnish design and technology globally.

Independence day celebration here in Finland also being largely about fighting the Russians during the Second World War it is a very curious fact that in the ongoing crisis in Middle-East – caused chiefly by the absurd and offensive politics of the United States – is a cause of little or no concern for many Finns – even so much so, that a small minority of us Finns would present racist attitudes towards refugees fleeing from war.

With that being said – I am very happy about being born a Finn and here, as there are still many heavy issues to tackle in many other places in the world.

Finnish women won the right to vote a hundred years ago, and Finland, in fact, was the very first country in Europe to grant women that right.

Equality between the sexes and equality among people from different backgrounds being a key element in how our parents built this country, I wish we as Finns could promote these kinds of values more, both in our own country as well as globally.

About Slush and the Helsinki Startup Scene

The annual startup event Slush, held in Helsinki, has become well-known as one of the most hip ones worldwide.

And Slush has been growing exponentially. In 2011 the event had 1,500 attendees, in 2012 the number raised to 3,500, and the year after that to 7,000. Two years back, in 2014, the amount of attendees was about to double and the event had to be relocated to Messukeskus Expo and Convention Center.

Last year, in 2015, the event attracted over 25,000 visitors.

This year, the program of Slush will focus, more than ever, on stories from world-conquering founders of successful tech companies, such as David Helgason, Co-Founder of Unity, Ilkka Paananen, CEO & Founder of Supercell, Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO & Co-Founder of Klarna, Niklas Zennström, Co-Founder of Skype & Founder of Atomico.

According to the Slush blog, a new survey on around 700 founders of successful startups confirms the notion that hotspots in the Nordic countries are increasingly gaining reputation as best places to found a startup in Europe. In this survey, as in many others, Berlin and London naturally dominate the charts.

However, in this survey, Stockholm and Copenhagen are ranked among the Top 10 of best cities to found a startup, with Helsinki as a close runner-up.

Maria 0-1, or MariaZeroOne, a brand new startup hub, opened downtown Helsinki with a cool opening party yesterday. I attended the event, and was able to get a sneak-peek preview of the premises. As many of the key players in Helsinki ecosystem have now moved in to Maria or are about to move in soon, this venue is likely to become one of the largest and most inspiring of the Nordic startup hubs.

The hub spans across former Maria hospital area, with the renovation project still going on. The refurbishing of the buildings will continue into 2017.

By the end of the year, Maria will be the new home for 60 start-ups, as well as for many selected investors and accelerators. A few big investors have premises there too, including Superhero Capital and Butterfly Ventures.

“Maria 0-1 will be the centre for events and players driving the growth, as well as being a supporting community for new growth companies,” says Voitto Kangas, director of the venue. “We want to create the meeting point where the ambition will meet the latest technology know-how as well as the drive to succeed internationally”, he explains.

It is now two months until the next Slush event in Helsinki, with the registration still open. With many well-known VIPs from Silicon Valley such as Steve Jurvetson, Caterina Fake, Arielle Zuckerberg, and Ankur Jain also joining Slush this year with direct flights from San Fransisco organized by Finnair, it is no wonder the hype is huge.

Jenni Kääriäinen, Chief of Design at Slush, has been part of the Slush organization since the beginning. Kääriäinen works hard to visualize the soul of Slush for a flock of thousands of visitors every year. For many years, the venue has been decorated and furnished much like a giant rave party, adorned with lasers.

In the Slush blog, Kääriäinen recently revealed that this year, the Slush participants who enter the venue will walk in Messukeskus under a thousand dreamcatchers. This choice made as for the main interior decoration theme of the event seems to me like a very well chosen one.

Read more about Slush and register for the event: http://www.slush.org/

Me and Mr. Jorma Ollila

So I got to feature in the same Wired Magazine article as Nokia’s former CEO Mr. Jorma Ollila once.

I was 16 at the time. You can read the full article online here:

http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/7.09/nokia_pr.html

This article offers a brief glimpse into the world of the Finnish company Nokia during its emergence and heyday.

It has been over 15 years since Steve Silberman visited Finland and that article was published in the Wired Magazine, but much of what has been written there is still relevant. Nokia’s R&D department was confident already before the turn of the millennium, that wireless technology will evolve in the direction of what we might call “augmented reality”. In fact the term seems to may have been coined by Nokia’s Hannu Nieminen, head of Nokia’s Visual Communications Technology laboratory back in the days.

Here’s a quote from the aforementioned article, “Just say Nokia”:

“– The long-range vision, however, is delivery of what Nieminen calls “augmented reality.” Once we stop thinking of the phone as a handset with a keyboard, it becomes the point of contact between the personal bubble and the global datasphere – it could be a transmitter/receiver worn on our belts or as a piece of jewelry. The display technologies will, in Nieminen’s words, evolve toward “applications that bring the information close to your senses”: eyeglasses, earphones – wearable wireless. Combined with locational services like GPS, the network could not only know where you are, it could also know where you are in relation to others.”

Sound familiar, Apple and Google?

Anyway, I believe the future of digital media and tech will be in “augmenting” our experience of the world. This, I believe, is why apps like Spotify that on the one hand promote serendipitious discovery and on the other hand are based on utilizing the data of the user’s previous actions and preferences, are gaining in popularity.