Friday, 20 September 2013

DISCOVERY: Getting our project off the ground (Brainstorming)

After undertaking some brainstorming via the Affinity Diagram technique, and reading the recommended papers and articles, we decided to narrow our project scope down to personal email uses. We did this on the basis of analysing what email used to be and how people have used it previously, evolving from its original intent (mainly from doing some basic googling and wikipedia-ing).

We assessed the history of email (how did it come about, why does it exist, why are we personally still using it, what content are we sending, what other communication technologies have previously provided the same service) as the headings for our diagram.

More importantly- why keep using Email?

The advantages of email are that it does, in replacing regular mail, provide an artefact of a conversation that is considered more formal than its social network counterparts/rivals. We also considered, from our existing knowledge, that the advantages of other previous forms of communication before the digital revolution's "information overload" may have some advantages in encouraging a particular use of technology and how that is achieved. This largely was following our interpretation of the 9x Email article. For example, original email uses were for business, encouraging emails to be sent within a group of people bound by a certain group.

Email is essentially, an older technology that has no real boundaries. Users don't have to sign up for different services to send content (e.g. Skydrive, Dropbox etc) and it is also instantaneous, without requiring much more than a 'send' action or any of the Facebook or LinkedIn style boundaries, where users are required to be 'friends' or be linked with other people. Email bypasses all of this, but within mostly private channels. However, this is also one of the reasons that many believe that email is dead, a relic of old technologies such as ARPANET.

We then decided to undertake a quick user survey to confirm (or refute) our claims as we decided to focus on the personal experience of email, as opposed to business, and see what viability there is left in email that doesn't compete with social networks.

TLDR: Focussing on the personal user experience because of the origins of sending mail (dedicated user group) and email to create an approach that emphasises the individual's use of the service.

Next Steps
- Contextual Inquiry, how are people being told to manage their email and why.
- What are the current advantages to email that will evolve over time.
- Analysis of the customer journey of a typical, modern age, email user.
- An in depth investigation of current and past technology, where it has failed, where it has succeeded and why.

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