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Secondary Activities

Florianopolis: waiting for the goal to be called

The photo above was taken at a football match in the suburbs of Florianopolis – it captures the moment between a ball going in the back of the visiting side’s net, and official confirmation of the score. If you look closely to will see two fans holding radios and another two with headsets running up to their ear (I don’t know whether the headset was connected to a radio or a mobile phone – it wasn’t the really the right context to ask). The stadium didn’t have a score board – when the first goal went in the fans that were not jumping up and down in excitement were glued to the radio broadcast – the opposing team were naturally contesting the goal and its possible that it would be dis-allowed. In this stadium the live radio commentary provided the definitive version of what’s going on down on the pitch.

Product and service designers like to think of their creations being the sole focus of the user’s attention but the reality is that we increasingly live in a multi-tasking world. As devices become smaller there is more potential for them to be carried in a wider range of situations. Consider the difference between a device that requires two hands vs. one handed use vs. no handed use. The supporting role implies a degree of comfort with the object that is carried – it is considered sufficient to carry that device ‘merely’ to enhance the experience of other activities.

What level of interaction and sensory engagement does your service need to be understood or enjoyed? Why? How is designing for a supporting role different from designing for the primary activities? How to support switching between primary and non-primary tasks?