An Event Apart: The Framework Age

by Luke Wroblewski August 18, 2008

Liz Danzico’s overview of The Framework Age and its implications at An Event Apart San Francisco discussed how unwritten but detectable rules can help people contribute to and improvise within systems.

  • Paradox of Active User: people dive in without knowing how to use software because they are motivated to accomplish a task. Very few people read manuals before using a product.
  • People follow patterns of improvisation when using interfaces
  • We’ve stopped designing artifacts: no longer making static systems and instead we are making dynamic systems.
  • We’ve started designing frameworks and frameworks require improvisation.
  • A framework is an uns-ribed and detectable cues that loosely govern a set of actions. Frameworks provide ways to shape behavior.
  • Modal jazz: framework for creative instability and improvisation. Pioneered by Miles Davis on Kind of Blue. Modal jazz is a framework. It provides a rough set of broad strokes. In classical music all the notes most be documented and played in order. There is little to no room for improvisation or contribution in classical music.
  • As designers we’re making the same transition from classical to jazz.
  • We used to design “hard-coded” experiences, now we design more open, interactive, participatory systems. An open experience is on more equal footing with jazz.
  • Frameworks for improvising are everywhere. Example: oral traditions vs. literacy. Stories over time were shared as patterns. They relied on frameworks that allowed people to fill in the “betweens”.
  • Exquisite simplicity: contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance. Smart defaults can affect the entire experience.
  • Involve the audience. Based on feedback from audience, can adjust examples as you progress. Be ready to step away from what you know and work with your audience.
  • Listen & watch: when playing with a group, you need to stay in time and watch what people are doing. Play very close attention.
  • Call and response: take turns with improvisation. Constant building process of soloing. User reviews are call and response. Allow people to build on top of each other.
  • Need to focus on design in use vs. design as process.
  • Designing for improvisation: co-adaptive design processes with our users. We are getting more sophisticated in how we engage users online.

My notes from Liz's The Framework Age talk in Wellington, New Zealand in February 2008.