For the second profile in our series on the Interaction Awards Jury, we've talked to Design Researcher Younghee Jung. Younghee is leading the NokiaResearch Center in Bangalore, India. Her research centers on the social potential of mobile technology and behavioral change. Over the last decade, she has managed and created interdisciplinary teams of insight, design and innovation in Helsinki, Tokyo and London. She earned a B.S. in Industrial Design at KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and M.A. in Interaction
Design at Carnegie Mellon University as Fulbright Scholar. Her current work focuses on basic enablers of mobile technology use for growth markets, suitable for the local culture and its potentials.
We asked Younghee two questions, and here's what she had to say:
1- What is your favorite product, digital or otherwise, to use, and why?
My favorite product of all times is the toilet. While everyone spends an inevitable portion of their lifetime using it, its importance is surprisingly downplayed. If you have ever been interested in the human history of sanitation, or living conditions in developing countries, you would surely appreciate how our quality of life is dramatically improved by toilets that can co-exist in our living room and made our biological necessity fulfilled without making us feel that we are a part of the nature. I particularly like Japanese toilet seats, or ‘washlets’ as they exemplify companies thinking about how we can improve our toilet experience in various aspects: Heated seats prevent elderly people getting heart attacks in the cold winter; washing functions are optimized for whatever your needs are; sensors allow lids to open and close and flushing to take place automatically, eliminating the need to touch anything in the toilet; some may even start play music or flushing sound to take care of your psychological comfort in private or public. It is an experience that is easy to dismiss as over-design, but something you get to appreciate deeply for their obvious benefits through use. Washlet also makes me think that design needs to be culturally and environmentally relevant, as it may be only a safety hazard in environments where electricity cuts are very frequent or humidity control in the house is impossible. By contrast, Indian trains demonstrate a beautifully simple squatting toilet design that minimizes the need for cleaning or gimmicks for flushing.
2 - What’s the one product you wish you’d designed, and why?
OLPC (One laptop per child) is a well-designed and intended product. It highlighted the need for reducing the digital divide throughout the world. Connected digital tools provide a huge potential of reducing the dependency on the institutional learning, which a lot of children do not have opportunities for. However in order to utilize the benefit of the digital, literacy needs to be achieved first – local language as well as English. It is not about redesigning of OLPC, but finding a way to equip people with the basic skills needed to become a citizen of the digital universe with broader reach.