Mind Map

Posted on December 27th, 2013


Posted on December 25th, 2013

Be Yourself in Any Language - Cambridge January 2014

Posted on December 23rd, 2013

We can all imagine what it’s like to speak entirely naturally. We did it as children, we sometimes do it with people we know well, and we see other people doing it on TV. But in practice, much of the time, many of us feel that we can’t be truly “ourselves".
Often the greatest difficulty comes when we speak foreign languages -- a context that worsens the things that might also feel bad in our own language. Speaking foreign languages -- for work, or on holiday -- we worry about getting things “wrong", we go blank, and we tend to adopt a cautious, low status persona that doesn’t feel comfortable for us or for other people.
This class is designed to help you speak happily and freely in ANY language (including your own), and find ways to express what needs to be expressed even when you don’t have the right vocabulary -- because there’s always a way to improvise.
As well as talking, this class uses improvisational theatre games, often in foreign languages, to see more clearly what we may be doing in everyday life -- and because the games provide a welcome dose of laughter. You don’t need to be good at languages -- or acting. In fact, the less expert you are, the better.
Thursday 16 January 2014 13:00 - 16:30 at Cambridge Business Lounge.
Eventbrite - Be Yourself in Any Language

Beginners Improv Weekend - Peterborough January 2014

Posted on December 23rd, 2013

Would you like to be able to improvise scenes and stories? Develop your confidence in speaking in front of a group? Be more creative and spontaneous?
Our experienced tutors Stuart Reid and Antony Quinn will guide you step-by-step through a weekend workshop that will take you from complete beginner to improviser. You’ll learn the core skills and practices of improvisation, and by the end of the weekend you’ll be creating characters, telling stories and playing scenes - all entirely made up on the spot!
Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 January 2014 10:30 - 17:30 at Peterborough Cathedral.
Eventbrite - Beginners Improv Weekend

In My Shoes: Empathic Interactive Theatre - London December 2013

Posted on December 11th, 2013

Join us for an experiment in using virtual-reality technology to explore the world’s absurdities from a stranger’s perspective. To briefly step into the shoes of another person, hear their thoughts, touch, taste and see the world as they do.
Using innovative audio-visual technology, In My Shoes is an ever-expanding collection of first-person documentary-style interactive performances, which guide participants through the beautiful, the challenging, the mundane and the surreal aspects of being human.
Initially conceived to facilitate communications between TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) patients and those who love, live with, and support them, In My Shoes continues to evolve.
The series uses touch, taste, smell, audio-visual technology and first-person documentary to recreate real life experiences which challenge preconceptions, facilitate understanding and enable participants to use what they learn to inform communications and care.
Come along to this amazing interactive theatre experience in London tomorrow. I’ll be there all day playing various characters. Book your free 15-minute life-changing experience now!
Thursday 12 December 2013 11:00 - 21:00 at The White Building, Hackney.
Eventbrite - In My Shoes - 12 December 2013

Difficult Conversations - Cambridge December 2013

Posted on December 5th, 2013

This is a workshop for people who want to get better at life’s difficult conversations.
The ones where there’s something at stake for us, something that we want. But where another human being is, ahem, in our way. We often devote a lot of energy to avoiding having them. We spend a lot of time in our head, or complaining out loud to our friends, about the difficult character of the person we would like to engage with but can’t.
Lots of courses are run on “dealing with difficult people" for this reason. These tend to be quite long on analysis and full of very intelligent sounding principles and frameworks. The trouble is that these courses idealise how we should hold our conversations. We think this can be disempowering… few of us can really live up to these ideals and the effort to do so can either leave us feeling we have failed, or leave us in a space of restrained politeness where we’re just repressing our more animal selves, albeit more skilfully than before.
We think the clue is in the title. Difficult conversations are difficult. We don’t help ourselves by attempting to make them easy by mental effort… in fact that often just makes the psychological rut deeper.
And since difficult conversations have high stakes, we don’t normally get many shots at having them.
In this workshop, we’ll use a very specific type of role play where participants can experiment with different ways to have the conversation. With a big emphasis on playfully trying stuff out, and without putting too much effort into analysing or idealising. We think of it as the rapid prototyping of behaviour. It brings some of the wisdom of the maker and agile movements to the training sphere.
Johnnie has developed this work over many years work as a coach and facilitator, in places as far afield as The Solomon Islands and San Francisco. He draws on all sorts of ideas and practices that have shaped how he works; things like gestalt psychotherapy, psychodrama, improv theatre and forum theatre, and the work of Tim Gallwey (the Inner Game). Antony brings to bear his background in language, communication, counselling and theatre, and his work as a user experience designer to support the rapid iteration of ideas.
We see difficult conversations as an opportunity to experiment and uncover bits of ourselves that we don’t always deploy. It’s a process of discovery and it can be so much more energising and exciting than attempting to follow a set of rules.
This is the first time we’ve offered this work in Cambridge. We are limiting the group to six particpants (plus ourselves) which we feel will make for a deeper personal experience. We think you’ll gain a better understanding of a more productive way to experiment with your difficult conversations.
Thursday 19 December 2013 09:00 - 13:00 at Cambridge Union Society.
Eventbrite - Difficult Conversations

Creative Surplus: Transforming Attention Deficit

Posted on April 19th, 2013

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a lifelong condition affecting children and adults. In addition to problems with attention, memory and self-control, people with ADHD are more likely to experience mental health problems (Young & Bramham 2007) and engage in criminal activity: 30-50% of UK prison inmates are thought to have the condition versus only 5% of the general population (Young & Goodwin 2010). In 2000, excess treatment costs for adult ADHD in the USA were $31.6 billion, with loss of work productivity estimated to cost a further $77 billion (Weiss 2007).
Design has the potential to significantly reduce the costs of ADHD: whereas psychiatrists and clinical psychologists modify the individual through biochemical, cognitive and behavioural means, designers are best placed to modify the the physical, social and digital environment. For example, social design approaches used by the Design Council to reduce violence against staff in UK accident and emergency wards (Britt 2011) could inform programmes to reduce violence in prison by inmates with ADHD. As yet, however, designers have few academic resources to draw on when designing products and services for people with ADHD (McKnight 2010).
Design and the creative arts have a role to play in maximising the potential benefits of ADHD as well as minimising the costs. Four studies in the scientific literature (Sarkis 2011) have shown a positive correlation between ADHD and creativity, for example: "adults with ADHD showed higher levels of original creative thinking ... and higher levels of real-world creative achievement, compared to adults without ADHD" (White & Shah 2011). Several business schools in the USA teach design thinking (Harvard 2013) and improvisation (Tutton 2010) to develop creativity and leadership, skills that could could help people with ADHD “use creative advantages to strategically offset difficulties caused by ADHD symptoms in daily life" (White & Shah 2011).
Drama and improvised theatre can also be used in the design process to improve collaboration and communication (Gerber 2007), to develop empathy (Stewart 2011), and to facilitate participatory design (Brandt 2000) -- a particularly attractive proposition for a user group that may be inherently creative.
Designing for and with people with ADHD may ultimately benefit the non-ADHD population in an increasingly distracted world: “on 10 October 2011, BlackBerry’s messenger services went offline for 3 days … Dubai police reported a 20% drop in road traffic accidents. Abu Dhabi police reported a 40% drop ... the interfaces we create are killing our users ... maybe we can take some design lessons from [people with ADHD]" (Colborne 2011).

Brandt, E., & Grunnet, C. (2000). Evoking the future: Drama and props in user centered design. In Proceedings of Participatory Design Conference (PDC 2000) (pp. 11-20).
Britt, A. (2011). Reducing violence and aggression in A&E. Design Council.
Colborne, G. (2011). Driven to distraction. CX Partners.
Gerber, E. (2007). Improvisation principles and techniques for design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1069-1072). ACM.
Harvard (2013). The Business of Design Thinking. Harvard Magazine 29 January 2013.
McKnight, L. (2010). Designing for ADHD: in search of guidelines. In IDC 2010 Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth Workshop.
Sarkis, S. (2011). Is the ADHD Brain More Creative? Psychology Today 13 June 2011.
Stewart, B. (2011). DD+D: a theatre-based design consulting firm. Dramatic Diversity.
Tutton, M. (2010). Why using improvisation to teach business skills is no joke. CNN 18 February 2010.
Weiss, M. (2007). The Economic Costs of ADHD. Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada.
White, H. A., & Shah, P. (2011). Creative style and achievement in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(5), 673-677.
Young & Bramham (2007). ADHD in Adults: A Psychological Guide to Practice. John Wiley and Sons: Chichester
Young, S., & Goodwin, E. (2010). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in persistent criminal offenders: the need for specialist treatment programs. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 10(10), 1497-1500.

Channelling the Magic: Applying Improvised Theatre to UX Design - Cambridge November 2012

Posted on November 29th, 2012

I’m running a workshop with Clare Kerrison today at UX Cambridge 2012 on Channelling the Magic: Applying Improvised Theatre and Comedy to UX Design:
Improvised theatre skills help us access our creativity, to work collaboratively and with more empathy. Watching and playing good improvised theatre can feel like magic. In this session you will learn the basic techniques improvisers use to co-create something from nothing, a vocabulary to describe your experiences, and how to apply these techniques in your design work. You will experience the wonderful, visceral “yes and" feeling of collaborative co-creation, where ideas emerge rapidly and spontaneously to deliver results whose value often far exceeds the sum of individual contributions. Using the same basic techniques, you will even learn how to develop your own ideas to their full potential in your solo work. You’ll also have a lot of fun!

Thursday 29 November 2012 17:00 - 18:30 at Kaetsu Educational & Cultural Centre.

The Affective Consequences of the Electric Light Bulb

Posted on January 19th, 2012

The invention of the electric light bulb in the 19th century liberated us from the constraints of night and day, but at what cost to our emotional health?

Why do we sleep?
The origins and purpose of sleep are not yet fully understood, but it is clear that sleep plays an essential role in physiological and psychological homeostasis. Sleep is important for the regulation of mood, for growth and development, for the formation of long-term memories, and for maintenance of a healthy immune system (Choe 2010).
The quantity and quality of sleep are regulated by natural variations in light and darkness during the day (circadian rhythm), and during the year (seasonal variations). Human gene expression and signalling in response to light and darkness is very similar to that found in many other organisms (Ko & Takahashi 2006), which suggests sleep is important for survival.
Artificial light
Our non-human ancestors lived in world without artificial light. The introduction of fire, oil lamps and candles gave humans the possibility to extend daylight artificially, but these methods were relatively expensive, and their luminosity and wavelengths do not affect sleep adversely (Dennet 2001, pp 98-100).
Since the invention of the electric light bulb in 19th century, relatively cheap and bright artificial light has enabled a significant and increasing proportion of the human population to work, study and play at a time of their choosing. During the same period, there has been a 2 hour reduction in the average number of hours slept per night by adults in industrialised countries, and increasing uniformity across seasons: we no longer sleep for longer in the dark winter months (Dennet 2001, pp 98-100). Dennet (2001) argues that this has resulted in an epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation with grave consequences for our health.
The effects of sleep deprivation on the individual
Acute sleep deprivation impacts mood - fatigue, vigour and confusion - and stress (Minkel 2010). Chronic sleep deprivation has more serious consequences (see Table 1).
Affective dimension
  • Fear: worrying about waking on time
  • Frustration: cannot get to sleep
  • Anger: blame self or others for sleep loss
  • Anxiety and stress: fatigue impairs attention, concentration and memory, which impacts performance in personal and professional life; impaired immune system leaves us vulnerable to disease
  • Depression: disease, anxiety and chronic stress can lead to depression and, in some cases, suicide

Table 1. The affective consequences of chronic sleep deprivation
Mood can be affected directly and indirectly: for example, chronic sleep deprivation has been implicated in obesity (Dennett 2001), which can adversely affect self-image and leave the individual at risk of anxiety and depression. Depression can be both a cause and effect of sleep loss, which can lead to a downward spiral of depression and sleep deprivation.
These effects can be exacerbated by individual and cultural attitudes in terms of the quantity, quality, utility and even moral value of sleep.
Sleep can also be affected by psychiatric conditions. For example, due to chronic problems with time management and procrastination, individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are more likely to stay up late to work or study, and thereby forgo sleep, which would have been difficult or impossible before the invention of electric light.
The effects of sleep deprivation on society
The aggregate effect of increasing morbidity and mortality is costly to society as well as individuals, from the treatment of physical and psychological illness in our health systems, to income lost through illness and premature death.
Sleep deprivation impacts safety-critical systems. For example, an air traffic controller was asleep while two aircraft landed without guidance (Williams & Mouawad 2011), putting lives at risk - the focus of news reports were on the work place, but did the home environment and cultural attitudes towards sleep have an effect?
Opportunities for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)
Many people are not aware of their sleep behaviours and the consequences of sleep deprivation (Dennett 2001).
Sleep has been given little attention in HCI, yet there are many opportunities for technology to help monitor sleep and maintain conditions for healthy sleep (see Figure 1):
Figure 1. Technology design ideas (Choe 2011):
(Left) Unobtrusive sleep monitoring tool uses a weight sensor under the bed to estimate sleep times and wake times.
(Middle) Role playing game where the player’s character only heals when the player actually rests in real life.
(Right) To help support a good sleep environment, this tool uses sensors to measure the room temperature, light, and sound and changes light colors as a simple indication if one or more conditions is not ideal.
Sleep monitoring can be combined with mood diaries and physiological observations in clinical settings, such as in sleep laboratories or as part of a programme of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
The limits of technology
The ethical issues around such technology include privacy and trust - the bedroom is a place of intimacy as well as sleep - and yet the costs of doing nothing are high, particularly for vulnerable members of society (children, older adults and the disabled).
Moreover, good design and engineering have their limits, particularly where there are strong economic and social disincentives that undermine sleep. Fundamental changes in economies and societies usually require shifts in cultural values, not just technological solutions.
If awareness is the first step to such shifts, then design solutions combining elements of of ubiquitous computing (Rogers 2009) and behavioural economics (Dolan 2010) may offer some promise.
Choe, E. K., Kientz, J. A., Halko, S., Fonville, A., Sakaguchi, D., & Watson, N. F. (2010). Opportunities for computing to support healthy sleep behavior. Proceedings of the 28th of the international conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems CHI EA 10, 3661. ACM Press.
Dolan et al (2010). MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy. Institute for Government.
Ko, C. H., Takahashi, J. S. (2006). Molecular components of the mammalian circadian clock. Hum Mol Genet 15: R271-R277.10.1093/hmg/ddl207. PubMed: 16987893.
Minkel, Jared D. (2010). Affective Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Publicly accessible Penn Dissertations. Paper 218.
Rogers, Y. (2009). The Changing Face of Human-Computer Interaction in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing. In A. Holzinger and K. Miesenberger (Eds.), USAB 2009, LNCS 5889, 1-19.
Williams & Mouawad (2011). Air Traffic Controller Is Suspended. New York Times 24 March 2011
Young & Bramham (2007). ADHD in Adults: A Psychological Guide to Practice. John Wiley and Sons: Chichester

Speed Sketching - UX Cambridge November 2011

Posted on November 9th, 2011

I’m running a workshop with Francis Rowland at UX Cambridge 2011 on Speed Sketching:
We've all been there - we stare at something for a long time, but still a solution doesn't come.

This can happen to anyone who's working on a user interface or a way of visualising information, especially if we work on it for a long time. We can do our best to design for a good user experience, but something that isn't clear or doesn't make sense in the user interface can break that experience quickly.

Features become familiar, and we stop seeing them in the way that a new user might. Sometimes, we need a fresh pair of eyes, just to give us that boost.

We would like to propose a speed sketching session as a way to directly help people who are stuck on some issue like this. It is not a session where the participants are necessarily taught anything new, at least, not by us, and it isn't about sketching skills as such. Instead, it is about communication and interpreting ideas - something critical to good user experience design.

Following a structure that is (broadly!) like speed dating, participants are placed together in threes, with one participant presenting their problem for a given amount of time (usually 10 minutes). After that time, a whistle blows, and we rotate people around the roo:m one group stays at the table (always); another group rotates clockwise; the remaining group rotates anti-clockwise. Another participant gets to present and discuss their problem, and so on.

We have found that this allows better management of numbers and more opportunity for synergy between participants.

We manage the session, and keep everything moving along. Coloured stickers help participants (and us!) remember who should rotate which way.

We can help teams who need it, and make suggestions as necessary.

Given enough time, we would like to finish off with a couple of the participants talking briefly about any progress they have made.
Friday 11 November 2011 09:00 - 10:30 at Clare College.

Antony Quinn

Technology consultant, actor & improviser.