Dissecting Interactions

This week, apart from talking to people regarding my concepts, I dove deeper to understand, exactly, what makes an interaction. I did this mainly to understand what is this “interaction” between strangers that I’m trying to achieve, and what would look like a successful project to me.

Layers of Interaction

—————  No interaction

—————  Eye contact

—————  Smile

—————  Casual verbal exchange / Converse

—————  Engaged in conversation

—————  Exchange contact information / Acquainted

—————  Friends

—————  Close circle

What my project aims to do is to move people from the current “No Interaction” situation to Casual verbal exchanges / Conversations. A North Star would be if, because of what they experienced together, they would be acquainted but I acknowledge that the difficulty for that is higher.

I also dissected similar projects that others have done, to see what are the elements that made the experience engaging. With that, I picked out elements that I wanted to include in mine. This experience(s) should be:

  • Free
  • In a public space and visible
  • Little to no instructions
  • Fun alone, funner together
  • Integrated into people’s existing norms/behaviors

I’ve decided to proceed with a couple of ideas (FINALLY!) and have also started prototyping with the hardware or technology. Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 3.07.40 PMScreen Shot 2019-10-27 at 3.13.18 PM

The second is the Tug-o-War. I’m about halfway on the Arduino aspect, but have to figure out how to connect it to Processing (which emits the visual portion).

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My next step is to bring at least one of these in a public space (I’m thinking in school, on Halloween) and see how people react to it!

Even though the technology is daunting, and I often question if I should be doing this for my sorta most important project—I am having so much fun just playing, learning and investigating.

 

Learning from Peers: Mental Health

My classmates (Rita, Tai, Natalia, Will) talked to us about Mental Health today. Its history (something I never think about), how it differs from mental illnesses, and the (still) ongoing taboo around it and talking about it.

One point that Will noted, was how people are debating whether smartphone and technology devices negatively impacts mental illnesses. I personally don’t think that smartphones or other devices cause mental illness. I do think that it propagates that kind of thoughts or behaviors. So, if one is feeling mentally unwell, it would be easier to slip down that way via the superficiality of the content on our smartphones, i.e. social media.

One takeaway I got, and something that I’ve been contemplating myself, is how designers need to be a lot mindful with our approach, more critical with how our designs can alter behaviors (in good and bad ways). I think the responsibility being put to us is immense and we should handle that with care.

My senior project doesn’t look to mental health directly. But I hope that by introducing playful interactions in public spaces, people can break away from their monotony. If what I’m designing for could just get people to just smile, I think that’s success enough for me!

Panic is part of the process

On top of ideating for new concepts, and gathering information on people’s behaviors in public spaces.

This week, I managed to speak with Catherine Herdlick, Ariel Waldman, and David Nuff — all lovely people who were so inspiring.

Catherine gave me a lot of important pointers, and enlightened me as she mentioned that what’s key for my project is to find what’s shared meaning for people in the context that this will take place in.

Ariel told me that she’s always designing for the shyest person in the room. She mentioned how people always count themselves out, giving themselves excuses for reasons they shouldn’t be at a place. She makes it a point to make it crystal clear for a person to feel wanted and welcomed. She also mentioned the importance of finding a shared thing as it becomes a common motivation for everyone; if people are not united in a shared thing, they will be skeptical. She also shared how, if someone doesn’t understand the benefits of what you’re trying to do, that you should just convince them to experience it for themselves (which is key for my project!).

David gave me a lot of gold advice—life advice. He mentioned that his role as a designer isn’t to change behaviors, but to help people understand clearly what they’re thinking of. He used the analogy of music, how some songs help you process what you’re dealing with. This really resonated with me. He also mentioned how panic is part of his process, which I found greatly comforting because I’m kind of there right now.

I feel like I’m not making fast enough and I honestly don’t know what’s slowing me down. But I’ll be forcing myself to make and test in the coming week.

Next Steps

I’m going to interview a couple of survey participants (Interview Guide here) to understand not only their public transport or commute behaviors, but also try to uncover what meaning is for them. However, I’m not quite sure how to ask it in a non-leading way.

Couple of ideas that I will be testing:

This, I’ll probably be doing guerilla style. Just pasting a big sheet of paper in the bus stop and attaching a couple of Sharpies.

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This idea below came from a combination of Pokemon Go, and Geocaching. It’s basically a location-based app for people to find stories that are attached to people. People can post something about them, and others can discover. If they are close to one another, maybe these stories could be notified to them.

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First Checkpoint

First checkpoint for this Senior Project!!! I feel like time just flew by.

I’ve highlighted parts of the rubric that’s relevant for my project (at least at this point). Checkpoint 1 – Sr Proj Rubric – Fall 2019

Professionalism

I’ve managed to deliver my works on time thus far and in accordance with the Delivery Checklist. I think my work has a clear point of view and ethical considerations. My main concern is if I’m the only one with this point of view, lol. But fortunately, based on my conversations with people, that hasn’t been the case.

Interaction Design

In this portion, I think how this looks like for me is going to be slightly different from the typical interaction design project. In terms of Usability, I would have to consider if they are not only functional but also understandable (no learning barriers, instantly understandable—no walkthrough needed whatsoever). In terms of Flow, this would probably come in the shape of storyboards for me (which I’ve been doing). Context is going to be a vital portion of my project, but and it probably means place/location for my project—something I’m currently still investigating.

Process

Sketching and storyboarding is a big part of my process, as that’s the method I’ve chosen to start conversations with people and probe deeper. My next step would be to figure out how to make it tangible (especially if the form is going to be big). I’ve slowed down on doing academic research, but I’m devouring books that are aligned with my project. (The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, Community by Peter Block, Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell).

Progress

Since my last concepts, I decided to narrow down my project to focus on moments in public transportation. I generated more ideas that are centered around public transportation.

My ideas (below) are heavily based on the assumption that if people shared an experience together, they will interact with one another.

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I also sent out a survey on reddit to understand what people’s behaviors are when they are commuting, what headspace they’re in, and so on. I created two surveys – one that’s focused in the Bay Area, one that’s general and I sent them out to Bay Area-specific channels and other more general channels, respectively. What I learned from that was fascinating (and maybe, unsurprising).

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Public transportation makes people in the Bay Area feel stressed and anxious. Whereas the general survey got more mixed responses. Some even mentioned they feel good, relaxed and that it’s their me-time.

What’s more fascinating, is the percentage of people who’d rather be doing something else (aside from commuting). 62% said they’d rather be doing something else for Bay Area-specific, whereas it’s only 31% for the general survey.

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Even though the findings are polarizing, I’m starting to wonder if doing this in public transportation is a good idea, since people are either stressed out, tired or it’s their me-time. They all don’t sound like headspace that I should interrupt.

This week, I managed to speak with Catherine Herdlick, Ariel Waldman, and David Nuff — all lovely people who were so inspiring.

Catherine gave me a lot of important pointers, and enlightened me as she mentioned that what’s key for my project is to find what’s shared meaning for people in the context that this will take place in.

Ariel told me that she’s always designing for the shyest person in the room. She mentioned how people always count themselves out, giving themselves excuses for reasons they shouldn’t be at a place. She makes it a point to make it crystal clear for a person to feel wanted and welcomed. She also mentioned the importance of finding a shared thing as it becomes a common motivation for everyone; if people are not united in a shared thing, they will be skeptical. She also shared how, if someone doesn’t understand the benefits of what you’re trying to do, that you should just convince them to experience it for themselves (which is key for my project!).

David gave me a lot of gold advice—life advice. He mentioned that his role as a designer isn’t to change behaviors, but to help people understand clearly what they’re thinking of. He used the analogy of music, how some songs help you process what you’re dealing with. This really resonated with me.

Next Steps

I need to find this shared meaning, and design and ideate around that. I’m going to interview a couple of survey participants (Interview Guide here) to understand not only their public transport behaviors, but also try to uncover what meaning is for them. However, I’m not quite sure how to ask it in a non-leading way.

On top of that, I will also be ideating and looking at other locations in which these experiences can take place.

Conversation Starters

This week, I had planned on interviewing experts and getting feedback from both experts and potential audience. I didn’t get as many responses as I hope to, but I still managed to gather some. I was tempted to beat myself over the less-than-expected amount, but I chose to focus on the progress that I’d made.

I did some intercept interviews (with 6 people at Westfield Mall) last Sunday to get people’s feedback on some of my ideas (Prototype or Concepts_ Oct 2, 2019). Out of them all, the first two (below) got most people reacting.

Some things people said about this:

“It’s always good to connect with one another.” —Nini

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There were some conflicting comments about this particular concept:

“I’m quiet so I don’t really like to talk to people.” —C

“If I won’t meet someone in the future, I don’t see the value of interacting with them. Commute times are also my time to relax and so I don’t really want to talk to people. I’d rather save my energy for people that I love.” —Cl (This validates my research that people are more selective about who they spend time with now. Which is one of the reasons why people don’t interact with neighbors anymore.)

“No more awkward weather conversations!” —M and D.

“This is interesting but also dangerous. This won’t be possible to do in my home country.” —Nini

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On top of that, I also spoke with Barry Katz (Professor, Design Historian and IDEO Fellow), Sarah Brin (Strategic Partnerships Manager at Meow Wolf, Curator and Artist) and Christine Meinders (Professor, Cultural A.I. Designer and Founder of Feminist AI) regarding my project and they gave me very valuable input.

Barry advised that I narrow down on my project and get rid of the notion that I would solve this problem. Instead, he proposed to reframe my project as an addressing of this issue, not solving. This made me realize that, maybe I’d unknowingly adopted a mindset of trying to “solve” this problem — which might’ve given me unnecessary pressures.

Sarah, who was also involved in the Market Street Prototyping Festival 3 years ago, was extremely lovely and helpful. She told me that one of the biggest issues that she noticed about student projects is how broad it often is, and how ambitious the scopes are. She mentioned how in her opinion, the most successful projects are ones that answers a very specific question. She also shared a quote with me, that I absolutely love — “Laughter is the audience congratulating themselves for getting the joke.” She mentioned how she likes to use play to challenge people, and make people feel smart at the same time. 

These people have also kindly agreed to talk to me more as I continue to refine my ideas and process.

I have also been reading The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath (Authors of Made to Stick).

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And they mentioned how Transitory moments are opportunities for creating defining moments. This sparked a thought in me:

What are the defining moments in our day-to-day lives? Can we celebrate it?

The first obvious place for me to ideate on transitory moments was commuting. Most people are tired and really looking forward to going home, but taking public transportation during peak hours isn’t enjoyable at all — the squeezing, the vehicle itself, the long commute (for some people). We all anticipate going home to loved ones, or to comfort — I started to wonder if that experience could be more delightful.

With this, I decided to narrow my research questions or MVQ more:

Will commuters exchange playful or kind interactions with one another if we provide them the opportunity to?

I came up with more ideas based on this narrower research question. Prototypes or Concepts- Oct 12, 2019 With this, I’ll be doing intercept interviews to gather feedback from people and experts in the field (primarily people making at the intersection of space and civic engagement).

One thing that I’ve also started doing is also to ideate every day. I figured that if ideating is a muscle, then I should exercise it regularly.

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I also created a 2×2 for my ideas, to understand if there is an imbalance in ideas and whether or not people gravitated towards a certain type of experience (for now).

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I am actually still nervous about doing this for my Senior Project. At times I feel silly for wanting to do this (and about some of my ridiculous ideas, lol) and compare myself to other peers who are doing more “serious” stuff.

But other times, all the fun I have ideating and talking to all the awesome people shut those thoughts off.

Learning from Peers: Education

My peers (Anchi, Aosheng, Claire, Jay) held a workshop on Education today. It’s interesting how we hardly learn about learning even though we’re in a learning environment. Jay talked us through about the history of education and the legacy of mentorship, which I found fascinating. Things change rapidly at this day and age, but it’s nice to be reminded that there are fundamental things that stays the same — like our need for human interaction.

We were asked to write down which classes we remembered learning from, and both Jimmy and I wrote Creative Founder first, lol. The things I learned in that class would require me to use up a stack of Post-Its.

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The helpful part of this workshop was definitely the reflective nature of it. We get caught up with doing all the time (assignments after assignments), and hardly get the chance to actually pause and think about what we learned. So I appreciated this designated time to do so.

It’s interesting that my biggest learnings (below) is a reflection on the kind of person I want to be in the future.

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Throughout my years at CCA, my point of view on leadership, public speaking and persuasive writing shifted drastically. I always found that to be intimidating, because those seem like qualities that are louder/opinionated—qualities that I do not resonate with. But I learned how to do those in my own, quiet and reflective, way.

Whilst sharing, Jieying also shared a recruiting hack (?), which was to use dating apps to recruit her interview participants. Giving them full disclosure, of course.

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With midterms looming, and Senior Projects ramping up, I think everyone is feeling the pressure of delivering and doing it well. Because of the expectations that we put on ourselves, and others have on us (due to our seniority in school). It’s easy to slip into the dark mass of “Am I good enough for this? Will I be able to pull this off?”. I battle with that little voice every day. But this reflective workshop is nice as it grounds everyone and reminds us all how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown.

Getting to MVQ

This week, I had planned on testing some of my ideas with people and learning more about the online communities. I managed to do them both, although I didn’t get as far as I’d wanted to. Instead, I had made significant progress in reaching out to experts and had found some other organizations and communities that I’d want to reach out to (very excited to talk to a person that works for Meow Wolf!).

These past few weeks, I have also been working on refining my Minimum Viable Question (something that a professor, Apurva Shah, recommended I do).

It went from:

How might we decrease racial and economical tension through the cultivating multiculturalism?”

Can we increase trust between strangers?”

How might we help people find connections in this increasingly disconnected world?”

to

How might we increase social cohesion/connectedness?”

to, right now:

Will people interact with one another if we provide them with the opportunities to?”

And perhaps, it will continue to refine as I talk to people more.

But with my current MVQ, I had ideated on several sacrificial concepts to show people, get feedback and most importantly, understand their reactions.

You can view them here: Prototype or Concepts_ Oct 2, 2019

The intent behind these concepts is to either:

1) Spark conversations.

2) Amplify a feeling of connectedness (this is most obvious in the first concept).

3) Both.

If these concepts spark a thought, I’d love to hear them. Additionally, if there are activities that you would stay away from, or will jump right into doing, I’d also love to understand why.

I’ve also created an interview guide to accompany the concept testing for interviewees that are able to converse for longer.

My plan for the upcoming week is to gather as much feedback from as many people as possible and to iterate on my ideas based on them. I’d also want to reach out to more experts in various fields to get diverse perspectives.