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Category Archives: Design Education

User Centered design gone wrong

This past week we read 3 articles, by three different authors. Jon Kolko’s: Our Misguided Focus on Brand and User Experience A pursuit of a “total user experience” has derailed the creative pursuits of the Fortune 500., Michael Hobbes’: Stop Trying to Save the World Big ideas are destroying international development, and Aneel Karnani’s: Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: A Mirage How the private sector can help alleviate poverty.

In each article I believe that each author was trying to tell the story of how true user centered interaction design went wrong. Whether it be by big business basically creating their own definition for user centered design to appease their unwillingness to change, or as Karnani did, calling out an actual individual name CK Prahalad for trying his hand at user centered design and failing.

I decided to create an infographic artifact to illustrate my take on these three articles.

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Creating the right pilot: Trust your gut, focus on the ideal

This week I waited for my recordable greeting card to come in the mail. Anticipating that the idea was to establish a conversation with individuals, via a pen pal type situation, recording reactions and reflections that were then sent back to the first user, then to another individual to reflect or react to by recording a verbal message.  I would then use contextual inquiry to identify if this back and forth conversation (revolving around the stigma of mental illness) was helpful for the initial user in disseminating the stigma that they had to keep their condition a secret, and to be more comfortable speaking out and owning their condition, because they were at least virtually interacting with others that could identify with their emotional state on a personal level.

Unfortunately, the card did not come in, but during this time of waiting for the card to come in the mail, I was challenged with the opportunity to take a step back and ask if this was really the correct way to pilot my ideal final product. Which is a 2 week trial pack of a mood disorder medication, which included recorded stories of others who have similar conditions and how they deal with emotion, medicaiton, and manage self care. As of now I can only equate my final ideal product to the idea to those voice recorded Hallmark story books, where a child can be told a bedtime story by a loved one who may live across the country.

Yet as I was waiting for my order to come in, to pilot my idea, I had in the back of my mind that this is not the correct pilot, I just felt it in my gut. My ideal end product is actually not necessarily a back and forth conversation as the initial pilot would suggest, but a book of real people with real stories about how they felt and dealt with issues surrounding their life before a diagnosis. Then how they felt and managed getting a diagnosis, being prescribed medication, and how they felt with the idea that they may have to maintain a medication regimen perhaps for the rest of their life.

I did not believe in my first pilot idea, so I went with my gut and started gathering stories, from real people in their own words. That is what I wanted in the first place and admittedly should have spent the past week gathering these stories.

The past being the past it, was time to get to work. I created a script of questions and recruited 2 individuals to interview and record in order to deliver these stories to someone who may be hesitant to seek help, whether by stigma or general fear of a diagnosis that required them to potentially take a medication that helped them reach self-care in the long term, possibly for the rest of their lives.

This is what I did today. Surprisingly people who suffer from a mood disorder (bipolar spectrum or depression) understand what the condition is like and are more than willing to share their own stories if it has the potential to help release the stigma of being the odd man out, or the damaged ones, as well as put them at ease about the idea of having to be medicated in the long term in order to reach the goal in life they seek.

I also learned the importance of getting this information out of the computer and on to the “wall”. The wall being a place where you can visualize your journey and ideas, inspirations and wishes that you can physically look at and see on a daily basis. This allows you to be able to see where you have been, where you are going, and where you want to be. To iterate, and I acknowledge I should have done this sooner. I should have trusted my gut.

Out of respect of the two individuals I will not post the recordings until next week when I am able to edit down to the core ideals I am initially going to pilot, to a new “patient” with the same hope that it will aid in creating a virtual bond with my recorded individuals and their experiences in hopes that the stigma of being judged as the damaged one, as well as the realization that it is ok, and rather normal, often rather necessary, to seek aid of a medication regimen is not weird, or uncommon.

My pilot has changed. I now have the necessary stories/tools to relay to someone who may be feeling like they are “not normal”, but being not normal is actually ok with the appropriate treatment. Some of the greatest minds of our time have been “not normal”, and have gone on to make a true effect on changing the world.

I truly was fascinated and inspired by hearing others give their trust and conviction in helping others by revealing their personal information on tape. I appreciate the community that is willing to speak out about 1 in 4 people you may walk past on the streets where you live each day that manage and thrive some sort of mood disorder, but still having a program to not only reflect on their own actions themselves, but also be the crafters of some of the most insightful realizations about the world we live in at the same time.

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Diagnosis : The Chemistry of Affliction

What is your diagnosis? What is one good thing that happened to you this week?

That is how where my story begins – today.

In doing my prototype testing and scenario validation, I have been getting close with a group of folks. The people change week to week but the introductions are always the same, the explanation of what is to come is always the same. That is comforting in a way. A re-enforcement of some stability or normalcy before the next 2 hours of guided sometimes hard to hear, dialogue. I ask questions, and feel really grateful to get honest answers to my questions.

There is a relief that I have observed from people hearing other people’s stories, however mundane. Even if it is just about what the best meal they ate that week comes. There is a sincere connection from individuals who really do not know each other at all outside of the context of that room.

So again, where is my project my “thing” today? Re-capping from last week when I scrapped the concept of the advent calendar, and decided to test out my book of stories and activities that revolve around adherence to a medication program. I made some scenarios, and I showed the book to a few people and got some feedback that “man, that is a lot of words, and a lot of writing”. Which got me thinking yeah… the people that I have been interviewing and working with for the past 3 weeks who may not be able to get out of bed for a week, and who haven’t even been able to have a job for years might not be into.

When you are in a state of being down, from my personal experience even, I don’t want to do anything. I want to watch TV, I will listen to Radiolab for hours but I can’t read, I don’t want to read. I may want to write but I actually asked the question in my last session how the group felt about “homework” and WOW the reaction was f-no I’m not doing homework.

So that a little bit blew my “fun activities” along with stories as therapy for people with mental illness in west Texas needed to evolve.

How do you get the warmth of the sharing stories with another human in a totally individually packaged analogue package.

Pat, a professor here at AC4D threw out the idea of those talking greeting cards and EUREAKA! I can do this! I can bring the technology to the patient. Rather than relying on the assumption that someone possibly in the middle of nowhere has high-speed wi-fi or even cell phone connection, or even a TV. I can use these little devices to bring a persons story into their home.

So I rush out to destroy some Hallmark “tell me a story” books and recordable photo frames and greeting cards and began figuring out how they worked. The book is quite clever, it works by a series of light sensitive triggers that when exposed will playback a pre-recorded story. A different sentence by turning the page and exposing a new sensor to light by a hold in the side of the page.

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The card and the photo frame works by pressing a button to record, and then another button to play.

This week is a week of discovery. I want to introduce to isolated individuals the same feeling of being in a space with others like them. To use these technologies to connect perhaps someone alone in west Texas the opportunity to hear the stories of others from their mouths, with their inflections, stutters, hesitations and emotion to connect them through voice, with a little widget that cost probably 2 bucks to build.

This week is a week of definition of purpose, of order and specificity of content, iterating the medication regimen in the narrative, and finding that carrot that keeps the patient going. That keeps them excited about following through to the end. The book is still my book, just being spoken to the patient rather than the patient having to read the story themselves.

Activities for the week:

  1. New scenarios with this technology integration.
  2. Test scenarios.
  3. Develop a succinct description of my service.
  4. Plan out content in order or appearance.
  5. Play with technology.
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User testing and observation

After creating my “Thing” which I describing now as a journey kit for individuals diagnosed with a mental illness focussing particularly on the various ranges of depression, to bipolar, and anxiety disorders.

My first round of user testing was incredibly enlightening and educational. My assumptions that something playful and interactive proved to be a bit too foreign and confusing to my users. No one came out and directly said that, but by reading facial expressions and their interactions with the kit, I could tell that the whimsey surrounding the idea may have come off as not taking the user seriously.

Before I go any further I will introduce first the journey kit, in a very rough prototype that I tested with. Then the series of questions I asked, what I learned, and how I am currently moving forward.

The kit.

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I should say first that as I passed around the kit, I also passed around a potential user scenario in that described what it might be like if your Dr. gave you this thing rather than a bottle of pills. This scenario was accompanied by a one frame image of a woman being handed this box:

IMG_4281With this scenario:

“Jane has just been diagnosed by her psychiatrist as having major depressive disorder. She has been feeling overwhelmed yet hopeless for a while now, so the psychiatrist has suggested that she try out some medication as well as her therapy immediately.

Jane is pretty anxious about taking medication. She has heard a lot of horror stories of side effects, or the zombie effect, but at this point she is really just looking for some relief so she is willing to try anything.

Jane goes to the counter of the psychiatrist office to check out and is surprised when instead of the dr. giving her a sample pack or a bottle of pills she is handed a box.

All that the box says on the top is “Hello. I am here to help”, she is intrigued as to what could possibly be inside. But also confused, “Is this medicine?” she thinks.

The dr. explains that this is a starter kit for her. That having a diagnosis of depression is not the end of the world, getting to a place of self-acceptance is a journey and she would like her to give this kit a try. If the medication and kit process is working for her she would like to keep her on the program, and validates that she is not alone. She is here to help.

She explains that inside she will be guided through the process of taking her first week of medication with this kit. Inside it has day-by-day pull out pill packs, like and advent calendar, clearly labeled “Day1, Day2 etc.). There is her phone number inside the inside cover of the box if she is experiencing any side effects or just needs to talk her number is always there, and on the 4th day she would like her to use the included pre-posted notecard to answer 3 simple questions about how she is doing and mail it back to her so she can keep in touch when they are not face to face in a therapy session.

She also explains that inside there is also a book called “My Story” that has stories of people just like her she can read, and blank pages where she encourages her to write down her story, and to record her thoughts or feelings each day in the “My Story”.

She describes how to take the medication and tells her that the instructions and info about the medication is on the bottom of the box if she ever needs it.

Jane thinks to herself, “my this is different. I hope I can keep up with it all this”, but is uplifted a bit that she is not just being sent home alone with a bottle of pills. ”


This activity was followed up by a short questionnaire regarding the accuracy of the scene, if there was anything that would make the concept more relevant, or more simple, if there was anything missing, and what might you do to improve up it if you could do anything.

The answers were group based, and was a very enlightening discussion.

One woman – age 54 – described the scenario as being seemingly accurate, but definitely hopeful that the Dr. would guide her through the process of using this “thing” because there really was not much direction in the prototype. Rather intentionally actually, a choice made by myself to try to be very clear yet still have a sense of discovery.

Another man – age 47 – thought it was an “interesting” idea, that the postcard was nice, but really the action of taking each pill out of the box, ripping it off of the card and taking it with you was a bit unrealistic and tedious.

My sessions are so far being held in a medical facility where you are not even allowed to bring in your phone, but one man was nice enough to go out to a cafeteria and fill out his scenario there.

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So with what I observed, listened too, and got in hopefully honest writing was that I need more focused content.

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What I came out of my session was this:
People WANT to tell their story. Affirmations are nice, but the content needs to be packaged more familiar, and the actual content needs to better encourage a few key items.

  • The idea that they are not alone.
  • That they are not weird.
  • That other people share their same story.
  • That the idea of being “normal” is such a stretch perhaps it is more of an acceptance that not being normal is really ok.
  • People rely on their medications, and switch meds a lot until they find the one that works for them.

GOING FORWARD:
The box is staying. The innards are changing a bit, but really just becoming more robust around the narrative listed above. I am now moving forward with the “notebook” kit rather than the advent calendar approach, which I believe will gain me more access to be able to provide guided content, as well as it being a much more familiar and portable solution for people who may need to have their medications with them on the go. I am now focussing on a 2 week solution rather than a one week solution.

The week is moving fast, I just got my second round of just feedback, no scenarios, from a few new people that I will share next time, and hopefully have more people to comment on the actual included narrative of the item, as well as the construction – next week.

 

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Mental Healthcare: Creation Continued.

This week was a week of reflection. It was time now to take all of the information that had been gathered. Print out all of the photographed whiteboard diagrams and scenarios, and do another round of synthesis on these new artifacts.

I had to take a bit of a step back from my initial design plans and start to really focus on the narrative around the product, which will inherently determine the way the product is designed.

Just to re-cap for a moment. I am working on developing what I am calling a “Journey to Recovery”. I have yet to even begin to think of a catchy 2.0 name and am very cautions really when it comes to putting a label on my service product because of the nature of the content.

My problem opportunity is this; I have backed up research and data that suggest that a combination of both therapy and medication are the best tools for helping an individual suffering from a mental condition.

That statistically 30% of individuals prescribed medication for such things as depression or bi-polar disorder never refill their first month. I was informed from an individual source that their particular center experienced only a 1% success rate or people making it through recovery and into self-sustainability.

Because I am focusing on areas where there may not be access to therapy or possibly even a support system for miles and miles, I must attempt, before even thinking of packaging design, to put myself into the shoes of my potential user. Where they come from. What they may be familiar with, and unfamiliar with as well. How to be cautiously empathetic without at all seeming contrived or like an “out sider looking in”.   

I took this week to really stop and think about what it would be like to receive a package of some sort, in the mail, that was intended to both inform, guide, provide medication instruction and expectations, provide support, and connect me to the outside world.

What do I see when I open my mailbox, visually? What does it feel like to receive a package in the mail? What is physically printed on the outside?

What indicators are there that tell me how to open the package? Am I confused? Do I say to myself, how do you work this thing?

When I open it what am I encountered with? Am I intrigued, cautious, welcomed, or encouraged? Am I relieved?

At what point am I presented with the concept and actual physical visual of the medication, and how might that feel? Do I feel anxious, or skeptical? Is there anything that accompanies the idea of being medicated long term that makes me feel less… broken?

How do I get the medication out of the package? Do I have to work for it? It is easy? Do I have to read something or interact with the package first before I can access it? Are the instructions clear? Day by day, hour by hour if necessary.

Lastly, when am I presented with opportunities to reach out to others, to mail back a letter, or call a number? And do I get a reply back? What does that feel like?

I am currently in the process of sketching and iterating upon those sketches with more sketches as well as working on researching comparative analysis on not to name names, but some pretty horrible products out there in the pharmaceutical land that actually gives me encouragement that I might, possibly be able to make some positive effect on someone. Someday.

Below are the questions posed above, in sketch form, mapped out as a step by step experience of what it might be like to interact with this thing.

 

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Now is an iteration 1 of an advent calendar style box that carries 6 weeks of medication, that encourages playful interaction, encouraging and identifying stories from people in the same position, with an intervention mail in card placed after a few days that the patient interacts with (fills out their story, scratches off how they are feeling, possibly suggests that they reach out to the center writing on this card with something they feel they need, such as more support). Each advent type small box holds 1. a card that can be taken with the patient, put in their pocket etc. 2. Encouraging narrative quote pertaining to the day the patient is on printed on the inside of the box opening, and 3. the actual medication packaged in a way that is easy to access for someone who may be elderly or lacking fine motor skills.

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The the process starts over with the next day.

Iterations 2 and 3 follow the same guidelines. One being a booklet shown here below, and another still in progress more of a travel kit.

The front of the booklet will follow along the same guidelines as the advent calendar idea. With familiar imagery, possibly a landscape, brand name, and indicator to open the package. My visual inspiration is from this package which I find universally soothing and very in touch with nature or a rural setting in a non condescending way.

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The booklet goes as follows:
Here are both the front of the booklet as well as how the basic structure is to be laid out. If it is not super clear, the booklet will contain 14 pills, 2 weeks of medication, in a semicircle pattern. With die-cut pages revealing the pill of the day along with varying narratives, resources, and stories.

- Basic structure:

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1st page welcome message / what to expect / Congratulations on taking the first steps to recovery:

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2nd page, clear messaging on the day, a narrative of someone in a similar situation, encouraging imagery and affirmation and a die-cut of the medication that is a blister pack you push through the back to access.

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3rd page similar to the 2nd, but with varying narrative as to remain fresh and interesting, the patient can see their progress by the 1st day of medications die-cut still there but now filled with a bright color:

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Intervention page: A tear out foldable pre-posted card that inquires about the patients status, wants and needs. Suggests ways to reach out for help, and resources available. Encouraging to stick with the program, that it will get better, and to notify their therapist if they are experiencing any ill effects at all.

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I have purchased the supplies to begin building more formal prototypes to test this week, and am currently working on refining the initial narrative that surrounds the recovery journey experience.

 

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Notes from the field- The Do’s and Do not’s of a well crafted Charette: A beautiful disaster

A couple of days ago we presented our studio project mid-point charette. After weeks of research, hours of travel, literally hundreds of photos and interviews with individuals sharing stories some would not believe. It was now time to run through our findings to get a bearing on our progress moving forward.

I would like to share my personal first time charette experience, and the do’s and do not’s of presenting a design research charette at a mid-point level.

I would like to first define for everyone what the actual word “charette” means as it was very foreign to me coming from the ad world. The term charrette may refer to an intense period of work by one person or a group of people prior to a deadline. In design I have found the definition to be loosely based on a number of factors, such as design field, formality, etc. For our sake it was a briefing of a project in progress, done in a visual narrative in a selected space in our classroom.

The word is pretty fun, because derived from the French word for “little cart” in Paris during the 19th century, professors at the Ecole de Beaux Arts circulated with little carts to collect final drawings from their students. Students would jump on the “charrette” to put finishing touches on their presentation minutes before the deadline.

According to Dictionary.com the best way to win a design contract is through well crafted charette.

So, let us then begin with the “Do’s” that I have learned from my first charette. They are valuable, and many I learned from the “Do Not’s” section.

Do: Actually have a well crafted charette. My understanding is that well crafted does not necessarily mean simply visually appealing, as sharpie on a brown paper with some compelling imagery would very much do the trick with the right content. Well crafted involves both:

1. Understanding visual hierarchy in storytelling. Use of font size, color contrasts, and content placement to guide your audience through your narrative is effective and can be really fun.

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And that is pretty much all we got correct for the Do’s section.

Let’s just skip to the do not’s and get it over with.

Do Not: Stay up until 4am putting together your well crafted charette. Learn from my experience, if the next morning you can not even focus your eyes to read the 60pt font that is printed out on huge paper, none of your work matters.

Do Not: Forget you are telling a story, from start to finish. Each image, each quote and mark on the page should be there for a reason. Fluff information is simply that – a barrier to information that matters. (refer to Do Not #1 above)

Do Not: Forget about that giant collection of images stuffed in the corner that could probably better tell your story than a foggy brain and a hasty quote.

Learning from the do not’s here are a few additional do’s. 

Do: Make sure your information makes sense and tells the story you want to tell. Choosing the most shocking or random quotes from individuals you speak with will do nothing but divert the audience from the real narrative your are trying to tell.

Do: Always ask “Why?”. Why is this artifact here? Does it help or hurt the narrative? Is it in the right place?

Do: Proofread your content! So what you were up until 4am. A typo is a typo and getting called out on it (especially by a client) is a big fat no no.

Do: Rehearse your story. If you do not know your narrative by heart you don’t know it period. Everything that is on that board should work together to tell one larger story, and here at midpoint you should be able to tell that story, then add on how and why you will write your story further.

I could go on but future students, and future ME, I leave you with this advice. Just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean it’s not garbage. If the content makes no senses as a whole, start over.

Also, get some sleep. Just because you can stay up until 4am does not mean you ever, ever should IF you have to be responsible for formulating a complete sentence the next day.

Be Organized.

Craft Your Narrative.

GET SOME SLEEP. Actually be able to have your brain eloquently present your empathetic narrative. Where, when, and how you believe what you believe, who are your players and why are they important, then what you are going to do next?

…go to bed.

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Oh Capital Metro App… mapping the pain

In our first assignment for Q2 in the Rapid Ideation and Creative Problem Solving class, we were tasked to deconstruct and analyze the current state of the Austin Capital Metro mobile app. The goal of this project is to find the obvious inefficiencies in the system structure, and map them out in a visual “Concept Map” of touch points, or areas of interaction with the app that we personally deemed important to the end goal the user is attempting to create. After mapping our version of the current state of the app’s system design, we then created a new, first iteration, of what we thought would be a good starting point for the optimal system flow for completing the task of 1. planning a trip, and 2. purchasing a ticket to be able to take the trip you need.

Below is my Concept Map of the current system flow of the Capital Metro app on a relatively high level. ConceptMapAsIs-01

The main issues I found with the current app was not only the general confusion in the interface, but the redundancy of information, when things could easily be consolidated for ease of use.

Below is my first iteration of the basic system flow for a re-design of the app. The first screen being an actual geo-located map of where you are in the Austin area, and what bus stops are surrounding you visually represented by clickable icons that give you more info about the bus, the schedule, and the route.

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I also believed it was important to be able to store information about your most valued routes, and easily purchase tickets within the app, both in the constant navigation bar as well as during the establishment of your route choice.

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Ux for Good: Hidden Patterns In Rwanda’s Reconciliation

This post is my fourth post in a series on the UX for Good design challenge. Check out the first post: UX for Good Introduction to get a better understanding of what the UX for Good design challenge is about.

Writing throughout the challenge posed to be a bigger challenge than I thought; given the time spent traveling and doing actual work.  But I plan on continuing these posts as this project progresses.

 

 

“Simplicity is reached on the other side of complexity.”

My former manager Frank Lyman often uses this metaphor to describe a pattern he’s observed when people work through complex problems. After reciting the pull quote, he often states something to the effect of:

“Imagine a bell curve.  At the left side of the curve is a blissful state of unaware.  As you move from left to right, the level of complexity (and often anxiety) goes up and up and up.  Just before the pinnacle of this curve, we often find ourselves in the most chaotic state. Everything is conflicted, none of the parts make any sense, and it’s really unclear as to where everything is going. Then you realize what needs to be done and you arrive at a state of simplicity; a state that could only have been achieved by going through the complexity.”

 

I’d like to think that the point at the top of the curve is a moment of ephiphany.  Sometimes it’s your own doing, but more often than not it comes from a rigorous process or a casual observer; who simply notices the right thread to start pulling on. Not to say that our team in Rwanda wouldn’t have discovered the “right path” if left to work through it – but we would have lost a significant amount of time (needed to do good research) if left to our own devices. Three days on the ground in a place that takes 12 hours to access leaves little time for error.

The three days of research conducted in Rwanda fell into this pattern, but with the steepest logical and emotional upswing toward complexity I’ve ever experienced. Our entry into the curve started with the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial (KGM), crafted in partnership by local Rwandans and Aegis Trust, was built to commemorate victims of the 1994 genocide; giving Rwandans a place to bury and remember their loved ones and document their history. The center itself is a museum that sits next to a series of mass graves, where over 250,000 are buried.

 

Walking past the graves, it’s extremely hard to comprehend the number of people that lie within arms reach.  Each one, a person, with a family, a story.  Each person with hopes and aspriations just like any one of us. But no longer. One of the Aegis employees tried to give us a sense of scale.

He said, “picture a stadium.  A large one – say the Dallas Cowboys stadium – holds 50,000 at best?  Now multiply that amount of people until you get to around 250,000.  That is how many rest here.”

 

So I stood there thinking about the sheer mass of 250,000 people – and how they managed to fit all of them into a space that really isn’t much larger than a 1 acre backyard.  “How big are these graves if they hold that many people?”, I asked.

“Most of the bodies aren’t completely whole..  We know they are different people because of the size, shapes and placement of the bones, but each coffin is filled by the bones of multiple different people. We don’t have most of the names either, because there are no written records – and anyone who would have been alive to note a missing person was also wiped out.”

 

As hard as it is to summarize the feelings you have while standing there – it’s even harder to capture them in a manner that can be conveyed to others. You feel sick – yet emotionally detached.  You know what you are hearing is awful…  Yet you are unable to truly understand it. It wasn’t until our first Contextual Inquiry that the feeling really sank in, and the team moved up the curve of complexity.

 

Prior to going into the museum, I had the chance to do an interview with a survivor. He must have noticed my “absence of self” expression that lingered for about an hour as I sat on a bench just outside the main entrance.  A face I noticed on almost every one of my fellow designers during the first day of research. The man sat down and began to talk to me about the memorial gardens and the city of Kigali. After some brief back and fourth, he gave me an entirely different perspective on what this place meant to him.

“This place is home to me.  It has the bones of my mother and my father… I’m still looking for the bones of my brothers, my sisters, my cousins, aunts and uncles… Someone out there knows where they are, but they just aren’t saying anything… But my parents rest here. Here, they are no longer in the bush.”

 

As a design researcher, you are rarely caught off guard during an interview.  Your job as a facilitator is to feel out potential avenues of exploration in real time – responding to the participant’s statements, actions, and reactions – such that you might uncover their perspective in a particular context. The interviews that we did over the course of 3 days in Kigali were exceptionally difficult – not necessarily because of responses like the one above, but because of the way a person’s demeanor would change throughout the interview. Each person we talked to would drift away at some moment while they were telling us stories, or politely answering our questions.

Their eyes would shift in such a way that you would swear they were watching something horrible happen just over your shoulder.  They didn’t frown.  They didn’t smile.  They just watched. Watched something you could feel but never come to understanding yourself. Watched something they have probably replayed over and over for the past 20 years since the genocide, and all the while, attempting to do their part to make us feel as comfortable as possible. This was heart wrenching.

These experiences moved the team further up the complexity curve.  In addition to not having a direction to start aiming our research, we were now emotionally invested with the people who were kind enough to share their stories.

 

While some members of the team spoke with locals and visitors, others moved through the museum portion of the memorial.  The museum itself is 4 – 5 stages of audio and visual walkthrough of the historical markers that led to the genocide, personal accounts of the 100 day event, a brief overview of the international response, subsequent actions of recovery, and finally remembrance and dedication to lost loved ones.

While the memorial seeks to serve as a point of education for the Rwandan people, the customer journey has quite the opposite effect. Many visitors, both local and foreign, described their emotional state as “broken” upon leaving the exhibit.

 

“What did I expect?  I just totally got smacked. [crying] I just got hit…. I watched readings, I watched tapes [of the genocide] but it was so distant. They were not useful… I could not understand [until I came here]. I came for someone who lost about 34 members of their family.  I couldn’t understand how 34 people can be killed.. It was people cutting and hacking.. It was your next door neighbors, people you grew up with, people you lived with…”

 

Our own design team even struggled to come to terms with the profound sense of loss that immediately follows a visit to the KGM. At some point during our second day of research, while gathered to plan our few remaining hours on the ground, we reached the pinnacle of complexity.

In recapping the days activites, doing a mental inventory of the research opportunities we had left, and feeling the pressure of the ticking clock, one of our team members opened up with frustration. He said, “How are we supposed to research this if we can’t get over it ourselves.”  We are supposed to document as much of this experience as we can, yet we are paralyzed by the immense amount of pain and loss.

 

What happened next was our moment of epiphany.  Jeff from insight labs connected the dots we were unable to see.

“Maybe this is the point..  If you all are so conflicted as a result of being here, that you can’t get anything done, how do we expect someone who isn’t going to be here for this many days to be able to reconcile the feelings into some form of sustainable action?”

 

The design brief suddenly made sense – “The problem we’re trying to solve isn’t just genocide and isn’t just museums.  Rather, it’s the gap between the way we remember the genocides of the past and how we act to prevent the genocides of the future.”

We’d been so focused on the types of actions someone can do to identify and prevent future atrocities that we missed the real problem. Experiences like the KGM leave you so broken that you are unable to act in any capacity, much less one that requires empathy and some form of critical thinking.

Aegis Trust partially recognized this deficiency when they created a traveling education exhibit, based off of the original narrative in KGM. On our 3rd day of research, the team drove out into rural Rwanda to see this exhibit and speak to the community educators. The tone and narrative of the education exhibit was almost the opposite of its predecessor at KGM. While it told the same initial story, this exhibit ended with stories of people working together as a means to emulate model behavior.

 

“Have you seen the exhibit at KGM? Yes?  Then you can see the difference.  At KGM, you get to the end and just go ‘poof’; but with this one [educational exhibit] that happens very quickly.  Users go through the hard part, but then also the uplifting part; realizing some of the possibilities that are there.”

- Morley Hanson, Aegis Trust

 

The groups of school children who arrived from nearby villages left with renewed compassion toward their fellow countrymen and a motivation to correct wrongdoing in their own lives.  The traveling exhibit not only transferred the values of critical thinking and empathy, but it was able to contextualize examples of supportive behavior that rural villagers could emulate every day.

After seeing this, it became obvious to the design team that one key to generating action was to provide examples that locals and visitors could see in their daily lives.  We would need actions that ranged from easily achievable to aspirational. This would provide “humanitourists” the ability to gain confidence that they can affect change and the realization that there is more that can be done.

 

Our final 24 hours of research in Kigali was focused on interviewing visitors of the museum and observing education workshops conducted by Aegis Trust.  One of our first participants, a youth leader on his 4th return to Rwanda, gave us another clue into the recipe for creating sustained action. He described an interaction with his grandmother upon returning from his first visit to Africa.

She asked him, “Did you get that Africa out of your system?”
“No..  In fact, it’s just starting… A missionary had started a school here and they needed someone to run it.  So I came, moved my family, and ended up having my son here.”
 
 

The youth leader had just described his trigger for action. A pattern we noticed in multiple people during our final day of interviews.

Upon hearing moments of “triggered action” from dissimilar participants, the design team began to wonder if it would be possible to manufacture trigger moments within the memorial?  Or at the very least, be in a position to provide resources for action when “primed” individuals reach a moment of potential action after returning home.

The youth leader continued to describe another key to his continued involvement.

“I have a friend here named Erik [his name has been changed to protect his identity].  His entire family was killed in the genocide.  He was called to be a witness against the guy who killed his entire family. So he went and said – this is what happened – but he forgave him. He said, ‘he’s done something horrible to me, but if I do something horrible to him, I’m no better.’”

 

The youth leader was describing a second pattern for sustained action. Motivation that was sustained by a connection with a real person.

“I no longer run the school here in Kigali, but I do bring groups of students to Rwanda.  This is my 4th time back.  We talk about this trip as being a series of contrasts – ups and downs.  We are here this morning, reviewing the history, and then we are going to drive out to a school to see kids that are so full of hope and life.  I think that Rwanda is a story of growing redemption and hope.  If we just have one side of it, we are missing the full picture.”

The youth leader had hit upon another pattern we discovered in multiple western groups who were touring Rwanda.  Each group had modeled a tour that included multiple moments of “ups and downs”.  They had independently discovered that balancing turmoil with hope created opportunities for connection within each of their participants.

 

There seems to be an underground culture of “humanitourism” taking place in Rwanda.

While it’s fair to say that people who make it to Rwanda to visit the genocide memorial are already predisposed to some type of action.  Rwanda itself isn’t a very large tourist destination.  Most visitors have to go out of their way to enter the country to see the gorillas or to go to the genocide memorial.  Very few happen to stop by as part of a day-trip to other sites within Rwanda or it’s bordering countries.

The design team began to wonder if we could amplify this concept of humanitourism.  Is there a market for people who are looking to be inspired by the acts of kindness and reconciliation that are taking place in this small African country?  If so, would we be able to model a series of experiences that activate people to participate?

These were just some of the questions we had upon finishing our research in Kigali.  In my next post, I’ll talk about how we took these data points and synthesized them into design recommendations for Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

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IDSE 402 Putting Context To Design

After reading the assignments for IDSE 401, I completed a chart to depict the different authors point of view. On one access I thought of showing a linear progression between future design and traditional design. To me this represents how I felt the authors focused on when deciding how they want to make design decisions. 

The authors on the bottom part of the chart used more traditional examples to depict the environment to make informed design decisions. When discussing emotions I feel that they are trying to focus on a more humanities approach to design. This would involve areas such anthropology, philosophy, and sociology to inform the designer on where to discover clues when making decisions.

The authors on the top use more future (not currently existing) design ideas to make decisions. Sanders is the best example of this with her emphasis on the individual that is the ideal user being the center of all decisions.

-Chart depicting the different understandings I interpreted from the reading.

The half of the graph showing Human Focused/Computer Centered is how I feel the authors view interaction. The authors on right side explore the ability to allow technology to function ethnographically. While the authors on the left support methods of human to human ethnography. The authors in this section depicted the human computer interaction relationship and the process of ubiquitous computing. On the the far end of this chart is Mann and his discussion of engaging technology to capture every aspect of his life. I feel it pushes the interaction of computer centered design. Altogether the readings depict important fundamentals when exploring environments for design.

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Designing Meaningful Models for Interaction

Recently our class has been exploring modern design history and its intertwined relationship with computing technology and approaches to human and computer interactions.  Technology is both active and contextual in our lives and as a result any discussion of how humans and technology is characterized by both granular detail and broad societal trends.

Designers are rightfully wary of the effects of amplification that are possible through modern technology.  Industrialization showed us the immense power and terrifying unintended consequences of amplifying design ideas.  And in the computer age we have seen many of the same naive, shortsighted views that characterized industrialization repeated in new mediums.

In one of the articles we recently read, Steve Mann advocates for the use of a video capture device that will record every moment of our lives and act as a filter for our perspective of the world.

Having an on-demand photographic memory can help all of us by offloading, to a wearable computer, the task of memorizing now-mundane details that might only later become important.

I couldn’t help but think of the idealized representations of home life in mid-century advertisements for appliances and how they would free women from the arduous everyday tasks.  And while Mann’s perspective may have seemed extreme not long ago the introduction of google glass clearly demonstrates our willingness to continue to hand off tasks to automation.

In another article, Paul Dourish explores (among other things) how our everyday activities shape our view of the world.  Out of this view we begin to see technology that simply attempts to model and replace human activity more realistically: in severing out connection with the environment around us through our activity, we lose our ability to make meaning of the world.

Practice is first and foremost a process by which we can experience the world and our engagement with it as meaningful. As technologists, then, our concern is not simply to support particular forms of practice, but to support the evolution of practice—the ‘‘conversation with materials’’ out of which emerges new forms of action and meaning.

Dourish’s wider point is about how the people that we interact with and the social norms that we establish inform, shape, and ultimately collaborate with us to establish the context from which we make meaning of the world.

In another article that Dourish collaborated on this idea manifests into an important implication for designers who wish to affect people rather than divorcing them from meaningful experiences.

This requires a shift from designing systems to model and transmit emotion to designing systems that support humans in producing, experiencing and interpreting emotions.

As designers we design for people to able to understand and use our systems efficiently.  The computing mediums that interaction designers often bring ideas to life in are biased toward an information based approach to the world that relies on representational models.  And so designing for people by creating computational models that match the observational models we see in the world becomes a natural extension of modern mediums.  But over time this disconnects people for the everyday world and leads to hollow, filtered interactions with the world around us.

Liz Sanders explorations in co-design offer a relevant counterpoint to consider.

People are naturally creative. As designers of scaffolds, we need to give them participatory tools to promote generativity in their thinking.

Sanders describes the designer’s role primarily as a facilitator: a conduit for other’s creativity.  I think Sanders overreaches in pushing all of the active creativity out of the realm of the designer and so I think her model is flawed as a model for methodology in the design process.  But they may offer a powerful model for how to think about the systems that interaction designers put into the world.

As with so many themes in design, the ethic for a designer emerges as a tension between competing needs.  Our medium requires us to think about how to leverage information models and our subject requires to consider how to create interactions that lead to meaningful understandings of the world.  So our task becomes to explore interaction scaffolds that give people the opportunity to create their own meaning and then create models of these scaffolds that are appropriate for the medium.  In this way we design systems that embrace the new interactions that are only possible in new mediums rather than simply creating a virtual shadow of meaningful interactions.

Thoughts?

-Scott

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