This week’s lecture focused primarily on creating scenarios in order to better understand our main goals, possible problems, and ways in which to overcome such problems. Generating a scenario is a useful tool in it allows you to consider aspects that may otherwise go unnoticed. This is true because when you create a hypothetical scenario, you are essentially going through the same process you intend your users too. In this way, problems, solutions, and unexpected occurrences are brought to light. When considering the betterment of a park, then, this tool of developing a scenario is particularly useful. A park by nature allows for a plethora of activities in just a small amount of time. Understanding how a user interacts with their environment, with objects in the environment, and with others in their environment is key in determining how to best design a park to accommodate this user experience. We as a group develop several scenarios in order to get inside the user’s head. First, we mapped out the various ways in which a user interacts with a park. This included making use of facilities such as water fountains and bathrooms, enjoying the activities the space provides such as sports and recreation, and navigating the area through paths and walkways. After we gained a better understanding of the user’s park experience in general, we decided to zoom our focus into our current area of research: our garbage disposal droid. Our group developed a scenario in which rowdy teens abused the park and the droid. We wanted to demonstrate how the droid would react, how it deals with ill treatment, and also its intelligence. This is demonstrated through its awareness of humans (via infrared), its knowledge of their misbehaviour (creating a ruckus at a late hour), and its ability to deal with the garbage disposal appropriately (discerning the broken glass from their liquor bottles and the still-lit cigarettes and dealing with them appropriately). I think this exercise really helped our group further our idea and address issue concerning it. Indeed, this exercise taught me the value of incorporating hypothetical scenarios into all of my brain-storming activities.
While in the early stages of planning a project, it is important to not immediately immerse oneself in work, but to instead first plan an approach and consider important details. In this week’s lecture, we learned several methods of prototyping that furthered our understanding of how to plan ahead. The first, known as paper prototyping, is the method which we chose to apply to our project. Our group is interested in creating a droid that would circle a park, tidying and picking up trash. As this is a bit of a complex idea to approach, we thought it would be beneficial to first plan it out on paper. This can be accomplished a number of ways. A group of brainstormers may choose to make a rough walk through of an app or website including buttons and fake click-through links. Conversely, they may choose to simply sketch it and flesh out the details and interpret how it will function. For our group, it seemed most logical to begin with a sketch of our intended final product. In this way, we could map out its features and basic appearance before moving on to a more detailed prototype. This is an example of paper prototyping, one that we found particularly effective. Other methods we discussed in class that we plan to apply to our project in the future include sketching a scenario and rapid prototyping. Sketching a scenario entails the drawing of graphics to convey possible scenarios that may unfold in relation to a project or product. This method would be valuable to us in deciphering how our droid may react in certain situations, such as if it is abused by park users. Rapid prototyping, on the other hand, refers to prototyping done quickly with whatever materials are available. This puts the focus on the concept rather than the actual details of the product or project. This is important in evoking understanding from one teammate to the next, and is a type of prototyping our group may choose to use in the future. No matter what the preferred method, this weeks lecture taught me that prototyping and planning is an important part of the brainstorming process.
In this week’s class, we discussed different mapping methods that can be used to visually organize data in the brainstorming process of a project. One method I find particularly interesting, both in the context of this lecture and outside of class, is the inforgraphic method. Infographics, as the name implies, make use of images and words, to create a representation that is successful in delivering a large amount of information without being overwhelming. I have always been impressed at the amount of data that can be conveyed in an inforgraphic while still remaining visually appealing. I have even created inforgraphics of my own and was commended for the effectiveness of them. It is for these reasons, then, that I believe infographics are a valuable tool in data organization. I believe that our group would benefit from creating some in the context of our parks improvement project. I think by doing so, we would further our understanding of our goals as a group and come up with a unified theme for our presentation. For example, we could make use of graphics to organize the features we intend to include in our park. We could also include our stakeholder rankings we have already created to weigh the pros and cons of each feature. In this way, we would be able to visualize which features would be most advantageous to our park and its users. However, instead of doing this in a textual manner, which can often lead to headaches, the visual aspects allow for clear communication of ideas. It is for these reasons that I plan to encourage our group to make use of infographics in the future.
In last week’s class, we explored different research techniques utilized by the employees of IDEO. Many of these were interesting in that they defied traditional research standards and went beyond to create a new way of looking at things. Our groups each picked two or three different techniques and discussed how they could be utilized effectively. One of our groups that I found particularly interesting was the research method known as ‘rapid ethnography.’ Ethnography is the study of a group of people and their customs. Rapid ethnography, then, is the same sort of study but conducted in a brief manner as oppose to at length. The principles of ethnography are simple: a researcher enters a field in which their desired market resides and observes their behaviour, making note of how they respond and interact with their environment, with objects, and with each other. In fact, this model of research is similar to that of the AEOUT model, and differs only in that instead of a visiting a specific place, the focus is on a certain group of people. For example, when creating a product that enhances mobility of the elderly, it may be beneficial to visit a nursing home and observe the elderly in their environment. This allows the researcher to gain a further understanding of the way in which the people of their demographic of interest live, of the way they behave, and of their needs. A first-hand look with an emphasis on a short time period allows for the researcher to take what they need from the experience without overthinking things. We found this research method highly interesting. In fact, we think it would be worthwhile to return to the park we originally visited and investigate how specific demographics interact with the space in order to gain a greater understanding of how we can accommodate individual users. We believe that this will make for a better design, as is the goal of each of the IDEA research methods.
In last week’s lecture, we touched on several different forms of art and research. Specifically, we learned about three different relationships of the two: research into art and design, research through art and design, and research for art and design. The first, research into art and design is fairly self-explanatory in that it is just as it sounds: researching, as Christopher Frayling mentions in his writings on the subject “historical, aesthetic, or perceptual” research. This simply means researching theories pertaining to the field of art and design, and learning their importance. For example, Art History is a course we have taken that I believe falls under this category. Research through art and design, on the other hand, is more of learning through someone else’s doing. This typically refers to reading works written by people who have created an art piece and have then written about in retrospect to express certain theories. It is effective in conveying themes in an applied sense and giving the reader some contextual basis for the theories they are being taught. Lastly, we learned about research for art and design. To me, this seemed to be learning by doing. It seems that research for art and design is the act of jumping into something without having a fully formed idea in mind, but rather a notion of some goals to be achieved. This is how I see our parks project. We are to go through a brainstorming process in order to embody all of our ideas into the finished product. I think all three methods of research are interesting in their own ways and have their own respective places in the field of art and design.
Within an urban environment such as Toronto, parks are of utmost importance, as they provide the otherwise heavily-cemented landscape with greenspace, and also offer citizens an environment for entertainment and leisure. However, as technology continues to advance, we believe that so should the nature of parks. To come up with a list of things we believe could be improved, we followed a brain storming technique that broke down the big question into manageable parts. We first began by comparing parks to other experiences we enjoy and thought of ways in which a park could mimic these experiences. After that, we thought of who is involved in making a park the way it is, who it is meant to serve, and how. What we discovered was that there are many areas in which we believe the traditional park could be improved. We believe that an emphasis should be put on fun, safety, and environmental-friendliness. Therefore, we believe that parks could be more interactive, perhaps like an arcade. It would be interesting if there were a digital database to allow users to sign up for activities on a whim during their visit at a park. In this way they could connect with other visitors and get together to enjoy a common interest. In terms of the current ecological state of parks, we believe there is room for improvement. An idea we have come up with is droids that could circle the park and clean up trash, making it safer for animals and humans alike, and also helping to preserve the environment. This would ensure the park always stays clean without having to have a person carry out this task. We believe that parks also tend to appeal to youngsters, more than their supervising parents. Our new take on parks would ensure that there is plenty to keep older generations entertained, both as they monitor children and also on their own time. Musical events are a way in which we believe parks could pique the interest of older generations. While there is already lots of great qualities about parks within the city of Toronto, we believe, with a few small adjustments, we could take parks to a whole new level. Taking all the results we had gathered at the end of the class, we decided that the research question we would like to find answers to is how can the city of Toronto create a fun, safe, and green experience for its citizens and redefine the meaning of the word ‘park.’
One critical aspect of new media practice is to think outside of the box and to consider solutions that are often otherwise overlooked. This week, we were asked to apply this way of thinking to the betterment of local coffee shops. We were each asked to visit a separate coffee shop and comment on the many interactions we witnessed in the environment. From this information collected, we were to think of ways to better the customer experience. After observing the environment for several minutes, it was easy to see ways in which the user experience could be enhanced. Some solutions were as simple as rearranging this shop to create more effective and useful space. Other ideas that came to mind, however, were a bit more elaborate. For the assignment, my group chose to visit a Starbucks quite close to campus. Overall we were impressed with the space and the way in which it appealed to those looking to study, read, or socialize. It undoubtedly seemed to serve its purpose in that regard. One basic complaint we had was that the line tended to get bottlenecked where people wait to receive their drink. We concluded that this could be solved by making a few simple rearrangements. Upon returning to class and discussing our results with others, the conversation seemed to be heavily focused on the idea of an improved, perhaps digital, platform on which to place orders. No matter what coffee shop we visited, everyone seemed to agree that there would be some benefit to having an interactive app on perhaps an iPad to help customers reach a decision on what to order. Being a frequent Starbucks customer myself, I can relate to the panicked and rushed feeling that is often experienced when the barista asks what you would like before you’ve even had an opportunity to think about it. I, along with many of my classmates, seem to feel that creating an app to have your order prepared in advance would help not only the customers, but the baristas to prepare orders quickly and efficiently. This technology is in no way out of reach and would help enhance the customer experience. I’m sure it won’t be long before we start to see such technology surface in our everyday lives.