Reading Response: Public Space Project

The Social LIfe of Urban Spaces Chapter 1-3 by William White
The William White chapters put what we saw in the video onto paper.  These chapters on Plazas, Sitting Space, and the Street emphasized how people interact within a public space. The study formulated interaction of people within the space of a congested city.  Thinking of New York City, one thing comes to my mind–crowds and congestion! But really, this study shows us that this is not something that happens 24/7 but occurs during periods of times.  People have the same patterns on a daily basis, so a person who goes out to have lunch in a Plaza, is going out there with hundreds of other people.  This makes it seem like the Plaza space is always in use, but in reality, there are times when the vibe is relaxing and not overwhelming. There are many factors that contribute to the use of public space.  White thoroughly discusses how sitting space and locations of benches affects how people act in the space. Whether they are drawn into staying, or stay for a short while. The success of a space can be judged by the reaction from the public and how the space is used.  To me, space that people can go to and use regularly is successful. When people are not using it out of convenience, but purely  out of choice, the space becomes a useable interface for everyone.
Cultural Probes by Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne, and Elena Pacenti
The success of this project is evident because of the thought and time that was put into researching the audience and the results desired.  This group put together a “Culture probe” where they packaged different elements.  I felt that their process was very similar to the scientific method that is used in a science experiment.  They had a hypothesis they wanted to be answered, and then in order to get to their end product, they did research and then experiments.  I thought it was very clever to use the “cultural probe” as a way to ask questions to the elderly.  This is a great solution to the overwhelming an confusing nature of a questionnaire.  I have a personal experience with this because this summer, my Grandma asked me to help her fill out some forms because it was very confusing for her and she got frustrated. The cultural probes did a great job in reducing the stress and frustration level for the individuals by having very simple and open ended questions.  Overall, it was easy to understand, which is very important in any type of project.  If you want people to interact with what you are presenting to them, it must be easy.  Today, we are becoming more accustomed to everything happening so instantly.  We don’t have the time to wait, and I think everyone has a little ADD in them.  When something isn’t simple, people sometimes don’t take the time to do it.  On a funnier, not serious note, this also reminded me a saying my good friend uses on me: “K.I.S.S.” or “Keep it simple stupid.”
Experience Protoyping by Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri
More about prototyping! The difference between this reading and the ones we have had in the past, is this article focuses more on the actual actions people encounter through prototyping.  This article wasn’t particularly about making the physical prototype but how interaction can be used as a way to explore design ideas, communicate concepts and understand the human connection.  Experience prototyping is highly subjective because how each person comes in contact with whatever it is being prototyped is very different. But this is what is needed.  In order to understand why something works for someone and not someone else is necessary in order to create a universal product. (That is, if the product is meant to be universal).  Understanding what works is also great for the designer.  Putting something into practice is better than just conceptualizing in your mind.  I am not sure if other people work like this but, my personal work style is very visual.  Whenever I work on a project, I am drawing pictures or making paper models of what is going to be the finished product. For me, it’s important to see something and interact rather than to think about it all the way through.  I try to anticipate problems within this process so I can fix them before the end result.  The overall process is also discussed in the article.  Experience prototyping deals with how the experience provides information which leads to inspiration, confirmations, or rejections of the ideas that are being carried out. I especially liked the final notes in the article that said experiences are the connections of personal and circumstantial.  The experience is what brings out the “subjective richness” to design problems and a meaning to what is done.
Cardboard Computers
Before even getting to the paragraphs relating to cardboard mock-ups to children using their imagination to re-create life with their games, I thought of my own childhood.  Hoarding cardboard boxes to build a house, and making everything and anything out of cardboard and paper.  I didn’t have money, so I folded some paper, took a marker, and created some. I simulated having money and buying items.  This was a “mock-up” of an interaction that would occur at the store. I wanted to pretend to talk on a phone, so I cut one out of cardboard.  Simple things like this–using cardboard to mimic realistic daily reactions–are preparations for the actual event occurring. When the time came and I was allowed to use our house phone on my own, it was an upgrade from the cardboard version.  Reaching this end result felt like an accomplishment. It was the end of the prototyping phase. There are many things I wished I had as a child, or wanted to do to “play pretend” with friends. This all came true with cardboard mock-ups.  From a young age, I think we all have the potential to mock-up and prototype ideas.  Prototyping is like being a kid again.  To find success you must have the same inquisitive and experimental nature of a child who is new to everything.  Take away everything you already know and pretend like you know nothing.  This is the only way to push the possibilities and be surprised (and satisfied) with the final product.

Week 5 Reading Response

Cultural Probes 

Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne, and Elena Pacenti

As a product designer, I remember doing cultural probing in undergrad days. Our group’s goal was to make a new entertainment product for people our age (early 20s at that time). We handed out our very own cultural probing package to people who were unique in certain ways but who were all aged in their early 20s. We handed the packages out to physics majors, design majors, engineering majors, etc. We gave them a diary to write on along with stickers, pens, magazines, etc. so that they could decorate their diary. It was experimenting with cultural probes and to see the diverse results cultural probing had to offer. And fortunately, we did “explore functions, experiences, and cultural placements quite outside the norm.” Because we didn’t want the probing package to seem like a project, or something irritable for the tester, we tried to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible so that people would actually WANT to record their daily lives. Along with giving them probing packages, we also carried other methods such as shadow tracking to see different people’s lives and to see it in their point of view. We believed that there was only so much information that could be gathered if we left the testers to do everything on their own therefore we followed them around the entire day acting as their shadows and documented and recorded their entire actions of that day. We would also talk with them during different instances and receive direct feedback and very useful opinions. After an analysis of the probing packages, we realized different tendencies of different people in their early 20s and made a product that would soothe each user at different times. Like the article mentions, we received feedback from the testers saying that this cultural probing package made the testers rethink about how they acted in their daily lives and some even thanked us for giving them a fun and interesting experience.

Experience Prototyping

Marion Buchenau, Jane Fulton Suri

Prototyping, as everyone knows it, is used for “understanding, exploring, and communicating.” There are so many different types of prototyping that it is really hard to define or explain prototyping as a single word. One action is better than saying a hundred words. I believe this to be the motto of prototyping. Clearly, from this article, we can see that prototyping is used for three main purposes: reliving existing experiences for better understanding, exploring new and intuitive design ideas and to check on feasibility, and communicating design concepts for better understanding. For each instance, people must check the methods of communicating prototypes for better understanding of different targets.

Although acting out a certain case (Train Journey Experience, ROV Pilot Experience, Patient Experience) may be effective, it is sometimes really hard to grasp the “real” environment unless you are actually in the user’s shoe. I think it was a very good idea to ask questions to an ex-ROV Pilot in order to relive the Pilot experience. This gives the prototype much more depth and a solid base to work off from. It would also be very fun to act out certain circumstances in a train journey and act randomly. Instead of trying to make a gadget that you think “looks cool” and is “up-to-date” in technology, prototyping gives you a sort of proof that a proposed design WILL affect certain people and WILL be of beneficial use for a diverse range of people.