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.

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