Thesis Development 3 : Recode

This week I have been primarily preparing for the Show a Thing feedback sessions. This meant I needed to amend my presentation and iterate on my messaging about the project to clarify more what it is about. I also spent some time creating a better more concise description of the interaction with the object for me to be able to better describe how it works. This involved the creation of the step by step experience manual working backwards from the final outcome.

  1. The person reads the poem they received and can reflect on the experience they had.
  2. The person receives a small token by way of a poem after returning the device to the exhibit stand/area
  3. The person has managed to get the device to a bathroom sink and the balloon has burst OR the person has not managed to get the device to a bathroom sink and they are now wet OR the person has one of 2 dummy units and has had the full experience.
  4. The person carries the device for 15 to 20 minutes anticipating a set of actions to occur which include the following:

A vibration alerting the person to the countdown beginning.

The countdown starting.

The servo motor actuating.

The balloon being pierced.

5. The person picks up and puts on the device.

6. The person reads the brief of what the piece is about and how the device functions.

7. The person approaches the exhibit stand and encounters a set of graphics and description of the piece.

This experience manual is written in reverse as we look at the final outcome first but it informs the steps that the experience takes and I can divulge from this the set of tasks I have to do to achieve this.

This week also seen the arrival of the majority of the electronic components I will use to build the device. I splurged on seeed studios kit as it is very easy to connect parts together and build out the physical part of the project. This will save me time which will be allocated to the actual coding of the device.

Thesis Development 2 : Recode

This week for the development of my thesis project I spent a day with a group of people from a company called Hollister. This company makes products for people who have to live with issues around continence care.

The research and innovation team from Hollister were carrying out a workshop to try to understand how to improve products. The group was made up of engineering and production management capabilities. There were few people with much human factors experience.

I brought the experiential experiment prototypes I had created with me. Randomly I selected people from the group and asked them to wear one of the following.

1: A hip bag with water balloons and a Xiaomi band watch component.

2: A Samsung smartwatch with the screen covered which is cable tied to the persons arm.

Out of a group of approximately 40 people I was able to carry out the experiential experiments with 10 and then ask them to give feedback to the group and give me written feedback at the end.

The objective of the experience experiments was to test my assumptions of what I felt were the feelings of living with the issue and whether the individual parts of the experience were replicating them.

There were a lot of useful insights from these experiments.

The pouch with the balloons and Xiaomi band watch component.

Nearly always conscious of the device.

Kept wanting to touch and feel for security.

Concerned at it bursting.

Never not aware of it.

Sitting differently.

Found it irritating and constantly wanted to remove it.

The Samsung smartwatch with covered screen cable tied to the arm.

The random vibrations always caught me off guard.

Hard to focus or refocus when the band vibrated. 

No way to control it which meant having to wait for it to stop.

The more the band vibrated the more i anticipated the next vibration.

Confusion due to not knowing why the band was vibrating.

Other feedback.

I also had the opportunity to ask this group of people had they considered this set of emotional experiences in relation to the products they created. There was very little understanding of these experiences and no way for them to fully understand them.

They found the experiments valuable as insights for their own work.

The other feedback for improvements was looking at how the device would be used.

Look at a device that can be held on the arm.

Look at a shoulder bag form factor.

Consider using only vibration as a indicator of the countdown timer.

Consider not using water balloons but perhaps some other type of interaction.

The feedback for this session was very important for the development of the physical artefact and I felt fortunate to get the opportunity to do it. It reinforced what some of my assumptions were and gave me some further ideas for the development of the product.

Takeaways :

1. The experiments were successful in triggering feelings relating to loss of control, concern, fear in many instances.

2. There are improvements that can be made to how someone will interact with the object.

3. The object aesthetic needs to be less intrusive or obvious. It’s a very individual or personal experience.

4. While a person is having the experience others may not be aware of it.

5. There is a need to consider how someone begins to interact with the experience.

What’s next?

With a clearer understanding that the project appears to be going in the right direction I can now do some work to create the visual identity of the device and an instruction manual of how it will work. I will also be able to order the components required to build the device.

Action items for this week :

1. Order parts for making the device.

2. Create some mood boards around interaction with the device and aesthetics.

3. Write the first draft of the instruction manual on use of the device.

The Pencil Project

Play testing in week 13 revealed many flaws in the concept I had been working on. When we carried out the play testing sessions my project did not stand up to being experienced remotely due to the demands on the person experiencing the project.!/experiments-in-empathy

I had to take a step back and look at how I could simplify and make the experiment much more easy to carry out with the minimum of required effort and with items that everyone would have available at their desk.

The original project had several sets of instructions on how to carry out the experiment. It proved to be unnecessary to have all of this information.

During play testing no one had the items required to carry out the experiment so it was rendered useless. When I could guide someone through the experiment then the result could be achieved but this defeated the purpose of the project.

From a coding perspective I used much of the code from the original project to produce the new Pencil Project version. I spent a lot of time trying to get the feature involving uploading pictures to the chat box to function but ultimately in the end couldn’t get it to work. I was also pressed for time because I had to change a lot of the project because of the failure of the project in play testing!!/the-pencil-project

Despite the ups and downs of the project I learned a great deal about the difficulties of coding. I also gained a greater appreciation of how websites function and can now deploy a basic website with some basic interactions. With reference to the project itself I feel that I got to a more pure form of what the experience needed to be and learned a lot through play testing.

This is the link to the presentation form our final class. Feedback from my presentation revealed that I need to be able to communicate the idea earlier in the presentation as it isn’t apparent what the concept.

Connections Lab : Project 2

For my second project I chose to continue the development of an idea I had for helping us develop empathy in order to be able to consider the development of new products and experiences. The idea was to create experiments which people could do remotely that replicate a small part of what it might be like to live with a disability. I have several experiment ideas but for this webpage I chose to concentrate on manual dexterity as it is something that will affect all of us in our older age.

I used the following experiment to achieve this. 

For the coding of this webpage I used the original page I made but changed some of the CSS to reflect more empathic coloring. I also changed the flow of the page as you move through it. It starts with an explanation of the experiment, follows with everyday items required for the experiment and then features a video and instructions on how to carry out the experiment. The page concludes with a chat box that is a call to action to discuss learnings.

Seems straight forward, right? For my limited capabilities and understanding of coding it was a bit of a challenge. I was able to change things like the CSS and HTML with a little bit of effort but where I struggled was implementing the chat box.

First I started by duplicating the chat box page I had already made. Then I tried to include the ability to load photos to the chat box. Unfortunately I found myself unable to do this. It was becoming a stretch and in order to bring the original page together with the chat box I knew I had to abandon this effort as I knew completing the page was already going to be a big task for me.

I then tried to copy the files I had amended from the original webpage which was now had amended CSS and HTML to the chat pic code in VScode. I also copied all the images and link to the video into this folder. When I tried to get the code to function none of the CSS or any data about style worked and the images would not show up on the webpage.

After lots of copy and pasting and control z-ing I found myself several hours later no further along. I decided to try switching things around a bit.

I opened the file for the chat app we created in class and then brought all the files from my web page across to it. This still did not work! It occurred to me that maybe these files where in the wrong place and I began to put them into the public folder within the chat app code.

Success! All the CSS and styling was now showing on the page. The images and video were there too. Next I had to check the chat box. Opening 2 browsers on chrome through localhost:3000 I got this to function.

I successfully uploaded the code to GitHub and it can be seen here.

I also tried to deploy the GitHub Repo to Glitch but was unsuccessful in this. This I will address next.

Ecologies and Materiality

Group Members: Sammy, Noel, Chumou, & Alexis

Theme: Ecologies & Materiality

What was your lesson about? Were there specific questions, interests or themes driving the lesson?

Our lesson targeted questions like, “are you more likely to do something about a problem when it surrounds you”, “what will you do now that you’ve been exposed to this information?”

We wanted to provoke people with visuals that made people question how they spend their money and time on technology. We covered topics such as e-waste, rare earth materials, how technology and humans affect the environment, and the dependency we have on smart technology. 

How did you do it? How was the lesson structured? Were there any activities you designed?


To exchange ideas and create our lesson plan, we met 4 different times for about an hour on zoom. Each meeting, we came prepared with more information and references.

Trolley Dilemma

To find a sense of balance, we decided to divide lecturing and discussion with activities and visuals. We began by introducing the trolley dilemma to set the mindset of the class, so that we could then circle back and pose the scenario again as a “modern trolley dilemma’, making us choose digital tools or people.

Multiple Choice Group Activity

After giving the class this context of having detrimental choices, we sent out a link for everyone to answer multiple choice questions. The questions were formatted so that choice (a) would be more technologically inclined and choice (b) was the opposite. 

Example questions:

When preparing a new recipe I prefer to use:

  1. A video to help navigate me through the recipe
  2. A cookbook

In order to have prior knowledge about natural disasters or bad weather:

  1. I prefer to receive a bad weather alert
  2. i’ll read a newspaper OR I’ll react when it happens 

We read the questions outloud to keep us all at the same pace to allow for fun commentary from the students. At the end, we revealed that the higher their score was, the more inclined they are to depend on technology. The average score was pretty obvious, considering the context of the class. We wanted for this moment to emphasize our dependency and establish this before seeing some disturbing photos that are the consequences of this.

Breakout Rooms with Photos

We then broke out into 2 rooms for 12 minutes so that there could be more space for the students to guess the context of each photo. Following guesses or awkward silence, the two group members in each room would reveal the context of the image, forcing us all to confront there horrifying circumstances that we may be unaware of. 

Class Discussion

We continued the discussion that these photos sparked in the main room, and found our way back to the ‘modern trolley dilemma.’ This caused lots of discomfort and guilt. As a group there was a feeling of helplessness, as we didn’t know what the solution was considering the field of study that we are in. After some back and forth, we interjected to take us on a more positive route so that we could leave the class feeling empowered instead.

Future Solutions

We began our positive conclusion by showing the efforts of big companies such as Google are making to try and reduce e-waste. We dissected the ways that these companies may be promoting their products with environmental intentions but may be just saving money and making more profit. It’s difficult to understand the true intentions of these companies. A great example given by Vince during class was that Apple Airpods alone make an equal profit to Netflix’s whole company – crazy!

We then gave a fantasy-solution-scenario of ‘thrifting technology.’ We proposed that technology could one day be thrifted by most users to reduce waste, the way thrifted clothing has been made trendy. Trendsetters tricked the market into shopping sustainably, once the overflow of clothing became widely known. Why isn’t it likely that the new trend in 2080 will be to thrift a flip phone, get the battery replaced, and have that be your new phone? 

The question that we addressed was ‘are people more likely to do something about a problem when it surrounds them?’ The devastating photos we saw in the breakout rooms for example, would people be more likely to be more concerned about e-waste if it was next to their home?

Connection to Covid-19

To really bring it home in our conclusion, we discussed the positive effects technology has had on the pandemic. We shared the ways that technology helped us get to where we are today – vaccinations and getting closer to normal life. We wanted this to uplift the class so we could leave our conversation feeling empowered.

Contributions of each group member:

Noel: Trolley dilemma idea with an introduction and visuals, assigning pre work assignment, photos and google map example with information for breakout rooms, helping out with multiple choice questions, and adding links in reference document

Alexis: Photos with information for breakout rooms, helping out with multiple choice questions, research on how big companies are finding ways to fix the large-scale e-waste problem, ⅓ positive solutions conclusion, and adding links in reference document

Sammy: Facilitating the group for flow of topics, photos with information for breakout rooms, helping out with multiple choice, ⅓ of positive solutions conclusion (thrifting technology scenario) with video visual, adding links and organizing the reference document, blog post

Chumou: Assigning pre work video, creation of multiple choice questions, responsible for the logistics of the multiple choice website, photos with information for breakout rooms, Covid-19 related visuals and information for ⅓ of conclusion with Noel

We worked so well together! Our exchange of ideas flowed smoothly, and it was such a lovely experience.

Why did you choose to do this? 

We were inspired by the readings from the previous week, Anatomy of an AI by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler and Re-thingifying the Internet of Things by Jennifer Gabrys. While reading those works, we were all really struck by how much society’s need for technology was harming the Earth. This was something that we recognized wasn’t talked about as much as it should and we wanted to bring to light these issues while also talking about some of the more positive things technology has done for us and some of the ways that other companies are trying to do their part to fix the system. We thought our discussion and activities would bring out a powerful discussion about something that people won’t feel comfortable talking about, but also give them hope for the future in ways that they might be able to contribute to the solution and have them think more about the ways that they are using their technology.

What were the goals of the lesson?

The purpose of this session is to rethink our responsibility as designers or users of technology by discussing the negative and positive effects that technology products have on people and the environment. Think about what changes we can make in the creation, purchase, use and recycling of technology products.

How do you think it went? Did everything go as planned? Were there any surprises? If you ran this lesson again, would you do anything different?

The class went great! Our flow of topics went as planned, and we got the class rattled up in the subject matter. People responded passionately, kept the conversation going, and felt genuinely concerned about the problems we put forth. This responsiveness and engagement was a relief since lots of our lesson was discussion based.

If we could do anything differently, we’d probably put more thought into what went after the multiple choice activity, since the outcome was pretty similar for everyone. Maybe we could have had a 2nd engaging activity as a group to respond to the multiple choice results.

Document with Links and Resources: