Impact and Influence Workshop

The impact and influence workshop helped us gain valuable insights as we move forward in defining our final major project. The disruptive approach to the workshop helped in defying pre conceived notions and alluded aspects of our project that we might have not given importance to before this workshop.

The ‘priority assessment chart’ helped in mapping my insight decisions in order to visually and cognitively register where I stand in terms of making these approaches/methodologies a reality. Two out of the three insights I gained were in the aspirational sector; this reiterated the face that I need to narrow down my topic which is primarily knowledge based to a more practice based outcome.

The exercise helped me question my assumptions and ensure that the terminologies and concepts that I might be using in my research question are not too subjective and biased. The particular exercise where we listed down all the things that go into making a single object that we need to complete our thesis project was eye opening as I realized the magnitude of the project I might be undertaking; and as a result occupying a certain stance as a designers and researcher. By the end of the day I had rephrased the word ‘technology’ in my research question to ‘digital applications.’ The step by step approach made the task of filtering easier as a constant external opinion allowed me to tackle bias in my approach to the project.

Initial project overview:

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An empathy manual for technology driven products and applications dealing with human problems.

Overview after workshop:

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An empathy manual for digital application companies that cater to social and psychological well being for millennials.

The practice of thinking, writing, exchanging and reviewing are all great exercises when done individually; and more so when done one after the other. The workshop fuelled my thought process by disrupting, dissecting and discarding broader themes around my final major project thesis.

 

 

 

 

Somewhere in Between: The other side of empathy

The exhibition at the Welcome Collection is about the intersection of science and art and one being used with another in order to portray diverse concepts like –genetics in contemporary cattle farming, the extended possibilities of touch, sexual health and virus transmission and the human capacity to hold one’s breath.

I found all the topics really interesting but the one that stood out for me and is closely linked to my project was the one about synesthesia by Daria Martin. The outcome of this project was two films screened in the exhibition space, adjacent to one another. Daria Martin explains synesthesia in the catalogue for the exhibition, “synesthesia is an experience in which a stimulus in one sense provokes a subjectively experienced stimulus in another.” The concept of synesthesia explores the ability to move beyond the individual senses of sound, smell, sight, taste and touch. It dwells into the possibility of a human being’s ability to feel when someone else experiences a sensation, for example; if I were to feel the sensation of touch on my shoulder even if I wasn’t exposed to it.

The two films also highlight the possibility of the phenomena being detrimental to the emotional state of a person, is it pleasing to experience the sensations of a different individual constantly? Is there such a thing as too much empathy? This extreme viewpoint on this regard challenges the inherent knowledge of empathy being a detrimental catalyst rather than a driver – “it often causes synaesthetes (people who can experience the phenomenon) to withdraw socially, because our world is not built for such empathy.” The visual language of the films explores this notion as well as ‘At the Threshold’ explores the dynamic of a mother son relationship who are both synaesthetes. The son is anxious to leave home while the mother is hesitant on the same. This analogue film styled in an overtly dramatic way, in terms of direction and set is inspired from the 1950s. It almost adds another layer to the already volatile relationship of parent and child. What would happen if a parent was not just perceptive but could actually physically feel and experience their child’s bodily experiences and vice versa?

The characters in these films experience a kind of synesthesia known as ‘mirror touch synesthesia’,  “which can be conceptualised as a heightened form of physical, and to a degree emotional empathy.” The terminology of this phenomenon could be linked to the concept of ‘mirror neurons’, which are a set of cells in the in the human brain stimulated to perform a certain action when we see another person performing the same action (laughing, reaching for a cup). Mirror neurons help humans and animals navigate and grow in social situations. Mirror touch synesthesia could be seen as a heightened form of this function, where one is not able to see, perceive and subconsciously register but also physically experience the actions of others.

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Sensorium Tests/At the threshold (Image Source: Wellcome Collection)

Citation:

Catalogue for Somewhere in Between by Wellcome Collection

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-mirror-neuron-revolut/

 

Research into, for and through design: Manifested in User Experience Design

The three types of Research that are associated with Design and its practice are Research into Design, Research through design and Research for Design. These different denotations fall under the larger umbrella of Research by Design; “Hauberg calls it strategy, is used to describe the various ways in which design and research are interconnected when new knowledge is produced about the world through the act of designing” (Roggema, 2016, p3). The same article discusses the different stages of research through design with analysis, projection and synthesis being the most ground level form of the research models that exist or can be conceived. Joanne Mendel’s journal article on ‘Taxonomy of Research Models’ brings a four stage model –Discover-Reframe-Envision-Create. The author also gives us methodologies used in each stage of the design process, where the latter stages are defined by the nature of the design outcome.

As an example to aptly describe and differentiate these terms I would like to look at the process of designing a user experience. User experience as a term has gained immense importance in the last decade with the growth of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) in the Knowledge Age. The process or evolution of advancement in this field has come about by revisiting the ‘ontological aspects’ (Godin, Zahedi) of an ‘experience’. How can a physical act of accessing a service or product digitally, which might be linked to the consumer’s mind emotionally, be differentiated in the market space from other competitors?

In this case Research through design could be used to envision scenarios, create SWOT analysis, trend reports, customer journey maps and so on to find a golden link between the consumer and the emotional appeal of the brand. These action based frameworks and tools are often supported by theory grounded in research and creation of a new knowledge base – “In user experience model, the UX construct can be well-defined with a set of indicators. The first part is the user satisfaction towards the product..It is created when the user can easily and comfortably reach his or her usage goals with the product, when a smooth interaction is created by a seamless change of operation and system feedback, and when information is presented in an innovative, clever way” (Smith, 2017)

Thus we can pick out two to three points in the above statement that form a base for further research into design for the same context (brand landscape) with separate brands. For e.g. if Nike and Adidas were to launch a new store, their goals or ontological view of  what they want to achieve would be same. However, they would have different approaches based on their brand vision, their tools for insight generation and their outcome.

Research into design would be taking a deep dive into the epistemological and ontological aspects of user experience and looking at it from a socio cultural perspective. There are academic papers and journals articles that explore the underlying layers of user experience design and might have a more critical outlook towards the same. “Given experience’s psychological nature, a starting point for this research has been the question: What is user experience? The main approach of this work has been the development of empirical and analytic methods for evaluating qualitative representations of UXs” (Rousi, 2013, p 17) In her doctorate research paper titled ‘From Cute to Content – User Experience from a Cognitive Semiotic Perspective’ Rousi underpins the way users perceive experience, and critically examines research through design itself with a scenario that a certain experience could be shaped momentarily according to the user’s state of mind, having little to do with the physical experience he or she is meant to be encountering. Research through design, in a way, questions and provides new perspectives on the existing knowledge base.

Research for Design as pointed out by Frayling is constitutes research with a small r- “what Picasso considered was gathering of reference materials rather than the research proper” (Frayling, 93/94, p 5). Thus this would be research done while assimilating all the different visual or other sensory elements of the outcome of the user experience. In this case the research is projected in the outcome itself. In a way the weight of the term ‘design’ in this case has a lot more weightage. If a customer walks into a Nike store and successfully makes a purchase, then research for design could be proven insightful.

10b48dd33d67601a6e26e722b8607ed1A critically humorous take on user experience from Dilbert Comics

Citations:

Simon Grand, Wolfgang Jonas Mapping Design Research

D. Godin and M. Zahedi Aspects of Research through Design

R. Roggema Research by Design

Joanne Mendel – Taxonomy of research models

R Rousi From Cute to Content – User experience from a cognitive semiotic perspective

 

 

In the shoes of Tim Peake

Astronauts and space coupled with virtual reality is page out of the sci – fi lover’s diary. The Space Descent VR experience at the Science Museum was like going back in time, entering one’s telly when it was tuned onto a Discovery Channel prime time documentary about the fascinating realm of space. Space and science have been closely related and different mediums have been utilised over time to tell children and adults alike about landing on the moon, the galaxies, the planets and what they comprise. Science encyclopaedias are also distinctive in my memory of having a zoomed in astronaut’s image on a cover with the rings of a planet forming the background. Pop Ups are an example of an early print technique that was used to create something more dynamic and interactive while flipping through a magazine/book.

Thus when a medium like VR is gaining momentum as an alternate experience, it is but natural that space and the feeling of being and surviving in a space capsule is a story that is being recreated. There are some fascinating moments in the experience when the person behind the VR lens is actually watching a part of the capsule float by as Tim Peak’s spacecraft edges closer to the surface of the earth. The feeling of being travelling through space on the astronaut’s seat is also something that is captivating and gives one a sense of what it might be like in the final moments of anticipation when Peak is descending towards the planet.

What the experience does not achieve, for me personally, is demystifying space. Movies like Gravity though 3D have made an effort to place humans in outer space and see human relationships and the feeling of dependency might be affected in a situation when the protagonist is literally in a foreign land. However, there is seldom a dialogue with the surroundings, except longing and anticipation to return home, what are some of the other dialogues that a person might have with themselves in relation to their surroundings?  Space even though shown through various different mediums, has always been a blob of vastness, mystery and colour. It is one of the few entities humans have not managed to conquer, it’s magnificence perhaps astounds those who have really experienced it and they might find themselves at a loss of words.

I felt similar sitting on Tim Peake’s seat and wondering what exactly he was feeling at the moment. What I could see around me was a spectacular sight of his point of view but what I hoped for was maybe a little bit more of an insight into his mind.

 

GRAVITY

A snapshot of Gravity, a 2013 movies starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, had a plot revolving around what it was like for two strangers to be literally stuck in space.(source: google)

Design to think, think to design

This week we looked at design thinking as an effective mechanism that companies have adopted to move beyond solutions that are tried and tested. Design thinking encourages an approach that trumps the linear method of a designer i.e. satisfying a client brief by producing a product/service as per the norm; it challenges the norm itself and attempts to unearth an anomaly in the system.

We are in fact attempting to move from just a ‘non linear approach’ to a ‘circular design’ approach. The ‘Circular Design Guide’ is a collaboration between Ellen McArthur Foundation and IDEO. This methodology has emerged from the fact that “who we’re designing for has expanded from a solitary user to an intimately connected web of people, spanning the globe.”  In an article by Co Design called ‘Beyond the Cult of Human Centred Design’ the authors talk about the further evolution of design thinking in context of, not only meeting short term solutions that “overemphasize the individual user” but “think more broadly about the direct and secondary consequences of our work.” Along with ‘what if’ and ‘what might be’ the authors urge designers to start asking questions like ‘at what cost’.

This particular need can also be connected to sustainable business models where the greater challenge is not just starting a company and generating profits for the first five years but also to gauge what larger vision of growth and expansion is.

Often they see strength in numbers as a natural outcome when a business grows (as the CEO of Dark Horses pointed out) but is there a need of it? More people leads to utilisation of resources, more levels of communication – is it really needed for an organization that thrives on a small but effective team? Dark Horses already have an effective business model comprising a partnership with a creative company, so could they build on this model further instead of going down the usual route of linear corporate growth?

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Source: An example of regenerative thinking method in the circular design guide

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On a personal note I hope design is and does make a positive impact on human life. With all the political instability and acts of violence we start questioning the relevance of things. But it is important to not give up, and hope what we are doing fits into the bigger picture . (Image source: Instagram)

Citations:

https://www.fastcodesign.com/90149212/beyond-the-cult-of-human-centered-design

https://www.circulardesignguide.com/methods

https://www.sharedvalue.org/about-shared-value

Innovation and who ‘leads’ it.

This week the main focal points of the module were innovation as well as the difference between leadership and management. Innovation has been pivotal in the creative industry in the last couple of years.

As it is very correctly pointed out in the article by Tim Brown in ‘Design Thinking’    ‘now, however, rather than to make an already developed idea more attractive to customers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires’. Innovation is synonymous with design, the two come together; sometimes painstakingly, sometimes harmoniously, to study, improve and carry out solutions that benefit the human race and build a stronger, more sustainable future. Brown then goes on to demonstrate this amalgamation through examples from various parts of the world of successful design innovation projects.

An interesting research question in this sense could be what are the roles that a manager/leader plays to action the success of these projects? Does the leader take on the role of a visionary and leave it to the manager to formulate timelines, team research sessions to bring the vision to life or does he or she step in to personally mould and carve the potentially life altering innovation/ policy/ product/ system?

In the book the ‘Creative Economy’ by John Howkins he writes about the importance of having the right creative team to really bring an idea to life – “ When two or more creative people are working in a team, and could not succeed without the team, even to the extent of ‘losing’ their identity in the team, it is still their personal talent and individual contribution that generates the creativity and the product….The personal spirit of  collaborative creativity is well summed up in the Talmudic saying, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for myself only, what am I? If not now, when?”

So a good leader/visionary could be a silent force behind their team, or in some cases the subordinate in the army (manager) emerges to be the leader because of his/her ability to make the task greater than the idea itself.

ILLUSTRATION WEEK 2-03

I played around with an image of Pope Francis and Donald Trump from their meeting earlier this year (image source: Google) to illustrate the fact that world leaders have starkly different personalities, often reflecting the section of people they represent; they work towards similar goals but with completely different ideologies.

Citations:

Harvard Business Review, (Design thinking – Tim Brown)

The Creative Economy – John Howkins

Reflections based on class discussions on Innovation, management and leadership with Maureen Salmon and Sarah Ekenger.