Finally “Act Re.Act!” started! A few words about my experiment… I give an energy-meter (the Wattcher) and a workbook to the participants (see post: design probes), and for 3 weeks they document their experience. The participants come from two different neighborhoods, as I am interested in how neighbors can learn from each other. The themes I’m exploring are: awareness, adoption and social learning. How people learn and get aware about the energy they consume? How do people welcome an intervention like an energy meter? How does social learning work? After the 3 weeks, we will have a workshop all together, discuss about the experience, the frustrations, the rewards etc. and in the end conceptualize about solutions.
Of course, 3 weeks is not enough time to get “valid”, “scientific” measurements and results. However, it’s more than enough to get insights on the users’ lives, and a lot of inspiration for ideation. I can’t wait for the results 🙂
As a lot of friends have asked me about the probes I designed for my project, so I thought it would be a good idea to upload them. It’s only to give you an impression, and ispire you, but please don’t copy them as it’s a skill that I’m still mastering…Hence, I have still a lot to learn from my mistakes.What I find hard when I design the probes is to draw a line between information and inspiration. If you want information you have to interfere and ask questions to get the right answers, but if you want inspiration you have to let the user tell his/her story and express him/herself…Anyhow, I’ll learn 😉
On Tuesday I attended the PhD defense thesis of Froukje Sleeswijk Visser on “Bringing the everyday life of people into design”. I succeed to follow the presentation with my poor dutch, and I really enjoyed the defense (this in english 😉 ).
Froukje’s thesis was the first phd on contextmapping , a very popular method in my school (credits to Froukje) for conducting contextual research and empathize with the user when you design a product/service. Contextmapping is a participatory technique that involves the stakeholders and the users during design and communicates the rich knowledge gained to the design team. However this communication is not just a signal from A->B…it involves a lot of noises, trivial things that users do daily, and that are passed on to the design team for inspiration and creativity.
Designers (and not only) like to hear stories, empathize with the people and then design for/with them…I apply this techique for my thesis as well, and I can say that it really works as you get to know the people and shape stories in your head. It’s a very nice technique, however you have to master it and aknowledge also the time it consumes for conducting it, for the bits of information/inspiration you get. Hence, I would definetely recommend it to get rich information, but maybe not for your graduation project if you haven’t mastered it 😛
p.s you can download or order a hard copy of Froukje’s thesis at her website
My first exploratory, user-research was done by using diaries as sensitizing material for the participants. The diaries had the title “mijn huis, mijn energie en ik” (my house, my energie and I) and were aiming more to get some inspiration about the participants and engage them into a dialogue, and less on getting concrete info. For this reason, the diaries were designed in a playful way, in which they would invite participants to fill them up and have some fun. Participants had everyday a different exercise and were asked to draw their neighborhood, listen to the energy of their house, associate domestic appliances with animal stickets etc.
The results were quite positive, as I got to know my participants, had chitchats on energy consumption and more issues, and created a relationship with them, which I hope will help me to engage them in a longer process. Of course, drawing and putting stickers is not for everyone; some people were more afraid than others to do so, some preferred just to write than draw and some just didn’t put any effort. There is still a follow up session to be done, where people will elaborate more on their booklets and share ideas in a group… What I didn’t expect is how much time and energy the diaries would require. It’s not only about making the diaries, but it’s also about collecting them :S , co-ordinating people, sending emails etc. etc.
But as a conclusion, I can say that the diaries helped me a lot as a first approach to the participants 😉
The more I read about energy awareness, the more I understand that people lack a mental model to understand energy. From the day we are born, we consider energy as something inexhaustible that should be there…We never question how do we get energy, in what cost (impact etc.), and how much we consume…
The reason that we lack this understanding, is that we never experimented as consumers with energy. Experimenting, through Feedback and Reflection can change our mental model and thus our behavior. Like the ancient, Chinese philosopher Lao Tse once said:
“What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand”.
Hence, I think that co-design, has a key role to play in my project. Energy awareness is a social learning process, that requires active participation and creativity from the people to develop their own ways of conserving energy. Gaver states “By impelling people to interpret situations for themselves it encourages them to start grappling with systems and their contexts and thus to establish deeper and more personal relations with the the meanings offered by those systems.”
So, lets co-design?