For our Interaction Design Methods class, we were asked to envision our current city, Bloomington, Indiana in 2050. A promotional Visitors' Guide video was to be created with a Design Fiction concept to portray how Bloomington would be like as a Smart City and how tourists would experience it.
Our design proposal for Bloomington is an ICT system that creates and suggests an optimal journey plan by combining tourists' profile data with city data, like weather conidtions, distance of places, etc. Yet, the plan is communicated to the tourist through a completely non-tech means, which in our case is a physical mailbox.
What's Design Fiction?
A technique in which design is used as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies . The term diegetic prototypes is often used to account for the ways in which cinematic depictions of future technologies demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, viability and benevolence . These technologies only exist in the fictional world — what film scholars call the diegesis — but they exist as fully functioning objects in that world .
For the design fiction methodology, the future vision still needs to be grounded in facts and status quo, hence, we needed to learn how businesses and activities go around in Bloomington in 2017. For this, we assigned following five different categories to each member of the group so they could conduct research and learn more about their respective domains. My research focus was on food:
Jiffy Treet — a popular local ice cream shop in Bloomington
A worker at the ice-cream shop
60 minutes — 20 minutes observation, 40 minutes interview
To understand what goes around on a day to day basis in an ice-cream shop.
In order to understand the food domain of Bloomington, I reached out to a friend who works at a popular local ice cream shop. I paid her a visit on a busy Sunday night, when visitors were walking in with their families and friends. I observed the setting, such as the specific machines they used, how interactions took place between employees and visitors, how cash was being managed and more. I took my notes on at least 50 sticky notes.
All five of us on the team then brought together our notes from our respective domains (some 250 sticky notes in total) after the interviews. We did affinity mapping to gain insights into the current lifestyle of Bloomington and found various patterns in our notes. We then roughly grouped them into 30 broad categories. From their we started mixing and merging the insights into new ideas and generated 33 of these. We further combined them and created two final concepts for the video: non-tech communication and open kitchen.
3. The Concept
1. Non-tech mode of communication
From our research we came up with multiple ideas such as no-tech zones, new modes of communication and intelligent personal tourist guides. In 2050, we envision that technology would become so seamless that it wouldn't need humans to carry any extra devices onto them. The IoT would run in the background of the city, and would detect festive activities happening around, weather conditions, foot traffic conditions, etc. and would make a personalized journey plan for each tourist based on their profile, behaviors, likes and dislikes. The system learns about their profile when a tourist signs up for this service using a website.
A tourist picks up an identity card as they enter the city so that they can unlock the mailboxes placed around the city and get their unique travel plan. At the start of the journey they deposit their electronic devices in one of these mailboxes.
The city would be gesture-intelligent and would be able to understand some of the gestures of the visitor. For example, when a tourists makes a frame with his fingers on a scenery, it takes a picture of the scene and sends it to their phone.
2. Open Kitchens
This is more of a service design concept, where tourists would be able to get a taste of the residents' home kitchens and would be able to eat home cooked meals.