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Habitat

SEEDING MOMENTS FOR SOCIAL INTERACTION IN CO-LIVING SPACES
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Purdue University Specialization Project
BACKGROUND

Beyond Awkward Hellos is my final-semester UX specialization project. Combining my background in psychology, sociology and architecture along with my interest in exploring communities and relationships between people, I explored co-living spaces through the lens of community building and digital technologies.

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THE PROBLEM

Opportunities for interaction and dialogue in college dorms start decreasing as time progresses and as the social upkeep of the space starts dampening.

THE OPPORTUNITY

Co-living spaces have the unique potential to provide social fulfillment through digital, social and spatial interventions.

HERE'S THE CLIFF NOTES:

The final outcome of this project are strategies to maintain the social upkeep of dorms along with speculative design concepts demonstrating how these strategies could be used in a real dorm setting.

My work can be used as a basis for future design work in this space

Through this project, I build my case for why quick and dirty sketches with annotations can be the most impactful design "tool". Most time, you don't need fancy tools to convey simple and meaningful ideas. 

3 months

Duration
Methods

Sketching, interviews, diary studies, design workshops, lit reviews

Why sketching rules
STRUCTURE OF REPORT
Breaking down 
Current Sc
enario
Finding 
Opportunities
Talking to
People
What
Next?
Decrypting Spatial Interactions
Introduction
Ethnographic
observations
Lit reviews
Interviews
Diary studies
Design workshop
Analysis of Social games
How might we q's
Reflection and future use
Speculative design
Scoping
Very early ideation
Analysis and strategies

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5

WHAT'S THE CURRENT SOCIAL SITUATION IN DORMS?
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While interaction is high initially, it becomes harder for students who live in dorms to find ways to interact with one another as time goes on. The threshold for starting face to face interactions in dorms is also lowered due to reasons like:

Cacooning 

The common urban practice of creating a personal space by concentrating on mobile media technology

Civil inattention

The process of acknowledging the presence of nearby strangers but at the same time blocking further interaction with them

DECRYPTING SOCIAL INTERACTIONS

Further using a variety of methods to get a deeper insight into the dynamic of co-living spaces, I was able to talk to residents of such spaces and find out their inhibitions when it came to social interactions.

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SOME QUOTES FROM RESIDENTS
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SO, WHAT DID I FIND?
Key themes that guided ideation
Playfulness
& Progression

Playfulness makes it casual and rewarding to take part in social interaction.

 

Advancement of interaction from lightweight towards more engaging interaction builds momentum.

Need for a ticket to talk

There needs to be something guiding these interactions between people, almost to give people a ticket to talk.

Asymmetry of information

Unequal information motivates people to get to know each other by sharing information, stories, advice etc.

A PREVIEW OF SOME OF MY IDEAS : WHY SPECULATIVE DESIGN?

I chose to go down the speculative design path for ideation because I believe that thinking of designing the underlying nudge for interactions (that speculative design enabled me to do) was more helpful than coming up with specific ideas that might not be generalizable to other co-living spaces.

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Progression of my ideation
CONTEXTUALIZING THESE IDEAS 
Concept 1: Confetti Bot
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Strategy

Distracting people from their personal bubble would require something alarming, surprising and unexpected.

Concept

confetti bot - a bot that goes around a room randomly throwing confetti to get people to notice their surroundings and those around them, while urging reactions and conversations.

Concept 1: Group Dance
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Strategy

There doesn’t need to be any kind of physical interaction, just some swapping of information, some kind of an exchange with another person to establish connection

 

Concept

In Group dance, the moves of the people before you are tracked and shown anonymously and you can continue the dance by adding your own step

WHY I SHIFTED AWAY FROM HAVING ONE FINAL DESIGN SOLUTION...
I got a rich and diverse set of insights that I didn't want to force into one "solution" to solve this problem of dampening social upkeep
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ANALYSIS OF FRAMEWORK

To analyze these different ideas, I thought it was helpful to look at the themes that emerged among them with regards to how they facilitated social interactions. These themes helped me create a framework of generative strategies that can be used as a basis for future design work in this area. I also found value in detailing out the conditions required for these strategies to work well. My designs exemplify these strategies.

REFLECTING BACK...
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This project helped me grow as a designer in a lot of different ways. It was the first project where I tried to use a different process by focusing on a lot of different research insights and generated multiple ideas. This caused me to struggle with managing the huge amounts of information I gathered and showcasing it in a way that made sense. Expressing my ideas more formally using research lingo is also something I struggled with. This project also taught me realistic goal-setting as well as time management. Overall, despite the hiccups, I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish and I’m happy that I got to work on something that I was genuinely interested in with a group of super talented and supportive peers!

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