Project Rhizome

A validation-driven social media engagement system

Time

Spring 2020

3 Months

Categories

Concept Design

Prototype

Research

System

Tools

Sketch

Principle

Adobe Premiere

Adobe Illustrator

Teammates

Special Thanks

Context

The Challenge

Design Outcome

Description

Information is fragile. Incentivized by the attention economy on social media, information can easily turn into misinformation. Misinformation can have a detrimental effect on people’s safety, democracy, and the public perception of news and science. However, using facts and figures to convince people is not enough to solve this problem. Misinformation not only stems from the incentive structure of social media but also the ritualistic aspect of information communication. Seeking information is not just about being informed. It’s a way of affirming individuals’ identity in the larger narrative about the world. Effective solutions would involve stimulating curiosity in seeking for truthful information. This project experimented with a validation-driven social media engagement system.

My Role

Project Website

Product Demo Starts at 1:13

Intro

Goldfish

I still remember reading the goldfish story when I was younger. It was from a book called The Grand Design by a guy named Stephen Hawking.

A few years ago the city council of Monza, Italy, barred pet owners from keeping goldfish in curved goldfish bowls. The measure's sponsor explained the measure in part by saying that it is cruel to keep a fish in a bowl with curved sides because, gazing out, the fish would have a distorted view of reality.*

*Leonard Mlodinow and Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (2010)

Following this story, Hawking asked: “But how do we know we have the true, undistorted picture of reality? Might not we ourselves also be inside some big goldfish bowl and have our vision distorted by an enormous lens?”

We frame mental models to explain the perceived world. Hawking called it model-dependent realism. Or as Karl Popper puts it in the theory of knowledge: theory-laden. It‘s only through externalization of minds surface different pictures of reality.

Corona Beer

On February 28, 2020, a tweet from CNN claims:

38% of Americans wouldn't buy Corona beer ‘under any circumstances’ because of the coronavirus, according to a recent survey.
Just to be abundantly clear: There is no link between the virus and the beer.

The tweet went viral.

Later, accordingly to Atlantic and PolitiFact, the evidence that CNN present is incorrect.* The so-called “study” was conducted by a PR agency called 5WPR.

CNN, as well as several other mainstream media, reported incorrectly on social media about the poll to indicate how easily people can fall prey to misinformation. The prestigious media was misled to think that more than a third of Americans didn't get facts straight. And it misled thousands of people on social media to think this way.

How did this happen?

An obvious answer is that CNN didn't do a sufficient job in fact-checking.

But the problem goes deeper than facts and figures.

*The journalist at Atlantic was able to gain access to the full questions of the poll and considered it as "a fishing expedition designed to elicit viral stats". PolitiFact, a professional fact-checker company, also debunks the myth: "The poll was of beer drinkers, not Americans overall." Moreover, the original study was not published.
To be cautious, I found the original post on the corona beer poll from 5WPR with Wayback Machine (the post has been deleted). It confirms that PolitiFact is right.

The problem space

The Consensus

A 2018 PEW research report shows that about two-thirds of US adults use social media as pathways to the news because of the convenience and ease of social media. But more than half of those social media news readers consider the news as “largely inaccurate.”

How has people's trust on social media information been broken? And why do people still get news and science from social media despite broken trust?

Information Disorder

Since this is a design project that addresses misinformation, it's important to first clarify the definition of misinformation for this article. Illustrated by the 2x2 metrics below, misinformation refers to false information and misleading information.

Why and how does misinformation happen on the Internet?

Comprehensive system analysis by Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan* suggests three phases of information disorder: creation, production (reproduction), distribution. Each phase consisted of an agent, a message, and an interpreter for information communication to happen.*

So how does social media play a part in the information disorder system?

*INFORMATION DISORDER:Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policy making, Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan

*Historically, Claude Shannon has a classic model for communication theory. But it would take another essay to go through. And he already had one.

The Broken Public Sphere

The American-German philosopher Hannah Arendt first brought up the term "public sphere" in 1950.

“It means, first, that everything that appears in public can be seen and heard by everyone and has the widest possibly publicity. For us, appearance–something that is being seen and heard by others as well as by ourselves–constitutes reality.”

Arendt, The Human Conditions

According to Arendt, the public sphere that constitutes reality is the coexistence of diversity and unity.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Internet, especially social media, has taken over the public sphere from traditional spacial gatherings. It has the potential to create an ideal public sphere by bringing together all the diverse voices.

However, the opposite has been the reality. Driven by attention economy, social media algorithm has the tendency to isolate groups of like-minded individuals.

Therefore, misinformation is “exclusively” contagious. We will not be able to publicly debate misinformation when we don't know about its existence. It's also challenging to get a counter-perspective when we're surrounded by similar minds.

To make a concrete point, I made a comparison between the system dynamics of Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter. All are self-publishing platforms. But the systems yield different outcomes.

Misinformation Campaign

Misinformation travels in a cluster of people using exaggeration, repetition, sensationalism, bots automation, multi-channeling, reinforced by social media algorithm prioritization on content engagement.

Visual Content
Visual content often arouses more The human brain processes images much faster than text. Thus we're more likely to use intuitive thinking rather than critical thinking (or System 2, in Daniel Kahneman's term*) when engaging with visuals. This makes visual content one of the stronger techniques in spreading misinformation.

*Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Bots
A finding by Pew Research Center on 2017 revealed that about 2/3 of all tweeted links were shared by suspected bots.*

Bots can amplify the reach of misinformation, exploit the vulnerabilities stem from our cognitive and social bias, create illusion of popularity, and have the appearance of peer pressure.

Fact-Checking Is Limited

To curb the proliferation of misinformation, a common approach that social media take is to work with third-party fact-checkers in determining false contents and then deduce the influence of misinformation by flagging and demoting its placement in the algorithm.

However, the sheer amount of misinformation on social media can be overwhelming. There is a waiting period where misinformation is exposed to viewers but the fact-checkers have yet to make an informed judgment about its integrity.

Moreover, censorship of information on the Internet can be challenging under the First Amendment to the United States. Professional fact-checkers mainly identify blatantly false content. Otherwise, it can backfire.

Ritualistic Information Communication

Human beings seeking information not simply to be informed. It is a way to reaffirm people’s affinity with the larger dramatic narrative about the world and their place in it. This transcends facts and figures. *

*INFORMATION DISORDER: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policymaking, Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan, p.78

Research conducted by professors of Law and professors of Psychology at Yale shows that science-literate groups with opposing values can be more polarized because of politically motivated reasoning. However, political polarization appears to be negated by science curiosity. *

*“Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing”, Dan M. Kahan Asheley Landrum Katie Carpenter Laura Helft Kathleen Hall Jamieson

The essence of any solution lies in finding an effective way of stimulating curiosity and a spirit of inquiry.

Unactionable Digital Literacy

Mike Caulfield, the head of the Digital Polarization Initiative of the American Democracy Project, argues that digital literacy should not simply be values. Rather, it could be “these are the tools and specific facts that are going to help you act on those values.”*

This makes me wonder: how might information consumers' behavior change when provided with actionable validating tools?

Design Direction

How might we curb the proliferation of science or news related misinformation on social media by encouraging curiosity and a spirit of inquiry in the community?

Prototype

Prototype 1.0

I further broken down my opportunity statement into 5 sub-questions:

1. What triggers doubt?
2. What stimulates deeper curiosity?
3. How can we better aid in users' search for more truthful information?
4. How do they determine if their search result is more truthful/reliable?
5. How can we properly reflect users' validation effort back to the community?

Diving into concept exploooooorations.

Post Prototype 1.0 Reflection

1. Evaluating the credibility of the source could be effective in triggering doubts. However, it can also easily backfire when the evaluation lacks transparency.

2. The accessibility of the validation tool stimulates curiosity and can prevent people from acting based on intuitive judgments.

3. Cross-checking is considered as the most reliable validation when people don’t have a trusted source. It also helps people determine if their validation results are more truthful.

4. Human behaviors in social media are incentivized by social acceptance.

5. The feedback loop is incomplete.

Prototype 2.0

I iterated the prototype based on previous learnings.

The concepts are organized into a more cohesive experience flow: starts with triggering doubts, then assists users in verifying information, and lastly provides feedback channels for users validations.

For this set of prototypes, I talked with 3 Twitter users (different from last round) for concept testing. I also conversed with researchers and designers to get a critical evaluation of the design concepts.

Trigger | The Verify Button
Surfacing community engagement with content validation to motivate users’ participation.

Trigger | Debatable Tweet
A tweet becomes debatable when more than half of the users tried to verify the content.

Trigger | Bot Score
Surface if users have created debatable content in the past and check if the tweeter is a bot.

Assist | Copy Tweet to Search Box
Help users build toolkits and provide a shortcut for content investigation

Assist + Reflect | Verification Notes
View existing discussions that evaluating the integrity of the tweet

Assist | Tag a Tweet Verifier
Community users can invite each other to help validate the content

Trigger | Similar Debatable Tweets
If a tweet is considered debatable, it will be linked with similar tweets to reduce user engagement with similar content. This is an attempt to prevent repetitive, multi-channeled publishing of misinformation.

Prototype 3.0

This iteration mainly addresses the following questions:
1. Not every tweet needs to be verified. How can we create a safe space for expressing ideas but also a place for examining “serious contents” related to news or science?
2. Twitter is designed for frictionless, sharing of information. Users get instant gratification from engaging with content. Can we reverse engineer the design and change the incentive structure?
3. How do we hold users accountable for contributing to the verification notes responsibly?
4. Labeling tweets as “debatable” was a debatable concept.

To illustrate the system, I created a conceptual model.

Start with tweeting. Users can configure if their tweets could be vetted.

This will prioritize the verification features over like comment share retweet features. If the tweeter didn’t opt-in, viewers can also request the tweeter to opt-in.

Users can vet the tweet in 3 ways.
1. Copy the tweet to a search platform and find related context on the Internet.

2. Tag an knowledge expert for verification.

3. View verifications notes from others.

To make sure people contribute to validation discussion responsibly, Users need to verifiable users or tweet verifiers to add verification notes.

By opting into a verifiable user, the person's bot score and vetting points will be publicly displayed. Bot score is provided by a third-party API Botometer that analyze how likely the person would be a bot. Vetting points are determined by the user's contribution to verification notes.

Tweet verifiers are experts who can provide proofs of their publications.

This system also takes proactive measures to warn users who attempted to tweet similar content that’s already disputed by expert verifiers.

If the similar content is already tweeted, it will be linked with the tweet disputed by expert verifiers to alert user engagement.

Summary

At the end of my conversation with Marek, he raised a question:
“Why do we put so much trust on those platforms on delivering trustworthy information? Maybe it's just not the place for that.”

Indeed, social media has no “financial incentives in telling the truth.”*

*“You Are the Product”, John Lancaster

This design experiment speculates a validation-driven social media engagement system. It challenges how users normally react to information on social media, proposing an alternative engagement system for investigative thinking.

However, users have no control over the social media system algorithm that fragmented them into like-minded groups. We might not even know that misinformation circulates if we are not a member of the community spreading misinformation. This could make crowdsourcing judgments biased towards a certain point of view.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the public sphere that constitutes reality should be the coexistence of diversity and unity.

It would be cruel to put goldfish in the same curved bowls.

End Note

Greedy Snake

Snake, the video game first published by Nokia, illustrates a snake who maneuvers for food to grow its body. But when the snake eats its own body, the game is over.

The greedy snake provides an analogy for the problem of self-referencing.

In 1936, Turing Halting problem proved a computing system will not be able to self-determine if it will have finished a calculation. 

Take a program H that determines if an arbitrary program P halts or not. If program P halts, then H will loop. If program P loops, then H halts. In this case, program H will have to self-contradict if it were to determine if itself halts.

In our reality, we are not just observers. When we're observing, we are part of the observed world. 

A system cannot be proved to be consistent and free from contradiction from within. The shape of the validation is expanding.  

Acknowledgment

I'm grateful for the inspiring conversations and thoughtful feedbacks that influenced this project.💡💡💡 (😎never realize that I can italicize emoji)

This list is roughly in chronological order:
DENISE NEWMAN
KATE RUTTER
WEIWEI HSU
BARRY KATZ
GRETCHEN ANDERSON
DAVID MERKOSKI
SEAN AUBIN
GRAHAM PLUMB
JOHANNES SEEMANN
MAREK TUSZYNSKI
JIM LEE
DAEDALUS HOWELL

Product Demo Starts at 1:32

Starting Point

It's even more frustrating for students when the report got sent back for reasons they don't understand.

At the beginning of this project, we were curious about what is causing the miscommunication in the expensing process. We talked with sponsored studio teachers, project manager Laura and two accountants in the business center to better understand the problem from their perspectives.

Who is involved in the expensing process?

From our conversations with project managers, accountants,  teacher, and students, we drew key relationship maps and learned that different stakeholders have different levels of understanding of the expensing language and process. We also realized that PM is the key actor in bridging the understanding gap between the class and the business center.

We created the service blueprint to articulate the entire expensing process. The map surfaces that expense reports often travel back and forth during the managing and auditing stage. Moreover, PM is heavily involved in the entire budgeting and expensing process.

From the learnings above, our team decided to focus on improving the PM's experience because we think it would have the most impact on this problem.

"

I hope I can be free from the repetitive and tedious expense tracking and focus more on how to improve students' learning experience.

Laura Ng, PM of IxD and Architecture sponsored studio at CCA

What does PM's journey look like?

We had a second deeper conversation with Project Manager Laura to understand what the auditing experience is like for her. We also sent out surveys to other project managers and solicited 3 responses.

This journey map illustrates the pain points that occur in the expensing and auditing process.

Shadow Budgeting
An important learning here is that project managers currently need to manually review expense reports and cross check the budgeting and expensing. Laura told us that this process is called "shadow budgeting". As project managers, they have to keep the project budget plan on a separate spreadsheet outside of the auditing tool. Once the reports are passed to business center, PMs still need to constantly check the report status in order to update the actual spending on their budgeting sheet.

Insights from the research?

There is communication friction between stakeholders due to different levels of understanding of expense language and process.

"You probably need a phD in CCA expensing policy to understand how it works."

Teacher A. from a sponsored studio class at CCA

"In terms of information being displayed and terminology, Workday is not customized for projects managers and students. It is more for business level processing."

PM Laura, IxD and Architecture program at CCA

"The most common error we get is that the dates of invoice and purchase are not aligned. People don’t really know what the difference is so they just guess what’s right."

Finance Accountant T. in CCA at CCA

"What does this mean? These terms are so confusing. I just want my money back!"

Student J. from a sponsored studio class at CCA

The budgeting and expensing systems are separate, which leads to confusion about expensing and tedious work.

"I don't know why my expense report for printing got rejected."

Student T. from a sponsored studio class at CCA

“There is no way for me to keep track of the budget in Workday [expensing system]. I need to shadow budget, which is a non-standard business practice.”

PM Laura, IxD and Architecture program at CCA

A "Language translator"? A "Gap Bridger"?

We started our messy and fun ideations based on the insights from the research phase.

We imagined the different roles of the AI assistant. Should it serve as a translator between the students and the PM to resolve the understanding gap? Or should it act as an intelligent agent that advises the project manager of auditing decisions and budget planning by cross-checking the budget and the expenses?

Considering the tight time-frame of the project, we need to prioritize on which problem to address. So we turned to the project managers for feedbacks.

What did PM say about the problem statements?

We used the prototype as sacrificial concepts to encourage feedbacks from project managers. They considered the second problem statement as more urgent.

After discussing with Laura (project manager at CCA) and our mentor Kelly (project manager at Oracle), we decided to design for the separated budgeting and expensing process because it is considered as the more painful and impactful problem for the expense auditor. At times, communication friction can be a problem, but the most important responsibility for an expense auditor is to ensure the budget and expenses are properly handled.

"

At the end of the day, my job is to make sure the money is spent responsibly.

Laura, PM of IxD and Architecture program at CCA

Cross-referencing the budget plan and expense reports is an important process for auditing decisions. Project managers make reliable auditing decisions based not only on the business policy but on project-specific budget plan. Over time, project managers have to closely keep track of the actual spending based on expense reports and adjust the budget plan accordingly. Currently, auditing tools are designed for higher-level business review, but not optimized for project managers.

Focusing

How might we bridge the gap between budgeting and expensing?

"

As the expense approver, can the system flag suspicious activities that I can’t figured out on my own just by looking at the report?

Kelly Bailey, PM at Oracle

"

How can I quickly and efficiently see what’s happening with the budget plan based on the reports?

Laura, PM of IxD and Architecture program at CCA

Developing the final concept through a systemic approach

As a team, we fully investigated what might be the space for design interventions throughout the expensing journey. The map helped the team better communicate and build a shared understanding of our final design outcome.

Artificial intelligence, as an emerging technology, provides great advantages in data processing to identify patterns and surface important insights. Our team thinks three opportunity areas in the auditing process could benefit from autonomous AI:

1. predict and suggest appropriate budget plan based on existing project spending data

2. automatically cross-check budget plan and expense reports, provide suggestions that help auditors make reliable decisions

3. automatically reflect the approved expenses in the budget plan and suggest budget adjustment when needed

Concept development

We developed a high fidelity prototype for key interactions as a proof of concept.

Dashboard breaks down the project spending by categories; surfaces expense reports that need immediate attention; suggests budget relocation based on the expensing process.

Why?
To prioritize information so that project managers can focus on making important decisions.

In this example of a suspicious report, Bridge tags the report with brief warnings. Hovering over the tags provides the expense auditor with more context and reasoning behind the flagging.

Why?
To reduce information load but still provides full transparency to the algorithm.

Bridge can also provide positive suggestions to show that a suspicious report can be approved. Bridge does this by learning from the auditor's feedbacks (e.g. previous auditing decisions, encumbered activity, memos, etc.).

Why?
To give the auditor the control of decision making and the channel to give AI feedbacks.

Bridge will automatically update the budget plan when the expenses are issued. Over time, Bridge will provide suggestions for budget adjustment based on the actual expensing situation.

Why?
To assist the auditors to make better use of project funds.


The "Budget" section provides the basis for Bridge to alert fraudulent activities and provide suggestions.

Design Principles

How can we design trustable AI assistant?

1

Alignment
Surfacing valuable information that is easy to understand in order to help with auditing decisions.

2

Transparency
Showing clear evidence when providing suggestions so that auditors can make informed decisions.

3

Control
Giving auditors the control of final decision-making and completing the feedback loop to inform future flagging.

Moving forward, how do we..

prevent the system from becoming biased against specific individuals?

provide full transparency without overwhelming the auditors?

We had fun.

How it begins...

At the beginning of my internship at Tryer Center, I was tasked to redesign the prototyping space called Hack Lab. I was told that Hack Lab isn't utilized to its fullest potential. Moreover, it's not as self-organized as expected.

What is Hack Lab?
Hack Lab is the maker-space in Tryer innovation center intended for ideas to begin their transformation into prototypes. It's designed and dedicated to hands-on creativity.
All Starbucks partners across the Seattle Support Center have access to the Hack Lab. They're welcomed and encouraged to try new ways to "hack" their work challenges.

At the end of the summer...

The redesigned Hack Lab is a comfortable, self-maintainable space that fosters the creative culture. It engages and facilitates self-initiated prototypers to think with their hands.

How exactly?

1

Hack Lab is playful and welcoming.

2

Hack Lab demonstrates the meaning of prototyping.

3

Hack Lab stimulates curiosity and encourages learning. At the same time, it provides a safe space for learners to try new things without being afraid of failure.

4

Hack Lab brings people together so they will start to learn from each other.

5

Hack Lab provides an inclusive central workspace for groups to collaborate, as well as a safe, private space for individuals to work.

6

Hack Lab articulates organization principles with explicit signages and instructions so prototypers can properly maintain the space.

7

Hack Lab reserves space for prototypers to document and share their creations back to the community and inspire future prototypers.

The approach

In an overview, I followed the Human-Centered design approach, which is also the design practice in Tryer Center.

Conversing to understand
Throughout the summer, I have both formal and informal conversations with Starbucks partners from different departments to understand their current work challenges, how those challenges might benefit from prototyping, why they are/aren't using Hack Lab, as well as how they are using the Hack Lab.

Experiment
I also conducted experiments to learn how can I nudge people to prototype by observing their actual behaviors.

Field Trip
I had field trips to places that encourage hands-on creativity, such as the monthly kids' workshop at Home Depot, Day Care Center, the Living Computer Museum, CoMotion MakerSpace at the University of Washington, and several other maker spaces in Seattle. The intention is to understand what shapes a safe space that encourages people to tangibilize their ideas.

I went to different material shops to research what is the best organization principles to maintain a clean, navigable space with a lot of stuff.

Secondary Research
I immersed myself in extensive secondary research. I looked into the design process of the maker space at Standford d.school, Tinkering Studio at Exploratorium. I also collected ideas on Pinterest for inspiration.

Prototype the prototyping space together
This can sound meta. In reality, it's adorable. I made a mini Hack Lab and designed a set of modular furniture. I invited people to rearrange the room with me using the scale model. It was an engaging ideation process. I learned how to shape an interactive environment for people to design with me. This is a meaningful exercise for me because I like to consider designers as the facilitators who bring the community together to design for themselves. This is a maker-space for the community, by the community.

I also asked the community to give feedbacks about the space and co-create the definition of "Prototype" together.

Facilitate the prototyping workshop
I worked with my co-worker Nathalia in facilitating prototyping workshops. We experimented with different strategies that effectively help people build creative confidence.

This is the prototyping workshop for people who come for the Tryer tour.

For a week, we developed different lunch experiments. We put on sandwich boards, loaded a cart with prototyping materials, and went out to talk to people. We tried to understand people's day-to-day work challenges and helped them try out new ways of working out a problem.

(FYI–Lunch is not the best time to talk about work.)

Reconfigure the space
I collected a long list of appreciation during the implementation phase. People in Tryer center are extremely supportive. Cameron and Josh, in particular, offered tremendous help in transforming the space.

Thanks for viewing. I had a lot of fun with this project. It was deeply fulfilling for me to empower the community as a design facilitator. This experience has a profound impact on me. Recently, I'm volunteering as a Tinkering Studio Facilitator at the Exploratorium. I'm excited about the journey ahead. If you're interested in learning more about this project or share similar work, I'm happy to chat!

Contact Tara

Starting Point

Explorational or Didactic?

How do children learn? Do we tell them how things are? Or should we let them explore by themselves? To better understand what type of learning is more effective for children, we created two sets of paper prototypes that shape different learning experience.

Prototype Dora: "Make the color green for me, please."

Prototype Dora gives children a challenge: make correct colors for the fruits by combining the primary color blocks. It gives children the room to be exploratory.

Prototype Bot: "Blue + yellow is green."

Prototype Bot adopts a didactic teaching method. It instructs children to combine the color blocks and helps them memorize what new colors will be made.

Dora VS. Bot

To better evaluate Dora and Bot, we conducted two rounds of concept testing with preschool age children for each prototype.

Children are more engaged with Dora, but they learn faster with Bot.

Challenge is a crucial element in engaging children.

With Prototype Dora, children needed to repeatedly go through trial and errors to complete the challenge. But they were engaged in finding out the answer.
Also, some of the children are entertained by their "failures" (i.e. when they made a "purple orange").

Didactic method makes learning explicit.

With Prototype Bot, children were able to better memorize the color theory in a shorter amount of time. However, the prototype fails to keep children engaged in learning. Many of the children participants lost their interests after the first attempt.

We decided to further develop Dora because we value the learning process more than the learning outcome.

Iterating the Concept

When we are iterating the concept, Victoria and I had a disagreement about the research feedback we got.

"Wouldn't it limit children's imagination when they can only color the grape purple?

From a preschool teacher

Me VS. Victoria

Me: By defining the "right" colors for the objects, we are standardizing children’s view of the world.

I agree with the teacher's perspective. By defining children on how things should look like, it restrains their artistic talents.

Victoria: Success and failure define the challenge. Therefore there needs to be a "right" or "wrong" answer.

Victoria argues that asking children to give the fruit a specific color sets the challenge. The challenge engages children in learning.

Finding a middle ground:
Introducing a humorous voice

So what if we replace the fruits with popular cartoon characters? Instead of telling children they color the object wrong, the characters will express how they feel about their new color. Thus, we can indicate the success or failure through a more toned down, humorous voice.

Sketches

Mid Fidelity Prototype

Test + Learn

We realized that children were not aware of learning, they are simply playing it for fun.

Reflection is crucial to learning:
"What are the two colors you used to make this new color?"

Children had a great time with the game. But when we asked them simple questions about color mixing, most of them were not sure or got the answer wrong.
We realized that children were not aware of learning. They would randomly select two blocks just to see the color changes so the character looks funny.
Thus, we think it would be helpful to add a question at the end of the challenge to prompt children to reflect.

Using storytelling as a way to engage children in learning.

"

"Why did the Monster lose his color? Is he sick?"

a 5-year-old girl

This thoughtful question made us thinking: should we construct a narrative around the character?
Children are curious about the context. We think storytelling will better engage children in learning. Moreover, it can construct a cohesive flow for children to proceed to the next challenge.

Iterate based on what we learned

We added a quiz session at the end as a reminder for children to reflect. We also constructed narratives around the characters to set the context for children.

Serious Play

We invited children to play with the prototype, during which I remotely controlled the color of the blocks to make it interactive.

Final Design Explained

Starting Point

Talking with College Students

During my initial research, I conducted interviews with 5 college students, asking about their current way of maintaining a healthy work-break cycle.

Walking is an exploratory and reflective experience.

"I like to wander around and get surprised by the places."
- C. Z

"Walking helps you find topic with your friends."
- A. H

"I like to think while I walk. My thoughts flow better."
- E. M

Walking is beneficial mentally and physically.

"Walking helps me adjust my mindset especially during busy days."
- C. Z

"Walking gives me freedom from work."
- A. H

"I used to walk 2 hours a day. You lose track of how much time and effort you spend on walking because it feels effortless."
- J. J

“Walking is an easy way to exercise.”
- X. L

Feel the need to exercise but are intimidated by the efforts they need to spend on it.

"You need to spend a lot of time to 'suffer', and then you feel good for a while. But overall, there is more suffering than rewards."
- A. H

More likely to stick to exercise when friends are motivating each other.

"My boyfriend and I would set a time period aside to do exercise together. We all have lazy days, but we just push each other to do it."
- J. J

"I'm more likely to go when I have a workout buddy."  
- C. Z

How Might We..?

Based on the interview insights, I tried to identify design opportunities with How Might We statements.

Brainstorming

How do I encourage people to walk more often? With that question in mind, I did two rounds of "CheatStorming" session to get as many diverse ideas as possible.

During CheatStorming, I sat down with two designers with idea cards. The goal is to come up interesting or even weird ideas by combining the concepts from different cards.

Then I consolidated the ideas and created 50+ concepts sheets and presented them to my teachers and classmates for dot-voting.

As I rearranging the concepts sheets to look for interesting combinations, this set gives me inspiration:

What if people can freely customize location-based content and have others to walk to check out the content?

Concept Storyboard

Walking is a reflective and exploratory experience. Can we connect our thoughts to the places?

Mapping the Experience

Designing with users in mind, I created an experience map to better examine user actions, potential questions and their emotional reactions with and without using the app.

Build + Test

I further created wireframes and conducted usability testing with 6 students.

user flow and wireframe sketches
Left: User viewing app walkthrough
Right: Wireframes

The takeaway?

They would love to explore other's route, but what about creating one their own?

The concept of exploring others' walking experience is well received. But there is mixed feedback about sharing their own experience. Some of them show great interests in the concept. Some of them said that they are more likely to check out others' than to create their own.

"I would like to use it as a way to record my daily experience. It feels like location-based Instagram feed."
- J J.

"This would be cool if users can custom the walking route and make it a weekly feed thing."
- G D.

"I was expecting that I can co-edit the trip with my friends."
- E M.

"I'm a shy person. I don't know if I want to send the recordings to others."
- J M.

"It would be fun if you can reply to others' feed like social media."
- A L.

Collaborate in creating the route

How can I better shape the experience to make people more comfortable about creating the content and sharing? I noticed that my interviewees can be roughly categorized as two types: one tends to the initiator, the other tends to be the respondent. Based on this observation, I further evolved the concept: people can collaboratively contribute their thoughts and discoveries to one route.

Design

Combining the most successful aspects, I finalized the design of the mobile app, pairing it with a wearable recording device. To highlight the user interaction, I prototyped the app using Principle.

The recording device can be worn as a collar pin.

To shape a natural walking experience, a single-tap gesture on the physical device allows users to quickly switch on and off recording.

To keep the distraction at a minimum, the device will use sound instead of visual feedback to indicate on/off recording states.

The home screen will suggest a nearby route. Simply tapping into one to start exploring. Users can also add content to others' route.

To begin, users will first be instructed to set up the recording device as well as enabling location access. Then a walkthrough will explain the concept.

To create content, simply tap the camera on the screen or the recording device. The content users created will show up on the map.

Visual System

Using a consistent visual language

Process Work

Logo Exploration

Mood Board

Moodboard

Packaging design

Physical Component

Video

Showcasing the out of box experience of Mapssenger

Video Storyboard

Starting Point

Analyzing the food system

My teammate and I first made a concept map to gain an understanding of how food might be wasted in each stage along the production chain. We realized that nudging consumer behaviors could be an effective solution.

This concept map examines the people, how they interact with the food system and their needs during each stage.

Our takeaway?

1. The later the food is wasted (i.e. food consumption), the more costly it is.

That is because the food waste in the later stage is the sum of all the resources and energy being put in the previous stages.

2. Consumer behaviors determine the market, which further impact food distribution and production.

Minimizing the food waste at the consumption stage will allow the market and farmers to get a more realistic estimate of the needs for food.

Zooming in

What do consumers think about food waste? What are their reasons for throwing away the food? To find out about this, we sent out surveys to our college community and did intercept interviews on the street. We also made extensive secondary research by looking at scholarly articles, government, institution and news websites.

1. People lack awareness about the food waste problem.

A scholarly article named "A consumer behavioral approach to food waste" states, "The higher the lack of perceived behavioral control, the higher will be the food waste." (Emel Aktas et al., 2018)

One of our survey results indicated that people don't pay much attention to food waste.

"I have some idea about how much food I waste, but sometimes it's unavoidable because you might get other plans for food."
- J. Faccier

"If one fruit is bad, I'll throw away the whole bag."
- L. Eshete

"I only have some vague idea about how much I waste, but that might not be the real case."
- Z. Li

Opportunity: raise awareness, food waste report

2. Food waste can be explained by the failure of planning.

"I often stocked a lot of groceries during the weekend, but then I was too busy to cook during the weekday or I got other plans."  
- Z. Li

"Sometimes I don't have time to cook or I forget that I have the food in my fridge."
- J. Faccier

"I felt guilty when I throw it away, but I don't know how else I can do with the food."
- C. Watson

From our secondary research, we found that the failure to planning grocery shopping is associated with price. "Financial attitudes are positively associated with planning"(Emel Aktas et al., 2018). Moreover, grocery in the US is more affordable comparing to other countries.

Opportunity: food reminding system, grocery plan, food spending report

3. Over-react to the labels

Do you know that the "sell-by", "best-by" and "best-before dates" only indicate when food tastes best? They have nothing to do with food safety.
According to NPR News, many consumers don't know that, and that confusion leads Americans to toss out about $29 billion worth of perfectly good food each year.

Opportunity: provide accurate information about food

4. People tends to share food.

"Sometimes when I cannot finish my grocery, I will give it to my roommate if she wants it."  
- L. Eshete

"My friends and I like to order different food and share. So we all have a taste of different dishes."
- J. Chen

"Usually you get a cheaper deal with the bigger portion. So we'll buy together and split it later."
- Z. Li

Opportunity: food sharing, social influence

How Might We..?

Based on the opportunities we identified from the research, we proposed several How Might We statements.

Brainstorm

Using the How Might We statements, we had several rounds of brainstorming sessions to get as many diverse solutions as possible.

After the brainstorming session and presenting our concept to the target audience, we distilled our ideas to a grocery tracking and sharing app.

Persona

User Flow

Experience Map

Final Design

Learning

• Rapid prototype: In the concept development stage, I learned that it's important to build a minimal viable prototype. For one thing, it helps me avoid overcommitment to unvalidated concepts. For another, it brings users' attention to the core concept without the distraction from other additional features.

• Recruiting: Through this process, I gained valuable experiences in recruiting from reaching out to families and preschools to find children participants.

• User testing with children: Children get distracted and bored more easily. I learned that giving them motivation and a sense of accomplishment is helpful in engaging children. Some children are also more likely to get discouraged, I realized that it's also very crucial to acknowledge their small achievements, and to reassure that they are not doing anything wrong.

• Design for children: Text instructions for children in an app should be simple and straightforward. Black and white wireframes are not very suitable for user testing with children, as they tend to associate a negative feeling with greyscale.

Discussion

What's the best way for children to learn? This question is weaved into the process of developing Blok. It challenges us to refine and iterate the concept through learning from children. There will not be a definite answer. But I believed that curiosity is the best motivators for learning. Through the process, I learned that play and storytelling are successful aspects in arising their curiosity and keeping them engaged in exploring and learning.

Blok is an attempt to incorporate physical interactive objects into the digital learning experience. Living in a digital world where information is contained inside the flat screen, I think it's important to design with the tangible experience in mind.

However, the potential of the block components was not fully investigated in this project as the focus was more on teaching methodology. To continue the project, I would explore how children would interact with the blocks and put more weight on the physical interactive experience.

Learning

• Rapid prototype: In the concept development stage, I learned that it's important to build a minimal viable prototype. For one thing, it helps me avoid overcommitment to unvalidated concepts. For another, it brings users' attention to the core concept without the distraction from other additional features.

• Recruiting: Through this process, I gained valuable experiences in recruiting from reaching out to families and preschools to find children participants.

• User testing with children: Children get distracted and bored more easily. I learned that giving them motivation and a sense of accomplishment is helpful in engaging children. Some children are also more likely to get discouraged, I realized that it's also very crucial to acknowledge their small achievements, and to reassure that they are not doing anything wrong.

• Design for children: Text instructions for children in an app should be simple and straightforward. Black and white wireframes are not very suitable for user testing with children, as they tend to associate a negative feeling with greyscale.

Discussion

What's the best way for children to learn? This question is weaved into the process of developing Blok. It challenges us to refine and iterate the concept through learning from children. There will not be a definite answer. But I believed that curiosity is the best motivators for learning. Through the process, I learned that play and storytelling are successful aspects in arising their curiosity and keeping them engaged in exploring and learning.

Blok is an attempt to incorporate physical interactive objects into the digital learning experience. Living in a digital world where information is contained inside the flat screen, I think it's important to design with the tangible experience in mind.

However, the potential of the block components was not fully investigated in this project as the focus was more on teaching methodology. To continue the project, I would explore how children would interact with the blocks and put more weight on the physical interactive experience.

Project Learnings

• User testing with children: Children get distracted and bored easily. I learned that giving them motivation and a sense of accomplishment is helpful in engaging children. Some children are more likely to get discouraged. It's also crucial to acknowledge their small achievements, and to reassure that they are not doing anything wrong.

• Design for children: Text instructions for children in an app should be simple and straightforward. Black and white wireframes are not very suitable for user testing with children, as they tend to associate a negative feeling with greyscale.

What's the best way for children to learn? This question is weaved into the process of developing Blok. It challenges us to refine and iterate the concept through learning from children. There will not be a definite answer. But I believed that curiosity is the best motivators for learning. Through the process, I learned that play and storytelling are successful aspects in arising their curiosity and keeping them engaged in exploring and learning.

Blok is an attempt to incorporate physical interactive objects into the digital learning experience. Living in a digital world where information is contained inside the flat screen, I think it's important to design with the tangible experience in mind.

However, the potential of the block components was not fully investigated in this project as the focus was more on teaching methodology. To continue the project, I would explore how children would interact with the blocks and put more weight on the physical interactive experience.