Before going on break last summer, I knew that I wanted to help the elderly. This topic struck a personal chord with me and I had already did some projects related to this particular audience. Going into my internship in Shanghai, I felt that I had a really strong and meaningful topic to consider for the next several months.
During my time in China, I saw a different side of the elderly. They seemed more independent than the elderly in the States. They were out and about, shopping, buying groceries, socializing, riding their bicycles (some were even on electric bikes!). As a result of this new perspective on the elderly, my thesis thinking had taken a more specific direction. I wanted to address the decline of mental and physical acuity in older adults. In hindsight, I’m not really sure why I abandoned this idea. I think it was because after presenting it to people in class, I realized that I was being too specific. After this realization, I stepped back and changed my thesis statement to:
Through some sort of public space installation, how can I help strengthen the social support structure within communities?
Inspired by the face-to-face interaction in Shanghai, I didn’t want my solution to focus on apps, digital displays, website, etc. to bring elderly people together hence the part about public installation. I had some ideas, but would they be just as applicable back in the States?
In September/early October, we had a chance to present our ideas to the thesis panel at school. There was some confusion about my thesis statement among the panelists. Was I being too general with my thesis statement? Why a public open space installation? How would I even prototype this (winter and elderly outdoors don’t mix)? Was I already married to an idea that was sitting in the back of my mind all summer? Was my thesis going to end up like a project that I’ve already done in the first two semesters? All these questions accumulated to form the black hole of thesis topic uncertainty.
After further consideration, I decided to switch gears and turned to my second thesis idea, which spawned from the surfing on the subway idea. The new focus: improving and maintaining physical wellness within the city. During separate talks with Rob Faludi (thesis advisor) and Jen Bove (teacher of Thesis Development class), both mentioned that my thesis was now about getting people to change behaviors. Although this seemed like a big order, I felt more comfortable with this new approach because I am both a big advocate of physical wellness and am also a part of the audience that I’m addressing.
So after all of that, this is where I am now. I am currently doing research on how people move about within the city, why they decide on certain modes of transportation, and looking for opportunities where a product or service can intervene to get commuters to be more physically active in their commute from point a to point b.