Gene Lu's Portfolio

Summarizing First Semester of Thesis Dev

Before the start of the semester, my thesis statement involved increasing mental and physical acuity among the elderly, but with the idea that it would help to build supportive relationships through such activities. After pitching the idea along with a concept that I was somewhat set on, I realized that the audience that I was addressing was more specific to the elderly in China (a lot of the elderly congregate at parks, do activities together, etc.) and that it would be almost impossible to successfully prototype what I had in mind with the elderly in the States. As a result, I abandoned the concept and moved onto my second thesis idea, subway snowboarding.

Similar to the first, this second concept also focused on physical acuity, but aimed at a younger target audience. By maintaining balance (free-standing) within a subway car, participants can strengthen their sense of balance through this game of re-imagined environments. Again, there was some push back on this concept due to the risky nature of people possibly injuring themselves and also, the idea was just not big enough.

After the first couple of failed attempts at trying to establish a footing in what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it, I realized that my approach of quickly narrowing down my solutions was a bit limiting. As a result, I took a step back to revise my statement based on what my interests were and then made another attempt at my thesis proposal. This time around, I would be addressing the lack of physical activities in adults living in densely populated cities. Also, this concept was different from my initial concepts because it involved a systemic way of thinking.

With a concept in mind, I approached my thesis advisor, Rob Faludi for advice on how to encourage behavior change. The four key takeaways from our conversation about what motivates people to act out certain behaviors:

  1. The experience from point A to point B
  2. Goals that are set out to be achieved
  3. Feedback provided to create a sense of progress
  4. The social aspect involved when doing things with others

In hindsight, I’m not exactly sure what happened with the City Games idea, before moving to my updated thesis statement:

I am creating a product that uses a service to address the problem of people not being as physically active when it comes to their daily modes of transportation, e.g. taking the elevator vs. walking up a flight of stairs or commuting to and from work by car rather than a mixed mode of active transportation, e.g. walking, bus, subway

In this updated statement, I started to think more about how people moved from one point to another and what opportunities existed in between those points that would encourage people to be more physically active. Enter the next wave of concepts: 1) Chalk Walk 2) Word Up! 3) elevator visualization and surprise surprise 4) subway snowboarding.

After pitching these ideas in class, I received a ton of useful feedback in regards to the direction I should take. Some mentioned creating a toolkit for people to create their own activities while others pushed for an app that would train people how to be improve their balance. Another person mentioned creating a chain of solutions that are located around the city that all work together to promote physical activity. As I type this up now, I realize that this was basically what I was thinking back when I mentioned City Games a few paragraphs up.

These concepts all shared a common goal of getting people to be more physically active, but all took different directions in trying to achieve this goal. Jennifer Bove suggested that I take the best idea from each concept and create a list of design principles that I would base my next and final concept on. My list of design principles are as follows:

  • New layer of information
  • Patterns
  • Support through social networks online and/or offline
  • Discovery/Exploration
  • Happens in a public space
  • Feedback (check-in, score, progress, achievements, etc.)

Alongside this set of principles came an updated thesis statement:

A service that encourages people in the city to be more physically active by changing their perception of their daily routines in order to address the issue of physical inactivity.

Tying all of this together, I came up with my latest concept, Mad Dash.

Mad Dash is a service that holds asynchronous foot races throughout the city where people compete against each other to win discounts at their favorite stores.

This is where I am right now and will be taking this further in the next and last semester of school.

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  • 20 Dec 2010

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