Gene Lu's Portfolio

Systemic Thinking

After going through preliminary concepts for my initial thesis statement, I have realized that having such a general statement could drive you mad. As mentioned in my previous entry, I have established several guiding points for my next concepts, which I will mention here again:

  • 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.)

I have also referred to the research that I did with a survey from a while ago. When asked what was one’s most favorite part about commuting in the city, about 20% said “people watching” along with a few others who mentioned the experience of walking through the “urban landscape.”

With these points in mind, I have slightly modified my thesis statement to the following:

I am creating a service that encourages people in the city to be more physically active by changing their perception of the urban landscape in order to address the issue of physical inactivity.

I am creating a service that encourages people in the city to explore their surroundings in order to solve the problem of physical inactivity.

Recapping from my thesis concept presentation, I was asked “Do people living in the city need more physical activity?”. At the time, the question had thrown me back on the fence with my thesis statement, but after doing some further research, I concluded that people in the city indeed DO need increased physical activity. According to an article found on from 2008, “the city’s rates of obesity and diagnosed diabetes both increased by 17% during the two-year [2002-2004] study period” while “the nation experienced just a 6% increase in obesity prevalence and no increase in diabetes diagnoses.”

Feedback from both panelists and classmates were as follows:

  • Solutions so far seem very “tactical”
  • Visualizing new ways of getting around the city with some sort of map overlay
  • Solutions so far are small and should probably think more about service and goals
  • What about a toolkit for renegade improv game-making in the city?
  • What about a string of solutions connected to each other throughout the city?

The feedback that I’ve gotten so far seems to point in a couple of directions. The first direction that I see forming are people creating their own worlds, whether it be their own hopscotch game, etc. that happens across the city.

The second idea involves reinterpreting our perception in how we travel within the city. Rob Faludi sent me a really interesting article about dérive (drift) written by Guy Debord, which is a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences. Although a bit dated (1958), I think a lot of what the article has to say is still applicable today.

Some key takeaways from the article

  • Guy introduces the idea of psychogeographical methods – “a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.” (Joseph Hart, A New Way of Walking)
  • An urban neighborhood is determined not only by geographical and economic factors, but also by the image that its inhabitants and those of other neighborhoods have of it.
  • Data can provoke sharp emotional reactions (referring to the example of the “student living in the 16th Arrondissement”).
  • The existence of psychogeographical pivotal points?
  • Is to dérive in an apartment as to dérive in a train?

I realize that these ideas are somewhat still conceptual, but will hopefully get me somewhere in the next couple of days with concepts (even with final projects flying left and right).

Stuff to Read (Notes to myself)

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  • 14 Dec 2010

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