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Sticking with this Concept

In this post, I’ve finalized on my thesis concept and I’ll also be wrapping up questions from my last post along with the ones that came up in our last peer review session.

I’ve been batting around this final thesis statement for a bit now and after watching Daniel Kahneman’s talk on TED on “The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory,” everything seemed a lot clearer. Before going through each question, I’ve updated my statement along with my set of design principles that will guide the direction of this project:

Story Forest The Hinterlands Project is an autobiographical service that enables people to construct and reconstruct memories around the city to rediscover them at a later time. Memories are geotagged throughout the urban landscape and are associated with a set of artifacts that are accessible at their respective locations. These cues collectively create an immersive environment that enable people to relive an experience.

Moment is a service that enables people to capture experiences around the city in order to create an environment for them to be able to rediscover those memories later on. Stumbling upon these memories provide a moment of self-reflection that encourages a more positive outlook on life.

Moment is a service that strengthens one’s relationship with their friends and family by encouraging the creation and rediscovery of memories around shared experiences within the city.

Amidst the constant flux of a busy city, we tend to forget about the experiences that we’ve shared with friends and family within the context of the urban landscape. Moment is a service that encourages people to build memories around those shared experiences in order to create an environment for them to be able to rediscover those memories later on.

Thesis design principles

Thesis design principles

After my meeting with some of the first and second years a few days ago, there were some additional questions that were added to my current list of questions (below) in which I will be answering in this blog post.

  • What artifacts are part of this service?
  • Should memories be accessible all the time?
  • Can this be used to slow down the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s?
  • Why does it have to take place within the context of a city and not in one location, e.g. a house?
  • How can this be more differentiated from services like Flickr?
  • Is there an opportunity for people to share memories with other people that are not necessarily close by?

What artifacts are part of this service?
The artifacts that are part of this service are mobile devices and digital photos. Digital photos capture the following information:

  • title
  • date/time
  • people in the photo
  • geolocation
  • description text field (optional)

Should memories be accessible all the time?
They should not be accessible all the time because we need to preserve the originality of a memory. As mentioned in the previous post, “if you have a memory, the more you use it, the more you’re likely to change it” (Radiolab Podcast, 20:00).

But why preserve it?
By preserving a memory, we are setting up the conditions for a greater level of surprise and nostalgia through one’s serendipitous discovery of a memory.

Also, by limiting the number and the access of memories, we are ensuring that the user doesn’t get bombarded with constant memory notifications as they move about the city.

Can this be used to slow down the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s?
Probably not, but this service could provide an opportunity for people to build and maintain a stronger social network earlier in their lives. This was pointed out by an article in NYMag about urban loneliness (last paragraph).

There’s evidence suggesting that strong social networks help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. There’s even better evidence suggesting that weak social networks pose as great a risk to heart-attack patients as obesity and hypertension.

Why does it have to take place in the context of a city and not in one location, e.g. a house?

  • It doesn’t take place in one location, such as a house, because a house, after an extended period of time, doesn’t offer enough locations for memories to differentiate itself from one to the other.
  • A city offers opportunities for people to experience new things. According to a relationship researcher Arthur Aron “new experiences, rather than repeated favorites, are the best way to keep romantic feelings alive in a marriage, based on a series of six studies of hundreds of couples” (NYMag). This not only applies to marriages, but also to friends. Based on Lisa Berkman, a Harvard epidemiologist who discovered the importance of social networks to heart patients, “friends substitute perfectly well for family” (NYMag).
  • Being outside within the cityscape offers more hooks for a memory to associate itself with. As mentioned in an article from the New York Times, in the studies of rodents,”neuroscientists have shown that special cells in the hippocampus are sensitive to location, activating when the animal passes a certain spot in a maze.” The article goes on further to point out that “some scientists argue that as humans evolved, these same cells adapted to register a longer list of elements — including possibly sounds, smells, time of day and chronology — when an experience occurred in relation to others.”
  • “Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones” (NYMag).
  • According to a recent study, “psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved by walking more.”
How revealing previous memories can encourage walking in the city

How revealing previous memories can encourage walking in the city

How can this be more differentiated from services like Flickr?

  • Memories disappear and reappear in a virtual space overlaid on top of the city
  • Experiences can be created and shared with people in other countries
  • Paths made up of individual related memories leads a user through an entire experience
  • Geo-tagged memories notify users as they walk through a cityscape
  • Places of interest are suggested to users based on shared interests
  • Memories are personal and are encouraged to be shared with the people that are tagged to a memory

Is there an opportunity for people to share memories with other people that are not necessarily closeby?
One idea is to allow a user to map their memories onto the physical landscape of another. Sounds tricky, but interesting.

One idea is to allow a user to indirectly suggest a place for their friend/family based on the decision they’ve made within their city.

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  • 03 Feb 2011

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