Milestone 2

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Introduction

People often experience curiosity, or even difficulty, when they encounter a new objects or situations, especially in the midst of an unfamiliar culture. In order to discover how people make sense of new objects and unfamiliar environments, our group conducted a study involving a cultural probe and interviews to understand human behaviors and patterns while in the midst of unfamiliarity. Our findings conclude the key observations and explanations of people’s fundamental behaviors in these certain situations. Based on our findings, we provide three pervasive interaction designs, including Informative Display, Information Map, and Scavenger Hunt, in order to augment human experiences when dealing with unfamiliar objects and environments.

 

Formative Study Design

To further explore the space and focus our design ideas, we conducted a two-part formative study that involved a cultural probe as well as follow-up interviews. We designed our formative study with these research questions in mind:

  • How do people make sense of new surroundings — including new things, people, and behaviors?

    • What contextual factors contribute to how and when people first notice something new?

    • What makes people want to know more about that new thing?

    • What is the first visceral reaction when someone encounters a new thing, people, or behavior?

    • How do people go about learning about new objects, situations, and behaviors? What actions do they take?

    • How do people adapt to new situations, behaviors, and contexts?

Cultural Probe

The cultural probe was designed to elicit information and empathy as to how people typically learn about, interact with, and adapt to unfamiliar objects (including food and other tangible articles) and environments (social situations which involve others and the behavior of others) in situ. This sort of data may have been less tangible if we were to rely on traditional interviews alone.

Since we were unable to send participants into foreign countries and fully immerse them in unfamiliar cultures, as would have been preferred, we used proximal environments and situations. Reminiscent of a scavenger hunt, we asked participants to spend time in environments unfamiliar to them, or were a bit out of their comfort zones, and had them complete tasks both during and after their experiences. Half of the participants were asked to interact with unfamiliar objects, and the other half were asked to spend time in an unfamiliar social setting. Examples of these tasks were:

  • “Unfamiliar Objects” Tasks:

    • Take photos (when appropriate) whenever you see something new/interesting. Write short caption or Tweet us your first impression #warwick612

    • Fill out a “customs declaration” card, documenting your observations about these new objects.

    • Pick an object that was particularly striking to you, and teach Alice, a 5 year old, about what this object is.

    • Complete a storyboard illustrating how you might go about finding out information about an unfamiliar, yet interesting, object.

  • “Unfamiliar Environment” Tasks:

    • After spending time in an unfamiliar environment, write a postcard to a friend who is planning on visiting that same environment you visited — prepare him for his visit.

    • Write down three questions you had about this new social setting.

Each of these tasks was designed to help us gain deeper insights into how each individual typically learns about, interacts with, and adapts to unfamiliar objects and environments. We were also interesting in the participants’ cognitive processes while engaged in these new experiences.

In addition to being assigned a primary task of either interacting with unfamiliar objects or an unfamiliar environment, each participant was given secondary tasks which dealt with the complementary scenario. For instance, those who were asked to interact with the new objects were also given a priming activity about unfamiliar scenarios. They were asked to think about an instance where they were in an unfamiliar social situation, and write a postcard to a friend preparing them for that situation. Similarly, participants who completed the unfamiliar environment task were given the storyboard completion task. This primed them to think about how they might interact with unfamiliar objects. By using this cross-pollination strategy, we were able to gain a richer amount of data than if we had limited each participant to one task alone.

Full cultural probe instructions and materials.

Recruitment

We recruited six participants of varying cultural backgrounds, between the ages of 20-30, though the data gleaned from these studies is not necessarily tied to that age group.

We sent an email to si.all.open to recruit people who might be interested in joining this activity. In addition, we asked friends if they were willing to help with our study. Each participants receive a 10 dollar Amazon gift card.

Participant ID

Age

Occupation

Native Country

Native Language

1

23

UMSI student

India

English, Hindi

2

30

UX designer, ADMI

USA

English

3

26

UMSI Student

Argentina & US

English, Spanish

4

24

UMSI student

India

English, Hindi

5

24

UMSI student

Taiwan

Mandarin

6

24

UMSI student

Taiwan

Mandarin

Interviews

Following each “scavenger hunt” activity, we interviewed each participant in order to gain a deeper understanding of the artifacts they created, and to ask about their overall experience. We tried to understand each participant’s cognitive processes during their activities, as well as gain empathy about participants’ experiences. We asked questions such as:

  • “What struck you most out of what you experienced there?”

  • “Tell me about your first impressions.”

  • “What process or strategy did you take to find out more information about this unfamiliar object?”

Participant ID

Task

Location

Time of Interview

1

new environment

Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory

12-1 PM 02/19/2014

2

new object

Curry Up (Indian restaurant)

4:30-5:30 PM 02/19/2014

3

new object

Om Market (Indian market)

4 – 5 PM 02/21/2014

4

new environment

frat party

5 – 6 PM 02/21/2014

5

new object

Manna International Foods and Gifts (Korean market)

4-5 PM 02/21/2014

6

new environment

The Whiting (to see a musical performance)

2-3 PM 02/23

 

Findings & Analysis

We used several methods to analyze our research. First, we created affinity notes to distill key ideas from each interview. Then, we used a combination of strategies from the Stanford d.school’s methods for design thinking, namely the empathy map and why-how laddering. Our top findings are listed below:

  1. Different people have different levels of tolerance for ambiguity when it comes to discovering new objects and environments.

    1. U01, U04  wanted to know everything they could about an unfamiliar object and made efforts in the same direction.

    2. U05, U06 were alright not knowing everything about an unfamiliar object and relied mostly on their ability to discover and interpret the object.

Although this was something that we were expecting at the beginning of our research, it identifies the types of users that our system should cater to. Either we can come up with a system that caters to both kinds of users or simply stick to one, thereby disregarding the other group completely.

  1. Process of making sense of new objects and environments is iterative, deductive and takes the form of hypothesis testing. We found that everyone typically uses similar strategies when forming hypotheses, but when it comes to testing those hypotheses, people use very different strategies.

    1. All our participants formed hypotheses based on:

      1. Observations

      2. Contextual Clues

      3. Past experiences

    2. Our participants tested the hypotheses based on different strategies. This was particular to each individual and the context in question:

      1. U01, U03 tried asking other people

      2. U02, U05 Tried things out for themselves

      3. U03, U04 tried “Googling” / search engine

      4. U02, U03, U05 did trial and error (this was true mostly in the case of objects, as there typically is a smaller element of risk and greater degree of control associated with objects than with environments (Finding 3))

      5. U05, U06 did nothing

    3. After initial hypothesis test, all our participants modified their hypotheses and re-tested

Our designs can support this process of hypothesis testing. We should be careful that we don’t completely take away or distract from the experience of discovering new things, but instead find ways to support and augment this experience.

  1. There are nuances that exist between the processes of making sense of new objects, foods, etc, and making sense of unfamiliar behaviors and situations.

    1. The study results suggested that the level of risk when exploring an unfamiliar object tends to be less than exploring new behaviors.

      1. U04 stated, “Be careful of what you say”

      2. U02 advised, “Blend in, don’t stand out”

    2. All our participants exhibited more level of control over exploring unfamiliar objects versus less control when exploring unfamiliar behaviors and situations primarily due to social influence.

    3. All our participants tended to take more time to understand unfamiliar social situations when compared to understanding unfamiliar objects

From our study we concluded that there is the need for immediate intimation in case of unfamiliar social situations when compared to coming across unfamiliar objects. But this intimation has to be subtle and non interruptive of the social experience.

  1. Feedback in social situations may be delayed, incomprehensible, or non-existent, or an individual may be unaware of whatever feedback exists due to ignorance/unawareness of the larger situation.

    1. U01, U02, U03, U04 took time to understand what other people were doing before they acted.

    2. U03 realised the set norms only after repeatedly faltering at it.

This, again, was something that we had a fair idea about prior to the cultural probe. What was striking about this was the level of importance and the number of times that the participants mentioned as to how they had to wait awkwardly trying to devise strategies to understand the situation better.

  1. The use of multiple senses is important for both experiencing a situation and exploring the object as well as recalling it later.

    1. U02, U03 tried to play around with food and tried to match characteristics with ingredients or delicacies that they had in the past.

    2. U02, U05 related the smell of a place to what the experience would be like.

    3. U03, U06 picked the unknown object and poked around to get a better understanding.

This was something that was not consciously thought by us but was rather the direct outcome of the research. Hence it would be interesting to see how we can use multisense recall in our designs to help people make sense of new objects/situations they encounter.

 

Design Ideation and Concept Selection

Each member ideated individually and came up with 2-3 concepts. These concepts were then discussed as a group during a brainstorming session, and we consolidated them into five broad ideas. To narrow down our top three ideas, we evaluated each idea based on six dimensions: plausibility (how feasible in the idea is), demonstrability (how effectively can we demonstrate the concept), acceptability (self+social), usefulness (how useful would it be to the user), pleasurability (how much fun will the user have in using the system), and convenience (how convenient is it for the participant to use the system). The table below illustrates the results of the validation process, where 1 indicates that the concept validates well against the criterion, 2 indicates that there are certain issues with the way the concept validates against the criterion and 3 indicates that is does not validate well against the criterion:

Informative Display

Information Map

Behavior Helper

Real time Translator

Scavenger Hunt

Plausibility

2

2

3

1

1

Demonstrability

1

1

2

1

1

Acceptability

1

2

2

1

1

Usefulness

1

1

1

1

3

Pleasurability

2

1

2

2

1

Convenience

1

1

1

1

2

TOTAL

8

8

11

7

9

 

We selected our top three concepts based on the lowest total scores. We did not choose the Real Time Translator, after discussing similar technologies that already exist. Hence we selected “The Informative Display,” “Information Map” and “The Scavenger Hunt.” These concepts also addressed key findings from our cultural probe.

Refined Scope and Concepts

We narrowed down the scope of our ideas from the first milestone. The concepts in the first milestone were more or less based on the personal experiences of the group members and did little to capture the thought process and the strategies that people used while coming across and understanding new situations and objects.

Also when we started off we believed that catering to both unfamiliar behaviors and objects would be possible, but over the course of the probe we soon realised that it would be difficult to realise the concept of understanding unfamiliar behaviors and we scoped our ideas to help users understand unfamiliar objects the would come across when they are travelling.

The three concepts that we chose are explained below:

Informative DisplayIMG1.jpg

In this scenario, the user goes to the shopping market and is intrigued by an unfamiliar fruit. Next, to understand more about that object the user simply waves his hand across the sensor that is placed on the shelf where the fruit was kept. Instantly a holographic screen appeared in front of the user. The screen had information about the origin of fruit, the dishes that could be made from it etc. The user watched the videos and read the info and was satisfied knowing more about that fruit. Additionally, the user could have waved his personal id card in front of the sensor and would have received info that was more personalized to him. For example, if the user was a Chinese then the language in the which the info was presented would have been switched to chinese.

Information Maplife-tracker.jpg

In this scenario, the user would be wearing a life tracking device. This device would be recording users experience in terms of things he is eating, places he is visiting etc. Next, the user visits China. The devices knows that the user in China. Next, if the user comes across a beer that he wants to know more about, then this device would let the user know about this new object based on the users past experiences. So the device might tell the user that this beer tastes like Miller, which the user is used to having and so on. This data about new object could also be crowd sourced from other users who share the same common ground with this user.

Scavenger Huntscavenger-hunt.jpg

This scenario is based less on letting the user know about the new objects/situations and is more focused on enhancing the experience of users who are wanderer by nature. In this scenario, the user visits India and this app tells the user that there is this festival “Diwali” that is going on in the country. Next, the app prepared a treasure hunt for the user and asked him to complete various tasks, like going to a temple and having free meal. If the user chose to complete the task then he would be awarded certain points. Hence, this app is helping the users learn about new culture in a gamified manner.

Discussion

One limitation of our formative study was the lack of variety of participants.  Due to the nature of our research and our broad target audience, it wasn’t required to have a strict screening process of participants. Time constraints also dictated a reliance on convenience sampling. Incidentally, this resulted in a set of participants who were all very close in age, falling between 20 and 30 years, each with similar educational backgrounds. Although this is a restricted sampling, age certainly does not dispute our findings – but, we are unsure of the exact influence it may have had. Additionally, there could have been insights missed from not interviewing a wider segment of the population.

One of our research questions was aimed at discovering which factors contribute to how and when people first notice something new. Specifically, we phrased this question as: “What contextual factors contribute to how and when people first notice something new?” In regard to successfully answering this question, our formative study falls short. In this study, we are specifically asking people and forcing them to seek out new things. Consequently, this task isn’t indicative of a participant’s natural behavior and doesn’t effectively represent it. In asking them to find new items, participants are urged to pick out and notice things in the environment that they potentially would overlook or not notice under normal circumstances. Simulated interest is not a perfect replacement for real interest, but it is a necessary evil in the context of this study.

 

Conclusion

In general, our study methods successfully obtained the information we needed to understand how people make sense of new objects and unfamiliar environment. We were able to synthesize these significant findings – 1) Different people have different levels of tolerance for ambiguity when it comes to discovering new objects and environments. 2) Process of making sense of new objects and environments is iterative, deductive and takes the form of hypothesis testing. 3)There are nuances that exist between the processes of making sense of new objects, foods, etc, and making sense of unfamiliar behaviors and situations. 4) Feedback in social situations may be delayed, incomprehensible, or non-existent, or an individual may be unaware of whatever feedback exists due to ignorance/unawareness of the larger situation. 5) The use of multiple senses is important for both experiencing a situation and exploring the object as well as recalling it later.

Our three storyboards of designs demonstrate different approaches of how ubiquitous computing can facilitate people’s sense-making of new objects and new environment. The informative display gives detailed and interactive introductions of new objects in the supermarket. The introduction can be personalized according to people’s demographic information. The informative map tracks users’ life experience and recall them while encountering related new objects. Scavenger hunt gives users hints to find out new objects and situations based on his geographical location and other external settings such as time and weather to increase the appropriateness and joy of the process. Although there are several limitations of our research because of different constraints, we believe our findings are strong enough to demonstrate people’s fundamental behavior when encountering new objects and environment. However, we are not very clear which of our design is better than others at this stage. Therefore, in our further study we will discuss more specifically about how each of these pervasive interaction designs targets on people’s demands and which one is most feasible in the real world. Then we can prototype the optimal solution.

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