B2B:From broken to breaking design

Members: Ke Fang, Xiaojuan Ma, Fengyuan Zhu

Personal Contributions: Organizor for the workshops, Data Analysis, Prototype Making

The results were accepted by DIS 2016, paper here:

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Xiaojuan Ma, Fang Ke, Fengyuan Z hu Fro Broke t Breaking:  Repurposing

“Ill”  Interactio Design  t Facilitat HumanHuman Interaction

The emergence of information, communication, and mobile technologies has noticeably changed how humans interact with each other. However, some research showed that an increasing number of people favor online communication and interact less and less in person. This problem becomes severe especially among the youth. Several researches towards exploring means to rebuild or strengthen human-human interactions have been done, including physically detach from media devices, or seeking help for new technology like tangible interfaces.

We take a different approach. We might all have experienced breakdown of technological interactions of some sort in everyday life. Despite the inconvenience, taking a break from machines may lead to unexpected breakthrough in relationship with humans. For example, swapped thermostats installed in two neighboring flats can increase the residents’ chance of hanging out together, as they have to help adjust each other’s room temperature. We refer to this phenomenon, whether it occurs naturally or is resulted from a thoughtful design, as broken-to-breaking (B2B).

1.1.1 Mechanism Analysis.

In order to investigate the barrier-breaking mechanism of human interaction in scenarios with technological breakdowns, an analysis based on the anecdotes related to B2B incidents in daily life is a good way to approach.

We recruited participants, scheduled face-to-face interviews with 44 people who expressed interests in sharing their past experience with “some technical breakdown leading to the improvement of relationship with others.” Then, we extracted a total of 40 anecdotes. We excluded stories that were either with no technology directly involved or the final outcome of which had no strong association with human interaction. We used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze the anecdote transcripts. Three of the authors collaboratively applied the grounded theory methods to explore data qualitatively. More specifically, we initialized the coding process with simple in-process theoretical categories, i.e. who, when, why, how, and with what consequence. We further constructed more analytical, relational categories via comparison and integration, such as:

• Relation (X is a kind of Y): relationship / who

• Location (X is a place for doing Y): where

• Attribution (X is a feature of Y): type of breakdown

• Function (X is used for Y): medium for interactions

• Rationale (X is a reason for (not) doing Y): inhibitors

• Sequence (X is a step in Y): motivators

• Means-end (X is a way to Y): verbal interactions

• Means-end (X is a way to Y): physical interactions

• Cause and Effect (X is a result of Y): emotional outcome

• Cause and Effect (X is a result of Y): Relational outcome

We conducted a descriptive statistical analysis to investigate the frequency of the different analytical categories among the 40 B2B anecdotes. Based on that initial results, we then organized several workshops to dig out further information of B2B mechanism.

1.1.2 Experiment Workshops and Prototypes

After the mechanism analysis, we experiment with both forward broken-to-breaking design (i.e. repurposing a “broken” technology to reach an undetermined desirable state) and backward breaking-to-broken design (i.e. aiming at a certain “breaking” goal and fulfilling it via an existing “broken” mechanism) via workshops.

Our workshops were divided into two different level, one was listed in the curriculum of a local high school summer camp, consisted of three 2-hour sessions over the course of two days with 60 students, and the other one was consisted with 5 five expert designers and conducted several times.

During the workshops, the participants were introduced to the concept of the broken2breaking methods, and then with analysis and discussion, several principles were found during the procedure. Based on the principles, around 30 paper prototype were designed in the mind map formation. And we transferred several parallel prototyping into reality:


Figure 1. Mindmaps and some Results of parallel prototyping.

S1D2 : Internet Exposer: grabs the URL that each member currently browses, and tries to expose it to all. However, users can sacrifice some of their bandwidth to cover up their URLs. In addition, employees are supervised by “social influence” rather than a compulsive URL screening, more beneficial for group dynamics and working culture.

S1D3: Share for More is a network resource redistribution system that aims to increase sociality and sharedness. Limited network resources are not distributed evenly across a team. More are allocated to those who share information that they obtained from the Internet with others.

S2D1: Remotouch is an air-conditioner remote design for rooms where family and friends get together. Remotouch only activates when two people hold it together. It reminds people to care for others’ feeling, with their own hand, every time they want to change the temperature.

S2D2: Cool Map is an application that indexes a map with users’ perceived feelings of temperature rather than the actual temperature. Users can update their feelings with a slide bar and see others’ feeling around them. It aims to encourage more icebreaking social interactions.

S2D3: Sense Me, Chat with Me is a bench design in public space. The chair obtains users’ physiologic and emotional status by sensors and the users’ self-input, and visualize it at the back side of the bench, and can only be seen by others. The bench provokes icebreaking interactions among strangers when people care about others.