After spending a week in Bali (working, even if some people don't believe in me) I headed to Helsinki, looking forward to attend the Interaction16 conference and place my prototypes on HUB13. And these prototypes failed. But not any failure, "flat face on the floor" type of failure. It was amazing.
The Social Clock
The main purpose was to explore how technology could clarify the social rules. So I first used SAMLABS modules to sketch the experiments I was envisioning. Then I tested with some classmates on a late, dark, Swedish night.
The experiment consisted on a series of sliders connected to lamps. Positioned by the desk, the coworking members could select their working status by interacting with the slider: from social to focused. After cycles of 25 minutes, the sliders would move back to the “social” position. Six prototypes were left on the coworking area for two working days. From the six, only two had the function of returning to a social status. Instructions to operate and leave comments were left together with the prototypes. This activity aimed to answer the following questions:
How would the other members react to the ones with the prototype?
How would their interactions with them be perceived by the bigger group?
How members of a coworking space react to the mediated experience of externalising their working mode?
Would sharing a neutral and abstract information about yourself be enough to “break the ice”? What else is needed?
How to use the space to best communicate the social rules and welcome newcomers?
Tackling this question, the experiments previously mentioned failed to engage people in conversation. Although members and owners initially expressed interest on the prototype, the sliders didn’t work as expected. Coworkers often refer to themselves as “early-adopters” and the technology aspect was not a barrier. However with the prototype people felt the need to interact only when they wanted to be in a focused mode. Some others decided to hide the lights with notebooks to not have their status visible to others, claiming that they didn’t want to be pressured to talk with someone just because of the light’s colour. The ones that used the stations with motorised sliders (returning to a social position after 25 minutes) used tape, books and other resources to avoid the movement. The concerns with privacy were also raised since the prototypes were positioned right by the desks.
Now it's time to go back to the drawing board and come with a more concrete view of concepts for our midway presentation. Let's see how this goes...