AML
AML
designer & strategist
 

please distribute, issue no.1

A human-centered research project to examine the value of personal technologies

Combining research, data, and human-centered design to evaluate the relationships between technologies and their users.

 
 
 
 
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User research

Fed up by the newly emerging conversations about the 2016 Russian election meddling and by my own alarmingly robotic attachment to my iPhone, I turned my attention to my fellow tech users. Were they dissatisfied or content with tech tools? Were they bothered by their attachment to tech? With those questions in mind, I designed a unique research experience, to push users to vocalize their preferences and inclinations.

 
 

The Blackout

I designed a research kit that participants could take home and embed into their daily routine. Each kit introduced a “blackout” exercise, where participants were asked to abstain from using any technologies for 24 hours.

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Apart from a introductory and exit worksheet that I used for my own data collection purposes, I only included free-form exercises: notebooks, disposable cameras, and a handful of open-ended instructions. I wanted to encourage the participants to continuously reflect on their experience without any prompting from me.

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Insights

Most participants found it difficult to choose the “right” time to embark on the blackout challenge. That soon changed, once they were in the thick of it.

 
 
 
 
 
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Cultivating curiosity

Based on the insights that I gleaned from my participants’ responses, the goal of the project shifted towards empowerment: to cultivate a curiosity in users that would prompt them to consider the true value of tech. I wanted users to question their relationship with tech, and identify ways to change their tech consumption patterns to better suit their needs and desires.

 
 

Guerilla techniques

Zines, known for their 1970’s and 80’s Punk-era roots, were the perfect vessel for this alternative, self-empowering, anti-big-tech movement. Zinesters embraced their readers as thinkers as individuals who were fully capable of reflection and who had a desire to think critically. I hoped to do the same for tech users.

 
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The Zine

The zine was split into 3 sections: 1) a manifesto to explain, enlighten, and enrage; 2) a blackout exercise, to give readers the tools to evaluate their own tech consumption habits; and 3) a section devoted to telling the stories from the fine people who participated in my first blackout experiment.

 
 
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Read it.

 
 
 
 
 
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Physical manifestations

In the last phase of the project, I created a public installation that consisted of 5 wheat-pasted posters, depicting all of the cell phones that I’ve ever owned. Each poster was layered chronologically and then partially torn down, leaving the viewer to come to their own conclusion about the fleeting value of our incessant tech consumption.

 
 
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