Over the last four weeks, I have been working with Sarah Hallacher and D.I. Shin on our midterm project for the class Be Here Now. We were tasked with developing an alternative currency or ecosystem. This type of system can be an international one like Bit Coins, which has a strange and mysterious history. It could also be modeled on an art project like the Brooklyn Torch Project, which has lead a much less exotic or productive life.
We started off by brainstorming on community-based projects that personally interest us. I suggested we focus on local, organic food. D.I. and Sarah were quite interested in composting, recycling and other environmental issues.
For our presentation the first week, we focused on these environmental ideas with a new approach to recycling. It involved a new system of underground receptacles that could auto-sort material into the correct recycling bin. If a person threw an item onto a designed area on the street, the bin’s lid would flip to accept the item. The sketch that D.I. drew was built on the knowledge that this midterm project was just about designing a concept and that we did not have to actually produce anything. So the thinking was, why not go for something a bit far-fetched.
This idea did not fare well during the class critique. Most people thought (rightly, in my opinion) that we were encouraging a bad behavior in having people litter on the streets again under the assumption that the system would sort everything. Also, the idea was criticized for not being anything like an alternative currency or ecosystem.
So we went back to the drawing board. I suggested the idea StreetRep. The idea is that you are the alternative currency. It defines a quantifiable point value to your participation in the community. Positive community actions thus increase your score. These points then earn you rewards within the local community.
We decided to focus on the neighborhood of Greenpoint in Brooklyn for the project use cases. Below are the presentations we made in class for weeks 2, 3 and 4. They show the progression and development of the idea, from mind map to sitemap to wireframes and mock-ups.
- Mouna Andraos (Founder: Daily Tous les jours)
- Shagun Singh (Interaction Designer: FROG design)
- Mary Jeys (Artist and creator: Brooklyn Torch)
It was helpful to have a talented and experienced group of people reviewing our projects. They offered some valuable feedback.
Overall, StreetRep received a lukewarm reception. While Mary seemed to appreciate most what we were doing, all three of the guests criticized the presentation for lacking a mission statement. Other detailed criticisms came from Shagun, who felt that certain details in the use cases and mind map could have been better defined.
In general, I think all of the criticisms were valid. I had led the charge for the presentation, so have to assume most of the blame. It was a bit painful at times because Shagun criticized me for leaving a thing or two out of the presentation. The night before I had actually added those very elements she wanted, but took them out for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, lesson learned on those points.
As for the mission statement critique, I did not expect that. I thought I had defined clearly enough the goals of the project, even though I did not have a slide that specifically defined it. Obviously, this broad understanding of the project’s goals did not come across to our guests. Fair enough, lesson learned on that point as well.
Sometimes having these presentations go not perfectly is better for learning. I’m instead looking forward to the final project and our next challenge. This StreetRep exercise has been a valuable one.