Project 3: Observation & Brainstorming

Due in class, Thursday January 31

This project will have you engage in situation-specific observation and synthesize observations into design ideas through brainstorming. The course project theme is gestural interfaces: enabling new experiences using sensing technologies. In this assignment, you will begin the process of exploring this topic with an eye towards informing your final project (P4).

First, pick an application area of interest to you. What compelling needs might be addressed with video and audio sensing? Example areas include (but are by no means limited to) artistic expression, health and wellness, social communication, entertainment (e.g., media control), handcraft, cooking, or activities in which one's hands are otherwise occupied.

Second, visit places and people engaging in your chosen activity. Identify relevant stakeholders – people directly involved or implicated in the activity. For example, if you are interested in elder care, potential stakeholders include the elderly being cared for, family members, and health care professionals (attending nurses or doctors). Pay attention to the distinct stakeholders and the settings, people and things that engage them. What works and what does not? Observe and talk with everyone you can! What are the practices and goals of the various participants? How are they different? How are they similar? How do they succeed or fail? Can you find and observe any "extreme participants" who can provide deeper design insight? Record your observations and interview people using the principles discussed in class and in the assigned readings. If feasible, try also to engage in the activity of interest yourself (i.e., be a participant-observer).

Third, brainstorm new applications from your observation results and develop a 3-5 minute skit that communicates an envisioned usage scenario.

The skills we will learn in this project are:

Observation and Interviewing
We're investigating the practices of people that may not be exactly like us, which means that we must work more critically and more actively. Bring a notebook and a camera! Take pictures, write notes, sketch. In addition to observing, talk to people about why they do what they do, have them reflect on concrete lived experiences, and try to get at the deeper meanings.

How to turn observations into design possibilities. Be creative in thinking of unexpected possibilities!

Show how users might interact with your envisioned technology by performing a skit. This skit should demonstrate both the motivation for your idea and an interaction scenario, integrating pictures, costumes, and props.

This project should be done in teams of 4; each team is responsible for choosing observation sites and collecting data. Please form a team that you would like to work with for both P3 and P4. Sites and interviewees should be chosen to get different perspectives on a chosen application area. Conducting observations/interviews in groups of 2-3 allows you to get multiple perspectives and point things out to each other; it also allows one person to take rich notes while another may be more engaged with a respondent or activity. The team should then synthesize the results of your observations and prepare and present the skit together.

Read the d.school handouts on Observation, Synthesis, Brainstorming and POV.

The project has the following deliverables:

  1. Observation & Brainstorm Materials - Before class, Tue 1/29 (Observations) and Thu 1/31 (Documentation)
    At this first stage you aren't trying to come up with specific problems and solutions, but instead are assembling a wide variety of materials that can inspire design. Take pictures, make notes, and draw sketches. Read the notes on observation and interviews. In observing and interviewing don't just look at the specific activities, but also look behind them to the underlying cognitive, emotional, and social meanings. Next, conduct a group brainstorm session to identify and develop design opportunities. You must conduct your observations before class on Tuesday 1/29!

    The deliverables should consist of synthesized data regarding your organized observations, photos / sketches, analyses, and brainstorming. Your team should compose well-organized documentation of your observations as either a PDF document or web page. How you organize the document is up to you, but be sure to include highlights from your observations (notes, photos), emergent themes/clusters, "how might we?" questions, and candidate design ideas. Do not submit a raw "dump" of materials; rather, organize a subset of your most salient, insightful or inspiring observations and insights. Email the document or a link to the web site to cs247@cs prior to class on Thursday 1/31. Each group should send a single email; remember to note all group members on your document or web page. For reference, here are some examples of successful documents from past courses: 1, 2, 3.

  2. Demonstration Skit - In class, Thursday 1/31
    Each team will present a short (3-5 minute) skit illustrating a vision of a new design. Be prepared to say a few words about the process that led you to the design, including other ideas you considered and what you learned. You will need to meet before Thursday to prepare and rehearse it. (Note: your skit need not coincide with your subsequent project direction in P4, but we recommend trying to align the two.)

  3. Individual Reflection - By end of day, Friday 2/1
    Individually, write a brief reflection on your own experience working on the project: creative process, team process, design-development process, and what you might do next time. Submit your reflection using the provided Google Form.

    In terms of team effort, we will assume that all team members put in their fair share unless we hear otherwise. If a team member went above and beyond, or other team members did not contribute sufficiently, please include those in your comments. Be sure to include your estimates of the relative contribution of all your group members.


P3 Grading Rubric


Please feel free to e-mail us at cs247@cs.stanford.edu if you have any questions.