rhiza

detailed research process

CHALLENGE

Design a product, service, or solution that enables/creates empathy across a large and diverse demographic. Demonstrate a creation that is innovative, maps back to a clear need, and leverages current technologies (or those that are feasible in the near-term). Your creation may be near-term practical or blue sky, but it must have a realistic chance of adoption if instantiated. Your design should minimally show awareness of barriers such as security, privacy, cross group coordination and cooperation.

Situate your design exploration within a broader context that incorporates the challenges of the 2018 IPCC report calling for a 40–50% decarbonization by year 2030.

CLIENT

Microsoft: Inclusive Design Team

DURATION

15 Weeks

TEAM

Gautham Krishna, Cathryn Ploehn, Matt Prindible

My role: Interviews and Participatory Research, Concept Generation, Touchpoint Interactions and Testing

RESEARCH METHODS

Expert Interviews, Guided Storytelling, Contextual Inquiry, Affinity Mapping, Paper Prototyping, Immersion

TOOLS

Sketch App, Principle, Adobe After-Effects, Basic Projection Mapping

PROJECT TIMELINE

How might we allow people to experience the transition to more sustainable food practices, such that they have a deeper understanding of their embeddedness within the biosphere. 

mobile app

interactive table

Making the invisible visible

LIFE CYCLE, PEOPLE INVOLVED, RESOURCES USED

Sharing stories

IMAGES AND VIDEOS COLLECTED DURING WORK

passive documentation

research process

This 15 week project was divided into 5 distinct phases, each phase helping build on each other to develop and refine the concept based on research and testing. We started off from a bird’s eye view of the problem, and then in our research methods funnelled down to the specific technology touch points.

phase 1: territory definition

primary question

Where is the most impactful context to intervene in terms of regular people in regular life

The inital framing of this project was based on the recommendations outlined in the IPCC’s Special Report on the reality of 1.5C Warming by the year 2030. Radical decarbonization, in upwards of 50% of total emissions, is the frame in which this 15 week project was situated. That’s quite a task. So we used the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Sustainable Consumption and Production to consider changes that each of us can make in our everyday lives.

We were looking for impact, so we used Project Drawdown to identify a place where day-to-day decisions could add up. Two of the top five most impactful areas deal with food — a decision we make many times a day. Project Drawdown estimates adopting a “plant-rich diet” helps reduce ten times the emissions as compared to something like switching to mass transit systems.

But current trends in food systems, from smart grocery stores, to autonomous farming, to meal kits and alternative proteins further abstract our food systems. This is because we tend to look at food systems in a mechanistic way: if we continue to grease the gears and put in more energy, we’ll get more out. But what we’re left with is a system that produces food with incomprehensible environmental costs. What we need are clear ways to re-engage with our food systems. 

primary question

How do we begin to think about empathy in the context of the biosphere

Given the prompt 'Design for empathy at scale', we began the research process by first defining what empathy meant to us. Our discussion centered around personal anecdotes, discussion of Valeria Lumbroso’s Empathy: The Heart's Intelligence, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present, and the various types / triggers of empathy.

We then synthesised our discussion into a working definition of empathy:

A process of 

Communication

A recognition of

Vulnerability

Enabled by

Emotional

Cognitive

Perspective

Triggers

Processed by

Imagination

To effect change in

Everyday Life

To promote

Social Cohesion

process

research methods to understand wicked problems

Secondary

Research

Stakeholder

Mapping

Synthesis

Territory

Mapping

phase 2: exploratory research

primary question

How do people exercise a values-based approach to food decisions?

primary question

What does empathy mean in the context of food?

primary question

Is there an opportunity in the convergence of the two?

process

research methods to understand understand current mindsets and drivers

Expert

Interviews

Contextual

Inquiry

Diary

Study

Dinner

Party

Causal Layered Analysis

Affinity Mapping

phase 3: generative research

primary question

What future visions of food system are in the imaginations of people who care about the environment?

primary question

How do people currently engage with the food system?

process

research methods to co-design with end users

Generative

Workshop

Expert

Interviews

phase 4: evaluative research

primary question

Does this space answer this question: How might we allow people to experience the transition to more sustainable food practice?

primary question

Does the programming in each individual space make sense to experts.

primary question

What touch points enable this space?

process

research methods to validate concepts

User Personas

Paper Prototypes

Story Boards

Testing with Experts

phase 5: design and refine

primary question

What features of the platform best help facilitate the transformation of a novice to an expert?

process

research methods to refine final concept

Information Architecture

Visual System

UI

Design

Interactive Prototypes