Project 4 – The Gathering: strength in numbers


Presentations in class on April 20th 

Documentation  due online April  23rd



So far, in this studio, we’ve been focusing on the myriad ways that actionable matter can amplify and extend the possibilities for individuals. Now we’re going to branch out and look at what happens when actionable matter meets aggregations of people.

People are empowered by being in groups, to the extent that some governments restrict or even prohibit gatherings (or, at least, attempt to). People also gather for pleasure and ceremony, on holidays and other special occasions (like election nights, or for major sporting events). They will often take their technologies and other belongings along-and not just their handheld devices, but also their toys (board games, drones, robots), musical instruments, powered speakers, special-purpose appliances, protest signs, and more. Strictly speaking (and for better or worse), people “gather” on the toll apron for the Bay Bridge crossing every morning, using their automotive technologies (or on CalTrain, BART or MUNI).

Frequently, though, opportunities for what people could potentially do when they’re together, or what their technologies could confederate to do, are hampered by technological (and oftentimes social) barriers. Some people use their technologies as social shields – an iPad even looks like a small aluminum shield, with a glowing Apple family crest! For all the talk of our rising level of apparent connectedness and extensive social networks, being together sometimes seems a lot less intimate and special than in years past, and we’re certainly not taking advantage of a lot of the potential that our technologies present.

In other cultures and other social configurations (think back to the Growth, Collapse, Constraint, and Transformation exercises), the role of groups may be heightened or diminished, and their importance may be radically different (e.g., it may a necessity to collaborate on food production, or resources can be scarce enough that some items must be shared, or skills, knowledge, and voices can be combined to create powerful arguments and accountability).

Your task is to work in groups to create a compelling  and  delightful  (or a convincing and attractive (or a fun and productive (or a moving and delicious))) experience for a gathering  (of people,  technologies, or both) .

The problem/opportunity domain here is intentionally a very broad one, and will require some attention and thought to focus in to some solid possibilities, but you’re poised for it (and you have your group to work with).  Think back to the various topics you and your peers examined for the very first assignment, or peruse blogs about the future of cities, or use the Drivers of Change app, or run through a brainstorming and affinity mapping exercise… there are plenty of sources for inspiration. Concentrate on settings where  people and their things gather-it could be a family holiday, a protest march, a sporting event, a street fair, a flea market, a concert, a cruise, a funeral or wedding, a party or festival-or whatever you like and combinations thereof. The people attending might know each other well, they might share an interest or cause, or they could be complete strangers. The setting can be permanent, recurring, virtual or ephemeral, as can the moment. The people may be intending to band together, their technologies might be how the possibilities for the joint activity are revealed, or it might be coincidental that the people or their things exhibit some form of collective strength. Some of the projects you proposed or did earlier in the studio might even be fodder for this project, if you can convince your team of that.



Your project will be to design a novel interactive experience that depends, in some pivotal way, upon the social and technological collective. You will work in groups of three and two (Gabbie, Ji, and  Lei;  Divya, Cylia and Li; Ricky, Jessica, and Joyce; and then Rocky and Zhao (with just two  members,  that last group will be subject to higher expectations (you’re  more  nimble))). Groups should brainstorm together, organize your ideas, come up with your setting and story,  choose some topics that matter, that inspire  you, or that are simply cool and unexpected in one way or another. Don’t be afraid to be really whacky, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with heading down a convincingly  practical path, either. Make really sure, though, that you’re pushing things… pushing on yourselves, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, pushing on what you think  technology can do (and perhaps even on what it’s good for). Use your futures thinking to prod you along, but not as a shield (i.e., find signals, tell a story we’ll believe).  Do a little research and reading along the way. ..a lot of artworks, technology blogs, and inspired tinkering seems crazy at first glance, but those sorts of insanity can often seed a really fruitful line of futuristic thinking for groups like yours.

Your final design can incorporate elements of interactive, voice, narrative, screen, print, digital and physical design. You can divvy up the work in any way that you see fit, but each of you are expected to do some designing, some coding, some layout, some presentation, and some making/building. Use your budgets to fill in gaps and set the scene.

The goal of this project is for you all to demonstrate your faculty for unearthing new possibilities for how we humans and our technologies might interact in the future. As we’ve seen over the course of the semester, this isn’t just a technological dance-how successfully you can pull this off is inextricably intertwined with the form, the look, the brand, the voice, the packaging, the metaphor, the personality, the mood, and the smell of whatever you’re offering.  From the outset, root your explorations in some sort of  reality-split up and go talk to people who engage with the closest thing you can think of  to what you’re proposing.

Part of the challenge of this project may be deciding what part of your overall vision to realize. Substantial portions of the interaction design can be represented by a detailed (and appropriately stylized) storyboard, or there may be wireframes or physical mock-ups that will be included when you present your work, but you’ll want to pick key aspects of the intended experience to realize. Think of how much work the group of you can do, and how to leverage your various strengths. Aim high!



We will be presenting ideas in class next Tuesday (4/4). Work hard over the weekend and get together as much as you can. Your group should have a strong overall vision, with your populations and settings characterized.  You should trot out several different ideas that are in play, including some initial thoughts about what your group would actually do if you headed down that path. The class will be critiquing you, brainstorming with you during class, and probably even voting on your ideas, but this time you are not strictly obligated to adhere to the advice and wishes of your peers. There are just four groups to present from here on out, so we’ll have plenty of time and attention for each.

Please get some variety into your brainstorming. Use an exercise of your own choosing to force yourself to think into plausible futures and outside of the box of your personal experience. For domestic settings, you might, for instance, develop an idea for gatherings that might’ve occurred in each of the rooms of Milton-Bradley’s board game Clue (conservatory, study, dining room, hall, lounge, kitchen, library, billiard room, and ballroom (even doing some quick research about what those rooms even were, and what purpose they served)). For settings, don’t be afraid to throw darts or use a random place generator (https:// random­ count ry) or a random job generator ( random- jogenerator.php ) as a way to think really specific. You can task each group member to find 10 interesting “signals” and discuss what changes they might be suggesting for the future. Get some range in the ideas you pursue – make sure some of your groupings are intentional and others are impromptu gatherings… we’ve seen social games among/between carpoolers, social lubricants for people (and pets) getting together at the dog park, and ways to use technologies during protest marches… just as some thought-provoking examples.

For class on the following Tuesday (4/11), you’ll have chosen a direction, thought about various ways you might make your gathering happen, and put together a full set of design collaterals (a brand, some messaging, personas, and mood boards). Tell us how you’re thinking about dividing up the work you plan to tackle. We  delayed the due date for the previous project to accommodate  Spring Break, so we’re getting a quick jump on getting these projects underway. You will be presenting your final work on April 20th , because that following week we’ll be taking this show on the road to present your whole semester down at IFTF.



Evaluation on this project will be based on the quantity, ingenuity, creativity, beauty of your ideas and made work, and (of course) teamwork .