This was a team project built around an initial ethnographic design study in Umeå, Sweden. The final design is a proposal to Skype on how geolocation information can be used to trigger conversations, whenever the user moves outside of the regular routines. It is a tool that empowers the user, by giving the individual freedom to use the new function in any way they desire. We call it 'Skype spaces'.
Team: Nikolaj Roadley Battin, Anton Löf and Mariano Velamazán
Part of the brief was to explore and use ethnographic design research as a foundation for the project. Our team decided to focus our effort on small groups of friends with a common hobby or activity. We decided to focus on groups with a shared interest who met weekly. We reached out to organisations who were in charge of cultural centers, music schools and youth clubs.
Initial research question: How do private codes and group dynamics occur in groups?
We found two group’s in the local area of Umeå (Sweden) that we could meet up with and interview. We aimed for getting to know them as deeply as possible so we interviewed each group twice and in almost all cases also each member individually. We stayed with them and participated in their regular activities to understand their interests and be closer to them. The two groups were:
The Jesters, from the beginning a small group of friends that used to hang out at a local café. They all shared an interest for contemporary circus, juggling, acrobatics and fire shows. They would meet, drink coffee and talk. At the moment the jesters has turned into a formal organization partly founded by the municipality's youth program. They have meetings every Monday’s for official members in a local youth activity center. Every Thursday’s they have open evenings between 18.00 and 20.00 where most members gather and share techniques with each other and anyone that wants to join.
The gamers, a group passionate about traditional roleplaying games (RPGs). They all found each other through their interest of playing board games. The group mainly consists of four stable members (we talked to three) that meet every week. Friday nights at 18.00 in a booked room at a local culture house
The initial research were presented in a workshop format with classmates, teachers and tutors. We picked out key insights from or time with the two groups and asked others to go through the same material and pick out patterns or interesting topics.
Four methods were used to structure the ideation, as it was important for us to explore different methods to learn about their pros and cons. The four we ended up trying were: A Heuristic Ideation Technique (Tauber, 1972), 6-3-5 (Rohrbach, 1969), Lateral thinking (Creativeminds, 2002) and Forced conflict (Creativeminds, 2002). A benefit from these methods was that we managed to think beyond the brief and explore inspiring thoughts. Instead of being fixated on the topic of asynchronous communication: Feeling & Expression, we wanted to dive in to our data and exhaust our minds from all possible ideas.
To explore or initial idea and take the project further we created a series of scenarios and use cases. Through low fidelity evaluation prototypes and discussions with students and tutors did we then explore parts of our scenarios.
We created multiple paper interfaces (smartphones) with different approaches. We gave them to other students to try them out, we explained a scenario and asked them to openly reflect around the experience.
We developed, reworked and changed our initial concepts through sketching and long discussions testing our new solutions by simple hand drawn wireframes made into interactive mockup using the proto.io tool. This lead up to our final design. An added function to the regular Skype interface.
We know why a lot of people use Skype today. It is to keep in touch with family and friends far away. Skype is not necessarily used when you actually is going to meet them. Our concept builds on the geolocation information, the patterns of you and your contacts movements. Suggesting that you notify or contact your friends when you happen to be in ‘close’ proximity.
Imagine that you live in Sweden but you used to study in USA. You still have some close friends there but you have lost contact with most of them. This summer you are going back there for a wedding of a close friend. When you land, Skype will detect that you left your regular bubble and ended up in the same city as many of your skype contacts. Skype will then notify you that you have a lot of friends here and that you maybe should send out message to them, telling them that you are here and would like to meet up. If you choose to accept, you will get the possibility to see roughly how far away your friends and contacts are. Selecting all or a few to send a message to. They can then take the initiative to contact, suggesting a meeting or just wish you a welcome back.
We were long debating whether to make a standalone application or an added function to the already existing Skype. In the end we decided to use the Skype framework and ad our idea to it. Mainly because a lot of the messaging functionality we needed already exist in the standard Skype application.
The changes we made were to replace the favorites tab inside the Skype mobile app with what we call Skype ‘spaces’. The spaces tab mainly consist of two screens. What you first see is a map of the general area (where you are at the moment). A map that also shows you if you have any contact nearby and roughly how far away they are from you. Here you can zoom in or out to select groups of people (or tap individuals for more precise targeting). You can also switch to a second screen where you instead get a list of your contacts nearby. When you selected the people you want to contact you press the ‘notify’ symbol (a old-school bell) to send out a general notification to your selected contacts. After a short animation (to clarify that a notification is sent out) you end up at the original ‘recent’ tab. All responses you get from the notification will be shown there.
The notification itself should be a generic message that you can (if you want) customize to something more personal. It shows up like a regular conversation only with some graphical changes to the look of the notification. If you are the receiver you get a push notification telling you that your friend is back in town. You can either choose to swipe for a quick response (Yay!), respond to it like regular text message or just ignore it. The quick response originally came from an earlier concept and was transferred here because we felt that it was important to easily respond to this notification. It’s not easy to take contact with someone you not seen in a while so even if you don't have any suggestions for meeting up, it's nice to quickly tell someone you are positive to them coming back.
We also added a settings menu specifically for the spaces function. To give more control to the people that want it and open up for a more creative use for our basic function. You can here manually add spaces or areas where you want to be asked about notification. You can also inactivate certain areas. This gives the user the opportunity and power to mold this tool into something unique for them.
The ethnographic research of two different groups helped us investigate our initial research question: “How do private codes and group dynamics occur in groups?”. Both groups had informative and valuable insights that helped us analyze and group key aspects into initial concepts. The final design is a proposal to Skype on how geolocation information can be used to trigger conversations, whenever the user moves outside of the regular routines. It is a tool that empowers the user, by giving the individual freedom to use the new function in any way they desire. Future actions call for further evaluation and prototyping, where especially the geofencing and tracking has to be tested in various contexts.