Instructions Set For Strangers

For this group project, I took on the role of conceptualizing ideas and planning our workload. During most discussion sessions, I would take the lead in pitching ideas and expanding upon the ideas, and once we settled on a path I would kick off the crafting process by delegating tasks and planning meet-ups. Seung Ho did the documentation in all three iterations that we presented: the time lapse at the Bow Bridge, and both times at Washington Square Park. He also wrote the excerpt that went along with our concept, and I helped with its revisions. For the picket sign iteration, Seung Ho made the small picket signs and I made the bigger signs. Noshin was away for the weekend, so  she helped us set up for the first round of user testing at Washington Square Park. Noshin made the designs for the balloon cards, and the two of us made the thought bubbles while Seung Ho was in class. Overall, I thought we worked well as a team, we got along every step of the way and were communicative about any issues or disagreements we had.

Working with Noshin and Seung Ho, our first concept is called “Love is in the Air”. Love is in the air is a concept that is universal to all, but it’s something that most people have forgotten. With all the hate happening around the world, we hope to combat that on a small scale. We are proposing to spread the love for a day at the Bow Bridge in Central Park and to remind people that there is in fact still love amongst us.

Our initial location was the Bow Bridge in Central Park, NY. The Bow Bridge is one of the most recognized symbols of love, and has been featured in many well-known romantic films. Because of its reputation, we thought that this would be a perfect location to spread our message of love.

“Love is in the Air” documentation

Our idea was to have notecards that had uplifting messages on them, tie them to balloons and have the balloons fly around the Bow Bridge. The messages would also be written in the most popular languages spoke in New York, so that the majority of the population would be able to understand it. Our goal was to see if people would hand the balloons off to one another, and to see how far the balloons would travel. These notecards would also have a hashtag on them so that people will be inclined to take a picture and post them to social media. This was mainly for us to track these balloons and have a means of documentation if the balloons were to travel too far away.

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We scrapped this first iteration because we felt like balloons were not the most ideal method of communicating a message. After some deliberation, Noshin, Seung Ho, and I decided to move our location to Washington Square Park. After our first delivery, there were some things we scrapped and some that we kept. We liked the idea of spreading a message, and having strangers communicate with one another, however, we decided to scrap the balloons and to go with a more sophisticated form of conveying messages.

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For this next iteration, we decided to do picket signs in Washington Square Park. The concept evolved into fighting the fear of others and overcoming xenophobia. The intent was to have picket signs in which people could write on to engage in strangers, and to have picket signs that said “#PhotoWithAStranger” to get people to interact with strangers. We chose picket signs because picket signs are generally used as means of displaying messages during protests, so we felt like that was a fitting symbol for our project. Picket signs were also fitting for Washington Square Park because that location is historically known for the being involved in many cultural movements.

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This iteration did not go as we had hoped. Many people were confused by the picket signs and did not know what to do with the signs. After some discussions, we came to the conclusion that maybe we had given people too many instructions; they had to write to strangers, find strangers, take pictures with strangers. We also felt like the wording was a little off and people could not really grasp the idea behind our message.

“Hello Stranger” documentation

After weeks of planning, discussions, and critics, we arrived at “Your Thoughts?”.  For the final concept, we went through what we liked of the first and the second iterations and combined them into “Your Thoughts?”. We did move away from the picket signs and decided on thought bubbles. One of the thought bubbles said “Hello new friend, you look _______” and the other said “Hi there! I like your _____”. This was an incentive for users to interact with the bubbles and allowed users to create messages that were meaningful to them that they would want to convey to other strangers.

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The final piece was a success. We received a lot of positive feedback from participants and bystanders. There was a lot of interactions from people in the park, many of them interacted with the bubbles, creating messages for other people to see. Some of the groups created messages of their own and took pictures with them as if they were thoughts coming out of their heads. My favorite interaction was one of the girls decided to organize the words that we had placed in a pile on the ground and rearranged them neatly. This was interesting for me because she was first playing with the thought bubbles, but then after she was done she decided to neatly place the replaceable words before leaving the piece. 

The best interaction we got was when two students from the Mannes School came up to our bubbles and started making friends with other users. They were posing and taking pictures with strangers that were also interested in the project as well. The couple went a step further and took our thought bubbles around the park and started photo-bombing other people in the park. Before they came over to play with our thought bubbles, I noticed they were running around the park and interacting with other performers. At first, I thought they were being weird because they would just creep up next to strangers and stand there until they were noticed. At one point, I thought they were trying to be mean because the message they created seemed sarcastic. However, the two just seemed to be enjoying their day and just had a mindset of having fun and being playful. “At first people are salty, but when they read the message they smile”, one of the photo-bombers. This is evident that our project succeeded and we achieved in reaching our goal with this project:

“Your Thoughts?” is a movement that encourages strangers to interact with one another. With these thought bubbles, we hope strangers can share uplifting thoughts with one another to spread a positive message. By allowing strangers to form connections with each other in a fleeting moment in time, we hope to combat the fear of the others, and fight xenophobia. As a collective, our movement will reinforce the message of compassion and tolerance, in hopes of instilling the ideology of acceptance in future generations.

This was a success in that we had users overcoming their anxieties of meeting new people and making new friends and actually going up to strangers and interacting with them. We feel that “Your Thoughts?” is also successful in that this could have a life outside of Washington Square Park and live on to spread its positive in other parts of the world.

“Your Thoughts?” documentation

If I were to continue to show this project, some improvements I would make would be to make the thought bubbles heavier. The foam core material was not the most ideal since it was windy in the park and they kept on falling off the stand. If this project was placed in an indoor space, I feel like foam core could work because it is light and people will not have trouble picking it up. I would also consider having two stands, so people can see both signs at the same time, and that might encourage more interactions from multiple users as opposed to just one user at a single time. Lastly, I would make the replaceable words more playful. One of the critiques we got from our class presentation was that the replaceable words did not match our thought bubbles very well design-wise, and if the type or shape were more “fun” the whole piece might have tied together better.

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