Virtually, technically still doing things..🤔🤯😷

As we search for clarity on how to plan, pivot, and make peace with COVID19 in our foreseeable, indefinite future, I am both perplexed and somewhat relieved by how suddenly the world has slowed down. I am struggling to find meaning as a graduate student on the final stretch of investing in a mid-career switch and wondering where the true value of my time lies. My hunch is that it is the time spent with those who are most drawn to communicating intentionally, building possibilities, and sharing solutions that have a direct impact, while of course maintaining a conscientious social distance.


I feel like things are changing so fast, it's hard to write in the past tense, especially as I try to figure out how to revise my research methods towards a purely digital/remote solution that engages people in Systems Design and collective, self-documented action.


Here's what I'm trying to figure out:

  • How can I build a virtual toolkit for participants to design with? What materials are easy for people to see, understand, interact with, make, or find? (I'm assuming most people won't have easy access to a printer, since I don't)

  • What technical tools should I use to demonstrate the process of Systems Design? (Tabletopia, Machinations.io, Processing, GIFs/Video (Canva), Slack/Zoom, Text, Instagram (Mobile app vs Desktop or some combination)

  • How can I facilitate co-ideation through virtual storytelling, logic frameworks, animations, social media, mobile apps?

  • How can I help groups create their own language to communicate about Systems Design concepts such as dynamic relationships, dimensions, and complexity?

  • How can we minimize the amount of verbiage in our shared time together online, while engaging various cognitive faculties through reading, listening to audio, watching video, intentionally utilizing a variety of media such as asynchronous communication, written language, active listening/ear-training, speech and other types of self-expression? 🤑

GENERAL OBJECTIVE: I'm modeling a virtual communication tool, inspired by games like Dynamic Land and The Thing From the Future. The goal is to conduct 2-3 quick virtual experiments in the next few weeks, to get an idea of what materials and media work in small online groups. My first collaboration is with the American Planning Association (NY-Metro) Tech Committee, a group of emerging professionals who are working at the intersection of Urban Planning and Technology.

Design Challenge "Re-Imagining Brooklyn Bridge"


(Video driving over the Brooklyn Bridge from Tillary Street to City Hall to FDR Drive, past the Manhattan Bridge)

Through virtual meetings, I have been researching and framing the design challenge along with members of APATech Committee. The discussions have led us to frame the thinking around how different stakeholders experience time while crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. 


Here's a quick list of facts that came up in our research:





(Brooklyn Bridge) (Manhattan Bridge)


Our initial co-ideation discussions yielded solutions like:

Creating a Conveyor Belt/Automated Rapid-Bus-Transit that shuttles people across the bridge

  • Retrofitting buses that provide experiences for transit (podcast, meditation, phonebooths, gym) Check out IDEO's Future of Automobility and The Ride

  • Limiting the number of For-Hire-Vehicles that cross the bridge

  • Designing public plazas as mobility hubs on either end of the bridge (for parking, rideshare, bikeshare, Amazon Lockers)


I conducted two "virtual" brainstorming activities around the "Reimagining the Brooklyn Bridge" prompt, to explore how Instagram can empower stakeholders to share ideas and observations through abstraction and visualization. The time-constraints this experiment, led me to use Instagram and Canva, as creative tools, essentially opening up the world of Augmented Reality to stakeholders with a wide range of training in tech and design.


Each participant was assigned a 10 second video clip to "reimagine," and remix to create a video which shows several different creative perspectives and was a powerful supplement to facilitating a brainstorm session on Zoom. Though some people participants were not familiar with Instagram stories (and stickers), I got a lot positive feedback from the majority of participants who felt that this activity made design thinking very accessible, visually tangible, creative and led to an efficient and stimulating conversation which analyzed several different points of view of the system at hand. We discussed how Urban Planners, Architects, and Interaction Designers could develop this technique as a supplement to the traditional "Charette" which can be difficult to facilitate and streamline feedback from the community. We also brainstormed how this technique could be developed as a social media campaign that crowdsources feedback from a more wider range of stakeholders, and about more specific environmental, temporal and spatial contexts. Here are the two videos that the research groups generated (if only this included audio sound bytes of the participants' explanations of their ideas!):






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