It was mid-January and it was already late in the thesis game. I had no idea what I was going to do. All I had were my design principles from the previous semester.
- New layer of information
- Support through social networks online and/or offline
- Happens in a public space
- Feedback (check-in, score, progress, achievements, etc.)
The stress and pressure had built up even more after the several failed attempts at trying to finalize on a solid thesis idea from the previous semester.
One Wednesday evening, while moping around the studio, I decided to check out a talk that Craig Mod was giving in the Brand Innovation lab on the 11th floor. Little did I know that it was going to completely reignite the passion that I once had for my thesis.
Post Artifact Book Thinking by Craig Mod
During the talk, Craig weighed the benefits of a physical book against a digital book. One of those benefits included marginalia, which are notes written in the margin. In physical books, these notes are written down and once the book is closed, they are forgotten. Unlike its physical counterpart, digital books provide an opportunity to bring these notes to life by sharing them among members within your social network. An example that he brought up was Amazon’s Kindle where users can highlight parts of a story. Through algorithmic curation, highlights such as “Most Highlighted Passages of All Time” are shared with Amazon’s Kindle community.
With my thesis design principles, I started to think about how marginalia could apply to a city in a digital context. Are people able to leave behind their opinions, ideas, and viewpoints of the city as they move from one point to another? Can they share conversations about these points of interests? Through discovery and exploration, can we encourage people to move off the beaten path? To my surprise, I sort of touched on this topic earlier last semester, but was unable to solidify on a concept until now.
Memory and Forgetting: RadioLab Podcast [Season 3, Episode 4 – Recorded on 06/07/07 – URL]
From a podcast recorded a few years back on the topic of memory, Yadin Dudai, a neuroscientist, the Sela Chair in Neurobiology and Head of the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, mentioned (at 20:30 of the podcast) that “if you have a memory, the more you use it, the more you’re likely to change it.” (3) What we are really doing is every time we think about a memory, we are recreating it with our current inputs and in turn, changing the memory.
Why do we have to preserve the originality of a memory? The originality of a memory invokes a sense of surprise and in turn, provides an impetus to rediscover other memories and maybe even create more memories. In order to preserve an original memory, the service can limit the accessibility of these memories. Besides having to be at a specific location to access the memory, what if memories were accessible after a certain period of time? What if memories sporadically faded in and out across the city?
Another thing to consider is the possibility of reconnecting people through these memories. Whenever a user accesses a previous memory and if the memory has other people tagged to it, those people would be notified about the memory being accessed.
Other ways of conveying the value of the service is perhaps visualizing how one memory relates to another. This was mentioned earlier in the form of a memory trail over time.
For the Brain, Remembering Is Like Reliving, NYTimes.com [09/04/08 – URL]
Being outside within the cityscape offers more hooks for a memory to associate itself with. As mentioned in an article from the New York Times, in the studies of rodents,”neuroscientists have shown that special cells in the hippocampus are sensitive to location, activating when the animal passes a certain spot in a maze.” (4) The article goes on further to point out that “some scientists argue that as humans evolved, these same cells adapted to register a longer list of elements — including possibly sounds, smells, time of day and chronology — when an experience occurred in relation to others.” (4)
Is Urban Loneliness a Myth?, NYMag.com [11/23/2008 – URL]
A city offers opportunities for people to experience new things. According to a relationship researcher Arthur Aron, “new experiences, rather than repeated favorites, are the best way to keep romantic feelings alive in a marriage, based on a series of six studies of hundreds of couples.” (5) This not only applies to marriages, but also to friends.
Lisa Berkman, a Harvard epidemiologist who discovered the importance of social networks to heart patients, “friends substitute perfectly well for family.”
Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones. (5)
The riddle of experience vs. memory: Daniel Kahneman on TED.com [Recorded at TED2010 on 02/2010 – URL]
There are two selves, the experiencing self and the remembering self. As explained by Kahneman, “The experiencing self is one who lives in the present and knows the present and is capable of reliving the past, but basically it has only the present.” As for the remembering self, “it is the one that keeps score, and maintains the story of our life.” (6)
By reflecting and sharing positive stories with others involved, our remembering selves are better off.
Nostalgia: Sweet Remembrance | Psychology Today [05/01/2006 – URL]
The following are ways to bring about nostalgia along with my points in the parenthesis:
- Make a list of cherished memories. (7)
- To jog your memory, find some photos or other mementos from good times past. (7) (Dig up old photos and display them one by one in short time intervals to people that were in the photo).
- Close your eyes to block distractions. Then think about what’s outside the “picture frame” to bring back subtle details. Mental imagery produces greater happiness gains than does simply looking at old photographs. (7) (Can the photographs mentioned in previous bullet create conversations outside the “picture frame?”).
- If possible, reminisce with people from your past. It strengthens close relationships. (7) (The service should reward the user for accessing memories on location with other people that were a part of that memory).
- As you go about your life, sock away good moments and mementos for later reminiscence. Take a mental snapshot and hold on to that feeling. (7) (The possibility of simulataneous photography and sound recording).