Loose-ends, minimizing design risk, and embracing uncertainty
For months, my attention, energy, and time has been devoted to acquiring knowledge from various domains to engineer a speculative device that will regulate the ripening rate of fruit. (Fig. 1) The underpinning of the system are robust: it is informed by the sciences and industrial engineering. As thesis festival approaches, I must transition, from researcher and engineer, to a storyteller. In the gradient, I leave behind several loose-ends. First, prototyping with a sensor sensitive enough to detect low concentrations of ethylene gas—the fruit ripening agent. Second, pressurizing and exhausting a chamber to contain a fruit enveloped by gaseous atmosphere. I enter a new phase of thesis: applying data visualization and interaction design to create and communicate value through storytelling. What will the device visualize? how will the device be experienced? and, finally, why is the experience valuable?
The form of my thesis has radically changed over time—from scholarly paper, to futurescape, to speculative device. When I shared my intent to create a speculative device with Liz Danzico, she stated, “I think it is risky, but I would be concerned otherwise.” I’ve found, sharing my ideas broadly, with thought and practice leaders outside of the department, minimizes design risk. This week, I connected with Justin Pickard, futurist, designer, and co-creator of Song of the Machine, (Fig. 3) a short film that speculates upon the blind’s experience of prosthetic vision technologies in an adjacent future. Strong similarities between Song of the Machine and my thesis exist: mining science and engineering to expand possibilities and applying design to facilitate a conversation about those we desire. We spoke conceptually—the need for experience designers to embrace uncertainty, as opposed to the “frictionless” worlds portrayed in Microsoft’s future visions—, and practically—the effectiveness of illustrating multiple use cases in the film to richly depict how new technologies may fit into the natural rhythms of life.
I conclude this week on a high: this kind mention from Justin. (Fig. 4)