The Wall

‘The Wall’ is an interactive digital experience designed for commuters waiting at bus stops in Copenhagen. 

What is it?

The bus stop is a node in a network of places. Studies have shown that bus stops are among the most awkward public places. To enable commuters to express themselves and to step outside their comfort zones ‘The Wall’ was created. The Wall is a digital tool that helps people express their thoughts, feelings, or recommendations in their own handwriting while waiting for the bus. It is a digital display networked across all bus stops in Copenhagen.

How does it work?

When a person at one bus stop writes on The Wall, his contribution is displayed in real-time across all the bus stops in Copenhagen. This experience of reading and writing turns the waiting time at the bus stop into a creative experience. The bus service analyses and summarises the contributions into visual or textual data and displays it on The Wall’s community page. People at the bus stop can visit this community page by scanning the QR code. ‘The Wall Community’ is a social media platform designed for people to take the experience back home from the bus stop and to share it with their friends and family.

Research Background:

The effect that bus stops have on social dynamics is one of the first things we notice when observing or using one. There is a sense of awkwardness, body language closes off, personal bubbles expand, eye contact is minimal to non-existent and the leaking beats from someone’s headphones replace the sound of conversation. To understand the social behaviours and real problem at the bus stops in Copenhagen, research was conducted in three different parts viz. shadowing, quantitative research and qualitative in-depth bus commuter interviews.

Key Observations at the bus stops in Copenhagen:

  • Commuters had sense of awkwardness
  • Body language closed off
  • People were having their own ‘Me’ time
  • Eye contact was minimal
  • People were listening to music or browsing their phones

Danish Social Behaviour observed:

  • Danes don’t like to impose themselves or their thoughts on others
  • They respect personal boundaries and also social boundaries
  • They are polite, kind, unobtrusive, efficient

In the research process, interviewees constantly described how and why waiting time at the bus stop is challenging. Hence based on the research insights, a design challenge was framed.

“How might we make commuter’s waiting time at the bus stop more meaningful by helping them express and engage in that physical space?”

 

Experimental Prototyping

To understand how people start paying attention, engage, get influenced, reflect on their behavior, how designing particular situations can affect on how people react; a few simple paper and screen prototypes experiments at the bus stop were conducted . All these experiments provided learnings about why and how people interact in public space.

Experiment 1

In this experiment, simple A3 size prints were displayed in situ, asking simple questions such as “Did you smile today?”. The idea was to observe how simple visuals and content provokes reactions (if any) among people waiting at the bus stop.

Learnings:

1. Size of the poster plays important role in grabbing the attention

2. People don’t necessarily react to the passive information display.

3. Few people starred at the posters and smiled back few seconds later.

4. When people approached and started staring at the poster, others around also started staring at the poster.

Experiment 2

This experiment consisted of a signal stand with iPad frame mounted on top. In Copenhagen, cyclists rushing through bike lanes is a major problem for commuters when buses arrive as commuters have to cross the bike lane to get from the footpath to the bus and vice versa. To help solve this problem, the small animated signal at the bus stop. The animation on the iPad was created and controlled via keynote. Every time bus arrives, the animation turns red, indicating the cyclist to stop or be mindful of their actions. The idea was to see how a passive screen display can grab the attention of the cyclists in the bike lane.

Learnings:

1. Location of the signal stand mattered (to grab the attention of cyclists).

2. Cyclists stopped at the signal which reflects how intuitive signals are for people

3. Prototype worked really well in the night time as screen was most visible.

Experiment 3

A simple paper prototype in the form of a Wish Wall exhibited at Nyhavn, one of the most visited public places in Copenhagen. Through this prototype, we wanted to analyse and understand whether people would like to express or communicate themselves without talking. How might we respect the social boundaries of Danish people and help them express on an open space? The Wish Wall had three panels. The panels display; I wish to have _____, I wish to be____, I wish to meet ______.

Learnings:

1. Size of the paper wall grabs the immediate attention of the passerby

2. People expressed in their own ways on the wall

3. Why people engage? It depends upon how and what type of question we are asking to the people. ‘Wishes’ is very generic thought that all age groups of people can relate to. The people engage because they get some food for though and the medium to express is intuitive and easy to interact.

4. Writing has tremendous power where we people can express their thoughts silently and in their own manner

5. People like to leave their traces in the physical space through writing.

Experiment 4

After testing how people express themselves in the public spaces, a similar prototype was placed at the bus stop with the question framed in the context to bus services. It was slightly more finished with Movia bus service branding to make it look more authentic. The intention was to test whether people share their thoughts at the bus stop space with the service related contextual questions.

Learnings:

1. Very few people wrote their thoughts at the bus stop

2. The finished paper prototype, projecting the prototype as if it’s from the bus service and asking very contextual questions such as ‘I want this bus stop ______’ or ‘Tell us how we can make you journey better _____’, created ambiguity among viewers. Why would somebody write to a service just like that? What are they getting back in return?

3. Generic questions work really well to help provoke thoughts among people. People from all age groups contribute to the most generic questions. Contextual questions limit the audience and create resistance.

Experiment 5

To understand whether people engage with multi-touch digital devices, we created an iPad prototype asking the generic questions. To observe whether people would write or type their opinions, we ran separate prototypes.

Learnings:

1. People were not interested in typing their opinions.

2. People engaged with writing and drawing prototype. Size of the screen matters a lot to grab people’s attention.

 

Insights from these experiments:

  • Each bus stop is a node in a network of spaces.
  • People like to express through their own handwriting and not through typing or speaking.
  • Factors such as sound, space, size of screen, location of the display play important role to grab the attention of people.
  • Types of questions play an important role to help people express and engage through writing interaction.
  • Digital technology could be used to bring the interaction with users at right time, right place and in a right form.

 

Value Proposition: 

The value for the commuters waiting at the bus stop is that ‘the Wall’ will bring fun, freedom of expression. It’ll get them out of their personal bubble. This informational experience will turn bus stops into social spaces.

Value created by service for the city : 

  • Improvisation in quality of urban experiences
  • Providing rich content opportunities through information experience
  • Connecting people and places through information gathering and analysis
  • Understanding expectations of the city through their feedbacks
  • Developing social spaces

You can read the detail documentation of this project here

by Yashodeep Gholap, Portfolio at: http://www.yashodeepgholap.com/

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