Personal Honours Project - Guru's Day

Guru's Day was on Tuesday the 3rd of November and lasted between 10am until 4pm. It was a big date in our calendar as it was the day where staff from the University as well as industry experts from external companies come and spend the day talking to us about our Honours Projects to give us insights about our research so far and where we can go next. It's also a day where we can network with the experts and build contacts that we can use later down the line for our projects. 

I had the pleasure of speaking to Elie Lakin, David McGloin, David Hill and Nick Taylor on the day and each offered a unique outside perspective on my project that was very valuable.

Elie Lakin is a Senior Designer at Jason Bruges Studio who specialises in interactive installations and responsive environments of an architectural scale.

When we were talking about my project, she told me about Mybookcase.com which stimulated and sparked conversation through the use of books. While libraries had once been the backbones of communities, this is another thing that is no longer the case due to the digital age. At mybookcase.com they created digital libraries by having users upload a picture of a book with a blurb and if someone wanted to borrow the book, they could request it. When a book is requested, the owner would arrange to meet up with whoever was asking for the book, and this would prompt the users to perhaps meet total strangers and make connections with new people. 

Elie also suggested that I consider how I present the information when coming up with my concept. In particular, I should look at what platforms are easier to understand compared to others. The example she gave was Kindles, which are designed to not keep users awake if they are reading at night, which can happen on other smart devices. When presenting the information, she suggested that I look at the various learning styles, and consider how different people learn through different stimuli when displaying the information. 

David McGloin is an optical physicist based at the University of Dundee.

His main concern with my project was that if I'm trying to stop people relying on Google and Wikipedia, I'm also stopping them from relying on their main sources of information, which in turn asks the question: where would the information from my concept come from? And would it have to be community driven? And if so, would there be moderators in place to make sure the information was accurate. I was quick to point out that I was only presenting an alternative option and that I was not going to try and redesign the wheel with my project by getting rid of Google and Wikipedia. 

I personally liked the idea of the information stemming from sources but including a community aspect by allowing users to give their own take on the answers. However that was a bit a contradictory in itself - if you tell people that this is the answer and set it in stone, it leaves it less open to interpretation and makes any interpretation on the answer pointless. 

David Hill is an Industrial Designer and currently Design Principal within the Design and Innovation Office at Barclays. 

David definitely made me come to terms with some home truths about my project after speaking with him, which I think was definitely needed! In response to my question about gameificiation, he wasn't necessarily sure that it would be the best technique to implement for encouraging people to continue using my project. While it would work in the short term, eventually people would stop caring so much about points/rewards for participating and would most likely participating for the reward of actually learning something new. We talked about how a focus of the project should maybe be the discovery journey, and how to make that engaging for the user. We talked about how we've both ended up googling random pieces of information that has led us to a completely unrelated topic to what we've first googled 10 minutes ago, so there was maybe something there to consider. He also pointed out that I don't want to make it a chore for people to participate. 

One of the hardest questions David asked was what my biggest assumption about my project was. After a bit of thought, I think my assumption that people would react well to points or some sort of reward was my biggest, but it made me consider my whole project as a whole. Was I assuming too much about my research and did I have any evidence to back up what I'd found? His advice to me was to question everything and make sure I have plenty of evidence to debunk any assumptions. 

His final pieces of advice for me were:

  • Refine my concepts - keep them simple as possible
  • Identify all my pieces of research and string them together
  • Be hard on myself - similar advice from what we received from Tesco earlier in the year
  • Question everything
  • Don't get too caught up on prototypes - make sure the interaction is solid and works.

Finally, I spoke with Nick Taylor, who is a lecturer in DJCAD specialising in human-computer interaction and interaction design. His primary research interest is in the design of technology to support communities and civic engagement. 

Nick told me about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and how Dundee Uni has just implemented a service called FutureLearn which offers digital starter courses about a variety of subjects. He said that these courses were ideal for people to learn about new interests through 'depth without depth' - giving the people the necessary information they need to be knowledgable about the subject without going into too much information. He also recommended that I look at the books Essential Knowledge, as they were a good example of physical versions of FutureLearn courses. 

Nick was also interested in the ideas of third spaces and he said that I should maybe consider going deeper into this concept - in particular look at the characteristics such as how these places are level spaces where all the users in the place are treated as equals.

Overall I would say that Guru's Day was a success and gave me plenty of things to consider about my project. After living and breathing the project for the 6/7 weeks now, it was refreshing to have an outside perspective from the experts and have them comment on it and give good direction. My definite next steps was now to try and nail down my final concept over the next few weeks, and make sure I had tested any and all of my assumptions I was going to make about my project over the next few weeks.