a playful way to cross-pollinate research
- Aabhira Aditya
- Jacqueline Cooksey
- Bland Hoke
- Mai Kobori
- Eulani Labay
- Minuette Le
We designed + prototyped a paper-based game. This tool helped us make meaningful connections between fragments of insight each of us discovered over the course of an 8 week research project.
I was particularly interested in this method of facilitating conversations and spatial reasoning to improve communication on complex collaboration projects.
We investigated the food distribution ecosystem of New York City, and its effects on people living near its central hub in Hunts Point.
Each of us came from a different professional background, including graphic design, sound design, architecture, public policy, performance art and computer science.
Instead of setting out to try and "solve" a specific problem, we let our interests and discoveries guide potential directions for our experimental research.
Our work was highly collaborative. We walked through neighborhoods, interviewed people, conducted literary research and created data visualizations.
Whenever we debriefed our field research, we struggled to weave together relationships, pinpoint cause/effects, and share what we learned with each other in a simple way.
Could we create an engaging structure for sharing the bits of insight each had uncovered, while keeping the energy of an open-ended discussion?
Could we somehow record the connections we made and and the patterns we discovered, to later share outside of our group?
A simple ruleset emerged after lots of false starts + several playthroughs.
At the beginning of each session, players chose an identifying marker color. This helped us visually scan the construction later to get a sense of participation balance. Then, on blank white index cards, each player wrote one noteworthy tidbit of an idea they'd discovered recently, for example:
- an assumption they held
- a statistic from a report they found
- a phrase they overheard on the subway
- a telling quote from an interview
- an open question
- a recent happening in the news
- a troubling gap or concept of conflict
We called these the spark cards. Players took turns placing these on the board and briefly talking about their significance.
The second type were link cards. We used red tape to draw connections between spark cards on the board, and then added link cards to the tape to describe the relationship. For example, Card A causes Card B. In another instance, maybe Card D is a result of Card F. Lastly we had question or BAM cards. These could be played by anyone as a way to tease out more detail.
As a record keeper, I tried numbering the cards to keep track of the flow of conversation, so the board could later be reconstructed as a timelapse. Inspired by distributed version control system (DVCS) systems like git, I was hoping to create a visualization similar to this:
The game was helpful for starting meaningful conversations between the group that may not have otherwise occurred. Some of the resulting ideas were seeds for multi-year research projects that later grew out of the program.
After completing the project, 2 things stuck with me: The idea that seemingly unrelated fragments have value in different contexts, and the power of spatial thinking for making sense of fragmented research. I revisited these interests in my thesis research, and later as part of the Make Parallels project.
- Rapid Prototyping
- Visual Design
- Gameplay Mechanics
- Workshop Facilitation