Category Archives: brazil

exploring an exploratory design research method: nokia open studio

for readers looking for light musings like this, or this, i would like to mention that this is no toilet talk. while i try not to make it a habit to write about my professional work here, i feel that i owe an explanation to those who listened to a few conference talks i gave this year. being non-native english speaker, crowd-shy and nerdy designer/researcher, i always struggle with telling stories in the typical 15-20 min talk time in conferences. so here comes a 24-page paper reflecting on nokia open studio as design research method.
my eloquent and diligent co-author, jan chipchase, who has a knack in publishing has uploaded a presentation version in slideshare, which is linked below.

Entry from Dharavi, Mumbai

nokia open studio was a community design competition with the theme of ‘design your ideal mobile phone’, hosted in 3 communities of Dharavi (Mumbai, India), Favela Jacarezinho (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and Buduburam (Accra, Ghana). it’s a method that we have been developing through several projects over years. my pursuit is to find a way to meaningfully engage and understand people in the design research phase when the research topic does not provide coherent anchor points to real-world behaviors. that’s why we call this work exploratory design research: often starting with a guiding theme but not knowing the full extent of what we will learn and discover.

entry from favela jacarezinho

working for creating something that is about far into the future is similar to finding pearls in the sand, except the fact that you will be responsible to find the sand grain that may turn into a pearl in the future of different shape and quality. ethnographic research methods guide the design research phase for innovation as far as creating opportunities through which we can understand the present living and underlying motivations behind why people behave the way they do. but it often does not let us see beyond the barriers of the present living: people who are not using technology not because they do not need it but because they cannot afford it; people who do not have time or social network to introduce them to new tools. through open studios, we wanted to lift these barriers and understand how people see the relevance of technology in their lives, sometimes for the future, sometimes in relation to what is lacking today. it is not a marketing tool, and it is not a tool to hunt ideas to implement in products directly. but it is a tool that supports our thinking and projection about the future. open studio is also a way to bring the very raw voices of people in the corporate context, which may function as a stopping sign for technology driven industry’s eternal hunt for the new. and as designer/researcher on the ground, it has been an effective tool that taught me how little we know, how creative people can be, how to be aware of our own intellectual arrogance, and how not to be presumptuous.

entry from Buduburam, Ghana

i would recommend to read the paper only if you are interested in design research method, how diverse people’s perception towards mobile phones are, or believe that mobile technology is all about more mega-pixels, better screens, and thin/small/miracle sizes.

> download the report (PDF, 9.7mb)
> business week hosts a slideset of a selection of entries
> my first conference talk on open studio at LIFT 2008 in Geneva

> please note that text in the slideshare below will be readable only in full screen mode.

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: mobile phone)

 

visual examples

as we all know – some messages are delivered much more efficiently by the accompanying visual examples, though they may not be an exhaustive set.

a restaurant/bar in rio putting up a sign saying that they have the right to reject those with inappropriate or ‘minimal’ clothes.

rio scenarium bikini

at the domestic airport in osaka, this post gives a pre-warning that certain types of shoes will be subjected to security inspection before passengers are entering the security check area.

osaka domestic airport

NYT: Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?

i am in the middle of the mess for moving to london end of the month, but felt obliged to log this article here with a little bit of recollection of the past year’s work.

last year, we hosted a journalist, sara corbett in our fieldwork in accra, ghana. her experience with us introduced the backbone of her article featured in new york times magazine, told through our darling media embassador & my long-time colleague/ team mate/ tokyo office neighbor/ personal financial advisor, jan.

perhaps overly self-conscious at the fact that i work for a mobile phone manufacturer, i rarely use the word ‘cell phone’: especially when i have to refer to something that will be available in the future that will change using our natural ability in new yet relevant ways. be it a cell phone or not, it’s not really relevant – its about what kind of personal and social technology and services will be feasible and possible and easy to adopt.

are you fancying about becoming design researcher yourself? while i eagerly wait for a more formal opportunity to talk about our research in the future, here’s a quick & random recollection of my personal experience in our last year’s project, future urban, in four cities of chongqing (china), mumbai (india), rio (brazil) and accra (ghana).

chongqing was our pilot city for the project, so we spent more time in ad-hoc interviews, which means going out with a local translator to a part of the city and informally interacting with locals. chongqing is a very fast changing, industrial city. it is very common to see the site of demolition right next to the brand new buildings and commercial centers.

chongqing old/new

sometimes my local guide was reluctant to go to certain areas that i boldly, or blindly wanted to go as he was concerned about my safety. some houses we were eventually invited to were expected to be demolished in a few months – we could actually feel the vulnerable state of the house.

informal storage solutions

this is a kitchen in a temporary apartment for the demolition manager of a building. he and his wife lived in one apartment in a building that he was in charge of demolishing. being a nomad myself, i often think about minimizing my physical possessions by digitizing what could be in plastic or on paper. having their home in the country side, and moving from one building to another based on the job, they optimized their furniture by employing a much lighter alternative: plastic bags. it took curiosity and patience for us to encounter this couple, as the whole building site looked totally deserted and the demolition was half way through.

minimal living+dining

the same couple’s kitchen/dining table – the compact set of home electronics would probably fit into a suitcase. how minimal and mobile can our life be?

thanks to the project schedule, we arrived in mumbai in the middle of the monsoon season. it had taken all of us several visits to the medical clinic in tokyo for the due vaccination shots and emergency medicines.

walking on the (flooded sewage) water

can you imagine saying that dettol is your best friend? for those two weeks, i did feel very grateful at the invention of the antiseptic medicine. the regular flooding of the sewage water on the streets of dharavi however became one of the most memorable experiences in my entire trip. but it was heart-breaking to see the house getting flooded that belonged to one of potential research participants.

dharavi guesthouse

we stayed in a guesthouse right at the border of the dharavi community. while it was a small guesthouse, the prolific human service in india still made room service as an option. being able to enjoy the local breakfast is a blessing in the fieldwork. i don’t really have any staple food – not even coffee – so i thoroughly enjoy sampling all kinds of new food in the city or the community i visit.

dharavi guesthouse toilet

but of course liking the local food may have its high price. luckily i only spent one night of talking to the big whilte telephone during my stay, with company of earth worms and cockroaches casually making their ways around the bathroom floor.

early morning

one of my interviews was scheduled at 3:30am in the family’s home as that was when the interviewee started his day. finding the family’s house in the dark through the maze of small streets would not have been possible without our mobile phones. one of my two local translators fell asleep on the interviewee’s bed at the abnormal working hour while the interview was ongoing, and i panicked at the lack of her professionalism. but quickly realized that for the host family, she was a guest to be taken care of.

breakfast

i had my best indian food at our research participants’ homes. a pleasurable dilemma when you know that you won’t be able to go to toilet for at least half a day while you are on the job.

in favela jacarezinho in rio, we had a chance to discuss about our way of working most seriously & thoroughly.

favela jacarezinho football field

while the camera accessibility was an issue, we were lucky enough to have MC Serginho as our community guide, thanks to our local team. Mr. Serginho was truly proud of and in love with his community.

favela jacarezinho 'gato'

this is a picture of what’s called ‘gato’ in portugese. basically it is illegally drawn electricity cables. one of the challenges we often faced in our interviews was talking about illegal behaviors that are acknowledged and done widely or just by a few. it takes a great deal of trust for someone to be able to talk about it. sometimes i do wonder if how our questions would have worked in super-digital generations where the weight and the flow of information and hence the implications of the information disclosure is very different. i had my utmost interviewing skill tested in an interview with a professional sex worker lady in a public place in copacabana. a good reminder of the fact that the effect of who you are cannot be ignored in the fieldwork, as with many other things in our lives: i had the benefit of being a woman myself in the interview. likewise i didnt have a chance to interview any male participant myself in india.

after gone through electricity cuts, polluted air, flooding, security precautions, buduburam and accra in ghana were a comfortable breeze for the fieldwork. english being one of the spoken languages helped a lot as well, even though the common usage of multiple tribal languages complicated the research team planning.

buduburam toilet

i had a night of home-stay in buduburam camp. i stayed in an elegantly decorated lady’s room with the luxury of a toilet in the room. with water supply completely manual, i had gone through the experience of planning my water consumption so that i wouldn’t exhaust all the water supply just to flush the toilet.

buduburam - sachet buying, grains

many effective sales units defy the industrial packages in the community. grains are probably a natural one. more rare selling units included soaps and detergents, and empty bottles of different sizes for lamp oils.

buduburam - sachet buying, soaps

oil selling units

a good sign of beginning to learn about the new culture is to grasp, or to wonder about the relative value of goods and services. and naturally this often constitutes a good part of our interview questions.

back to packing & pondering upon simplifying life & mobility prior to moving to another continent now. more later, hopefully.