Week 9 — Ideation, Prototyping, and Initial Evaluation

We ended last week with advice from Kristin that we were thinking too small. Kristin argued that the tentative solutions offered in our last presentation were too focused on peer-to-peer assistance in a disaster and not enough on the connection between local community groups and larger institutions, which often have difficulty effectively collaborating with one another.

In response to this feedback, we thought of a few new directions that we wanted to pursue for Monday:

  • A community-based monitoring tool to measure the effectiveness of carbon offsets.
  • A flexible informational graphic campaign that could be used by different organization to raise awareness and community buy-in for their initiatives.
  • A tool for indigenous people’s to use their knowledge of forest land and “good fire” to report areas that should be burned to prevent more harmful forest fires. This solution could involve.
  • An educational initiative that would have school children install and regularly monitor water levels as a way to (1) learn about flooding and the water table and (2) collect valuable data that monitor the risk of floods in the community.

We took these solutions to Peter on Monday, who nudged us away from pursuing a solution that is particular to a single disaster scenario, especially one that isn’t local to Pittsburgh (forest fires and measuring carbon offsets). He also questioned how our these solutions were connected to the research insights that we generated from our research. We realized after meeting with Peter that some of his criticism had to do with the substance of our ideas and some with our failure to present our ideas in a comprehensive and convincing fashion. With this in mind, we decided to focus on two ideas to prototype for Wednesday, which were based heavily in the ideas that we presented to Peter.

  1. A flexible community based monitoring tool for people and organizations to gather data about their land that could be useful in (1) preparing for likely climate disasters: (2) gathering social information about a community that could be useful for community organizations to understand the needs of the community and apply for funding.
  2. A digital interactive screen on bus stops that would allow pedestrians and commuters in flood prone areas to the see the impact that a flood would have on their community. By interacting with the screen, users could see a digitally rendered version of their neighborhood with various levels of water damage. For example, users could see the damage to their community at 20, 30, 40, and 50 inches of rainfall. In Pittsburgh, this would mean significant city landmarks, such as Point State Park completely submerged under water. Once visitors had seen this visualization, they would be prompted to take action on flooding, perhaps it would direct them to the community monitoring tool described above.
A sample of photos from our prototype making and first round of testing

We had three major takeaways from the workshop:

  1. We hadn’t narrowed in on a user group for the community monitoring tool. Would anyone be able to add to the map? If so, would that corrupt the information? Would people still trust the information if it was gathered from a general audience? Would it make sense to have an internal and an external map, one for a general audience and one for community leaders or experts?

In response, we decided to focus on community volunteers and organizers as our main users. Volunteers or members of a community organization can create maps that shared only amongst themselves and only they can add to. For example, an organization like New Sun Rising in Millvale can add all of its staff and volunteers to a digital map, where each member can add information to the map, but uninvited outsiders cannot. If the members of the group choose to do so, they can publish the map so it is available to a general audience. However, this general audience can still not edit or add to the map without being invited.

2. The bus stop interactive tool was well received but it didn’t encourage repeat use. Will it might engage people when they see it for the first time, most public transit users take the bus repeatedly. Once they engage with the tool, it’s unlikely that they will again.

In response, we decided to put this prototype on hold and focus on the mapping tool. Participants found this an interesting and engaging idea, so we may return to it later. For now, however, the mapping tool goes much further toward answering the problems in our design brief.

Following the workshop, we delved deeper into what information would be valuable to collect in a flood prone area. How might a mapping tool help residents in a flood scenario. Our final list included information like where vulnerable residents live, where the floodwater will strike first, the location of retention ponds and other flood mitigation infrastructure, the location of early warning systems for floods, the location of areas that are protected from floodwater where first responders can set up act as a center of operations. Our full list can be found here.

With this information, we developed some early wireframes and a series of slides to present and justify our proposed solution, photos of both are included below. In the coming days, we will refine these wireframes and develop particular user flows for some example user personas and tasks.

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