Reflections on “Probing into the perception of surveillance among residents of the gated community”
Team Nebula: Anant, Munira, Nishita, Smriti
The five-week long design studio “Probing into the systems and services and infrastructure” was all about enquiring the services and systems, exploring various tools for research, and knowing what probing into services and system” means. The studio started off by introducing several questions like, what does the service design mean? What is probing? What are Service design tools & methods? in the class. By the end of the studio, I was able to see a stark difference between my initial and present understanding of the above topics.
Framing the Research area
The chosen context for the design studio was the Gated housing apps like MyGate and ADDA, which are being extensively used in India. Our team Nebula decided to delve deeper into understanding the existence of such apps and the services that are being offered which are enabling the users to adopt it. After closely studying these apps and the concept of Gated housing, we found out that safety, security, monitoring is among the many factors which are causing the existence of such systems. This led us to choose our research area i.e. Surveillance system, which is the underlying cause of the above factors.
Probing into the surveillance system
In this studio, we decided to probe into the surveillance system in a Gated society as it had many layers into it and to understand the concept the surveillance system wholly, it was needed to sieve through its layers too. We researched and mapped out the idea of surveillance in general and its significance in a gated community amongst the various stakeholders in a gated society. Also, we found out the methods of surveillance and their usage in different areas in a gated society. We also went to a nearby gated housing to observe the methods being used and the role it is playing in people’s lives. You can read more about it here.
Through the research and a field trip, it was observed that surveillance is mostly misunderstood and most of the people could only relate surveillance to CCTV cameras and security guards and are unaware to the role of surveillance and the implication it is having or possibly could have in the society. Through this, we decided our research topic(initial) would be “Understanding Surveillance”, but it got refined during the course of our research, with our final topic being “Understanding stakeholders’ perception of surveillance”.
Methods deployed to support the research
To have a better understanding of the stakeholders’ perception of surveillance, we decided to explore a different technique to conduct our research. We followed two steps to give shape to our research: One, building a probe artefact in form of a game to collect information from our stakeholders. Two, Assimilating the information gathered and showing them in form of visualization to identify patterns and find answers to our initially asked questions.
Why game as a probe artefact?
To understand the participant’s perception and knowledge of surveillance, we adopted a participatory design method to collect information, so we designed a game. This game’s Iteration-1 helped us to find out the participants’ knowledge and the field study helped us to figure out the shortcomings in our game, which led us to come with Iteration-2. In the second Iteration, we updated the game, by adding more elements to it, and making it more engaging and thought-provoking for the participants.
Visualizing the information
The information collected through the game was then used to create visualizations with different parameters via Tableau and through the journey visualization of the resident.
The pattern generated through the visualization showed us that the security guard was the most used method of surveillance and was the first point of contact when the people were in trouble or had some issue in a gated society.
-The studio provided me a great learning experience from probing into a problem to conducting field trip, to introducing new tools and methodologies for design& research to interactive feedback session. All played a major role in helping with my design journey.
-The session conducted with the participants provided us insights to look at the game from their perspective, thus helping us to update it in form of the second iteration
-Even though the game was able to plot the understanding of surveillance of the residents, it didn’t include the other stakeholders (like house help, security guard etc.)
-Also, the game can also be used to make the stakeholders feel aware of the consequences of surveillance and its hidden implications which they are subjected to.
-Our team pushed our abilities to explore new methodologies like a game to conduct our research and learning new software like Tableau to help with our visualization.
Finally, this studio provided me with various opportunities to unlearn, learn, experience and evolve as a designer. I would like to thank my teammates for constant brainstorming and pushing one another to meet the deadline as well as my facilitators for their insightful feedbacks, which helped us in creating meaningful design decision.