This project focuses on making public transport in rural areas more accessible by transforming the role of the public transport company in Umeå. The role of this company will support the communities rather than imposing structure.
To involve multiple stakeholders we used participatory methods to define the design direction. We used future scenarios with different norms to make the stakeholders reflect on the current landscape and see how transport would look in this scenario.
We used probes, made prototypes and explored how these could change current habits and how this will influence the behavior of the general public by putting it in the context.
These interventions gave us insights on the values that we want to create with our concept. These values are used as a starting point of developing the concept.
Our concept is bringing people in resonance to make travelling together more enjoyable and reduces the friction because of top-down imposed structures.
We interviewed Britta and Matts, a 70 year old couple, at their home for an hour or so, and we got some really good insights. But after the meeting we realised we were also giving too many insights, examples and explanations of the things we were looking for, and this could influence the answers we would get back; something to change for the next meetings. We also linked them with us through a Whatsapp group where they could send us pictures of their journeys and what mode of transport they used for the next couple of days.
We then contacted a family friend of Maja, Fredrik. Frederik is a local politician, but it’s more an interest than his actual job. He’s so involved that after some discussions on mobility in Umea, he decided to stop using his car and start using the bus regularly, and to his surprise, it was really easy even when living a bit outside of the city center; although he mainly used it to go to work and back. He also agreed to send us pictures of his journeys through Whatsapp. We would pinpoint on the map, the places where he usually goes to, like his home, work and where his kids do different activities. We saw he would move all around the city, but first he would normally go from work to his home to get his car, and then take the kids wherever they needed (if they couldn’t go by themselves).
Lars, the man that Britta and Matts connected us with. Lives on the edge of the city, not too close but not too far from the center. His wife was having regular treatment at the hospital and many issues came out from there, which turned some good insights.
We went to visit Chelsea, a mother of 4 who lives quite outside of Umea, and while planning the trip there we already encountered a problem, there weren’t any buses to come back to town until around 6pm, and we’d probably finish our meeting an hour earlier than that. She was really helpful and open, even if she didn’t really know us or what we were doing, and was contacted by Frederik just the day before. Having the variety of families we interviewed, from older couples to big families was amazing, as we feel these type of users can give us better insights than students or people close to our circles.
Participating in mobility
On the bus back (from Lars) to the university and we recorded parts of the trip and analysed how many people got on the bus and their method of payment. It would’ve been even better if we used this situation to gather even more data than we did, like descriptions of the people on the bus, where they got on and off. We did have a situation where a man in a wheelchair wanted to get on the bus so we could see everything that was involved in that. It feels awkward to ask people if we can film or take pictures of these specific situations, so in the end we didn’t.
Chelsea was taking her kids to the cinema in the city, and she told us if we needed a ride so we wouldn’t be stranded for an hour, so we joined her trip there and again saw some of the family dynamics in the car. Again, we felt it was weird to film these things, especially as underage kids were involved so we didn’t take many notes on that aspect. Maybe we should’ve.
We joined fredrik during his daily commuting from Umeå (This afternoon from the cityhall) to Innertavle (a village 14km from Umeå). During this trip we explored his ‘hero’s journey’ of starting to use the bus, while also experiencing his daily routines.
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Hero’s journey to dig deeper
We explored using the hero’s journey as a way to get deeper insights in why Fredrik changed from using cars to use more buses. He liked using this method, and it made him think deeper about what stages he went through and what reasons for this change were there. It gave us more personal stories behind his decision, which gave his story more depth.
We explored how to use improv techniques to design and imagine futures. Which was nice because you are more aware about the details, physicality and emotions that occur during a situation. It was also a great way to get into a more creative mood and to discover details without the need for words, but through actions; also by asking people how they feel during the situation helps us see a variety of reactions to the same situation depending on how each character “performs”.
Values (and independent research)
We discussed how there are different pushing and pulling factors in the design process. Especially during interviews we need to make sure that we’re not pushing for something specifically. What influences us from the new information we get from the participants, and how much are we influencing in the responses of the participants.
What has been hard this week is to get deeper into the underlying reasons to why people prefer one or the other mode of transportation. And also going into the injustices that people are experiences. The challenge has been to find these injustices and at the same time not direct the conversations towards our assumptions that we already have but rather let the participants tell their story. But have we then found the injustices that exist or have we missed some that maybe the participants are not aware of?
Injustices to norms (and positioning ourselves in the research)
We explored injustices and how to talk about them, putting ourselves in the equation — we focused on norms rather than injustices which ironically made it easier to spot the injustices. It’s pretty hard to highlight injustices from our research as it’s not something people really talk about, but by concentrating on the norms we could spot the injustices that come with those. One of the norms we highlighted was the VOLVO, VILLA, VOVVE saying, showing the aspirations or what people should aspire to if they want to have a good life — how do we break this norm and open peoples eyes to other ways of living. The other norms we spotted are linked to this one in some way: Being a parent means having to own a car, the norm of having to live in the city and the decline of rural life, and the idea that buses are for commuting (also cars), but cars, bikes and walking is more for pleasure.
Internal try-out workshop
Together with input on our project we got some more practical insights from the workshop on Wednesday. It could have been better to show a video in the beginning to get everyone on the same page and make it time efficient. By focusing on one persona (or person) we could also make the whole story more clear. Right now some participants didn’t know if they were still designing for Fredrik or someone else. We could use screenshots from this video as design ‘material’ to work with later.
When splitting up the group there was an unequal division which was probably because of the different size in tables. Use more space and more clearly dividing the groups would be better. We should make it more obvious what the different ‘stations’ are, by giving them a name. The plan to switch after 5 minutes failed, so we should give the users more time in each station or a better overall introduction, so they can start contribution right away.
With the future scenario station we should use more of the third dimension, to make it more engaging. Most ideas from that session were about modular transport (perhaps there should be a push to have more ideas), it was playful and creative, but also too messy. The playing board should be clearer, by distinguishing the different areas. The tools paper and clay were a bit too limited. It would also have been better to focus more on the discussions around the ideas instead.
The hero’s journey station was hard for people to think about big changes for the participants. Only one participant was involved in the process (because the rest was left out). We should make the hero’s journey shorter and clearer. It could also be better to make it a future scenario where the whole group can be involved. It could be simplified by having only a heaven a hell (and transitioning between them) instead of this full journey.
In the life timeline station there was a lot of discussion about norms in different countries. How different vehicles have different status symbols. It was a good discussion, but perhaps not so engaging. How do you change status.
How might we provoke discussions instead of having them create solutions? With the future scenario station there was a lot of focus on the creative solution, but by doing that there wasn’t a really deep discussion about the topic. Perhaps we can move back and forth between reflecting (discussing) and acting (making).
During the workshop next wednesday we would like to record the sound (discussions) at the different stations because this is usually more valuable (descriptive) than post it’s or physical representations.
Prototyping in the wild
On Thursday we went probing in the wild, for this we created a hitchhiking sign to put on top of a car we borrowed, and we went driving around town trying to pick people that were waiting for the bus. We expected it to be easier than it was but these people didn’t resonate with random people trying to pick them up for no reason, just to help (what’s the intention behind). Although nearly at the end of the session we did pick up two 17 year old guys who jumped in the car as a kind of adventure. It was also easier to pick them up they said because there were other people in the bus stop so if anything went wrong people could remember the details of the car or our faces.
The second probe was a sign that we added on a bus stop to try and hitchhike from there, and that one worked a lot faster, after 15 minutes, Geert got picked up and taken to UID, and the interesting part was the the guy that picked him up actually drove past us, drove around and back to the bus stop in order to pick us up. We think maybe this is easier because people are more used to how hitchhiking works compared to the opposite version which we did before and which broke the norms of hitchhiking, offering a ride when no one asks.
It feels weird to ask people for pictures and we feel we put some people off when trying to pick them up as a huge camera was popping out of the window filming our process, that’s the reason why we don’t have many videos of the process or the people that took part in it. Maybe using a phone camera would be easier as it’s a bit more disguised.
On Friday we also did some probing outdoors, we tried to go to a singing event for elderly people but it wasn’t the right situation to talk to people, so we then went to some parking spots around town and talking to people with the sign we created to put on top of cars -asking them if they would use this or if they are willing to pick up people. We were surprised by the responses as we got some answers saying that they would, but it’s hard to know if this is the truth or they just wanted us to be happy and get our response. A better way could be to actually try and hitchhike and ask them if they would take us somewhere and then see if they do it or not.
Workshop with stakeholders
During the workshop we explored three norms/themes ‘commuting vs freetime’, ‘live work shop’, ‘Volvo Villa Vovve’. These themes are mainly focusing on children families and how they are living today. We saw that the transport are reflecting the norms that exist in the society. So in the norms we are exploring we try to find out the underlying values and reasons that makes this norm.
In the workshop we flipped these norms to alternative futures that explored the concept of ‘timeless city transport’, ‘inside outside transport’, ‘communal transport’.
Commuting vs free-time: Timeless transport In this norm we have been looking into the system of public transport and how people are commuting to work and back but as soon as something other than commuting (having to pick up something or someone) or during free-time the values of flexibility and time efficiency becomes stronger. This might be a result of how the public transport is set up or the public transport is reflection how people chooses to move around outside of work. In the workshop we flipped this and created the timeless city where the concept of time did not exist and explored how the transport would look in this city.
Volvo Villa Vovve: Communal transport When growing up and settling down there is a swedish saying that defines this (Volvo/Car, Villa/House and Vovve/Dog). There is the norm that someone that settles down needs a car and a house to be successful. In this norm ownership is a big part. This is what we tried to flip in the workshop. To go from private ownership to no ownership but instead community shared.
Live work and shop: Inside out world Right now people are supposed to work live and shop in the urban areas. The public transport is now focused on moving into the city in the morning and moving back in the evening. This is a huge problem if you, as one of our participants Maria, are not working the working hour defined by the norm but instead in shift so that the working hours changes. We flipped this by creating a city where there are no defined center of the city but everything is spread around equally. How would then the transport look like?
It was nice to work with future norms and see how you can try to get people to imagine worlds with different norms. What we learned was to adjust the material more to what we want the discussion to be and to how we frame the questions/exercises. To start with: what do we want to get out of the workshop and then create material that reflects and helps us get there. Some of the material that we had, such as the booklet, was very helpful and made us not having to facilitate too much but let the participants create their own idea of what the task was and how to solve it. Others needed a bit more explanation and facilitation for the discussion to move forward.
We explored how public transport can be more community based, flipping the power structures from top down to botton up having the community initating the transport. We want to do this by having people resonating and syncing their journeys.