Defining the Problem
After our initial interviews, we set out to hone in on our problem. While we knew that we wanted to look at belonging, we felt as though we needed to address a more specific need. We started defining our problem by looking at spaces on campus. During our meetings we would talk about how we wanted students to interact with the prototype, considering if the prototype should be hidden or public, or a destination or a pathway. Instead of defining a problem, we spent a lot of time making constraints such as these. Another topic we talked about during the define stage was the creation of a fiber-based project. We thought that using string would be a way to thread the community together, so to say. We discussed the historical and gender implications of using thread and thought it would be a way for students to reclaim their femininity. Because our group was so large, it was hard for all of us to find a time to sit down together and truly write out a problem statement. This lack of defining a concrete problem and instead thinking of what the prototype should look like rather than what the user needs explains why it took our team a long time to flesh out an idea we thought really tackled belonging at Smith.
However, right when we realized we needed more of a definition of our problem, the results of the election hit our campus. The emotions felt across our campus were everything and anything of heartbreak, anger, stress, discomfort, etc. With those feelings, simply belonging on campus was not our only concern. We decided to re-focus our project on reacting to the election, as well as reacting to society in general. We redefined our problem as addressing the feelings aimed towards the world and in our community.
Ideating the Solution
Ideating was a long and frequent step throughout this semester. We began with our focus on belonging and ideated every week about how to foster belonging in a physical form on campus. After a few prototypes, mainly involving weaving, we realized this was not a way all individuals could feel a sense of belonging from. We continued ideating by splitting into two groups to focus on the subjects of inspiring and learning. Within these groups, we were able to ideate more freely because there was more space for everyone to brainstorm. We also created a group Pinterest for our project, creating a board where people could post inspirational projects they had seen on the web. You can check out our Pinterest here. While it was great to see what people in the world were creating, one complaint about creating the Pinterest board was it limited our ideating to what had already been done rather than letting us brainstorm on our own and then use Pinterest to see the success rate of projects like ours. After much time spent ideating, discussing and trying to imagine and combine individual ideas into one, we realized this was not a feasible option. We decided to prototype almost all ideas, on small and individually created platforms, and we showcased these prototypes at one of two festivals: Fall Festival and Smith ReAct These mini-prototypes encouraged individual group members to “own” a project while working in a collaborative setting.While ideating was a big part of this course, it was a part we got stuck in throughout the process. With such a large group many voices were silenced, and ideas were disregarded due to the conflicting opinions and thoughts about what our final product should look like. Ideating was a step that became overbearing in our focus on completing the project, but it was interesting to see how the ideas ended up influencing our final project.