NOTES - Helping Strangers Play Together

When a human facilitator is present, they can flexibly react to help strangers interact.

In his unconference session, @Robb Mitchell challenged us to think specifically about designing non-human facilitation for stranger interactions. Through spatial installations, architecture or technology.

Robb used a set of design challenges/problem statements to form teams:

  • It is too easy to ignore people when they are far away
  • Being a different height (or on a different physical level) make interaction difficult
  • Being seen by other people can create feelings of shyness
  • The possibility that a stranger might touch you can make an encounter less attractive
  • An open ended encounter can be unattractive because people are worried about being stuck talking

Each problem statemenent corresponded to a card with inspirational examples of projects adressing the challenge. In instant design sessions, groups worked for 10 min to create their own response to the challenge they chose. Ideas were demonstrated and briefly discussed.

Ideas created:

  • a balloon suit signalling different levels of touch that the wearer is comfortable with
  • a game using robotic arms to retrieve targets at different heights
  • an installation inviting strangers to talk providing a secret escape mechanism for spectacular exits
  • a game based on swapping conference badges to exchange playful restrictions and giving alibi to ask each other for help

Learnings (for me)

  • forming groups around a concise problem statement that interests people is super effective in building design teams
  • there are many conflicting reasons why interactions between strangers fail. focussing on them individually is a great way to start a design process and approach the problem