2019-11-26

    Thesis: Settling down

    Since the class started, I've come up with three different but connected ideas, which are 1) Graphic designer/developer mutual learning platform, 2) communication app for groups with opposing ideologies, and 3) blockchain technology tutorial.

    These ideas are all connected because they share identical underlying concept that I mentioned in the first thesis blog post - being respectful to other(beings).

    Why I discarded the ideas

    Unfortunately, I decided to give up on all these ideas after weeks of researches, debates and interviews. However, I did come up with a new idea. Before introducing it, I'd like to document why I discarded those three ideas first.

    1. Graphic designer and developer mutual learning platform

    The motivation to work on this idea could be split into two sides. On graphic designer's side, I'd like to urge more awareness of the problems in tech industry by teaching basic coding skills, and hopefully get graphic designers engaging in problem solving process. On developer's side, I hoped by sharing knowledge of visual design skills, developer could understand the importance and difficulties of building product with ethical and good design choice.

    To understand the feasibility of this idea, which might be a loose thesis influenced mainly by my personal bias, I talked to at least 3 persons: one graphic designer, one UI/UX designer, and one creative technologist. The important feedbacks I received are:

    • Understand only half or even less of the knowledge of a professional area could cause more trouble to development team.
    • To have better communication between developers and designers, building trust between team members might be more effective and crucial.
    • Some forums or groups target at same audience and addressing same issue already exist on Reddit, Facebook and other places; and it's not facilitating effective conversations as expected.
    • Low incentive for each side of professionals to learn knowledge on the other side.
    • To carry out this project, I have to talk to a lot of designers and developers, understanding their real needs.

    The feedbacks and researches I had result in several concerns that discouraged me from pursuing this idea:

    • To tackle communication issue, curated face-to-face conversation is required, and it's not what I'm pursuing at this moment.
    • To solve the problem, being in the actual working environment might create more effective results and impacts.
    • It's very possible that this project turns out to be visual design pieces, which I'd be very interested at building it, but not as a thesis project.

    To summarize, I'd love to develop this idea, but it's not the most appropriate one for me to work on as thesis project at this moment.

    2. Communication app for groups with opposing ideologies

    This was the most challenging idea I had in list. The concept was to build a communication platform, targeting at open-minded users willing to understand people with different opinions on one topic. Inspired by the book Strangers in Their Own Land, the goal's to break empathy wall standing between people.

    After the interviews, researches and thinkings I had, following two of concerns came up:

    • Is building another communication app an appropriate solution to deal with this problem?
    • Face-to-face conversation has always been the most effective approach, which doesn't require any more advanced technology support in modern society.

    Though there's only two major concerns, it's incredibly huge ones to solve. As a result, I made the decision to give up this idea because of following reasons:

    • I'm not comfortable at conducting massive conversations with people; it's not convincing at all to build such project with my introvert personality.
    • Facilitating communication doesn't require more help from technology.
    • Building interactive installation or experience might be interesting, but I don't think it's addressing the problem in the way I wanted for thesis project.
    • This idea is clearly too ambitious.

    In general, this idea was too challenging to come up with a solution with my own power and in such a short time. And it could be split into smaller modules for me to work on.

    3. Blockchain technology tutorial

    The intention of exploring and sharing knowledge of blockchain was even more naive. Possibly being influenced by mass media and marketing strategy, I believed that blockchain tech would be the technology to bring practical and positive systematic change to the world. For ITP students, it'd be helpful and important to understand this technology, preventing wrong design decisions from happening as we're working in the industry in future.

    In addition to the possible benefits that blockchain's brining to our world, it's also an exciting technology to explore and play with.

    But it didn't take me too long to give up on this idea after learning and researching on the topic aside from mainstream media. Clearly, there's a lot of doubts on this technology, and two of which bothered me the most:

    • Blockchain doesn't solve the trust issue at all; users and developers still have no way to prevent data generator from lying in the first place.
    • Blockchain consumes huge amount of energy.

    So this was an relatively easy decision for me to make. I fell into this trap of obsession toward a technology, but not asking my real passion toward the technology itself, and even not thinking about the usage of such technology in the first place.

    Animal rights: what I'll be working on for real

    I still freshly remembered the time I buried a sparrow I found in the park when I was around six-year old; the experience of holding a small and cold bird in hand touched me somehow. As I got the chance to learn knowledge about stray animals and slaughterhouse in college, I decided not to consume meat as best as I could, and care more about animal rights.

    I’ve never done any projects on top of these concerns yet, and I’d like to grab this chance to tell stories of the animals in a creative and meaningful way, in order to get urban people rethink our relationships with those lives.

    I can’t remember the initial materials that triggered me to think about slaughterhouse and pet trading market, but two of the most important inspirations I’ve had is the book The World's Slaughterhouse Tour and manga Silver Spoon). These two works talk about the action of facing source and manufacturing process of meat we eat, which is exactly what I care about.

    Rethink urban people's relationship with animals

    At this moment, I'd like to address this issue by rethinking animal’s roles as food, pets and neighbors in urban lifestyle. The three more specific potential topics include:

    1. To explore a domesticated animal’s journey from farm, slaughterhouse, processor, market and finally onto our plate.
    2. To explore connection between media influencers’ public images with pets and pet trading market.
    3. Common birds in cities across the world as city quality indicator.

    One thing to notice is this is not a project to convince people having vegan or meatless diet, but urging people to think about these relationships again.

    Future plans

    The fact that I finally settle down on one major topic is exciting, but it also makes me anxious because it's been the fifth week of the class. I've lost previous precious time in class to focus on researching this topic, and now I have to work extra hard.