Umeå as a city is expanding at a rapid rate and faces numerous sustainability challenges, environmental but also social. This project focuses on making public transport in rural areas close to Umeå more accessible by transforming and expanding the role of the city's public transport company. The role of this company will support the communities rather than imposing structure.
The project challenge was to increase the attractiveness and the accessibility, by provoking behaviour change, in the public transport and mobility system. The aim was not only to look at public transport but to look further out and start with the users in the city to find out underlying social and gendered norms in the system and by that, find injustices.
For this project, we created a design guide for how a participatory design project can be conducted with the various methodologies we used during the project. Check it out here
Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå Kommun, Ultra
Ethnographic design research
Into the wild prototyping
Aesthetic of interaction
Public car sharing as an extension of the public transport system
Jibe is a new type of car-sharing platform that will serve as an extension of the public transport in Umeå. It's built upon human time, meaning that when the user decides to leave for a trip he or she will sync with other travellers and meet up all according to their own timetable.
Our concept is bringing people in resonance to make traveling together more enjoyable.
Re-imagining the public transport time schedule
As the public transport schedule look today there are fixed times for when the bus goes. Looking at rural areas there are a limited number of buses in the morning and in the afternoon, this can become a problem if your schedule doesn't fit the imposed bus schedule. We wanted to change this and give users and the community the power that together make up their own time and place to go to.
By re-imagining the timetable the users can now pick the time they want to go, by doing that they can either decide to join another already exciting transport or initiate one of their own.
Key features in app
Join ride and negotiating time
When the user decided for a time frame or a group they want to go with they can communicate with the other in the transport by shifting a little bit in the time to leave. The further in the future the set time is the bigger the time frame will be. The closer the time comes the time window will become more and more narrow.
As soon as anyone in the set group decides that they want to leave the others will "feel" this and see how they are syncing together. By either the physical device or in the app. The user can anytime decide to go earlier or later and thereby change the group to travel with.
Animation in app.
Car sharing as an extension of PT in a autonomous future
What we are trying to do is to build a sustainable extension to the public transport rather than replacing it. The car sharing is supposed to be able to scale according to the number of people going with it at the specific time. Therefore it's possible that in the busiest times the transport in rural areas becomes a bus, that then could take the travellers to the closes inner city bus. Especially in the future with autonomous vehicles. We believe that this will make more people take the public transport that otherwise would have driven their own car.
participatory field work and workshops
Research and design approach
To involve multiple stakeholders we used participatory methods to define the design direction. By snowballing interviews, shadowing, creating and mapping stories we found social and gendered norms. Though tangible material we tried to engage stakeholders to break norms in participatory workshops. We also used probes in the wild to break these norms and engage users. Then changing direction and designed for values rather than problems and later on when combining these different ways of looking at design, developed our final design concept.
Here you can download full view of visual brief.
Mapping journeys and WhatsApp diarys
We used the snowball challenge to start talking to people through semi-structured interviews. We also asked them to send us pictures through WhatsApp on how they moved during a day. We even got to come along in some of these trips. From all our conversations, observations and WhatsApp diaries we created stories that we mapped out in different ways to spot the underlying norms in the society.
Find the norms to spot the injustices
Us vs them
A neighbour of mine, is trying to convince the village to start using the bus at 7:00. She says: “otherwise they might take this bus away from us...” - Woman ~ 45
Living in a rural area
“I want to be a good example, so now when commuting I take the bus. The problem comes after work when there are not many buses going back and from the city, so I still need to use my car to do errands or take my kids to their afternoon activities.” - Man ~ 50
Outside "normal" working hours
“I can’t really take the bus to work because normally my work hours are very odd, I might end a shift late at night and start early in the morning, so waiting for the bus for an hour isn’t really an option. “ -Woman ~ 50
Concept of time: Engaging users through materiality
We used future scenarios with different norms to make our stakeholders reflect on the current landscape and see how transport would look in this scenario. For example, time, keeping exact time isn’t so human, therefore we were curious to see how a future city would look like if there were no time or if efficiency was not the main drive in the society.
Breaking norms through probes in the wild
Challenge the idea of public transport
We used probes, made prototypes and explored how these could change current habits and how this will influence the behaviour of the general public by putting it in the context. Like hitch-hiking, what would happen if we created a reverse hitch-hiking and tried to pick up people along the road that didn't have that intention in the first place? We fast realised that there are strong social norms about sharing a ride that is built upon a mutual agreement that is hard to break.
Designing for values: Bringing people together, resonance
How could we create resonance between people in the public space? And how could we get people to come together? We probed this with a musical bench were we played music when people sat down, to create a common ground between them.
These interventions gave us insights into the values that we want to create with our concept. These values are used as a starting point for developing the concept. One of those values was resonance.
How does the community of Innertavle solve it today?
How can Ultra support this and become more community-based?
Discrete vs dynamic conversation
Today one of our interviewees that are living in Innertavle is syncing with his family or other temporary communities. One example is the parents of his son's football team that through WhatsApp groups are having a discrete conversation back and forth on who can drive the kids to the practise. This made us think, what if the conversation is not discrete but rather continuous, how would that look?
Aesthetic of Interaction
Tangible sketches of interaction
Resonating with each other
To develop the aesthetic of the interactions in the concept we started out with tangible sketches of the different parts. We explored with materials we found around us, trying out and built knobs, buttons, magnets, and rotators. Above are some explorations of how it might feel to resonate and sync with someone.
How does it feel when there is friction? When you do not agree on a specific time, how far can you push or stretch it before the link between you break? Should it feel good or should it be unpleasant to break the link? That is what we explored in these sketches.
Going from physical to digital: Process of app development
By starting with the interactions of our concept the result, the flow of the app came quite naturally. The hardest part here was to transfer all the findings we gained from the physical prototypes into a digital form and to still keep the tangibility and feeling of the physical satisfaction when for example something snaps.
We tested out the flows and usability of the flow with potential users.
JIBE - learnings
During this project, we had a different approach than the more classical problem solving, solution finding mindset. We didn't look for problems at all but rather trying to find patterns in the society. Find norms and through that spot the injustices. This approach was all new to me and I find it a really interesting way of approaching ethnographic research. With a different kind of mindset. Also, the methods we used in the design phase, with a starting point to design for values rather than solution was really interesting and new for me. I believe that by mixing this new knowledge and approach into the process I already know will result in interesting processes in the future.