Breaking norms

Mobility Justice

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.
Approach

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

Challenge

Since the project scope was set to be increasing attractiveness of the public transport system and to be inclusive in a gendered landscape the challenge was to spot the underlying social norms in our society and how are they mirroring into the way we use and understand urban mobility.

Project info

Spring 2018, 10 weeks

Team: Geert Roumen, Seb Decabo

Partners: Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå Kommun, Ultra

Methods:  Ethnographic design research, Participatory design, Into the wild prototyping, Aesthetic of interaction, Storytelling


Mobility Justice – Resonating journeys

Public car sharing as an extension of the public transport system

JIBE

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.

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 group members 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.

Syncing

As soon as anyone in the set group decides that they want to leave the others will “feel” this and notice 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.

Car sharing as an extension of public transport 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 system will 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 a 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 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 we swapped mindset, looking at designing for values rather than problems and later on when combining these different ways of looking at design, developed our final design concept.

Download a full view of our visual brief.

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

Challenge the idea of public transport

We used probes, to explore how we by these prototype could change current habits. For example the reverse hitch-hiking probe or a musical bench. We fast realised that there are strong social norms about sharing a ride a public space that is built upon a mutual agreement that is hard to break.

These type of 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 the lack of public transport today?
How could 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?


Aesthetics of Interaction

Negotiating time by resonating with eachother

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.

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.

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 qualities and tangibility feeling of the physical satisfaction when for example something snaps.

We tested out the flows and usability of the flow with potential users.

My contribution

During this project, I participated in the entire process from ethnographic research, concept development, prototyping, and probing. My main focus was the user contact, facilitating workshops, creating a visual brief and prototyping interactions based on human values.

Learning outcomes

My main learning in this project was the ability to find norms and patterns in society and to flip perspective to be able to spot the invisible injustices. But also design a concept with a starting point in human values rather than the focus of solving problems.

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