Fall 2004: 4.208
Designing Persuasive Environments and Technologies
Individual assignment: Observation
Due beginning of class on Thu, September 23
"The obvious isn't always apparent"
The goal of this exercise is to sharpen your critical observation skills and help you to begin to look at the world around you from the perspective of a captologist. I want you to start looking for the "invisible connections" around you and to think about how they could be used to persuade.
Before you begin, read the P. Underhill "Why We Buy" selections handed out in class.
Think about an indoor or outdoor mall you have visited recently that is easily accessible from MIT. Imagine that you are sitting in a particular spot. On a 8.5 x 11 in. sheet of paper sketch as much detail as you can remember about the scene from that spot: where are things, what obstacles exist, how large are stores and other objects, what is on display, where are the major signs, where do people cluster, etc. Get as much as you can (readably) on your diagram. Use hand sketching only. Do not do this on the computer.
After you have completed your diagram, visit the spot you chose. On a copy of your original diagram in a new color, indicate what you got wrong. Most importantly, indicate what you missed. Indicate how your mental model differed from reality and, in no more than a few typed paragraphs, try to explain why the differences exist.
Task Part 2
For this task you will investigate the impact of the environment on the shopping experience.
- Field Study
Go to an indoor or outdoor mall where you can sit and observe for long periods of time without feeling uncomfortable. You must be able to see into at least one store well enough so that you can observe the behavior of people inside and outside of the store. The less familiar you are with the location and the nearby stores the better. The assignment will be easier if there is a fair amount of shopping activity while you observe.
Get rid of your cell phone. Turn off your beeper. Leave behind your PDA, iPOD, GameBoy, Tomagochi, and whatever other attention-invading gizmos you may typically rely upon to distract you from the activity in the world.
Plan to spend 2 hours observing and jotting notes on a notepad.
With a critical eye, make note of what is going on in the space around you and the store you can look into. I'd like you to adopt three different perspectives throughout your observation time.
First, study the patterns of activity between people and objects in the store. Think about how people arrive at places, how people and goods flow, and what are natural stopping points, thinking points, talking points, etc. What are the transition points? You can consider any or all places in a store (e.g. near the register, outside the entrance).
Next observe the area around and in the store. Look for patterns between people and objects and how the place is impacting behavior.
Finally, shadow a particular person much as Underhill does for a long period of shopping. (Do not let your observations impact the behavior ... and you should not know this person!) Watch how the person interacts with other people and the objects in the store. Be prepared to follow the person elsewhere in the mall, including into other stores. Be precise in your observation.
Look for the non-obvious. How are people are making decisions? What are the subtle cues or interactions that are impacting their behavior? Where are people looking? What do they touch/not touch? What do they pickup or shake? What catches their attention and what does not?
As you do all this you should be jotting down field notes. They are to be handwritten. Use no recording devices such as tape recorders or video cameras. Underhill's counting strategies can be useful to get you to focus on the details of behavior.
Do not skimp on the observation time. You need to give yourself enough time to get comfortable with observation and see patterns.
Think about what you wrote and ask yourself why you attended to those specific items and not to others. What did you not attend to that you might have? How did your assumptions influence your observed data?
Now try to structure your observations in some way. Organize concepts into categories and then look for relationships between the categories. Try to use this structure to help clarify the persuasive influences created by the environment and the people in it. On a single page summary sheet that could include diagrams and/or text, write up your most interesting observations/insights that could relate to creating a behavior change intervention.
Be prepared to give a 2 minute explanation to the class about what you learned.
Hand in all your unedited original notes and your summary sheet.
I know this is a somewhat vague assignment. Do the best you can.
Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2004