Thesis Book: Extending and Enhancing Meaningful Conversation

Master of Graphic Design Thesis Project, 2013

digital print, 116 pages, perfect bound

8.5" x 11"

* * Awarded * *
Book Award for Academic Excellence

* * Presented * *
DesignInquiry Vinalhaven
NC State University

What are the possibilities to extend and enhance meaningful conversation in interfaces and experiences designed for networked young women?

A Master of Graphic Design thesis document that inquires into today’s social networking experiences from a critical perspective. The proposals in the thesis are not apps for conversation. Instead, they are value fictions that introduce different ways for young women to engage with each other, as well as with the content of conversations they already share, to foster feelings of closeness.

Experience the digital publication here.

title page

Pages from Sm<3 Phone: a Catalog of Provocations interrupt the thesis document at relevant moments in the text beginning on the title page. The proposals the Catalog presents are rhetorical. They question the means by which we connect and converse today, and provide mandates to design more affective networked experiences.



Survey results

The literature provided evidence that reminiscing reinforces social relationships and feelings of closeness among people. It also identified strategies, such as adding metadata, as means for digital objects to gain importance and memento status over time, but it did not focus on young women, their relationships, and what specific digital objects mean to them. The What Do You <3? survey asked 102 respondents questions in order to construct rich personas with realistic motivations and scenarios of use grounded in actual contexts and real content.

Concept Sketches and Narratives

Research uncovered four strategies to address conditions of contemporary conversation: interruption, interpersonal synchrony, feedback and adding metadata. With this information I developed 40 concept studies. Each study included a snapshot of use and narrative description. I further refined and edited the narrative if a sketch moved into a scenario storyboard.

Concept Sketches and Narratives

Concept Sketches and Narratives

Concept Sketches and Narratives

storyboard: pulse

Placing certain personas in scenarios of use helped me understand what would motivate a young woman to use a product and how she and others would behave during its use.

Once I built that context of use around the studies that did have potentially rich and engaging stories, I also iterated around the central behavior in each scenario. For instance, in the storyboard for the behavior Cherishing a Close Tie the initial scenario required its user to collect her friend Liz’s heartbeat in person. No
heartbeat, meant no cherishable status for Liz because Emma would not receive the haptic reward designed to make her feel more connected to her friend, and be more likely to devote additional time to Liz’s Pulse profile. Upon seeing this barrier to use, I developed an alternate interaction. Now, if Emma could not, or would not, collect a close tie’s heartbeat, she could still practice her devotion and add feeling data to Caroline’s Pulse profile.

storyboards: muffler

storyboards: text cuff + luum

video stills: dispossessing + text cuff

The literature on speculative design and value fictions expresses the importance of striking the right balance between communicating an array of concepts concretely enough that they are understandable and credible as a group, but not so specifically in their form and content that readers mistake individual objects for the only, and proper, solution to a particular problem.

I conducted tests on the effects of varying degrees of fidelity and concreteness on the credibility of my proposals as value fictions. The tests varied according to the proposal itself: whether it involved an object I could make; or a piece of software I could only “fake” with high fidelity mock-ups. In nearly all cases, increasing the fidelity of the work compromised its credibility as a speculative proposal or piece of commentary.

interface explorations: muffler + constellation

values matrix

Referring back to the literature for evaluation techniques I located each concept on a values matrix to determine whether any proposals fit the values and goals of the project. Any proposals that did not land firmly in the upper left-hand quandrant of the matrix, as being user controlled and commentary, did not make it to the final round.