In my continuation of user research, I wanted to better understand how adolescents are affected by the use of digital technology, particularly smartphones. Through participatory design I sought to grasp what mechanisms and behaviors adolescents use to form social relationships.
To do this, I facilitated a co-creation workshop, in which adolescents first came up with spaces of interaction, like the subway or a coffee shop, and identified how they communicate and connect in those spaces. After that, they were asked to reimagine what future spaces of interaction would be like in 5 years time and imagine how they would communicate in those spaces.
What I learned is that young people are connecting by using smartphones as a medium for the transmission and transferral of experiences. In one example, a participant imagined that they’d be able to digitally share the physical thrill of being on a rollercoaster in the future. But the workshop also showed smartphones are also a tool for risk-aversion. As one participant put it, "Talking to people face to face is kind of scary," and screens provide a comfortable barrier of time and distance.
Photography & Videography
In order to understand how they envision the future, it was first necessary to establish the present and ground the imagination there. Participants were first asked, “What are the spaces in which you connect, communicate, and build relationships? What are some examples?” Then, using the provided stickers or by drawing their own, they populated the spaces they came up with. The group then walked through and discussed their creations on the board.
Future Scenario: The year is 2025. As new tools for communication are introduced, the forms taken by human interaction begin to shift.
After establishing spaces of communication in the future, participants took the next 20 minutes to create, draw, collage, sticker, act out, and collaborate on their visions of the future on blank sheets of paper. These were then stuck to the board and discussed as a group.