Public art, though abundant in large cities, feels indifferent to most passengers. Many public arts fail to invoke viewers’ feelings and are unsuccessful in establishing personal connections. So, we chose to investigate: how might we increase the personal connections between viewers and the art? Through interviews and contextual methods, our research implied that establishing a sense of belonging in a city consists of a four-step process: attraction, information, conversation, and recollection, which we have simplified to AICR. This page is a quick walk-through of the research process and final insights.

Team: Jessica Xiao, Andrew Chuang, Natalie Ye & Jenny Liu
My Role: UX Researcher and Designer, contribute mostly on generating research insights, ideation and visual layout
Methods: Contextual Inquiry, Artifact Analysis, Affinity Diagram, Think-Aloud, Crazy 8s', Storyboarding and Speed dating, Prototyping
Problem Space
How might we increase the personal connections between viewers and the art?
Background 
Currently, most Public-art-related posts on social media platforms are about individuals sharing their personal interactions with the arts. In other words, viewers are engaged by creating their own personal, memorable stories. Sadly such interaction is not happening a lot; sharing public art is yet a trend.
The Public art website and the info plaques show every viewer the same prescribed story, making themselves not relatable and indifferent.
So the core issue here seems to be that current solutions fail to establish personal connections.

Opportunity
We found establishing a sense of belonging in a city consists of a four-step process: attraction, information, conversation, and recollection (AICR). We use this cycle to design our app functions in an end-to-end flow. We believe establish more personal connections can help diverse people truly being represented by the public arts, therefore further arouse discussions among social issues, finally increase the livability of a city.

The Solution
A mobile app to building personal connections with the following features:
01

Live Features of Comments

Hooks between two or more people to nudge conversation between the them talking about the arts
02

Emotion-based Filters

Similar to how Spotify categorize its songs and create playlists
03

Tabs to Unveil Information Structurally
Only a short description
of the artwork is initially displayed

Use different, intuitive buttons/tabs to represent different information
04

AR Function to Unveil the Full Appearance
Draw people into viewing the public arts by obscuring aspects of arts

Plus an AR app to unveil the full appearance of the art with only part of it being visible in physical environment
Process
In this project, the overall goal of our research is to help Metro 21 and Arts Management and Technology Laboratory to explore how public arts can contribute to the livability of a city. The original prompt was broad and we were asked to identify our own focus area. Through the whole process of the project, we actively engaged the target user population by conducting contextual inquiries, secondary research, speed dating and prototyping to understand their pain points and needs to inform the design decisions. Our research was based on the following model. 
01 
Understand what "is"
Background Research
We looked into different sources such as public arts website, art related news and visited the spot of an art piece to gain a general understanding of our topic. We then gain the following findings.
1 When audience view a public art, they do not talk about art professionally, but rather connect to their own life and previous experience.
2 Audience has different personality traits, values, interests, attitudes and lifestyles.
3 Many audience come to the public art unplanned and the way they engaging with it is to take photo with it.
4 Augmented Reality (AR), Beacons, RFID, and other emerging technologies are transforming the way we view and experience art.
5 How theater attendance can feel present at the theater is the feeling of communitas with other audience members.
Stakeholder Map
To identify the stakeholders who have the greatest impact to our focus area, we created the stakeholders map.
02 
Model of what "is"
Contextual Inquiry
We conducted a contextual interview with our targeted type stakeholder - the art viewer who share their art viewing experience on social media.
After the contextual inquiries, we held an interpretation session and and created an affinity diagram, to hear about the interviews and discuss what was learned, as well as to find congruence across our contextual inquiries. We were able to gather a series of meaningful insights through our affinity diagramming session. Some insights debunked hypotheses that we had previously, while others affirmed hypotheses that we had developed, and still more insights raised points that we had not considered. 
Through which we see a narrative emerging: 
1 The cycle begins before the actual visit to the art, starting with the civic decisions that are made regarding public art. These decisions determine how art influences a community. 
2 The second part of the cycle is the visit. Different people admire different qualities of the artwork. 
3 The impact of the art extends beyond the initial moment, contributing to the third part of the cycle: the viewer develops an emotional relationship with the art which can influence their memory of the moment. 
4 The last step of the cycle dictates that a viewer’s perspective of the art can continue to fluctuate, based on their conversations with friends/family members. 
Overall, the impact of the artwork comes back to unite the citizens of a city or incite dialogue, and again, the city’s decisions determine the type of impact. ​​​​​​​
Think-Aloud
In this stage, we used Think-aloud protocols in an unconventional way where we aim to probe users’ mindsets and needs rather than conducting usability tests for the platforms.  We leveraged the Instagram platform to replicate and gain an understanding of the impact of social circles on viewers’ perceptions of public art. 

The insight we decided to focus on came from to the last stage of the process. Our previous interview revealed social circles have impacts on not just the way we think about public arts, but also influence actions. For instance, other people’s comments can compel one to visit or search an artwork.

We tried to understand the following questions:
How does interacting with people in your social circle change viewers’ perception regarding public art? 
How much impact does people out of our social circles affect such perception?


And here are the main findings that the team came up with after consolidation and synthesizing: ​​​​​​​
Overall, users’ experiences with interacting with their social circles about public art can be improved by having designated areas for artwork interpretations and encouraging the exploration of new artwork without artists’ identities. The research leveraged these points which will guide us on improving personal connections with public arts on social platforms.
03 
Model of what "could be"
Crazy 8's 
We start creating storyboards by generating the needs in the crazy8’s session and brainstorming on the level of risks and the according scenarios together. Our crazy8’s activity revealed the 4 sets of needs and 3 risky levels of each need.

Need 1: Users have the need to learn about their identities and cultures through arts , hence be able to identify with the local culture.
Need 2: User needs to store a sense of nostalgia and memory of seeing an art piece
Need 3: Users feel the need to talk about art with people in their social circle.
Need 4: Users need a sense of mystery to trigger their curiosities​​​​​​​

Storyboard & Speed Dating
Then we created storyboards with leading question to verify the user need.
Through the testing, we verified work works and what not, and some new design opportunities emerged.

1 Striking a balance with mystery and information, then slowly revealing the obscured information
2 Initiate art-related conversations in more spontaneous ways
3 Art Information need to be structured and there need to be a logical flow to the order of introducing new information
Insights
Our overall findings can be summarized by a narrative that describes the interaction process of the user and the needs that they require to fully interact in that particular step and to move on to the next step.

01 Attraction
The interaction process begins with a sense of intrigue about the artwork that captures their attention. To fully capture their attention, the artwork needs an element of mystery. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
02 Information
They also need some amount of information to compel them to begin interacting. When they start to interact, they need to take the time to individually absorb the information. This is an individual process, and cannot be done with other people.​​​​​​​
03 Conversation
After coming to their own understanding, they need natural and spontaneous interactions with other people to gain knowledge of other perspectives and to spark creativity. The people they are interacting with must also value the artwork.​​​​​​​
04 Recollection
Finally, users need to be able to store their feelings about the interaction. Note that there is a difference between storing the entire experience, in contrast to just storing the feelings. The storage of these feelings allow users to reminisce at a later time.
04 
What "could be"
Solution
01
Attraction

AR Function to Unveil the Full Appearance
Draw people into viewing the public arts by obscuring aspects of arts

Plus an AR app to unveil the full appearance of the art with only part of it being visible in physical environment

02
Information

Tabs to Unveil Information Structurally
Only a short description
of the artwork is initially displayed

Use different, intuitive buttons/tabs to represent different information
03
Conversation

Live Features of Comments

Hooks between two or more people to nudge conversation between the them talking about the arts
04
Recollection

Emotion-based Filters

Similar to how Spotify categorize its songs and create playlists
Store and explore art work based on your mood
Pitch to Our Project Sponsor
Reflection

Make your thoughts clear and visible by writing them down. Model them. And introspect.
Researchers benefit from listing all assumptions and possible pitfalls beforehand at a pre-mortem. Think of the opposite explanations to break your assumptions. Then verified these assumptions with user. Listen, observe and ask why. Finally summarized the results and takeaways at a postmortem. It will create a design pattern that prevent us reinventing the same wheel next time and empower the team.


Thank you for reading!

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