Master's Thesis (2017)

 15 Week individual project (work-in progress)

Revealing The Nature Of Human Characteristics Through Interaction Design


Everyday we come up with new solutions for our existing problems. But the solutions of today are tomorrow’s problem. The products we create as designers are often bringing more complexity in our society than it is initially intended for. 

I once asked an old man about his favorite place to travel in his youth. This man was in his 90th. The man told me that when he was younger, the furthest place he would travel was within a 30 Km radius away from his home. He could only walk or take the bike.

In today’s society, we have the possibility to travel from Amsterdam to Paris in 3:18 hours. This contrast between the life of the old man and on today’s life in our society is evidence for an incredible technological advancement. It shows that technology has empowered us to be extremely mobile, to travel anywhere we want. However, every time there is a delay, e.g. bad weather circumstances, there is a lot of anger and frustration expressed by passengers. 

So why is it, even though we have become so mobile in today’s society, that there is still frustration and anger? We have never been more empowered with mobility than the day of today. Where does the bad negativity comes from? Would even faster transportation design solve that negative mindset?

Technology has drastically changed the way we live our life, and in the future it will keep on shaping our live. Everything around us will become faster and more efficient. However, in the train example, we can see it does not matter how fast things are becoming. Often we are just focusing on a technical solution: getting faster from A to B. Instead, we should focus on what really matters. Technology is just a tool to get from A to B, and it is our role as interaction designers to focus on the user-experience, between A and B. It is this user-experience that really matters. Which new experiences can we envision while people are commuting? Could it be a platform for new social encounters? This train examples shows the important need of interaction designers critically looking at the current situation, and how we should shift focus from optimising to re-imagining new perspectives for the people we design for. Rethinking why we are creating in our design community

The train example is just one of the many examples we could highlight in today’s society. We could easily shift the lens to the impact of smartphones  in our lives, or discuss the impact of automation in our homes. However, what I argue for is that I believe that, as designers, it is our responsibility to ask questions. Rather than just creating more efficient things, we need to start to deepen our understanding of why we create. What really matters for our lives? How can we find that meaning? And how do we implement that in design to make it relevant for our society?

This master’s thesis takes on the challenge of finding the more meaningful purpose in life. My goal is to find answers that reveals the more meaningful purposes of life. Then, the next step is to bridge these answers and apply them in our design practice. To better understand what truly matters for human life, I collected 14 stories through ethnographic research. These ethnographic stories reveal the nature of human characteristics when people face and overcome big challenges in life. Some of these ethnographic stories highlights the life of a WWII survivor, war refugee, leukaemia child-patient and a widow. Parallel, to the ethnographic work, I explored how I can evoke a deeper connection between people, by making them listen to each-other’s heartbeat.

The following video is from an experiment in which I coupled people together for 20 minutes to listen to each-other's heart. The experiment turned out to be extremely powerful as it evoked strong reflections and thoughts. 

For now, I would like to share three quotes from the participants with you from this experiment, feel free to watch the short video after.

“The heartbeat is the most purest form of a human, and you can not get any closer.”
“We are always on our own. We have to take care of ourselves, make our own decisions, no matter what. But having someone’s heartbeat so close is almost like you are sharing this burden. I got the feeling that I am not alone anymore. At that moment I had two hearts.”
“When you listen to your heart it becomes your world. And within this world you are disappearing.”

I would like to invite you to the UID'17 Degree show on the 1st and 2nd of June in Umeå, Sweden. I hope to see you there and we can talk about the outcome of this master's thesis. 


Invitation UID'17: