Joyful Research

Session 09–16.11.20 | Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Overview of the Observation Assignment — by Shafira Nugroho

The Key of Observation in Design Thinking

I believe a designer’s place in contributing to the world must come from committed, educated and essentially initiated through observation(s). Observation serves many high value, for through observation comes insights, or rather vital knowledge and lies the core purpose to innovative and impact projects. Although there are various forms of observations, which can be narrowed into the category of ‘controlled’ or ‘naturalistic’ observations, for the context of unbiased viewpoints, ‘naturalistic observations’ is key in this circumstances. Unlike controlled observations, naturalistic observations involves studying the user “in the wild” and tend to be less structured (though a structured approach is certainly possible to a “in the wild”. Though difficult to replicable and with external variable devoid of manipulation, this approach is noted to be more reliable and more useful for ideation as it acquires qualitative data. One may argue that ‘naturalistic observation’ trains our perception and prevent us from biases to cloud the conditions of the reality.

To start the observation, a research question was proposed,

_ How can one as a designer look past obvious privileges to connect and collaborate in the real world without bias?

An observation group was also selected. And for the context of this assignment, I decided to focus my research on the local non-profit community of which I’ve been a part of prior to this specific observation. To narrow down the research question, the aim of this observation is to find out how to communicate, ideate and create collaboratively, with individuals of different backgrounds, without any sense of hierarchal status or saviour complex, yet grasp it on a manageable and sustainable dynamic. Essentially, the observation is narrowed down to observe their communication dynamics of within such collaborative communities. The findings I found cover the spectrum of mode of communication, language and stylistic, consistency in engagement, number of participants, and how all these factors add up to a sustainable and lively participative community in an organisation.

1_ Despite the existence of the organisation’s website, the group’s main mode of communication is through private messaging platforms like WhatsApp. Secondary to that, is synchronised activity across various social media platforms like Instagram posts and story, as well as updates on their Facebook page. Interestingly, all applications which are available both on desktop and mobile.

2_ The language and stylistic of speech throughout their communication and conversation are very relaxed, respectful, welcoming in that it was easy to understand, and familial to say the least. It seems to also be very accommodating to inclusivity as they allow exchanges in various languages like german, swiss-german, english, spanish, french, and others. Such open, and receptive approach to indifferences, is crucial to creating a safe space where individuals are free to give input and comment.

3_ Consistency in engagement is another key in sustainable engagement tactics. Although the community is practiced in a non-hierarchal manner, it seems like there are leading individuals who are quick to response whether to comment, or often make remarks, start conversation, and overall keeps the conversation going. This up-keeping of a rhythm makes others in the group feel heard, wanted, welcomed, and encourages more sharing of ideas and opinions into the conversation.

4_ Number of participants is an interesting measure. As expected within any group there are active and passive participants. Perhaps the most active are as mention above are the “leading individuals”, which were when counted came to 6 out of 58 individuals in the group, around 10% of the people were active. The rest were less engaging, but would at times comment their interest to participate in a specific proposed activity/event, etc. Nonetheless, all messages were on average seen by around 30 people, meaning the messages reach the majority of the people.

To further evaluate and reflect on these findings, I reached out to one of the most active participants of the group, and proposed my curiosity of how to keep the community alive and engaging in a collaborative manner. The findings were supported as he advised open communication and active initiation from some of the community’s admins is key to keep people engaged. Covid aside, meeting the community in person, whether for events, projects or simply a routine Stammtisch sessions is also very helpful alongside the digital communication and presence. Or in context of a pandemic, live zoom sessions are also another form of communication that helps in maintaining the lively atmosphere.

It was also further discussed how such openness and activity in communication has a rippling effect. For after observation, one could see that this welcoming atmosphere breaks the barrier of worry, anxiety, and shyness, all which are very helpful in building a participatory community. When people are made comfortable, they are more communicative, and not afraid to suggest ideas or even console their current issues and ask for help to overcome such circumstances. Also, such openness devoid a sense of competitiveness, this helps broaden the network and manifests opportunities of collaborations between other organisations for the better of the majority. In contrast to the ‘saviour complex’, this gives you the chance to work with people that have already far long initiated similar initiatives in the community.