Every year Goodyear and Case Western University host a design challenge to address the coming disruption of the auto industry by car sharing, and autonomy. Graduate students from top universities are brought together to address a future where the rider is no longer selecting tires to purchase or managing auto service.
In 2018 our team developed a concept for an autonomous transportation service as a third space, organizing and supporting connectedness based on shared interests, and local activities, and events.
I developed the concept for submission which won a top-five placement out of hundreds of submissions. I then assembled a team to design and produce a prototype for presentation to Case Western Phd's and the Goodyear innovation team.
A close reading of the initiative goals provided by Goodyear led us to the Sociology on third places and an article by Ray Oldenburg, titled "our Vanishing Third Places.
Dr. Oldenburg identifies a widely shared pain point in his work. He argues that a long running disinvestment in public goods in the form of local community gathering spaces has produced, for many, a life-style consisting mainly of a home to work and back shuttle.
"Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. It is no coincidence that the “helping professions” became a major industry in the United States as suburban planning helped destroy local public life, and the community support it once lent."
Boston Consulting Group has estimated that 26% of all miles driven in the US, approximately 925 billion miles could be traveled in autonomous vehicles by 2030. This would size the market for autonomous vehicles at 450 billion. The automotive data monetization demand is projected by global consultants McKinsey & Company to be as much as 750 billion by 2040. The potential to share data both anonymized and personalized with third parties will monetize the various activities of riders.
The winning of market-share in this trillion-dollar space means delivering a rider experience that satisfies more than transportation needs. Social media integrated mobility would connect 2.23 billion monthly active users with Facebook alone. Adding social connection criteria to the heuristics for route determination is one way to approach mobility as a digital social health network.
Having identified a problem in society the team began the work of listening to potential users with the goal of verifying the need for a solution
We set standard interview goals for learning about people's wants and needs; asking what problems do they have, or is there a problem at all? How do they overcome it? And, have they used solutions similar to the what are planning.
- What’s the hardest part about meeting new people?
- How do you currently go about meeting new people and making new friends?
- How many times a month do you plan for and enjoy entertainment?
- How much time do you spend in one month researching and planning your entertainment?
- Do you participate in any social groups such as book clubs, hiking groups and the like?
- Where do you find it appropriate and comfortable to engage in light conversation with people you don’t know.
- Are you looking for a solution or alternative to the ways you meet new people and engage in activities?
- How often do you meet people in real life after meeting them online (not dating)?
- Tell me about the last time you had a great conversation with someone you did not know in a social setting.
Our interviews brought out discussion in the group about trust. We discussed Martha Nussbaum's observations about othering in social spaces. Our interview participants shared their sense of difficulty making connections and feeling a sense of belonging and relatedness. Kathryn Age: 22 told us, “It’s all hard. I don’t know how to meet new people. I don’t know how to make new friends. I just stick with the old friends from high school and college.” They reported a struggle for opportunities to engage in the activities Professor Nussbaum tells us are so important. Important for a society to remain stable and committed to democratic principles.
- Meetup was cited by participants as a bridge between the virtual weak-ties of social media and strong-ties of friends and family.
- People drive themselves to social engagements, and also report that making connection is easier with alcohol.
- People are concerned about safety embarrassment and discrimination in random social encounters.
To develop an application that changes behaviour we wanted to clearly define thriving in this context, identify the behaviours that support it, and design around those behaviours
To clarify the various ways a social networked transportation system could satisfy users needs, we defined our strategy as a process starting at the desired outcome, and flowing backward to the design solution. We organized our user interview feedback, domaine research, and team brainstorming sessions into spheres of impact with an affinity mapping process. These were our goals.
- Define the end state we are seeking
- Identify the user behaviors to change in order to achieve the end state
- Dig into the research around those behaviors and generate insights
- Design a solution based on what we learn
Our first attempts at working through this process were slow going, so we decided to write Jobs To Be Done job statements, which helped get the team oriented.
Our end state
What I need more than one feature or other is the social logic of a third space wherever i'm going, whenever I want it. Something more like everyday life with people who expect each other to be sociable and conversant whether there is a group, an event, or an activity involved or not.
The main job
( the task that customers want to achieve )
Escape routine, be out, and have fun.
The related job
( what users want to get done in conjunction with the main jobs to be done )
Care for social well-being and psychological
health by participating in events and activities.
The functional job
( the practical and objective customer requirements )
Find, plan, share and participate in events and activities.
The emotional job
( the subjective customer requirements related to feelings and perceptions )
Enjoy the company of those who live and work near me.
The personal job
( how the customer feels about the solution )
Experience a sense of belonging and relatedness through the finding of and sharing with others with common interests.
The social job
( how the customer feels they are seen by others while using the solution )
Feel valued for knowledge, skill, past experiences and personality.
The built environment provides little if any spaces where a social logic for gathering and mixing and socializing is expected. Escape from home-to-work-and-back routines often require more time that I have for finding, planning, and attending activities and events that satisfy these needs.
To meet and mix with people more than I do, and bring a greater sense of balance to life I need a service that helps me build community.
I don't do new and different things often enough to find the people and activities that I truly enjoy.
What I need more than one feature or other is the social logic of a third space wherever i'm going whenever I want it. Something more like everyday life with people who expect each other to be sociable and conversant whether there is a group, an event, or an activity involved or not.
I want to be able to make a selection and be in a social space with no planning, or participate in activities with others whenever I happen to want to go. I want to be able to also organize outings on the fly with friends and coworkers.
To begin working toward a user interface, we affinity mapped feedback from interviews, re-rote job statements, and set up a table in Notion to organize our findings and draw conclusions
Through affinity mapping, and the discussion surrounding the collection of insights, we were able to establish a list of design goals and begin to work out the user flows for each.
#1 The primary goal
- Overcome the social deficits of the built environment with a service that generates third spaces out of the natural sociability that is often felt where shared interests are present, or the goal is social activity in a third space.
How to support the goal
- Users need to have the option of entering a destination like a trailhead, cafe, or concert venue. Avoid forcing a selection by search from a database of options.
How should the limitations of use be established? For the platform to deliver on its primary goal it must limit destinations to places others may be going that are potential, or established third spaces.
#2 The secondary goal
- Overcome the the 90-9-1 phenomena of participation inequality in social media and online communities.
How to support the goal
- Make all platform traffic visible as anonymized users by default. Google's "Popular Times" meter is an example.
- Incentivise platform wide profile visibility of use with discounted rates. Charge more for exclusive group activities.
- Allow users to share their activity platform wide, with friends, or by invitation only.
How to balance user safety with the risks of platform wide visibility of participation and use? Make all accounts identity verified. Force identity verification via facial recognition prior to boarding in the same way Uber currently forces drivers to verify.
With our design objectives established we produced our first high level user-flow and medium fidelity wireframes for mobile
To present the concept I developed a desktop web-app prototype in Webflow representing the primary userflow and pages
To account of all pages in the site and prepare for prototyping I produced a complete sitemap. The taxonomy and depth of the site were structured to reduce cognitive load by separating the booking into discrete steps reducing friction the points that might prevent users from completing their task.
- The user makes a selection from task specific options
- A new page or modal opens
- The user searches for or browses and selects an event or activity
- A panel animates in from left
- The user chooses the visibility for their engagement and sends invites
- The form animates to the confirmation information and the task is complete, or the user returns to the previous step to make changes.
Reflections & Takeaways
Considering the explosion of new social media technologies, support for relatedness arguably defines a digital experience category that shapes our generation. Studies have shown that directed communication between pairs (i.e., wall posts, comments, and “likes”) is associated with greater feelings of bonding social capital and lower loneliness. The further goal of the application being developed here is to support improved directed communication, interpersonally in real life following from Nussbaum's arguments for the pursuit of the cultivation of specific emotions and people's opportunities to enter empathetically into the lives of others.
We know little about how online social networking can be leveraged to promote relatedness. In some online social networks, connections are made based on a shared interest, health condition, or goal. In contrast, other online social networks provide a context in which existing relationships can be leveraged for health promotion efforts. We know little about the nature of relationships formed in these different types of online social networks, how loose and tight social ties can be leveraged to promote behavior change, how socialization occurs in these venues, and how to encourage engagement.