My ongoing MFA thesis exploration: how we might balance our digital life with our real, in-person experiences?

Cell phones have become an essential part of who we are. We carry them everywhere, they contain our friends, personalities and secrets. When we’re uncomfortable or bored, they’re the object we rely on for entertainment and distraction. However, I believe this connectedness to technology, for all its benefits, also carries some cost.

How might we balance the relationship between our constant internet connectedness and our friends and family? Primarily, our distractions have become smartphones, but we often multitask between in-person interactions and screens of all sizes many times a day. As we devise ever more use, exciting and addictive devices, I believe that it’s important to reflect on how these tools affect how people interact with each other in person.

See up to the minute thesis progress on my tumblr!

Thesis Advisor: Scott Minneman.

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I first framed my space through long-form interviews.
I also conducted research into the current scientific thinking on multitasking, distraction, and interface design.

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Design charrette: managing expectations through priming.
Text-based messaging now tends to carry an expectation of immediate response. In a future mobile OS that understood your availability through your calendar, location, etc, people sending messages would have a better understanding of how quickly to expect a response. When the bar is tapped, more explanation is given of the recipient’s status, as well as other options for contact.

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Design charrette: what kind of mobile use is ok between friends?
Joining some friends at a local bar, I asked them to have a conversation about what they found appropriate when it comes to using phones in social settings. The discussion was lively and enlightening. After this experiment I knew that mobile use in social settings was the direction I wanted to continue my exploration.

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Cocoon: a first app concept to help manage distractions between friends.
My app development is still in progress, but Cocoon was my first more fully resolved concept. I presented this idea during my mid-February open review in order to solicit feedback on my thesis direction.

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Bluetooth low energy beacons discover which of your friends is near.
Using BLE, Cocoon beacons check everyone into a local area. This area could be as wide as a 30-50ft radius, or as small as a family dining room. This allows contracts to easily be created between co-located friends or family.

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Create a mutual Contract that will help you and your friends focus!
My app development is still in progress, but Cocoon was my first more fully resolved concept. I presented this idea during my mid-February open review in order to solicit feedback on my thesis direction.

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I mapped the process flows and steps to understand how my users will get through the app.

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In process work.
I’m currently working on the second iteration of my ideas surrounding the management of mobile access through smartphones. These are a few of my latest story boards.

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Discovery of Bubble
My second iteration is called Bubble. Social connectors like Mary would discover the Bubble ecosystem and realize how it might enrich their social gatherings.

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Bubble for business.
Another intriguing application of Bubble is for business to create a lasting and device-managed relationship with regular customers.