Design Sprint #1: Designing Public Conversations Live Stop Impounded Car Windshield
What follows is the documentation of a week long design sprint-- an attempt to create a public conversation about a relevant issue in a specific space in the city of Philadelphia.
Vrouyr Joubanian & Jordan Shade
Contents Process: Observation, Brainstorming, Visualization, Research, User Scenario, Prototype, Testing Concept Description, Audience Description, Reflection
Process: Observation Tasked with designing a conversation in a public place addressing a site-specific issue, we set out immediately to walk Philadelphia and become more acquainted with its outdoor areas. We observed neighborhoods in South Philadelphia, including the Italian Market, and walked Passyunk Avenue. We were struck by the severity of the weather. The bitter cold and wind made our walk almost painful. We noticed a distinct lack of pedestrians.
To create a successful channel for a conversation and engage the public, people would have to feel comfortable in the space, and at ease enough to allow themselves the leisure time of taking pause for a few moments and commit to the engagement.
Process: Brainstorming The weather inspired us to a brainstorming session geared towards creating a cozy, warm area for pedestrians to pause and converse. We considered the issue of homelessness, and what winter implies for those without access to heat. We thought about offering sporadic sources of heat to the public in hopes of igniting a conversation about resources, heat, energy, and poverty via sensory awareness.
Process: Inquiry After visualizing some scenarios on whiteboards, we went back into the field to test some of our initial ideas about providing heat in specific areas. We had been interested in the idea of a bus stop, as a place where people are forced to stand still for a length of time and are exposed to the cold weather.
We also consulted with a student electrician on the feasibility of our idea to power the outdoor heaters with stationary bicycles. This idea came from our desire to connect the source of power with those enjoying the warmth, creating a possible channel for engagement via a kind act.
Process: Brainstorming After reviewing the logistics of our idea, and re-visting the bus stops, we decide to observe some other areas of the city, let our first idea go, and take our project in a new direction. Back in the studio, after visiting Rittenhouse Square and walking Market Street, we draw affinity maps and brainstorm more ideas on city issues, conversation, and connectedness. While the cold weather is keeping many Philadelphians inside, we still observe the homeless people we see everyday outside in their usual spots, braving the harsh weather without the option of shelter. Many citizens ignore homeless strangers, and we wonder what a candid conversation between a homeless person and a someone on their way to work might look like.
One interest we have concerning the issue we will address is to make it something provocative or controversial. We see people who walk with purpose, and have little time to take pause. We also know our intervention will be competing with a lot of other stimuli: advertisements, store fronts, smart phones, etc.
By walking around the city we're reminded of how one can feel like a stranger in their home city where hardly anyone makes eye-contact or says hello to their fellow pedestrians. We brainstorm people who might feel especially vulnerable or lonely, and how we might design a conversation through motivational messages from strangers.
What is a conversation? How direct or indirect can the exchange of messages be? How intimate should the messages be? We look at different communicative technologies from landlines to Skype and think about how we might employ them in our project.
Process: A Personal Anecdote After thinking about what might interest Philadelphians, and what also could be considered controversial, Jordan told Vrouyr a story about her car getting impounded by the Live Stop Program. The issue of the Philadelphia Parking Authority is one that gets car-driving Philadelphians talking. The PPA tows tens of thousands of cars a year, and charges hefty fines for towing and storing an impounded vehicle. We latched onto this idea as one the would grab people's attention, even in winter weather, as they walk the city.
The PPA has such a strong presence in Philadelphia that A&E shows a reality show about the PPA interacting with Philadelphians.
PPD are required to tow vehicles with outdated registration on site.
The PPA can auction off impounded cars if owners are unable to visit traffic court and raise funds to retrieve their car after 30 days. While impounded, vehicles are marked with an identification tag in the upper corner of the windshield.
We took this story and started sketching out ideas of what kind of channel we might design to invite a conversation about the Live Stop Program. We focused in on the concept of the windshield as an artifact of the experience. The identification tags are so unique, that we thought that by re-creating this visual we could give pedestrians a cue to discuss Live Stop, and the relationship our city has with the PPA.
Process: Research We looked up the exact laws surrounding the Live Stop Program on the PPD's website, and found that officers are not allowed to exercise judgement in these situations. If a vehicle's registration is out of date, the car must be towed by the PPA. Blogs and articles across the web shared stories of frustrated citizens citing everything from the Constitution to Civil Rights to law suites. These small movements or protests were all short-lived, without new information since the year they were conceived. We couldn't find any real forum for people to share their stories and exasperations concerning this issue. The PPA's website broke down the different fees associated with impounding and towing. Live Stop vehicle owners pay $175 for the tow, and $25/day of impoundment. This does not include fines paid to Traffic Court.
Process: User Scenario Live Stop Impounded Car Windshield User Scenario
Looks like the impound ID markings
City Hall Have you ever had your car impounded? That Live Stop rule is rough...
Yeah, you know my cousin's car got towed once...I wonder if....
To aid our prototype design, and over all concept development, we drew a rough user scenario to imagine how users might interact with our installation. We chose City Hall as our specific site for its imposing structure, reference to government, and foot traffic. We also discussed creating some wearable buttons, as another channel for conversation. We liked the idea of a take-away artifact that the user could wear, and how the button, another visual cue, could prompt others to ask the user questions about the PPA, or Live Stop, or their experience.
For our prototype we stopped by a local salvage yard for a used windshield, and designed a frame that would hold it at the angle and height as it would be in a car, to ensure that our audience would recognize this visual representation. We also created nine different buttons with slogans ranging from "Support the PPA" to "Fix Live Stop" to "The PPA Stole My Car." After researching Live Stop online, we recognized that there was some support for the regulation, and that people's feelings surrounding this law are complex. We wanted to offer our audience the chance to customize their experience with a button representing their feelings, not ours.
We purchased paint pens with a similar look to those used by the PPA on vehicle windshields and tied them to the structure. We built a simple cardboard stand to hold the buttons and give some simple instructions. The signage informed the reader of our concept description, the official PPD description of Live Stop, and a note to share feelings, stories and ideas on the windshield.
The Live Stop Impounded Car Windshield offers an outlet for residents of Philadelphia who have shared the experience of being stopped by police officers, had their car towed on site by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and spent rigorous time and money to reclaim their vehicle from the city. A law in Philadelphia that is considered by many to be a broad-stroke without room for individual consideration, or
of thousands of cars per year. By providing a dynamic forum for sharing stories and ideas, using the iconic imagery of the scrawling identification numbers written on impounded vehicles' windshields, we hope encourage proactive conversation at City Hall, the seat of Philadelphia government, where the futility of citizens' previous actions and lack of overall input on this matter are striking.
In the center of City Hall, a striking yet familiar installation of a car windshield will be on display, inviting Philadelphian residents to write stories, thoughts, or feelings in the milky white colored ink that marks a vehicle impounded by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The many citizens who have personal stories surrounding this issue can gather and take another badge of impoundment - a small pin with one of several slogans describing
their experience with the Live Stop program. Our audience are those members of the community who desire a more specific rewriting of this program and law concerning un-registered vehicles and their immediate seizure.
Interaction with the installation was varied. Some citizens simply stopped and read the signage and windshield. Others immediately recognized the windshield and its identification tag and wrote their own Live Stop story. Some people just wrote inspirational messages, or shared something about themselves, disregarding the subject of Live Stop all together.
Live Stop Sucks Stop 2 times 1,500 One day my mom CAR got taken and it cost 100 on the day and 25 on the next 2 tickets same day. Same reason. 5 min apart. i never even saw the 1st. #Brokecollegestudent I never had and don't have a carâ€Ś But now I have a button and PPA will never, SHALL never take that away from me! The PPA = Modern Taxation without Representation -J. Adams "Laws are irrelevant.. They are creations of manâ€Ś To serve those in power" Will and action overcomes disparity. My grandmother car wouldn't start and the second my grandfather got it working and moving they took the car he was w/o license My home was stolen by the bank and they are stilling homes in Philly illegally. My car was towed for bad inspection and cost $1300 to get and so I let them keep it
What we saw: • People eagerly shared their Live Stop stories and frustrations with the PPA. • Some people did not recognize the prompt in subject matter and simply wrote on the glass. • Some people took the visual cues to mean that the PPD were involved in the project, and therefore avoided the installation. • WHYY Philadelphia covered the event, staying on site for over an hour, and publishing a story online.
What we learned: • The installation began to fill a need for expressing feelings surrounding this issue. • Pedestrians wrote stories, and read each others, took buttons, and participated in a public conversation about Live Stop. • The signage should be larger and maybe more clear in its instruction in future iterations. • WHYY's story spurred several online comments: a continuation of this public conversation.
Vrouyr Joubanian & Jordan Shade