- Idea cards to add a new object to our community of objects. Idea cards had to be filled with the name of the object and the reason for adding it to our community.
- “Good idea” cards to encourage an existing idea and add a story to support the suggested object.
- “That makes me think about…” cards to continue upon an idea and for example suggest a better object to represent the same idea. (I turned out people also used these cards to tell personal stories about other ideas).
Engaging people in the structured conversationWe approached people who walked past our stand. A typical conversation would start with the polite question to help us come up with new ideas for our community of objects and an explanation of the project.
In my experience almost everybody was willing to participate, even without explaining the object they would get in return. This gift, however, especially convinced younger participants. After having explained the project:
- About half of the people started to think about a new idea to add to the wall immediately. Later at the day, when most obvious ideas had been posted, these people sometimes changed to one of the 2 other groups explained below. The first group mostly posted idea cards, sometimes elaborating upon an earlier idea with a “nice idea” card.
- About a third of the people went to have a look at the wall with existing ideas and the conversation about them. These people would be most likely to continue upon the conversation with a “good idea” or “that makes me think about…” card.
- A small percentage of the people started to tell a personal story about one of the existing ideas or simply a personal story. After encouragement, most of these people would add their story to the corresponding idea with a “that makes me thing about…” card. If the story was unrelated to any object, they would post a new idea or think about another story to add to an existing idea.
- A really small percentage of the people could not come up with anything at all. Quite some of them would return later to post an idea after having thought about it for a while.
After concluding the interaction, some people would encourage others to participate. Also, many participants started personal conversations with us about the other objects and their story.
The outcome of the structured conversationOver the course of the weekend visitors posted about 250 conversation cards. I didn’t count all of them, but after having looked through them, I guess about 50% were idea cards, about 35% “that makes me think about…” cards and the rest “good idea” cards.
There were some 10 conversations with 3 or more responses to an original idea. The longest conversation started with a cheese slicer (symbol of the economical Dutch), turned into a heated debate about the advantages of a cheese slicer to an ordinary knife, to give the idea to represent our “Dutchness” with an untranslatable object, the “flessenlikker” (bottle-licker) and then into a conversation about how product design in Holland has changed to make the use of this device impossible.
On an average, interaction with an individual or small group lasted from 5 to 10 minutes. Our main challenge now is to translate these wonderful conversations to an online representation that encourages conversation as the paper version did.
Every participant left us with a smile, even though it was raining cats and dogs at times. Quite some wonderful stories were lost as in the lively personal conversations we had with participants, not everything could be captured by pen and paper. The results of the weekend were amazing, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in my opinion.
I think it is quite possible to translate the Signtific Game to a real-life experience. In next editions I would try to focus more on the “good idea” and “that makes me think about…” cards and encouraging people to use these. Also, I would like to try to turn the process around: starting with the personal stories and turning the conversation towards objects. This would give the community of objects its roots in the stories of people, which in my opinion is a strong starting point for even more interesting conversations.