The Value of Impermanence in Design

Designers should consider the balance between documentation and impermanence and ask what is permanent versus what is ephemeral?

Christopher Previte
Associate Professor
Franklin Pierce University

Many spaces on the web (social media, photo sharing, genealogy sites, etc.) ask us to document so much of our lives. From photographic evidence of what we eat and who we are with to digital dog-ears of our favorite music, political leanings, and familial connections, we willingly and slavishly create collections in an effort to connect with each other and prove that we matter. There is an implied permanence to these collections and they are used as currency in maintaining social hierarchy and relationships. This reliance on documentation creates an imbalance and denies the value of impermanence.

Buddhists, for example, believe that impermanence brings us hope and embodies the spirit of freedom and shatters the concept of predestination. Science teaches us that old cells in our bodies die and yield place continuously to the new ones that are forming. Technically speaking, no individual is ever composed of the same amount of energy. Impermanence and change are thus the undeniable and essential truths of our existence.

Therefore, while online culture and mobile connectivity continues to grow, it must also evolve. 

Designers should consider the balance between documentation and impermanence and ask what is permanent versus what is ephemeral? Snapchat, for example, sought to convey what made face to face conversation special. The notions of impressions and deletion by default were baked into its user experience. At its best, user experience design focuses on the intangible and speaks to concepts such as atmosphere, personality, familiarity, and comfort—remembering that “users” are, in fact, humans. Given that, should not more research and discussion be dedicated to finding that balance and uncovering the value of impermanence?

Here we will begin that discussion and ways we can incorporate it into our design practice.

Art, Interaction and Narrative in Virtual Reality

Slavica Ceperkovic
Professor
Seneca College

This artist presentation will present a case study on how different user models of interaction shape narrative experiences in virtual reality landscape environments. The three models that will be explored are guided experiences, embodied task interaction, and companion based virtual reality interactions.

Designing Immersive Experiences with Empathy

Ed Johnston
Assistant Professor
Michael Graves College
Robert Busch School of Design
Kean University

One essential component in the vast majority of design thinking methodologies is the importance of empathy. As designers, we have the opportunity to understand and share the feelings of another, articulate pain points within a situation and develop solutions to those pain points.

With the emergence of mobile virtual reality and augmented reality, designers can begin to develop novel solutions to some daunting and exciting questions. What if we could help someone travel through time to the past and see things as they once were? What if we could transport someone into a space, which they cannot reach? What if we could help distract someone from feeling chronic pain or loneliness?

I have been working with students and creative researchers on projects to respond to some of these questions. In my Liberty Hall 360 research initiative, I have been using immersive technologies, including 360-degree video and augmented reality, to address a variety of needs within Liberty Hall Museum. These needs include accessibility and enrichment of the museumgoer’s experience to feel a stronger sense of presence within historic moments.
In this presentation, I will share the development of my collaborative projects and some inspirational projects by other creative researchers, which are establishing the experiential and therapeutic significance of the application of immersive technologies. In addition, I will put forth an argument for the importance of incorporating immersive technologies into design education curricula.

Worry Quest: Adventure Games for Fighting Anxiety

Matthew Bambach
MFA candidate, Graphic Design
Maryland Institute College of Art

Worry Quest is an app that helps fill gaps in mental health care experienced by young adults. It uses joy and technology to combat anxiety with simple, proven, psychotherapy techniques. The app lets youth envision themselves as a hero and their anxieties as a personalized monster. From there, they can choose between three different therapy adventures to “defeat their demons,” depending on how they prefer to cope with their own anxiety. Users are directed through a rousing dialogue with their “anxiety demon” and are rewarded along the way with pleasant visuals, sounds, and animations upon completing both tactile and self-reflective activities.

Activities in the app have been conceptualized from participatory research prompts, and are backed by approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Narrative Therapy, humor and mindfulness practice. The app continues to be developed in consultation with public input, beta testers, and mental health professionals. The app blends information design, interaction design, motion design, game design, user research and cognitive science—accessible through a device that nearly every millennial uses every day. By doing so, Worry Quest will help youth contextualize negative thoughts in an empowering way that affirms psychological agency and encourages positive self-care.
Abstract
Design Incubation Colloquium