Urbano: Presentation!

We got some great feedback during last week’s lecture. Thanks to everyone who contributed! Here are the highlights, courtesy of our representative, Birkan.

  • Buy a hotspot to solve the internet/network problem
  • If the internet is down for some reason, show a stream of photos from people who have participated before
  • Ask Urbano if they are willing to take care of the maintenance of PARTI (hardware, software)
  • Make the suitcase appealing. This is about using visual signifiers like putting stickers of places that the PARTI has been to before
  • Take PARTI to places where tourists do not visit, or talk to organizations who are doing “Emancipated City” related projects and display PARTI there (target audience is current residents)

With this feedback in mind, we launched into our second product iteration. We looked into purchasing the key components of our installation, mainly the screen and the suitcase. After hearing the opinions of the Urbano staff, we decided to go with a “vintage”-looking suitcase. And after some careful searching on eBay, we settled on a couple nice options.

Green Suitcase Orange suitcase

We also explored some different screen options, compared here.

Although our final presentation will be in powerpoint, here is a collaborative googledoc version for the blogpost.

Some updates and our presentation

Following one of the suggestions after our project proposal, we tried to simplify the logic tree of our hotline. The main idea is to eliminate any unnecessary complexity and focus on the messages we want to convey.

Douglas has done some draft drawings that will be part of the visual identity of our project. We also talked to our developers at TerraVoz in order to get their feedback on the project specifications.

This week will be busy!

Tomorrow, we are going to present the evolution of our project so far. You can check our presentation here:


We will probably tweak the slides before the Codesign Studio class but the main ideas are there.

Our NuLawLab partners will have their final official session on Wednesday at 6 pm at Northeastern University. They will be presenting their research on domestic workers’ rights and some new material related to the MA Bill of Rights.

On Thursday, we are going to record some sample episodes at Brazilian Immigrant Center (BIC) with a small group of domestic workers.

Week 8 Class at City Life/Vida Urbana


CLVU organizer handing a bank tenant association member the sword to fight her foreclosure.


Marshall Cooper shows a poster he used at a recent protest.


A new member shares her story for the first time at CLVU.

We had an amazing class at City Life/ Vida Urbana in which we were able to participate in a portion of the organization’s weekly Boston Bank Tenant Association meeting.  This meeting is open to anyone who is facing foreclosure or eviction or anyone who is supportive of those who are and wants to help with the cause. At the meeting, CLVU organizers discussed with members and new participants next steps for specific cases and appropriate advocacy strategies, which combines direct action and public pressure on the banks (the Sword) and legal defense and advocacy (the Shield).

Halfway through the meeting, our class met separately with two bank tenant association members: Marshall Cooper and Ken Tilton, who generously shared their stories with us. We were touched by how Marshall, Ken, and City Life welcomed our class into their space and treated us as part of the organization.  Reflecting on the experience, students later explained what struck them about it:

  • Moving stories of people’s experience at CLVU
  • The power of collective intake
  • Creative methods for generating and sharing ideas
  • The ability of the organization to draw out vulnerabilities and build a supportive group environment
  • The facilitation skills of CLVU organizers and their ability to manage such an emotionally-charged space

Photos by Sofia Campos

Change the Game!

In this past week’s meeting at City Life, fragmented ideas snowballed into one cohesive game plan. We solidified three games — cornhole, disc drop and knockdown the 1% — and attached data points to them. We are still developing a few more to playtest to make sure the ones we end up choosing each tell part of the overall story we are trying to convey and are engaging to a broader audience. We also decided that we would no longer build a video game, but create an interactive prezi presentation that tells the overall story of the housing crisis and will be part of our toolkit. We further decided that we would actually have the carnival at the end of the semester at City Life. We believe that if our end product is a toolkit, it is imperative that we document the success of our own carnival to gain buy-in and legitimacy for what we hope others will create. We plan to hire a videographer to film the event and include the video in our toolkit to demonstrate what a successful carnival could look like.

Lastly, we decided that the narrative of the carnival would be, ‘CHANGE THE GAME.’ Participants will first enter a space that tells the story of our current rigged housing market — where there are few winners and many losers. This space will reflect what an actual carnival is like. After participants play all of the games in the dark carnival space, they will enter a space that provides a vision of what a fair housing system could look like. Participants will get the chance to learn about more radical initiatives taking place, as well as what more moderate initiatives could look like, and think through how those solutions (and new ones they come up with!) could be implemented to CHANGE THE GAME. We are still figuring out how best to convey this — is it through solutions games or focus groups or theatre, or a combination of all three?

On Saturday, we were able to get 50 minutes in CL/VU’s leadership meeting to have members playtest the two games Dave (a carpenter and member) created to get feedback on what worked and didn’t work. It was really helpful to do this because, as we learned, ‘Knockdown the 1%’ did not work as we had hoped — it was too complicated and the message wasn’t very clear. So, back to the drawing board! However, cornhole was a success — players and observers really took to the game and gave us great feedback on how to make it even better. We are continuing to develop new games, so, hopefully, we will be able to playtest the new games that we create soon!



Reflections, and Moving Forward

Based on comments we have received following our first product iteration. We have compiled a list of the three most important and general issues for us to consider in developing our 2nd iteration:

1. Which parts of our proposal we will pursue in the time period of this class? Who will be collaborating, and how will each partner contribute (what inputs will be provided by who?)

2. How will this be promoted?

3. Logic Tree complexity

After some initial discussion, though still not completely solidified, we have concluded that we will be aiming to produce 3 final products: A logic tree to be used in the implementation of the hotline, the characters and episode content for the hotline, and corresponding SMS message updates for subscribed users.  We will not, however, be focusing on the promotion and implementation of the hotline, as that would be project outside the scope of this class.  Lastly, one of our main goals in regards to  the hotline logic tree is to maximize simplicity. Through integration with SMS message updates, we hope to significantly remove any unnecessary confusion and complexity from the system.


From reflections on possible paths toward failure. We have also come across issues involving confusion, offensiveness, relatability,  skepticism, in regards to our episodes and characters.  Hopefully, through collaboration with BIC and from user input we will eliminate these possible breaking points.  Overall, we felt this exercise was very enlightening, as it’s  easy to forget or ignore problems in each other’s designs, and being forced to acknowledge them will really help us create a sturdy and well thought-out product.

Mobile Radio Design Meeting with Zumix Youth

The goal of our meeting at Zumix on November 4th was to work with a team of Zumix youth to narrow down a few physical design ideas and functions for the mobile streaming radio. To recap, the aim of the mobile streaming radio is to 1) live stream Zumix radio shows, 2) bring attention of people in the Zumix space and at Zumix events to the radio, 3) provide information about the radio such as show times and ways to get involved.

There was great turnout for the design event. 14 youth showed up and represented a wide range of ages and musical interests. After eating pizza and getting comfortable, we started by doing introductions since some of the youth were new to the group.  Their descriptions of their radio shows were lively, and it was clear that many of them brought a lot of energy to their radio shows and that they are very invested in the music or talk-radio topic. We heard about Valentino’s show about video games, and his radio persona as the “Butter-God”. We also heard about another love-themed show that focused on the soul music of Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, and others.

After doing introductions and recapping the progress we have made so far, we jumped right into a brainstorm of how the mobile radio will look, and how the functions will be integrated into the look. We encouraged the youth to think beyond the radio looking like a radio and encouraged them to think of it as a sculpture that represents East Boston, Zumix, or something else that they identify with. Some of the ideas from this initial brainstorm were a guitar, dragon, panda bear, East Boston skyline, a cheesebox, a jukebox, and a drumset. We then instructed the youth to draw out their ideas. Their drawings ranged from rough sketches to very detailed maps of the design, and also the functional elements such as volume control or scrolling text screens to give updates on shows. The youth then presented their drawings to the larger group.

After the presentations we asked if people wanted to form groups around ideas that they liked, and we narrowed the design ideas down to four designs: a jukebox, a ‘flying-Z’ guitar, a Dalmatian (tied to the fact that Zumix is in a firehouse!), and an arrow shot through a knee (an inside joke amongst some Zumix DJs). The youth then had a half hour to create 3D models of their ideas by using cardboard, tape, markers, and scissors. It was great to see the youth making decisions about the designs for their cardboard prototypes. I was impressed that the groups were able to get contributions from most of their members, and that one person didn’t seem to dominate the group’s design (except for Valentino who was the only person working on the arrow-through-the-knee design). We wrapped up with a presentation of the 3D models, and through this process the ideas of how the radio will look, feel, and function became much more material. Because of this, we were able to conclude the meeting with a sense of accomplishment and excitement around building the real radio.

We debriefed after clean up and after the youth left, and we felt the meeting was successful on a few levels. First, the meeting started and ended on time, so we were able to generally keep the young people’s attention and get through the agenda successfully.  Secondly, folks got to know each other better and find out more about the codesign class, MIT, and Zumix. Lastly, youth were able to make collective decisions on a few final designs and then model those designs. We will still need to narrow it down to one final design, or meld a few designs, but at least we are well past the brainstorming phase and getting close to the final build.

To get a better sense of how the meeting was organized, take a look at the agenda:

6 – 6:15 pm : Food and Welcome

  • Eat some pizza and get comfortable!

  • Icebreaker activity (if we have enough time)

6:15 – 6:30 pm : Recap

  • Recap the work that had been done so far on co-design project

  • Discuss brainstorm of design ideas for mobile radio

6:30 – 7 pm : Brainstorm Design Ideas for Mobile Radio

  • Decide whether you want to brainstorm in a group or individually

  • Draw out your ideas on paper (don’t worry it can be messy!!!)

7 – 7:15 pm : Share Ideas with Whole Group

  • Share your design ideas with the larger group

  • Discuss all the ideas and collectively decide on 1-3 design ideas for the mobile radio that we want to make a reality

7:15 – 8 pm: Build a Cardboard Prototype

  • Decide which design idea you like the most, and form a group with others that like the same idea

  • Make a 3D version of the mobile radio idea by using cardboard, tape, and markers

The PARTI Stamp of Approval

On Friday, some of our team visited Urbano to show Stella and Risa our first project iteration, which highlighted our suitcase proposal design for PARTI as described in our blog post from last week. It seems we got a preliminary stamp of approval, and Urbano has expressed how they’d like our team to not only design, but also build a prototype of our project installation. At this meeting, we devised the following flow of actions a potential user would take when interacting with our installation:

1a. Watch 1-2 minute long intro video created by Urbano students about Urbano and the year-long Emancipated City theme with thought-provoking, community-specific information.

1b. While an instructional animation plays, users create their own response to what they just saw, using the pens/papers/craft supplies supplied in the suitcase.

2. The user photographs a reply, optionally entering email/twitter handle to get a copy of the picture and/or to sign up for an Urbano mailing list.

3. PARTI posts the photograph social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

4. The user may choose to take their artistic creation with them, to place it in a receptacle in the suitcase, or to hang it up on a foldable display that comes with the PARTI installation.

The proposed action flow prompted several questions that we need to finalize answers for before next week.

  • We need to work out a more concrete use flow

    • When do they watch the video? – Maybe a “press me” button? or incorporate a proximity sensor that triggers the video to play when a person is near?

    • When do they make their reply? – At the end of the video, we could have a screen that asks the user if they want to share their Imagined City, if so, press a button and an instructional video will play

  • What hardware makes sense (Android? Windows? Tablet? What capabilities does it need?)

    • Needs – simple input/output (press a button, play a video), picture taking abilities, video recording abilities, can connect to the Internet and send picture and video files

  • Do schools/libraries/other sites have wifi or should we provide that?

    • Need to look into the cost of creating our own wireless hotspot

  • What is in the box besides the hardware?

    • art supplies

    • stand or support or some foldable organizational structure

    • theft prevention (like a tether)

    • wifi capabilities (optional)

    • space to hold a foldable display board

  • How are physical artifacts (the responses) displayed/saved or is it just digital?

    • users could either take their picture with them, post it on a foldable bulletin board, or place it in the suitcase

  • How does this integrate with Urbano’s new site?

We put together the following schedule and general task allocations for the coming week before the second project iteration is due as well as planning for the final project iteration and presentation.

  • 11/4:   Buy materials

  • 11/11: Assemble

  • 11/18: Put together content, including video

  • 11/25: Document the PARTI

  • 12/3:   Present the PARTI

The role of data

After we did our first project iteration, we realized that we had stepped away from the fundamental reason why we connected carnival games to the housing market: they are both rigged with the appearance of being fair. What we had started to do was to create rigged games that were obviously unfair (see the last post about CLVU). Not only is that no fun, but it does not invite understanding of the rigged nature of the housing market.

So in our second project iteration, we decided to go back to the original idea of regular carnival games and really apply our thinking around how to connect the unfairness of the game to the unfairness of the housing market and capitalism in general. To do this, we decided to connect the games to real statistics and data. As a team we knew that data would play a role in supporting our narrative – the questions was always how. We didn’t want the data to drive our narrative – the facts and data about foreclosures and housing have always been on our side. The dominant narratives that exist in society however make it hard to accept and digest numbers that don’t fit the frames we already believe. For example, you really believe it is the fault of the people who can’t afford their mortgages that they lose their homes, a simply citing a data point that says otherwise – citing predatory lending, the racial disparities, etc., for example, won’t normally change your mind.

We believe, however, that pairing statistics with the experience of the game – will allow for a “psychic break” if you will. When people are confronted with the sad fact that they can’t win the game along with the reality of the statistic, we hope that a deeper understanding of the way the system works can be reached. For example, we thought to assign different holes in the cornhole game with a dollar amount and make the goal to accumulate a certain total dollar value. This will be difficult, as most carnival games tend to be [but, hopefully also really fun!]. At the end, we will reveal that the total amount they should have accumulated is equal to the total amount of rent for a 2-bedroom in Boston. Boom. Shock. & Awe. [+Fun in a way]. The power of the statistic will come from the narrative under which it is presented – i.e., the undeniably difficult, rigged, and unfair, carnival games.

We will update with pictures of our second iteration as soon as possible. Looking forward to feedback from everyone!

CLVU First Project Iteration

In Tuesday’s class meeting, our team was given time to workshop our project.  Following Aditi’s advice, we used the points generated in our first meeting with the “They Say, We Say” exercise, to get ideas for specific carnival games.  In groups of four, our classmates suggested ideas for games that would address these points.  One team member shadowed each group and took notes.

Our team met privately on Thursday to present the ideas to each other and pick which ones to use.  We also discussed the possibility of creating a digital game, and Mike showed us a great example one.  We took some time to brainstorm independently before discussing the strengths and weaknesses of different ideas.  Eventually we settled on a list of four live games, and shared some thoughts on possibilities for a digital game.

The team made important progress this week.  We have decided to create a carnival toolkit rather than produce a live carnival.  To test and perfect each game, we will facilitate a series of focus groups.  When the games are finalized we will create supporting graphic material, guidelines and instructions, and make these available online so that the games can be replicated anywhere.  The digital game will serve as a way to popularize and introduce our carnival to a national audience.  It will appear on the CLVU website, along with a link to the carnival toolkit.

At our next meeting we will discuss remaining concerns both about how to engage users and how to effectively demonstrate the key lessons behind each game.

Below are rough models for the four live games.





Ring Toss:

Ring Toss

Knock Down the 1%:  In this game, the goal will be to knock down a stack of milk jugs, the twist being that one or more of them is glued to the table.  Anyone can play, but the 1% will always win this rigged game!