Change the HOUSING Game — Case Study

Thanks for providing the opportunity to work with such an incredible organization here in Boston! It was a long and, at times, tiring process, but we really enjoyed designing the carnival games with CL/VU. We really thought through the ideas presented in the case study to ensure we were accurately translating the complex realities of the housing market into easy-to-understand and fun carnival games. We welcome and appreciate any feedback that would strengthen the games created. Look out for the carnival come spring!

Case Study:

Abstract:This past semester, MIT city planning students and the founder and director of Intelligent Mischief collaborated with City Life/Vida Urbana (CL/VU), a tenant rights organization in Boston, as part of the co-design class within the Media Lab at MIT. The goal of the project was to tie together CL/VU’s three campaigns: Anti-Gentrification, Anti-Foreclosure, and Anti-Investor. To tie the three campaigns together, we came up with the idea of creating a carnival that would help educate people around the complexities and profound flaws of the housing market. The carnival games highlight issues of affordability, displacement, inequitable urban development, gentrification, and foreclosure.

Claro que Sí – Case Study

Hi gang,

As Birkan said, it was awesome to see the work everybody has done.


In January, we are going to continue our work with REV- and BIC. Please feel free to test our hotline  617-702-2395. Any comments are much appreciated!

You will find below our case study (and also our final presentation).


This project was born as a response to the deliberate legal exclusion of domestic workers from basic government oversight and protection.  Building from the previously successful, New Day New Standard project by REV- in New York State, we hoped to use the principles of co-design to (1) simplify hotline navigation and (2) implement an additional SMS subscription service for more effective communication.

Case Study:

Our presentation today:

Thank you all for a great class!

Hey guys,

Unfortunately, I missed class today because I was at the reception/fundraiser for the Urbano Project, representing our team with Emily. However, I took a look at the Prezi that Willow prepared and thought that all the teams did a great job (I wish I was there to listen to all of you present). Long story short: I want to thank Sasha, Aditi, Becky, Rodrigo, Willow, all the community partners, and all of the students taking the class! It was a great experience where I learned a lot about co-design.



Here are some pictures from tonight’s event at the State Street:

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‘Flying Z’ Assembly and Last Workshop with Zumix Youth DJs

Assembling the Flying Z

A big technical portion of our work this week was fabricating and assembling the outer casing for the Flying Z, which Carrie and Qian were in charge of. There were some delays because we first had to order more acrylic sheets for the base that we decided to add to the structure. We also had some trouble getting access to a laser cutter, but we were able to find one at the last minute. We finished laser cutting out all of the acrylic pieces based on the CAD model that Carrie created. Then, we brought the laser cut pieces back to the maker space in our dorm to assemble and fit all of the pieces together to make the final structure. This process involved hot gluing pieces together, and filing and chiseling pieces for smoothness. We were quite happy with how our assembled structure turned out!

We made an Instructable that has more details on this!!!

Painting and Prepping the Flying Z

Courtney picked up the casing that Carrie and Qian had assembled and took it back to her place for some sanding and base-painting. Because the casing and the paint that we’re using are both acrylic, we needed to sand the pieces so that the paint would be able to stick to the surface. Otherwise, it could just peel right off after it dried. It took an hour or so to sand all of the pieces and then another couple of hours (or the length of time it takes to watch MUD and Zero Effect) to paint the items. Two coats were applied Saturday night; two more coats on Sunday; one final coat on Monday morning. The yellow paint was relatively translucent and required thick application. The blue and the black were easier; the black amp only required two coats in total.

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We’re currently having issues with the colors we selected. Lucia, our ZUMIX staff team mate, has informed us that other ZUMIX staff think that the yellow clashes with the current paint on the walls at ZUMIX and that the blue guitar and black amp clash. We’re hoping to resolve these issues tonight during our final workshop with the youth (see how that exciting dilemma turns out by continuing to read the next section!). Based on these issue and the experience of sanding and prepping the acrylic, it’s recommended that others trying to work with acrylics and paint choose their paint colors wisely (the darker, the better – or at least “the easier”). Also think very carefully about who else needs to weigh in on the color choice. The color scheme we have now is a direct reflection of the youth DJs’ design. These decisions were made as a group during our previous workshop, but it’s obvious now that ZUMIX staff should have been consulted. They do, after all, share the space where the radio will reside.

Recap of Decorating Workshop

We had a meeting with nine youth DJs to present the assembled ‘Flying Z’ to them, and to decorate the casing. We started the meeting by showing the DJs pictures and videos on how Carrie and Qian cut and assembled the Flying Z. They had questions about how long it took, how the laser cuts the acrylic, and the assembly process. We also passed around the laptop so that the youth could individually scan through the pictures and video to get a better sense of how the casing was assembled. Courtney also talked a bit about sanding the casing and applying the base coats (which was a very time consuming process!)

Many of the youth liked how the the casing turned out in terms of its shape, but had various opinions on the color scheme. Some thought that the colors would clash with other colors in the space, while others felt that the colors were good for grabbing attention. After getting comments on the casing, we transitioned to the main part of the meeting: getting youth to take the images that they printed out or drew and organize how they will be laid out on the casing. Lucia printed a lot of pictures of musicians for the youth to use, and over the course of the meeting they also found images online to use. We cut out cardboard panels for the youth to lay out drafts of their panels before actually glueing the images to the casing. This process took a lot longer than we thought it would. 1-2 youth chose to focus on one of the 8 panels of the radio (front, back, two panels on the left, two panels on the right, top, and guitar neck). Their choices of images in the collages reflected their musical interests, included images of Zumix youth and staff, and referenced inside jokes amongst the youth DJs.

Since the process of organizing the collaged images took a lot longer than we thought, we didn’t have enough time to actually glue the images onto the Flying Z. Moreover, Lucia and other Zumix staff felt that the yellow color on the guitar clashed with the space, and want to paint it silver. We came to the conclusion that we won’t have all the collage panels done for Tuesday, but that Lucia will complete the top panel collage so that the class can get a taste of what the final product will look like. Here are some photos from the workshop:

Here is the link to our Case Study:

Here is the link to our Presentation:

Here is a link to a video recap of our design workshop from last week:

Urbano PARTI!


Abstract: The goal of the Participatory ARtistic Traveling Installation (PARTI) is to raise public awareness about Urbano and engage diverse communities in imagining their Emancipated City of Boston. Currently, Urbano has consistent reach with their students and the families of their students, but not much more beyond that network. With PARTI, we created an interactive opportunity for Urbano to expand its reach in Boston and beyond; collect and share ideas of what an Emancipated City looks like from different points of view–this includes people from different neighborhoods, age and ethnic groups, and more; and allow Boston residents to speak on issues of social justice and inequality such as residential segregation, immigration, and police enforcement.  We want PARTI to help amplify the voices of Boston residents, as they are the best people to ask what works well and what needs improvement in their own neighborhoods. The physical installation of PARTI is a reusable and mobile tool for future Urbano projects and themes.

Final Case Study:

Final Presentation:

PARTI: A tangle of Vines

Our original design featured a single 22″ Android-based touch screen with a front facing camera. Running only a browser, a web app would control the playing of video and capturing of images. Progress had, however, stalled as we worked through the requirements for moving the images off the device and displaying them.

At that moment in the project, two things happened. First, we received feedback that having people draw something and take its picture wasn’t an interesting or rich interaction. Second, the idea was introduced  that we should use Twitter’s Vine to capture short 6-second videos and that we should move to two tablets running Vine. This was seemed clearly richer and aligned with Urbano’s interest in stop motion animation. It solved our “move the images off the device” problem because that’s what the Vine App does. We validated that Urbano’s students were excited about Vine, decided that “two tablets running Vine”, was simpler than a continued software development effort that could be supported by only one team member, and moved ahead.

Project managers talk of scope, time, and resources, describing them as a triangle, where one cannot be changed without affecting the others. The CoDesign Studio course operates with an unchangeable deadline, thus, time is fixed. Resources, beyond the $1000 budget, are largely team members time. MIT students available time is highly constrained. Time from our project partner is equally, but differently, constrained. In an iterative design process, changes in each design should have less and less impact on scope. While that might be true at the macro level, it didn’t prove to be true on the micro level.

“Two tablets running Vine” has two fundamental assumptions behind it:

  1. Tablets are commodities and, at some rough level, are largely feature equivalent.
  2. Vine, as a social network service, is ubiquitous because that’s what social networks do to achieve maximal network effects.

In the case of Vine, both these assumptions turn out to be false. The only tablets on which Vine is available are Kindle Fires. It seems reasonable to infer that Amazon, seeking to differentiate its offerings, exclusively licensed Vine and that Twitter, in its IPO stage, valued revenue the revenue of a licensing deal over a larger tablet user base.

Our Kindle choice was further constrained by our budget. The only Kindle we could afford . Because our tablet choice was constrained, we didn’t look at features or configurations, thus missed that the last generation Kindle Fires only had a forward facing camera.

We had originally planned a telescoping arm for the recording tablet but, when the choice of arm was rejected for quality reasons, we went with flat, titlable mounting but that proved problematic for actually shooting Vines. Pointing downward made it easier to manipulate props for stop motion animation, but impossible to see what was being shot and awkward to control the start/stop function of Vine. We considered, then rejected the use of a mirror to allow viewing the display side of the Kindle. We settled on creating a small “stage” in front of the PARTI, mounting the recording tablet at the botton of the suitcase, creating felt props for people to use.

While videos are richer than still pictures, we still wanted to make PARTI more versatile than just Vine. With various aggregation technologies, there should be no reason tweets, Instagrams, or other media with the correct hash tag couldn’t be shown by the display tablet. Again, we were assuming ubiquity. We iterated through a number of display choices, discovering one really powerful jQuery plugin that lets you build a network “wall” of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc. This was our provisional choice, as it can easily be configured to display a constantly changing gallery of social media. But, it turned out, not Vine. Indeed, Vines can only be viewed easily within the Vine app. They may be shared to your Twitter stream, and displayed with a Twitter app or Twitter’s embedding tools, but the videos render as a link. Vine is a walled garden with nary a tendril growing through. There are sites that advertise themselves as Vine scrapers, but issues like R-rated advertising make them inappropriate.

We had, without realizing the implications, taken an implementation based on open web technologies, and moved to an implementation the features of which would be limited by what commercial software vendors would allow. We looked at various options for other social media platforms. We considered Instagram videos, but there’s no native Instagram client on the Kindle and displays were static and unengaging. As we tried to mix and match social media platforms, input and display technologies, we found ourselves considering options with wildly different implementation scopes. We were asking questions about products that were not answered in the commercial products scant documentation. Products needed to be downloaded and tested. While we wanted a way for people using their social media platform of choice and their own devices to be able to contribute, we discovered, by a process of elimination that, if we wanted to accept and display Vines, would could only display Vines. If we wanted to use other social media, we could not display Vines.

Thus. PARTI’s technical implementation will be two Kindle Fire Tablets running the Vine app, one to shoot short videos on the “stage” in front of the PARTI, the other to display a hashtag-based stream of Vines. Others may contribute by using their own devices to create Vines with the hashtag #UrbanoPARTI.