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

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!



ZUMIX Update: First Project Iteration

Reflections on First Project Iteration

Our radio playhouse project can be divided into two parallel components: the electronics and the outward appearance. In our proposal, we decided that the outward looks of the radio should be designed collaboratively with the youth and possibly staff of Zumix since they will be impacted the most. We are beginning to plan a workshop for designing the outward appearance of the radio with members of ZUMIX. Then, we will hold additional workshops for building the shell.

The electronics of the radio is mostly a fun technical project. We took the initial technical designs that we created for the proposal and added more details to them, based on the feedback that we got. In this first iteration, we mainly experimented and researched possible softwares to use. We hacked on the raspberry pi and built a small demo of how music would be played via the pi. One of the suggestions from the proposal feedback was to document our build process, so we decided to make a video to demo what we have so far. We think a video and photo format would be a great way to document our build process so that other people who are interested in making a cheap modern radio can easily follow what we do. Once we order the sensors, we will be able to start attaching the hardware to the radio. All the code that we write will be open source, and we will have careful instructions for software installations, so that it easy for others to do it themselves.

Below is a video of our proof of concept demo!

Updated technical design can be found here.

We are meeting tomorrow after class to confirm the details of our proposal and see if changes are needed based on the feedback.

Urbano Update: the First PARTI Iteration!

Yesterday (Monday), we met as a group to finalize our first project iteration. After congratulating ourselves for our first meeting outside of class with everyone physically in attendance (woot), we first reviewed feedback from Aditi, Sasha, and Becky and identified the key risks they saw in our proposal. It seemed that there was general concern about having enough time and budget to accomplish what we set out to do in our project proposal, and a suggestion was to narrow our focus to fewer components of the project – either the web interface or the physical installation and emphasizing the design and documentation so that the idea could be implemented by others. It was also suggested that we research other similar installation projects for inspiration.

102813 Meeting

From our meetings with Urbano, we knew that they wanted us to design and build them something, whether it be web-based or physical or both. Optimistic about our capabilities, we tried to stay true to our original intent (at least for now), while identifying ways and paths that could reduce our focus on some tasks and redirect them to others.

Although we are considering many different forms of interaction with users, such as video, audio, and visual, for our first design iteration,we decided to gather user feedback and interaction through drawings of users’ Imagined Cities that would be photographed for documentation so that we would be able to focus on the core technological platform that would be used throughout our project. For the mobile component and housing for our installation, we decided to use a suitcase, which would provide an existing platform on which to build. As seen in our sketch below, the suitcase would house a touchscreen that users would interact with. Besides taking pictures of the Imagined City drawings, the touchscreen would primarily show video displaying the work of Urbano student artists (to incorporate their work into the installation), instructions about how to use the installation, and background about Urbano, their mission, and the Emancipated City theme. The information could also incorporate information about the history of the community where the installation is located, which could be customized and also give users something to reflect on before they draw their Imagined Cities. Here are some UI examples for the touchscreen interface that Birkan made. The suitcase would be accompanied by a collapsible bulletin board on which participants could hang their drawings. In future installations, we intend to incorporate audio and video capabilities. Preliminary product research of the more significant components of our project (touchscreen, suitcase) have shown that we should be able to complete the project within the specified budget for the course.

First iteration

In terms of maintenance, the installation is designed to live within an indoor public space (libraries, community centers, museums, schools, youth organization centers), which would provide a small degree of security, but also be mobile in the sense that it could be packed up and transported to other sites easily. From time to time, the drawings would have to be gathered and taken back to Urbano and paper supplied to the installation, and every so often, the location of the installation would have to be changed.

With a design in place, we can move forward with purchasing the necessary components, playing with the software, and building the necessary mechanical inserts for the installation.

BIC/REV- First iteration

It is difficult to imagine a more diverse group than ours. Law, design, community organizing, development, storytelling… Our large team gathers all expertises! As my colleague Christian said in a previous post, we do not have one partner. We have four: Brazilian Immigrant Center, REV-, The NuLawLab at Northeastern University, and TerraVoz.

Naturally, it is awesome to count on such a rich set of skills. Nevertheless, it is an enormous challenge to coordinate all efforts. I am sure Marisa feels sometimes that she is herding cats. So far, I tell you, she has been successful!

Our project proposal has also helped us to figure out our roles in this project. On Saturday, we received useful advice from Sasha/Codesign team to improve our proposal. One of the suggestions was to assign more specific tasks to each member. Thus, we can have a clearer idea of everybody’s responsibilities. An ongoing updated version of our project proposal can be found here:

Another advice was the need of bringing all community partners together to discuss the design of our hotline. In fact, we have been talking a lot about this topic in our meetings. This drawing (by Marisa), for instance, illustrates the concept of “audio postcard” that we invented and that will be used in our project:


We also got inspiration from New Day New Standard Logic Tree:


We already have a rough draft of our voice tree:

It is one of the outcomes from our first project iteration. However, we know that it is not good yet. We need more meetings with our community partners to discuss it (and improve it).

Another outcome from this first iteration was a group of characters and stories that are going to be used to convey our messages on safety and environmental issues to housecleaners. Marisa and Anjum organized an amazing collaborative storytelling session! First, we had to invent characters for the stories. The idea was: the funnier, the better. We drew our ideas and presented them to the group. After that, we began to create stories… with the characters that other members of the group invented. At first, such approach seemed a bit chaotic… but after some time the convergence of ideas was astonishing!

Finally, we started a research on safety, health, historical and legal issues related to domestic house cleaners in Massachusetts and elsewhere. That research inspired many discussions in our meetings and will provide the theoretical background for the messages we are going to convey.

Seizing every opportunity for feedback and collaboration

On Friday, we shared our draft project proposal with members of City Life/Vida Urbana’s Bank Tenant Association leadership team. BTAs form a significant portion of CL/VU’s membership and at this weekly Friday night meeting, BTA leadership team members discuss organizing strategy and figure out next steps for actions they want the membership to take.

Mike, Terry, and I presented the project idea our team came up with feedback from some of the CL/VU staff – to develop carnival games that reveal the deceptive nature of the market. We were only one agenda item on a long list of items they needed to cover during the meeting, so one major lesson learned in designing feedback activities is to keep in mind the time and stick to the process design! We designed a process for them to give us feedback on the idea – we told them about the project and asked them to record any questions, concerns, and general feedback/suggestions on separate post it notes and put them up on a flip chart. We then gave them space to ask any clarifying questions they had first. When the hands started shooting up, we started answer the questions. It was only later that we realized that we were trying to answer questions that they should should have written down for us to discuss and decide later! It was fine, we just ran out of time and told people to write the rest of their questions and concerns down for us to review later.

Still left to do is discuss these new ideas with our team members and revise our draft project proposal to reflect what we come up with. The feedback we got was really good and raised the point that I think we all considered early in the project but didn’t know quite how to address: could some CL/VU members join our team and therefore move from feedback givers to decision makers on our collaboration spectrum? Fortunately, some BTA leaders were really excited after hearing the project idea and want to contribute as team members – or at least come to some meetings. So, we also need figure out a system that works for including BTA leadership team members into our meetings – a great logistic problem to have!

Terry and I stayed for a bit more of the meeting as the BTA leaders discussed their plans for the National Day of Actions on the housing crisis on October 28th. The major demand nationally from organizations and coalitions working on housing and on the housing crisis is for the replacement of Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) director Ed Demarco. FHFA oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which has for the past six years, refused to do principal reduction, a practice that allows homeowners to pay on the current value of their home. This is ultimately cheaper for banks than foreclosure (1), but more importantly keeps families and family businesses in their homes. A later conversation with a BTA leader revealed to me how little support organizers feel from student organizations on college campuses. He wondered to me: why aren’t students organizing talks and lectures about this? Isn’t this an urban planning program? This issue and this demand is important – students and professors can have so much more influence on issues like this!

This was important to me because, as a new organizer who plans to continue to work in Boston on a range of planning issues, it gave me pause about whether I had some missed opportunities by not focusing more on how students at MIT and in my planning program at DUSP can partner with communities and community organizers to raise the profile of issues like these and increase pressure on targets as part of an organizing strategy. Further, however, it emphasized to me the importance of our codesign project because I think ultimately I want community members and leaders to feel like they have the tools to design projects that tell their stories, weave their own narratives, and win real policy changes – with or without support from people they might feel have more power. I hope this project accomplishes this, or at least encourages dialogue about it.


See draft Project Proposal here.

Blog Post: Workshop with Urbano Fellows 10/11

On Friday, October 11th, our team visited Urbano for the second time. While Urbano classes are held Monday through Thursday, every Friday is reserved for Urbano fellows, or students who have worked with Urbano in the past and want to continue their involvement through leadership roles. This was our opportunity to ask Urbano’s most important constituents–their student leaders– what they would like to see result from our partnership. After engaging in initial brainstorm and dialogue with the group, Susannah from Urbano’s staff led the youth in a more structured brainstorming workshop, where students were asked to focus in on three final proposals.


While the workshop was happening, our team met with the rest of Urbano’s staff to build on the comments we’d heard from the youth. At the end of their workshop, Urbano fellows were asked to share reflections about the brainstorming workshop and this partnership with MIT. Combining their ideas with ours we came up with three ideal projects that we choose to work on. You can find the Urbano Project Proposal with three different project ideas here. Note that this is the first draft and it will be edited.

Urbano fellows’ perceptions are deeply insightful and a great resource for us as we continue to learn about and experience Urbano’s culture and work ethic. One takeaway is that in the future, we should work on building a more intentional relationship with the youth to break down assumptions and anxieties about working with people from “the ‘famous’ college named MIT,” as one fellow put it. Urbano staff were kind enough to share these reflections with us, and we have posted them here:


“Today we talked with students from MIT about ideas of ways that we can get people to know about Urbano. We started by having four main categories: Mobile Exhibition, Interactive/performative, Web/social media, and outreach. We then got into groups of about four people including one of the people from MIT. In our groups we brainstormed different ways that we could get people aware of Urbano. We wrote our ideas on sticky notes and placed them under one of the categories. Next we talked as a group about the ideas that each group came up with. Then our group (the Fellows) voted on the ideas we liked the best. We did this by putting a check on the post-its that we liked, up to as many as three. We then put the post-its with checks on them in smaller categories, and voted for our 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices. Lastly we picked our top 3 choices based on the amount of votes for each category got.”


“I found it very rewarding to have this day of ideas flowing among us. It felt like an empowering strengthening of the brain. (I feel like my time at Urbano is usually like that in general.) I am very excited to work with the MIT students. I feel like our collaboration will be a benefit to both the Fellows and the MIT class. Today we brainstormed ideas about how to inform the public about Urbano and what we do, but also get people thinking about this idea of the Emancipated City. We want to get the public’s feedback and opinions on what THEY desire Boston to be. Our ideas range from performance pieces to video installations to flyers posted all over the city. In collaboration with MIT, we can hopefully have the resources (i.e. materials, technology, etc.) to create these thought-provoking pieces. Somehow, we have to let people in power know what the public wants (perhaps by having installations set up in from of government offices or getting in touch with a government official, like the Secretary of State or such). I’m excited :)”


“Today we met with a group of students from MIT and discussed possible ideas for our collaboration project. After everyone introduced themselves and we discussed our goal, we broke into three groups to brainstorm ideas on post-it notes. We hang up our ideas on a wall under four catergories: mobile exhibition, interactive/performative, web/social media and outreach. Each group discussed their ideas and received feedback. Afterwards, we the fellows of the Urbano Project narrowed down our ideas to three choices with various processes. The topics we chose were performance, street media, and flyers. And we ended with reflections. The End.”


“Yo yo yo, so I had a lot of energy today coming into Urbano so when I found out that people form M.I.T. were coming i got kind of nervous. Never sure what we have to act like super professional or maybe even just our awkward selves. Once Susannah pulled out the hoodies I instantly felt calmer. Putting one on and finding many different fashions to wear it in. I relaxed joking around until the M.I.T. people came in. Once we started our brain storming I will admit that I had no idea what we were supposed to do. I didn’t one hundred percent realize what we were supposed to be brain storming so I was just randomly shouting things out until some one made sense of my ramblings. WE present the few ideas we came up with and we slowly put together new ideas. Finally when we had our top six I was really exited cause everything I wanted was there. That all go better when my top 3 were picked and we morphed everything together in one magically moment.”


“Partyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy whoot whoot We had the opportunity to work with the students of the “famous” college named MIT. This time spent in discussions gave really good results; this result includes: Today’s class was a huge brainstorm on how Urbano will collaborate with M.I.T. To do that, we put out seed ideas and voted on which of the said seed ideas were our favorites/were the most interesting. Eventually, the 30+ ideas were eventually ruled down to about 10, but divided into 3 categories: Performance, Flyers, Street Message in that order. Along side these ideas were 3 “sub-ideas” that we attempted and found a way to integrate into the primary three: Virtual, Video and Info. Each of the sub-ideas can be applied into the main ideas, however work is still being done to understand how to fully integrate those ideas. Overall, work was done in order to get the name “Urbano” in to the public, as well as the message that we want to convey.”


“I think this collaboration will work. I wish I could’ve heard THEIR idea’s though. We were the ones generating most of the ideas and they were mostly just taking notes and stuff. I like collaborating and making connections.”


“The MIT people came today and we spoke about their project as well as our project that relates to our theme “the emancipated city reimagining Boston”. We got into separate groups and brainstormed ideas that fit under four different categories: Mobile Exhibition, Interactive/performative, Web/social media, and out reach. We put sticky notes, went over every groups ideas then we checked our top three, put ones that weren’t checked to the side, and numbered our 1,2,3 choices. Grouped some together and tallied them up. Finally we picked our top three: Performance, Flyer, and Virtual App.”

More pictures from the workshop: