Undergraduate thesis project
Duration: 3 months - July to Sept 2011
Role: Individual project
Advisors: Girish Prabhu, Nupur Sista, Prayas Abhinav
Udte Paon - Platform for peer to peer learning
Conceptualizing a multi device platform for teenage girls in rural India to synchronously learn from each other across locations.
Girls in rural India don't have opportunities to cultivate hobbies or skills. They lack access and social norms prevent them from travelling outside their villages. Progress in technological infrastructure could be leveraged to empower them. Udte Paon (‘Flying feet’- a metaphor for dance) is a concept for an internet based platform for girls to learn dance. This project was developed for and sponsored by Intel.
The crux of the project was to understand the dynamics and cultural context of rural India to provide a meaningful conceptual solution. The aim was to make information accessible and technology comfortable to use for first time internet users.
Enabling sharing and building a sense of community would foster independence.
Design solutions and scenarios: Learning by doing
Phase 1 : Secondary Research
I researched social and collaborative media projects from the points of view of the user, the technology and business. These included social innovation projects initiated by governments, universities and entrepreneurs across the world.
Phase 2 : Primary Research
Through secondary and primary research in rural Karnataka (informal discussions through a local facilitator) and urban Bangalore (collaborative mind mapping), I studied past and current trends in technology in India, trends in dance and the process of learning different kinds of dance.
Phase 3 : Mapping the user ecosystem and deriving features
Based on the primary and secondary research, I created scenarios and user experience maps focused on different user needs and goals and varying skill levels. I then compiled a list of features that would be most relevant for the users.
Phase 4 : Prototyping and user testing
User testing with paper prototypes, creating wireframes, iterating visual languages and styles led to a system model and user interface that had apparent rather than necessarily inherent usability to make the user want to use the platform and not feel inhibited by the technology.
Phase 5 : Visual design research
Besides looking at the history and trends in dance and communication in India, I also did a visual design analysis to derive motifs and colors that could be used across the whole country. India is diverse with a lot of different cultures, rituals and symbolism. It was important for the design to be culturally sensitive in order to increase acceptance and adoption.
Phase 6: Refining the prototype
The initial screens were based on the paper prototypes that had a very linear layout with familiar controls like buttons and scrolls. This made the interface seem easy to use but didn’t maximize the interactions possible on a tablet.
The swirling panels of a skirt were the most aesthetic and functional metaphor for the interface. It allowed for multiple points of entry. It encouraged a more exploratory interaction rather than a linear progression of choice.
Phase 7: Preparing the scenarios
Learning and teaching in a class
Learning by creating
Phase 7: Concept validation
Initially I planned to conduct user testing of the final prototype using the 3 scenarios of ‘Learn’, ‘Teach’ and ‘Create’ but later realized that it would be difficult to gather conclusive results. Most teenage girls in rural India have limited access to computers or the internet. So I decided to validate the concept in a completely different geography in North India. The experience of a looser,
ethnography-inspired concept validation was helpful and the response to Udte Paon was extremely positive as well.