I am, we are, we will

Visualization of the Hazelwood Community

Our first prototype focused on the concept of community integration and data visualization. We designed a 3D map of Hazelwood where flags can be placed to show community individuality and voice. Our group (Porch group)  began with an idea to create an activity and space to initiate a conversation about Hazelwood. We interpreted the idea of a porch as a personal yet communal space where conversations among community members take place. We developed several interactive activities allowing every individual audience to contribute to a whole collection representing the spirit of the community.

Our first concept centered around data visualization identifying:

  1. Hazelwood as part of the greater Pittsburgh
  2. Significance of the neighborhood to the community members
  3. Aspirations the community members have for Hazelwood

Using colored coded flags to pinpoint areas in Hazelwood, the audience share the past and present memories as well future aspirations for the community. Each color of the flag corresponded with a prompt: 

I want… / I remember… / I miss… / I love… / I want to help.

The audience writes a short response to the prompt on the flag and pins it on map to point out the location they are referring to.

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The literal map of Hazelwood portrayed an image of a neighborhood development project rather than a welcoming interaction. The color coded flags were abstract representation of aspirations, significance and history, successfully creating a visual heat map of the audience’s’ opinions in the context. However, the flags were too small to communicate a more profound and detailed message giving more content to the visualization of the map.

Moving forward, we wanted to keep the idea of creating a collection of individual voices. We developed towards a reflective experience through self-identification rather than identifying locations in Hazelwood. The question the exhibit activity asks is, “What can you do for Hazelwood?” In our activity, the audience will be able to reflect upon the information they received in the other exhibits and self-identify as a member/ support for Hazelwood in their own ways.

Individuals create a whole

Picture (7).jpgCombining the idea of empowerment through self identification, we came up with an idea of revealing two levels of visual interaction by using quotes. The audience will leave a handwritten message on a colored card. The colored card will be the key to reveal a hidden message or quote. Through this design we aim to visualize the collective support and care for Hazelwood.

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With the attempt to capture the voices and individual perspectives of the community members, we aimed to create an interaction that involves a more individualized experience that is reflective to the collective objective. Each grid has a place for an individual response of a given category. Through the individualized activities, people can add to the visual reveal, while keeping the individual cards accessible. The cards as a collective will eventually reveal a phrase representative of the Hazelwood’s community spirit. We chose direct quotes from interviews of the Hazelwood community as Hazelwood had a very strong identity the members repeatedly emphasized throughout the meetings in the past. Positive responses were received with the concept and the various levels of interaction. Community members did voice that they would like to see the responses more accessible that does not involved removing the cards from their slots.

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Further development into the design process required meeting with the community, to give them a glimpse into our concept, making sure it is appropriate, relevant, and can evoke an emotion capable of explaining this complex issue revolving Hazelwood to visitors and residents. The response that we got was very positive. Hazelwood residents liked the aspect stressing the importance of individual input, creating something bigger than themselves. One thing that residents suggested was the idea of being able to form their own sentences or giving their own input, potentially being able to switch letters around to customize the voice of Hazelwood over time.

Identity Categories

Based on our concept of creating a card for each aspect, we came up with different terms addressing the creative minds, community participation, social activism, families, etc. We also developed additional phrases to give a description and act as a thought provoker. Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 4.16.18 PM

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We went to the Hazelwood Carnegie Library with the two sets of identities for user testing. We aimed to answer the following questions.

  • Are the descriptions necessary? Are they effectively explaining the identity while allowing individual interpretations?
  • Which terms are more relatable to the audience?
  • How do the audience identify themselves among the 5 categories.

We had 11 participants (3 teenagers, 8 adults) to test our identification activity. We had a discussion like interview to further gain insight on their perception of the word choices and the categories. Some of the participants had a hard time choosing the category they identified with because, the terms like “Leader” and “Activist” were associated with more commitment than they felt like they showed in their daily lives. We saw the necessity of having an option for a more passive attitude. Also, we had interesting findings about the generational difference in perceptions about the words “Creator” and “Artist.” The younger generation associated “Creator” with various artistic activities such as photography, web design, and candle making. And the older generations associated the word with idea of inventions and scientifically/ mechanically creating a new object. We concluded that “Artist” better communicated our intention of addressing the creative minds in the audience.

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Through the individual cards, our team conceptualized how we could visualize the individual talents and contributions of community members in Hazelwood. The final categories are: Supporter, Role Model, Supporter, Leader, and Artist. Each of category is associated with a color, and each card includes a question where participants can write down their thoughts and stories within the given space.

Wall Design

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The mechanism of this design is simple—insert card into the given vertical slots like Connect Four. As more and more card begin to fill the board, the quotes are revealed. There are two levels to the interaction with this exhibit piece: individual and collective. As people write down their individual thoughts and notes about their chosen word, they can also view the responses of other participants of this exhibit. Through this reflective visual interaction, people engage themselves into the various realities and truths of community members. Once the wall is filled and all the quotes are revealed, the wall can be emptied and the hand written identity cards will be sent out back to the community via the postcard on the back of the identity cards.   

Placing the wall in COL

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At first, we designed our exhibit piece to be against the entrance wall. However, covering the stain glass window became a major challenge. We devised ideas to shape the wall to avoid the window but, we wanted to keep the unity shown in having a single, connected wall. As a result, we resorted to turning the wall facing the altar, opening up the back of the wall as a potential space for the introduction for the exhibition. The positioning of the wall naturally guides the audience to flow into the Historical exhibit (attic) first, which was important to provide context to the audience’s viewing experience.   

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Final Meeting with the Community


For our community presentation, we introduced our most recent prototype of our exhibit piece. We received positive feedback from community members and other team members. The meeting was also an opportunity for our team to talk about the entire exhibition space with the other teams. We further discussed the potentials the new wall position provides to the exhibit and how to collaborate with the branding to create the introduction wall.

Current Challenges & Goals:

Our next step is to devise a detailed plan for construction of the wall. The plan includes finalizing on quote positioning, materials list, printing for cards/postcards, configuring screen printing instructions on the card holders, and construction mechanism for the 6.5ft x 12ft structure.  


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