Design Research Tools
After this focus on mechanisms for communication, we opened up the next arc of our inquiry to the overarching context of dialogue about heritage-identity, and probed how we might support dialogue specifically about heritage-identity through design methodologies.
We ran interviews and co-design sessions to uncover insights and potential opportunities for the tools we would use in our next workshops on dialogue about heritage-identity in Europe.
We wanted to understand what would bring out, nurture and sustain dialogue about sensitive topics and difficult histories, the critical aspect of heritage as it mixes with identity.
We interviewed 15 individuals from a variety of backgrounds, though all living in Copenhagen and identifying as European. We brought various paper-based tools to the interviews to generate discussion. Given our desk research and early tests, we knew that varieties of expression from tool to tool and within each tool might be crucial to encouraging different types of participants to express their notion of heritage-identity. Thus, we made some tools that were as open as “make a map of your world and mark it according to how “at home” you feel in each area” and some tools that structured participants’ input more strongly, such as what are “elements of your life that are just you / you and your family / just your family.”
We found that the tools were useful not only to bring out important markers and themes for the Europeans we interviewed - but also to stimulate and automatically document their own perspectives and inner-dialogue.
For example, one design research tool that we used was a timeline for the interviewee to place events that were important for them, for their family and for their country. This tool engaged them to consider what it means to be Danish vs. European, how much they do or do not identify with their “mother-country” as opposed to the country where they live now, and how they do or do not engage with the political controversies that they themselves often brought up as part of that timeline. As part of the same exercise, we asked the interviewee to make a map of notable places for them, their family and their nationality - noting places where they feel “at home” vs. where their family feels “at home.” In these markings, the interviewees uncovered and then discussed notable tensions between their personal perspective as opposed to their fellow country-men’s perspective.
Finally, in our co-design sessions, we engaged in a lengthy and circular, self-reflexive exercise with a small group of Danish students who are approximately aged 30. The students first interviewed themselves about something in their lives that represents their own heritage-identity, then made their own tools to interview older relatives and similarly-aged friends on the topic of heritage-identity.
Then, with observations and insights from the interviews in mind, the students came up with concepts for an interactive installation that would invite the public in to experience and create artistic content (visuals, sound etc.) that reflects upon heritage and identity.
This overall arc not only generated insights for us in terms of designing our own tools for interviews and workshops, but also, the participants found that following this design-research process was in and of itself a TOOL to help them express and explore THEIR heritage-identity.
Through this gradual layering of dialogue and then dialogue on heritage-identity and finally dialogue on heritage-identity in Denmark we have gathered key insights to base our further iterations of public-facing tools and experience designs.
Interview tools with inputs: