ERA: CHI 2009 Student Design Competition Submission

The Experience Reflecting Artifact aims to encourage contributions within a community bicycle project


Rachel Bolton, Chad Camara, Matt Snyder, Thalith Nasir

Problem Space

The CHI problem space was to ‘Design an object, interface, system, or service intended to support the idea of utilizing or consuming local resources rather than global resources, in a sustainable and environmentally efficient manner.’ Our solution focused on aiding a community bike project by encouraging its members to be more committed by engaging in all aspects of the bike project. The bike project is a local nonprofit organization that aims to ensure that 'bikes on the streets stay on the streets'. It does this by providing a space where community members can earn a bike by volunteering hours at the project, buy used bikes at low prices, take bicycle maintenance classes and use the project's tools and resources. It also encourages recycling of old bicycles that otherwise would have ended up in local landfills.

Design Approach

When approaching the problem, our initial headway was made through an exploratory focus group from which the sense of community and transportation were two emergent themes. Ethnographic observations at the bike project helped us narrow the scope of the problem space by identifying the bike project as a venue to focus future efforts. With research data at hand, we used affinity diagramming to visualize our raw data and identify emergent concepts.

Multiple visits coupled with role playing exercises certainly helped us understand the dynamics at play at the community bike project. The bike project is largely self-directed in nature with members choosing to participate as little or as much as they can. However, stronger members drive stronger communities.

Subsequent focused interviews with bike project members certainly raised the importance of their rich personal experiences. Because they had experiences that encompassed all or most of the activities of the bike project, they had become champions of the project viewing it has more than just a place to fix a bicycle but also as a place to socialize.

Our design direction took these rich experiences and incorporated it into a portable artifact that would act as a reminder to participants. The artifact uses six colors that map to experiences that members have at the bike project. This ranges from red to represent ‘Worked on building a bike’ to blue for ‘Came to socialize’. Members can log their experiences by attaching the device to an Experience Log Box as they leave the bike project. Later, hitting a button on ERA will playback their last twelve experiences at the bike project by flashing its respective colors serving as a reminder of their experiences. Also, colors that do not light up remind members of the experiences that they are missing from the bike project.


full report (pdf/175 KB)

Methods Used

Open ended interviews, secondary research, brainstorming, roleplaying, paper prototyping, experience evaluation

Ethnographic observations

Affinity diagramming our research

Research outline

ERA and Experience Log Box