Finding the ordinary in the extrodinaryCollaborative research
After these 2 months of discovering more about the crew of Mars One, I have seen that a group that has been seen as extrodinary to the public really consists of ordinary humans who are very passionate about science, humanity, and curious about the universe that they live in.
I have met 2 members from the top 100 candidates and even though both are scientists, they are very different in the way they think about what Mars One can do for humanity, how this decision affected their relationships, as well as the emotions they have when imagining the actualization of the mission. I learned that as scientists who know about the technicalities of sending humans to Mars, they are much more fearless about the mission. This is also a general consensus that I see in the online videos I’ve watched on other candidates. They are learning about the planet, the mission, as well as curious. Curiosity I think is the biggest deciding factor and rediscovering humanity seems to be the common goal for many candidates.
Next, I want to think about the social objects that they could possibly use in order to understand each other emotionally outside of verbal communication. This is because emotion is not something everyone can express verbally, especially when it comes to people who are used to communicating logically. When looking at the psychological risks involved in the mission; isolation, depression, loss of privacy, and proxemics, to name a few, I notice that it is only possible at the moment to predict based on common scenarios on Earth and to prepare by simulating the experience in order to find out if candidates are ready. But designers could also be preparing by examining the ways to mitigate these risks. I think art and design is integral to the psychological wellbeing of human emotions. How do I create something that could make them feel like they could have personal space as well as boundaries? How do I make these boundaries react to emotional needs?
The reality TV series that Mars One will be documented on will certainly add to changing the behaviour of candidates. But this isn’t just another season of Big Brother (one of my favorite shows). Like Alison said, “when we get there, it’s the rest of our lives.” This show doesn’t end when the season is over. Reality TV tends to alienate those who are participating in the show but as Nicolas mentioned, it could be done in a more supportive way.
Bill Gaver’s Provocative Awareness talks about designs that connect remote lovers, or strangers in an urban setting. I can use his methodologies and the ones discussed in his text to think about designing something for the candidates. He talks about workplace awareness systems, and in a way, the spaceship and pods on Mars will be the workplace AS WELL AS living space for astronauts. This place of work eventually will become home and community so the system must be especially designed to accommodate both and fuse the transition seamlessly.
Another important feeling for human emotion is intimacy and connectedness. The 4 members will have trained together for years before embarking on the journey to Mars but the training is not aimed at facilitating more than just comfort and knowledge amongst each other. It may be interesting to incorporate familiar feelings of Earth into the design of the space. Similar to The Bench Object designed by Fiona Raby, some objects can imply “intimacy with strangers, challenge assumptions of public inaccessiblity to which urban dwellers are accustomed.” Can we use feelings such as warmth to indicate relations and connections to another person? These are the new possiblities that new awareness systems might serve. Later, Gaver also refers to interaction designer and jeweller, Rachel Murphy’s heartbeat jewellery, “emphasising how the sensual experience evoked by various materials and interactions might be appropriated for use in conveying emotion.”
Gaver writes about the importance of awareness of what’s going on around us rather than just in front of us, “it will be good for some as-yet undetermined collaborative activity.” The candidates will have to collaborate in almost everything they do. The is especially true, Gaver writes, “As collaborative technologies move out of the office and into the home or local community, new goals emerge, and thus new requirements for information and media.” In the home, we need to have more emotional connections and be more sensible to values, moods, and attitudes of others. This is vital in the living environments for the candidates as well as bridging the emotional connections between them and distant people on Earth, even if it takes 10 minutes for 1 message to get through. What Gaver mentioned and would be undesirable is, “systems for community settings, intended to create contact among people who are physically close to one another, but emotionally and culturally distant.” In Mars One’s case, you need both.
A few weeks ago, I tried to watch a movie on Netflix with my distant fiance. The extension allowed us to start and pause the video at the same time and chat through typing. But this gave me no feeling of having the presence of him beside me and rather made it even more evident that he was far away. It seems that systems that only facilitate 1 sense is not enough to stimulate feelings of togetherness.