In the project that we cooperated with the Swedish town, Norsjö, we intended to recapture people's attention to the town to revive it through innovation. The project includes three stages: research, ideation, and design. The final design was an interactive device that integrated function of recorder and map. The design aimed to encourage generations in the local family to share and store their stories. It fulfilled that by connecting virtual with reality, past and future through internet. Norsjö government spoke highly of our design, and it was exhibit at multiple places in Sweden.
Norsjö is a very clean and quiet town in northern Sweden, and almost everyone I interviewed said they like to live there. However, many young people have to leave in the near future for education, job...etc. The population of the town kept declining, from 8,000 in 1950s to 4000 now. The decreased population had affected many aspects of the society. At the time, the residents older than 65 represented 25% of the population, and the unique culture and stories of the town were disappearing.
In the research phase, we designed Culture Probe, a daily information collecting tool, to understand the users' behaviors and perspectives. We also applied the data acquired from the local government in ethnology studies to have a in-depth understanding of the locals.
In the early brainstorming and workshops, we found out that people preferred to refer on maps when telling stories, such as pointing at a specific location while sharing stories happened there. This is the origin of the idea: an app based on maps.
The app could locate the recorded audio and video to where it took place. When other users open it, the related stories will be pushed according to the current user's location. A challenge we faced in design was that most of the seniors in the town neither had smart phones nor knew how to use app.
Although richer media formats could be presented on digital screens, considering the characteristic of the users, we decided to use familiar objects to convey the concept of communication. One advantage of this is the device could act as monument to pass the feeling of home. In the ideation process, a lot of low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes were created for the testing.
The final interactive method consisted of a recording device and the customized maps. Users could browse their towns on the map and move the recording device to hear the sound of the place and the recorded stories happened there. Besides, we provided different categories cards, so that the users could insert the selected card into the top of the device and record stories fall into the category. The device also offered a time browsing function that allowed the users to track what happened in the past by rotating the side button.
Meanwhile, the screen-based interaction was preserved. The users could play the seniors recorded stories and edit and share their own on the website. They could also buy the recorder and the map online to experience the service journey.
In the end, we shot a video about how the local families use the device to pass stories between generations. A girl received the "story container" from her grandma and started to explore Norsjö and her grandma's past life. The ultimate goal of the design was not only to collect and share stories, but to offer people a new angle of view of their hometown. We hope such design could not only benefit Norsjö, but act as a reference for similar communities.