Our first assignment for the class was to investigate why people chose to use the lift instead of the stairs in the Tisch building, and to encourage people to use the latter. Monique Naoum and I decided to collect “thick data” in lieu of “big data”: rather then send out a survey with limited choices and answers, we chose to interview people using the stairs, using the lifts, and entering the Tisch building.
1) Health, energy, and the First Few Floors
Before we even began interviewing people, our first instinct was to highlight the two major reasons that stairs were a better option: the health benefits that come from increased physical activity, and the energy savings from eschewing a large, electronic device.
However, our investigations quickly revealed this to be a poor strategy. Most of the people we interviewed who used the lift were well aware of the benefits of using the stairs: they were influenced by other factors: “I’d take the stairs if I were going to the third floor, but I work on the 6th”, one respondent said. “I just came from dance class and I’m too tired to go up all those stairs,” an exhausted man in tights told us. Based on such feedback, Monique and I realised that motivating people to use the stairs for floors higher than the fifth would be very challenging, and that we would focus on the first few floors.
2) Timing and Direction
“It’s faster to use the stairs” was something we heard from number of people we accosted while going down the stairs. Maybe a sensor-timer system to show people how long they’d take using the stairs versus using the lift would be useful? Unfortunately, further probing shot down this idea: from people taking the lift up, we heard “It’s faster this way”. A little more digging (and some personal experience) showed us that people were more likely to take the stairs down than up anyway, so we determined that timing and speed would not be great motivators
3) Laziness and the Fun Factor
“Too lazy” was the most common excuse we got when we interviewed ITP students who stepped out of the lift on the 4th floor. Again and again, we heard variations of “I’m lazy”, “didn’t feel like it,”, and the like. This, we determined, was what we needed to combat.
Antonyms for lazy, (granted,according to thesaurus.com) include “energetic”, “vivacious” and “activated”. Monique and I needed to activate the (rather drab and uninspiring) stairs, fill it with life an energy to try and overcome the natural laziness that we all exhibit.
Idea 1: “Drawing on Everything”
Paint the walls of the stairway with chalkboard paint, and place chalk on every landing, encouraging people to draw on the walls as they use the stairs. Hopefully, this will result in constantly changing “wall-art”, and motivate people to both see and create that art (and hence use the stairs):
the blank walls of the Tisch stairs
Yay Wall Art!
Idea 2: “Press to Confess”
We were inspired by the success of things such as “Post a Secret” and “NYU Secrets”, which allow people to make anonymous “confessions” for others to hear. We also wanted to make use of the echoey, silent nature of the stairs, and create some sort of sound environment. These ideas came together when one of the staircase-frequenters that we interviewed mentioned that she used the stairs in order to “avoid seeing other people”. We came up with “Press to Confess”: a system that would allow you to record a confession at one of the confession panels (located on each landing), which would then be added to a loop of confessions that would play continuously over speakers in the stairway. People using the stairs would be able to both listen to what other people have to say, and contribute their own thoughts.