Dr. Brown’s talk was pretty neat. For one, I learned a new word : “neoteny”! Having done a fair amount of game design, so the idea of play being a valuable human activity is not foreign to me. But it was interesting to hear about some neurological evidence for it. Dr. Brown’s assertion of play as being important in and of itself, rather than as a “rehearsal” of some sort for more “legitimate” activities was very interesting. One thing that struck me was that Dr. Brown himself didn’t seem like a very playful person!


Playful Concept for an Urban Environment

Encouraging vaccinations

People are often reluctant / nonchalant to get vaccinations. However, the more people get vaccinated in a community, the more the resilient the entire community is to the disease (google “herd immunity”). My idea is to create an immersive, game-like environment where visitors go through a simulated process of creating a vaccine, (learning about immunology, epidemiology and medicine in the process) and end up getting vaccinated with what they “created”.

Vaccination tents




You wanna be a CSI agent!



Everyone wants to look cool!


Visulising a virus (this is H1N1)



Protein visualisation

Inject eggs with vaccine

Receive a vaccine at the end!




Habit Breaking Assignment

Habit to Break: spending a long periods of time procrastinating on the internet. While doing homework, I tend to want to take breaks every time I finish a part of my work. I usually start browsing the internet (or Facebook) and get too caught up, and before I know it, half an hour or more has been spent doing nothing… I don’t recall having this ADD-esque impulse in high-school, or even the early years of undergrad. Perhaps it’s the fact that I work on the computer more?

Cue: Getting bored with an assignment, or finishing a section of an assignment.

Routine: Check Facebook. Look at a bunch of posts. Follow some links. Think of random things and start searching online. Read my daily webcomics and look at the sites I check daily.

Reward: Respite from my work. Mental change of pattern. News and new info?


Strategy: I think the respite and change of mental pace are probably the main rewards; the news is just an added bonus. It might be interesting to force myself to try a low-tech, short activity instead: draw or write (on paper) for five minutes, maybe?  Or even close my browser and draw or write digitally? Maybe even taking a short stroll around the room might work.

It might also help if I set aside a fixed time every day to check my daily wesbsites, so that  don’t take random breaks to check ’em.

Reading Response: Power of Habit by Charles Duhig

While Charles Duhig’s ideas on habit-forming are certainly interesting, I can’t help but feel that the techniques we read are too simplistic… just replace a cookie with a walk? What if you’re craving sweet dessert-stuff at that moment? I definitely think the idea of isolating and cues and rewards can contribute to habit forming, but the examples he gives seem a little…”Too Good to be True”.

Reading Responses Weeks 1&2

Nudge: Despite their long-winded examples, Thaler and Sunstein had a lot of interesting insights into the psychology of choice (“choice architecture”), and how could be influenced to make certain decisions over others. It was interesting to see how the economic decisions and theories seem to be based on the actions of perfectly logical and calculating “Econs” rather than humans. And while some of the points could be accepted as “common sense”, it’s important that these points be studied in an objective, scientific manner before they’re taken as truth. One point that did strike me, though, was the idea of “Gains and Losses”, and how people hate to lose something more than they like to gain something. Does this suggest that negative reinforcement is a better strategy? Perhaps, but I hope to find out through the rest of the coursework.

Carrots and Sticks: Ayres’ discussion about “Commitments”, “Incentives” and “Anti-Incentives”, with distinctions between positive and negative reinforcement, was interesting. I was slightly concerned about the idea of “disabling choice”, something I feel Thaler and Sunstein would be vehemently against, given their interest in promoting “Libertarian Paternalism”. I was also intrigued by the fact that many of Ayres’ examples use money as an incentive, something that Thaler and Sunstein claim to be a weak motivator. Finally, I admit that I’m not too convinced about the pigeon experiments…

Encouraging people to use the stairs at Tisch

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 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

the blank walls of the Tisch stairs

Drawn Wall

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.