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Students in my communication seminar on proxemics in the Knight School conducted a wheelchair accessibility audit of campus. The audit helped students to better understand how people different from themselves understand and use built space.
The following story was featured on the Queens University of Charlotte website about the project:
Navigating the campus with new eyes
Students in a senior seminar in the Knight School of Communication are studying the field of proxemics and how it can improve the way people interact with the space around them.
As a part of the seminar, students recently devoted a sunny, fall afternoon to conducting a handicapped accessibility audit of their campus. Their goal was to simulate for themselves how people in wheelchairs experience the environment. The class borrowed wheelchairs, divided into two teams, explored the campus and recorded their experiences.
“My interest in proxemics is in how to design spaces so they can be best used by the people who inhabit them,” says Dr. John McArthur, assistant professor of communication and Director of Undergraduate Programs, who leads the seminar.
Raulston Boger, a student in the seminar, says the exercise opened her eyes to the challenges of individuals with disabilities. “We’re having to go out of our way to get into a specific building because there’s only one on-ramp – just the little stuff we take advantage of everyday.”
An accessibility audit reveals how individuals with different needs negotiate their way through a particular environment, McArthur says, and identifies a location’s strengths and weaknesses. Often, an audit reveals simple solutions that make a big impact on a user experience – such as moving a potted plant away from a narrow entrance.
When was the last time you got lost?
Self-proclaimed “indoor map nerd” Nick Such wants to come to the rescue. “People getting lost in buildings is a problem we can solve,” says Such, CEO of BuildingLayer and founder of Awesome Inc. As CEO of BuildingLayer, much of his current work focuses on indoor mapping of built spaces.
Maps are typically created through either surveying, GPS, and imagery (or a combination of the three). None of these things work for mapping interior spaces of building. To make indoor maps, CAD drawings are used and then geo-located (on a satellite or GPS map) to position the building on the site (see an overview of available indoor mapping and positioning tools).
But indoor maps can be used for much more than providing directions. In a healthcare scenario, an indoor map could geolocate services and service providers, tracking treatment by patient and room. For first responders, indoor mapping could give firefighters and rescue personnel navigating built environments.
Indoor maps will not be something we look at, but rather something we experience. The development of crowdsourced indoor maps will allow us to complete a complete digital replica of our physical world.
Everytime I write an paper about user-experience design, I try to illuminate the main concept by comparing Ikea and Walmart.
So, it made sense to me that instead of talking about this comparison in my graduate course in “Space, Technology & User Experience,” I would utilize the actual spaces to make the comparison for me.
My students and I met at the Charlotte Ikea for our Monday evening class and then processed across the parking lot to Walmart to make the comparison.
Cooley (2000) discusses nine principles of human-centered systems:
These principles suggest key ideas that designers of human-centered systems can implement to ensure a quality user experience. I’ve been using this framework in my own writing to make the case that architects and designers of built spaces could consider these 9 principles as they develop spaces for a variety of purposes (see McArthur, 2011).
To compare Walmart and Ikea, I asked students to choose one of the 9 elements of human-centered systems. Then, as they observed the 2 spaces, to make notes about the application of the concept to the space.
All the students were quick to notice that Ikea controls the shopper’s path, while Walmart allows shoppers to move through mutliple routes. Others noted that Ikea’s displays invite shoppers to experiment with the products on display, while many of the items in Walmart remain in their original packaging.
Some noted Walmart’s emphasis on making the prices of items highly visible compared to Ikea’s subtle tagging of items.
Still others considered the shopper’s experience based on wayfinding displays. Ikea had maps and directional arrows whereas walmart employed aisle markers and section signs.
Both of these spaces are similar in their architecture, but different in the experience they create for shoppers. Our next challenge will be figuring out how digital technology can play a role in making those experiences even better.
The objects placed into a blog post all have individual attributes (size, color, location) that impact their perceived use of space on a page. The trick for bloggers is to figure out how to design their space for maximum readability.
This isn’t a new challenge. Printers have been grappling with this issue since the Gutenburg Bible in the 1450′s at the dawn of the Enlightenment. But in a digital space like a blog, everyone has the chance to be a producer.
So what will you do with your space
Here are a few ideas for maximizing the digital space you have when writing a blog post:
Five tips for using space well in your blog
- Consider the spacing of your text on the finished page. Some studies show that people are far more likely to read short statements (of 1-3 lines) than long paragraphs. So, insert a paragraph break for every new thought, about every three sentences.
- Use the “Kitchen Sink” when you edit posts to create a look for your text. Keep it simple, but emphasize important items using stylistic elements like color, blockquotes, bullets, and numbering.
- Include a link or two in every post by embedding them in your text. This connects your space to other spaces on the web.
- Use bullets, and/or numbering to separate your text so that it’s formatted in a readable way for the digital space.
- Photos or videos are a must for blog posts. Consider where and how you place them by experimenting with the justifications (right, left, and center).
And some general reminders:
- Source Citations: If you use a quote from any source, include either a hyperlink (if it is on the web) or author, year, page number (if it is not on the web).
- Editing: Spelling and grammar matter. Double check your work, edit repeatedly, and help each other. If you see a typo, let the author know about it (myself included).
- Complete information: Keep in mind that your readers (and your readership will grow over the course of the term) may not be familiar with your spaces. Fully explain your thoughts and give them a way to find your spaces (via hyperlinks) if they want to visit.
If you have other tips for bloggers about using space well, leave a comment here with your advice.
This fall in the Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, students are studying the role of proxemics (the use of space) in our lives. As part of the assignments for their study, students are completing experiential analyses of spaces they encounter. These tips are meant to improve the digital spaces housing these analyses.
The article below was featured on the Social Media Club’s Education Blog on September 17, 2012.
I embarked on another classroom teaching and learning experiment this fall on Pinterest. One hundred of our students at Queens University of Charlotte were dispatched into the venues and streets of Charlotte as student interns and volunteers during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The Knight School of Communication held a two-day learning conference before the convention, and then placed students with opportunities of all kinds. We had students on the podium committee at the convention, working with the foreign media press gallery, working in production for national broadcasts like ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, supporting local media outlets, and serving as hosts for the PPL, a venue dedicated to culture, arts, learning, and media both credentialed and not.
As one of the assignments of the course, each student was asked to chronicle his or her experience on Pinterest. Here are a couple of things we learned at the onset of our experiment:
When we planned this assignment, Pinterest was an invitation-only service. We devised a plan to invite all of our class members, but, luckily for us, Pinterest moved to open access two weeks before our class. Each students was able to create a Pinterest account during the class and begin posting.
Real time posting
Pinterest isn’t really built for real-time posting. The mobile apps do not yet interface well with Twitter or Facebook, or services like Hootsuite that allow multiple posting at once. Many of our students privileged Twitter for current posts, choosing to then post their images to Pinterest at a later time when they were at their computers. Using the service myself, I found that posting a picture to Twitter was the easiest way to get it online from my iPad or iPhone. Then, I would move through Pinterest to pin my image by searching for it on the web. Pinterest could make this a lot more usable by allowing direct posting from its mobile apps.
Pinterest makes an excellent online archive. It is easy to navigate, shows all the images, and tracks where they came from online and who pinned wach image. It is a site built for compilation, and it works well.
Over 100 people had access to post to our single Pinterest board. Despite the fact that Pinterest emailed every user every time any other user posted on the board, the service worked beautifully to combine all of these disparate voices on one page. This was the piece that gave me the largest amount of advance worry, not having seen or tried a board with a hundred pinners.
These are just some early observations. We plan to write an article about the experiment, detailing the plan, the assignment, and the results. It’s been a fun ride.
John A. McArthur, PhD, is an assistant professor and director of undergraduate programs in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte (NC). Connect with Dr. McArthur at http://www.jamcarthur.com or on Twitter @JAMcArthur.
The following story was featured here on the Queens University of Charlotte website, September 12, 2012:
Raulston Boger and Anna Kirwan had no idea what to expect when they received their DNC internship assignment from the Knight School of Communication. They were appointed to the DNC Host Committee, responsible for planning and executing the entire convention. Friday before the convention Anna said, “We have a training tomorrow and hopefully I’ll know more then. I have no idea what my schedule will be.” Little did they know they would soon have a front row view of the entire convention – an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.
“This convention is going to be the most open and accessible in history,” said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. That’s exactly what it turned out to be for Raulston and Anna. Just a few days into their internship, they were neck-deep in the convention buzz. Working from 8:30 a.m. until late at night, they escorted delegates and dignitaries from the security perimeter to Time Warner Cable Arena and the Charlotte Convention Center. They were in charge of getting the various guests to news sets or other meetings. “We escorted Stephanie Cutter, President Barack Obama’s deputy campaign manager, to each of the news agencies for briefings of the day’s events,” said Anna. The long hours certainly yielded perks.
Raulston and Anna found themselves with floor seats and backstage credentials to the featured DNC evening events at the arena, including the speeches given by President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Former President Bill Clinton. Raulston says, “I was sitting behind the speech writers, watching them follow along. After Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker gave his address, his speech writer asked me for my opinion!”
Raulston and Anna were among more than one hundred Queens students assigned to various internships during the DNC. “We wanted our students to be connected to our city and to experience it at a unique point in its history,” said Dr. John McArthur, assistant professor and director of undergraduate programs for Queens’ Knight School of Communication. “We wanted to let the city serve as an urban laboratory during the convention.”
The Knight School cancelled classes for a week in order to allow its students this once-in-a-lifetime experiential learning opportunity. Dr. McArthur says, “The faculty of the Knight School voted unanimously to bring down the walls of our school during DNC 2012 to allow our students to learn together about the communicative power of events.” Raulston and Anna learned lessons ranging from the power of communication to personal growth.
Raulston says, “This was a once in a lifetime experience and I learned how to share it with others by tweeting. It just has a more powerful effect than talking about it after the fact.” Anna says, “It was a lot of work, but I didn’t even realize it because I wanted to do it. I learned that when you give things your all, you get the most out of it. “
Two days of seminars (followed by a week of volunteering) would normally be enough to leave students glassy-eyed and exhausted. The “Charlotte and the Convention” conference at Queens University of Charlotte was a clear exception. After over 30 different speakers and as many topics, students poured out of the classroom enthusiatic about engaging with the Democratic National Convention as members of the Charlotte community. Here’s a quick re-cap of our two days with links to more information:
Introductory information about the conference and our students
Sessions and Speakers
All of our sessions were recorded and will potentially be released at a later date. Below are links to further information about each of the following sessions:
Queens University of Charlotte spearheaded a multi-story campaign about the work in COMM 360 and covered the following stories:
The following article was featured by Queens University of Charlotte on Sept. 5, 2012:
In precisely 40 minutes and 120 slides, five Queens’ faculty members and an alumnus regaled students with six presentations tied to the Democratic National Convention. The topics ranged from the history of political protests to the increasing role of influence that graphic designers play in politics.
The presenters used a unique methodology known as Pecha Kucha, Japanese for chit-chat, in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each, resulting in six minutes and 40 seconds total per speaker. Because the slides were pre-timed, the presenters had to carefully craft their respective remarks to maintain the concise, fast-paced nature of the presentation format.
Mike Wirth, assistant professor of new media design, presented shifts in branding political candidates; Dr. Erin DeBell, Spanish instructor, spoke on the numbers of Hispanic voters; Dr. John McArthur, assistant professor of communication, discussed convention space planning; Queens alumnus Jim Shoff talked about third places; Dr. Jessica Braswell, assistant professor of environmental science, spoke about the convention’s effect on the environment; and, Dr. Jennifer Bratyanski, history lecturer, provided a look at the history of protest at political conventions.
During the presentations, students gleaned specific knowledge related to the DNC in Charlotte, from how to participate in historic events scheduled in the center of the city to the environmental impact visitors will bring during their stay.
The Pecha Kucha presentations were part of a two-day course offered by The Knight School of Communication titled COMM 360: Charlotte & the Convention. More than 100 students enrolled in the innovative class, designed for students to focus on Charlotte and take advantage of our week in the national spotlight as a valuable internship.