For our final bachelor project, we are having a two weeks thesis seminar which includes defining the topic, writing a mini thesis and even do some prototyping.

07.01.2018 – Kick-off and Exercise I

Introduction

At first we were introduced to the schedule and expectations of the following two weeks. The first week is meant to be used for finding and defining the topic very well. It needs to be narrowed down and meaningful.

Since this seminar gives us study points, it needs to be graded and thus requires deliverables and expectations.

We also were introduced to the meaning of a pretotype. It is a very early stage prototype which doesn’t work and maybe only manifestation of an idea such as a mockup.

Topic in One Sentence

After the information about the course, we were asked to formulated a single sentence to describe our intended work. A shock ran through our class but actually it wasn’t a big issue for most of us.

My sentence was following:

“I want to help people to imagine a political system in a post wage-work society which enhances and supports democracy.”

That maybe sounds like clear intent but actually that is not really the case. But I am eager to find that out in the following days.

Also it was interesting to hear the topics of the class and how they evolved during the Christmas break. Also it felt like there were couples of very close topics which is great. From my perspective I would also wish to have a project partner but I am not sure how to get there yet.

20 Descriptions

For the next exercise we were asked to make twenty descriptions of our project on post-its. That was quite hard and I cheated by adding decorative post-its to my board. Also, I was not really sure if I did the exercise as intended because I just tried to describe it as I know it and just with a very few projects.

Topic Overview Think beyond current hegemony left: Plato’s allegory of the cave (really bad version), right: we think of the future world as a copy of the current one. Wishes Requirements Other Projects Other Projects in related field from left to right. Cyberfolk (included into Project Cybersyn supervised by Stafford Beer in Chile during Allende goverment in 1971), control room of Project Cybersyn, self-invented radical plattform to vote for everything.

Exercise I

For the rest of the afternoon and the following day, we started to work on the first bigger exercise. At first it seems pretty simple. We should define parameters on two or even three axis and create a matrix out of that. We then fill this matrix with related projects.

That was difficult that day but I think that there will definitely will follow some the next day.

08.01.2018 – Exercise I, Design Space

I have to admit that I underestimated this day and it was pretty harsh.

I continued the work of the previous day to work on the topic space. It somehow felt pretty hard because I could not find related projects. Also I had trouble to define the axis of the matrix but agreed on “applied” to “theoretic” on the x-axis and “local” to “global” on the y-axis. In particular, I was not happy with the x-axis but that’s something I can change really quickly.

As Karmen promised, I took the chance to have an individual discussion with her. I also tried to briefly analyze why I was having trouble working on the topic map. In my opinion it was because I am not really good in finding related work but through the discussion, Karmen said that it could be that my topic is to broad. She said that since it is a speculative topic, I first need to write a framework of my world how I imagine it and what is reality there. Not very much into detail but narrowed down to the real thing.

To be honest that really confused me and I had a lot of trouble continue the work. May the next day be better.

09.01.2018 – Finish Exercise I, Start Exercise II Design Space

As mentioned, the previous day was pretty hard. But I had the chance to talk early in the morning to Joëlle and she helped me a little to re-define the axis with me.

So on the y-axis was from “Free From Wage Work (UBI)” to “Autonomous System (Tech)” and the x-axis from “Empower Citizen” to “Optimistic”. Those are things that are important for me and my future project. To the optimistic part I need to add that it shouldn’t be naive optimistic. In my interpretation, optimistic can be also critical. But currently, politics seems more about to be fixing problems, surviving and not destroy everything. To really change something bigger there is a common optimism on an idea needed.

This made it much easier to look for related work where I spent some more time on.

But soon, I started with the second exercise; the design space. The idea was to add 50 own ideas of project. I continued with the current flow and just writing down trash but ended up with not much great stuff.

10.01.2018 – Continue to Shaping the Topic

This day we had time to continue to do some research and to work on the topic we want to focus on. I used the time to talk with my co-students to see their topic and to give and receive some feedback from then.

Nevertheless, I had big problems continuing to work and I was kind of blocked. Everybody had a 15 minutes mentoring with Joëlle planed, and to analyze why I was blocked I tried to write it down.

I had three directions, I wasn’t really sure if I should combine them. Automatized government, hobbyist politicians, and none-naive optimistic future thinking. Also I had the feeling, that I need to narrow down the topic which would help me to know where to look more specifically.

The mentoring with Joëlle could have been much more productive because I did not have specific questions to ask. I was also not really comfortable enough to talk about it freely which was an ongoing process during the week. This is normal. However, it is not very productive and won’t change a lot or bring me out of this situation.

Nevertheless, the mentoring was not completely useless. Every talk pushes you to be more precise and think about different stuff. Also it gave a little bit more confidence that this topic is quite relevant. I just do not know from which side I need to tackle this. Joëlle reminded me how user and field studies were often successful for me in recent projects. It can guide a lot in finding a direction.

To get some other thought, I baked a cake and made five kilos of hummus because the next day will be a special one for me.

11.01.2018 – Manifestations and Planing the Next Week

Doe my cake delivery, I was a little delayed in class but it also was a good excuse. In the class, Joëlle already began to explain the next and fourth exercise “10 ways of manifestation”. Basically, in which form we are going to display our experience of the bachelor project. Again, this was more of a brainstorming thing in which I think I’m not good at and this doesn’t help a lot either.

In one hour, I really made ten different manifestations which some I did not like. But my favorite was a Tamagotchi for politics where some people have to take care of a political department in a hobbyist way. In my vision of the last week, I painted a future with an implementation of the universal basic income where most of the state and government is automatized as well as the economy and people take place in ethical positions. If mandatory or not, people should be able to participate as hobbyist politicians in a way. This time with a Tamagotchi.

Later in the day, we were asked to make a plan of the following final week were we should make a so called pretotype, field research and a presentation of our pretotype. It definitely would make sense for me to talk with other people to get a little out of my head. So I planed an interview.

More details on the plan of the final week will follow.

14.01.2018 – First Time in the Field

In the morning there was a short input planed by Joëlle to show us an overview of the milestones for the next few months of the bachelor project and thesis time. I did not attend but could catch up by asking my class mates and checking the wiki.

Last week, I have already planed a short mentoring with Joëlle to discuss the field study just before lunch. I also took the chance to talk a little bit about the last questions I had according the milestones of the next month.

In the morning before the mentoring, I prepared a few questions I could ask at todays political forum at Kosmos right after preview of the “Zwingli” movie about reformation. I asked Joëlle to take a look at them and to give me feedback about them. In general she thought that those questions are valid but very general. A good practice would be to create ten sub-questions out of a single general one. Also, I was using terms like technology and politics which is not precise at all and could be replaced by concrete technologic examples or representation, voting and participation for the political part. This would give me also much more interesting answers and not a general explanation.

Right after, I agreed to work together with Daniel on my bachelor project. He was researching on public space and privacy. Both highly political subjects. Still we need to find a way to connect our topics which could also help us to be more focused.

I continued to work on my questions and iterated them three times after I made few sub-questions out of them. Eventually, I had these four questions prepared:

  • Are we not dreaming in politics anymore and just trying to fix things very quickly?
  • What needs to be reformed for the participation of citizens in the next 20 years?
  • How would a universal basic income empower citizens in participation?
  • How would a universal basic income help people to dream an optimistic political future?

I was aware that these questions would give me a general answer but it is good as a starter.

Daniel and me arrived a Kosmos and drank a beer as a method to make brave enough to ask me my questions in front of all people in Kosmos after the panel discussion.

I asked the question what is concretely needed to be done to increase citizen participation in politics which was highlighted as a big issue in the prior discussion. Jaqueline Fehr, the senior civil servant from the social democratic party answered me that it is an important step to include foreigners living in Switzerland to participate and that there are further processes needed in the future. Michael Köpfli of the green liberal party mentioned the political innovation lab his party established to have discussions and solutions out of the current ongoing discussion. In his opinion, it is important to start with political participations in school where kids should learn how politics work and how they can participate.

After the short question round with mostly weird questions from the audience, people left very quickly and I could not get into a discussion with other people. Maybe it was because most people have seen the movie before and finally wanted to go home.

In the discussion, it was often mentioned, that it is in particular hard today to make reforms as they called it. But in my opinion these reforms are more focused on fixing problems with existing solutions that were messed up in the last few years.

Kosmos

15.01.2018 – Continue to Shaping the Topic

This day started with a recap of writing the blog post of the previous day since it got a bit late and sleep is still a priority.

Before we went home from the Kosmos event the day before, we agreed to do another interview session and prepare questions what we did then. The interview had three sections about public space, privacy (in the public space) and political participation.

We did not deeply think of an appropriate location for the interview and when we went out, we noticed that it was really hard to find people in “Kreis 5”, especially when it was could. Still we were able to ask a few people and received very diverse answers. One person was not interested to talk with other people about politics because it would give a wrong atmosphere and probably also judgement (which was not directly mentioned). Another person was not at all worried about any issues with privacy and was even happy that Google was “surveilling” him to bring the advantage of better fitting search results. To our surprise, we also had the chance to talk with a politician that was very interested in the topic of privacy. The last person was kind of interested into politics but never really felt involved in it but said that only through different opinions had the urge to take part.

The interviews were good for a first step but could have been much more precise in the questions and we should have chosen a location more precise. It was hard to go deeper just within a few minutes and with people that did not really have any relation to us or why they should participate.

Back at ZHdK, Daniel attended to a mentoring with Karmen to get more references to our topic. One was a former project of Interaction Design students which called “Pop-Up Forum” and provided tools to create and supports discussions about the idea of the universal basic income. Another method was the “Theatre of the Oppressed” where people played a certain political role emphasis another perspective and create awareness of that.

Inspired by this, we continued to work on our ideas and mapped our ideas to awareness, education, citizen participation improvement and presenting alternatives. Soon we recognized that awareness is somehow present in all the other mentioned perspective and put it aside for the moment.

We came up with the research question “How might we enable the younger generation to be more politically participatory?”.

After defining our field a little bit more we went to Clemens Winkler of the Interaction Design Lab at ZHdK to ask him about his opinion and to get another perspective. He liked our idea but showed us other ways of political participation such as “Forensic Architecture” and “Zentrum für politische Schönheit”. Forensic Architecture for example was involved in analyzing gas attacks in Syria with video material provided from the Russian and the governmental news of Syria. The Zentrum für politische Schönheit on the other hand, has a more satirical approach in politics. In one project they created a website images of Nazis in a demonstration in Chemnitz and asked people to denounce them to their employees. But all of the data was fake but people that attended the demonstration used the search bar to check if they, their family members, and friends were on the list which eventually created a big map of dataset which was then handed to the police.

Inspired by this we began to brainstorm some very concrete ideas since we need to present a pretotype to the audience on Friday.

In the evening, we met a former flatmate of Daniel to talk with him about politics and concrete actions. We now know some more projects in Switzerland and additionally people we could get in touch with.

Flip chart with our ideas

16.01.2018 – Narrow Down the Concept

Since, we discussing until late at night, we continued to write the blog on the next morning.

After the blog, we started to discuss about our project and how we can get a consens out of it. We already agreed on the research question and made following categories out of the project we researched: systematic change (of politics), optimization, digital guerilla actions and coolify (trying to make politics cool). First, of all we tried to put the related work into those categories and then in a second step add our own ideas there.

The research questions was a little modified. Since urban areas such as Zurich have many foreign residents we wanted to enable them to participate in politics as well. But already the term participation in politics needs a definition.

So one of our ideas was to place a mailbox in public spaces where residents can put their demands. These text will then be published and put onto small polling stations were people can vote for example in the tram. The results then will be published on a screen or on social media platforms and so on. The idea was to not only create a deeper participation than just voting so people could also bring in their own things that are important to them. We were not really sure if a simple yes or no question voting was appropriate or if it would be a better choice with a slider of importance. Also, we wanted to chose more carefully with the location which is a crucial thing.

Polling Station Sketch

In the mentoring however, the polling station was criticized – for good reasons. On one hand, it is too easy to just take voting as a way of expressing political participation. There are many other ways that might are not that obvious. On the other hand, simply yes or no is something like a like button. Especially, if you see how other people voted. It brings a lot of biases with it which can be dangerous.

Thanks to this mentoring, we were inspired to think about other ideas and about the presentation as well. We used our brainstorm stroll methodology to get into new ideas. This method is great because you have enough of stimulation to not get bored and getting stressed while trying to stay focused but also not too much of distraction you would have at another place.

So we quickly generated new ideas how we could approach a higher political participation among the young and foreign residents. But more to come…