Less Human


Less Human

Design Fiction on a Future of Fully Autonomous Public Transportation.

Group Work, Academic
Umeå Institute of Design
Collaboration: Umeå Municipality
Feb - March, 2017 | 5 Weeks

LESS HUMAN is under the project MOBILITY JUSTICE, trying to explore & challenge the norm within public transportation system.
With Ethnography & Co-Creation, we find some faint signals of reducing man power within the public transportation system now. Bring those faint signals into a future scenario, we create dialogical prototypes & design fiction, to provoke discussion upon the topic of driverless public transportation.

Team: Lukas Flynn, Klio Rapakoulia
My Role: Ethnography Research, Co-Creation Design (Board Game, Improvising Theatre), Exhibition Design



Less Human - The Future of Fully Autonomous Public Transportation

The final outcome is an exhibition communicating the take-aways. See a one shot video of me guide you through the exhibition



Real World, Real People - Ethnographic Field Research

We started the project with Ethnographic Research, going to the real world & talking to real people about their transportation choices & the subsequent trade-offs. We realized that there were a huge amount of thoughts, negotiations and compromising happening behind the “simple” choices of “moving from point A to point B”.

lagacy story-01.jpg


How Do I Get Here and Why? - A Co-Creation Board Game Designed For Sense Making

In order to communicate the complexity of mobility to our audience and building empathy, we created a board game.

Game happens on a real map of Umeå. Every player will get a persona card, some task cards & some transportation cards. All the info on the cards is based on the real people we met in the field research. In order to finish all the tasks, players must make careful decision & help out each other. The goal of the game is to let decision makers from Umeå Municipality understand the complexity in daily commute of Umeå citizens & how policy can impact on individual citizen greatly.



Less Human - The Faint Signal 

During our ethnographic research and the sense making workshop, the connection between human are the most impressive. The collaborations between family members, colleagues & friends, bus drivers & passengers and even strangers are always the “Magic Moment” within the transportation system. However, we found more & more faint signals of removing human connection in public transportation system. 

Taking Östra, the new train station in Umeå as an example. There are no human working in the station - all the the touch points are digital. The personnel siting behind the hotline are in Stockholm, 513km from Umeå. This results in - travelers asking for train info from other services, like café waiter & cleaning lady, who are actually not part of the Östra service and also confused about the situation. 



2017 - 2026 - What If The Less Human Trend Goes On?

Based on the stories, opinions and faint signals, we exhibit a future where autonomous public transportation is the new norm.
The exhibition was made up of 2 parts - A TIMELINE & ARTIFACTS FROM FUTURE.


To communicate this new world, we put ourselves in 2026 & looking back all the way to 2017 by a TIMELINE,  which portrayed all the key moments in the evolution of public transportation from 2017 until 2026


After building a future world, the biggest challenge is to enable the audience relate to the topic of Less Human Public Transportation. So, we created a set of  dialogic prototypes - artifacts from the future - artifacts that already exist now but with future contents.

Among them, there are
2 telephones were you could listen to real phone calls from people struggling from the lack of staff at Umeå's train station.
A new e-ticket & timetable for the future bus system. The ticket for human-driving bus will be 30% more expensive than the auto-bus. .
A comment box & audio which contains the opinions we collected from people about the feelings to "less human future".
A AutobusHacksforum where nervous citizens can find commuting buddies, protest against bus drivers losing their jobs and try finding lost wallet.



Workshop in 2027 - How Can We Deal With The Less Human Trend?

After getting all the mindset of the  audience to the Less Human Future, we host a small improvising theater,  in which we invite the policy makers from Umeaå Municipality to play in different personas and act out how his/her character would respond to the given crisis - a crying little girl who was left alone in the autobus. 
The improvising theater receives a heated responds. Most of the audience became unplanned actors - Parents Of The Little Girl, Artificial Intelligence, Hotline Operator... and getting involved in the improvising play. The improvising theater expanded itself into a discussion on the how to deal with personal safety in a driverless public transportation and also the core question - Is this less human future really the future we want? 



Story Telling & Story Making - The Epiphany Moment

Most of the designers want to be a better story teller. Me the same. However, before this project, I didn't really reflect on how we can tell a story. 
I can Tell A Story verbally, Write Down A story, Draw A Storyboard, Show A Story By Video... But do you realize? All of the traditional ways of storytelling are linear & one-way. The audience is simply Accepting the information from the story teller making it hard for the storyteller to communicate the idea and build up empathy among the audience. "I just can't imagine a future like that" was the most common response we heard when we first started the project. 

So, the team changed the approach - How can we tell story in a more engaging way? 
What if the we serve as the platform for different user groups to have a conversation together? What if we "force" the audience to empathy by giving them a character and asking them to play a game? What if we build up a world for the audience and let them become the story tellers?
Maybe there is no "Good Story Teller" at all. If you want a good story, don't tell a story, make it.




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