BOOMERANG is an app that supports knowledge sharing among urban gardeners. Inspired by agriculture’s oral tradition with a playful twist, the app enables people to send, randomly, audio/video questions to other gardeners living in the same city. When a certain amount of people have replied, those messages are collected in a playlist and shared among the contributors.
The app aims to bring to the surface the fragmented knowledge that exists among individuals and promote mutual-help. By connecting people locally, the service provides relevant knowledge in relation to the climate condition. Its simple functionality allow user to a high degree of appropriation, while being accessible to a wide, diversified audience.
Project by Erica Coria, from the Master’s Programme in Interaction Design at Malmö University, 2016.
Empathise and Define
The project took off from a personal interest in urban farming and sustainability. My goal was to design an innovative digital products/services to support urban gardeners in their practices.
The research phase focused on three areas: existing products on the market that target urban gardeners, different local communities dedicated to agriculture, and individuals passionate about gardening.
Through observations and interviews with members, I was able to get an understanding of the activities, organisation, values and practice of two local communities. The communities chosen were different, one being a structured organisation specialized in hydroponic agriculture, while the other was a group of neighbors that shared a small vegetable garden.
A group of individuals with different skills and interest in urban farming was also interviewed and later on invited to take part of a workshop. During the workshop, the people engaged in different activities: a initial ice-breaker exercise where people sheared personal stories about gardening and current challenges, a second exercise with the aim to understand what knowledge people need, a third part where the participants were invited to brainstorm about different scenario.
From the initial research phase, personas were created and a design opportunity emerged. Among members of the communities and the group of individuals gardeners there was a preference for a knowledge acquisition based on direct contacts with other people, either “senior” members or family/friends. The preferred way to learn new thing and solve problems was by engaging in trial-and-errors, by asking people, or by looking at videos. Main challenges were to find relevant information, in relation to the climate, cultivation technique chosen and experience level and to keep track of different activities in order to inform next year planting season.
From this emerged the opportunity to design a artifact/service that could promote knowledge sharing among people, and that would cater for relevant information.
Ideation, prototype and test
Through brainstorming sessions few ideas emerged. Using a quick prototype, set-up using whatsapp, the embryo idea of BOOMERANG has been tested with a group of participant, followed by interviews and a online survey. During few iterations, the idea has been developed further, testing different possible mechanics.
A use scenario was created and used with user to get feedback and explore possible features. Finally, the last phase involved the design of the app. Using paper prototypes first, followed by more hi-fidelity prototypes, the final design took shape.