Project: Design for family reconnection in an age of digital overstimulation.
People: Stanford Product Design program; project partner Kyle Williams; participating families throughout the US.
In an always-on age, young people and adults alike are starting to recognize the negative physical and social side effects of their drive to be constantly connected online. Multimedia multitasking and motivation to check in—to the extent that primary school children have reported using their mobile phones to send upwards of 60 text messages a night after they’ve been sent to bad—are taking their toll.
In response, a fellow Stanford student and I created the outreach-oriented Presence Project. In visiting families in their homes, we found that time management and self-regulation were concerning around all members' screentime, not just children’s. I worked to understand the current ecosystem of people pushing this space forward across education, medicine, contemplative practices, sociology, and other fields.
We prototyped and tested cloud congestion pricing, wearable meters, and other physical products aimed at long-term behavior change. But we learned that one solution wasn't enough for most households. We starting bringing physical toolkits, "Be Here Now Boxes," to families to encourage collaborative reflection and prosocial behavior. These tackleboxes include a combination of electronic and paper-based tools to inspire dialogue and action around digital device use.
They kits were especially targeted towards families with four to 10-year-olds, an age range in which habits around interactive communication technologies are being actively formed for many children. Families found the kits to be fun to use, and most refused to hand them over at the end of month-long testing cycles.
Stanford Medical School is exploring licensing Presence Project tools for use in obesity and exercise research. While this high resolution prototype is not yet a market-ready solution, it is one step in the right direction towards bringing solutions to information-overloaded modern families.