I&P Week 11 Final Project Research: Creating A Collaborative Experience During The Pandemic

Group member: Sharon Wang, Lily Hsiao, Cory Zhao

After some discussion with our group members, we decided to explore how we can connect people through tangible user interfaces for our final project.

Here is the link to our presentation:

To know more about the scope of our project and the contextual information around this subject, we first looked into previous research to understand the different ways people communicate pre-and-post-pandemic. According to an article from the BBC, many people felt estranged and lonely during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns. This statement was backed by another research that shows that one in two in Australians and two out of three in Britain and the US reported increased loneliness (Ribeiro 2020). However, as people adapt to the new lifestyle under the pandemic, some find themselves growing closer to their friends despite the distance, partially thanks to social media.

Digging deeper into the ways in which traditional socialization has evolved throughout the pandemic, and to find how we can improve the platform people build social connection, we decided to not only put out a survey but also conduct some in-depth interviews. For more quantitative results, we posted surveys on social media channels; we also chatted with our friends to see if there are any missing points.

Based on our survey results, we found that even though people didn’t necessarily grow apart during the pandemic thanks to social media, people still miss the unmediated emotional feedback from talking in-person. Although social media have been popular well before the pandemic, people preferred direct, face-to-face communication; approximately 70% of our responders often meet with friends before the outbreak. During the lockdown, 28% of people reported increased use of digital media as a way to fulfill their needs for entertainment and communication. People seem to prefer connecting with friends over a shared experience; 65% of responders have experience playing online games with friends.

During our interviews, our friends also raised some interesting points about connecting with people during this time. One mentioned that they are actually closer with their good friends because of the extra time, which concurs with the BBC article we found. All four interviewees all told us that it’s the sense of togetherness, companionship, and physical presence that they miss the most about seeing their friends in person.

Therefore, we think that creating an online collaborative group experience that allows friends to have fun and work on something together while having conversations with one another would be an effective solution to address the increased demand for emotional connection and entertainment under the limits of social distancing.

To support our solution, we did some extra research and data analysis on several games that have gone viral during the epidemic. According to a report by Deloitte, the popularity of games has peaked during the pandemic, and a third of consumers are first-time subscribers to video gaming services (Arkenberg 2020). Some data from Weforum also suggests that compared to last year, video game sales volumes grew dramatically; a 23% increase in the United States, a 44% growth in Japan, and a rise of 20% in Europe (Epstein 2020).

For instance, games like Animal Crossing and Among Us. Some scholars have found that games like Animal Crossing acted as a form of digital escapism for users, which offered them a chance to live an alternative lifestyle and work on things together with each other (Jiang 2020). In addition, Among Us, another popular game during the pandemic, saw an increase of more than 300k users in September despite the game has launched for two years (Fenlon 2020). Both games are not only collaborative, but they also left space for users to talk about their lives, making the experience closer to hanging out in-person.

Overall, the stakeholders’ group that we decided to focus on are people aged between 15–35 who love group experiences and are eager to explore other ways to socialize.

Here is the link to our research process:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GAkzyYZvrxBztEoBr3GyreHEwIm1myR81ePmqFj9dmo/edit

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/12J4yXbXjHsTnS20ILubnBOPHThiAjHONbofRb8elaWE/edit#slide=id.ga2daf5de61_0_15

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