What if distributed technologies countered extraction and fostered connection?

Dance, Dance... NFC

Dance, Dance... NFC is a speculative design project that re-appropriates the mundane and extractive attributes of the current implementation of NFC technology into a more delightful and fun experience that connects people and place.

Role: Individual Project Studio
Timeline: 7 weeks
Tools: NFC tags, Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere Pro
Advisors: Elise Co and Sean Donahue

Process

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The project explores two threads: the use of “technology” to create, foster, enable and facilitate interaction, and the exchanges that result from or are instigated by these productions—engagements, happenings, provocations, experiences. These two threads are commingled to offer new models for understanding and to practice generating ideas from observation, not from preconceived notions or assumptions about people/situations/technology/etc.

The project started by documenting the human-to-human, human-to-technology and technology-to-technology interactions within a 48-hour period. In analyzing all of the collected documentation, my interaction with NFC technology at the bank excited me most because of its combination of proximity, identity and mobility. Through further research I found that NFC technology is primarily deployed within the context of financial transactions, so I deployed four interventions that explored the moments of transaction at different establishments. These interventions provided great insight, yet I wanted to create a surprising and delightful experience that challenged the inherit humorlessness of financial transactions.

The initial observation during my 48-hour observational period
Apple Shortcut triggered when a NFC payment was initiated during a test intervention
Test Interventions that explored moments when NFC technology is primarily used
"Customers" were redirected to this webpage upon a NFC "transaction" with a Square reader
Staged NFC "transaction" prototype in order to create surprise and delight
Moments of "transaction" with "customers"

Documentation

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Participants engaging with the project deployed in a public park.
Participants engaging with the project deployed in a public park.

Consideration

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For the future, I would like to push this project in a direction that embeds numerous NFC tags into larger contexts. In such deployment, I foresee spatial web experiences that require intimate engagement with the embedded content due to the associated gesture of NFC technology as well as multi-person experiences where people, information and place combine into connected and rich experiences.

Reflection

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This project amplified a user’s engagement with NFC technology in order to invoke a sense of serendipity and surprise. It countered the sense of efficiency that is typically prioritized by the developers of this technology. It is my hope that the users who experience delight during the interaction will recall that moment when they use NFC technology in future payment purposes.

The conduction of field research propelled me to fully investigate the NFC tap gesture and wholeheartedly engage in the process of research through design. I had a great time considering elements such as the context of the project as well as opportunities to be outside and interacting with the public in novel ways, an aspect of life that I have been yearning for after a year of limited human interaction. 

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