Assignment 4 – Interviews But Not As We Know Them

From previous investigations into people’s mannerism and behaviour we are now looking into different forms of talking to the public via interview. For assignment 4 we were given a range of questions to pick from, the question we chose would then be used on the public. I decided to choose,

What object do people treasure the most? Why?

This topic relates to a talk we were given today by Maria Maclennan who is currently doing her PhD in forensic jewellery. Maria explained she has been researching different ways that jewellery could help identify people in both natural disasters and forensic crimes. With many case studies touched upon, the connection between jewellery and identifying a victim of a fatal crime were close linked. Would this make jewellery and important object? With establishing existing forms of identity such as DNA, dental records and fingerprints, jewellery can also withstand environmental factors and still be unique to one particular person. With the growing trend for a hollywood smile people identities are becoming inhibited i.e. dental records, compared to significant jewellery that could be recognised instantly by a loved one. I found this idea very interesting and eye-opening. She then explained how jewellery can be linked to a geographic place and time with the hallmarks or engravings, showing locations or movements of a person. There are however some flaws, for example a natural disaster can cause the wearer to be separated from their jewellery. This was given as an example of a victim’s family from 9/11. Most bodies were not recoverable however some items such as glasses, medals, watches and other withstanding objects managed to survive and provide comfort for the families. Maria explained she had conducted research related to the DVI form that must be filled out when a body is being identified by the victims families. She revealed how some questions were of a sensitive disposition and looked into SAI (self-administered interviews). These are forms that can be filed out by witnesses or people with important information themselves. She described, once a person is asked to remember the context of an incident they are more likely to remember in more detail the events that took place and minor details that occurred.

This talk was a start to my investigation on what objects people consider important to them. Whether it be of physical or sentimental significance.

and back to assignment 4…

I made a quick mind map technique that I learned previously from semester 1. I tried to think of emotion provoked by the objects itself, whether the item brings back old or new memories. Memories of a time or place or even event?  Is it an essential object, i.e. a car which helps people get from A-B or a mobile used to connect people? Is it a family air lump or does it have some historical reference? Was it a gift from a loved one or does it represent something e.g, a wedding ring. I tried to consider all of these aspects.

Now it was time to find people to interview, I had to decided in advanced how I wanted these interview to be conducted. There are many service tools that could be used for this task. We were introduced to the idea of drawing a story board with touch points in which the person being interviewed would draw and image representing their experience. They would show the different points of the procedure based on their memory of that process. To show where the service is going wrong the person is also asked how they felt at each specific point, this eliminated good practise and pinpoints service that needs altered.

Another tool I considered was creating a persona. We were given a chance to practise this idea at a workshop with Lauren Currie who is a service designer. You had to create a personality which related to your product, from their favourite shop to holiday destinations. Once everyone had revealed their persona in groups the variation of results were funny and interesting. Mini people had been created, this helped when developing an idea to improve a service as you have to appeal to a range of different people.

I decided to allow the person I interviewed to write their object to help engage them into conversation, I would then write-up myself what other details I could find out throughout the short interview and try to connect them. I thought it would be quite difficult at first, but once I got started i was surprised the amount of information people would give me in such few sentences. I also tried asking the question on my Facebook account to generate some replies aswell.

I decided to conduct my interviews as,

“Semi-structured – these follow a plan but you can deviate to follow-up interesting comments in more detail. You may have questions written down as prompts or general topic areas”

I wanted to be able to dismiss irrelevant information and be able to delve into more interesting and informative topics.

1. Male/21. When I asked the first question “What object do people treasure the most? Why?”

 Without a hesitation he replied, “A family photo most definitely”. When I asked  why his answer was so definite and had he been asked the question before? He then told me that he was in the army and had been to Afghanistan. This revelation allowed me an insight into why he choose this specific object. It obviously had a huge sentimental value for him and was seen as the most valuable possession, this he must realise as personal objects are sparse when in the army. He then told me he carried it everywhere with him during his time in Afghanistan. I felt this response was very personal and intimate, this object was of personal and sentimental value. When I asked him what the photo was of he told me “It was a photo taken during a holiday”. This would have been a fond memory, one valuable enough to be picked from many others, a memory of a specific time or place where he would remember his family together and happy.

2. Female/ 19.”What object do people treasure the most? Why?” 

She told me “The song reminded me of my parents when I was younger. (the lighthouse family was a big band in the 90’s, I was a fan). My mum and dad used to play it when they had people coming over, it reminds me of them socializing with their friends and having a good time.” Music is a good source for memories and reminiscing, a particular song can take you back to a specific place and time in your life. I have a few songs that rekindle particular memories related to certain events, I can be taken back to remember such details as what my bedroom was decorated like to waiting at the train station for the train to college. I could relate to this choice. She also told me about a photo frame which was a physical object, she was given it as a gift when her grand parents moved. She was able to describe the cherubs on the frame and even the order of photos. “It had a photo of me on top with individual photos of my mum and dad underneath”

3. Female/ 20 “What object do people treasure the most? Why?” 

When I asked another female her opinion she said “My phone, I can’t live without it”. Most people have this connection with their phones with the amount of information about themselves stored in it. It can be seen as a form of identity, everyone has one and they  all contain information essential to us. When I asked “Is there any specific reason to why you choose your phone?” she then replied “I’m from Ireland and I realise how much I need my phone when I moved here, I need it to keep in contact with my family back home”. This object can be seen as a necessity, a lifeline to her family. The meaning of her phone means more to her than say, someone who lives native to Dundee if they lost or broke it.

All of my results were varied although they did have similar connections, all the objects were related to a sentimental and happy memory. A memory that is specific to each individual person but could re-create another memory for another. Once asked about these objects I was able to be given a minor glimpse into that person’s personality, what kind of things they thought were important, their values and interests.

I recently read an article on BBC news “What is nostalgia good for?”. researching more into why people keep old possessions or memories the article states that nostalgia sells and that people like remember a fond memory every now and again to make their lives seem meaningful. This related to my results, each persons object inked directly to a unique memory they had stored.

“”Nostalgia is a way for us to tap into the past experiences that we have that are quite meaningful – to remind us that our lives are worthwhile, that we are people of value, that we have good relationships, that we are happy and that life has some sense of purpose or meaning.”

When I discussed my results with my co-designers,

What object do people treasure the most? Why?” 

This question was asked to another group of people, we discussed our answers as I had also used the same question. This should be interesting. It was shown that many people referred to their iPod as their most precious item. This reinforces the nostalgia that music can create. With an iPod you are spoiled for choice to which memory you want to be refered back to. Or you could put it on shuffle and surprise yourself on a long train journey. Music can have a great impact on memory if people can relate to it, this reminds me of that time… I remember we sang this… I remember this was on when…

Each persons object is extremely personal and I feel grateful that I was allowed to hear some stories that made me smile.