Actions speak louder than words
An action? What is that? It is a verb, yes… But why do we “action” or let’s say behave the way we do? Through the way we have been raised culturally and through our very own upbringing it is clear we have been programmed in a way that our actions reflect the society we live in. (Mueller, 2015)
Action is described as…
“The process or state of acting or of being active” (Dictionary.com, 2014)
So we now know what an action is, but what is considered a thoughtless act? Jaz Choi mentions seven key acts that make up what she has labelled “Thoughtless Acts”. These are:
- Reacting: we interact automatically with objects and spaces that we encounter
- Responding: some qualities and features prompt us to behave in particular ways
- Co-opting: we make use of opportunities present in our immediate surroundings
- Exploiting: we take advantage of physical and mechanical qualities we understand
- Adapting: we alter the purpose or context of things to meet our objectives
- Conforming: we learn patterns of behaviour from others in our social and cultural group
- Signaling: we convey messages and prompts to ourselves and other people
My own little piece of paradise
When asked to “go to a place you used to hang out a lot before uni and/or still hang out”, the first place that popped to mind was the waterfront directly across the road to me. Not only did I grow up here, playing in the sand and going for adventures with my neighbours back in the day, this is still a place I visit to get away from uni work or just to relax and reflect on the week that’s been.
It only made sense that this was the place I would choose to have a broader understanding of the acts that occur on this boardwalk.
Through observing the environment around the waterfront, it is clear that there are many objects and spaces that we, as the user, interact and have thoughtless acts towards. The first image depicts the notion that we automatically without conscious thought prefer to walk on smooth surfaces whilst avoiding the rough rigid surface of the pebbles. Just like Choi demonstrated the idea of utilising other objects to interact with such as tying your shoe lace on top of a bench, the staircase handrail is busily used for stretching along this path as it is a popular route for walks/runs and exercise in general.
Along the waterfront it is not uncommon to see people enjoying a few beers and a picnic/get together on the beach side. With that being said, it is also not surprising to find litter, specifically glass, meshed in and around the rocks. It is convenient for the user, although not environmentally friendly, to leave bottles to ground down and become a part of the habitat. The image on the right demonstrates how the users of the environment over time have utilised this concrete section as an entry/exit point to the beach. Through the trail marks along with the qualities of wear and tear on the concrete, grass and rocks, it becomes apparent to the individual that it can be utilised as a track.
In this environment, many opportunities are available for the user. For example, the first image depicts that idea of taking water from a tap to drink from. Although its specific purpose is not as a water fountain, but a foot wash station to take off the sand from the beach, it can be utilised to fulfil many needs associated with water. The stairs in the second image have the primary purpose of allowing the user to go from Destination A to Destination B, however this staircase is a popular exercise loop. Where it is typical for many individuals to do stair runs as part of their exercise for the day.
Within this environment, although it may appear to have a tyre, chair and metal fencing built around the tree, this environment replicates a place for shelter and play for the user. Although in the first image it may appear to be just a chain and a tyre, when you combine both the objects, we take the opportunity and the advantage to create something we understand to be a swing contraption. However in the second image, through the suspension from the tree, the metal fencing appears to allow the user to sit and relax, creating an enclosure for the individual. It is interesting to see how simple recycled objects can create both enjoyment and comfort for the individual user.
By simply adding wooden planks to replicate a foot laddet to help the user walk up the trunk, we have altered the context of the tree. It has been adapted in a way to meet the objective of climbing the tree in a simple manner, along with allowing the user to recognise what the purpose of the environment is. This waterfront is a popular walk for both owner and their dog. Although there is no specific facility in place for dogs to drink, through simply adapting the water tap with a plastic container, we alter the purpose of the water meter to meet the objective of providing water for a dog.
Simple acts that happen day to day can be likened to conforming to society. Throughout my walk along the water, little acts that I, myself would do were clearly influenced by both the culture and upbringing I have had. Simple acts like picking flowers, feeding the birds left over scraps and drawing in the sand are actioned on a regular basis. These are known to be socially acceptable and bring joy to the individual taking place in these actions.
Through utilising fences in both images, it is apparent that they do not block off the whole area. Through recognising the danger itself, many people see that this is more of a warning that is conveyed through the use of temporary fencing. In the second image in particular, the users of this environment navigate themselves around the drain, rather than walk straight across it.
Why we do what we do?
As users of the environment, we tend to act a particular way and treat the environment in the manner we do as we have been brought up a particular way. These thoughtless acts are triggered through the conditions in which we deem socially acceptable and normal in our society. (Vognar, 2012)
So how does this affect design? As designers we need to understand how users react to particular things, not just the obvious ways in which someone utilises a particular object but why do we exploit it the way we do? For example, let’s take a particular item like baking soda. Baking soda has several different uses for example:
- Cleaning agent
- Cooking agent
- Cosmetic agent
Although the primary use is of course for cooking purposes, through witnessing and seeing how society has utilised baking soda in a way that it was not intended for, we thoughtlessly use baking soda for more than one means. (Breyer, 2016)
It is imperative that as designers, we understand and delve deeper into user reactions and how they relate to the environment around them to create designs that adapt and work for all users of the planet. (Patterson, 2014)
Breyer, M. (2016). 51 Fantastic Uses For Baking Soda | Care2 Healthy Living. Retrieved from http://www.care2.com/greenliving/51-fantastic-uses-for-baking-soda.html
Dictionary.com. (2014). Action | Define Action at Dictionary.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.dictionary.com/browse/action?o=0
Mueller, S. (2015). The Importance of Reflecting one’s Actions. Retrieved fromhttp://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/2011/the-importance-of-reflecting-ones-actions/
Patterson, S. (2014). How Do Humans Affect the Environment? Retrieved fromhttp://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/How_Do_Humans_Affect_the_Environment
Top Ten Home Remedies. (2013). 10 Benefits of Baking Soda for Hair, Skin and Body | Top 10 Home Remedies. Retrieved fromhttp://www.top10homeremedies.com/kitchen-ingredients/10-benefits-of-baking-soda-for-hair-skin-and-body.html
Vognar, D. (2012). How Important Is Culture in Shaping Our Behavior? Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-vognar/culture-influence-politics-life-_b_1724750.html