Interaction Design Analysis of Hong Kong Wetland Park

The Hong Kong Wetland Park was built to compensate for wetlands lost due to new development, and to educate the public about Hong Kong’s diverse wetland ecosystem and highlight wetland conservation.

I was quite thrilled with how they designed the park, specifically:

  1. how the themed-gallery provides meaningful interactions that educate the visitors, especially the kids;
  2. how they use the public space to build relationships between parents and children, between humans and the environment; and,
  3. how this project is a legacy to this generation’s commitment to responsible urban planning and how they then entrust it to the future generations.

The park is divided into the indoor and outdoor area. The indoor area houses a themed exhibition area that uses games to educate and interact with visitors. For this blog post, I’d like to loo closer at the games used, the game mechanics and interaction.

 

Theme: Educate the public about the consequences of environmental decision, stress proper farming, logging methods.

FarmSimulation game screen shots. 

Mechanics: They used a simulation game wherein the player decides what kinds of crops to plant and where, and what kinds of added infrastructure were needed a la The SIMS. The game would then simulate crop growth, yield and environmental consequences of the agricultural plan. After, it will suggest proper farming techniques to the player, and the player gets to play again.

Thoughts: I think this is a good way of testing player’s knowledge in certain areas like farming and logging without overwhelming them with information. If they are unsuccessful on their first try, the player will feel challenged to do better on the next around. The game will then tell the player how to win the game through educational information. Next round, the player will naturally gravitate towards correct farming, logging practices to win.

Theme: Challenge assumptions on our daily consumption and present data

image
Interactive “infographics.”

Mechanics: Multiple choice type of game wherein displays light up when the player hits the correct answer.

Thoughts: I especially like how data is presented as opposed to infographics or just using plain numbers. The water bottles light up to indicate how much water is used up by washing machines, by using the shower, etc. And because the bottles used are the actual size, it is easier for the players to get a feel of just how much is wasted.

 

Theme: Save the wetlands.

Personal Screen of the Game Show - HK Wetland Park
One of the personal screens uploading results to the main screen.

Mechanics: For this one, game-show type mechanics was followed. There are four players per session, and each of these players participate using personal screens that surround the big, main screen at the middle.

The main screen is a simulation of building growth over time. The buildings are color-coded to each one of the four players. The more buildings appear on the screen, the more destroyed the wetland gets.

Each player controls one aspect of the environment: recycling, something, something and something. There are 8 rounds of questions. For every round of correct answer, the color-coded building assigned to the player gets blown up, making the wetland healthier.

image
The main screen. 

Thoughts: This game is slightly complicated and not executed properly. I attribute the biggest confusion to the main-screen graphics. They looked like charts and not immediately apparent what is going on there. For every round, the personal screen sends the results of the game to the main screen. The main screen changes according to the scores, but the personal screens don’t get any feedback on how much color buildings were destroyed and how many else is left. This doesn’t give me a sense of accomplishment.

Also, it’s impossible to join in the game or figure out what’s going on after the game starts. The result of this were kids getting interested in the screens and start clicking away, but nothing happens. They don’t wait anymore and move on to the next game. I thought that was poor as this game seemed to be the centerpiece of the exhibition area.

 

Conclusion

The success of the interactions is largely because they stayed true to the education theme. The games all had clearly defined purposes, and the designers used the appropriate game mechanics for them. However, being too educational borders on boring if not balanced with fun and simplicity. The main audience are kids, and as curious as they are, they will shy away from things not easily comprehensible to them.

How Art Transforms Communities

In the Philippines, as in many developing countries, slums are a big part of major urban areas.  More often than not they receive less love from local governments and lesser love from residents. The quality of life is bad, crime rates are high and security is a major issue. But as they make up a large part of the voting public, they’re here to stay. So the question now is, how might we elevate the quality of life in these communities?

One solution is using art to improve living conditions. Here are examples from other countries:

In Taichung, Taiwan, an area slated for redevelopment has avoided demolition. Dubbed as the Rainbow Village, the childlike art enveloping rows of houses is the work of 90 year old Rainbow Grandpa who started painting to protest. Once word got out that there was a quirky village somewhere, people started pouring in. Soon, popular opposition caused the government to halts its plans and the village completes its transformation to a favourite tourist spot.

rainbow3  copy

blog-tw1

Gamcheon Village in Busan, South Korea was rejuvenated by street art. The place has a dark place in Korean history books as having hosted religious and political groups. After the Korean War, the village was a depressing place to live in. The government spearheaded a project to revitalise it and invited young artists to craft murals and sculptures throughout the area. The surprising and sometimes eccentric artwork drove in tourists. Today, Gamcheon enjoys an economic boom with more and more coffee shops and experience centres cropping up.

Gamcheon

little prince

La Luz Beach and the Environment

Went to La Luz Beach at San Juan, Batangas yesterday.

Here are some thoughts:

There are some plastic sachets and packaging material floating around the beach. It’s either Filipinos still lack environmental awareness or any human activity near the coastline should be considered hazardous to nature.

Its annoying to see trash in the beach. Matthew and I spent a few minutes picking up plastic what-nots floating around. Despite La Luz having a no-plastic policy, stuff still find their way into the great blue ocean.

Majority of the beaches are privately owned. Good money is needed to access well-maintained beaches.

Its sad to see the original inhabitants of the land get displaced by landowners. Its also saddening that they can’t enjoy the sea. I would sort of understand this if it meant environmental protection (thinking of the Pasig River and the slew of riverside settlements).

Some beaches should be turned into national parks, maintained by the government, and enjoyed by the public.

Metro Manila, Spaces and Interaction

People living in the settlements are more in touch with the city than the people living in enclosed walls. What does it mean to be a citizen of San Juan? How do you embrace being a citizen of San Juan?

San Juan day is one of those days that the urban poor celebrate fiercely and with much enthusiasm. Running around the streets, dousing people with water and getting showered yourself in return is a mark of of celebrating your city. This activity, among others like the Sta Elena Fiesta, forges a stronger sense of belonging.

—-

When I pass by neighbourhoods I’ve always remarked at how there are no government-built infrastructures that elevates quality of life for its citizens: public sports centres, public markets, community centre and city sponsored events.

But these things do exist, in a hodgepodge incarnation of what the community has built for itself. The busiest street intersections evolve into a market area, spacious roads with little traffic become defacto basketball courts, abandoned trailers become barangay halls that double as day cares and sometime funeral parlours, and what little open space remain in the cities become entertainment grounds when city hall decides to hold events. This is the barangay community and it has structured itself to become liveable in their own terms, and in them I see the city as a living thing, constantly growing, evolving.

Examine the city on a macro scale though, and the community have less and less of a role in the city’s growth.

City Hall has washed its hand of being its own quality of life director and handed over these rights to the mall system.The mall mandate is to develop properties into mix-use facilities that elevate art and culture, sports and entertainment, essentially anything that makes city life vibrant. This would have been okay in theory, but it has become not just a one-stop solution, but the one and only solution.