The Merced Project: Reflection

I am very inspired by the overall experience of having completed such a massive workshop. However, this is the type of excitement that tends to push me away from realizing the holes in my work, as a way to better understand how to craft experiences that go deeper, and are richer in engagement. In order to address that, I am writing this post to evaluate The Merced Project with a critical, and somewhat removed, perspective on the work.

Successful Components:

  • Specificity of audience. This is a key factor that I paid special attention to in the design of this workshop that was missing from all of the previous iterations. While previous experiments were a bit superficial due to their ability to exist in any context with any audience, this iteration went beyond that shortcoming due to the level of specificity with the community, participants, and histories of the space. This revealed a new tactic – design an experience that could only exist within the context it is administered.
  • Collaborative approach. I recognize that I am not a professional on the history and greater issues within the city of Merced – hell, I have never even been there before this workshop. To address this potential downfall, I chose to collaborate with the community (UC Merced students) to inject elements that would work especially well to make the experience meaningful to this specific audience.
  • Deeper levels of participation. Another point of feedback given from my advisors about previous iterations of my models is that they are not challenging enough, and lack a sense of ambition / rigor. To address this, The Merced Project designed a series of new components to the exercise beyond simply dealing three cards and writing a business plan. New levels include: Two part revealing of the components, group collaboration, public presentation, competitive pressure.

Down-falls:

  • Stereotypical space. A major issue I have with the project is that, while I worked hard to push this beyond the space traditional business workshops work in, it still looks like one at first glance. I am interested in how I can bring the exercises into more bizarre spaces in order to craft a more compelling narrative that goes beyond the conventions of current approaches to innovation.
  • Design artifacts. I am interested in what kinds of artifacts can be created for the participants to use, beyond the cards and name tags. These artifacts have the potential to define the various roles of the participants (authority, etc.) as well as help frame the meaning of the workshop itself. These could take the form of objects, costumes, etc…
  • Outcome. While this iteration did include more layers of engagement, the end result of the experience still did not go beyond an idea. In future iterations, it could be beneficial to facilitate a prototyping of the ideas in order to aid the development of tangible prototypes.
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