Connection Across Generations.


An exploration in enabling
social connection between elders
and grandkids through storytelling
and surfaces

interaction design / data



This work is an independent study in exploring how we can facilitate intergenerational connection through storytelling using the surfaces of the home. It began with me recording stories from my grandfather and working on approaches to augment and transform these stories into physical representations. The motivation is described below along with a document showing the overall process.

“The medium is the message”
In “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message”, asserting that the medium affects how people perceive the world, not only in terms of the content, but also the nature of the material itself. The classic example of the lightbulb provides a demonstration of this fact—a lightbulb does not possess content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has shows, yet it acts as a medium with social effect, allowing people to design environments that would otherwise be dark.

The home as a medium
The smart home today features a disparate set of Internet of Things devices connected to each other. Voice- controlled agents can provide interaction with objects such as light bulbs and thermostats. But this paradigm ignores the capacity of the home itself to serve as a medium of communication. The potential for a communication interface between us and the spaces that surround is not unusual. We currently form relationships with the technologies and objects that exist in our environments. But how can we design this symbiotic relationship to exist between us and the materiality of our home?

Surfaces surround us
In the home, we are surrounded by surfaces—walls, ceilings, floors, tables, art pieces. The way in which these surfaces are expressed has the ability to transform our perception of a space. So what if the surfaces of the home could become a canvas for expression for agents in our home? In the same way that we as people use our environment to express ourselves, can an agent use the architecture of the home as a medium?

Social surfaces
The home is a place where we are our most vulnerable. It is where we often crave connection with others. The conversations, actions, feelings and memories that take place in the home are consumed by and associated with the environment in which they take place. So what if agents in our homes could use the surfaces around us to help us feel social connection?

Stories are the means through which we develop a sense of self and learn about our family. Often times, sharing of stories occurs in conversation. But what if these stories could affect the home environment? And what if the home could help capture these stories? In this independent study, I aim to explore this notion through social agents and surfaces in the home.


Python | user research | Google Speech | hardware | Eagle