Talk to a stranger

April 2, 2009 at 2:00 am 1 comment

dsc_0076Came across this great idea from a blog on museums I like. Some students of museum design (now that’s a career I wish I’d thought about before heading off into Law), are conducting a collaborative experiment during April. As part of a course the students are taking, they’re looking at “social objects” – exhibits or artifacts that inspire interpersonal dialogue.

The experiment needs to be conducted in a public space, in this case a zoo, and participants will do three things:

  • talk to a stranger
  • get two strangers talking to each other
  • make or install a social object that motivates the two strangers to talk to each other, without the intervention of the students

Obviously, this meeting and exchange is what I try to achieve with my “day job” (working in an organisation with Communities of Practice, a sustained implementation that’s been going for 7 years now!). I guess I design “social objects” that facilitate discussion between CoP members without my interference. So the design conditions I work with (eg CoP venue or CoP artefacts) help CoP members to engage.

The students are designing specific social objects such as a sign or an incident. I was thinking about what I’d plonk in the middle of a public space like a zoo to encourage complete strangers to talk to each other. Naturally, my mind went to some sort of sign that carried dire warnings of civil liberties being threatened! But why not? – it could certainly get people talking.

What social object would you design? And if we think about CoPs – what sorts of social objects could be designed to motivate CoP members to engage with each other?

The museum students will be reporting on the results of their experiment here and live-twittering the experiment on April 5 using the hashtag #strangemuse.


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GFHF CoPs We’ve been here before

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Luke  |  April 2, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    great links Kim
    I find that interaction with strangers occurs best when something unusual occurs and then something happens that is a surprise.
    So maybe for a zoo, have a small exhibit of what a cage used to look like 100 years ago. Have a little stuffed animatronics monkey or something like that in there, voice over of how bored they are and cold on the concrete. Then every 5 minutes (when new people have arrived), get it to scream or do cartwheels or something surprising. People will then hang around to see how other people react (the candid camera type scenario).
    As for CoPs, isn’t that what the water cooler is for? Someone we both know installed an aquarium in the office – ended up being a major talking point – people came and met others and interacted while looking at the fish…


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