Vāsa is a project for social change, drawing attention to how North Americans consumerism habits contribute to the water crisis. Over the last two years day zero, the last day of drinkable water, has become a real fear for certain countries around the world. With certain places flooding and other places sinking, the United Nations predicts a global shortfall in water in 2030. My team and I wanted to make a project that brings awareness and starts a conversation about the issue.
Fast fashion is a habit that has been created in North America consumerism so the team did research on phycology habit change and rituals. We found that people look for these three things as incentives to change their behaviour; social incentive, immediate rewards, and progress tracking. With this project we wanted to inspire people to change their purchasing habits. We found through research that we would not effect change or a conversation around purely the facts/images of certain demographics suffering, but rather needed to cater to people perceived self interest and allow people to come to realizations on their own. By giving the immediate feedback review at the checkout counter, giving progress tracking of how their purchase accounted for so much water, and the social incentive of comparing their final total with others, we believe our installation is successful in creating awareness about day zero.
Vāsa is a shopping experience that allows the audience to come and interact with stylish clothing. RFID tags are paired with each garment and when the user makes a purchase, the checkout screen informs them how much water it cost to make that garment and has the fundtionality to add garments together, so the user can make an outfit. As the user goes though the system they learn the true cost of their purchases. The team decided to focus on clothing and fast fashion as it is the second largest contributor to the water crisis on a global scale and the most relatable to the designs teams personal demographic.
In making this installation, we came across technical roadblocks that could affect the overall user experience of the user. When we first started to conceptualize the user flow in the space, before the idea to use RFID tags, we had the idea to use the touch from the users to signal feedback to a display screen that showed the amount of water used for each garment. The problem with this was, what if two people touched a garment at the same time. What would be displayed on the screen?
Another roadblock we came across was what if people wanted to take the clothing off the clothing rack and examine the garment, like one does when shopping. Wires would be dangling from the garment and, because those wires would be attached to an Arduino, the garment risked being unplugged or disabled by the user's curiousity.
The most important issue we had to solve for was where do we place the sensors in the clothing to guarantee it picks up the users touch? We needed to do research to find out what the most frequent place people touch a garment when shopping, and as we had a time constraint this could be tricky. We did not want the information being communicated to be lost because the user did not interact with the garment in the way we thought.
Because of these constraints explained above we decided the best route to communicate our ideas was through RFID tags. We also created an AR experience and built it out to our personal phones. This showed the same information as the checkout counter, only with out the funcationality of being able to add garments values together. We did this as a backup precaution incase the checkout counter became too crowded. This way the users flow in the exhibit was not stiffled but they could experince our narrative in another way while they waited for the checkout counter. We took the already learned behaviour from a shopping experience and altered it slightly to communicate our message.
The team had there own instagram account @project_vāsa as another avenue to spread awareness of day zero as well as advertise for our instillation. Here we posted branded graphics each with different facts about how North Americans consume the 1% of accessible fresh water the world has to offer.
To make this project the team had to work with elements of spacial design, branding, coding of RFID tags, building physical assets, research in behavioural change, physiological motivation and the water crisis.