Reflect on your experience of the Bodystorming exercise by answering the following questions

  • How did physically acting out help to explore ideas?

Schleicher et al (2010) suggest that “embodied storming focuses on need states and can be applied as a design-research method that helps identify gaps and opportunities” (p49).  Embodied storming requires the participants to act out, not as designers, but as humans reacting as a group to a problem or situation and utilising these strengths and benefits (p48). Physical acting out allows shared insight into the context of the design problem.

After our warm-up, our group of five chose to explore the current problem of sleeping in airplanes. We began by brainstorming problems and listing them in no particular hierarchy. Issues raised included the size of the seat, the problems of noise and light, difficulties with positioning of nearby seats and their occupants and the lack of comfort. A photograph of the list is provided below.

Bodystorming-List

We then discussed how we would set up the available props to recreate the problem environment. The chairs were grouped into rows of two and the rows spaced to suggest the cramped context. The first problem acted out was the issue of space when a passenger in the front seat reclines when the passenger behind wishes to stay upright. This performance was expanded to consider the need of the adjacent passenger requiring to get out of their seat while the front passenger was still reclined.

Bodystorming-1

Possible solutions including a retractable stair and movable seat bases acting in tandem were explored. Notes were taken and sketches roughly drawn of the problems and possible design solutions by the student not physically participating in the bodystorming.

Bodystorming-2

Members of the group were moved to different roles to see if other ideas developed. This resulted in the problem of light and sound being explored. The initial idea of a hood that concertinaed from the headrest arose from the bodystorming which the group embraced and extended further considering how it could integrate an audio-visual element.

  • Did you refine your ideas and solutions to the problem through bodystorming? In what way?

The initial ideas were explored through extending, that is acting out and focusing on the single idea until all avenues were explored. Once an idea had been fully utilised, we moved onto the next problem. Whilst this could have been directed by the non-bodystorming group member, it seemed to just occur through the process of bodystorming, itself. The group then discussed our findings and documented them in the below concept sketch.

Bodystorming-3

The idea provided to the class was a personal hood/bubble which incorporated an audio-visual, lighting and noise cancelling component. The seating problem was dealt with by a moving floor swivel seat combination.

  • What was difficult or challenging about bodystorming?

The first challenge was setting up the environment in the class with limited props. Access to appropriate props could possible help some participants to engage more thoroughly with the context.

The acting required for bodystorming can also be confronting for more inhibited group participants. I personally found myself in a comfort zone as I have studied, performed and taught theatre improvisation. I can see how some of the skills learnt through improvisation could be utilised by bodystorming, particularly the concepts of “extending” and “advancing” to explore ideas. Acceptance of others ideas and avoiding “blocking” could also assist the process of bodystorming.

  • Does bodystorming lend itself to certain types of problems?

Bodystorming certainly lends itself to situations where a realistic physical environment can be created and explored using participants as actors. The two scenarios provided to the class, being a doctor’s waiting room and airplane could be quickly and easy created in the classroom. However, props were limited and for example, using a tray laden with food utensils may have resulted in further problems that needed to be considered and the scenario may have become more real to participants. Conversely, in improvisation often the prop box is used by inexperienced improvisors as a crutch and the focus on the object can be detrimental to ideas being explored between people. I also note that the lack of props in our classroom setting did not seem to overly affect the flow of ideas.

It may be more difficult to use bodystorming when the problems are not connected to the physical environment such as the issues of information transfer and communication.

References:

Schleicher, D. P. J. and O. Kachur (2010). “Bodystorming as embodied designing.” interactions(November-December).

JMAR0157 Joanne Martin