UX / UI / DESIGN STRATEGY
Archiving the memories and history of Puerto Ricans in Chicago.
Develop a platform in which users can learn about Chicago's Puerto Rican community and Humboldt Park neighborhood, which is undergoing gentrification and cultural displacement.
But also, demonstrate the important concepts learned in museum informatics by developing a working proof of concept that applies the use of computer technology in the cultural heritage domain.
UNIDOS is a mobile app concept that archives and displays the memories and history of Puerto Rican resistance.
LENGTH OF PROJECT
10 weeks (speculative project)
Lead UX designer (research, interaction design, & visual design)
Having read an article about the move to designate Paseo Boricua as a “special purpose” district in order to combat gentrification in early 2018 fresh in my mind, I immediately gravitated to something involving Humboldt Park. Initially pitched in my Museum Informatics course as an augmented reality concept, this project has taken different forms throughout the 12 weeks I worked on it. However, the thing that has stayed the same was the desire to showcase the stories of people and locations that a place in Chicago’s Puerto Rican memory.
Main Barriers to AR and VR Concept
People not physically being in the neighborhood or city
Displacement and gentrification are factors that have impacted residents to move out of the Humboldt Park community, but other things to consider are economic, personal, and professional reasons.
Did not want to do a neighborhood walking tour or "recreate the day" scenario
Could not find enough historical material for content
While we didn't have to interview potential users, we did need to think about who would be using this product. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to family members and informally interview them. These brief interview notes, plus my own thoughts, became my proto-personas.
The heart of this app is oral histories – stories associated with the Puerto Rican community in Chicago, such as a church that historically supported radical movements in the 1960s, a diner where many Puerto Ricans remember socializing after their shifts but is now torn down, or even the community center that raised funds for Hurricane Maria relief last year.
In addition to stories, UNIDOS taps into existing digital collections of partner universities and museums to create curated digital exhibits, or topics. Topics are meant to cover a large event or theme and can include photos, video, and audio.
At the end of each topic, the user is met with related content such as locations mentioned or another story from the interviewees. This is intended to entice the user to explore deeper into the app.
UNIDOS also has a mapping ability, providing information and recommendations on the closest point-of-interest based on your location. This guides you to locations that were mentioned in a topic or story, collected from user feedback, or physical objects linked with the themes of the Puerto Rican experience in the United States from archival collections.
While topics and stories are the heart of the app, the contribute feature is the soul. Chicago Puerto Ricans have been active in many of the defining issues of the broader Puerto Rican diaspora, but we are only 9% of the Puerto Rican population nationwide. UNIDOS connects stories of resilience and resistance for Puerto Ricans happening today in Chicago and other communities, too.
Contribute allows the user to link through their social media account and record their own first-hand account of an event or location. When prompted, they are able to capture either audio or video and include specific metadata. After inputting information, the contribution is added to the user’s account and the larger map.
UNIDOS presents an opportunity to encapsulate stories, places, and events by those that lived them and share them with other generations of Puerto Ricans and allies – past, present, and future.
For a clickable prototype, visit: https://xd.adobe.com/view/eaed8eae-db27-45f8-50ca-7f3b54be0d6e-9cdc/?fullscreen.
lessons learned & future work
Being a Chicago-native and first-generation Puerto Rican, this project has a special place in my heart. In trying to make this proof-of-concept work, I reached out to professionals working at the University of Illinois, archives, and community informatics. In many of our conversations, a major pinch was the archival material that would be featured as our digital collections. Many of the photographs, posters, and other materials associated with the social justice events featured have not been digitized with a good quantity of them living in smaller institutions. Without resources, these materials cannot live within this app (or anything else).
If given another opportunity, I would like to consider a desktop version of this project.