Prototyping

A refresher

Lets just take a moment to throw it back to a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, younger and less wise version of myself who had just finished her ideating process. The plan was:

  • Establish a platform where we (Madeleine Johnston and myself) can share our experiences at the markets in the Wollongong and Sydney areas
  • Highlight the good and the bad at various markets to help local market-goers make informed decisions about their shopping which may otherwise have been a very overwhelming experience

We were to do this by regularly updating a very a e s t h e t i c Instagram account and by writing weekly blog posts.

Sounds great, hey? Well it sort of was, but we got off to a rocky start and are still trying to find our feet. But that’s okay because that fits in with the #fefo philosophy… right?

The first encounter with reality

We weren’t expecting an immediate roadblock before we even began posting content online. On our first outing to Bulli Markets we were shockingly underwhelmed. In our time spent ideating we had built up in our heads this idealised fiction out of meme objects of what it would be like to actually create this project. We had forgotten that it was our job to take the mundanity of the real world and transform it through digital processes. Consequently, we were knocked slightly off balance by the lacklustre aspects of the markets and found ourselves desperately searching for diamonds amongst the rough.

Our mistake was not realising earlier that in the postmodern era of technological production, even the blandest of things can be turned into treasure. It took time to change our photography process to centre around this concept. But an examination of all the photos we’ve taken over the last few weeks, including those not found online, reveals a distinct change in methodology. We went from seeking pre-existing things which were already good and special and relying on them to make us look interesting online, to taking photos of everything and anything with a less careful and more unrestrained attitude and transforming them later in post-production. Thisnew attitude of trying to find the magic in everything also meant we had many more photos which looked better and more creative to choose from when selecting what to post on our page.

“Design through making”

The truth about our project, indeed the truth about all DAs, is that it is not a perfect object which exists in isolation on the internet. In fact, this status of perfection is unachievable if mistakes are not first made through a process of iteration critical to which is the impact of feedback loops.

These feedback loops inform creators as to the successes and failures of their designs in a way that is typically unfiltered and honest, if sometimes brutal. In the case of our DA, the feedback loops we experienced fall into three categories:

  • Process
    • Continuing on from the more conceptual encounter with reality as discussed above, our physical process evolved to become very effective and efficient. On our first market experience, we neglected to record stall names and details about the products. This then prevented us from accurately informing our audience about the market we attended, resulting in our first few posts not quite fulfilling the brief of making the markets less overwhelming. In our following trips to the markets, we ensured this mistake was not repeated, resulting in better quality posts due to an increase in the inclusion of important details.
    • We also experimented with the editing process. We found that using applications such as Photoshop and Pixelmator were too complex for our purpose. Instead, we settled on the use of VSCO Cam as it was fast and simple to use whilst still generating high-quality edits.
  • Audience
    • In the ideating phase of our project, we defined our audience as such:

DA Audience Starter Pack

  • What we failed to foresee was that theoretically defining an audience and finding that audience in real life are two very different things. We learnt this by attempting the good ol’ ‘follow for follow’ technique of gaining subs combined with expecting our audience to magically find us. Predictably, this method failed and we gained minimal momentum.
  • Next up we tried a modified version of this technique. Though still technically ‘follow for follow’ we removed the ‘magic’ aspect and replaced it with ‘science’… sort of. For this experiment, we followed a range of accounts that we felt fit within our established starter pack, such as @glebemarkets and @frankiemagazine, and then we also followed a random sample of their followers. The idea was that by us following these people who would likely be interested in our content, their awareness of us would be raised and they would follow back. This idea, even though it lends itself more towards creating a strong community of people with a common interest rather than just a following, still failed to provide us with any momentum.

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    • One good thing that came out of our second experiment was the realisation of the idea that we shouldn’t just be looking for people to follow us and like our images. We were reminded that we actually want to help real people who fit into our starter pack, rather than just boost our egos. This means that the prime goal should not be to just increase those follower and likes counts, but to actually prompt interest and engagement from people who genuinely care. To achieve this, we need to show that we care first—we would do this by asking questions in the captions on our photos, by liking other account’s photos or even by taking our involvement one step further and commenting on other account’s photos. This is a process we’ve started but haven’t had long enough to properly establish feedback loops with yet.
      • There is one exception to this…
  • In an attempt to reach the segment of our audience I was under the impression existed in the BCM114 cohort (due to interest expressed during the Project Pitch) I posted the above tweet. It received no engagement and I have thus concluded that this is an avenue which should not be further explored due to that silent yet resounding feedback.
  • The importance of this idea of finding a true audience/community was illustrated when one of my friends who could be considered an Instagram ‘influencer’ gave @finderskeepers_mc a shoutout on her story. Even though she had over 1600 people following her, we only got two followers in response. This clearly illustrates that if we target the wrong audience then we will not achieve success in finding a community.

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  • Content
    • In the ideating phase, we established the idea of creating Instagram content around the meme objects typically seen on Instagram accounts which fit into our starter pack and also those associated with the markets. In terms of aesthetic, this seems to be doing well as we have received many in-person compliments. However, the lack of engagement and attention given to our account seems to suggest that our content lacks something—this being a very recent realisation hasn’t given us the opportunity to explore solutions to this problem. The recent weekly topic of improving by ‘breaking’ our designs prompted us to think of disrupting our current visual theme to fix our problem by potentially introducing ‘aesthetic’ memes related to the markets, info posts, and videos. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

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A comparison of our remediation on the classic Instagram ice cream photo with others who also use the same format with great success.

 

Unexpected disruption

One of the more embarrassing failures of our project has been the blog aspect of FindersKeepers. Not because it hasn’t received any engagement, but because it never really got the opportunity to do so. For weeks, we didn’t realise that the reason our blog wasn’t doing well was because the domain had been deactivated. It was inaccessible, and we had no idea all because we didn’t check the FindersKeepers Gmail where we would have found that we needed to confirm our contact details for our site to stay running.

sadness

As a result, there has been minimal time for feedback loops to establish here. There are currently two blog posts up but it is difficult to promote them as the time when we post the related content on Instagram has expired. We had hoped that this platform would serve to be like a miniaturised version of other similar media sites such as ‘Concrete Playground’ and ‘Urban Spoon’—we even imitated their writing style in an effort to achieve this—but at the moment we are very far from that vision being a reality.

Final words

In all, progress is slow, but we’re still learning. We have many more plans for the future, hopefully one will lead to a breakthrough. Any feedback is welcome.

Find us:
  • Instagram: @finderskeepers_mc
  • Website: https://www.finderskeepers-mc.com

Ideating

The concept

I started this semester knowing that I wanted to continue with my digital artefact (DA) from BCM112. I was a content creator for the Makerspace Club Facebook Page, during which I founded the weekly Makerspace Mondays posts. I knew for sure that it was a solid idea with many opportunities for those all-important feedback loops. In the past it had demonstrated for me many successes and failures, as is the objective of BCM114—it seemed to be a perfect choice.

However, with my prior digital artefact I found myself struggling to stay motivated to do a task so heavily dependent on a space which was inherently unpredictable. Some weeks I would visit the space every day and come away with almost no content because the space was simply empty. Other days, people just weren’t undertaking projects which would translate well on camera.

Consequently, I found myself unconsciously dreaming up wild ideas for other possible DAs. These included: writing Buzzfeed Community articles, making a bedtime story podcast for insomniac adults and producing low-budget spoofs of iconic moments in cinema. These all had a certain appeal to me because they were wholly of my own creation and direction, not reliant on the constraints I experienced in my work with the Makerspace.

As much as I loved these ideas, they lacked a certain element of personal inspiration and purpose I knew I would need to commit to something so big. Especially since it would involve dropping a ‘sure thing’.

It wasn’t until one unassuming afternoon that the convergence of confusion and an over-working mind created a shared brainchild which I hope will become a successful DA.

See, my friend Maddie and I were discussing the DA, she had said something about needing to find the right “target market”. But, me being the deaf idiot I am, I only heard the word “market” and in my confusion tried to instantly piece together what a DA involving the markets could possibly be.

The more I kept rambling on, the more we both realised the potential for this idea. There was so much within this realm we could do, so many opportunities, and a real social utility.

In my excitement, I knew we had landed on something we could turn into gold through the alchemy of the DA process. That afternoon, when I was resigning from the Makerspace, I was confident that I was making the right decision.

The Brainstorm

Empathise

As two people who frequent markets on an almost weekly basis, accompanied by friends and family, the empathise process for us has been underway long before the conception of our DA idea.

A conversation we always have when we attend the markets goes something along the lines of, “Where do you wan’t to go/eat from/buy __(insert any item here)__?” to which the other person always responds with something like, “I don’t know, there’s too much choice, it all looks so good!” This is typically followed by a lot of aimless wandering as well as ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over all the wares on offer. A lot of time is wasted before someone proclaims the words “I give up” and tentatively orders something from the nearest stall.

We’re both personally familiar with this overwhelming feeling induced by the markets, and have heard people, countless times, wanting to either give up early or just “get in and get out” because of the chaotic enormity presented by the markets. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear people wishing for an easier experience.

Solution

We want to establish a platform where we can share our experiences at the markets in the Wollongong and Sydney areas. By highlighting the good and the bad at various markets, we can help local market-goers make informed decisions about their shopping. The best way to share our message is through a blog and an Instagram as these afford us an authentic, yet idealised persona in conjunction with aesthetics and accessibility.

Shopping at the markets can be an overwhelming experience. Simple questions such as which markets to go to, and which stalls are the best, have answers that are challenging to find without first making mistakes in choosing where to shop. This produces waste as a result of a distaste for the product and also wastes the consumer’s money which would be better spent elsewhere.

Our DA aims to aid in this process. It will enlighten people as to the best places to shop for what they want, and will also illuminate some hidden gems which might once have been ignored.

At this point, we have so many great ideas we want to pursue that we start to worry we’ve lost the true essence of BCM114: FIST—fast, inexpensive, simple, tiny. So we brainstorm some more…

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Identity

In formulating our identity as a market guide, we explored the digital meme objects associated with the markets. We investigated Instagram pages from food bloggers; from brands which have stalls at the markets; and from the individual markets such as Glebe Markets and the Newcastle Flower Markets.

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Credit: Christina Di Meglio

Some of the most repeated and remixed meme objects include: bright colours, quirky/unusual food, street food, handmade goods, recycled and vintage fashion, cloth bags and flowers. There is also a lot of colour saturated images with a shallow depth of field; the frame often includes someone holding an item in their hands with their body unseen.

Incorporating these meme objects in our DA is critical to progress as they already have established association chains in the schema pre-existing in the minds of our target audience. This will mean an easy acceptance and appreciation of our DA by our audience, and will also result in feedback that enables us to better fortify our image.

We mapped out our target audience by combining the type of person we associate with the aforementioned meme objects with the traits of people we have physically observed at the markets. These ‘real life’ people tend to be women between the ages of 18 and 35 who are environmentally conscious, enjoy organic and gourmet food, support local brands and are into the Indie or vintage ‘scene’.

DA Audience Starter Pack.png
Credit: Maddeleine Johnston

The persona (branding) of our DA will be formulated around these meme objects and this target audience. By incorporating these elements we are able to appeal to our narrow audience in a way that presents an idealised and ‘aesthetic’ market experience whilst also remaining grounded in perceived authenticity.

Take a look and tell us if you think that so far we’ve been successful in achieving this.

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If you want to support our DA follow us on Instagram at @finderskeepers_mc . Our website will also be up and running soon.