Abiscope, a learning journey which guides tourists through the natural landscapes, and opens their eyes to the phenomena that  Arctic researchers are studying during their work in Abisko, a remote Swedish village. The service provides a playful experience through nature hikes infused with bits of easy-to-digest scientific knowledge in context.

2014 Spring | UID | 8 weeks | together with Taís Mauk & Idil Tunga


 

Problem

In partnership with the Climate Impact Research Center (CIRC) in Abisko, SE, our team set forward to create a robust service that would allow the CIRC to have a greater outreach for their scientific work and its findings towards Abisko locals and tourists. The ultimate goal of the project being to make the general public more aware of the ongoing research and current developments of the field of Arctic ecology.

Implementation

Our concept became real in a very limited yet resourcefully low-tech way: a network of the lookout stations were implemented, where tourists can easily get relevant information about the local flora and fauna, curated by the CIRC scientists.

Concept

Abiscope is a learning journey which guides tourists through the natural landscapes in Abisko. The service provides a new perspective on the environment using a series of outdoor interactive stations, a unique map/
telescope, framed vistas and visual captions. This system capitalizes on the natural surroundings in the area as a teaching tool, allowing visitors to see the environment the same way researchers do.

It was critical to set the proper “tone” of the service so that it would be approachable and easily understood. As we learned from our user testing and interviews, many users were discouraged from engaging with a system that overtly reference “research and science” in the name. They became worried that there would be some sort of quiz element, and disengaged with the system. In light of this, we framed our service as more an outdoor activity, one that would give you a new perspective on the Abisko area. When personifying our system, we wanted to create an easily approachable platform which would use the natural landscape surrounding Abisko to give the visitors a unique and memorable experience. Additionally the requirements of the environment lead us to a complex set of low tech solutions. Due to the nature of Abisko, large scale electronic devices are simply not feasible, and even personal devices are generally frowned upon in the face of such a magnificent natural environment.

The core of our service within Abisko itself was to target tourists who perhaps aren’t directly aware of CIRC’s research activities, but who are interested in experiencing the nature that Abisko has to offer. In this way we discovered that since, both researchers and tourists come to Abisko because of its unique location and natural qualities, we designed our service around using the natural landscape as a teaching tool, in order to educate the tourists about the unique qualities of Abisko, and highlight how the researchers are learning more about them.

Process

Ethnography

We kicked off this service design project with ethnographic field research trips to discover the village of Abisko in different seasons and from multiple perspectives: as a traveler’s destination, a place to live in, and as a destination for Arctic research.

Together as a class we generated and shared dozens of interviews from all the people we interviewed. To summarise this challenging amount of information into usable insights, we created story cards, which were clustered and tied together into succint narratives describing the unique aspects of the Abisko experience.

During the ethnographic research process we recorded plenty of video sketches that captured daily interviews, notes ad insights that contributed to more cohesive narratives in the end. Here are two examples.

Participatory sessions

Having summed up research, we involved a few scientific and touristic stakeholders in a participatory design session with Customer Journey Maps to generate ideas and uncover even more latent needs from their perspective, which was essential for designing the backend of the service later on.

Service prototyping

After research we continued with a short generative iteration, the outcome of which we presented to the clients. In line with the feedback that we received on these first concepts, the second iteration was focused more on deepening our understanding of creating cohesive services. The final concept went through some rounds of adaptation to the capabilities of CIRC; to the tourists’ interest in natural sciences; and to their wish to get in touch with scientists.