Session 1 of 'Schools for Bicycle Friendly Pune': Understanding Urban Mobility Through Directed Storytelling Exercise

In the pursuit of designing user-centric solutions for urban mobility challenges, directed storytelling workshops offer a powerful tool for gathering insights and fostering empathy. Here, we provide an in-depth look at the flow of a directed storytelling workshop we conducted to gain a deeper understanding of how individuals perceive and experience car-dependent cities and the potential for alternative modes of transportation.

Step 1: Visual Perception

The workshop began with a visual exploration of car-dependent cities. Participants were shown two pictures depicting these urban landscapes and were encouraged to share their immediate thoughts and feelings about the images. Key questions included, "What does the photo make you feel?" and "What are the first thoughts when you look at the pictures?" This step set the stage for participants to express their initial reactions to car-centric environments.

Step 2: Challenging perspectives:

Next, we introduced illustrations that emphasized the shrinking public space in such cities. Participants were asked to interpret these illustrations and reflect on whether they changed their perception of the initial images. Questions like "What do you understand from the illustration?" and "Does the illustration change the way in which you perceived the first two pictures?" encouraged participants to critically assess the impact of dwindling public spaces on urban life.

Step 3: Alternative Transportation Infrastructure

Shifting the focus to alternative transportation solutions, participants were shown pictures of cities with clearly demarcated and segregated cycle tracks and dedicated bus lanes. Here, they were asked to share their initial thoughts and identify prominent differences from the previous images. Questions like "What is the first thought that comes to your mind?" and "What are the prominent differences in the first pictures and these pictures?" helped reveal the appeal and potential benefits of alternative transportation infrastructure.

Step 4: Personal Storytelling

To delve deeper into participants' personal experiences and perceptions, we provided them with worksheets containing prompts and questions. These prompts encouraged them to share their own stories related to urban mobility, cycling experiences, and their overall perceptions of cycling. This step allowed participants to connect on a more personal level with the topic and share their unique perspectives.

Here is the link to the directed storytelling prompt we used during our workshop in English and Marathi.

Additional Considerations:

Throughout the directed storytelling activity, several key considerations were kept in mind:

  1. Language Clarity: We ensured that language used during the session was clear and accessible to all participants, promoting a comfortable and inclusive environment.
  2. Participant Representation: We carefully selected participants who represented our target user base or specific segments of interest, ensuring the findings would be relevant to our research goals.
  3. Open-Ended Prompts: The scenario prompts were intentionally open-ended to encourage participants to provide detailed narratives, fostering rich insights.

Next steps: 

1. Analyzing, Extracting Insights, and Sharing Findings

After collecting the stories, we are conducting a thorough analysis, looking for common themes, pain points, and emotional moments that stood out. We used tools like affinity diagrams and thematic analysis to organize our findings. From these stories, we extracted actionable insights that could inform our urban mobility solutions, taking note of pain points, improvement opportunities, and positive user experiences.

2. Iterating and Taking Action

Finally, the insights gained from the directed storytelling workshop will be used to drive improvements in our urban mobility solutions. This iterative approach ensures that user needs and perspectives are at the forefront of our design, product development, and decision-making processes.

By following this structured flow of a workshop, we can unlock valuable insights that drive user-centered solutions for complex challenges like urban mobility. And by fostering empathy, understanding, and a shared vision among students, we believe we can work together to build a more accessible, sustainable, and student-centric urban mobility landscape. Stay tuned for the upcoming sessions as we embark on this exciting journey together.