You only have to read the paper or watch the evening news to understand the problems local hang-out youth is causing recently. Last year, Mayor Mr. Cohen called youth-molestation one of the biggest problems of the city of Amsterdam. Humiliation of the youth, safety cameras, the Mosquito1 and gathering restriction orders; in recent discussions, nothing is too much to control youth which is hanging out on the streets. This graduation assignment will give a positive solution for the Youth Meeting Point of the Future.
To understand the meeting adolescents in the public space, the first step of the process, was to build up the current context by a questionnaire (left behind at youth forums), observation (of meeting points), generative techniques (with more structural hangout youth) and literature research.
It seemed that the adolescence phase of life is very important in the process of creating an own identity. Part of this process is belonging to different groups of cliques and seeking for sensation (risky behaviour).
The youth’s transition from dependence to independence happens in different adolescence arenas. Home and school are the most common arenas. Some adolescents have to cope with a lot of stress in these scenes, because the internal structure of schools cannot stimulate them and the financial situation of their parents is not sufficient.
A relatively new arena is the virtual world, which is, especially during adolescence, important to get and maintain social contacts. The fourth arena is the public space, which is for 80 percent of the (Dutch) youth a place the meet friends and escape from supervision.
In a world that is becoming more stressful (by an economic recession), more crowded (bigger cities) and more individual (lack of religion, leisure planning), youth will be pushed towards the Boy’s Room Culture (having all the technical and social possibilities, which is being conducted behind closed doors) or the Street Culture (being excessive assertive/ aggressive, driven by the lack of success experiences, financial pressure and low self-esteem).
In both situations, youth does experience an individuality, which does not work for all adolescents. Either way, youth has to self-explore their values, education, leisure time and social interactions.
In order to provide the adolescents and others in the neighbourhood of the social interactions they need for creating their own identity, the statement I would like to make is: I want to enable adolescents to express their social and explorative behaviour, in such a way, that it stimulates the participation of strangers.
The product that fulfills this statement consists of LED-tiles integrated with pressure censors. The configuration of the tiles is, that it provides the adolescents of a place to meet their friends (see figure). While meeting, users will be challenged to hit tiles, that spontaneous light up. When users doing extremely good, they will be rewarded by, for example, an entire floor that starts blinking. To find out what really happened, or to achieve the same result, youngsters will become active. The exploring, searching, doubting and trying, create an interaction that can be called vulnerable, which makes the situation more approachable for strangers. Since the configuration has a boundless character, it also invites by-passers to hit a certain tile. The result is a social interaction between the different users of the public space.
To find out if the concept worked out as described, a prototype has been built to execute a usability test. The prototype consisted of seven interactive tiles (tiles with a lighting heart and four switches) and one remote control, which was necessary to tune in certain programs. The usability test was nothing more than the placement of the prototype in an environment that was suitable for youth meeting each other (place of retreat and interaction). In total three groups of youth were observed during their exploration with the prototype. The interaction with the product could be described as active and vulnerable. According to the youth itself, the concept was inviting and challenging. Some by-passers stopped to look at the action that was going on.