Armed with four prototypes produced by our brilliant designer Liz Edwards, our third workshop was somewhat of a evaluation session: what works, what doesn’t, what could be made better?
You will recall that during our previous two workshops we examined traditional and contemporary beekeeping practices, talked about common sayings and examined folklore. This fed into a series of stories that combined bee fact with bee fiction. Then, in workshop 2, we allowed our imaginations to take further flights of fancy as we thought about how, with infinite money and resources, we would design something that repackaged knowledge about bees and beekeeping for future generations. Ideas included multi-million pound bee experiences, interactive bee soundscapes and virtual video hives.
Following those workshops, the research team went away and thought about those ideas: what were they getting at, and how might we produce something that conveys a similar message, given the not inconsiderable constraints of money and time? Liz played a key role in this process, taking all our vague musings and mutterings, converting them into something you could get hold of and play with. So, at the third workshop we had smelly bee smokers, touch activated sounds, an augmented bee suit and, of course, the prototype Beespoon.
In small groups, participants toured the collection, trying out the various artefacts and giving their views. Sometimes those were strong opinions, sometimes more subtle, but all were useful. Often they took the form of questions: could we make the smoker smell more strongly? Could we somehow represent the all but invisible flow of communication via pheromone? How could the sounds be worked into some sort of interactive experience? Were narrow, dimly lit but noisy corridors too scary? The beespoon is a great idea, but how does the presentation convey a message?
These sorts of probing questions were exactly what we wanted; they challenged us to really think about things from all angles. So while the artefacts we produced for the Fruit Festival were still very much in the prototype stage, they were huge step on from the test pieces trialled at the workshop. As products of co-design, much of their success can be attributed not only to the hard work of Liz, but all the brilliant people that joined in at the workshops – thank you!!