UX Studio Practices | The UX of consciousness

Brief 🔍

Design an experience that explores the nature of consciousness.

Teammates: 🤝Aarushi, Nayla, Zoe and Judith

Research Methods 📚

We used "Artefact Analysis" and "Directed Storytelling" methods to do our project. In the beginning, we thought about "What is consciousness?" and "How we react to it?". By analysing our memories, desires, dreams and thoughts. We found out an insight which was horror movies and how people react to them differently, some might laugh while others might cry and be totally scared. It is all related to consciousness. Our topic then moved to be related to fears in general and consciousness of fear in particular.

Directed Storytelling - Keywords from interviewees

First Stage

As a first step, we have used the storytelling UX method in our research. We interviewed 8 persons in total. From these interviews, we have extracted keywords related to fear that would help us define artefacts and common patterns on a later stage. We provided an example of person 2 (who is afraid of horror movies and tends to associate characters in movies to real-life existing persons) and 7 (who is afraid of tomatoes’ seeds and texture).

After listening to different fear stories we realised that there are two aspects of fear: conscious fear and non-conscious fear. The conscious fear is basically the feeling of being afraid and non-conscious fear is the defence response. Some of our stories depict conscious fear such as fear of tomatoes and beans, where the person is totally aware of the object they fear and are afraid of touching, biting or even looking someone else eating it. And the other aspect of fear is the non-conscious fear, here people told us stories such as they have fear of sudden darkness or sudden appearance of an insect or a living organism. This fear is because of the element of surprise.

Findings ✍️

After we did the directed storytelling with different people, we find out the common patterns of the consciousness in fear.

Findings from storytelling

The first pattern is “Feel of Irritation” such as fear of tomatoes, beans and peaches. Some people link up the normal things with imagination. Maybe they think that the irregular seeds inside the tomato are disgusting.

The second pattern is “Living Organism” such as fear of snakes, spiders and wasps. They are terrifying mainly because they are moving but their physical forms are so unlike our own. We can’t control them.

The last pattern is “Unexpected Possibilities” such as fear of horror movies, darkness, public speaking, individuality and shadow. It is because we don’t know what will happen so we are afraid to take risks.

Through analysing these patterns, we also find out fear is a mechanism designed to keep us safe. Humans afraid of losing control, having possibilities of getting harmed, having the imagination to link up something, having past experience, self-protection and escapism.

Artefact Analysis ✍️

For the analysis of the artefacts. We focused on artefacts that are related to the stories or the findings. We analysed 3 artefacts and looked at material and social qualities, interactive and historical aspects and also the location of them.

Artefact Analysis

The first horror movie in the world - "The House of the Devil"

The first one we chose is the horror movie ---"The House of the Devil" by Georges Méliès since the participant mentioned that they are afraid of horror movies, and this one is the first horror movie in the world. It is a silent black&white film, which depicts an encounter with a devil inside a castle. The story was taken from gothic literature. It’s only 3min long and is blurred. It was released in 1896 in a theatre in Paris but was finally discovered in 1988 – nearly one hundred years after the movie was first produced. It is one of the very first movies—to deliberately use special effects to frighten its viewers.

Kitchen Knife

And the second artefact is the knife which has often been used in people's ordinary life as a cutting tool and also can be used as a weapon. It's hilt usually made of plastic and the main part made of metal. Besides, it's edge is extremely sharp that it may hurt people sometimes. In the Bronze Age, the first knife made by humans was a double-edged dagger.


The final artefact is the tomato, which has a red colour and squishy texture. Sometimes people may feel uncomfortable when they see the slimy tomato seeds. It originated in America and move to Europe in the 16th century, however, British people thought it was poisonous and they felt afraid to try it. It's affordance changed over time, for example, it can be eaten as a fruit in previous age and also can be used as a sauce nowadays, which served with chips.

Final outcome 🤞

After doing the artefact analysis and directed storytelling together, we brainstormed the idea in order to design experience or game for the whole class. Our goal is to let them feel of "the Fear of consciousness".

We started with a short stop-motion video. Aarushi and Judith were responsible for designing the storyboard. Nayla did the illustration. Zoe and me edited and produced the animation on After Effects. We used the "Red dot" to present "Fear". It showed people scared of the red dot because of their consciousness. At the end of this video, we transformed the red dot to a red balloon. And we brought the real balloon to the class.

Balloon Challenge

We also created a Fear Game: Ballon Challenge for them to experience FEAR. The game rule is that People go around and touch the ballon to tell us a number range from “1-100”. For example, We set the Answer is”54”. Then people answer the number one by one. The last person who guess the number is “54”, she will lose. At that time everyone expects the balloon will explode. We just pretend the Ballon will explode but we count “1,2,3” then ballon doesn’t explode but with a large “Ballon sound”. Finally, The loser need to watch the horror filter in class. The game can let people to imagine and also to take risks of any unexpected possibilities.

Watching the horror filter
Photo of the presentation

Project feedback & Reflection

We received some valuable feedback from our classmates. They like our idea of "FEAR". Even if we all know that we have fear, we usually don't know the reason behind. In our consciousness, mostly we choose to escape from fear so our memories also do. They suggested us to further develop the idea about "Human body and Fear". Like researching deeper on the human reaction and design experience, which can show human their unknown or undiscovered reaction. We think that it will be a good direction to explore. I would be love to do more research on this topic.

References 📖

Ascott, R. and Shanken, E. (2007). Telematic embrace: Visionary theories of art, technology, and consciousness. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

Koch, C. (2018). What Is Consciousness?. [online] scientificamerican.com. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-consciousness/ [Accessed 23 Nov. 2019].

Mcleod, S. (2018). What are the most interesting ideas of Sigmund Freud? | Simply Psychology. [online] Simplypsychology.org. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html [Accessed 21 Nov. 2019].

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