Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

App Design - "Barely"

Similar to the service sprint, my process began with broad ideation including apps to humanely protect yourself against predators, to support communication between foragers, to see through the grocery store's misleading facade, and to play reverse minecraft deconstruction games.

The app I ended up selecting to explore further could be explained as a barefoot version of "Waze". This came out of conversations with barefooters Matthew Medina and Stephanie Welch. They discussed the awareness that walking barefoot creates around the amount of litter we put onto the sidewalks and ground surfaces. It generates empathy between humans and the earth in this way. They also discussed the feeling of adventure created by walking across many different types of surfaces throughout their day.

I imagined barely - a digital platform for barefooters. This platform in its larger instantiation would include business and region ratings of barefoot friendliness, texture-based directions, and navigational hazard alerts. 

For the purpose of this exercise, I explored four modes for how to display route options. The first option includes color-coded breakdown of the different textures to be encountered on the route. The second options gives you an overview of the textures without showing exactly where each texture would be encountered. The third focuses more on the hazard notifications - providing recommendations of where not to walk. And the fourth allows users to select the overall type of their route, i.e. the "smoothest" route, the "most varied" route, and the "most dangerous" route. 


Part of this sprint involved requesting the feedback of classmates prior to the in-class presentation and critique. There were three main pieces of feedback that resulted from this part of the exercise:

1. This app should use a combination of Google street view based machine learning algorithms and user-submitted tweets/texts to incorporate long term and short term updates on street textures and hazards.

2. Multiple versions of these screens could be put together in a flow. For example, first you select the route type (option 4), then it provides an overall recommendation (option 2), and if you want to see the detailed breakdown you can tap into it (option 1). 

3. The branded aesthetic should be less Google-y and corporate.

There were many useful pieces of feedback in class as well, such as:

- How can this app still capture the spontaneity of walking barefoot and doing parkour while still alerting the users of hazards? Can there be a discovery mode?

- Using Go Pros to generate data and information about the surfaces. 

- Integrating beacon technology and pop-up deals for barefooters or alerts from barefoot friendly businesses. 

- Considering the integration of bioremediation along the route. 

- Simplifying to a map of textures and a map of friendliness

- Addressing the concerns of injury and infection


Jenna Witzleben