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.

Audience and Markets

This week in Thesis II we explored our users and stakeholders. This has been something I think I have been shying away from in my thesis, as ideally I want my thesis to be for the entirety of humanity. However through some very helpful dialogue with my group mates in class, I have arrived at roughly three user groups I want to focus on. 


The first group still needs a little refinement and specificity but this is my "early adopter" group. These are the people who may not already be living off grid, going barefoot, or planting food forests, but they're the ones most open to doing so. There are a few ways I can specify/identify these people: geographic location and communities (like Portland, Seattle, Ithaca, etc.), consumer habits (people who shop minimally), hobbies and interests (people who garden, who like to go on hikes, dancers, parkour athletes, etc.). After determining which of these methods of identifying my user group I want to use, I can start outreach. Many of these groups I can easily get in contact with through friends of friends, as I know people who live in Portland/Seattle/Ithaca, I know people who hike and dance.

I will probably want to ask this group the following questions:

- In what ways do they currently spend time outside?

- How often do they spend time outside?

- What actions they think we should be taking to be more sustainable?

- How would do they define wild?

- What does a “wilder” or “rewilded” lifestyle mean to them?

- What would prevent them from living this type of lifestyle?

- In other words, what change would have to occur to allow them to “rewild”?

- What small steps might they be willing to take to rewilding their life?

The second group of people I could see as target users in this thesis are suburban homeowners. This may overlap with the first category (i.e. you can be a suburban homeowner that dances and gardens). But I find it important to highlight this group because the fact that they own land means they can have impact on it. They can choose to create a food forest or let their lawn grow wild. 

In addition to asking them the questions above about their perceptions around sustainability and wildness, I would also ask them about their perceived control of their property and who influences their decisions on their property (i.e. In their neighborhood/community, to what extent does the Homeowner's Association have influence over the appearance of a property? To what extent does neighborly nose-turning have influence? Has anyone ever gotten in trouble for letting their yard run wild?)


The final group of people I would like to incorporate into my thesis, potentially for the experience design, are techno-optimists. These are people that do care about being "eco-friendly" and recognize that we need alternative energy sources, etc. So in some ways they are more likely to adopt my thesis philosophy, especially compared to people who are actively not thinking about environmental issues. However, these people currently believe that our technology will solve all of our problems and that otherwise we can go on living in our current ways. I aim to push this group of people into embracing larger shifts in our lifestyles and our appreciation for the earth. The challenge will be getting this people past their discomfort with "hippy dippy" "touchy feely" sustainable practices. 

With this group, I want to ask them also many of the questions listed above, but I also just want to test my assumptions on what their beliefs are. What are their motivations for sustainable action? What do they see our lives looking like in the future? What are their opinions on our relationships with other animals on this planet? What resonates with them about the ideas and vision of companies like Tesla? What doesn't resonate with them about philosophies like rewilding and emotional connection with the earth?


Jenna Witzleben