Reflection on Role Playing as a Research Technique

Briefly share your experience going through Dialogue in the Dark. What were some of the feelings, thoughts, challenges and insights gained while role playing a blind person? (200-300 words)

As a person who had been so dependent on the sense of sight, the idea of being in a pitch black place for an extended period of time was rather daunting. When we first started, I felt insecure as I could no longer see what lies ahead of me, and there was technically no one in front of me as I was the first in line. I did not know what to expect and had kept my right hand vehemently on the wall as we walked through the darkness in the beginning. Initially, I even felt reluctant to leave the “safety” of the walls and to move towards the voice of our guide. However, as we progressed through the exhibition, I started feeling less anxious due to the guidance and the presence of our guide and peers, as we led and helped one another in this very unfamiliar place.

Some of the challenges that I faced was probably how I could not remember to make a sound in time to signal that I have stopped walking, hence causing us to bump into each other several times. There were several occasions where I reached out my hand towards my peers without making a sound before realising that they cannot see it. Another challenge would be how I was not quite able to differentiate and identify things through only our sense of touch; such as differentiating between a real and fake leaf, and identifying the alphabets. Identifying sounds from different animals or insects was rather challenging as well; those sounds were familiar but we just could not really have a definite answer as we probably have never really tried to focus on these background noises before.

Navigating and identifying things in a controlled and safe environment like this exhibition was already rather challenging for most of us. Although we were just going through tasks which would have been mundane in our daily lives, everything felt unfamiliar in the complete darkness, and we would probably have been lost and not be able to accomplish anything without the guidance of our visually impaired guide and our peers. The exhibition made me realise how I did not truly understand the challenges of being visually impaired; who have to experience this on a daily basis, albeit in places outside where it is not exactly safe, changes are constant, and there would not be people there to guide them throughout their journey.

Drawing on your experience, can you think and list some of the benefits inherent in the design research technique of role playing?

Through this experience, we were able to personally experience how difficult it was to get through tasks in the absolute darkness, which seemed pretty simple in our daily lives. The experience enabled us to relate better to the challenges that others are facing, which may often seem like a miniscule matter to us, but were an issue to others. By experiencing the issues through the perspectives of the affected parties instead of simply looking at the issue through our point of view, we would be able to get better insights and understandings, compared to relying on the information on the web which we could understand but not completely be able to relate to.

Can you think of some contexts where role-playing can be useful  to help discover and definition of design challenges or contribute to the development of design solutions?

I think that role-playing enables people to understand better and empathise certain issues in the world or the issues that some people might face better. Sometimes, having the knowledge about an issue is different compared to having an experience about the issue. Role-playing enables designers to implement better insights and understandings in their designs and works, which would in turn create better works to suit the cause or the needs of the intended audiences. Role-playing designs could also have a greater impact on the participants as well, e.g. Dialogue in the Dark, which enabled me to understand the challenges that the visually-impaired faces better by placing myself in their shoes. Having read information about blindness and imagining or visualising the situation was definitely different compared to the impact of “experiencing” it.

Task 1A: Exploratory Research

What are some of the current issues confronting our world today? Amongst them, what is of interest and a cause of concern to you?


1. Climate Change

Climate change is a constant occurrence throughout the years, however, the drastic changes in the recent years are becoming increasingly alarming. The sea levels and temperatures are rising globally, more biodiversity and food supplies are being threatened, and extreme weathers are becoming constant. Despite experiencing some of the increasingly detrimental effects, many people probably still feel rather detached as we do not face an “immediate existential threat”, as well as the popular belief that our own individual effort to lessen our carbon footprints would be too minuscule when many others are not contributing to the cause.

“Unlike other more unfortunate island states with far more immediate existential threats, Singapore does have the comfort of a slightly longer threat horizon. This, however, can be as much an incentive as a hindrance to immediate action.”


Climate Change: Current Warming ‘unparalleled’ in 2,000 years

Commentary: As time runs out on the climate crisis, Singapore prepares to address the cost of adapting

Iceland holds funeral for first glacier lost to climate change

NDR2019: Climate change one of the ‘gravest challenges facing mankind’, impact on Singapore to worsen, says PM Lee

Heatwaves amplify near-record levels of ice melt in Northern Hemisphere

10 myths about climate change



2. Excessive Consumerism

Consumerism has been deeply etched into our culture, and it is especially so for people whom are living in economically developed countries such as Singapore, where e-commerce and cashless payments are prevalent. A survey back in 2016 found out that 38% of respondents in Singapore purchase something online at least once a month, compared to 28% globally. We constantly purchase things, often way more than we actually require, due to the need to constantly be on trend, to show off economic power, or simply we are able to. This leads to a “throwaway” or hoarding culture, which are detrimental to the environment due to the unnecessary wastage of resources, and our mental health due to the cost of sustaining the high-consumption lifestyle and the constant social comparison process.

“… it can trigger a social comparison process. In the end, this hurts their psychological well-being, lowering their self-esteem and increasing anxiety levels.”

“Feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem and anxiety in some cases led to uncontrollable spending sprees – seemingly in an effort to close the gap between the students’ own lives and what they see in their news feeds.”


Commentary: Recycling makes you feel less guilty but doesn’t change how huge our plastic problem is

Commentary: Unhealthy culture of consumerism on social media fueling anxiety and low self-esteem

More Singaporeans turning to online shopping for better bargains

Definition of consumerist culture

The good and bad sides of consumerism



3. Losing our languages

Although globalisation may have benefited the world greatly, languages around the world are gradually being forgotten in favour of the English language as there are no “economical benefit” in learning them. In Singapore, many of us no longer even speak our mother tongue languages at home, and dialects are now seemingly only spoken by the older generations. Furthermore, most of the older generations are only capable of speaking in their mother tongue and/or dialects, hence communication becomes an issue, and these languages, especially dialects, which are parts of our roots, are slowly being lost to time.

“There are many Singaporean families who find mother tongue studies practically impossible. Children spend endless hours to hopefully get a decent grade in it. These are hours which could have been spent on the other subjects.”


Learn your mother tongue through the arts

Enhanced app helps CGH nurses converse with patients in Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay

Parents petition to review PSLE scoring system for those exempt from mother tongue languages

Why must we save dying languages



4. Discrimination due to Heritage / Historical Feuds

Strained relationships and conflicts arising from past feuds and/or the war are unfortunately rather common today. The past feuds are often unresolved or laid to rest, causing tensions to escalate further with present issues such as territorial and trade disputes. Descendants from the involved parties today continued to be treated with contempt and prejudice due to the wrongdoings or feuds of the past generations. Although a country/party should be held responsible for their past actions, I felt that the current generation of both parties does not deserve to be discriminated against, simply due to their heritage.

“Yanagishima has not been spared by the children she teaches, even though they are between six and 12 years old.”

“Nonetheless, stereotypes about Zainichi persist: they are often regarded as less educated and less well-mannered than ethnic Japanese.”


Anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea brews as ‘trade war’ escalates

Emotion driving South Korea-Japan trade row: Analysts



  • Chosen Issue:

  • Climate Change



Why is the issue important? Who does it affect and how?


Credits: @oceanic.elizabeth, Instagram

The issue is important as the detrimental effects of climate change would affect all life on the planet. In the recent years, there were abnormal spikes in the temperature and sea levels globally which were unparalleled over the last two millennia. These changes were largely caused by anthropogenic global warming; the release of greenhouse gases from human activities, deforestation, increased rearing of livestock and etc. If the situation is left untouched, the Earth would continue to heat up rapidly, more glaciers would continue to melt and contribute to the rise of sea levels, heat absorbed from the sun, and the release of carbon gases trapped underneath the ice, which would in turn hasten the rise in temperature. Biodiversity and food supplies would be threatened due to the changes, and humans too, would eventually be threatened due to our closely interconnected ecosystem.

As the primary culprits behind the abnormal changes to the climate, we ought to each do our part to rectify the situation by changing our lifestyles and adopt sustainable habits to help reduce anthropogenic global emissions. This could be encouraged by raising more awareness about the urgency of the issue as well as ways and a movement to help the target audience to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Further research on some of the issues caused by ( anthropogenic ) Climate Change

Environmental Issues

  • Rise in temperature – Global average surface temperature +0.9°C
  • Loss of glaciers – glaciers reflect light / heat from the sun; more heat would be absorbed
  • Increase in global sea levels – approx. 3.2mm/year and increasing; floods
  • Water contamination & decrease in freshwater
  • Loss of biodiversity – changes in ecosystems and food chain
  • Increase in certain species – e.g. mosquitoes, ticks, jellyfish, crop pests; devastating effect on environment, food chain, humans’ health, etc.
  • More extreme weathers – Torrential downpours, storms, longer heatwaves, and droughts
  • Increased humidity
  • Smog trapped in urban areas


Food & Water Security

  • More difficult for crops to grow – e.g. corn, wheat, rice
  • Species of animals have to shift / find a more suitable habitat & condition ( e.g. cooler temperatures )
  • Species of plants / crops / animals threatened – changes to food chain
  • Decrease in food supplies – decrease in crops, livestock, catches etc.
  • Shortage of drinking water – glaciers make up 90% of global freshwater, floods causes contamination


Health Issues

  • Respiratory & cardiovascular diseases due to higher air pollution ( smog trapped in urban areas due to higher temperatures )
  • Increase & spread of diseases – e.g. malaria, dengue, lyme disease, etc.
  • Increase in allergens – e.g. asthma
  • Malnutrition & digestive illnesses – shortage / contamination of food and water supply
  • Heat-related illnesses and death – increased temperatures and humidity


Social Issues



  • Who do you need to communicate to, and why?

Target Audience: Teenagers and young adults / millennials aged 18 to 25, and environment enthusiasts

I decided to choose teenagers and young adults aged 18 to 25, as I felt that the younger generations are getting more concerned about the environment contrary to popular beliefs. A recent study has shown that the millennials are “largely concerned with larger society and environmental issues”, and another recent study also showed that 91% of the respondents aged 18-24 were concerned about the impact of climate change in Singapore. The issue about climate change was also highlighted during the National Day Rally speech this year.

Furthermore, the millennials would be the next “financial powerhouse” when they get older, hence it is important to develop sustainable lifestyle habits to prevent excessive consumerism, and to turn environmentally friendly habits into a culture.



  • How has visual communication contributed to address the cause?


Ed Hawkins, #ShowYourStripes

A website where we are able to generate a simplified version of a chart of the changing temperatures of a country. I like how utterly simple this is, yet it gets the message across so easily through the simple colours and visual. The sudden redness gives us an alarming effect as well. Furthermore, we are able to see the temperature changes of other countries as well, without needing to read text reports and more complicated charts.


Sébastien Thibault, The Walrus – The Rising Tide, 2014.

A composition about how climate change can only be stopped by overhauling capitalism. I like how the smoke that was produced from the factory was also the top part of a tsunami, which was about to crash onto the shore and the factories. I like the irony of the composition, as well as the simplicity; of the illustration and as well as how it makes the viewers think and link it up without the usage of words.


Illusion CGI Studio & Analog/Digital. tv, Destroying Nature is Destroying Life, 2016.

A series of compositions:

a polar bear, and its habitat being superimposed onto the upper half of the body. The habitat was being ruined, probably by oil mining.

a deer, also with its habitat superimposed on, and the forest was being destroyed by logging.

a monkey, with its habitat on the upper half being burnt away, due to illegal slash-and-burn.

I like the way they superimposed the destroyed habitat on the bodies of the threatened animals nicely especially for the monkey and the deer, and how we can clearly differentiate what animal it is and the devastation human are subjecting these animals and their habitats to.