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?
At first I wasn’t very anxious since I had the walls to actually rely on, but I was a little worried when we had to let go of the wall and just rely on our other senses (i.e. hearing) to guide us. Once I let go of the wall, I lost all sense of space and directions, and it made me anxious. I was scared of bumping into people or things. I felt a little panicked, too, since I couldn’t make out my surroundings at all.
It was a challenge just to trust myself and my friends, and I realized how much I actually doubt my other senses once I can’t see. I also realized that I depend on my sight so much that I take it for granted. I felt better remembering that it was a controlled environment, but when I think that there are people who actually live outside like that, I tried to imagine being in that situation—and that made me feel panic. I realized that it must be tough to adjust to that situation.
It makes me want to take care of my own sight more (especially since I already have a pretty high degree) and be kinder to others—not just people who need help, but others in general. Experiencing that also made me realize that we will never fully understand others no matter how much we learn, and that we have to be kind since we don’t know what others are going through.
Drawing on your experience, can you think and list some of the benefits inherent in the design research technique of role playing?
Putting the audience in the shoes of others can help them understand the unfamiliar situation a little better. When there is understanding, people will naturally care more about an issue, since they have experienced a similar situation in the role playing setting. Hopefully that concern will stir the audience into action to actually do something that will benefit the issue.
In addition, it also teaches gratefulness for what we have right now, which will make the audience reflect more on their own lives and make them better people.
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 role playing will be useful to help people understand more about disabilities (i.e. visual or audio impairment, or even physical disabilities) and mental health (i.e. anxiety or panic attacks). While design is a useful tool to inform, help, and evoke emotions, I think it has its limits. There are things that only experience alone can offer. Role playing really puts you in perspective, which is more effective than making you imagine the “what if”s. In addition, people (especially young children) may be more open to the idea of role playing because it’s highly interactive. The interactivity is something we should try to incorporate to our design since interactivity, not only is highly effective, but it also appeals to masses more.