Shifting Arrangements was a two-day design intervention in BetSurfers Internet Cafe. This more in-depth analysis of the Internet cafe space served as a follow-up to Cafe Connect, was grounded in parallel design research conducted within Internet cafes in the Los Angeles area, and drew from the ethnographic research of Jenna Burrell in Ghana.
Research Question: If most women are not using Internet cafes, then in what kinds of spaces, and on what terms, do women in Uganda want to access the Internet?
Location: BetSurfers Internet Cafe in Wandegeya, a neighborhood close to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda
Methods: Online surveys through Google forms, casual offline conversation, online chatting through Facebook, ethnographic observation, and re-arranging the Internet cafe space
Participants: Eleven men and fifteen women, predominantly 19-32 years old.
Sunday, February 10, 2013 from 11am – 5pm
My initial research approach was to re-design an existing Internet cafe space to test if certain characteristics of the space could attract additional female users. I added personal touches, such as a table cloth, and offered free soda for the female participants. I facilitated alternative modes of engagement using a circular table and portable netbooks.
In order to partake in two hours of free Internet and free printing and scanning, participants had to complete an online survey about their Internet usage. Please read my reflections on the outcomes:
Sunday, February 13, 2013 from 3pm – 9pm
Reaching female clientele required targeted promotion and focused one-on-one engagements. For the second iteration, I included all of the design aspects of the first iteration, but altered the environment further by delineating a portion of the Internet cafe as ‘women-only.’
A few female participants completed an online survey about space. But deeper interaction required friending one another on the preferred social network (majority Facebook, one Interpals) and then chatting online. Conversation would sometimes transition offline and attract the participation of multiple women.
In addition to altering the spatial conditions, I used an app to test whether women consider having other women in the cafe to be an indicator of a safe or comfortable space. However, as the women participants used the app, I found that they more valued knowing whether the cafe was congested or not.
Reflections on outcomes: