Categories: Storytelling, UX, UI, Videography, Front End Dev.
Role: Research, Content Architecture and UX/Video Art Direction.
Project made in collaboration with Oscar Salguero, Sarah Aoun, Shubhra Prakash, Hala Hassan & Raul Paz-Pastrana for the Immigration Co/Lab at Tribeca Film institute 2017.
The IMMIGRATION CO/LAB at the Tribeca Film institute in December 2017 brought together designers, storytellers and technologists to work on prototyping ideas related to Immigration. As members of one of those groups, our team immersed for four days in the topic of Data and Surveillance. Each of us, all immigrants, coming from different backgrounds, countries and with different skill sets, collaborated to develop COYOTEK, a project that was born from our anxiety of how the future could look, an anxiety that let us imagine how far our humanity could be infringed.
Together, we imagined a future gone wrong where the social control has become a "normal" part of immigrant's lives, controlling our culture, identity and movement in the physical and digital spaces. To stop this ongoing normalization process, we needed to think about alternatives that would help individuals resist this system as well as creating a more human perspective to the way methods are designed and data is being collected.
We shared experiences, research and points of view on this topic and developed a functional prototype consisting on two websites and a set of products we worked together.
THE DESIGN GOAL
Our goal was to design a prototype that would create a bigger conversation around the topic of Data and Surveillance. It could be either a product or an experience, but it had to create a deeper understanding of the implications of how these topics are affecting immigrant’s lives. At the same time, we wanted to discover new ways of telling stories that show new perspectives and challenge the norm.
The Immigration Co/Lab lasted four days. During days 1 and 2, we shared ideas and experiences related to the topic. Each of us, coming from different countries and having different skills, shared our personal concerns and research about the topic.
Personally, for previous projects I’ve done ethnographic research collecting stories related to how cultural identity is affected because of migration as well as collecting stories and information related to the meaning of community and language.
After this first phase, we started turning all the insights into possible solutions, shaping them thinking on who we wanted this product to be for. We had the freedom to choose who was our user, and after putting together our ideas, we decided to create a product that would give a platform for immigrants to share their stories and to people in general to get in touch with them.
Days 3 and 4, we executed our ideas, dividing our work between:
- Content Architecture: Putting together all the research in a simplify language to make it easier to translate into Visual Design.
- UX/UI Design: Designing the visuals/graphics of the website that will contain all the information.
- Videography: Shooting and editing audiovisual material to promote our products.
- 3D Modeling: Creating 3D models of the products we would be selling.
- Front End/Back End development: Coding the structure of the webpage to contain all of the previous material.
USER PAIN POINTS
Because of the nature of the event, we didn’t have time to execute real interviews during those days. However, each of us had already developed important work related to this topic, and for that, had developed research and worked collecting real stories that we later used as an inspiration. Moreover, our own stories were also part of this.
We identified three important pain points:
Historically, immigration systems have been designed based on the idea of exclusion. In response to this and to all the massive migration movements, surveillance techniques have evolved throughout history in a more specialized and invasive way, becoming a constant reminder of the lack of civil liberties for immigrants. This social control has become a “normal” part of immigrant’s lives, controlling their culture, identity and movement in the physical and digital spaces. To stop this normalization process, we need to think about alternatives that will help individuals resist this system. We need to stop normalizing, and for that we need to create disruptive narratives that would create awareness on how the future could look if we don’t start understanding the consequences this is having on human lives today.
We understand that surveillance won’t stop, but a human perspective is required to design the methods and understand the data being collected. If we start with the idea that immigrants should be excluded, then we are just using surveillance as a way of finding reasons to exclude them from society.
There’s an excessive amount of information about this topic in the form of news, testimonies, stories. However, there’s a lack on real understanding about the genuine consequences of how surveillance is affecting our rights as immigrants. To really disturb, we need to amplify our current reality to imagine where could this topic get to.
WHAT IS COYOTEK?
COYOTEK is a speculative web market place used as a tool not only to create things, but to share narratives. We are using product design to materialize the real human stories behind what being a constantly surveilled immigrant means. These products are not solving a problem, but their concept is thought to disturb how surveillance has been normalized in today’s society. COYOTEK is an alternate narrative, a slightly extreme version of our reality born to bring a more human approach to the effects of surveillance on immigrants nowadays.
COYOTEK explores with a new way to connect with real stories. We create an ecommerce website (similar to an Amazon store) in a dystopian world, not far fetch from our own. In this world oppression against immigrants has become the normal and immigrants need to purchase these products to disguise the current system. Once you access the ecommerce website and go to the “Cart” to pay, you will be re directed to another website where real stories are being exposed. Each of them would be connected to the products being sold.
In a time when views on immigration are so polarized, when liberals and conservatives alike peddle in simplistic immigration narratives, the stories that COYOTEK explores are an important reminder that we are talking about real people. This artistic perspective is a meaningful contribution to current immigration debates not only in the U.S. but also worldwide making these issues accessible to the general public.
COYOTEK is based on the iconic character “El Coyote.” Traditionally, “Coyotes” are immigrants themselves who have crossed the border before and have come back to their community to share their experience and help others do the same.
COYOTEK has a lot of opportunity to keep growing. Our prototype was able to give people the opportunity to interact with our platform and experience our stories. We are aiming to keep working on this project, and to turn it into a real platform that offers the space for people to contribute with stories, and consume them. This project has a clear documentary perspective.
We are not only creating a website, but a whole universe where we can share narratives about the immigrant experience, creating a space for audiences to look at immigration differently.
I invite you to experience the prototype of COYOTEK here: