Interactive Technology Observation / by Maya Pruitt

Observation – Pick a piece of interactive technology in public, used by multiple people. Write down your assumptions as to how it’s used, and describe the context in which it’s being used. Watch people use it, preferably without them knowing they’re being observed. Take notes on how they use it, what they do differently, what appear to be the difficulties, what appear to be the easiest parts. Record what takes the longest, what takes the least amount of time, and how long the whole transaction takes. Consider how the readings from Norman and Crawford reflect on what you see.

As a Native New Yorker, I chose an infamous piece of interactive technology to observe: the MTA turn style. How it is used is fairly straight forward – swipe your Metrocard through the card reader and if you have a viable fare, you are granted passage.

However, rarely does it work that simply. It is almost as if you need to have the “magic touch” or have lived in NYC for so long you’re just “used to it”. As I observed, I saw many people swipe incorrectly, and the machine gives you a little lit up message like “Swipe again” or “Swipe again at this turnstyle” (which could probably be easily confused). The biggest source of confusion I noticed, was that the turnstyle makes a sound upon swiping, but this sound doesn’t change if its a good or bad swipe, thus, becuase commuters are often in a rush, they won’t see the small message and the sound indicates a swipe so they will go through the turn style with fortitude, only to be stopped like a game of red rover. And then they have to start the process over with a weird look back but with one foot forward. It’s awkward, it can be painful, and it ends up being inefficient.

MTA, may I advise a tap system.