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Vision for Space

The Word Christian Bookstore is a well-established venue in East St. Louis. Above all else it is most important to preserve the community and atmosphere that the proprietors have put so much effort into building. This is done through careful observation and analysis of the existing space, with effort put toward finding solutions for integrating technology holistically into the existing scheme. The focus is on enhancement, not revision.

The initial focus was on supplementing the existing business mandate as opposed to doing a wholly different thing or bringing in a different clientele. The expected uses for the machines included researching material for sermons, accessing online catalogs and ordering books, music, and informational and religious materials, basic office activities, and printing. The audience is mostly adults, ranging in age from 20s-60s. Based on our surveys and questions to Gracie, we also initially thought the lab would require minimal supervision and information filtering because of the age range of the audience.

However, once we were on site, several new issues came to the fore.

First, our idea to have a separate kiosk-like machine on the counter that would be limited mostly to short book and music lookup sessions and thus always available for those uses even when the lab was full ran up against worries about visibility of a computer on the counter from outside and possible theft.

However, this worked out fine, as our inability to fix their front desk business computer meant they were in need of a new one for those uses, and we were able to re-purpose the proposed kiosk machine to fit that need.

Plans were also already in place upon our arrival to begin teaching basic computing classes for seniors. We did our best to accommodate this by creating a new user profile on the three lab machines that features large fonts, lower screen resolutions, and increased zoom in the web browsers, to help those with vision problems have better accessibility.

Finally, because we had failed to fully explain what filtering means, we were under the mistaken assumption that The Word did not want content filtering on the lab machines, and we had reinforced this assumption to ourselves by thinking (erroneously) that filtering was not an issue to consider where adult audiences are concerned. This reinforces the need to communicate clearly about technical topics, and to take community values into account and not project your own values on to your partners when forming ideas about their needs. The filtering problem may not ultimately be solvable within our budget and technical constraints, but we did try to do some small things like enabling Safe Search in Google on the Firefox profiles, and messing with host files and blacklisting on gambling sites, which they stated as a big concern of theirs.

Overall in this process, we learned that a vision must be subject to revision, and that flexibility and adaptability are key elements of the design process. We were able to adapt our plans to meet most of the Word Cafe’s needs, but if we had it to do over again, we would try to do a better job of communication earlier in the process so as to be more on the same page from the start.


Scope of Project / What Does The Endpoint Look Like?

At the outset, we stated that successful completion of this project would include:

  1. Workstations/desks installed in store
  2. Software/bookmarks customized for the interests of patrons and the restrictions required by the store’s mission
  3. Training/documentation to make it sustainable going forward

Each of these goals was accomplished, with the possible exception of parts of #2, due to the filtering issue.