This week, we were asked to imagine and prototype an electronic ritual, then perform it, and document the process. My electronic ritual comes in the form of an app that helps you revisit your day, take stock of your wins, and keep an unconventional digital journal through a fun and simple format. My inspiration for this is the meditation app that I’ve used on a daily basis for the past 8 years.
While unintentional, for me, using the timer on the app now serves as part of a ritual that signals my end of day and bedtime. Much like being in a moving car without my seatbelt on, something feels missing, almost wrong, when I haven’t performed my ritual with my app and meditation and it’s come time to turn off the lights. (In both cases, it’s very rare I find myself getting to that sensation, but I can’t help but wonder if the unsettling feeling of not having performed my rituals only helps to reinforce my doing them.)
At first, I had a hard time coming up with an original electronic ritual. I tried looking for inspiration around me and found myself falling back on my usual rituals and habits: waking up, checking my messages, telling Alexa to turn on the light and tune to my usual show of late (“Seinfeld”) while I do my stretches in bed. Once I’ve checked my messages, I go into SimCity Buildit and check on my towns and collect the goods my citizens have been producing while I was away. These are things I do practically the same every morning and, interestingly… though to a lesser degree, there’s a similar ‘something’s missing’ vibe as not having a seatbelt on or having not meditated; however, in this case, there’s more of a “Oh, yeah! I still have to do that.” reaction. In either case, these rituals, electronic or otherwise, have established themselves as parts of my day that are noticed if left out.
It wasn’t enough to look at the “what” I was doing; there’s also a “why”, behind rituals—for example, turning on the lights and TV wakes me up and signals the start of a new day, checking my messages helps me feel as though I’m up to date on everything before I even step out of bed, and the seatbelt (easy one) keeps me safe. With this in mind, I thought about what purpose I wanted my electronic ritual to serve. With so much of what we know and do being hosted and taking place outside of ourselves, I decided I wanted my ritual to have a self-care and reflective aspect to it, it’s important for people to have a way to take a moment and be introspective. I also decided I wanted to make my ritual fun.
The concept for my electronic ritual is to have the user answer a small number of questions with one-word answers or short phrases about his/her day. Then the app will insert those responses into a quirky/humorous story for the user. While the story is fun, the actual reflection on his/her day will cause the user to take time to be introspective. Users will also have access to these stories, as well as a summarized version of the prompts and and responses to help them look back, as a form of annotated diary.
Here’s how I prototyped and performed my ritual:
I started by visiting quarlife.com, where I hosted the ritual, and answering the prompts included at the beginning of the ritual. Some examples of the types of prompts that might be used to promote positive self-reflection include:
- If today were a color, what color would it be?
- What species was the cutest living thing you saw today?
- Name a fun word related to your day.
- Approximately how many times did someone greet you today?
- Today’s biggest accomplishment was (start with -ing verb):
- If your body could speak, what would it say?
- Name a verb associated with something that happened today that you wish would happen more.
- On a scale of 2 to 22, what kind of hair day did you have?
- What’s something you wish someone would say to you tomorrow?
- What’s the thing you thought about the most today?
- What verb ending in -ing would describe you what you did most today?
After responding to the prompts, I was returned a funny story that helped me look positively on my day using the answers I’d provided. In addition to the “Story” view, there would also be the “Summary” view where my responses and their prompts would recorded to my account, along with the date and time available, for me to look back on. There would also be a “Notes” box on the “Summary” view for me to add comments about my day that I’d like to include to look back on. Using the app, I really found myself appreciating the prompts’ making me think back on my day. With further development, there would be a larger pool of questions and a number of different stories. I could incorporate RiTa into the code to help swap out different parts of speech to keep the stories fresh. I would also force the user to enter a value and research ways of checking to see if the responses are valid for the type of response requested.
Here’s what my ritual looked like:
There are many possibilities and opportunities to expand this concept. Here are some avenues that could be promising:
-Having themes as add-ons. (hobbies, nature, spirituality, etc.)
-With Themes (honesty, civility, kindness, etc.)
-Weekly Mode (or only certain kinds of days: every date night, days off, trips, etc.)
-Images with Snapchat like filters to add props of similar attributes (ie if color ‘purple’ given, something purple appears; if recognizable noun, ie dog, a cartoon dog pops up in the corner of the photograph.)
-Bringing mnemonics into play? (if a user choses an adjective beginning with an ‘f’ as a adjective, then the generator may pick the next word (that it modifies) as a noun beginning with the same letter/sound for alliteration.)
On the back end, here’s how I organized my story:
Seriously, nobody in the world is as amazing as you at (bigAccomplishment).
In fact, the (twoTo22) people to attempt (bigAccomplishment) walked away with boring blue ribbons which pale in comparison to your new bright (color) ribbon bejeweled with the word (funWord) created to signify you’re in a class of your own.
Along with your insane (ingVerb) skills, your awesomeness will have everyone, down to the very last (cuteSpecies) shouting to you “(somethingTomorrow)!”