The Storytellers project is a self-initiated research project inspired by my previous fieldworks with seniors, my 3 years old son, his grandmother and myself, mom of two.

I start from my initial intuition to allow remote reading aloud sessions between children and seniors, and I apply a People-Centred Design process to refine the concept and to develop the prototypes. 

I am also interested in searching how the Storytellers as a platform may inspire writers and illustrators to come up with new ways of stories production, so to suit and make the best use of the Storybell as a new medium delivering the story to children and making the whole experience interactive and dialogic.


Initial insights

On senior adults

> Seniors would like to act and be rewarded as working gears in their community, thus they want to exchange the support they receive with the support they give

> Seniors would like to go beyond "help" exchanges in moment of need and build caring, long lasting relationships within their community

> People living in the same community can constitute a scaffolding for the elderly people, providing social texture for informal caring

 

On children

> Children experience less and less connections with older people, both because grandparents often live far from them and because daily life do not offer occasions for children and elderly to come together

 

On young parents

> When grandparents do not live in the same city, young parents need a more flexible and interstitial children care support to balance their home-work rhythms, compared to existing nursery and kindergarden services


Fieldwork

On the experience of reading to children

> At the beginning of the project, I am investigating the experience of reading to children. I am interviewing young parents of children aged 3-6 y.o, grandparents, as well as educators and experts who master the reading techniques, such as actors.

I am also designing a cultural probe kit to better understand existing behaviours, needs and context around remote reading aloud experiences. The experiment involve the parents (or grandparents), their child and a remote reader.

 

On writing and illustrating stories for children

I am investigating how professional writers creates stories for children and how stories get illustrated. What's the inspiration? What's the workflow? How does the medium (for example a printed book) and the way it gets delivered to children (for example being read to a child in the same room) influence the way the content is shaped?

I am planning interviews with writers and illustrators.


Co-creation

With the children

I am testing with children the idea of a moveable companion which transmits the reader voice and projects the story pictures. In this phase I am building low fidelity prototypes of the Storybell that allow me to test fundamental interactions of the concept, such as:

> Requesting a reading to the community through the Storybell

> Communicating to an unknown reader through the Storybell

> Listening to the story and looking at the pictures projected on the wall

I am evaluating the children experience: How are children engaged? Is their experience interesting to them? What's different compared to a not remote reading aloud session? Do they ask for making a drawing? Do they lose attention? How is their interaction with an unknown reader?

 

With the parents

I am testing with the parents how they build trust with remote readers. In this phase I am building a low fidelity prototype of the parents app to understand:

> The information about the readers which parents would like to know

> The actions parents would like to perform to set -up and manage their children reading sessions

> Any safety action parents would like to be able to perform before and during a reading session 

> How parents would like to thank and contact the remote readers

 

With the readers

I am testing with the readers the way they engage with the child during a reading session:

> How they introduce themselves before starting the reading

> How they read the story, not having the child in front of them

> What they need to feel that the child is engaged, not having the child in front of them

> What they do to try to make the child engaged

 

With the writers and illustrators

I am experimenting with the writers and illustrators different ways to write and illustrate stories that get delivered through the Storybell, so read remotely with the possibility of projecting images on the wall.

> Starting from initial possible ideas, I will co-create them with writers and illustrators.


Experience prototyping

With the children

I am testing with children their domestic interactions with the Storybell, as a social robot whose behaviours are animated by the community of readers, in particular:

> Waiting impatiently for a Storyteller to start reading. The Storybell rolls up and down as soon as the child shakes it and requests a reading to the community

> Chasing people in the house when Storytellers are available and willing to start reading sessions

For the experience prototyping I am building just-enough high fidelity prototypes which simulate the behaviours I need to test.