Culture Capsule

2019 Graduate Thesis Project
Project Overview
Being inspired by my love for the internet and social media in combination with the reality that my mom was facing as a first generation Canadian, Culture Capsule aims to enable second generation (and beyond) Canadians to connect with their roots and learn about their ancestry through interactive storytelling that stimulates the five senses. The full process of my thesis project can be viewed at the end of this page or this link here.

The use of 23andMe within this project is not affiliated with the company. All 23andMe intellectual property was used as part of a student project and not for financial gain.
By creating a mind map of the main topics that I wanted to explore: social media, future, families, ancestral roots, and reviving ethnic culture.
Research (I)
With all these intriguing ideas, I was determined to create my thesis around them.. I started off with researching about first generation Canadians and how they adapt to a new culture while retaining their own.

According to Statistics Canada, there will be 2.8 million children with an immigrant background in the year 2036 and nearly 15% of children with an immigrant background lived in a multigenerational household.

Trend Analysis
Current trending topics that support my thesis.

Through genetic testing and analyzing services, people from different ethnicities are able to learn about their heritage. The popularity of this trend shows that people are interested in learning about their history and connections.
But what’s missing? Their stories.

Emerging technologies
With new technologies being easily accessible to the public, we are shaping new behaviours and this includes how we communicate to others.
In combination with user and data research, I wanted to define what these umbrella terms meant and how it will structure and guide my thesis process. As well as asking the following questions:

• Are we creating a homogenous culture?
• How does culture and family correlate?
• How do families embrace their culture and pass it down to the next generations?
• Each family celebrates traditions differently although they may be from the same culture and ethnicity
• Social habits may be different from inside the home vs. the outside the home
• Knowledge is transferred through storytelling
Research (II)
After researching and watching videos of the 23andMe experience, many users who are Asian and other minor ethnicities find the results less accurate compared to the other ethnicities. I decided to try it out myself for user experience research and my own curiosity.

All my life before 23andMe, I'd grown up to know that I was 100% Chinese through my family, so I was surprised when I received my results. 23andMe also provide multiple cards of information about my ancestral background such as:

• Foods we eat
• Slang
• Places to visit
• How-to instructions
• What is currently popular in that region

But that was it.
While waiting for my results, I was exploring existing tangible methods of transferring cultural knowledge.

What if we were able to design a tool that help us transfer knowledge between different cultures?

While ideating new ways of transferring knowledge about culture, I noticed that memory played a huge role.
Through different concepts, I decided on the design of "experience a place without being there" as the five senses play a huge role in memory and storytelling. I wanted to create a curated subscription box that is filled with tangible products that allows the user to experience one’s culture through the five senses without physically being there. This cultural subscription box introduces new ways of storytelling through objects through a tactile approach rather than traditional word of mouth.
I explored different types of materials, packaging, textures, shapes, but it was suggested that I should KISS (keep it simple stupid) as the explored prototypes were made up of extremely complex shapes (although it was the most fun I had during this thesis process), I decided to look at foods from different culture as an inspiration for shape development.
After developing the concept, I wanted to find an opportunity to be able to scale and make accessible to others. With social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram already connecting and collecting, I felt that 23andMe was the perfect candidate to create a meaningful purpose as they can continue their business model beyond testing genetics.

How can 23andMe elevate the experience of
transferring cultural knowledge?

A tangible method of transferring cultural knowledge through interactive storytelling that stimulates the five senses. As well as a partnership with genetic analyzing service, 23andMe, to allow my target audience to connect with their ancestral roots but also the concept of them becoming the ancestor for the next generation of Americans with immigrant heritage (e.g., Chinese-Americans).
Here is a timeline of how Culture Capsule would be implemented into 23andMe's business model and how I envision the future of sociocultural interactions.

23andMe can become a curator of our internet ancestry

Click below to read the full process
Culture Capsule was presented at OCAD University's graduate exhibition show (GradEx 104). I got many positive feedback from visitors and especially Third Culture Kids as they were able to relate as they also felt that they were disconnected from their roots.
This capstone project has made it one of the most stressful, hectic, yet rewarding experiences during my undergrad. I’ve endured many sleepless nights; however, it also taught me the ability to control the way I work and how important it is to have work-life balance.

During my post-grad reflection, I remind myself that every project should be done to its best abilities and that it is always a work in progress. Culture Capsule allowed me to share my story and create meaningful conversations with others. I am grateful and thankful for this journey and for the great memories!
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