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7 April 2016

Giving Lagos something to talk about

We chat to Playable City Lagos participant, Desiree Craig, as she shares the story behind DanFone, a playful intervention connecting strangers across the bus networks of Lagos

DanFone was one of a trio of playful intervention prototypes designed during Playable City Lagos lab week
Some of the hardware and tools used in the making of the DanFone prototype
By the second half of lab week, the prototype started to take shape ready for testing
Desiree presenting the DanFone prototype with her team members, Yann Seznec, Inua Ellams and Jeremiah Ikongio
DanFone was designed to allow and encourage telephone communications between Lagos commuters on the city's Danfo buses
Making a call with a DanFone handset aboard one of Lagos' Danfo buses
Desiree pictured in the middle row, far-left, with her fellow Playable City Lagos practitioners

As one of eleven practitioners brought together from the UK and Nigeria, Desiree Craig participated in Playable City Lagos, playfully exploring, exchanging ideas and developing new works around the theme of mobility in Africa’s largest metropolis.

We caught up with Desiree as she shared her team experience of prototyping DanFone, a playful intervention connecting strangers across the bus networks of Lagos.

Can you share your creative involvement in being part of the 'DanFone' team?

From the start I wanted us to design a project around the Danfo buses; so I was happy the team was able to come up with an idea that utilised the buses. In particular I worked on the electronics and helped code the sequence of lights that lit up the DanFone board. I like working with electronics so it was fun to do.

Some of the hardware and tools used in the making of the DanFone prototype

Also, the initial plan had been to have two DanFones running on two separate buses, with the aim of connecting two random strangers. But working within the available time and resources, we decided to have one DanFone on a bus, and then the other phone at the lab.

I was at the other end of the line and got to speak to our DanFone users. There were quite a number of interesting conversations ranging from favourite holiday spots, to what people had for lunch and their favourite Lagos hangout spots. There were well over a dozen conversations in total.

What were the challenges to creating playful interventions in Lagos as a city during Lab Week?

The first challenge was in distilling the ideas; there were quite a few that all seemed like good ones at the start. After one or two days of critical reviews we we were able to better define what our intervention was. Not surprisingly it ended up being a blend of some of the other ideas we had.

Desiree presenting the DanFone prototype with her team members, Yann Seznec, Inua Ellams and Jeremiah Ikongio

The fact that Lagos is a multi-cultural city also meant designing in a way that was inclusive, we toyed with a number of ways to best implement this, and finally decided on using English language and pidgin, as well as lean more towards heavy imagery over text.

As mentioned, the full project would ideally have connected two people on different Danfo buses. While we didn’t get that full experience, having someone on the team at the other end of the line was key. It not only helped us better understand how the DanFone was used, but also helped us make decisions about refining some aspects of the design which made the final version better.

DanFone was designed to allow and encourage telephone communications between Lagos commuters on the city's Danfo buses

As someone who loves working with technology, I was also conscious of not getting distracted by it. There were quite a few sensors and boards that would have been delightful to work with. The best design though comes about by focusing on what you want to build, and then deciding the best way to build it; building the other way round usually results in fun stuff that no one really uses.

Can you share one insight that you've taken from Playable City Lagos as an overall experience?

The major take away for me was in experiencing first hand, the benefits of working in truly diverse teams. The fact that we had talented people from different cultural and professional backgrounds created a rich blend of ideas and thought all through the workshop.

Making a call with a DanFone handset aboard just one of the thousands of Danfo buses used to commute across Lagos

Playable City Lagos was created in partnership between British Council and Watershed, supporting by Future LagosGoethe-Institut Nigeria and CcHub.