RCA Blog 



Keywords: marginalize / community / story / web based interactive





This term we focus on the exploration of marginalized populations. This blog records the process and gains of exploring and making our project with the group. The entire blog has been rearranged in a logical order to ensure a structured reading.




Starting point

In this project on marginalized people, we start with practical social issues such as population aging and analyze the marginalized concept from multiple angles.

At this step, we brainstormed a lot of relevant content. (image1) I have never intentionally approached a "marginalized" population before. But as the brainstorming unfolded, I found that many people around me had the potential to be classified as marginalized groups. For example, many elderly people in an aging society are gradually disconnected from the fast new social life, and in this information age, some people who are not good at using digital technology may be marginalized by the "humans' greatest invention" ---- the Internet. At this step, our understanding of this topic becomes clearer.

Since there are old people around us, and we feel we all very concerned about grandparents, I and the team members chose to study the elderly as the content of this topic first. But as we began to explore the relationship between age and marginalization, we found that the concept of the elderly group was too broad, and many people did not consider themselves as an elder. In addition, we consider it rough and unclear to associate loneliness directly with marginalization.

After readjusting and analyzing feedback (image2), we believe that marginalization should be considered from multiple angles, not only from a physiological perspective but also from a psychological perspective, which points out the direction for our later project research.


After the new discussion, we set our sights on studying the prisoner community. We believe that such groups are prevalent in various social environments. People all know the existence of this group, but they are really at the edge of society and people always ignore it. We hope to study and communicate with them to understand the concept of "marginalize" more deeply and look for the possibility of connecting them with "non-marginalized" people.


In the investigation process, we started with some well-known experiments and video materials, such as the prison simulation experiment of Stanford University and the documentary about the prisoner's life in the prison. These materials provide us with a good starting point. In this step, the team members and I kept sorting out a very unique concept for the prisoner group: time.


We find that prisoners are often in a "time lost" state in the prison, especially in the cell. Due to the small environmental space and the lack of outdoor light sources, these factors will greatly affect their perception of time, and these will change their physical and psychological states.

Then in our communication with the mentor, the idea of this entry point was approved. Because this concept can be well connected with some unique characteristics and experiences of this group. And research from this perspective will also make our work perspective more unique, there is the possibility to explore from a new perspective.


Some references links:

Stanford experiment


Video Documentaries:





Later in the research process, we have identified the research content and direction of the project. As the content deepened, we gradually realized that the process of studying this group was very challenging. These research materials and previous experiments tell us that due to the particularity of the prisoner group, we need to pay great attention to the ethical part when researching. In addition, for prisoners and anyone with such experience, these experiences can cause their discomfort and related problems. We really want to be able to communicate with them from an equal and friendly angle, so we all agree that a serious and rigorous way of communication is necessary. This led us to further deep experiment and exploration later.

Design and development

Based on previous directions and ideas, my tutor Richard and I discussed these topics and shared some experiences we heard. We have gradually proposed to obtain the content of the story through the form of creative writing. This form is more indirect than previous straightforward inquiries or interviews, and this indirect help protect the emotions and psychology of those with special experiences. After I conveyed this idea to the group members, we gradually extended from creative writing to creative drawing, storytelling, and a few other ideas. For example, painting may make it more convenient for prisoners who are not easy to write to express their ideas. These proposals make us better understand how to focus on the feelings of others while ensuring a rigorous research process.

In this step, we spent about two weeks constantly discuss and amend the content of this "workshop" activity. At the same time, I also started to contact some related organizations in London through our tutor, such as Koestler Art Foundation, etc. We hope to obtain further information and possible activities through these non-profit organizations related to the prisoners.​​​

Experiments and prototypes


After we completed the design of the workshop content and structure, we quickly conducted a small-scale school test. (image1) We invited students from the same class as participants to conduct a complete simulation experiment. In this experiment, I mainly observe and record, and give some feedback based on the stories we have obtained at the end. (video2, image3) The process of this test is interesting and inspiring. We were very surprised to have a very rich story content, and the interaction with the participants was also very rich. (image4-6)

The entire workshop (also as our Plan A)  content covers three parts, the details are:

Plan A was to hold a workshop with participants from the organization. On the 3rd of March, we organized a trial workshop with our peers at the Royal College of Art. In mid-March, we will get in touch with the prisoner community and start workshop activities.


1. For the first workshop, they were asked to illustrate or draw on a sheet on paper that states “ it is _ o clock, I am” 


2. As for the second workshop, each participant chooses a piece of colored paper with an image on the reverse side. They initiate the beginning of a storyline according to the image, then pass it on to the person next to them to continue the writing. The new participant repeats the former behavior and continues the story.


3. And finally, for the third workshop, the participants were asked to imagine an endless body of the ocean with floating hourglasses with each representing a moment in their life. Then, they are asked to pick one of those hourglasses in order to reflect on  it.

Final outcomes and visualization process


Due to the impact of the epidemic, we were unable to conduct face-to-face activities and communication with the prisoner group as expected. So we quickly decided to adopt our Plan B. Our plan B is to conduct the 3rd activity of the designed workshop with participants who have experienced prison life. We do these activities by providing them with one-on-one interviews to provide a more intimate and comfortable setting. 

At this step, my team member Santra interviewed seven people who had related experience, and I also interviewed a friend who had been detained in Japan and obtained a wealth of information and data. It's important to note that these stories themselves and the interactive process are a major part of the outcome of our project. Then, we decided to let more people understand and share these experiences and feelings by visualizing these stories and combining information technology.

In this last step, we visualize these collected "hourglasses" through 3D modeling and 2D hand-drawing and upload them to the web. Combine interviewees' audio transcripts and some text to create a complete online sharing experience. This website will provide an interactive way for viewers to click on different hourglasses and pages to learn about stories that have happened and the potential impact these experiences have on people. In this way, it can speak for such extremely marginalized groups and promote public thinking and discussion on the concept of marginalization.

In this step, I am mainly responsible for shaping these "hourglasses" through C4D software, and giving them different dynamics and visual effects according to the descriptions of the respondents. (image1-3, video4) Then I converted these documents into a format that can be used by the web page in 3D and uploaded by the team member Noah to the web page. (image5) At this step, we encountered a lot of technical difficulties and challenges, through the continuous revision in the last few weeks we finally completed the design of the website.

Full interview transcript:


Links for all learning outcome

Final outcome website: https://zijiequ.github.io/  

A temporary link to the website. We bought a new domain, but are still waiting to be active.

8 different stories are hidden within 8 hourglasses, and the visitor needs to find them in the menu. Ideally, the more stories we get, the more hourglasses would be activated. In the meantime, if you need a little help finding the stories, we attach you in the email a hint image to find their location.


Group blog: https://santranavas.wixsite.com/hourglass


Containing more specific information on every key step taken in the process.


Process film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp76X6sc1CE

Self-assessment and analysis:


In this group project, I think I have very good communication and interaction with my team members. In the early days of the project, each of us contributed great ideas. In the middle of the project, we each divided the corresponding parts and combined the test results well. In the later stages of the project, team member Noah and I also found a good technical cooperation experience in continuous failures and corrections. I feel that such group cooperation is efficient and smooth, and it also provides a lot of new experience on how to cooperate.


In the last semester, I began to realize the importance of the narrative, and this semester I began to learn more about how to better construct and obtain good narrative content. In the middle of the project, when we designed the workshop together, I gradually discovered the feasibility of guiding people to friendly communication. Compared with the questionnaire surveys and interviews I used before, this approach is more humane and pays more attention to people's feelings for some more special situations. This has greatly changed my perception of research and thinking.


In addition to these gains, I also found some shortcomings. Due to the epidemic, many of the original design steps could not be achieved, including face-to-face activities in the mid-term and the visual effects of the final model. These have caused some troubles and failures because of no early planning. This made me realize that a good backup plan is very important, especially in a longer-term project. And I often overlook the importance of early prevention. I hope that in future projects and studies, I can prepare research and learning steps from a more comprehensive perspective to ensure that my work is not affected by external factors.