Note: This post was written on 2/14.
I’m back working on the Laughter 2.0 program. A few days ago I gave some new shape to the “How to create a eureka Room program” process.
The Eureka Room Process (Beta)
The process is still evolving, but here’s the current steps. Asterisk by the word steps. It’s generally linear, but often inspiration in later steps will illuminate changes I might make in earlier steps to create a better program overall.
Here’s the steps. I’m sure they’ll be adjusted over time, so I won’t detail them now. I think you’ll get the general idea of what them mean.
- High concept
- Feeling tone(s)
- Main mechanics and Physical Actions
- Peak Moments
- Story / Throughline
- Timelines and Touchpoints
- Visuals and Music
- Props and HCI
The high concept is that you are “ca-cawing” like a bird1. I replaced the “ha ha” with “caw caw”. I preferred this because the laughter seemed a bit too direct. Asking people directly to be happy funny or entertained doesn’t work very well. Those things are the outcomes and side-effects of doing something else. Such as making a “ca caw” sound, I hope.
I also prefer the caw’ing to the ha’ing because birds are a tangible thing. Instead of “we’re going to have a laughing exercise” it becomes “we’re going to act like birds”. This takes the context from a conceptual abstract context and moves it into the tangible. Thoughts of laughter are in your head. Bird calls happen in the real world.
Also, caw’ing is more absurd than ha’ing.
I experimented with various tones by creating some program mockups. One is an excited “rock and roll” tone of manic calling.
Another is a peaceful slow caw’ing interspersed with silent pauses for contemplation. But the idea is not that people will contemplate. The idea is that they will understand they are being asked to contemplate by this ridiculous program. Hopefully this will cause their mind to step out of the program for a moment and see what they are doing. What they are doing is ridiculous. The motives of the instruction are ridiculous. The silences create a reflective moment – not the kind where they look inward (as the program invites them to) but instead look outward, at a bigger picture of what they are doing with these other people in the room. These are the times where the visitors can share a moment with each other as they laugh at the program’s ridiculous belief that you’re really getting into zen by cawing like a bird.
I prefer the zen feel but will try both when I have people over to help test.
There’s also the option to mix it up, but I bet that some people will really want a relaxing ridiculous program and throwing in some rock and roll parts will disrupt a tone they are enjoying (and be perceived as “bad random”).
The main mechanic is you see the word and you say the word. You see the word “caw” then you say “caw”. Pretty straightforward.
Maybe you point to it as well. Pointing adds some draw, some visible action, and also makes the pointer more committed to the program.
Mimicking pitch is also a mechanic I will employ.
Another possible mechanic that I’m not quite sure about is searching to find the word on the walls. I’m not sure how this will be received because mentally and emotionally “zen mode” is different than “search mode”. If zen mode gets boring, search mode could make it interesting. But searching could also wreck the vibe that participants feel from the zen they have achieved.
All of these will be tested with actual participants.
Many of the peak moments will come from the “aha” moment of figuring out the rules of the universe.
We’ll tell you the basic rules, but then we give you just a little variation from the scenarios you saw in the instruction. You have to put it together. For example, if you have to say it in a high pitched voice when it is high and a low pitched voice when it appears low, we might move the word from low to high on the screen. You will have to realize to scoop your pitch.
The aforementioned “akward moments of contemplation” will also be a moment.
Getting the people to interact and caw at each other is probably something worth pursuing as well.
You can also get surprises from a dash of “psych outs”, too. Just a dash though. We don’t want to use them so much that people will feel the need to be on their toes or that the program is out to trick them and take status. Just enough psych outs for a lighthearted chuckle. Preferably with the program winding up with low status.
Story, Timelines and Touchpoints, Visuals and Music, Props and HCI
These will all be worked out in more detail as I get the above parts more settled. That’s not to say I have ignored them. I have been playing with some ideas because they inform and inspire the other steps of the development process. For example, when playing with visuals I was surprised that that a calmer section of “cawing” had a weird humorous effect and that’s when it became the main contender for feeling tone.
As for story, I don’t think this is calling for a very robust story. As I discover the mechanics and moments more, story ideas will come to be that are related. But since the Eureka Room is more of a moment machine than a story telling machine, I use action and moments as my starting points.
1: I don’t know why my programs always have birds in them, but they do. It’s not intentional.