Both papers from Weber and Hoffman touch on how we neglect the future in two critical and overlapping ways as we design and construct the built environment. With every new highway, bridge, and building, we lock in future environmental impacts and tend to ignore the reality of rising seas and more intense storms (Weber). Second, we poorly anticipate future needs and uses: obsolescence, not a physical failure, is the most common reason we replace our built environment (Hoffman). In other words, we don't create infrastructure systems that adequately meet our future needs.
Behavioral science research in other domains shows a potential solution to overcome these cognitive barriers. One approach is through vividness (i.e., the intensity and detail with which people imagine their future). Vividness can help overcome the human tendency to undervalue abstract futures (i.e. temporal discounting).
Vividness interventions grounded in behavioral science are targeting barriers to long-term planning that are at the root of societal challenges such as insufficient retirement savings, the obesity epidemic, and balloon mortgages. For example, prospective retirees presented with an automatically-generated aged digital avatar of themselves decided to save more money in the present, presumably because their aged avatar made their future more vivid (See Image below).
Helping people imagine themselves towards the age of retirement increases their willingness to invest more in savings.
We can similarly help decision-makers invest more in our infrastructure to make it resilient and sustainable into the future.
The level of vividness can have an influence on decision making. The more vivid and real the experience the more likely it will leave a lasting impression and help stakeholders make a more informed decision about their future.
Here is an example of two-dimensional forecasts for the future.
The purpose of this project is for you to create a vivid experience about the future. You will use Unity software to create a model built environment in the year 2070 (i.e. 50 years from now). The infrastructure we design and construct today will still be in place 50 years from now. So, what will the built environment look like in the year 2070?
Completing this project will require you to find forecasts and projections about the future. You must use data from the government or non-partisan groups. In other words, the forecasts must be from trusted sources - not doomsday preppers. Here are some helpful sources to get you started:
What the Future Holds
The links/resources above include sea-level rise and urban heat island effect. You can focus on vividly illustrating what the future holds related to these changes. But you can also focus on other elements. Maybe related to increased traffic issues without massive changes in our transportation system or droughts in the west based on current climate projections, etc.
The main point of this project is for you to use real-world, credible data to creatively construct a vivid experience for stakeholders to connect with the future during the decision making process.
The "smart" aspect in this project so twofold: (1) using technology - Unity and Virtual Reality to help people connect with their future cities, and (2) smart decisions will come out of this because people will be less inclined to discount the future.
Requirements for submission
Two documents/files are required for this project:
- A written summary of the built environment you created. No more than 2 pages max. This should include:
- The location of your built environment (Norfolk, NYC, San Francisco, Charleston, SC, Mumbai, India, etc)
- A description of your VR world - what has changed from 2020 to 2070?
- Reputable sources/references that support your claims
- You can include figures, screenshots, tables, etc that help explain how and why you created the built environment the way that you did
- I realize you are not going to have access to an Oculus Rift or other VR system to test your VR experiences. You would have access to these if COVID 19 had not happened. I will take this into account when grading.
- Unity file ready for me view in VR with Oculus rift (If we were still meeting in class as normal - non-COVID 19 shutdown we would have spent a day or two walking through each VR world in class).
- The file must include multiple elements of the built environment. Roughly one block of a street is enough. You must focus on what this particular site or street will look like in the future.
Please try to submit through Canvas. If you can not submit through Canvas, please use this google link: https://forms.gle/nUJdQP5wCkpMserj8. Email me that you could not submit through Canvas and that you successfully submitted it through the google link. You may need to use this google link if your file is too big.
You can work in teams of two if you like but this is not a requirement. My expectations for the project will be slightly higher for those who decide to work in teams. Without the COVID-19 interruption, this was going to be a team project. If you work in teams, please both submit the same files and include BOTH of your names on the summary and file names of the Unity file.
Now that you understand the project, I want to provide you a little information about WHY you are doing this and the outcomes after this project.
I understand not everyone is familiar with Unity or Virtual Reality. That is the point of this project. You will struggle at first but the learning curve is sharp. I provide instructions to get you started and will hold virtual office hours to help. Use each other for support as well. Even if you are working independently it is OK to ask a friend in the class for advice or help troubleshooting Unity.
Practicing using Unity is one aspect. The second aspect is the visualizing data. What does 1 -2 ft of sea-level rise mean for Norfolk? You should accurately portray this data in a way others can understand it.
Here is a link to help you get started with Unity.