Balance the conversations
This thesis aims to examine the role environmental factors play in people’s experience of the built environment, with a focus on the ongoing debate between individual freedom and collective responsibility of masks in the COVID-19 era. This thesis will argue that a middle ground that balances the relationship between individual and collective pursuits is necessary and can potentially be enabled through design. The project will articulate these ideas by using the debate around mask-wearing as a starting point to develop a broader manifesto forshaping the built environment.
During this ongoing global pandemic, we can’t deny that human behavior has been changed either voluntarily or involuntarily. Decisions we make every day play an important role to protect each other in society. How can we as architects find ways to encourage people, from politicians to the general public, make sensible choices not from a polarized position but in weighing perspectives of individual freedom and collective welfare.
The simple act of wearing a mask to protect others during a pandemic has become a political and cultural flashpoint. When the establishment of the mask-wearing policies and whether to follow those policies are no longer a consideration of social safety and welfare, but instead have become statements around individual freedom and political inclination
Reflecting on the concept of freedom as inherently defined by the power of choice, this project aims to reframe the importance of design decisions to rethink individual and collective values in any given society by bringing one of the behavioral economics concepts into a built environment, nudge theory. As a designer, how can we influence individual decision-making without limiting the choice set or setting up a policy?
Cues in our environment have always influenced our actions. The decisions we make as architects can offer a nudge of better decision-making or healthier behavior. We are not only capable of changing an experience through space, but we can influence how people think and what they choose. How can architecture change human behavior so as to can lead to balance points of the individual and collective pursuits in a society?
Looking at how nudges influence human decision making, supermarkets are a perfect example for nudges used in a space.
Think back to the last time you shopped in a supermarket, have you ever noticed that there are some items that were not on your list,like frozen fish, microwave pizza and a discounted toaster you didn’t even know you wanted, end up in your cart while you were checking out?
Apparently, supermarkets have been designed to manipulate you in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Every single feature of the shop has been put there to do one of three things: 1. Get you into the store 2. Keep you there as long as possible 3. Ensure you make decisions based on emotion rather than logic.