Final – Synanthrope Preserve

A synanthrope (from the Greek syn-, “together with” + anthro, “man”) is a member of a species of wild animals and plants of various kinds that live near, and benefit from, an association with humans and the somewhat artificial habitats that humans create around them (From Wikipedia).


Here is the audio tour that starts at the northeast side of Washington square park, at the intersection of Waverly and University Place. The recommended time for the tour is between 12pm and 3pm.



The final presentation:

Presentation Outline:

Slides 1-2

“We may have designed the urban habitat for ourselves, but that does not mean that we are the only ones here.”

  • We both found ourselves drawn to the well-being of animals in the city, what we are calling the urban habitat.
  • Often we consider city animals interlopers in our space, but really they belong here just as much as we do.
  • These are synanthropic animals, meaning they live close to humans, and there is no other home to go to
  • We wanted to try and shift people’s mental models to see the city as a mutual habitat

Slide 3-4

  • We brainstormed about all of the different kinds of animals that live in the city, what our complaints about them were and what they might complain to us about
  • For Example, we might complain that raccoons are pests that make a mess of trash, spread disease, and can be very destructive. Raccoons might complain that we make the trash really difficult to get into, and that we keep having them trapped and killed.
  • During this process we found that we both found pigeons very compelling, and that they would be good to center some kind of experience around.

Slides 5-8

  • We sketched up some ideas about different ways people could learn more about the animals, that would also reinforce the idea of this being a natural environment.
  • Walking trails, imagined trails like nature trails that would lead you through a certain area or follow a particular animal
  • AR experience, you could reveal information about animals or hidden locations (such as pigeon nests) that you would not have known about before
  • Installation, this could be some kind of pop-up museum that could exist as a stand alone, or even better as a launching point for any of the other experiences
  • Audio tour, this was particularly compelling because of the intimate transporting nature of the audio tour

Slide 9

Concept Mapping

  • We did some concept mapping, diagramming out the general concept path of the audio guide, the facts we wanted to make sure to cover, and how they would connect to our larger point about respecting the animals and their place in the ecosystem.
  • We also began to define the audience for our guide

Slide 10


  • We were considering Washington Square Park and Tompkins square park, they each had their pros and cons, but we eventually settled on Washington Square park because it had a large crowd
  • We understood that the main interaction between humans and animals accrued during lunch time. That made us decided to target lunch crowd.
  • These are people who self-selected to be in the park. They already liked the space and were spending free time there. Seemed like a good fit for the experience.

Slides 11-13


  • Spoke to 7 people in the park about their attitudes towards city animals, how their time in the park, if they fed animals, how long they spent in the park, and their feelings towards nature in general.
  • This helped us identify 3 personas of park goers and their behaviours:
  • People who don’t like the animals, tend to stay away from them
  • People who feed the animals
  • People who don’t feed the animals.
  • We hope that our audio guide would convince people who don’t like animals to see them as a part of an ecosystem, rather than pests.
  • We hope that the guide can provide some interesting information for people who don’t feed the animals, but we don’t expect any behavior change there.
  • We also discovered that park goers usually spend 30min-1hr in the park, leading us to think that a 10-15min audio guide would be ideal. Time to eat your lunch and listen to the guide

Slide 14


  • Spending time in the park also helped us finalize our route through the park
  • Finalize our problem, respect the pigeons but don’t feed them. It’s bad for the pigeon and for us.

Slide 15


  • By far the most time-consuming part of this process was writing and creating the audio guide. We tested several iterations of the guide, with a focus on:
  • Tone, we wanted to make an experience where it feels like a friend is telling you a secret, something intimate. The audience is going through a discovery process.
  • Interesting locations in the park that were interesting and informative
  • Timing, making sure that listeners ended up in the right place at the right time was very tricky

Slides 17-18

Behavioral problem and solution

Feeding pigeons regularly can disrupt the pigeon population and throw the ecosystem out of balance.

  • We hope that we can get people who feed animals, pigeons in particular, to stop feeding these animals. The food they provide them is mostly usually unhealthy for them.
  • Since we recognize and accept the human need of a connection to those animals we were looking to change this habbit.
  • We’re encouraging people to replace this habit with giving pigeons water.

Slide 18

Next Steps

  • While we have the audio experience made, it really exists as part of a bigger idea of synathrope preserve.
  • We like to imagine an app or site where people can put in the date they are at the park so that they can have a custom experience tailored to the seasons
  • It would be great to make supporting materials for the guide, some kind of pigeon journal that people can upload their own content to. Another way to let people feel close to the birds without feeding them.
  • Expanded audio guides for multiple locations in the city
  • Pop-up location, an event to act as a ‘hook’ to get people interested in the audio guide

Categories: Designing for Change

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