By Tanya Patel
Having complete freedom over the topic for my final project put me in a tailspin. How was I going to pick the perfect topic? Then all of a sudden, it hit me (almost literally). I was driving on a highway in Austin, TX, when I noticed a truck about two car lengths in front of me start to drift into my lane and then quickly jerk back into his own lane. After I witnessed the truck do this a couple more times, I knew that either this guy was completely drunk at 3 in the afternoon or he was texting. Sure enough, a man in his late 30s was using his forearms to control the steering wheel while both of his thumbs worked furiously to send the text that couldn’t wait. I decided to do a little experiment: for the next ten miles, I checked the driver of every car I passed. Of the twenty-seven cars that I passed, twelve drivers were either talking on the phone or texting. It was not until I arrived at my destination, the movie theatre, when the topic of my project was secured. The friend with me texted throughout the entire movie, which got me thinking; why do we feel the need to be in constant communication with someone, especially when we are performing other tasks, such as watching a movie or more dangerously, driving a car?
There have been many campaigns against using a cell phone while driving, so what would make my website different from these other campaigns? I needed to find a fun way to help people understand the values associated with why we use our cell phones in the car, to show the dangers of texting or dialing while driving, and to show ways to prevent people from using a cell phone while driving. I decided to follow Mad Men’s Don Draper’s advice to Peggy: “Think about it deeply. Then, forget it. And an idea will jump up in your face.” This is exactly what happened.
I chose to use the design of an iPhone to convey the message because of the cultural impact the iPhone has had. By using something a majority of viewers would be able to relate to, my hope is that the impact of the message will be even greater. Using the apps buttons to navigate through the site will be an adventure for the audience as they discover what buttons can be clicked on and where they will lead.
There were many challenges that I faced in completing the project. One was that we did not have any specific guidelines as to what we needed to do. Professor Hodgson simply asked us to make a monument, and one who’s “making was fitting for its content.” This freedom of creativity made me question whether or not what I was doing was right. I questioned if I was putting too much or too little into the project. The biggest challenge for me was Wix. Learning the capabilities of the website, navigating through the different features, figuring out what would work and what could not work was definitely difficult and often very frustrating.
One of my biggest successes was that I was able to create something exactly as I had envisioned in my head. I wanted to have each of the apps on the phone to be clickable, and after hours and hours and hours of working on Adobe Photoshop and cutting out each icon, I was able to figure out how to do exactly that. In fact, I was so happy that I figured it out that I actually threw my arms in the air like I was crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon.
Working on this project, I was able to learn something new outside the boundaries of the topic I was researching. By throwing the challenge of Wix into the mix, it pushed my comfort level far beyond what I expected. I never showed any of my research papers to anyone except for my parents (and they only read it out of obligation); however, many of my friends and family members actually wanted to see this project as I had been talking about for it so long.
The electronic monument was a really interesting project to work on. There were many, many moments where I was cursing the website, and I think I lost more hair in the last month working on this website than I ever have, but in the end, it was definitely worth it.