Let's Tea Together!
How do we preserve important traditions such as Chinese Tea Ceremony and tell the meaning about them using modern technology?
Role: Wholistic Designer, in coding and fabrication
Team: Individual Project
Tools: Processing, laser cutting, iPad, Illustrator
Time: Nov.- Dec. 2017
Let's Tea Together is my first semester's final studio project at Parsons School of Design. This is an interactive screen built-in onto a tea ceremony board as a tool to create meaningful conversations and spend quality time while reminiscing about past memories/traditions with their loved ones.
Growing up as a bilingual kid, I love different traditions specific to certain cultures, particularly traditions from Asia - Taiwan & Japan. The Chinese Tea Ceremony has been a tradition dear to my heart because my grandparents used to brew and drink them all the time. However, this tradition has been slowly fading away as younger generations become more preoccupied with their computers, phones, and tablets. Honestly, I have no idea how to brew tea the tradition way as my grandparents did. I wonder what are the effects of digital technology on traditional cultures, specifically on Chinese Tea Culture? Are we forgetting who we by being submerged in this digital online world?
How do we preserve important traditions (Chinese Tea Ceremony) and tell the meaning about them using modern technology?
During my brainstorm, I did domain mapping on my ideas. Some of the questions that came to my mind include:
Why do humans have traditions?
Why do we need to preserve them?
What does the ritual of Chinese Tea Ceremony represent?
What is the meaning of Chinese Tea Ceremony?
If traditions are fading away, how do I use technology to remind and tell stories about these important traditions?
After brainstorming, I began a more in depth research on the meaning of traditions. I compared and contrasted the different tea ceremonies that were present in Asia. I also researched the effects of technology specifically iPhones, computers, and tablets on traditional values and cultures. Below were some of my findings.
Research has shown traditions build strong family ties between generations and establish a sense of belonging and give security to young people, setting a routine that they can depend on year after year.
In the past, younger adults would serve tea to the older generation to show respect, a person of a lower social rank would serve tea to somebody higher in rank, the bride and the groom would serve tea to parents in traditional Chinese weddings to show gratitude or families drink tea together and enjoy their afternoons chatting away.
Essentially, the most important ideas concerning the ceremony are the environment, aesthetics, the quality and smell of the teas, the people, and quality time spent together with friends and family in a slower lifestyle.
A more comprehensive research can be found here.
After researching, I found that the more time we spend with technology (iPhones, computer, and tablets), the less time we spend with one another. This is especially true for the younger generation.
The more time we spend with technology (iPhones, computer, and tablets), the less time we spend with one another. This is especially true for the younger generation.
This implies that less time is spent together with friends and family practicing traditions. In the case of the tradition of the Chinese Tea Ceremony, the younger generation might not understand or think is necessary to serve tea at weddings or to drink tea with family. Slowly this tradition can be lost. So I came up with these design principles for my design concept.
My first initial concept was to create an interactive teacup set. I wanted the set to remind and prompt people to spend more time to brew tea while promoting quality time with one another, taking a time to relax, and acting as a reminder of the Chinese tea culture in the context of this fast-paced digital age we live in today. Below is a sketch of my 1st prototype.
The persona of someone who might want to use this would be a young teenage adult who has seen his grandparents brewed tea in the past. However, she doesn't not know how to brew tea the right way. However, she owns this fun interactive tea cup set where it has instructions of how to brew tea. She can easily enjoy a cup of tea with her family!
After prototyping and some feedback, many felt my concept was too tool-like. The interactive teacup set could potentially be very distracting if whenever you walk by it, it would notify you to make tea. I did more research and decided to change my concept. I took the idea of "tea stains" in which in the old days in China, brewing teas also means constantly leaving tea stains on the wooden table. Nowadays, people think it's dirty and ugly. However, I think this idea of tea stains could be like marks of the different tea stories. Taking this idea, I came up with a revised concept.
01.Tea Stains - In the ancient times in China, when brewing and drinking tea, it is normal for the wooden board or table to be left with tea stains from drinking tea. It is not easily removed and leaves a permanent mark on the table/board. This gives the meaning of the passage of time, the times spent together, different unique 'marks' that was created each then you drink tea. I want to incorporate this idea into my design.
02. Flowers Bloom in an Infinite Universe by teamLab in 2016 - This installation projects flowers blooming when there is tea in your teacup. When you finish the tea in the teacup, the artwork will disappear. This is similar to what I want to portray in my concept where drinking tea tells different stories of regarding the tea ceremony tradition. It represents all the different times one spent with your loved ones. How can I use the similar idea of projection, pictures, or artwork to convey the richness of stories in drinking tea in the Chinese Culture?
After much research, my final concept is to creating an interactive screen on a tea ceremony board that displays a collection of blurred pictures that show a gradual increase in clarity as one drinks tea and puts it down on the board as a tool to create meaningful conversations and spend quality time while reminiscing about past memories/traditions with their loved ones. This product is suitable for teenagers but can also be used with older adults.
Final Prototype Demo Video
My concept, although has its purpose, still needs more user research tested with different scenarios. One of the potential specific audience is for the younger generation in home settings and thus the interactions in the homes will shape my concept. I would also like to make the personal customization one of the main features of this interactive tea board. This means people can upload freely what kind of pictures they want to store in this interactive tea board. Finally, I would like to add a new function of being able to add layers of different pictures. What if, as you add more pictures in this board, it adds layers, and it's when you drink and put your cup on the board can you strip away the layers of pictures and see what is stored inside?