Hengling Music Boxes

Interactive music boxes inspired by the Dong minority in rural China

The New Channel Program 2016, Design and Social Innovation Camp explored approaches for interaction design in cross-cultural contexts. The term cross-cultural design identifies cases in which designers ideate for users or contexts that differ from their own cultural references. In this project we designed, prototyped and tested four interactive music boxes that could communicate the culture of the Dong minority in rural China.

In a team of ten, we built and run a mobile maker space using local materials in the Hengling village. We explored design approaches through observation, embodiment and interviews with locals, and we defined design concepts through brainstorm sessions. Finally, we designed and prototyped four interactive music boxes (based on Arduino) and evaluated their usability and cultural representativeness with locals. The process followed a quick iterative design process.