Bukas: Material Messages for Filipino Migrant Workers
and their Transnational Families
and their Transnational Families
Analyn L. Yap
MDes Interaction Design
Tutor: Dr. Huaxin Wei
Filipino Migrant Workers (or more commonly known as OFWs) play a significant role in Hong Kong society. Commonly mothers and women, they are separated from their transnational families. Due to their lack of domestic presence these migrant workers pack and send home the balikbayan box as a means of intimacy. The balikbayan box, though merely a simple cardboard package filled with items, is an interesting artifact that carries a myriad of meaning, uncovering insights about the interpersonal behaviours of all parties involved – the sender/s and the receiver/s. The design methods reveal the latent needs for migrant workers’ self-identity expression and communication. The research endeavors to explore migrant workers’ self-identity result in a co-existing spectrum of values consisting of positive achievements and negative feelings of sadness, from which we posit a set of criteria and develop a design concept that tests these guidelines.
Design Research Methods
The qualitative methods consisting of field observation, cultural probes, semi-structured interviews, and participatory workshops were conducted in a period of around 8-10 weeks in total. The first phase of the research (field observation, cultural probes, part of the interviews) aimed to broadly investigate the issue by divergence. As certain points of focus emerged, the second phase (interviews, participatory workshops) focused on convergence, culminating in the determination of certain design criteria to be used for concept development.
The Design Solution
Bukas is a tangible product linked with a mobile interface that facilitates meaningful daily communication for migrant Filipina workers and their families through a material artifact. The design inquiry consists of immersive human-centered qualitative methods including semi-structured interviews, cultural probes, and participatory workshops.“Bukas” (from the Tagalog word meaning “to open” and “tomorrow”) is a box artifact coupled with an augmented reality (AR) enabled mobile interface that aims to facilitate meaningful long distance family communication through a material medium. It is composed of two boxes, each containing seven graspable pieces, two wireless contact chargers, and a mobile application. The main idea of the concept is for the box to become a medium of slow technology between the migrant worker and the distanced family by embedding messages inside the contained pieces to be created and collected during a routine of recollection that happens every night.
The primary physical interactivity consists of the user being able to represent messages through a graspable piece that one can hold and rotate. Another major point of interaction is the experience of puzzle-solving, putting all the pieces together to fit inside a box with finite space. Conversely, the piece-by-piece action of “unboxing” by the box receiver is also significant. This interaction takes inspiration from how the balikbayan box is packed to brim and is collaboratively unpacked –– its contents distributed to different members of the family. There is no set order to read the messages embedded in the seven pieces. When the held message piece meets the AR-enabled mobile application, the interaction’s intention is to make it seem as if the user is holding the photos embedded in the piece.
The trigger to enable the nightly prompt notification is powered by a wireless charger that detects physical presence. The assumption is that when the distanced family member is physically present and resting while charging their phone, the migrant worker, who is far away, is made aware of this temporality and is subtly made aware of the presence of their loved one. The augmented reality function is demonstrated with a simple prototype created in CoSpaces.Edu and used with the commercially available MergeCube