‘Common Room began with an investigation into the shared spaces of Backpacker Hostels. These traditionally friendly, social spaces are changing fast in the age of the internet.
Pervasive wifi, and portable access to social networks mean more and more people are spending their time in hostels connecting to friends overseas instead meeting the potential new friends across the room.
Common Room is a set of concepts. The first breaks down the walls created by the laptop, mobile phone or iPod – it provokes, or forces conversations between strangers. The second captures the value brought by guests to the space – tips, experience and character, which is preserved for others to find later.
Bells ‘n’ Boxes
You’re sitting in a backpacker hostel, the room is relatively quiet. A few other backpackers are dotted around tables browsing the internet, someone’s reading a “Lonely Planet”. A box is on the table where you sit. It’s non-descript, white, just off the centre of the round table beside a lit candle and some coasters.
On top of the box, is a big, shiny, button. It reads “Do Not Push“. You can’t resist. “What harm can it do?”
When you hit that button, there’s a noise from behind, a searing buzz, the ring of a bell and the clatter of what sounds like marbles pouring onto a table – you look around to see what a disturbance you’ve caused, apologise and offer to help tidy up.
“Post-a-Coaster” is an invitation to guests to sketch or write a little message, travel tip, joke, tag or artwork. Coasters are available on tables featuring a short instruction and space for a sketch.
In early prototyping, this activity was largely successful, within a week, many cards were adorned with travel tips, national flags, travel itineraries, jokes, reviews and comments.
And so, “The Coaster-Toaster” was introduced as a simple mechanism for capturing the content collected on the coasters, and preserving them for review in the hostel space and online. Guests can drop their coaster into the toaster, and in a few seconds their masterpiece is photographed for display in the space and uploaded to www.post-a-coaster.com. The experience prototype ran over two weeks and guests actively participated, some finding novel ways to build on the service.
Together, the Common Room concepts provide means by which cosy, friendly backpacker hostels can encourage and add value to the social experience that is so valuable to their business and the enjoyment of their guests.