Adventures of a Frequent Flyer – Impact

Trucking bees all over the country is a powerful image. Most people don’t realize what happens behind the scenes to produce the food they eat every day. During this class we have enjoyed exploring datasets and finding creative ways to turn csv’s into narratives that stick in people’s heads. We were drawn to study bees because of the strong narrative that has been in press in recent years that has made many people vaguely aware of the importance of bees in agriculture. We used the prior press coverage as our hook to draw in people to learn more specifics about how bees travel across the country every year to pollinate everyone’s favorite fruits.

There are significant network effects in fruit production because bee colonies need to remain healthy throughout their interstate journey. Dangers in one state directly influence crop yields in others, with strong effects cascading across the country from Florida to South Dakota. Massachusetts is one of many stops that bees make, so local citizens should recognize their important role in protecting bees locally to facilitate nationwide fruit production. Despite proposed legislation to protect pollinators, few people are aware of the gravity of the issue. In the previous sketches in the course, our group enjoyed creating interactive games because of how fun and memorable they can be. Combining these themes, we created Adventures of a Frequent Flyer to tell the story of migratory bees and rally support for societally beneficial legislation to protect pollinators both locally and nationally.

Our audience is visitors of a famers’ market. These are people who value fresh fruits and are interested to engage with the people who produce them. People are often less rushed in a farmers’ market than a supermarket, making them more likely to wander around and more receptive to learn about new things. While testing our prototype to the desired audience, we noticed a large number of people walking around the booths. We brought a large whiteboard to the market with a collection of fruit stickers taped on in a grid-like pattern, brightly decorated to attract attention. Visitors were first introduced to the context of the game. We explained how commercial beekeepers manage their bees and their importance to fruit production. We prompted the user to choose a favorite fruit, engaging them by personalizing the discussion. Users then traced a typical path that bees would be traveling to pollenate a series of crops, ultimately reaching their destination where their favorite fruit is grown. In addition to highlighting the often-complicated paths bees are traveling, along the way we highlighted the level of regulatory protection each state has related to protecting pollinators.

We found that the game caused users to empathize with bee keepers and personify the bees. One person exclaimed, “if I was a beekeeper, I would keep my colony safe!” After speaking with our group and completing the activity, 100% of the users we surveyed reported that they had learned something new about the issue and were amenable to support bee protection laws in the future. Our goal was to inform and empower people to make changes in their living and voting habits to support the bees that help produce the fruits in our grocery baskets. Many users started our activity saying, “I had no idea bees were moved around like this!” The same people would leave our farmers’ market stand saying, “this is really informational, I learned a lot here.” Supporting pollinators is a big challenge, but progress has to start somewhere. Engaging participatory games that reinforce a data-driven narrative felt like the right way to introduce the discussion!