How did The Anthro Guys get involved with the architects, Shaunt Yemenjian, Kiel Famellos-Schmidt and Mike Pinheiro, and their proposed “housing first” development?  A roundabout answer:

The Library Study is a year-long ethnographic study of student life at Fresno State. The study was commissioned by Fresno State Library Dean, Peter McDonald, in advance of the opening of the new campus library in Feb. 2009 (you can find out more on myspace or facebook by searching for “Henry Madden Library”). The study is occupying a big chunk of The Anthro Guys’ time this year. One exercise we did was called “Floating Reference Desk.” We got the idea from two sources. Our colleagues at the  ibrary tell us that many students don’t know what a reference desk is or how it might help them. Then, The Anthro Guys (plus Jason, AG in training) went to a participatory design conference last October and had dinner with a Swedish design consultant named (predictably?) Lars (see Lars said that if it were him, he’d just take a replica of a reference desk and put it out in a field somewhere and see what people do with it. That stuck with us and we did something very similar (thanks, Lars!). We took a desk, a few chairs, a computer keyboard, monitor, mouse, etc. and put them in the “free speech area,” a heavily foot-trafficked part of campus. We had our anthro students rope in passersby to interact with and respond to the “reference desk.” Some of the richest moments came when students Elfego and Alecia, and then Dave and Bonner, recruited passing students to sit at the desk and act out what students and reference librarians do.

More about that later; now, back to the architects.

Back in December, I saw an announcement from Kiel about the first Pecha Kucha in Fresno. Pecha Kucha is 20×20: 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide. I did one of the ten or so presentations, and I presented some findings from the Library Study. I think Kiel and Shaunt liked the Floating Reference idea, and they proposed that we use something like it at the Arc|Hop exhibit this February 5 (see more about Arc | Hop here and here).  At Arc|Hop, they plan to present a full scale mock-up of their efficiency unit design, and they asked The Anthro Guys to come out with our students and provoke/record interactions between Arc|Hop attendees and the space.  We agreed…