Fuyu Sugiura, Aya Ota, Rich Hauck and I chose to try to disseminate a trend among the students at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University--the making of origami. We attempted to tie this activity to the immediate needs of ITP students. Given the tremendous workload students must bear, we decided that these needs were to relieve stress and anxiety and to encourage relaxation. To make doubly sure that our trend would appeal to as many ITP students as possible, we decided to not only tie origami to the obvious needs of students, but also to promote origami as a tool for fulfilling wishes for romance, financial security, and/or academic success. Regarding wish fulfillment, we chose four different figures and tied the creation of those figures to satisfying particular desires--a fox for academic success, a pig for romance, a frog for financial security and a crane for any wish. We settled on some ways to measure the success or failure of our campaign. These included email list discussion activity, website traffic, number of student-created pieces on an origami tree and attendance at a workshop.

Stages of Persuasion Campaign and their Success or Failure

Stage 1: Anonymously leaving origami pieces around the floor to drive initial interest and awareness among ITP students.

This stage was a success. Each of the four weeks of our project, we left 20 or 30 pieces of origami around the floor. Each of those weeks featured a different figure, starting with the easiest figure--the fox--and ending with the most difficult--the crane. Our hope was that these pieces lying around ITP would get people asking questions and discussing origami. We thought we would eventually see an email spontaneously arrive on the listserv asking about the pieces. Such an email was never sent to the student list and we thought initially that this stage of our project was a failure. However, later in the project when an email discussion finally did get going, people did say that they'd been wondering since the beginning what the pieces were doing around the floor, that they liked them and that they were interested in learning to make them. In fact, we never had a single negative response to the pieces themselves or to any other part of our project. So this initial stage of our persuasion campaign seemed at first to be a failure but we simply didn't see the evidence of its success until much later in the project.

origami frog on top of an editing station

Stage 2: Creating a student listserv discussion to elevate interest (if one had not been started by the students themselves) and announcing the website that we created--www.learntofoldpaper.com.

The website contained a brief introduction and history of origami plus instructions on how to make the four pieces we chose for our project and links to other origami resources. This stage was a failure. Since no one outside our group started an email discussion about our origami pieces, we asked Mohit Santram to send such an email to the student list on our behalf. No one responded to his email. For whatever reason, students did not feel compelled to join in an email list discussion of origami at that point in the campaign. We wanted an email discussion to provide a context for announcing the existence of our website but since the discussion didn't happen, we didn't feel comfortable announcing the website.

Stage 3: Putting up an origami tree in the lounge where students could publicly display their pieces.

This stage was arguably the most successful. The origami tree in the lounge was a visually striking and constant way to showcase ours and other students' origami and to encourage people to create more pieces and hang them from the tree. Around the tree we placed posters explaining the benefits of origami as outlined above (relieve stress and anxiety, fulfill wishes) as well as origami paper, string and tape for attaching pieces to the tree, and business cards with our website URL. After the tree was up, people finally started responding to Mohit's first email and a real discussion ensued. Students generally said they enjoyed the pieces around the floor, liked the origami tree, and wanted to learn origami. Reaction to the every part of our project was positive. Traffic to the website steadily increased and many new pieces that we had not created appeared on the tree.

origami treeorigami tree

Stage 4: Conducting an informal workshop on origami with a brief introduction and history as well as lessons on how to make our four figures.

This stage was a success. On Thursday, December 8th, our group conducted an Origami workshop at ITP. The workshop was announced to the student list and posters were hung around the floor. Around 25 people showed up to participate. We had planned on giving students a very brief introductory lecture about origami and its history, but as soon as students arrived, they grabbed the paper, the instructions and set about making things. So we skipped the lecture and each of us just went around the room helping students with any questions or problems. We took all the pieces that had been left behind and placed them on the tree.

informal workshop

Final Statistics as of 12/14/05:
  • Number of student list emails by students not from our group: 11
  • Weekly website traffic (www.learntofoldpaper.com):
    Week 1: 7 hits, 7 unique users
    Week 2: 34 hits, 16 unique users
    Week 3: 5 hits, 4 unique users
    Week 4: 45 hits, 21 unique users
    Week 5: 89 hits, 38 unique users
    Week 6: 230 hits, 73 unique users
    Week 7: 144 hits, 25 unique users
  • Number of pieces on our origami tree not created by our group: 58
  • Attendance at the informal workshop: ca. 25
Final Thoughts

Overall, the campaign was more successful than any of us hoped. We all feared that ITP students would be too busy to engage in discussing or making origami, even if they were interested. The visibility and aesthetic value of the tree seems to have been a key factor for encouraging both discussion and creation since, after we put it up, both discussion and creation of origami increased significantly. I think another key component of our success was the composition of our group. Each of us contributed significantly to the project, got along well, had an easy time finding consensus on how to proceed and just enjoyed doing the whole thing. I think the spirit of that positive group dynamic was carried through in the execution of our project and, ultimately, was somehow felt by those who were exposed to and persuaded by our activities.
© 2011 David Yates