Category Archives: collaborative

Being Human 2019 – Evaluation

The session began with an insightful discussion about museum display item descriptions in general and whether they are read. One opinion was that they are good to have on-hand but often may not actually be read. However, the group seemed to agree that it is generally better to have more detail than less.

This reminds me of the classic inverted pyramid (‘Inverted pyramid (journalism)’, 2019) writing technique where the reader delves into as much detail as they desire, assuming that the reach of the pyramid matches the reader’s expectation. Following this structure, the body of writing answers all the key questions in brief within the opening sentences before moving on to incidental/secondary detail that may only be of interest to a particular audience.

The workshop proper began by asking participants to examine key texts and then come up with keywords for some of them. This was very interesting as in the first pass completed as a group, individual participants came up with different words for the same text, perhaps unsurprisingly. A keyword in this context almost certainly denotes personal insight or individual significance to a greater extent than being constructed as a signpost for someone else. To construct generally useful keywords, there would need to be a more systematic approach and consideration of others.

Boudica I

The story of the Queen of the Iceni has fascinated every age from Roman times to the modern day.

She was very tall and severe. Her gaze was penetrating and her voice was harsh. She grew long red hair that fell to her hips and wore a large golden torc and a vast patterned cloak with a thick plaid fastened over it.

Dio Cassio

A Roman writer

An example of a key text.

Participants continued to work through texts individually and associate keywords with chosen samples. They then chose one particular keyword and spent 20 mins developing a ‘creative outcome’ using paper, pre-printed typographic elements, pens, patterned paper etc. Some thoughtful and attractive versions of keywords were produced. This gave rise to a conversation about the typography of a keyword as an ‘affordance’ (Norman, 2013), although the actual term affordance wasn’t used directly, i.e. as a signifier of the nature of the respective content. This is an interesting area of discussion, as originally I had conceived of the project as being a kind of test of textual interaction, and to see how much interest could be developed by just working with text as a user interface concept. This project constraint was conceived before I started working with the museum as a collaborative partner and was based on the premise of exploring texts that exist in their own right, not relating to a physical object as the museum texts generally are.

In any case, text must be rendered using a character set which effectively establishes ‘typographic voice’, a widely known graphic design principle. So, choice of font will always have some bearing on perceptions of keyword affordance and of course, some fonts are highly embellished with ornamentation and/or feature iconography to the point of being at least as pictorial as they are typographic.

There was some discussion about the information hierarchy relating to museum displays and one suggestion was that it would be great to move from one item to another ‘like using the internet’ which I interpret as the idea of there being an organic-like information structure behind a given keyword. This structure might be more shallow and wide than deep and constrained. This idea chimes with my original concept of being able to transverse an information hierarchy by using a keyword alone. But this scenario required information design of far greater scope than the current prototype.

Although the workshop participants were quite interested in the LEAP controller, it seemed that this was more of a secondary attraction to the discussion and practical investigation of keywords and associated texts. I did manage to get a number of passers-by to try out the prototype and altogether I gleaned some interesting insights. One woman managed to really get the hang of the interaction scheme. Initially the controller didn’t pick up her hands and I suggested that she either roll her sleeves up or take off her coat, which she did. (I have noticed in previous situations that even slightly overhanging sleeves can affect the LEAP controller’s ability to recognise hand position.) It took her a couple of minutes, but then she was navigating, selecting and closing content quite fluidly. She commented that it was a bit like ‘learning to drive’ and that once you got the hang of it, ‘the muscle memory’ took over. She was the success story of the session and her words resonated well.

Other participants struggled to lesser or greater extent to master control. A younger child (my son) had a go, but also struggled somewhat and this may be to do with the fact that smaller hands do not seem to register well with the LEAP.

In general, the collaborating partners agreed the Being Human 2019 project was a positive experience that helped to develop a new creative partnership and conduct preliminary investigation into the design of gestural interactive experience with textual elements of the museum collection. Although only one of the two planned workshops actually took place, valuable insights were gained:

Consideration of place –  the nature of a workshop is affected by the physical space it takes place in, particularly if this an art gallery.

The relationship between text and object – where text is derived from an object, especially one that is close by, text accompanied by visual reference to the object makes more sense.

The power of preliminary discussion – there was profound and informative  discussion about experience design and female gaze within the museum at the beginning of the workshop.

The challenge of establishing meaningful workshop outcomes –  the hybrid format of the workshop, physical and virtual, worked to a certain extent but could be developed to guide participants toward achieving a more tangible outcome.

The inherent challenges of gestural interaction  – some participants found the interaction tricky. It may be that gestural interaction is more suited to a gamified experience where there is a more distinct and fun ‘pay-off’ as a consequence of ‘mastering the moves’. In general, it probably needs to be made simpler for a public-facing experience.

The likely benefit of a longer collaborative cycle – with new technology, the first point of contact is effectively an introduction. Subsequent sessions would be beneficial for participants to have more meaningful input into experience design, including potentially testing the experience with members of the public.

References

‘Inverted pyramid (journalism)’ (2019) Wikipedia. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_pyramid_(journalism) (accessed 24/11/19)

Norman, Don (2013) The Design of Everyday Things. Revised and expanded. Basic Books.

C is for Collaboration

Speaking at the recent Plugin Symposium hosted by Signals Media of Colchester, has given me a reason to reflect upon my own creative practice and in particular my urge to investigate the collaborative potential of digital art.

Professional self-reflection is a great activity, particularly when enhanced by the perspective of time: not just a little so that events are still fresh and perhaps too recent to view holistically, but neither too much so that memory is impinged upon by the distance of age! Of course, regular self-reflection is often portrayed as the saviour of creative professionals but ocassional, yet timely, self-reflection is certainly better than none!

Recently, in reflecting upon my own practice, I began by reclaiming the personal manifesto of seeking to create artistic works that are public, participatory and playful – the 3 p’s I set out to explore and draw connections between but a few years ago. I realised that my developing interest in collaborative art can essentially be articulated by a series of questions and corresponding creative responses.

Question: “How do I construct interactive experiences that are a pleasure to interact with and encourage co-interaction?”

Creative Response: Luminescence

Question: “How can I provoke emergent behaviour whereby multiple participants, who may never meet normally, compete or collaborate through the medium of an interactive art work?”

Creative Response: Play Table

Question: “How can I design playful, collaborative interactive experiences that have a positive impact?”

Creative Response: Portals for Mortals

For the sake of a more meaningful presentation at Plugin – I tried to pull together some of the elements that have shown themselves to be of special importance in the process of creating collaborative digital art. So here they are in slightly jumbled form, I hope they may be of some  use to you, dear reader…
T is for Technology.

There is a seemingly insatiable appetite for new tech. It’s like a magnet that draws people in… so lets use it to do just that. Like the pathological urge to open Pandora’s Box. As an artist, one must position one’s box of tricks strategically with the metaphorical lid slighty ajar…

P is for the Phenomenon of Play.

Play is a magic circle entirely of our own making. Rules can be made, rules can be broken. Transgressions can be made in perfect safety. The willingness to participate is all it takes…therefore the invitation to play is of particular importance.

F is for Facilitation.

An Artist often plays the role of Facilitator. Collaborative digital art in itself is a facilitation. Some people very much like to be shown what to do – helping them understand how to get involved is an important aspect of facilitation. In certain situations, participants exiting an art experience themselves can become ambassadors to the next group of participants. Facilitation can go viral!

D is for Design.

If Art is about asking questions and opening up possibilities… design in the service of art solves problems and brings the art to life. From tech to user experience, there are many dimensions of design. It is an iterative process and can always be improved – so improve it!

A is for Audience.

Who is the collaborative experience aimed at? If its ‘aimed at everyone’ – that’s a tough call to get right, reword: that’s impossible! By figuring out who collaborative experiences are for, we can make them better, just the same as for any other service or product design – know thy user!

C is for Collaboration.

A truly multi-faceted word. Generally a force for good within the arts. But let’s consider what we mean by it when we use the word. For me it implies creating something new or finding new ways of working together where agency and creativity are bounced around the court of collective imagination. It can be question and response, it can synchronised, multilateral creativity. Whatever form it takes, collaboration can produce amazing results is to be recommended.

R is for Risk

Perhaps a certain amount of risk is inherent in collaboration and maybe that’s why it might feel unsafe and uncertain at times. It won’t work everytime either! One thing is for sure: the best creativity does not occur within a nice padded comfort zone!

 

 

Plug In Symposium

Pleased to be sharing experiences and insights at the forthcoming Plug In Symposium, hosted by Signals Media, Colchester. Also very pleased to be sharing a platform with some great names 😉

Here’s how my talk is billed:

Collaborative Interaction: How Playful Technology Can Be Used To Mediate The Space In Between Us

Jamie Gledhill
Digital Artist and Computer Sciences lecturer, Norwich University of the Arts

East Anglia-based artist and educator, Jamie Gledhill, will present and discuss elements of his digital arts practice including interactive installations and public art commissions. A recurring theme is the design of experiences that create connections between friends and strangers alike through the medium of technology-enabled play. Jamie will share the knowledge he has developed in this area and how this might be applied in wider contexts.

More here: http://www.signals.org.uk/event/plug-in-symposium/