In November I was invited by Martijn de Waal, researcher at Citizen Data Lab, and the lectorate for Games and Civic Media (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) to spend one week in São Paulo as a facilitator in a design lab/workshop week Round ‘n Around, a research project with the aim to improve the city’s bikeability. The project is a collaboration of Citizen Data Lab, University of São Paulo, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Inovalab and DOM productions. The theme of this workshop (2 of 2) was:
Conclusions from an earlier explorations and a workshop program in September was that the answers to these questions would likely be found in storytelling and communication using urban data and new media technologies. The goals of the second workshop week therefore was to create a real scenario for an intervention to tackle one of the challenges that came out of the first explorations in earlier sessions. The results could be: acts of storytelling, tactical urban interventions, social media campaigns or activist engagement. The publication of the entire project can be read here, below I’ll only outline part of what we did in the workshop week I’d been involved in. The video of the workshop process is worth watching: https://vimeo.com/191735263/9b9ec1d784.
About the city
São Paulo is a car-oriented city but on Sundays they open one of the car lines for bikes, and they also close one of the city’s main arteries: Avenida Paulista (somewhat like a 5th Avenue) to give way to cyclists (and street parties). On other days however, cycling is for the brave and committed. Drivers are not attuned to cyclists and neither is the infrastructure. Although there are some cycling lanes, the paths are scattered, end abruptly here and there, and the city being very hilly poses and extra challenge. We went on a 30km bike ride on Sunday to get an idea of what it’s like. It was quite an adventurous and bumpy ride, compared to cycling in Amsterdam, you need to be really aware of what’s going on around you, whether people have noticed you, and what part of the road you have to travel on.
The week was laced with interesting lectures of researchers and activists from Brazil and the Netherlands, but the main activity was developing interventions to increase the usage of bikes in the city. The general report can be read here (in Portuguese and English). I coached one of the four teams throughout the week. On day two they decided to take on a new challenge that was introduced during one of the talks: it turns out that only an average of 6% of all cyclists are women. The reasons why form a complex set of arguments around reproductive vs. productive labor, gender discrimination and a traditionalist culture of machismo in general, and perceived vulnerability of women by relatives and spouses more specifically (Lindenberg & Kohler Harkot 2017).
Only 6% of all cyclists in SP are women
The group took it upon themselves to try to get more women on the bike, calling their campaign: Somos 6% (we are 6%). They had to tackle some arguments along the lines of: cycling is dangerous for everyone, that needs to be fixed that for all, not just for women. Why would you focus only on a subgroup? Throughout the week they discussed and designed and slowly tackled these questions. This was a very interesting process full of doubts and questions as well as the occasional creative blocks. But slowly it became clear that the participants grew firmer in their belief that this was worth addressing and designing for. The conclusion being that if the difference between men and women on bikes is that significant, it’s worth special attention because there might be additional challenges that needs to be addressed. It’s likely we cannot see or fix those during a workshop, but we can try to design a campaign or scenario in such a way that enable and empower women amongst themselves, on their own terms.
Trusting the process
Most participants were unfamiliar with design thinking or designing in general, but their willingness to get on with the process and be open to new ways of working made the experience pleasurable and interesting. I realised how lucky I am that this is my work :) and I became aware of my own expectations and assumptions, working with a non-designer group again. To just go ahead and try things in a small way and then assess how much of it is useful to develop further is something consider normal and valid, but for other people planning and discussing the details before doing anything else is a default that can be hard change in a short time. Trusting the fact that the process of creating can also leads to insights and even plans is a very particular attitude I have adopted, but of course isn’t necessarily a natural way of working to others and needs to be scaffolded and introduced.
Somos 6% – increasing visibility, leading by example
They aimed at a social media campaign that calls upon women to be each other’s example. Women on bikes need to be more visible and in that way that can inspire each other by example to take the bike. One of the core values was that those examples need to be from there, specific and local to that context. An old lady living in the countryside of Mexico cannot show women in hyper urban São Paulo that they can do it too. It’s simply too different. Their final proposal for a campaign combined an online campaign with inspirational videos and interviews.
Alongside that they proposed a number of meetups and activities such as women’s bike rides on Friday night (sexta feira or the “6th day” of the week), as riding together is known to be an effective way to provide a constellation to take up cycling that is perceived to be more safe. This is very important for beginners. For those bikerides, they made downloadable gimmicks to adorn the bikes, such as fake orange kids’ seats, head gear, and bracelets that women can make themselves, create their own or even meet up at one of the 12 fablabs in São Paulo to create their own bike gear, get to know one another and build a community of cycling, making and support. These tangible interventions aim to make the Somos 6% campaign a very visible and joyful parade as women take the city.
Lindenberg, L. & Kohler Harkot, M. (2017) “Women on two wheels: what are the obstacles?” in: Round ’n Around. Domschke, G. & de Waal, M. Het Nieuwe Instituut, 31 Jan. Retrieved March 3rd 2017: https://issuu.com/hetnieuweinstituut/docs/round-n-around-310117, p. 67-71.
As part of the 2016 Crypto Design Challenge, organised by MOTI (Museum of the Image, Breda) and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, I developed and facilitated a Deep Web workshop on October 6 and 7 in collaboration with Shirley Niemans. With a group of 16 artists, researchers and designers from various Dutch design and art schools, we worked on new visualisations of the Deep Web, exploring topics such as privacy (and therefore crypto) as a collective issue.
The Deep Web?
The Deep Web evokes images of an underworld that cannot bear the light of day. Yet this hidden realm contains an estimated 96% of all the content to be found circulating online. The first international Crypto Design Challenge is a shout out to artists, designers, researchers and visionaries to dive in and create new images of the Deep Web. The Deep Web’s iceberg has proven to be a powerful metaphor to visualise the distinction between the Surface Web, Deep Web and Dark Web. But it tells a story of the web from a very particular perspective: it defines the web in terms of what the great search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) can or cannot do. Defining the web on the basis of a handful of tech giants seems limited and moreover prevents us from understanding other technologies that may provide fruitful alternatives in terms of freedom, privacy and democracy.
Documentaries such as Deep Web (about black Market Silk Road) and popular reporting has spread the idea of the deep web as a hotspot for mainly criminal activity, whereas the deep web also consists of eg. password protected areas of the web such as subscription based journals, medical records, the backend of your blog and so on. Moreover, the ‘extra hidden’ deep web like onion pages and I2P are used extensively by journalists, human rights activists and whistleblowers to protect their identity and in many cases, their anonymity and safety, and those of others. Can we shine a different light on these webs by creating alternative imagery that helps to demystify the workings, opportunities and implications of the various interlinking technologies that make up the web(s)?
The four groups developed their own particular view and shed a light on some aspects of the deep web and related issues. Their ideas were executed using paper engineering techniques at Makers Lab, the makerspace of the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Nicola Romagnoli, who participated and then wrote this eloquent reflection on the workshop summarised the results and process nicely: “a coherent theme that emerged throughout the paper assemblages was an emphasis towards diminishing the digital binary between Deep/Surface in which the Deep Web is reduced as a ‘technological other.’ Each project attempted to integrate the constitutive relations between the Deep and Surface Web by exploring the differing functionalities and privileges each network offers. This mutual functionality was reinforced by the playful interactivity of each project, which invited viewers to engage and manipulate the paper engineering.” I was very pleased to see that all groups returned in the weeks after the workshop to finalise their projects and make them picture-perfect for submission. Two of the projects – The Breathing Web and The Web Game were nominated for the award and shown at the Crypto Design Show in Paradiso.
The Breathing Web (nominated!)
By Julia Laporte, Jonas Althaus, Roos du Pree and Carlo Ter Woord, is an paper cryptographic work containing controversial quotes that represent 6 categories of resistance to established powers that can be identified on the deep web including: resistance to…
By using the orange ‘key cards’, the viewer will be able to decrypt the code and understand its full meaning, revealing complete quotes. “The Dark Net breathes. It is vast. And it can be as good and as evil as its users.”
The Flora and Fauna of the Internet
By Martina Huyng and Ingrid Woudwijk reveals the bots, viruses, algorithms and other non-human creatures, of the web, that go about their own tasks autonomously. Sometimes the internet feels like an entirely new ecosystem that is not inherently natural a habitat for humans to be in. This project visualizes the main agents and characters of the internet as multiple living organisms. All these creatures are represented through icons of simple and humorous metaphors, i.e. cookies and trackers as little “stalkers”, or surveillance programs as vacuum cleaners (mindlessly sucking up all data) or bots (only able to perform exact functions and tasks given) as parrots (that can also only speak what it has been taught and nothing else). This visualization aims to break down and depict autonomous actors of the internet in a comprehensible way. Hence by turning the gears, the visitor can explore how these creatures behave on the three different levels of the internet starting with the Clear Web, then the Deep Web and eventually the Dark Web.
The Web Game (nominated!)
by Melani de Luca, Gianluca Monaco, Camilo Cezar and Arantxa Gonlag is about finding your way through the web while avoiding the negative sides to the specific area of the web you are standing in. Playing the game you will start seeing the difference within privacy and security between the different areas, whilst realising that the web is one big unity instead of three different layers.
The project is realised both in an analogue version and a digital version to play with the different ways of experiencing the web. The interactive project is inspired by the 90’s windows computer game ‘Minesweeper’. In their version of the game, the mines reflect the bad sides to the web by use of emojis. Traveling through the different versions of the web you will find different icons that can either keep you anonymous – in the dark web – or infect your privacy when looking through the surface web. By coming across these mines you will find not only the negative sides to the different areas of the web, but also what makes these places within the web positive.
Your web home (in progress)
by Orla Canavan, Jennifer Veldman, Nicola Romagnoli and Pantea Razzaghi represents and demystifies anxieties around web technologies using the metaphor of property and feeling at home. You feel comfortable in your own home, in your neighbourhood, where you know your neighbours, the code of conduct, where and how to find things and how to build relationships. As you venture away from your familiar surroundings, inevitably you will feel a little out of place, not knowing how to act, how to find things, who to trust and how to make sure you stay safe. With time though, new places also start to feel familiar. From a different perspective: areas of regeneration often were once considered unsafe or unsavoury neighbourhoods, these perceptions change as people get more familiar, and as more people start hanging out in these places. Processes of ‘othering’ (technologies, people, places) have strong effects on our emotions and perceptions and thereby color how we view and evaluate parts of the world and parts of the web.
The workshop process:
During the two-day workshop, we produced tangible and visual metaphors that can help extend our understanding of the Deep Web beyond the image of the iceberg. We explored these web(s) from a variety of perspectives with the help of speakers Patricia de Vries, who discussed visual modalities of algorithmic anxiety, and how is algorithmic technology performed and contested by artists, designers and critics. Filmmaker/researcher/hacker Anthony van der Meer took us on a guided tour of the Deep Web, showing us how to find our way beyond the gardens of Google. The many alternatives in finding content, hardware and communities shattered any idea of the iceberg and started to reveal the multiplicities of web technologies that make up the web. A topic for discussion was when one knows enough to say anything about the Deep Web. The main conclusion was that we can still propose alternative imagery and metaphors to explain these concepts and put them up for discussion. Even if a work-in-progress, generating a multiplicity of views and understandings, and critically taking apart existing mythologies and mental images about what the web is worth doing.
We went on to try to get rid of the domineering iceberg image and open our minds to other possible imagery. To this end I used two formats to introduce noise into our existing visual associations with web issues. In the first round, we used the “Networks” exercise from the Conditional Design Workbook by Luna Maurer, Jonathan Puckey, Roel Wouters and Edo Paulus. Conditional design is a collaborative design method that foregrounds process over product, as design strategy it is defined by a set of rules to create drawings collaboratively. The Networks exercise lets groups of 4 create very unexpected diagrams about web related topics.
It’s quite hard not to think of a blue elephant, or an iceberg for that matter. The brain just keeps coming back to that image no matter how hard you try to avoid thinking about it. To this end I tried to come up with a method to pull us out of a given visual track. What I call a visual straightjacket is basically a method that turns around our normal ways of visualising information: with this method the visual starting point is already there, and you have to use whatever information is already there in the image to explain your concept/topic/issue. The random elements that are there are really helpful in forging new visual imagery that has nothing to do with existing imagery. I developed a second exercise where I gave participants a random composed semi-abstract image (in this case photographic art works by Amsterdam-based artist Popel) and asked them to explain the deep web using this image, by drawing and writing on it to explain what elements represent what. This lead to very interesting results and very surprising new ways to explain elements, issues, technologies, relationships and dependencies between deep web technologies and their users.
Atlas vs. Map or: multitudes of perspectives vs. grand narratives
After this preparatory work we teamed everyone up and started working on incomplete and deliberately large glossaries of all the terms that might relate to the deep web and issues it may touch. Following that, we worked with the teams to help them form a very specific perspective on the Deep Web. We tried to stay away from the grand ‘universal’ narratives, but instead focused on telling very particular stories about humans, technology and power. The idea being that you can draw a world map and say this is the world and you would be correct, but not very explicit about the fact that that world map is a geographical representation of the borders of the earth and its opposition to the sea, for example. And that a choice for Greenwich as the center point of the map is a highly political one stemming from 1884. Alternatively, an atlas provides a multitude of perspectives (geographical, economical, religious, political, climatic) that together make up the image of what something is and how it could be represented. The outcomes of this workshop can be seen as contributions to an eventual atlas of the deep web.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organize a yearly event called the Social Good Summit, where people from all around the world who contribute to the 17 global goals for sustainable development share their stories and talk about their projects and vision for the future. The Summit is a co-production between UNDP, UN Foundation, 92Y and Mashable.
At the same time, all around the world local events are taking place where universities, agencies and local communities get together to form their vision for the future. UNDP, wants to take the Social Good Summit to the next level, by not only talking about vision and strategy, but also by stimulating people to start creating and designing. To organize this, the UNDP teamed up with MediaLAB Amsterdam to facilitate the process and design methodology.
2016 was be the first year, where besides the main summit and local events, there will also be Global Goals Jams (GGJ). GGJ’s are 2 or 3-day events, where design teams work in short sprints towards tangible results. For the Global Goals Jam in Amsterdam, I facilitated the prototyping stage of the projects together with my team of makers Tamara Pinos, Sander van Vliet, Yvonne Bogers-Kreffer and Ismael Velo. We worked on difficulties women face when returning to the workplace after being a carer for years, mailbox companies (tax evasion), circular economies, fair coffee and waste reduction related to coffee drinking in big companies, and sustainable tourism solutions in Amsterdam.
Physical collaborative play for teenagers with cognitive disabilities
Bandjes is the result of the Playful Learning project I coached at MediaLAB in the spring semester of 2015. In collaboration with Orion (Amsterdam’s organisation for special needs education) we developed a game for teenagers with cognitive disabilities and varying levels of motor skills. The goal was to improve their communication skills, collaboration skills and the level of intensity of their exercise in the gym classroom. The game offers a playful way to increase the level of self-reliance, by practicing social skills.
The game consists of 4 bluetooth enabled head bands with an RGB LED that can change color. The basic elements of each game is that a player cannot see his own color, only those of the other players. The logic of the game changes with the different variation (eg. “tag” or tikkertje is one of them), but each game requires the players to communicate in order to navigate the playing field and reach the goals of each game variation. Bandjes comes with 7 documented game variations that can be initiated through a desktop application.
One of the things that was key in the success of this design project was the very regular use of the method of bodystorming. It’s a technique within embodied design techniques that allow designers to bring their body into the mix. The tacit knowledge the body can bring to any complex problem or design question is often undervalued. Rather than paying attention to what the body knows, emphasis is placed on cognitive abilities such as brainstorming, mindmapping, verbal argumentation, and assessments of an idea based on dry design criteria. I’ve used the technique of bodystorming a lot with my teams, especially teams that were designing games or play. This method is often used on location, to really understand context and instill empathy for the user while ‘playing out’ ideas on the spot, ideally with users. But it is also more loosely described as a method to brainstorm with your body. This is one explanation of it, there’s many.
Bodystorming for empathy
We used the technique of bodystorming a lot. The initial concepts that were created turned out to be too complex to play, hard to explain and eventually impossible to play with the teens. When bodystorming was introduced as primary method for the student team to generate ideas, the game concepts and play ideas became simpler, and more body-fit to play. The student team agreed to spend an hour bodystorming every morning, to generate ideas. They could bring a prop and start playing with that (chalk, a ball, a gun, a bell) and see where the play would lead. Doing this evokes a very immediate response about what the body enjoys to do, not what we imagine people would enjoy. Especially in combination with lots of observations in class, and occasional playtesting, the design team really started to embody their users in their own playtests, getting a really good grip as to what kind of play was appropriate (simple enough to grasp without a lot of explanation), and interesting for their users who all had very different levels of cognitive abilities and motor skills development.
Bandjes: a highly playable flexible game
The result was a game that was very exciting across the strongly varying levels in the classes we worked with at Orion. Because the concept was so simple at its core, it remained a lot of openness, and space to reinterpret the gameplay by adding rules, props or objectives. It turned out it was a game playable across ages and abilities: our partners, friends, parents and kids all played together at the final presentations at MediaLAB.
Bandjes was presented at Media Art Futures Interactivos? 2015 conference in Murcia, where the first iteration of the prototype was developed as well in co-creation with conference participants and organisers.
Students: Nick Bijl, Dennis Reep, Anne de Bode, Jill de Rooij, Alexander Sommers. Frank Honkoop & Marjolein Duchateau (Orion). Menno Deen (Lectoraat Games & Play)
Amnesty International: battling human rights violators
For Amnesty Netherlands, one of my student teams at MediaLAB Amsterdam developed Mr Powerful in fall 2014: a game that let students experience, in a playful way, how Amnesty International takes action against the violation of Freedom of Speech and persuade students to contribute to this cause. In the game you play the oppressor who violates Human Rights and is therefore criticised by different channels. As a player you experience the rising pressure. It is up to you to withstand the pressure and remain calm.
Getting out of your head
The biggest challenge in coaching this project was to overcome the problem of ‘getting stuck’ in ideas. The students with different backgrounds (IT, cultural studies, design) would initially be happy generating ideas regularly, but would get really stuck working them through. So eventually there were a lot of ideas with theoretical backing but none of them really developed or grew. After a few frustrating moments I encouraged them to really stop talking and writing about ideas altogether and to start creating and showing them so they could experience where the blank gaps and unclear moments and aspects were in the game.
Why thinking is just not the same as doing
The result of these exercises was that we had these really rich ideas, layered with meaning in their aesthetic choices, storylines, content and gameplay. Whether this resulted in ‘great’ games isn’t really at stake here, but it was remarkable that instead of thinking and talking and imagining, the making sparked discussions about very concrete handles for next iterations, and at a really high speed! The brain is a pretty awesome thing but it just isn’t really made to keep enormous amounts of information and meaning inside, and simultaneously communicate about it with words in all that marvelous detail in a way that it comes across in all its layered richness. This workout of externalising the brain and literally ‘working them through’ like dough before you let it rest to rise, was so powerful.
Working it out
I think that each member of this particular team had to step very far out of their comfort zone to get to the point where they could tap into their creative resources in this way. This took a while longer than everybody expected, which of course is disappointing at times. Because by the time you get to the end, you can’t help but ask: ‘why weren’t we able to do it like this before?’. But the learning curve was a beauty. In terms of seeing students grow in 5 months time, and finding confidence in practices formerly unknown to them, I think this project is among the most inspiring and personally successful ones I’ve facilitated.
Students: Radoslav Gulekov, Fay Gramberg, Lisa Maier, Rob Boerman. Martijn Kors & Menno Deen (researchers Lectoraat Games & Play), Roland van Veen (Amnesty Nederland).
Interactive Cinematic Storytelling
How can you create an interactive story with 360 degree footage for Oculus Rift? In fall 2014 I coached a team of students who worked on this project in collaboration with Lectorate Games&Play’s researcher Mirjam Vosmeer. AVROTROS and their cultural hub VondelCS, and VR pioneers from WeMakeVR.
Using live action 360 degree footage the team created an interactive narrative experience for the Oculus Rift to explore how stories can be told in virtual reality. During the experience, you are not just passively watching a story, but you are a character who can actively influence how the narrative unfolds.
About the film
In A Perfect Party you, as the main character are hosting a get-together for your best friend who wants to propose to his girlfriend. Everything depends on you to make the party a success: potential disaster is everywhere. By looking around and interacting with the environment you may try to prevent things from running out of control. It’s up to you to make this party perfect.
A perfect party was featured at LISFE Leiden International Short Film Experience 2015: http://www.lisfe.nl/lisfe-2015/
What kind of a design process is this?
After hashing out all of the technical particularities of making VR with 360 degree live action footage, we quickly got to the question of how do you even design for this? Students identified links with storytelling, narrative techniques in film (although with heavy limitations because conventional editing is not possible in this case), theater, perhaps subtlemobs or audiowalks and interactive storytelling (basically hyperlinking?). All of these practices have something to bring to live-action 360 degree VR, but the comparisons are far from being one on one.
I think that a few obstructions could be identified that needed to be dealt with creatively:
Nour, one of the students wrote a how-to book on live-action VR dealing with many of these issues, and suggestions for useful approaches. Here’s another few tricks that worked quite well for the team. One was to play out scripts in small handmade miniature sets, to simulate hotspots (areas in the film that are activated when the user is looking at it, the helmet senses head movements), and changes in clips. Movements across the scene, timing of those movements etcetera.
Secondly, we developed a different kind of shotlist. Rather than storyboarding the shots and cameramovements. The team developed a set map, marking the position of the 360 degree camera, the quadrantlines, and room for some notes on the action and movement of actors and vehicles in the scene.
Lastly, flowcharts turned out to be the best way to keep track of keypoints in the storyline and identifying problems with continuity and points-of-no-return.
Students: Nour Tanak, Sammie de Vries, Leon van Oord, Nick Valk, Shenyu Zhang. Researcher: Mirjam Vosmeer, Lectorate Games & Play HvA
Navigating women’s safety in public space: Amsterdam/Bangalore
During the fall 2013 semester, I coached a project that aimed to improve women’s safety in public spaces, commissioned by Cisco. This was a parallel project that was run simultaneously in Bangalore. Our partner there was Fields of View at IIIT-B University with whom we exchanged insights about the difference and similarities between the cities on this topic. The results of their project Convers(t)ation can be viewed here.
The Amsterdam team developed a necklace to explore relationships between scent, emotion and body posture. PosturAroma senses the angle of the back and uses scent as trigger, to remind the user to keep her head up, and straighten her back when stepping into the world, increasing her feeling of confidence to increase her feeling of safety.
Perception of safety
The design team of the Amsterdam part of this project consisted of a Dutch girl, and two boys from India and Japan. One of the first challenges of the team was to get a grip on defining ‘safety’ in a team that was culturally so diverse. It’s a complex subject matter that can be looked at from the angles of law enforcement, city-making and government policy, family responsibilities, cultural and socially defined roles, norms and values regarding women and many others. One of the defining moments was when the team decided that from some points of view Amsterdam is a relatively safe place, without immediate risks for women. However, they also agreed that perception of safety (how safe people feel) doesn’t necessarily correlate with statistics on safety in certain areas.
Embodiment: posture and scent as emotional triggers
The projects main goal became to design a technological intervention to improve the feeling of safety. Focal points were embodiment (posture as expression as well as source of confidence, or lack thereof), scent as emotional trigger (explore to what extent certain scents can be coupled to trigger positive emotions), and experimental use of technologies and hacking. The design iterations were developed to explore and understand these ideas better and come to an integrated prototype.
Hacking, making, tinkering
The team made a lot of iterations in a really hands-on way. The collection of skills enabled tinkering with hardware (accelerometers and Arduinos) and hacking consumer electronics (electronic vaporators), and digital fabrication (lasercutting, 3D printing) to design a necklace with a futuristic feel to make a fashion statement for this iteration. A fashion designer was attracted to bring in the craft practices of knotting. What was great about this project was the profound focus on probing by design, really trying out things and testing out ideas by seeing and feeling what it would be like.
The research paper about PosturAroma was presented at the 9th International Conference on Design & Emotion themed “Colors of Care” in Bogota, Colombia, 2014. It won the Award for Best Design Case and was featured on Fast.Co, Ideo.org, PSFK, Crisp.nl, Discovery Canada, and presented at the 2014 Rome Maker Faire.
Hout, van, M., Mul, L., Bogers, L. & Ito, S. (2014). PosturAroma – The Embodiment of Safety, in: Salamanca, J., Desmet, P., Burbano, A., Ludden, G., Maya, J. (Eds.). Proceedings of the Colors of Care: The 9th International Conference on Design & Emotion, Bogota, Colombia.
This collaboration with Cisco won the Best Collaboration award at the 2015 Computable Award.
In the spring ’14 semester I coached the project Transmedia Analytics, a collaboration between interactive production company Submarine, University of Amsterdam, and MediaLAB Amsterdam.
This project goal was to capture a variety of data points from two interactive web based documentaries (The Last Hijack and Unspeak) and present these data in a way that allows the producers get an understanding of how audiences engage and interact with their creation, and enrich the user experience accordingly. This resulted in a custom designed analytics dashboard tool: Figures. The progress of the project was documented on the students’ project blog.
Working with dynamic data without any coders: mission impossible?
One of the biggest challenges in this project, apart from the fact that working with data requires a pretty radical shift in your thinking and modes of interpretation (more about that on the project blog), was that we didn’t have access to a coder in the team. We worked with two excellent designers with some data visualisation experience, and two students with a background in media studies (new media), with no design skills or technical background. Not a small detail if you want to build a live dashboard for data interpretation.
Empowerment through coding
Making-do is a virtue
Two cultural studies students with zero coding experience built the entire dashboard with a bit of help from two colleagues to setup the back-end and data handling. How does that work? I think making-do is a key concept here. When facing a task, and being supported to just get going, have some help in keeping it small and manageable before getting on with the bigger problems, can get you a LONG way. They kicked ass and they made the whole thing work by making-do with whatever skills they could learn online, and by being incredibly resourceful. Thanks to the right kind of support from teams, coaches and partners, this team managed to pull off a project that was doomed to fail without a coder on board.
Students: Sieta van Horck, Anne van Egmond, Geert Hagelaar, Yannick Diezenberg. Researchers: Stefania Bercu, Bernhard Rieder (UvA). Tamara Pinos & Emile den Tex (tech support).
Interactive installation for Amsterdam Light Festival
During the Amsterdam Light Festival, that took place between the 6th of December 2013 and the 19th of January 2014, residents and visitors of the city Amsterdam were being challenged. During this light festival a group of international students seduced residents and visitors to enlightening the Dark Side of Amsterdam. Visitors were asked to confess about their dark side by wearing anonymous “sin” glasses in a nighttime light painting portrait that would then be projected onto the Mozes & Aäron church at Waterlooplein. This project was commissioned by BeamSystems. 411 People used the installation, and revealed that with a majority of 91 people, Amsterdam is still a sin city of lust. Also see the twitterfeed and Flickr set and the visualisation of the results (below). I coached on the concept development and project management of this project.
Exploring the emotional experience of sin
I developed this project with a team of students from design and technology backgrounds, and we found out very early on that there was a desire for the installation to be an experience, calling for audience participation. This idea eventually came out and was symbolically rich: the context of the church and building a confession booth where you can admit to your sins. While at the same time playing with people’s vanity in the form of dark stylized selfies in which they could semi-anonymously make a statement about their liberalism of choice – bragging almost.
Rituals and theatre
My favourite part of this event and installation was the theater and solemn rituals involved in the whole concept, and the students carried and understood that well. They invited a ‘priest’ to preach about sinfullness in front of the confession booth to draw in people and get people in the mood. The audience would be approached by the students to think about a sin, and pick a pair of sunglasses representing that sin. They had made these with a laser cutter from plywood at iFabrica, and then covered the back with glow-in-the-dark paper that they would charge with a torch. Then the audience would go into the booth (in pairs or alone), to get their confession taken. Inside the booth two assistants shot the lightpainting picture that would be projected and tweede immediately with a moralising quote from the bible.
The Dark Side of Amsterdam won the audience award at Beamlab #32
Students: Sandro Miccoli, Akarsh Sanghi, Adwait Sharma, Shinichiro Ito, Shubhojit Mallick, Mizuki Kojima, Matias Daporta Gonzales. Gabriele Colombo (visual design), Jan Scholte (priest), Loes Bogers (coach and concept development) and Gijs Gootjes (project manager), Supported by BeamSystems: Jason Malone and Jozef Hey. Visuals by: Frouke te Velde www.frouketenvelden.com. Thank you to Irma de Vries for mapping support.
Ageing experts in the construction industry
In the spring semester of 2013, I mentored a project for Stiho: a business-to-business supplier of construction materials. Craftsmanship and knowledge about product and application modes are disappearing rapidly in the Dutch construction industry, ageing being the main reason. Stiho’s question for the student team was: how can these skills and knowledge be preserved and circulated to future generations through digital storytelling?
Digital storytelling meets verbal culture
During the semester they developed an app that helps Stiho position itself as an invaluable knowledge center in the construction industry. Stiho Antwoord is a multimedia mobile instant messaging application that captures spoken word into an organised archive and provides meaningful extracts of the exchanged information in the form of tagged and categorized question-answer clusters. The app captures important information that is informally exchanged among its users that would otherwise get lost at the end of the conversation.
Students: Sabrina Doornekamp, Linda Janssen, Jelmer van Voorst, Aishwarya Babu.