As part of Little Big Planet
As thesis approaches, I am slowly starting to gather precedence and inspiration to begin sculpting my concept. In that spirit, here are some video clippings:
Cubes that actually “grow” into life. Still binary state, but enough dynamic movement to spark some interesting ideas of what could be done if variability was introduced into the mix. (Add link to first concept post here)
3-D LED Cube
(complete with bumpin soundtrack)
Embedding is disable by the host (Wolfram), but the YouTube is here and quite hypnotic.
Calm Computing+IR Sensor
This final project assignment has three parameters: it must be calm computing; it must solve a problem; and it must use a IR sensor. Brainstorming this and avoiding a completely kitsch or overdone concept is much harder than you would think; so, I propose a project that would alleviate the omnipresent ordeal of erasing the spatial divide between user and interactive object. That is, constructing an object that facilitates interaction between the user/audience and an installation piece. Installations are often the preferred method of execution for many projects, yet we all fall into the trap of assuming our project will call people to interact with it. In reality, we have been conditioned with a museum mentality not to touch and we must break this behavior through the affordances of our design.
By combining the IR sensor to gauge the distance of a potential user, thermochromic ink and fabric traces (copper, specifically), I will construct a “red carpet” of sorts to invite the user to interact with a piece when they pass. As the user gets closer, Arduino triggers voltage from a certain pin to a footprint that leads up to the piece. Once the user is 6″ away, a sign is revealed to them that says “push me”. Not only will this aid in encouraging interaction with the specific piece, but is a form of interaction itself that can be used in a variety of situations.
Below are the paper prototypes and distance logistics (based on the ideal range of the sensor (4cm – 150cm):
Proof of Concept:
For my light and time final project, I am stepping away from the modules for a more topical subject more in the line of calm computing: a countdown clock for the p comp room. After a program-wide email stressing our timeliness in cleaning up (I withhold judgment on the validity of sending an email in this particular situation) AND the general state of the p comp room during finals/thesis, I propose a countdown clock that will be programmed in accordance with building closing hours. There are four stages (names are subject to change): get ready, clean up, no really, clean up, and get out.
I got a little stuck over the weekend and earlier this week as I began to really shape my concept. With each new major project I am increasingly learning the indeterminate nature of my process; it certainly requires much unyielding percolation followed by periods of rapid action.
Slowly I am meandering my way towards a hard schematic, metaphorically speaking, of realizing my concept, especially after the feedback I received from my group.
Does Not Compute: An Investigation into Computational Points of Entry for Middle/High School Students
For my final project, I am going to compose a curriculum aimed at introducing middle to high school students to basic electronic, programming, and design concepts through soft circuits and a create a body of compiled and personal research surrounding this sphere.
As of right now I am still in the process of fully flushing this out, but I will include some or all of the following:
This final project is the intersection of two recent conceptual preoccupations and a recent experience at a girl’s after school session at Quest to Learn. The first preoccupation centers directly on the mystification, or demystification, of technology. The second is the idea of a point of entry, specifically regarding technology.
As for the third, I have recently been interning at Quest to Learn’s Short Circuit after school program. I usually go on Thursdays when the dominant population are 6th and 7th grade boys, along with one girl who I have been working with a variety of independent projects on. Over spring break, however, I had the chance to help plan and run the Girlz Jam (I have class at this time otherwise, much to my chagrin) in which a group of ten 7th grade girls come together for a 2 hour after school session centered around a weekly topic. I should mention that the goal of this program is specifically to encourage female after school participation by creating a shared creative space, especially since at this time in development, blurry elementary school gender lines begin to focus quite sharply.
While I have had experience running after school before, this session was quite unfocused and largely dictated by the girls with the organizers acting more like herders. First and foremost, I must say that after school is hard – students have just had a long day of school and really just want to listen to music and text their friends. Secondly, teaching soft circuits is extremely difficult: it requires a rewiring of your brain around both sewing and circuitry, not an easy feat especially for those who are novices to both. In spite of this, the potential was palatable enough for me to continue thinking about it for the past five days, and brought back previous work I had done in curriculum design and interaction design in spaces of learning. For me, the design problems that arise in these areas are fascinating. Combine that with the masochistic satisfaction of working with soft circuits and e-textiles, the intersection of these domains is endlessly stimulating.
The “WHY” and Audience
Based on countless studies and statistics, bodies of research, and simple observation or questioning, computation is a realm that most of the population feels estranged from, largely due to (as I will posit for a thesis) a psychological barrier resulting from lack of exposure or disinterest in the components that they traditionally associate with programming and physical computing.
It feels trite to state the following, but its significance cannot be underscored enough: students must have more exposure to and experience with working with various technologies. This is for a variety of reasons that we have all heard before – international competition, job preparation, etc – but for this project, I will assume these as established propositions and posit that engaging youth with this type of process is innovative in its inherent ability to unlock creative potential by challenging preconceptions of materials, processes, and the cultural milieu traditionally associated with them.
Further Concepts to Incorporate
I would like this project to have an open source focus. Open source movements are in full swing and are going to play a massive role in defining culture, economics, politics – life in general – in the coming years. Following from this, as technology has become more and more accessible, a significantly large portion of the public have undergone a transformation from consumer to producer. (I would like to note, however, that these roles are not binary and there is much grey space to be exploited in between.) By making youth more aware of the individual and collective benefits of open source and the communities surrounding it, they will be more likely to actively contribute, thereby both sharing knowledge and reinforcing their own.
For our final project in Soft Circuits, Kate Watkins and I will create a large scale interactive, fabric-based soft circuit. One of the key motivations for us in deciding on this project was challenging pre- and mis-conceptions of soft circuits, especially in terms of their possible functioning and durability.
Feedback and New Questions
We got some fantastic feedback and new focus after our first class presentation. The main questions and themes that arose were:
What are the assumptions we are dealing with? What does it mean to be durable? What are the terms and concepts we need to examine and define for ourselves? Moving forward, one idea mentioned is to associate each panel with a different assumption, which will allow users to push and pull it, discovering all the potential in between.
How can you exploit the cracks, literally and metaphorically – i.e. how can we use what we know doesn’t work to stretch the boundaries of possible interaction. For example, silk screened paint on fabric is not the most durable way to create a circuit because it will crack when overused, but this could be used as a switch: when the cracks come back together, they will still complete the circuit.
What types of materials will we use? And more importantly, how will they be executed within the structure? Will the materials be integrated or attached; i.e. will there be a panel of velostat that acts as the main material or will there piece pieces of it sewn onto a larger piece of spandex (or any other material). I think the former could be much more interesting for experimentation, but also much more expensive. TBD.
How will we get people to interact with our project? What are the interactions we want to see happen? Or at least how will we constrain the type of interaction to create a meaningful interaction for our audience? Cecilia rightly reminded us of how easy it is to assume people will telepathically connect with the concept and engage in the associated action (which is never the case). In doing so, she also insinuated the trap of a one off interaction, which is so easy to fall into and a terrible mire, or for loop better yet, to climb out of.
Moving forward, here are the requirements for our second round of prototypes next week:
Define interactions and interaction with materials
List of materials
Articulate how materials will integrated or attached
Our presentation is living here at the moment.