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A Sound Journey - Interactivity as Sensory Experience

Deadline: March 16, 2004; 2pm

Background

When addressing a given problem, designers spend a lot of time identifying patterns of interactivity. These patterns occur on many levels. For example, how is the user going to interact with the new product, or how does this new design outcome interact with its situating environment. There are also other considerations, like how the different parts of the product interact with each other and what is the impact of that interaction. These questions have to be contextualised and addressed during the design process for the outcomes to be considered a success. In engaging with the questions of interactivity, this project prompts you to develop your own abilities to contextually locate interactivity and build on your knowledge of design process.

The project allows you to further your creative abilities by purposefully setting up tensions and altering contexts. In asking you to engage with environments and situations you would normally not consider, the project prompts a wider range of analysis. In confrontation with the unusual, the brief forces you to ‘think outside the box’ – a skill often considered a ‘survival tool’ of the designer. In attending to the needs of other, through the process of interactivity you are required to re-evaluate your own notions of what constitutes an interactive experience online.

Insight

As human beings we interact all the time, from most minute observations of fleeting moments to highly complex discussions with many senders and receivers of the messages. We consider it part of the human nature. However, what precisely are those interactive exchanges between groups of people?

Take for example a mother and a child. There are many ways these two interact, where each interaction has a different level of complexity and situating role in the pattern of the daily coexistence. In some cases the interactivity is visual, a quick glance of the mother to check if the child is safe. In other cases it is verbal, when a child asks for something or the mother issues instructions. Yet again, interactivity can be source of comfort for the child created by mother stroking its head. In all these cases, the interactivity is experienced on a physical level and regulates how the different social groups coexist and negotiate relationships between each other.

Ultimately, online interactivity should provide the same extent of the experience the physical world does, however, it is not yet the case. Take for example a site which is an online digital mixing desk. The visual elements are all there, the audio inputs are pretty close to reality. However, the process of interacting with the equipment does not compare to any real experiences of an ‘old fashion’ mixing desk. The movement of a mouse does not provide the experience of moving volume sliders. The action prompted by a change in music on an online site can be affected by the speed of transition, where as on a mixing desk it is more or less instantaneous. Such investigations of the actual processes of interactivity can translate into a discussion on loop-like negotiation between the author and a multiplicity of readers – a process of reciprocity.

Objectives

The aim of this project is to enhance your design process abilities by providing an opportunity to experience alternative methods of arriving at a solution. The project also aims to question some of the more conventional notions of what constitutes interactivity by looking at such concepts as a journey. In addition, to realise this project you will strive to question the appropriateness of technology to communicate the interactive patterns.

Task

To begin your journey you are given a location that you need to investigate. Once you have familiarised yourself with the site, you need to look at a possible journey this location can offer. Don’t forget that the project takes six weeks so you should choose a journey that will be interesting to you and will pose a challenge.

When you have decided on the type of journey you are going to connote, re-visit your location and record all the prompts that will communicate the experience. Your record of the location can be visual and verbal. However, think about the level of detail you will note down, since your final experience might become to confusing. The key here is to be rigorous with the observation of the key points within the journey.

Once you have mapped out your journey create story boards that translate into a structural map of your journey. Since, your final outcome cannot include any visual prompts but a black screen of 800x600 with a white grid of 20x20, your story boards will be in form of schematics indicating the patterns of interactivity. In the process of working out your story boards, you will decide whether the journey targets an adult or a child or both. It will be the interactivity between the site and the user that will reveal the nature of the targeted reader.

Once you have design your structures of interactivity, you are asked to create an online site using Flash or any other interactive technologies that support sound input and output. The interactive experience will consist of audio prompts ONLY and thus will demand of you and the users a more abstract approach. The level of threat and ambiguity will be heighten not just for you as the author engaging in the design of an outcome, but also for the user. Therefore, the process of interactivity will rely on the need to discover and affect a change to the existing condition. This need to prompt a change is a very important motivation process for designers and should enhance your learning experience.

Process

It is crucial that you document your ideas and concepts with visually and in writing in your sketchbook to further enhance your design process skills. As such, this record will form a key element in assessment of your project.

As in previous projects, your designing process does not start at the computer. By visiting the site of the journey and engaging in an pro-active recording of the activities during that journey, you are given an opportunity to develop other designing skills away from digital technologies. These experiences obtained during the process of interacting with the space, allow you to generate richer and more comprehensive ideas then just relying on the technology itself.

Outcomes

The project asks for two outcomes:

* A record of a spatial journey in a chosen environment in form of sketches, sounds and storyboards

* An 800x600 black screen and white Internet site, using Flash technologies representing this journey through a series of audio prompts ONLY.




       
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