organizing feedback

A lot of people have given me feedback about the above prototypes. I will first write it down in a braindump-sort of way but then come back to it and explain how I will use it.

physical design
• What other spatial properties have you explored beyond the linear sequence in play?
• If the one part of the object is “listening” and the other is “recording” then I can think of old phones (like 1910s or 1920s) that had these affordances built in.
• What if they looked like toys that you could squeeze and record/play messages?
• No to a clear acrylic material that lets you see through the object, it’s perceived as cold and unwelcoming.
• People liked being able to hold the object in their hand - gravitating more towards “hybrid” and “safe”.
• Cutting down on power wires would be a big plus, everyone agreed that this is an issue.
• Someone suggested I could use the object as a compass and point to locations of the network in a way thus “syncing” with them.
• Two people were intrigued by the “materiality” theme since they perceived it as potentially “futuristic” and mysterious (and that was good).
• Offer the ability for people to fast forward or switch stories.

• What is the role of the prompt?
• How can I gamify the experience, using the prompt?

• Using the headphones as part of the experience / as a way to access different audio content is also pleasant - My only question is if it's intuitive enough?
• When someone puts on the headphones and presses the button do they get a 15-second super simple overview about the project? Trying to understand to what degree you want to instruct someone on its use vs. having it be kind of a strange fun puzzle box of discovery, if that makes sense
• The dual headphone jacks is interesting but seems not so intuitive to discover the functionality
• I really like the idea of a physical slider changing what you hear, but indeed seems trickier to make.
• Assuming no external or environmental knowledge, how does the object attract people to it, communicate its purpose, and teach someone to activate and use it?

• How to display state? e.g. playing, played, recording.
• How does the object change depending upon different states of being? And how do those "displays of state" affect the affordances that might attract, repel, manipulate or influence a nearby individual.

overall purpose
• What is my end result? I should reverse engineer from there.


some reflexion

This week I asked a bunch of friends and colleagues in the Lab about what they thought regarding the prototypes I show above. Their feedback was very helpful (most liked the direction of the “hybrid”, as I call the hexagonal shape above), and triggered a lot of reflexion about what I mean when I say “object”, “prompt” and “network”, and how they relate to each other.

Underlying all of this, apart from the fact that I need to submit a thesis to graduate in June, is a curiosity and a certain learned nostalgia about the “web that was” or about a certain something (no one in my generation can articulate exactly what, but we babble about it) that was different when the Web was an infant. Am I trying to prove that it was better? No…and I don’t think that’s useful. It’s pointless to say that not having the ability to search a huge amount of data efficiently, and arrive relatively close to what you are looking for, is good. It’s pointless to expect everyone to start hosting their own p2p server and seeding their friends’ websites and social media updates.

This is an experiment in reducing the scale and scope of a network that shepherds information around while making it accessible to people in an analog way. How does that change the nature of the discourse had (if any), the experience of those who access it, and in what ways does it get co-opted?

The main components of my proposal are the objects, the stories they contain, and the way in which they form a network. I realized that I am talking about a “stack” - not a Brattonian one, but I guess a “soft stack” - of objects and their contents, that together are laced into a network the behavior of which is shaped by the prompt. In that way, I could say that:
• an object ~ website
• a story ~ content on website
• the prompt ~ how browsing happens

If I am speaking about “the web that was”, then it is the prompt that will bring out these qualities in the audio messages recorded. How can I simulate the early web’s handcrafted-ness, exploratory character and occasional slowness, by design constraints? I can constrain the “how” content is created:
• only one person can be recording an audio message at all times (simulating slowness and not being able to hold many visitors all at once)
• the network only stores X amount of messages at a given time
• or it only stores some of the recorded messages, for example only if there is a certain keyword, or if it starts with a particular word.

or I can constrain the “what” is being created:
• there can be absolutely no prompt - someone has a given amount of time (say two minutes) and they can record literally anything
• a question is asked, like “what are the things you would take with you if there was a fire”
• the message recorded right before is played, and the person has to somehow build on it
• a prompt that acknowledges the real world around the object, for example “look around you and tell me something about the person that just walked pas you” - or even “smile at the person who is wearing a blue jacket”.

Ultimately, I am contrasting the following:
• local, limited in scale content vs global, unlimited in scale content
• personal vs impersonal
• organic discovery vs indexable existence
• limited resources make content precious vs unlimited resources commodify it
• no circulation vs potentially global sharing and reach
• potential for slowness vs speed