After displaying my Processing project on the Weymouth House screens, and adapting the project to this environment to the best of my ability, this unit is now coming to an end. In this post I will attempt to look back at my project, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of my work.
Looking back at the brief, we were tasked at the beginning of the unit with producing:
A piece of interactive information design for a shared public space, which is intended to elucidate/explain some an idea or concept you perceive as key to our 21st century media experience.
We were also told this could take the form of a direct information-graphic or a more abstract piece of work. We were required to produce this in the Processing environment, using some form of camera-based interaction as the primary method of interacting with the audience. Reviewing my project as a whole I have both positive and negative things to say about the work I have produced. Early on I considered the choice between creating a direct information graphic and an abstract/artistic piece of work to fit the brief. At the time, I decided that I wished for my work to exist on the more abstract end of the spectrum, as I thought it would allow for more opportunities to be creative with the work. I believe that I have stuck with this aim, and that the final Processing sketch I produced is intended to convey a media concept in an abstract manner. However, I think that because I chose to go about the task in this way, the project may have become slightly removed from its initial purpose in explaining these media concepts. Aspects of the media concepts I chose to focus on – primarily collaboration/open-source culture and audio/data-visualisation can certainly be seen in the work, however I do not know whether this is enough to completely fulfil the given brief. Whether the work actually ‘explains’ these concepts is up for debate, and one could argue that because of the abstract way I tried to touch upon these ideas, the interpretation of the work and the concepts behind it is left up to the audience. This is common of abstract pieces of artwork or design, however it’s possible that this limits the project’s effectiveness as a piece of information design.
Where the project succeeds is in the fact that it meets the goals I set out for it in attempting to fulfil its role. The audiovisual language of the work was specifically designed to attempt to speak of its concepts. Every design and implementation choice was made with the goal of improving the quality of the interaction with the audience. The way the piece communicates its message, then, can be found in the intuitive way with which its interaction is presented. A clear link is formed, audibly and visually, between the actions of the user and the result that they experience. The work in itself does not exist without the input of the user, which from the start presents the idea of collaborative media production. The intuitiveness of the relationship between the users input and the visual and audio feedback was important as this is the method in which I tried to convey ideas about data visualisation with the work. The goal was to make it instantly clear exactly how the interaction affects all elements of the display, in an attempt to encourage the user to see that their movements, the visuals and the audio output are all representations of the same information. It’s in these ways that I believe I have tried to get across my chosen media concepts with the project, although it is dependent on an individual basis whether these techniques are effective, which is why I am unsure if this can be considered a fulfilment of the brief. I do not believe the project in itself has been a failure, then, but instead I question whether by nature an abstract piece of work such as the one I have produced can be considered an effective method of conveying information.
Technically, I consider the project to be largely a success. I have engaged with the Processing environment, one which I had no previous experience with, and learned much about the techniques and best practices of creating interactive displays with the tool. I used multiple external libraries in the creation of my work, and utilised principles of object-oriented programming in my code. The work I ultimately produced fits with the intended outcome of the unit in that it is an interactive display which uses a method of camera-based interaction. I think the interaction method I chose to pursue, brightness-tracking, was chosen for good reasons. I wanted a way to allow freedom of interaction from the user with the resources I had available, as opposed to some of the more passive methods of interaction like face tracking as I felt it would better suit my project. This turned out well for the most part, albeit with a few technical issues being run into when changing the environment the work was being displayed in to the public Weymouth House setting. If I were to attempt the project again, I might give more thought to attempting a more advanced camera interaction technique such as skeleton tracking, although at the time I believed this to be out of range of my skills and time-frame. I believe that this may have improved the project overall, as the main issues arose as a result of the nature of brightness tracking in uncontrolled environments.
Overall I’m pleased with the project I have managed to produce, and believe the implementation of my idea to be of a reasonably high standard, whether the idea I implemented is considered entirely in line with the intended outcomes of the brief or not. The iterative approach that was taken during the development of the project helped me to better understand the cycle of development that designers and developers carry out. The way in which this was carried out was advantageous as rather than a simple line of analysis, design, testing, and then evaluation the iterative nature caused me to complete the project in stages, at each stage analysing the requirements for the rest of the project before designing a solution and constantly testing my work. This has resulted in, in my view, both a higher quality final product and a higher level of understanding on my part of the good and bad points of my work. The unit as a whole has been a positive learning experience for me, and it is my belief that, while if I were to undergo the task again there are aspects I would change, the experience I have gained with both practical and theoretical sides of the design/development process will help me massively in both upcoming projects and in later life.