introduce final assignment
Your final assignment for Core Interaction Studio is called Object Collection.
Over this course we have looked at a variety of approaches to understanding the web as a system for communicating, structuring and ordering information.
- The original engineered structure of the internet as a decentralised network, where everything is connected to everything else rather than going via a central node, e.g. ARPANET.
- The role of hypertext, links linking links, as the basis of the WWW, and how this structure not only connects information but constructs knowledge by creating relations and cross-references.
- The role of semiotics, the study of symbols and meaning-making, and the death of the author. The web has a short memory but an infinite number of copies and variations. As with language, meaning on the web doesn’t necessarily come from the authentic original, but from how information travels and connects.
- As designers on the web, we use metaphor to create meaning, affordances and behaviour, but this meaning can be reshaped, new habits and interactions can be trained. There are few conventions to follow; habits are being broken and new ones formed all the time.
- How contemporary platforms are largely based on aggregation and extraction. Aggregation, as in bringing many services or information streams into one space, and extraction, as in using that proprietary space to accrue value from aggregated users’ behaviour.
- How ethics in design is a question of whose world, and what kind of world, you are designing for.
Many of the phenomena described above — what we feel to be some of the most critical aspects of understanding the contemporary web — are to do with questions of organisation.
The value of the designer today is often contested. Is the role of the designer really just to decorate, make legible, make stylish some “content” whose real cultural meaning, value and power is decided elsewhere — not by the designer, but by the author or client? Indeed, this is the perennial insecurity of the designer, and it is true that most “design work” today will be devalued or automated in years to come. Most “design work” today, as in many areas of culture, is not about making design but about manufacturing attention — a fundamental currency in the information economy. What, then, is the value of design?
One answer lies in organisation. The world has seldom felt more strange and uncanny, at once bursting with information and disinformation, both mundane and unfamiliar. Out of this mess, we look for new kinds of ordering: new patterns, habits, ways of seeing. We are already seeing new patterns. Today, wolves, goats and antelopes are prowling around on empty city streets, a hospital has been built in central park, turtles have returned to resort beaches and the world’s top economies have mostly sealed off their borders. The system that we have relied on over all of our lifetimes have radically changed, while new kinds of patterns are emerging, which allow us to see a different possible worlds taking shape.
Hypertext and the web reminds us that meaning is formed as much through creating patterns of connection and organisation as it is through the individual objects themselves. If form follows function/content, form is also a kind of meta-content. How you choose to order your encyclopaedia (e.g. animal, mineral, or vegetable) changes what the world looks like. What gets to be in your dictionary reflects whose world you are living in, and what kind of world you are designing for, or what kind of story you are telling.
“Object Collection” is just that — a collection of objects. What your objects are and how you collect them is up to you, and for this assignment, the how is much more important than the what. Of course, there are certain technological constraints, based on what you’ve learned so far, namely:
- Using JSON objects, arrays and variables to store and collect things.
- Using HTML and CSS to create webpages.
All of these are object collections!:
- An library of texts, images, sounds, smells, concepts.
- A memoir, or personal narrative, made up of digital objects from your llife.
- An interactive visual inventory of foods being consumed (thanks Sophia!)
- A handbook of tools for a particular community (cf. the Whole Earth Catalog).
- A recipe book (recipes for food, or for anything else you can make).
- A zine, or a visual bricolage, bringing together lots of different elements from the web.
- An encyclopaedia, index or atlas — a collection that holds all the things you need to understand a certain world.
What could your collection be? Who is your collection for? How do the objects in your collection interact, and recombine to make new meanings? Its themes could be huge and universal, real or fictional, intimately personal or communal.
Requirements for this project:
- Create an interface that enables three or more ways to rearrange your collection based on their JSON properties.
- Make sure you can remove or add new objects from the JSON file without the website breaking.
- Push the project on github and deploy to your github pages site.
- Document and experiment!
Research Exercise in Class
In pairs, analyse a particular archive and report back to the class. This is a fast research task. Use Are.na to throw together references and notes, especially if information about your collection is dispersed:
- Describe the archive in brief.
- Who made it?
- Who is its audience?
- What stor(ies) is it trying to tell, however large or small?
- What is the dataset? (If it appears very large and general — ask if it is really so universal, or can you find it edges? If it appears very narrow, consider how people from different places might find it useful)
- Where does the dataset come from (historical documents, physical publications, internet images)
- How does it categorise things?
- What do you notice about this categorisation, what does it tell you about the object?
- Describe its interface in concrete terms.
On Thursday we’re going to talk about different interfaces that you could build or take inspiration from. These can be digital or otherwise, but we will be looking at the logic of the interface and prototyping versions of them in class.
This should be an interface you feel familiar with enough to explore how it works and how it feels to use it.
For example, this could be a dashboard interface like DOTA, League of Legends, or a car. To take another example from someone in class, it could be a filing cabinet.
Bring an interface and be ready to describe it in these ways:
- How does it work?
- Where do you find it, typically?
- What is its logic, e.g. how do you to interact with it, how does it display different types of information, from what perspectives, and how do they relate to each other? For example in League of Legends and similar games you have a “world” framed by a Head Up Display (HUD) that tells you contextual information.
- How might you go about creating this kind of interface from scratch?
For next Tuesday:
- Decide on what kind of object collection you’re going to build.
- Christian Marclay’s The Clock
- Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas
- The cabinet of curiosities / Wunderkammer
- CAVS Archive
- Material Connexion
- Memory of the World
- Sir John Soane Museum
- Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
- clip art
- prelinger library
- NSW State Library