Project 4 – Teddy D+T – Public Space Project

An Early Prototype of what could have been...

When we first brainstormed the idea of a public space project, we played around with several ideas, a lot of them utilizing projections/projectors of some kind. We tried our hand at dealing with topical issues such as health care and obesity, but overtime, we were afraid of attempting a project with an agenda, and given the time frame, we weren’t sure how to engage the public with a project on that scale and depth. We then flirted with the idea of placing a bear in the middle of the park, in which we had envisioned people talking to the bear through a speaker. We made a little mock up of the bear sitting on a bench, but we intended to get the people to engage with the bear and so on.

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Final Project – GrubZone Food Desert GPS Navigator

Click here to watch grubZone on Vimeo!

GrubZone is a Food Desert GPS Navigator that allows the user to navigate through different sections of East Harlem according to income and decade to view what are the worst effected areas that are severely lacking in Supermarkets or fresh foods. When I brainstormed the idea for this project, I thought of making an app where a user could easily see what were the areas they could purchase food from. I didn’t really want this to be a project about educating people on what to eat, however, especially if those factors were based on something that was completely out of their control. I wanted my project to be educational, but to also be used by Politicians to set up viable options for the people who were effected the most by not having affordable food options.

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Week 5 Readings – Vanessa Roa

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 5
by William H. Whyte
So, I think this was a really interesting reading, and one that made me rethink how we are approaching our project. Reading the pages of Chapter 1 and seeing the scans of old and fascinating photos of New York City life back in the 70s helped me understand how in essence, New York City public spaces were front and center seats to the stage that is the New York sidewalks. There is a demand for these spaces to be saved, they are what gives this city character, and while Plazas help make these spaces effectively dynamic and give New Yorkers an escape to space of their own, they also need to play off these streets to successfully draw in crowds. Each space says something about those who dwell within them and what they do within each space.

Chapter 2 covered the beginning of the advent of plazas and how people responded to them in public spaces. The most popular plazas, it was discovered, were visually appealing, although there were other plazas that were considered “kitsch” that were popular as well. The building and the amount of light allowed into the space also played a factor into how many people would populate the plaza. Shape was also important as was space in Plazas, but Seating triumphed all, and people essentially look for places with a variety of seating.

Chapter 5 seems to summarize my feelings best, the street is what brings people together to the plaza, and in this Chapter, food, sitting space, and shape are all secondary factors that are added on to enhance the space, but how it flows into the street is important to the success of the space and how it’s used by the public. There’s also some interesting observations made on New York City corners and how they play an important part in the way New Yorkers socialize and are another element in the urban playground that is this city.

Cultural Probes
by Bill Gaver, Tony Dunne, & Elena Pacenti

This reading is about 3 designers, funded by the European Union, who get together to study community sites within Norway, Holland and Italy to try to figure how to get the elderly to interact within them. Community sites within Oslo, Pisa and Amsterdam are studied closely, and packets of postcards, cameras and other assortments are handed to the participants, called “cultural probes”. The probes served the purpose of asking the participants how art played an important part in their lives. Each object that was placed within the package was important in helping the designers gather data from the participants, and rather than go about obtaining the data in an arrogant or abrasive way, they decided not to impede upon them, and let these people speak for themselves.

I think their subtle methods paid off, and it goes to show that sometimes it’s not about how creatively you execute something, and that we often over-think our approaches. Simply talking to people and connecting with them on a personal basis is enough to make a connection. For these designers, the probes are not the beginning nor the end of their research, it only tells one side, and through the seniors, they were able to begin listening.

Experience Prototyping
by Marion Buchenau and Jane Fulton Suri
This was a pretty dry reading, and it admittedly didn’t really excite me at first glance. There was, however, one sentence that jumped out at me, and it was when Buchenau discussed how users having an informative personal experience becomes more engaging, which strikes me as a fancy way of saying “People like to learn and being stimulated visually while doing so” which is kind of a given. There’s also a point at which Buchenau goes out of his way to point out the fact that we need more than one prototype because “a single prototype is never enough”. Buchenau seems to be a fan of poetic license in that his writing lacks any real substance, and I’m thinking most of his points could have been made easily within 1 page instead of 9.

Cardboard Computers
by Pelle Ehn and Morton Kyng

As someone who finds herself struggling with certain parts of technology and adapting easily to other aspects of it, I felt myself find some reassurance in the beginning of this article. A lot of what this article discusses reminds me a bit of Ken Robinson, who also believes that schools are stifling creativity because schools act as institutions that promote industrialism. In a way, we’re seeing a bit of that ourselves with the Steve Jobs hero worship, where business figures are looked up to and not for their creativity but because they were able to use their creativity to acquire wealth, wealth being the end all and be all of what it means to be truly successful. I think the user-ability of software is just as important for artists to be able to create efficiently and affectively. I know for a fact, had it not been for me being exposed to software like Dreamweaver, I would have never been able to play around with HTML. I think the tools we get exposed to plays a role in how we will use those tools later on in the future.

Creation Ideation Workshop – Response

On Wednesday night, I stayed till 8 to take part in a late, fast paced session of the writing workshop that had taken place a week earlier on Friday. Created and mandated by Anezka Sebek, we spent an hour talking and developing ideas in an exercise session that was suppose to strengthen our writing skills. While I didn’t get a chance to snap any photos of the event, I did take some notes. The first video of the night, was a whimsical video of a book reading for Maira Kalman. It was from TED talks, and it was pretty fascinating. One of the other videos shared during this small sit in session was Steven Johnson’s “Where Ideas Come From”, which can be viewed on youtube: watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU.

We also shared some New Yorker comic panels, or rather, Anezka shared them, and then asked if anyone had read the New Yorker. “Then you aren’t proper New Yorkers…” she joked when she was met with some casual and blank stares. But aside from that, we did have a fascinating night. There were many ideas being discussed, and it seemed like a good opportunity to share our ideas and discuss our classes amongst ourselves. One girl wanted to teach Design and Technology to Children. My idea was to create an interactive story for the visually impaired. Then came sharing our ideas in 250 characters or less, or a “tweet” as Anezka called it. The class ended on that note, which was too bad. Although everything somewhat felt rushed and quick, I think I would have gotten more out of the 3 hour session. But still, it was a pretty good night and Anezka left us on one last note, which was to keep in touch and to check the DataMyne database if we had any questions about what classes to take next semester. And I, for one, still do. I’m hoping to put the packets of notes and references for writing papers that she gave us during the workshop to good use in the weeks to come.

Scrapyard Challenge – Reflection – Vanessa

Vanessa Roa September 28, 2011
Major Studio: Interface I D+T MFA
Assignment #4: Reflective on Scrapyard Challenge

Guiding Questions:
1.What kind of material affordances does your object provide? How does this influence the way in which another person would interact with your object? How have the affordances of your object changed from the original artifacts you started with?
2. Using the definition provided by Houde & Hill, is your object a prototype? Yes or No? What is your reasoning?
3. What is your understanding of the system image vs. the conceptual model of the workings of your artifact? How do they diverge?
4. How both specifically and in more general terms is the “electronic object” different from the “non-electronic object?” Do they differ at all?

What remains after a long, hard day of work.

Although I feel I made many mistakes, I learned quite a bit at the Scrapyard Challenge, including how to build an instrument that works with an input and power switch. After seeing what my other classmates made, I felt overwhelmed at the fact that I knew nothing about how to build anything and was surprised when my instrument worked. It seemed way more complicated than I had imagined, but it was an experience that I look forward to recreating. If I could do this experience all over again, I would have approached this by perhaps using some glue gun, or bringing more supplies with me. With that said, I don’t have any regrets, this was an enlightening experience. Plus, I learned how to soldier and make an instrument.

My musical clock, After several tweaking's and re-arrangements.

My object provides the affordance of creating musical notes by turning the hands of the clock to touch certain areas on the foil to produce a note. When I initially started my project, I came in with an abundance of materials, many of which I felt overwhelmed with, as I didn’t know what to do with all of the objects at my disposal. Overtime, those items dumbed down to one ugly broken clock with a dead battery and lots of tin foil (which was also, slowly wind down to one sheet). In reality, those two things were all I needed. With not much at our disposal, a group member of mine came up with a concept to use a clock that unbeknownst to her, was mine. I suggested perhaps gluing down the tin foil to the metal knobs so that it could pick up on the electric charge. We ended up using some PVC insulation tape and many many wires later, the clock went in for it’s first testing.

My musical clock, ready for a jam session.

When I started with my project, my clock was simply broken and I was curious as to how I would be able to fix it. Considering that I haven’t really thought of how far along I was going to push the concept of my instrument when I was making it (just being able to complete it on time) At first, I contemplated whether my clock was a completed finished product, as is, or whether I would consider it a prototype. I think after much debate, I would say it’s definitely a prototype. If I could, I would have my clock play several different notes as you turned the hands, and rewire some of the hands so that it would be able to turn more easily. According to the definition laid out by Houde and Hill, my concept was simply an idea that was meant to lay out how it would be used by a designer to explore or demonstrate some aspect of the future artifact. Since I was only able to create the object to the extent that it played a note, it filled it’s purpose as a prototype, meant to express the idea of how it would be used should it have been developed further. If I were to have more time, I would adjust the weak aluminum foil and create more notes for the instrument to play.

I wondered what it would take to make my object run on electricity so that I could use it for it’s intended purpose. But then, I began to brainstorm; did my object stop being an electronic object because it wasn’t connected to an amp? I wondered what and where lied a difference between objects that stand alone on battery charged electricity and those that require some sort of electricity to be able to run. Much like my instrument, I saw a connection between the way most of my appliances and electronics ran through outlets as no different. I’m hoping to either buy an amp and create music on my own one day and hope to create a battery powered version of my model eventually. However, it would also require more work to create sounds on it’s own. It would be an idea worth both experimenting with and exploring.

Readings for Week 4

“Interaction Relabelling and Extreme Characters: Methods for Exploring Aesthetic Interactions”
by Gaver, Djajadiningrat, Frens

I think this is an interesting counter position to what Donald Norman presents in his argument of how important it is to create devices that are clear, concise and not cluttered and overwhelming for users. Still though, I don’t know if I buy that basically, user-ability amounts to a beautiful “interface”, and thus, the product has good user-ability, and I think that’s where it loses me. Beauty, or basically what amounts to a good looking design is simply superficiality and isn’t rooted in efficiency. A site can be visually appealing to any one person and still be hard to manage for most. I think when we think of designing things, it has to be more than an intricate or visually appealing interface. The user should be able to navigate around it even if they don’t use the interface for a month, for two months, or perhaps even more.

“Hertzian Tales”
by Anthony Dunne (excerpt)

I actually think Anthony makes a good point about electronic art as a field being way too focused on the fact that it’s a technology based medium that it sort of disregards the uniqueness of working with physical mediums instead of incorporating the quirks of these different medias into how artists work. I think, as someone who comes from a background where I’ve worn hats in several fields, I’ve always felt incredibly misplaced, and I don’t mean to make this about me, but I think right now, we’re at a point where there’s a sort of resentment from traditional artists to adapt to working on computers, and there’s a resentment from digital artists to use traditional media. We’re focusing way too much on petty differences and not embracing these different mediums for how one actually supports the other.

“The Design of Everyday Things”
by Donald Norman

I think this is an important reading, and one that I would try to take into consideration when I embark on a project. In this reading, Donald Norman goes into what makes a well designed product that people can use everyday work, and the key is visibility. If users have a hard time understanding where to start and how to use something, they simply won’t use it. One thing that comes to mind when I think of this scenario is the Sims. If the Sims have a hard time moving around, they simply stand in place and shrug their shoulders while shaking their head. Humorously, and perhaps demeaningly enough, People aren’t that much different.

“Why We Need Things”
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This was an okay reading, and I think Mihaly is onto an interesting problem, one that I’ve thought of, but I think he skims the surface here. Mihaly ignores the fallacy of our consumerist culture and classism and how this plays into the growing hoarding problem that’s becoming common place in our society and how these two problems come together. The truth is, people aren’t “dependent” on using these objects for their intended uses, and chances are, they will buy them and forget they own them. We are living in a culture where people buy these things not because they need them, but because they can. Basically, being able to cheaply own these products gives those of us without much a fund a false sense of privilege, it allows those who aspire for more to think they truly have more when that item might not have value at all, or when they can hardly even take care of the item. I don’t necessarily think it is a weird controlling relationship we have with our objects, because we don’t really have control over these objects, it’s more like they control us in that we can’t let them go. In a way, people depend on these objects to develop a false sense of class. This applies to many things, including the electronics we purchase and use today, in that they sort make us believe we’re acquiring status, which is partially tied to power, but is much more superficial.

I think all too often, people are blamed for this happening when it’s more the fault of these companies who mass produce these items for the sole purpose of consumer spending. Our society is at the whim of corporations, and in this scenario, it’s no different. I think Milhaly is right in that we sort of shape ourselves and our identity based on what we consume, we use our material belongings to make a statement about what they say about us as people. I just think this idea could have been explored and expanded on further.

“The Computer Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet”
by Alan Kay
I thought this was a fascinating read. As designers, I wonder how our generation has lived up to the expectations of generations before us and looking at the technology that is around today and what it’s capable and incapable of, and whether or not there is room for improvement. I think that given that there are those who’ve been given the foundation and funds to be able to push these innovations forward, it leaves our generation with more to prove ourselves with.

“What do Prototypes Prototype”
by Houde and Hill

Weirdly, this is the reading I can identify with the most. I feel like this week I have stumbled upon my own issues with coming up with prototypes. In creating work, I never really planned on developing my idea further but simply presenting it as a hypothetical maybe if I were to ever build it. There was a part about this reading that struck out to me the most…“It is difficult for designers to communicate clearly about prototypes to such a broad audience….Even communication among designers re- quires effort due to differing perspectives…Limited understanding of design practice on the part of supporting orga- nizations makes it hard for designers to explain their prototypes to them.”

I can sort of feel myself nodding with this as I read it along. I realize that the hardest thing to do is to describe to someone an idea especially since because they can’t see inside your mind, so so many concepts get lost in translation. My biggest problem has always been communication, and how to hone it so that my work can be more well received.

Microsoft Tag/Hardware MashUps

My idea for my projects was to create software and hardware that would run on Microsoft Tag, QR Codes that connect users to business sites, info, and more. For my Website Mashups, I created a website called Tag-It, which can be viewed here. Tag It would store and keep track of sites you’ve visited and have “tagged” from your phone, and allow you to manage the sites you’ve “tagged”. Tag It works like a bookmarking site that helps users keep a history of all the sites they’ve visited through their QR Codes, and they could store and keep track of all the QR Codes they’ve visited on their account. The site would be able to organize according to media (web, video, images) which sites received the most hits and would also allow users to add these sites to their own personal collection of tags.

For my hardware, I presented a scenario where the user would use a phone to be able to print pages that can only be visited with stored QR information. The phone, with the stored tag, would be able to send code to the printer directly through a small LCD screen on a printer. The printer would pick on the bar code information through the scan and from there, would print pages according to user specification. This would allow the user to print pages that can only be visited mobile. They could also send the information directly to their printer over a computer with a modem or a printer on a wireless network. The idea behind this would be to print out brochures, maps, and other information on the go if a user wanted to be able to find out more info about a business or visit without being near their home desktop.

How I would Revise this Project –

I realize I could have gone into more depth about the role and function of QR Codes, and If I could, I would have thought more about the application and use of QR Codes in this instance. I didn’t really explore how they were used enough when I was coming up with the concepts for these drawings. I wanted originally to have the codes be read not as photos, but stored through the application. The application would keep a record of the code and of the site visited for the user.

My whole idea was that using the codes would change the way we surf on the internet. When we work on a desktop, we have the ability of scrolling, clicking, and typing more efficiently that’s hard to replicate with a smaller screen. If you can connect to a site without having to type the URL, which just being able to scan the phone over a bar code and being connected in seconds, it would make using the phone a little more efficient. But I wanted to tag it just beyond visiting a site and also being able to keep track of all the sites you’ve visited on your phone. I had the same approach with the Tag Printer, but it wasn’t communicated as well as I would have hoped. I would have emphasized this a lot more.

Click here to view my Mash Up Presentation.

Social Network Redesign – Groupity

Groupity was created with the idea of bringing together people who want to genuinely socialize, hopefully making a more earnest and wholesome networking experience than Facebook. There is no friend counter, no status updates. You simply log in, and you’re ready to roam the internet for new fish in the sea. You can browse the community and join over thousands of groups ranging with diversity in subjects, interests and people. Or, take in fascinating apps such as commutr offered through Groupity as apart of your free membership, which you can personalize and use to your discretion.

Reading Responses

Mashups: The new breed of Web app
An introduction to mashups
by Duane Merrill
I had no prior knowledge of what mashups were, and when I read this article, it was made a little more clear how most of the sites that I visit are technically mashups. Sites that come to mind include ebaumsworld, Newgrounds, and content providers such as AOL, Huffington Post, Something Awful,, and so on.

I think though, the actual defining of why these were mash ups, and what makes them effective mash ups is somewhat unclear. Personally, I think it would have been more effective to link to examples that clearly illustrate what mash ups are. Fortunately, I used google to look at some good examples of mash ups I was actually a little disappointed the article didn’t do this.

Why Things Matter
by Julian Bleecker
At 17 pages, this was the longest read, but it was interesting in certain parts, and I think confusing in others. I think Bleecker has a lot of interesting ideas about Web 2.0 and it’s capabilities, but has a hard time explaining or formulating an idea on how these Blogjects, Splimey or “Pigeons that blog” will change the landscape or how they’re already here. He explains how certain everyday things are “blogjects” but why are these things “Blogjects”. Is it certain characteristics? Can an RSS Feeder be a blogject? Or a banner?

“Calm Technologies 2.0: Visualising Social Data as an Experience in Physical Space”
by Michael Hohl
I was ready to quit on this reading and walk away in anger, especially when he began with “Technology weaving itself into our everyday lives”, because this is a pretty huge brushstroke of a statement in and of itself (to whom? which classes of people? Because there are dead zones all over this country, not everyone can even get internet access in certain parts of this country ) but I decided to give it a chance. It, frankly, didn’t get that much better.

I feel like the qualities and faults of this reading are qualities that are inherent in the digital/coding world right now, which is a seemingly disconnect from reality. That might sound hasty or even judgmental, but that’s also the truth. Much like the stock market or big business, not everyone can read this kind of material. These things are not necessities but luxuries, conveniences even. And technology, for people who are able bodied and rely on it for simply being able to “get around” is a convenience, unless your very livelihood depends on it, in which that is exempted. And how you respond to technology is determined largely by class and how much of this technology you’ve been exposed to already. And it may surprise most people in the coding world to realize, not everyone has.

Grey Album Producer Danger Mouse Explains How He Did It
By Corey Moss

I like Danger Mouse and like to hear some interesting music mash ups. It didn’t dawn on me when I was a kid what I was listening to was the musical definition of a “mash up”, I just simply thought it was ‘scratch’ or “remixes”. Anyway, I think this article opened an interesting subject on copyright and how it effects the work of artists. I don’t necessarily find it fair to everyone that they aren’t allowed to express themselves creatively and that limitations should be placed on them, but I also realize that artists try to recoop whatever money they can from owning their own work, and that even for mainstream artists, there is a struggle of ownership as record labels try to claim profits for themselves.

7 on 7 Project – Reflection

Click here to view my presentation

When I started the brainstorming process for this project, I went in with the intentions of walking away with learning or trying things I have never done before. I feel like I slightly accomplished that, but I also ended up sharpening up on the skills I picked up or learned in Boot Camp. I think either way, this exercise was great in that I spent a great deal simply practicing and perfecting, and I learned how to do some new things too, and hopefully, if I were to get the chance to do this project again, I would think of different ways to approach it, perhaps even plan a bit ahead of time.

I think that because I was given so much leeway, it was hard to organize and think out what I would do. Of all my projects, I had the most fun working on the Cinemagraph, I think not only because it was a challenge, but because I was surprised I actually was able to make one. It was definitely a huge challenge. I’m not sure though which one I liked the least. I guess I would say it was the soundtrack and the Adult Swim Bumper, although when I created it, the whole goal was to make it feel like an Adult Swim Bumper, and obviously, the Bumpers serve as a means to promote something, I’m not sure if they’re necessarily funny. The site “Bumpworthy” was quite a lot of fun and became of great use in helping me complete the Adult Swim Bumper challenge. If the goal was to create ugly work, I think, to a certain extent, I succeeded with my Illustration.

As this experience started out, I went in with high ambitions of what I could pull off. I wanted to bake vegan cake hamburgers (cake shaped to look like a hamburger, which I found an incredible tutorial for), but I ended up going a different route, and I don’t necessarily think it was a bad route either. I took baby steps and tried to tackle the stuff I anticipate in school. And I feel a little more assured of what I might be able to accomplish in the semesters to come.

To View my Final Website and my Work, click here.