Blog Post 4 – Apply design thinking and ideation methods to concept

Excise 1: Modding IDEO

In the first excise, we are asked to use the poster to frame our iteration idea based on the questions of what is the prototype name, what happened in last prototype testing, what impression you got from last time, what you learned in the previous prototype, and what will be the next iteration. Based on this questions I structure my posters.

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Then we adjusted our posters following the grids of Prototype Name, What Happened, Impression, What You Learned, What Will Be The Next Iteration.

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    • Prototype Name. So far, I still don’t have a name for my project. I merely use a few phrases to describe it. The main two keywords of my project are data visualization and storytelling. I try to explore what will be the best approach for a visual designer to represent not only quantitative but also qualitative data.
    • What Happened. For my first iteration, I wanted to use personal data as a lens to check if digital technology can be a tool to tell the story/context behind the data. With this goal, I design my first prototype which is a map visualizing my email information from July 01 to July 10 in 2017. Through this prototype, I focus on two question: finding an approach for data visualization + storytelling and what can be a good data set for my project.
    • Impression. I got a lot of positive feedbacks of the method (an interactive-able map) and the selected data (my personal email data). All these feedbacks helped me to check this prototype from others’ perspective and gained a deep understanding of the audience’s interest and behavior.
      • The interaction, “moving from one spot to another and flipping the information card laid on the floor,” made my tester check information with purpose and gain a feeling of actively generating the story. In this case, they are not the listen, but a creator. This shifting of position emerge them into this experience further and lead them to obtain a deeper understanding of the information.
      • I found most of my testers show a passion for my private information. One of the reason is that I was standing there and they knew me already. However, they pointed out that peeping at private details may come from a part of human nature, especially peeking at someone you already know.
      • In the interview, I asked my testers the same question “What is the reason you choose to check the information in this order?” Through this question, I tried to explore what would most grab my audience’s attention. All my testers gave me a very similar answer. They either choose something relevant or something visually obvious.
    • What You Learned. In the interview, I got a few exciting feedbacks. The firstly one is that they mentioned that most of them used to ( or have a tendency to) make a background investigation when they know someone new. This feedback gives me inspiration of a possible topic discussed in my research. If I choose the personal data as the data set for my final project, an argument of the human’s attitude on background survey can be included in my paper. And I can feel this can raise a lot interesting discussion. Another thing I learned through this testing is about the data set. At the very beginning, I was worried my data choice might not be interested in everyone. However, what was surprised me was it seemed all my testers presented a strong passion for this personal data exploration. Through the interview, I found this prototype was not only giving my story but also some big topics (the human network/the comparison between mental distance and geographic distance). This testing depth of my understanding of personal data.
    • The Next Iteration. For my next iteration, I am interested in testing the combination of data visualization and other 3D expression technology, such as VR and projection mapping. I would like to find out if these technologies can also enhance the audience’s comprehension and experience of receiving the information. I will also test my current data visualization structure (an interactive data map) works for another data set. The possible data are the human network, political letter and mad cow disease in UK history. In the following two weeks, I will try to gather as much as materials about these topics to check which one is most doable. My another focus of the next prototype will be a visual metaphor. Following the feedback I got last week, I will try to involve more visual elements in my interaction.

Conclusion:

I can feel my research idea is becoming more and more evident through introducing/discussing with my group once and once again. Before I did this excise, I got a very blur feeling of what my next iteration could be. The process of transfer the thoughts to oral presentation to writing makes this idea more detailed and precise. It helps me to have a practical plan.

 

Excise 2: Values-driven Prototyping

In this exercise, we were asked to write a word for the action happening in this project and the value audience/ourselves obtaining through this project.
My verbs for the action happening in my project are comprehended and visualize. “Visualize” is for the approach of representing the data and storytelling. “Comprehend” describes the process of audience gather data and organize the story.
My words of the value are comprehension and knowledge (curiosity). The goal for my research project can be present through these two words. One goal is letting the audience comprehend the data/context and obtain a deeper understanding of my selected data. Another goal is for me. One of my research questions is “As a visual designer if it is possible to create a tool/sample to represent not only the quantitative data but also the qualitative data?” I would like to use my research project as an answer to this question.

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After sharing the words with my group, I made my idea of these words more clear. Same as the excise 1, talking the concept once and once again make it more detailed and clear. And I also found a few values mentioned by my classmates could also work for my project, such as wisdom and pleasure. This process of merging other’s insights into my project keep inspired me and trigger me to view my content from different perspectives.

Blog Post 2 – Documentation of Week #1 Prototype

With a background of UI and UX design, I have much experience working on data analytics and information visualization. After taking the course From Data to Perception, my group and I created a couple of projects which translated data to perceptual projects. These projects helped me gain a deeper understanding of information “translation,” and triggered me to think “ Does the data always tell the truth of the world?” Using this question as an entry, I come out my initial research questions:

  • Are there human insights missing from today’s big data and selective algorithms? If so, how can we reduce this quantification bias?
  • As a visual design, if it is possible to create a tool/sample to represent not only the quantitative data but also the qualitative data?
  • How can we use data visualization as a meaningful tool to represent a vivid story of human self?
  • What is the best approach for representing the data of real bodies, systems and structures of power in the more full world?

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Above image is a poster which contains a lot of suggestions from my colleague and Emma. All of them are very useful and inspired me. I took the one “a map of a day in your life” for my first prototype.
To shape the idea further, we made a mind map. Below is the image of my mind map. This step helps me to clarify the critical aspects of this prototype.

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What is my first prototype?

In this stage, I plan to use my email connecting history as the data set. By translating this data set into a visual language, my story of social status, geographic changing, and other aspects of my life can be represented from the information visualization.

For this prototype, I want to use personal data as a lens to check if digital technology can be a tool to tell the story/context behind the data. With this goal, I design my first prototype which is a map visualizing my email information from July 01 to July 10 in 2017.

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Some Design Choices

  • Name Tag. I made name tags for myself and people who contacted me at that time. I put all the name tags on the floor. The distance between my name tag and others’ stands for the relationship between us. The closer our name tags are, a closer relationship we have. To tell tester my name tag is the starting spot, I draw a pink star behind of my name to distinguish it from others.
  • Black Strings. My name is linked with others’ by black tapes which stand for the number of emails sent and received between us.
  • Small Cards. For each name tags, I put a few small cards around. These small cards contend some detailed information about who this person is, where he/she is, and what brief context is in our emails. All the information are provided in the form of the phrase.
  • The Period: July 01 to July 10 in 2017. There are two reasons for choosing this period of data. Firstly, there were a lot of things happening at that time, and my social connection was complicated. A sophisticated data set will leave more space for my tester to guess the narrative behind the data. Secondly, the date of testing this prototype is June 6th. If the tester knows me, they can compare my current situation with what happened a year ago.
  • Email. In this prototype, I choose my email as the data set. The first reason for using my email as the data set is easy to get. And other reason to chose it is because email is the social media which reflect parts of the people’s reality. Different from Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, the connection through email are mostly real connection. And through the email data, we can easily find a person’s employment status, married or not, financial situation and so on. So many stories can be found through emails. Therefore, I choose email as my data set for this prototype.

User Journey

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The final user flow

Based on the comments from Ana and Emma, I did some adjustment. Instead of making a paper map, I will make the name tags and put them on the floor to create a map. The user flow in this prototype should be:

  1. Start from my name tag to view this visual as a whole and gain a general idea of the story.
  2. Move to any spot interest to them.
  3. Check the detailed information around this spot and organize the story behind this information.
  4. Find the next interesting spot and move there.
  5. Repeat the actions of step 3 – step 5.
  6. The experience will be finished after the user checks all the information.

Questionnaires

Before the user finishes this experience, I won’t explain the story to users. After the tester completes the process, I will make a short interview asking some questions about this data map.

The questions will include but not limited with:

  • Based on the information you got from this map, can you briefly describe what is happening to me?
  • Does the storytelling of personal data interest you? If yes, can you assume what is the reason? If no, can explain why and provide a suggestion topic?
  • Did you feel the interaction/process of digging the information trigger your interests of the data?
  • What is the reason you choose to check the information in this order?
  • What is the most interesting things for you in this experience? Why?

By asking those questions, I want to test:

  • If the map will be a useful narrative method for data visualization + storytelling.
  • What will trigger people’s interest?
  • Does everyone feel interested in personal data? If not, what topic are they interested in?
  • How people collect and analyze the data in this experience?

Below are some images of my notes which were taken during the testings.

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The feedback I gained from this prototype testing.

  • The attitude of privacy information. During this testing, I found most of my testers show a passion for my private information. One of the reason is that I was standing there and they knew me already. However, they pointed out that peeping at private details may come from a part of human nature, especially peeking at someone you already know. They mentioned that most of them used to ( or have a tendency to) make a background investigation when they know someone new. The most common choice for gathering the information is social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on. The background investigation can help us get a better comprehensive understanding of this people. In some context, it also comforts the anxiety to socialize with a stranger.
  • The checking order. In the after-interview, I asked my testers the same question “What is the reason you choose to check the information in this order?” I wanted to discover what is the first thing knock their attention and what is their exciting point when checking an information map. Most of my testers choose Lauren Robert as the first spot to gather information. The reason why they choose her is also undeniable: there are the most connecting between Lauren and Feng while the distance between us is far. They are curious about why this situation happened here. The second choice for most of my testers is Josh Paglione who most of my testers know already. Since they are also familiar with Josh, they are interested in the intersection between participants themselves and I.
  • Summary a story from the information in the form of the phrase. Even all the information I provide in this map are by way of the words, I surprisingly found all of my testers can correctly organize all the information together and come out a detailed story.
  • Physically moving boots the experience? Most of my testers give positive feedback to this question. The interaction, “moving from one spot to another and flipping the information card laid on the floor,” made my tester check information with purpose and gain a feeling of actively generating the story. In this case, they are not the listen, but a creator. This shifting of position emerge them into this experience further and lead them to obtain a deeper understanding of the information.
  • Mental location and geographic location. One interesting suggestion I got is from Natalie and Joseph. They suggested me to involve more information in this map. In my first prototype, the distance between my name tag and others stands for the relationship between us and the black strings stands for the email sent and received through us. They suggest me to consider how to represent the mental distance and geographic location in my second prototype. The comparison of these two concepts will be interesting. The way of serving could be a different color, weight and texture of the strings, and different sizes of the name tag (font size of name tag). With the geographic location data involved in this project, this map will become a more complex representation, from the physical world and also the mental world(self-identification side).

Here is the videos of prototyping.

Blog Post 1: 3 related works

100% Polluted Water Popsicles

By art students Hung I-chen, Guo Yi-hui, and Cheng Yu-ti from the National Taiwan University of the Arts.

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What: The students collected polluted water from 100 locations in Taiwan, first freezing the collected sewage samples and then preserving their creations in polyester resin. On final inspection, the audience can identify the trash contained within each mold. The group also designed the pop wrappers represented the different regions from which the polluted water samples were taken.  

How: In an information visualization case, the choice of data set is always a fundamental decision. Instead of using other types of water data, such as real-time water level, water flow data, and surface water quality, the student from the National Taiwan University of the Arts cleverly choose the best way to gather information for their project. Their dataset comes from where they are living ( and also where their audiences are living). The distance between the data and the audience’s life is so close that the idea of the water pollution in our life can be readily accepted.

Another highlight in this project is choosing the ice pop as the model of final delivery. As a water-based frozen snack, the popsicle is usually related with a fresh and clean feeling. In this project, connecting the ice pop and polluted water creates a sharp contrast and emphasize the seriousness of water pollution.

Why: This project is intended to spread awareness about water pollution and its profound effect on our world’s population. As visual designers, these art students use visual design as an approach to grab the attention of the public and bring the seriousness of the water pollution to everyone.

So What: The social impact of this project is pronounced. It successfully expresses the idea of the seriousness of water pollution in our daily life. The final delivery also presents their concept very clearly and firmly. This project is also a useful reference for multisensor works in a data visualization project. Translating a data into a tangible object which audience can touch and play boots the experience. However, I feel this project is not perfect. If additional information can be given to the audience after they finish viewing this project, the experience will be more, and the impression left to the audience will be more in-depth. The way to give additional information can be a QR code on the pop wrappers. Scanning the QR code, the viewer can get more information about the region of this water sample.

 

A More Perfect Union

By R. Luke Dubois.

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What:  A More Perfect Union is a data visualization artwork based on online dating and the United States Census. This is a map that provides an alternate version of the 2010 census and reveals how the inhabitants of particular cities understand themselves, based upon personally-descriptive data provided through dating websites. In this project, the data artist, Dubois, collected words provided by 16.7 million people describing themselves and those they desire.

How: In the summer of 2010, Dubois joined 21 different online dating services and collected their contents, downloading 19 million profiles of single Americans. He sorted these profiles by zip code and analyzed for significant words. He designed a set of prints shows a road atlas of the United States, with the city names replaced by the word used by more people in that city than anywhere else in the country.

Why: He started this project in 2008. He attempts to create an alternative census, based not on socio-economic fact but on socio-cultural identity. The final outcome which consists of more than 200,000 unique words, and gives an imperfect, but extremely interesting, perspective on how Americans describe themselves in a forum where the objective is love. In his documentary film “R. Luke DuBois: Running Out of Time,” he said he is interested in “how we accumulate the vocabulary for describing ourselves and where that comes from.” He always tries to use data as a tool that can tell us who we are and what is our personality.

So What: I like the idea of not analyze the data from a socio-economic side but from the more human side. This project is an excellent reference for visual designer considering of the humanity of data. This project also provides a hint guiding the visual designer how to represent a non-measurable concept, such as humanity and personality, through data visualization.

 

Phonopticon: the age of mobile surveillance

By Mudit Ganguly

 

 

What: This is a thesis project made by Mudit Ganguly who graduated from the digital future program in 2018. His thesis project argues that knowledge about privacy breaches carried out by mobile applications leads to awareness about privacy. In this project, he creates an immersive installation, Phonoption, which gives viewers knowledge about privacy breaches. He borrows the idea of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon enable guards to observe prisoners without their knowledge, the applications on our smartphones gather and share our data without our knowledge. That is also which the name of project Phonoption comes from.

His project consisted of three parts. The first part is a set of audience’s mobile surveillance data that are projected from the outside onto the walls of a hexagonal structure. The second part is a hexagonal enclosure which contains six webcams mounted in various location around. The last part is a mobile interface by which a viewer can interact with the Phonopticon.

How:  He chooses RTD (Research Through Design) as the methodology to lead his design process used in making the Phonopticon. His procedure involved many iterations that were improved based on feedback. Since many design processes include feedback loops, the Spiral Model of software development by Barry Boehm was used as a research method. This method helped him to find out problems and drawbacks.

The software he used in this project are Javascript and Pubnub to communicate with the Processing script,  Adobe After Effects to edit motion graphics; Resolume Arena 5 as a projection mapping software to project the visuals onto the walls;  Spout to transfer the visuals from Processing to Resolume Arena 5.

To design an immersive experience in limited space, he creates a hexagonal enclosure in which the audience stands inside surrounding the visuals.

WhyAs a digital future student, all of us will go into technology and digital media area in a very soon future. Some of us may work as a UX and UI designer, some may develop mobile and web applications. And some of us may choose to create new digital interactions for the public. However, Mudit Ganguly seems to use his thesis rethinking if the digital future we create is the digital future we want. Information surveillance is an issue for everyone and is more duty for us. Through a discussion of as a digital media designer what service we should provide to the users, this project wake the responsibility of creating a safer information communication environment.

So What: The social meaning of his project is evident. Mobile is a communication tool everyone is using every day, and personal data surveillance is also a prevalent issue. His concept was clarified very well through the experience. The design of the 6 webcams which continually capture the live feeds of the viewer strengthen the uncomfortable feel of surveillance. His project is also a perfect example of how to design an immersive experience with a very limit physical space. Through reading his paper, I can see how he change the final delivery from a website, a projection on the wall, to an immersive experience (a hexagonal enclosure).

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