[W]ho would trust a chart that looks like a video game? Edward Tufte (1990 p34)
Project team: truna aka j.turner (2013 – 2014)
Materials: Colour tracking the 48 hour game making challenge to create ANECDATA, roof cameras, OpenCV libraries (in progress)
This proposal responds to two central themes in UnDesign: critical examination of lineage of practice and redirective response in the form of a critical design practice-based project. The work arises out of a project set in a 48 hour game jam which initially sought to track participant movements in the physical space of the jam in order to gain a clearer understanding of participant engagement and creativity in space (truna & Thomas, 2012). The event has been running annually since 2007 and we have always felt that the location or space acted as a participant actor in the creation of the jam experience. An announced goal of the first iteration of the 48hr visualisation project was that – appropriate to the participants (game designers and makers) – the data would be made available as a spatial interactive visualisation that they could play with, data visualised as a game implemented in a re-presentation of the space.
The first project 48hr visualisation project remains a speculative design. The data collected was messy and incomplete, the participants were unreliable, tracked phones were switched off or loaned to others; a whole new node appeared, possibly because one of the participants decided to collect their own data and set up their own node. This is typical of the event, for example in 2009 jam participants played with the time lapse camera stream set up in the kitchen by timing the shots and creating ‘magically appearing’ structures with noodle boxes, in 2012 a large box of 500 rubber ducks appeared and ducks were appropriated and situated throughout the site of the event by individuals. This ‘beautiful messiness’ and the subversion and claiming of data collection itself is now the focus of the second iteration of the project.
48 hour data visualisation V2
The amount of data produced by human (and non human) interaction with our world of designed technological objects is exploding. We live in a world of ‘Big data’, an ecosystem of massive data sets, which commentators both applaud and denounce for their potential predictive opportunities. Design practice explores new ways of collecting data, both serendipitous and formal; it explores new ways of presenting data collected in order to offer opportunity for meaning making. The form of this meaning making ranges from those projects which intend to make sense of data for formal purposes, the effects of climate change, consumer behaviour, contemporary mobilities and what have you, to those projects which re-present data as critical design, aesthetic work or – like the 48hr V1 – opportunity for playful exploration.
The form of meaning making aside, data collection, the processes and procedures which enable data collection itself remains firmly entrenched in traditional notions of academic and scientific rigour. That is, while the use of collected data might espouse aesthetic, non-functional or critical design outcomes, data collection methods are measured in terms of “efficacy”, “accuracy”, “repeatability” and “verifiability”. Thus, collecting data is typically purposed to the ideologies of measurement or as Alpers (1983) might observe: the service of Science. While contemporary design approaches to representation of data frequently explore narrative and aesthetic visual story telling using data, the user / viewer is situated outside the process either as contributor, spectator or sometimes playful explorer. The interactor is rarely allowed to mess with production of the data itself. The idea that data collection might be subjective, tainted by personal experience or ‘played with’ is problematic in this view. If data collection is played with, the results are no longer data; they become anecdata, “pseudo data” or “flimsy”, malleable stories that do not exhibit the qualities of “good data”. Anecdata is an anathema to Science, and subsequently Design, it is however, an important aspect of lived experience.
The current proposal offers a work in process that actively encourages the subversion of data collection and the production of anecdata. In doing so, the project critically examines this idea of “good data” and understandings of participants in design projects. The second iteration of the 48 hour data visualisation project intends to turn the process of data collection itself into a playful opportunity. It will do this by handing over the process of data collection to the participants and encouraging that same beautiful messiness observed in the first iteration and the playful creativity demonstrated in previous jams. We will encourage ad hoc data collection through use of tagged objects which can be picked up and moved according to whim, attached to other objects within the space or carried around for brief moments and replaced in different locations. The process of designing this “undesign” practice will be the subject of this chapter as we critically engage with our own practices as designers, the nature of data and its onto-epistemic legacies and ‘let go’ of the process. The outcomes will be both practice and research. Given the brief, there will be a ‘data collection’ performance during the 48 hour event. This will be recorded with the usual data collection methods we employ during the event: birds-eye camera footage and documentary interviews. The tagged objects will be tracked using a combination of WiFi and RFID. There may be a record of collected data which itself could become a visual and / or interactive work, however, as a further counterpoint to established design practices, this will literally be in the hands of the project participants.
The conceptual framework evolves out of theories and work of the Critical Design approach (Dunne & Raby, 2001) where the purpose of design is to challenge preconceptions and expectations about the design act itself, thus provoking new ways of thinking about the object, its use and the surrounding environment. The critical design approach is combined with the critical approaches of practitioners like Paolo Freire and Augosto Boal which seek to transform audiences into active participants engaged in meaning making on their own terms.
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