Mela’s Grounding Research

9:48 PM in General by Mela

I used several methods to conduct my grounding research, and I will discuss them and my findings briefly (?) here:

  • observation
  • online research
  • interviews
  • surveys
  • scholarly paper review

Things I knew at the beginning of this task:

  • it would be done at the Grid Gallery located in Sydney CBD
  • theme is Urban Playground (entertain – inform – connect)

 

Observation

One of the first tasks I conducted was observation. A few weeks ago some people in the class and I decided to check the place out. It was Saturday night, at around 10 PM.

Some things I noticed about the place:

  • it was dark. There were some lights around the area, but it was generally not very well lit
  • it was not a high traffic area. We stayed there for maybe 30 minutes? During that time, we didn’t encounter a lot of people walking past. There weren’t a lot of cars passing by at that time, either
  • it was near King Street wharf. Although it itself is not a high traffic area, if you walk several blocks down you can get to an area with a lot more action.

On Thursday, I went back to the Grid Gallery with some more classmates to observe it during the daytime. It was around 1:30 PM when we arrived. I took several videos — feel free to check out the playlist below.
http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=121BB95F552A3624

Some things I noticed:

  • it still wasn’t a high traffic area. It is only 5 minutes away from Wynyard station and the heart of Wynyard… but while the other streets were crawling with office workers at that time, the mass of people rarely reached the area. One reason could be that the previous streets had restaurants and shops, but for some reason that particular block didn’t.
  • the people passing by were mostly office workers getting to/from work. They would walk by themselves or in small groups, and would walk briskly, not really looking at the surroundings.
  • there was one woman who was eating and making phone calls in front of the gallery. I thought this was a good sign because it showed the “potential” of the space as a space where people could converge. The area in front of the gallery served as a seat and I think that’s something we could take into consideration while designing.

In summary:

  • the area isn’t a high traffic area, BUT it is near areas which are high traffic during the daytime (office buildings, shops, restaurants) and nighttime (King Street Wharf.) So the challenge would be to draw people from those high-traffic
  • most of the people who can view the gallery are people in transit, as there is currently nothing in the surrounding area that would cause them to linger, other than waiting for the street lights to change
  • however, there is a viewing area in front of the installation, which shows that the area has potential to become more than just a transit area

 

Interview

I decided to interview a friend of mine. She is an architect based in Thailand. She also teaches Design Thinking at a Thai university.

I showed her some photos of the Grid Gallery and asked her what she thought about it. This is her reply:

If the screen is used for interactive, it has to be some space around the screen.  The space is called “transition space” which is the area around the object or a room we are about to enter.  You can imagine that when we are about to go in the house, we have veranda or porch, similarly in wallenberg hall, we have foyer.  Veranda, porch, foyer are transition space.  because people might actually stop, see, gather around.

However, it really depends on the message of what the artist plan to deliver.  Sometimes if the message is long, or important like raising awareness on important issues, it might be better if the user/audience can take sometimes after interacted with the arts to reflect.  if this is the case, then the screen should be put in the space like waiting area, such as bus stop or the kios where there are waiting seat.

Looking at the grid gallery screen from the website you gave me, it seems like the location is where people walk pass by, walk to somewhere, or in a hurry (because it near staircase).  Then I would say the interactive arts on the screen might be just for fun or very noticable, but not the sophisticate message.


Online research

Statistics

To supplement my observations, I decided to go online and look for information about Sydneysiders in general.

I found this interesting image of what the “average” person in Sydney looks like based on a composite photograph. (Source)

I also found some information from the 2006 census:

  • More or less equal #  of males and females
  • 44% in the 25-54 age range
  • Nearly 32% born overseas
  • Slightly greater percentage of professional employees compared to the rest of Australia

This tells me the following things about my target audience:

  • need to design for both males and females
  • a large bulk of population are professionals
  • take the multicultural population into account

Of course, the population in Wynyard will be slightly different. As it is in the Sydney CBD, there will obviously be a large concentration of professionals. Nevertheless, I think it’s a great starting off point with regards to understanding the potential viewers. Some of the statistics I found reinforced the daytime observations I made. (I’m not taking the night observations into account because there really weren’t enough people for me to really analyze.) For example, I did notice that a lot of the people were in the 25-54 age range, were professionals, and came from varied ethnicities.

 

Existing urban installations

Another part of my online research consisted of finding existing urban installations that I enjoyed. These served as my inspiration and will probably affect my future design ideas for this project.

Mobispray

http://vimeo.com/8697681

Mobispray is a spray painting tool. It’s a lot like the stuff Goldy and I developed for our 3rd assignment – the artist uses a mobile device to create artwork. Here you have the University of Helsinki with art all over the side.

The concept is pretty straightforward. Seeing the picture come to life was really interesting. One of the settings of this was right by the side of a busy road. I could see cars zoom by as the artist was creating his masterpiece, so I think the setting would’ve been similar to that of the Grid Gallery.

I think there’s a difference with seeing someone create random scribbling to try out the technology – as most of us were doing a few weeks ago – and actually seeing someone create artwork. The fact that there is more of a purpose and artistic ability to it makes it really interesting. For example, nobody’s going to watch someone randomly scribbling on a sidewalk but people will stop and watch to see a chalk artist create something.

Inflatable bag monster

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH6xCT2aTSo

The second interactive installation I liked is this bag monster concept. Basically, you’re just walking through the city and you see something that looks like a pile of garbage bags.

But through the air vents, the plastic bags suddenly become filled with air. What at first appeared to just be a random collection of trash it turns out to be a sculpture!

I like the idea of this installation because it’s taking something that’s very ordinary and commonplace – and possibly negative – and turning it into something cool.

Candy Chang’s work

http://candychang.com/

Other interactive art installations that I found interesting were Candy Chang’s work. She believes that “design of our public spaces should better reflect what is important to the residents and users of public space.” I think that’s another perspective to interactive art that we should consider when designing.

I like that her projects involve input from the users, and this input is not just “superficial.” I mean superficial in the sense that it’s not just random movement or noise or whatever. Rather, she asks for information that requires a bit of thought or reflection on the part of the viewer.

Intersection

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YOFNSRiexY

The next thing I found which was really interesting was something called “Intersection” by Graham Smith. One of the reasons I chose this is because it’s very “urban.” But, more importantly, it has also become something of a cultural or historical artifact – it’s displaying the changes in the Berlin Wall. So it’s using the wall to transport the user to another wall.

 

Things I learned from these existing urban art installations:

  • The process of creation of something beautiful is also interesting
  • It is possible to create something unique and unexpected from something ordinary
  • Public spaces should reflect what matters to the residents
  • Make use of the physical attributes of the installation to easily translate into another setting

 

Surveys

I conducted an online survey using Google Docs regarding people’s behaviors around Sydney CBD. I just used a convenience sampling method to gather participants. I was able to get a total of 24 responses. (Warning: a large percentage were in the 19-25 age range. This is in contrast to the majority of the Sydney audience which is in the 25-54 age range.)

I uploaded a summary of the results in case you’re interested.

Summary of findings:

  • 42% were in the CBD regularly for Uni/work. 17% stated they ran errands at least once or twice a week. 59% saying they went there to spend time with friends/family at least once or twice week
  • 58% stated they would stop and observe if there was something interesting going on in the street, with an additional 33% saying they would do so occasionally
  • 62% stated that they would usually be in areas well known to them (uni, work, Darling Harbour, Town Hall, etc.), and wouldn’t wander off to/explore lesser known areas unless they were going someplace specific
  • most of them would be in the Sydney CBD from early afternoon til evening
  • in the order of popularity, they would stop to observe the following: street performance, artistic performance (artist creating artwork), interesting piece of artwork (ex. sculpture), outdoor exhibit (ex. photographs), informational plaque
  • these are examples of things that made them stop in their tracks and watch/observe/engage: acrobatic show, magic show, accidents, fights, sales, a band, nearly getting hit by a bus, graffiti, a graffiti artist in action

 

Scholarly paper review

  • “CO2nfession: Engaging with values through urban conversations” -Tuck W Leong & Martin Brynskov (Source)

I liked how they moved beyond using interactive installations just for fun and entertainment and instead tried to apply the technology to values. If you were one of the folks who wanted to explore using the installation to affect change, I suggest reading the paper.

 

 

Thanks for reading! Kudos if you got this far :P

Maria Carmela (Mela) Sogono