Research Findings

12:40 AM in General by Adityo Pratomo

After the presentation I just realized that I missed the chance to completely tell my user research. So I have to apologize that this post might be extremely lengthy because I have so much to tell.

This week’s assignment provided me with a basic understanding of what I am expected to make for the Grid Gallery. Since the semester’s project is to create an interactive art for a public display, it would be natural for me to gain my understanding of what will suit the gallery and its surroundings. To achieve that, I have to do some user research as well as paper research to gain the design requirements from the social as well as the theoretical point of view. Having that in mind, I began to assemble a plan to get the required data.

The Observation

I started by doing user research of the area where the Grid Gallery is, to get basic understanding of the gallery’s surroundings as well as the position of the gallery itself in respect to it’s surroundings. I did an observation in different times in different periods. In total, I did 4 observations.

The first one I did was at Saturday night. I went there with Mela, Susanne and Phil, sat there for about 30 minutes that was my first encounter with the gallery and the quiet surroundings that was completely against my initial perception of a public display in the CBD area. The second one wagon Monday, after the office hour where I observe and recorded the surroundings for about 40 minutes. It was unsurprisingly livelier than the other day, but not much pedestrians, even though they look relaxed. Two people were actually waving their hands to the camera, evidences of a more lively feeling after the office hour. I have to note that the road itself were pretty much packed with cars while the Energy Building looks more interesting with lights.

My next two observations were done in daytime to compare the results with what I previously had. In Wednesday morning, I did an observation from 8.30 AM to 9.50 AM. I then got an impression that office workers heavily dominated the pedestrian’s traffic. They all looked in hurry and most of them walked alone. Compared to the previous observations, I could see that there were many more people walked in this time. Unsurprisingly, the place became quiet after 9.30 AM, confirming that most of the people who walked are office workers and by that time they were already at their workplace. A lot of the people who walked came from Wynyard’s way. There were only one time where suddenly packs of people came from King St Wharf’s way, and it was because at that time the ferry arrived at the wharf. This is a prime example of how much the pedestrian’s traffic is influenced by the public transport service.

The last observation was done on Thursday at lunchtime for about 40 minutes. I could see people coming from different eating-places that scattered nearby the Grid Gallery even though that didn’t make the gallery attractive to them. One thing that I note, people are a little bit less stressful compared to the morning and the tendency is they will go out with colleagues. From the various restaurants near the gallery, I could see that there’s a clear view to the display, from the uphill from Wynyard, or from a path nearby the Westpac’s food court. These are the places where many people in that area went for their lunch. Again, just like the morning, more people are walking on the street across the Grid Gallery as opposed to the street in front of the Grid Gallery display with the ratio of roughly 4:1.

In the end I managed to come up with a more global conclusions from these observation. The area is quite static, in terms that the flow of people around it are influenced by the business activity on that area, no wonder it then becomes less crowded during weekend. Some information sharing with other classmates also justified this, because the observations result in the same thing. This is also confirmed by the interview that David and me did with a receptionist of the Ibis hotel that is located in front of the Grid Gallery and also from the interview that I did with the cashier from a mini market nearby.

The Survey
Parallel to the observation, I also did a survey in the Pure Data mailing list about how they would/usually use a public display as a media for an interactive art piece. I chose this mailing list because I’ve been in that mailing list for a long time and I know that there are active new media artists there. I know they’re good at what they’re doing and I know how they love discussion, so it would be proper for a question like this to be asked there.

After few days I managed to get several response, which are to be honest more than comprehensive for the assignment. Highlights of the suggestions and hints that I got of the survey results include:

  • Create and inviting and provoking interactive art
  • Make it easy for the user to interact
  • Make it enjoyable for the audience
  • The art can connecting audience with the space
  • Keep it simple
  • Vast majority of public will probably ignore it
  • Putting the image of the viewer in the work can help

I then tried to synthesize all of these findings, combined them to create a temporary conclusion of the design requirements. Here are what I came with eventually

  • Office worker will be the main audience they are the main inhabitants of the gallery’s surroundings and somehow I have to make them connected to the interactive art
  • More people will have a better view of the scene since they are across the Grid Gallery
  • There are enough number of people to create interactivity in the screen since they are walking in front of the display
  • Cars may block the view so what will be displayed have to be interesting and can quickly grab the audience’s attention
  • Make sure the displayed images and the interaction itself is easy to understand, appealing, playful and responsive

Now I want to pause for a moment to reflect and clarify why I didn’t do any interview to the people that work near the gallery. The reason is simple; I don’t have any quality questions to ask them as I’m still formulating the brief itself. It would be tedious if I bravely asked them “what do you want to see in the screen?” One is because this is preference, it’s not qualitative and therefore it won’t help me creating the design requirement. Two, the display has not been active for quite few periods; therefore basically anything that displayed there will be regarded as an anomaly and will therefore create curiosity among the people. Three, no matter how dull, an interactive art is still an interactive art, it’s still a fresh idea for many people, this itself will be more than enough to attract people, believe me, I’ve seen curious faces of people in many interactive art exhibition. Therefore I chose to focus on observing the flow and the behavior of people on the gallery area and use the display as something attached to the gallery.

The Paper Research
This is the next step that I did. I want to get a more theoretical view to support and to further develop my findings from user research. I particularly interested in two facts, one is that the office workers are so used to walk alone yet they might be working on the same building or even probably on the same company but in different floors. The other one is the fact that the position of the Grid Gallery where there’s a somewhat natural place for the spectator and the performer in respect to the display’s position to where people are. I then figured that I need to do a research in how to create a connection between these individuals using the public display as a medium. Because, there’s a potential interaction happening here, something that may create a connection between two or more strangers.

So I read a paper entitled “Designing Display for Human Connectedness” by Stefan Agmanolis. I’ll keep it brief here; I’ve included my slide in the end of this blog post regarding the findings that I got from the paper. I just want to point out some of the important aspects that can be used when designing such display to connect humans.

1. Think beyond the screen
How does the display integrate with the surrounding space? How does it meld with yet have its own identity within its architectural context? How does it make best use of the constraints presented by the environment within which it is set? Is there any possibility of extending the display itself? This is interesting because then the interaction can be happen in an extended time and space, not only in front of the display.
2. Engage the periphery
Engage and appropriately manipulate the different levels of attentiveness and human’s innate ability to seamlessly shift between them as needed.
3. Transcend the time
Merge information gathered over time and reflect them back so that the audience can has a sense of a passage of time. This will give a sense of nostalgic, creating a stronger bond with the space
4. Motivate interaction
Of course, this is the single most important bit, in fact half the battle in designing an interactive situated or public display is designing how the display will invite that interaction.

Sadly, the paper doesn’t reveal enough about how to create this engaging interaction, so after few searches I encountered another paper entitled “Enticing People to Interact with Large Public Displays in Public Spaces” by Harry Brignull and Yvonne Rogers. One particular interesting theory that I got from that paper is the process of how an audience can be transformed into a performer. This involves a process of encourage awareness to create a casual passer-by to become a spectator and then encourage participation so that he/she can be a performer and interact with the display.

Those two steps suggest that to engage people, the interactive display must be showed in an attractive way in a place where people flow. This can encourage awareness. Then, a lightweight and easy interaction with a visible effect will encourage the spectator to be a performer. Don’t forget that the whole system must provide an easy escape in case the performer embarrasses him/herself. The paper also suggest the use of a helper, a person who can do a demo of how the interactive display works as well as promoting the existence of that piece while attract more people to interact.

Moreover the theories suggested in this paper is pretty much inline with the findings that I had before, especially the separation of spectator and participator. It seems that my initial plan of creating a display to complement and counter the gallery surroundings will work for this display and environment.

In the end, I managed to create these design requirements for my brief

1. Audience will be office workers
2. Connect audiences with their surroundings
3. Spectators are the people across the Grid gallery
4. Performer are the people in front of the Grid Gallery display
5. Involve social interactions and can be used by multiple users
6. Create an engaging display with a possibility to extend that display into a different medium

That concludes my lengthy blog post. I’m all fired up to create something for the Grid Gallery. It’s going to be challenging yet I’m intrigued by the fact that the display can be a spatial element of the city physical existence while at the same time act as a passive social member in the community interaction.

Links:

1. Designing Display for Human Connectedness research paper: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.59.5456&rep=rep1&type=pdf

2. Enticing People to Interact with Large Public Displays in Public Spaces research paper: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.129.603&rep=rep1&type=pdf

3. My presentation slide (pdf) http://www.slideshare.net/adityopratomo/adityo-pratomo-grounding-presentation-pdf