Midterm: Exploring Regret

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I regret. Though I generally try to avoid speaking for every person in the world, I think we all have regrets. With regret comes guilt and shame, emotions that manifest as a mental “weight” that can feel very physical. For my midterm, I want to explore the concept of regret, and create a collaborative platform where users can work to reduce the weight of the regrets of others.

I envision a few elements combined to create this environment. The first, which I will require each user to do at least once before being able to interact with other elements, is a place to enter regrets. As regrets are added, some variable controlling weight increments upwards. I’m not sure what visual cue there will be connected to the “weight,” if any.

Combined with this will be a chat interface for users to discuss regret as a concept or the specific regrets that users have contributed. There will also be a collaborate drawing portion that would ask folks to draw the opposite of what they regret – that is, what they are most proud, happy, or content about in their life. Interacting with either the chat or drawing interface will reduce the collective weight over time.

All of this seems doable to me in a week. I never managed to get collaborative drawing working without massive glitches, so that will be a small challenge. How to display things visually in order to strengthen the conceptual framework will also be a challenge. I look forward to working through them for my midterm.

Midterm Game Proposal

The game I have in mind is too complex for the midterm. It will be possible to pull back a bit for the sake of having something done in two weeks, but for now I’m going to employ blue sky thinking in my description.

The issue I want to build my game around is one that I explored as a part of my final project last semester: the desire of folks who have left the military to return and, for those who have experience with deployed environments, to return to them. It seems crazy, and is really hard to vocalize, but there are many examples where people have attempted to do it. Jenny Pacanowski did a great job in her poem We Are Not Your Heroes. Natalie Lovejoy’s musical, Deployed, centers around this tension as it plays out for one soldier. Ben Fountain wrote about this issue, and how civilians contribute to it (oftentimes with good intentions), in his novel Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I’d like to try and capture it in an arcade game.

Here’s a sketch of the game. Forgive my limited artistic ability:

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It’ll have several elements: the character, a crowd chasing him, a plane dropping yellow ribbons on him, and a background. I’ve been playing with the idea of a progression through the sprites I made:

running01running02running03running04running05running06running07running08

These took FOREVER, so I don’t have any additional sprites this week. I envision the background slowly shifting from suburban America to the desert, and congratulating the player on making it home when the transformation is complete. This seems complicated to implement, but the message is pretty dependent on being able to create this in the game.

For a controller, I may make a more polished version of my bag. I’m also playing with the scrubbing of a boot controlling speed of the player. We’ll see what works out before the midterm.

 

A Thousand Words: interactive, visual storytelling

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 2.02.30 PM

There’s a lot to write about the power of storytelling, and within that the power of telling a story visually. I arrived at the concept of sending stills from the webcam to tell a story because I thought it represented the most powerful potential of a technology that doesn’t seem to have much power.

This week, I ended up making pretty much no changes to the in-class javascript, and instead tried to give it a new context through the use of HTML and CSS. I want to make a separate canvas for each user connected appear at the bottom, but had trouble making that code work.

I think this concept has a lot of potential if I choose to build off it as a midterm or final project.

The Divide: a chat interface for a militaristic society

documentation

In America, the military and civilian worlds exist with extremely little overlap. That’s a massive problem for those few (extremely few, 0.5% of the population few) who have to suffer the consequences of the ignorance arising from this gap. In expanding on the chat example, I wanted to try and create something that would make a statement about this divide and the need to reduce it. Continue reading

Design of Everyday Things, Tech Journal

Reflection on The Design of Everyday Things

This reading packed a lot into it, and there were lots of things that stood out.

I found it really interesting how it overlapped with last week’s reading by fleshing out in lots of detail the ways in which computing has and continues to be shaped by a machine-first orientation. We’re trained to blame ourselves if we fail to use a tool correctly, rather than blaming the design. It’s so ingrained we don’t even give it much thought anymore, and the reading did a great job of bringing the concept back to the fore. He does a great job of advocating for a more human-centered orientation to design.

I’ve explored positive psychology as a thing to a great extent (I’ll bring a great book on it to class this next week!), but never thought about it in relation to design and technology. I’m a HUGE advocate of the sort of orientation shift the author talks about in transforming the concept failure into learning experiences. As designers and as humans, failure is part of the process and of life. It’s so easy to let failure break our morale and motivation to continue down a certain path, but by reconsidering the role failure plays in the larger picture, we can start to use it as fuel for the opposite.

I also really liked the example on page 43 of the drill and the hole. It’s a powerful metaphor to describe the complexity that needs to be navigated in the creation of successful design. People don’t need a drill, they need a hole. But what do they need the hole for? What do they need what they need the hole for? And so it goes back, with each iteration allowing the designer to better understand the problem and, from there, to design a better solution.

Tech Journal

The technologies I used over the week, and descriptions of the mind and body contexts involved in their use.

tech journal

Week 2 – Take Your Pills

Take Your Pills is a static 2D game that looks to critique the healthcare system veterans navigate. There are lots of things I could do to expand this out. I’d like to add audio. The reason there isn’t sound this week is as much conceptual as technical – though we haven’t really learned much about including audio, I’m also not yet sure what kind of audio would be most appropriate to this project. I’m also interested in somehow portraying the consequences of overmedication through game mechanics – perhaps speed could slowly decrease with each pill caught, or the movement directions could randomly remap between the four arrow keys each time a pill is caught.

I wanted to implement a scoreboard that would keep track of the number of each of the six medications the user had caught, but got very frustrated as I tried to set it up and eventually decided to leave it for a future week.

Play it here.

Inspiration – (Re)Creating the Experience of War

As a lot of folks at ITP already know through my past work, I care deeply about reducing the gap between military and civilian in America. There are two projects that are on the older end but have proven to be incredible inspirations to me for quite some time. I can’t pick one or the other, so I’m going to write about both.

Wafaa Bilal – Domestic Tension (2007)

Wafaa-Bilal

Domestic Tension is a performance by Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi-American artist who created the piece to bring the very distant war in Iraq front and center for those here. For a month, he lived in a studio space with a paintball gun pointed at him. Anyone could connect to the gun via the internet and move/fire it. Additionally, an online platform allowed for discussion and comments, some of which ended up being terribly racist and some of which were supportive and contemplative. It can be very difficult to conceive of life as a civilian in a war zone. This project help bring the reality of living in a space during an invasion front and center.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) – Operation First Casualty (2000s)

Another project responding to the Iraq War, and doing so by attempting to bring the realities of war front and center to Americans, was Operation First Casualty. Members of IVAW wore their uniforms in large American cities and simulated some of the operations they participated in while in Iraq (using actors to stand in for civilians and enemy combatants). Again, the project asked observers to consider what life would be like if this were a daily reality.

In America, the military plays a massive role in our social fabric. It’s arguably our largest and most pervasive social institution, but most have little conception of what military service and war are like. Though it will never be possible to have a perfect understanding without serving, closing the gap between military and civilian is an incredibly important step in developing more healthy relationships between society and military. The above projects are inspiring examples of this that I have long admired and carry with me in my own work.