When I posted my concept package last week, I said I was struggling. I still feel that way. In order to try and simplify things a little bit given the tight time frame, I decided to build off a project from last semester that had major issues by rethinking about it in terms of the human-centric design process. I also wanted to think about the data used in that project in a more storytelling-heavy way, and how to use data from the near past to say something about the present and future. Given the 15th anniversary of US Military presence in Afghanistan passed on October 7th without people really caring, I think the moment is ripe to remind people of what has occurred and that these things continue to occur to some extent.
My first MVP doesn’t actually accomplish this very well at all. My goal is to present a beautiful map as a way to rope people in and then to tell a story that allows them to make sense of the map. The data presents a few challenges because of its large size – there are about 30,000 points and lines being plotted. Browsers are not able to handle the quick rendering that an interactive map would require with this data without crashing, so one constraint is that the map needs to be a static image (although it can be redrawn as many times as I need in different ways, it just cannot be manipulated once drawn.
I believe that one of the main interactions is going to be comparing users to the individuals contained within the data along dimensions of name, age, and hometown. At this point, I have the technology behind this interaction working to an extent. I’ve managed to get the map to redraw with a different color used for each match, and have gotten the records with matching names to display in the console (I’ve also managed to console out the age matches, but there are a lot of them for age ranges in the 20s and 30s so at this point I’ve disabled that).
Lots of challenges remain. The most important one being what is the context in which this interaction occurs? As of right now, there’s no introduction or background material to support the map, nor is there any information that makes it clear what it is. That’s really the meat of the project, and I’m really struggling with putting this piece of it together. Partially this is due to the complexity of the story, but there are also lots of directions I could take it. I also want to respect the fact that this is data on people who have died, and as such the context I give it requires a great deal of scrutiny to ensure this respect is given.
There’s also the question of how this would best be displayed or interacted with. Clearly I’m building it as a webpage, just like the first iteration, but I would say this was one of the weaknesses of it last semester. In my user personas, I worked through that a public, performative project that interrupts daily life would be best given the lack of awareness or concern for these issues among the general public. I’m still working through how to translate the work I’ve done to something like that, or if that can even be done. Part of this confusion is due to the class and assignment – I wanted to have a prototype to show this week, but I have a suspicion that the ideal presentation of this data for the purposes I’m using it would be outside the budget and time I have in class.
That said, if I were to pair this interface up with some sort of physical interface that would allow for the interaction to occur, a public screen-based output might be effective. That would probably depend upon venue and traffic, etc.
I’m not sure where this will go in the next week. I still have a lot to do to even make what I have into a storytelling tool, but the project is taking shape.