Midterm Project Proposals

Submitted by m-craig on Fri, 02/15/2013 - 19:28

Group Members: Ajeeta Dhole, Christine Schantz, Michael Craig


Proposal #1) The Interactive Pathway

This project begins from a simple observation: the Berkeley Campus, at night, is extremely, perhaps inhospitably dark.  While we haven’t yet done demographic research on this, we speculate that this darkness often results in people avoiding the walk through Campus at night, and may create a sense of isolation and fear in the few who do attempt it.  Even a glance at the campus after dark (see photos below) reveals the degree to which members of the Berkeley community seem to avoid it.

We want to make the campus a more attractive place after dark by creating light-and-sound installations that respond to the movements of the human body through campus space.  These installations, which we’ve tentatively titled “The Interactive Pathway,” would respond to people’s movements through campus (input) by lighting the space they have walked through and producing calming sounds as they move (output).  Walking along the pathway would, through sensors, activate soft-colored border lights close to the ground at the pathway’s sides and produce simple, resonant musical tones as students move from one section of the pathway to another.  These simple outputs, in turn, could be integrated with more complex displays located at isolated points along the pathway.  These displays would be informational in some cases (providing such information as, for example, how many people are on campus at a given moment) and play-oriented in others (e.g. LED “sculptures” allowing multiple users to produce more complex light-and-sound patterns through more intricate input schemes embedded in the ground--perhaps similar to the game “Dance Dance Revolution.”)

In all of these cases, our goal is to make campus less forbidding after dark, both by providing needed illumination to campus environments and by actively encouraging groups to congregate around the more complex displays we propose.  Soft lights and mood sounds are intended both to produce a calming effect on those who walk the pathway and to make the campus itself safer by lighting it.  At the same time, information about the number of people on campus (or other relevant ambient info) could quell the sense of isolation that might otherwise plague lone walkers through the darkened space; and game-like cooperative displays could encourage the spontaneous formation of groups in areas of the campus where groups previously would never have converged after dark.  Such a project could also be coordinated with the efforts of political organizations such as the anti-rape coalition “Take Back the Night”--perhaps by providing useful safety information on the informational displays, integrating video testimonials into some of our displays, or coordinating the launch of the pathway with night marches, etc.

This idea is still largely inchoate, and we welcome any comments or criticisms anyone reading this may have.  Individual interactive displays, for example, could easily be separated from the pathway and become projects unto themselves, if that seems more promising.






Proposal #2) Physical Social Network

"Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier — and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. "
- Stephen Marche, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? May 2012, Atlantic Magazine

A lot of our time these days is spent staring at LCD screens on a multitude of devices, interacting with others in a graphic-intensive online world, with little access to physical gestures and cues that might offer information about our intellectual or emotional state in any given moment. We are co-located in the same physical space, yet isolated from each other. More and more of our social interactions are mediated through carefully curated online social environments designed to bring people who are geographically separate closer together.  Yet, ironically, this trend of cultivating online relationships and building social presence through computer-mediated environments often precludes opportunities for spontaneous, serendipitous, and un-curated interactions with those with whom we share physical space.

TUI has a great potential to ‘humanize’ digital experiences through physical objects and metaphors.  This project aims to create what we call “physical social networks”--that is, to extend the playful social dynamics of social networking sites into physical space through a variety of TUI implementations.  We hope to explore concepts in ambient and ‘calm’ spatial media, and to enhance and encourage complex, spontaneous collaboration and dialogue between people sharing the same physical space.

This idea, too, is at a very nascent stage--it was developed partly in response to the realization that another group has proposed a project similar to our first--and we haven’t had a chance to brainstorm implementation details yet. However, a few concepts that we want to explore are: ambient displays that allow people to broadcast their moods, emotions, or even facebook or twitter style “status updates” to others in the same physical space to invite and encourage user-initiated face-to-face or empathic interactions.  This could be achieved through metaphorical representation via mood lighting and sound; through the dissemination of actual written/graphical status updates through a common physical space; or through some combination of these two.  We’d also like to recreate online metaphors for interactions such as ‘poke’ or ‘buzz’ or ‘IM’ at a more embodied level.  The users will have full control over what they share, depending on their personalities or preferences, or how ‘social’ they’re feeling on a given day.

This could be used in any social setting where friends, colleagues or professionals share the same physical space to work, lounge, or interact. Some use cases: Our masters lounge or co-lab, an office lounge or in an open office floor plan, at professional conferences or workshops to facilitate networking.  It could also be useful in party environments, or in spaces where people from various backgrounds come together to interact socially; in these environments, it could provide a useful supplement to, or help destabilize, the formulaic verbal (and non-verbal) communication that often shapes interaction with strangers at such gatherings.

Campus After Dark
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