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Yesterday I submitted my final paper. About five minutes later I came up with a better title, but oh well. I thought it would be great to share and see other student’s work, so I’m going first.

New title: Designing for Quality Critical Discourse

Abstract: Critique is important in many fields, including art and interaction design. In this paper I will look at two sources that allow for photography critique; Deviant Art and Flickr. I argue that specifics of Deviant Art allow for and foster quality critical discourse. I argue that certain formal characteristics along with use qualities create a particular style. This style is then affected and made sense of through social structures such as photography culture. This style fosters better quality critiques, even though it has weaknesses. I end by presenting six principles for designing for quality critique.

Full Paper: Hill, John Wayne. 2010. Designing for Quality Critical Discourse. http://goo.gl/oZ94O

Overall, I’m very happy with my paper. While I don’t generally enjoy writing, I did enjoy the emergent thought and sheer usefulness of the pre-writing activities that Jeff taught us. I think I most enjoyed laying out an argument and using theories that I had never before touched. This allowed me to be confident in what I was thinking and arguing. What scared me the most was the while writing I ended up defining Interaction Style, and was not confident at all in doing so. However, after talking with Jeff I tackled the issue head on and devoted 4 paragraphs to the definition. I’m sure it’s not great, but I feel much better about it. In brief, I defined interaction style as “the consistent treatment of formal qualities and use qualities made sense of through social structures”. I’m not sure this is anywhere close to good, but it’s something. Overall, this paper has greatly affected how I view critique interfaces, and has had a huge impact on my capstone. I hope others will share their papers as well!

This morning I somehow started thinking about Somaesthetics. I was thinking about running, yoga, and other forms of exercise and how I hope to better practice Somaesthetics myself. Suddenly, I thought of a possibly great example of Somaesthetics, Fight Club.

Ok, now that you’ve stopped laughing think about this seriously. In Fight Club they use fighting to bring themselves more ‘down to earth’ and get away from material things. Throughout each fight, and as the movie moves onward, the philosophy behind Fight Club really gets teased out. I couldn’t help but think of how great an example Fight Club provides us for Somaesthetics.

Before I return you to your regulary scheduled paper writing, let me provide a couple of videos that might help bring about my point.

 

Basic overview of the movie:

Some philosophies:

And just for fun, Jane Austen’s Fight Club

So, like many of you, I’ve struggled with this paper. I’m mostly done writing it, though I’m not happy with a particular section. Furthermore, abstracts are hard. So, I’m wondering if I can get some feedback on my abstract and title (I think my title is horrible).

Here it is:

TITLE
Deviant Art Critique: Towards Better Critique Interaction Designs

ABSTRACT
Critique is important in many fields, including art and interaction design. In this paper I will look at two sources that allow for photography critique; Deviant Art and Flickr. I will argue that Deviant Art provides for a better quality critical discourse. I argue that certain formal characteristics along with use qualities create a particular style. This style is then affected and made sense of through social structures such as photography culture. This style leads to better quality critiques, even though it has weaknesses. I end by presenting six principles for designing for quality critique.

Recently on Facebook Nina sent me a message about the iPhone photograph app Instagram, as I’m doing my capstone on photography and Nina rocks. This application allows users to take photos, add some sort of filter or effect to the image, and share it with others. It’s exploded in popularity lately. What Nina sent was a small blurb about and a link to a blog post by Clive Thompson.

In this post Thompson talks about how the application Instagram has helped him to change the way he looks at things. After using the app for some period of time Thompson says “But for me, the really deep appeal of Instagram is more subtle: It changes the way I look at the world around me.”

Later, he goes on to talk about how Instagram has changed the way he looks at his world saying:

“But filtering makes me look at stuff with fresh eyes. The unaltered picture of that brownstone door was attractive enough; but after the Lomo filter I realized it reminded me of a Tardis. I began scrutinizing otherwise blasé stuff in my house, wondering, hmm, how would that look with a filter applied?”

This is very interesting to me. Like most photographers (speaking from intuition here), I went through a similar visual change and sensitivity when I first became serious about photography. This happens, I believe, because amateur photographers are told “just get out there and shoot”, and indeed many follow just that advice. To me, the thinking behind this is really a theory of Somaesthetics. For photographers, you can’t develop your eye for photography by simply reading about it or studying photography masters, you must get out there and shoot. Furthermore, many photographers never receive any formal training, but instead say they learn by simply “getting out there and shooting”.

So, while I’ve never heard about Somaesthetics before our current reading, it would seem that Photography culture cerainly practices a bit. Thompson’s article also seems to point out that by ‘doing’ sensitivity is increased, and perhpas I’m stretching this a bit, but so is his life.

References
Thompson, Clive. (December 6, 2010). How Instagram changes the way I look at things. Retrieved from http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2010/12/that_door_above.php

Shusterman, R. (1999). Somaesthetics: A disciplinary proposal. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 57(3), 299–313. Blackwell Publishing; The American Society for Aesthetics. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/432196

I’m in the middle of writing this class paper. I’ve been finding out that my pre-writing has both helped and hindered me quite a lot. It has helped in laying out the basics of what I want to say and allowing me to merely expand upon my argument while I’m writing. It has hindered me because I failed to include a lot of quotes and straight definitions. Instead, I normally paraphrased things down to nifty little bullet points, in the future I would pre-write differently.

However, as I go through this paper, I find myself assuming a lot of things about my audience. I’m assuming that they believe and know that creativity can be a form of discourse. I’m also assuming some basic readings. My question then is, how do I know what is safe to assume, within our community, and what is not? Should I go about this paper as strictly a class paper assuming safely some things that we have read (while referencing of course) or should I write this paper as a CHI paper assuming a possibly different set of background readings?

In keeping with people posting progress and being transparent, I present to you my Argument Outline, which includes a bit of a paper outline as well. It’s a bit lengthy as I’ve put in some data points and questions along the way of the outline. These data points and questions really just emerged while writing the argument outline, so I went with it.

Argument/Paper Outline

  • Deviant Art provides a better
    quality critical discourse
    • What does quality critical
      discourse look like?
    • What does non-quality critical
      discourse look like?
    • Why does this matter?
  • It has particular formal
    features that help this
    • 100+ word critique
    • 5 star ratings
      • vision
      • originality
      • technique
      • impact
      • overall (set by system)
    • Fair/Unfair Critique button
    • Threaded Comments
    • Sharing Features
    • Favorite
    • Print
    • Enlarge Photo (while staying
      on the same page)
    • Photo statistics
    • Featured in (group)
    • Add to group
    • Photograph and Camera Details
      • Only available sometimes
    • Ability to “collect”
      photos
    • Edit a photo
    • Emoticons
    • Download a photo
    • Artist Name (deviant name)
    • Artist Avatar (deviant id)
    • Photo Title
    • Photo Category
    • Artist Comment
    • Watchers
    • Comment on Critique itslef
  • It has particular use qualities
    that help this
    • Ambiguity
      • Rating system has no intrinsic
        meaning
      • Written critique adds meaning
        to the ratings
    • Identity
      • Critiques are linked to
        the criticizers profile page
      • Every critique is published
        right away
      • Criticizers ‘watchers’
        are notified when a new critique is published by the criticizer
    • Social Actability
      • Critique is automatically
        published
      • No ability to edit a published
        critique
      • Critique is out there in
        the world for all to see
      • Criticizer is able to hide
        commentary of critique
      • Conversation (through comments)
        between photographer and criticizer
        • Happens only after the critique
          is published
    • Personal Connectedness
      • Links to criticizer’s
        profile page
      • Artist can choose to accept
        or reject a critique as fair/unfair
      • Artist can add commentary
        to critique
  • These formal and use qualities
    create a particular style
    • What is style?
  • This style is affect and
    made sense of through social structures
    • What social structures?
      • Camera type
      • Photography culture
      • Camera settings and details
      • Photographers use of particular
        software
      • Photos can belong to groups
        • Acceptance into a group
          is not guaranteed
        • There are group norms and
          group styles
      • Terminology of photography
      • Terminology of art
      • Terminology of Deviant Art
        • “deviations”
          • From what, a norm?
          • What is the norm?
    • How is style affected by
      social structures?
    • How is this style made sense
      of through social structures?
      • Marxism?
  • This style is also emergent
    through embodied subjectivity
    • What is embodied subjectivity?
    • How does it help style emerge?
    • Flow of leaving a critique
    • Critique is emergent
    • Values of photography and
      criticizer are embedded into critique
  • This style leads to better
    quality critical discourse
    • How does this style lead
      to a quality critical discourse?
    • Why does this matter?
    • What does this mean for
      the HCI community and field?
  • However, it still has weaknesses
    • What are these weaknesses?
      • Poor flow while leaving
        a critique
        • Screen size limitations
        • Vertical layout
      • Pliability?
      • Transparency?
      • Relevance?
      • Technological determinism
        plays a role in what kind of critique can be given

      Ok, so that looks really long, sorry. However, all of this was pretty emergent as I whiteboard-ed out my thoughts in the wonderful whiteboard room. Furthermore, most of this was just a quick expansion of pre-existing writings I’ve done for this paper. The process of going from a basic argument to this took me about 3 hours, maybe a bit more. I’d be happy to have some feedback or commentary.

In our class yesterday Jeff was talking about different definitions of style. I thought it would be useful for my paper to go through our book, Barnard’s Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture, to gather different definitions.

Meyer Schapiro defines style as

“constant form – sometimes the constant element, qualities, and expression in art of an individual or group” (Barnard, p. 173)

Barnard himself uses Schapiro’s definition to inform his own definition of style as

“the consistency in the way an individual or group treats the formal elements of art or visual culture” (Barnard, p. 173)

Hebdige, in the chapter on Formalism and Structuralism defines style as

“intentional communication, as homology and a signifying practice” (Barnard, p. 187)

In the chapter on Marxism Hadjinicolaou says that style

“stems from the society which produces it.” He goes on to say that style is “both form and content” and that it “belongs to a class or section of a class” (Barnard, p. 122-123)

Hadjinicolaou then agrees with Antal’s definition of style as

“a specific combination of the elements of subject and form” (Barnard, p. 123)

I think it’s clear that these notions and definitions of style all vary in some way, which makes style a bit hard to clearly define. Are there other definitions of style that might inform my paper?

Further on, Barnard talks about Hadjinicolauo’s definition of visual ideology which I find interesting. Hadjinicolauo defines visual ideology as

“a specific combination of the formal and thematic elements of a practice through which people express the way they relate their lives to the conditions of their existence.” (Barnard, p. 123)

Today, I was hard at work in the ‘fish bowl’ or white board room in the new Design Studio. I had laid out about 7 papers, 2 books, and my laptop as resources. I quickly went through my cliff notes from all the papers I had before me to refresh my mind. After getting situated I started scrawling on the white boards. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I wrote around the entire room. Every surface has some sort of writing upon it. I was mentally empty, but not ‘drained’.

After a quick break, I came back in an effort to “climate control” my brainstorm session (Bardzell, 2010). I took up some markers and started jotting down some quesitons. I started making connections between readings. Circling here, arrows everywhere, doodles strewn acorss the walls. I was feeling good and making some awesome connections, when I had a sudden insight, which I quicky and sloppy wrote on the wall. I was looking to form a connection between formal elements of a design (the critique feature on Deviant Art) and the experience of leaving a critique. I could ‘see’ how it all fit in my mind, but I couldn’t really explain it.

I had been in this spot before with my post on Flickr. But this time was different. After my last post, I went and talked with Jeff. We spoke of how I could use some theories that we had been learning to bridge this gap between formal elements and experience. But, I had no real idea how to do this. Today, I might have made the leap.

Here is the insight I had. Bell talks about formal (intrinsic elements) but leaves out social influences. Hebdige and Polhemus bridge formal elements to style which is hard to take directly to interaction design. Then Lowgren takes style to Interaction (styles) with Use Qualities (the piece I was missing before). Finally Dewey and Baktin can bridge interaction to experience.

In a more simple form, it looks like this:

I’m wondering what other people think. Does this make sense to you? Does it seem like a good direction in which to head? I think that most of my argument relies on this bridging, so commentary would help a lot. Thanks! Also, to add more context, if needed, here is my pre-writing work. HillJohnWayne_pre-writing.

In a recent paper, we read Jonas Lowgren’s nineteen use qualities. I’m going to attempt to think through a particular use quality, ambiguity, while looking at the critique functionality found on Deviant Art.

Lowgren talks about how ambiguity in HCI is normally thought of as a bad thing, which gets in the way of efficiency. Lowgren then goes on to say:

Ambiguity makes easy interpretation impossible by creating situations in which people are forced to participate to make meaning of what they experience. The ambiguous design sets the scene for meaning-making but does not prescribe the interpretation. The task of making the ambiguous simulation comprehensible befalls the human actor, which may lead to inherent pleasure as well as deeper conceptual appropriation of the design.

deviant art critique

A screen shot of the Deviant Art Critique Feature

It is in this sense of ambiguity that Deviant Art’s critique feature works well. In DA’s critique feature, a criticizer is asked to rate a particular ‘deviation’, or artwork, based on Vision, Originality, Technique, and Impact. These ratings are on a 5 star scale. The criticizer is also forced to provide a minimum 100 word written critique to the author of the work. I think the interaction of these two elements, the ratings and the written critique, create an ambiguity that allows for each individual to create their own meaning of the critique feature itself.

In the ratings section, each label is in-and-of-itself very ambiguous. Labels like “Vision” and “Originality” mean different things to different people at different times. The meaning of these words also likely change based on the artifact being critiqued.

When paired with the ratings, the written critique (with it’s minimum 100 word count) provides some sense-making to the criticizer. It is within this text area and the written words that a criticizer can add meaning to the ambiguous rating system. By writing about different elements of the artifact meaning is given to the rating system labels.

In conclusion, I hope that I’ve shown how the ambiguous design of the Deviant Art critique feature brings about meaning-making for each individual criticizer. By combining ambiguous rating system labels with a written critique, criticizers are actually forced to make sense of the design in a multitude of ways, which likely change over time. I believe that this design brings about a more serious critique and a more lively conversation between users.

For an example critique, look at a recent photography critique that I wrote on Deviant Art. http://johnwaynehill.deviantart.com/critique/299476968/#comments

[Note: This post was originally shared on my own blog, but I've re-posted here because I thought it might be interesting]

In looking at exemplars of photo sharing and critiquing sites, I’ve attempted to list out the formal qualities of each particular website. In this post I’ll be specifically looking at Flickr. I’ll list out the formal qualities found throughout most of Flickr, focus in on a photo page, look at Flickr groups, and finally try to draw out an interaction style of Flickr.

Formal Qualities of Flickr

Through Flickr the following formal qualities can be found, in no particular order:
Read the rest of this entry »

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