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So, I’m almost done reading the Falk & Dierking paper about creating museum experiences and I felt compelled to write this blog post about my feelings towards it. Before I even stop, let me first pay my respects to these museum curators and apologize, once again, for my narrow-minded view on museums and the arts. I know in a past blog post, I admitted my wrong for believing the arts were a useless field but now I must say that I now realize that I didn’t really pay much attention to the care and love that museum curators put into making museums an experiences, especially since they are dealing with a very broad audience that they want to cater to. Just reading this paper gave me a headache. I didn’t realize that museum curators had to take everything like these elements into consideration in order to give the best possible experience to their customers. Even if they aren’t following these elements down to the letter, I can understand how frustrating it can be for you to have a vision in mind for an artifact; but your visitors disclaim it and form their own vision. So, kudos to the curators!!

But getting to the actual passage of the paper, I wholeheartedly agree with what was said in this passage. A lot of things that Falk & Dierking pointed out really sat with me in a deep way, but one that I completely felt like needed to be highlighted, italicized, bolded, and capitalized would have to be on page 141, PDF page 4 where it says,

“Museums need not try to compete with
Disneyland, but they should accept that they are competing
for visitor’s leisure time and they need to be attuned to the
needs and desires of their consumers.”

True, museums are in competition with places like Disneyland and I understand that in order for them to face up to them, they have to make the necessary changes to their exhibits to pull in visitors. But there is a fine line that is set between the fun you have strictly for fun and the fun you have strictly for education. When I have a museum in mind, I don’t picture an arcade. That, to me, would be a waste of my time because I’m there to get something specific such as an educational piece for me to use in my daily life. To me, I believe a lot of people think like this and if museums try to compete with a fun activity in another spectrum, that could lead to ruin. Personally, I feel that museums are the one with the advantage versus Disneyland. Disneyland is seasonal, tickets are expensive to get in, you must pay to get on certain rides, if you’re hungry you can expect to pay an arm and a leg and let’s not factor in gas money and travel fees. Museums are the places that people go to when they know they don’t have the money to indulge in the reckless fun so they go for the fun they can afford and get something out of it.

 

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When I read this paper, it reminded me of my own experiences (inspiring moments) and about Philippe Starck’s Squid lemon squeezer. Starck was of the opinion that it was his gift (my understanding of him, maybe not his words), but now that I have read this paper, it makes sense why he made those connections.

For all the fellow IDPers this was one of the first things we learned about the design process, Constrain your design. If we really think about what happened to Starck, I propose that the combination of Calamari, lemon and thinking about making a tray constrained his problem space. He started to see the connections and came up with his sketches.

Creative density means space for odd, surprising, or useless objects in the studio and the chance to find something unexpected in surprising or interesting combinations of those objects.

This is a classic example of constraining a design process. For example, yesterday I was trying to come up with an idea for still life photography for meaning and form. My topic was Propaganda and politics. I was drawing a blank until I saw the duplo animal figures lying about in the studio. By constraining my problem space down to Politics and animal figures….the idea became obvious; a still life on Animal Farm. Now this is not a case of talent or pure inspiration. It is the power of constraints.

The ability to see connections between different things can only take place when you have different things to connect. I think is what brute force thinking is all about. The people who say are being inspired by everyday things in my mind is essentially connecting themes together and synthesizing because of constraints. It is probably why I have such a hard time writing papers, because I almost never have examples to contraint my thoughts. Lesson learned!

I am sort of confused about this paper so here are my thoughts

The author, creator, designer etc: I feel this is a paper written for HCI people or for people who attend ubicomp conferences. It seems like the author is trying to make a case for ubicomp and a potential use for ubicomp. He is proposing a new way of thinking about the use of ubicomp and design it-self.

The main reason I say he is proposing a new way of thinking about design itself is because he says “the design of spore 1.1 evokes political issues without resolving them.”  It isn’t really producing solutions but exposing current states. Which is similar to all the arguments we had towards why Warhol is art!

The work itself

The design of the system identifies the factors at play and establishes their relationships and possible consequences, but it leaves open the space of interpretation and contest. 

DiSalvo’s explanation on what spore 1.1 does would be my definition of critical design. Again he is strongly interested in highlighting existing relationships and leaving it open for debate. The interesting difference is in the notion of “connectedness“. Compared to Blood bag radio the designs DiSalvo talks about have a lot more working parts. The combination of several seemingly independent objects linked together creates something new and brings out something political in nature. The key emphasis the DiSalvo makes is that when the pieces come together, they form something with a completely new meaning which is more than a sum of its parts.

“As devices of articulation, the products of ubicomp join together, by design multiple elements in a manner that transforms the identity and meaning of those elements and results in a new object-an articulated collective.”

I seriously can’t see the difference between this and critical design. If we compare this to Dunne and Raby’s blood bag radio, I don’t see a lot of difference. Sure BBR has  less working parts, but when you look at the materiality of the items, the individual parts and their actual use, it is very different from the way it reads when you look at BBR holistically. For example; the bag looks like a bear. If you really think about it, a blood bag can infact look like a bear. Especially in the context of a children’s hospital. But the moment you attach the energy context to it, that the blood is from a pet, it changes the way you look at the bag. Now, it is a vision of the future. It exposes the energy crisis and potentially how far we are willing to go get energy for our radios.

From this point, things get a little blurry for me since he just seems to be interested in merging words! I will post more about this later, but does my summary make sense? Am I understanding this correctly or has this completely flown over my head?

What are your thoughts on this paper?

I have to say, I did read the paper before the movie. There were a few paragraphs that made my brain go a bit fuzzy but I got the general idea of it. It did make the movie a lot more bearable because I was picking up on what was being discussed in the paper but it was still difficult to feel what all of the symbolism meant. I was trying to put it all together as I watched and it felt like watching the movie was becoming a bit clinical. It went something like oh, I remember reading about this, what did it mean again and trying to think up what the paper said and trying to analyze it at once and moving on. I guess that kept my brain occupied but near the end of the movie I stopped and just casually watched the rest of the movie while eating ice cream.

I think a part of my brain was also trying to make the movie into something that makes sense to me. Basically having the movie be about doppelgängers and these doppelgängers have some sort of connection to each other but they aren’t consciously aware of it.  One saw the other which is why she dies and the other feels the lost. This is something understandable to me and then I try to work out into the more unknown from there with the help of the reading.

Even with some of the understanding from the readings, this genre of film is still very foreign to me. I do watch some things that are ambiguous with symbolism and stuff in it but I am still very use to more mainstream media.  I wasn’t able to get as excited as Jeff with the reading but it did help with the thinking during the movie.

The Kikasola reading highlighted several elements of the Double Life of Veronique that I don’t think I would have been able to identify. For example, specific allusions to symbols. 
 
This reminded me of the Barnard reading, when he talks about “Bandaxall’s 3 respects in which horizons of individuals are likely to differ”:
  1. “Understand the convention: it is something that a person must know , it is something that must be within their life-world. Unless the convention…is within the interpreter’s culture, ‘as it is within ours’, the interpreter will not know how to understand the image. (p 44)
  2. “Kinds of interpretative skill: patterns, categories, inferences, and analogies that an interpreter can either see or not see in an image. If the interpreter does not posses a certain interpretative skill, then they will not be able to understand a painting in terms of that skill.” (p 44)
  3. “One brings to the picture a mass of information and assumptions drawn from general experience… These presupossitions are part of the lilfe-world, then, in relation to which the image may be understood. (conceptual horizons)” (p 44-45)
While I believe we all possess interpretative skill, I don’t think we “understand the convention” of Kieslowski’s “abstract, non-verbal rhetoric”. For example, allusions to space as cosmicized, or the political situation of poland at the time. One example was that in watching the movie, when Veronique lets the puppet master into her hotel, my assumptions drawn from general experience kept screaming danger, Veronique you will get killed by your stalker… 
 
What is interesting about this type of rhetoric, in comparison to say an image, is the temporal aspect. In the sense that the understanding, and the sense longing occurs through time in subtle ways. The idea of foreshadowing cannot exist without the time element. How would foreshadowing work in an app? Or in a painting?

So I finally get a chance to say what I feel about this subject. Yay me! Where to start? I guess I should start with my stance on the combination of horror and humor as genre’s, especially now and today and that stance is…don’t do it anymore. Seriously, please don’t do it anymore. Perhaps I have a different feel of what horror is compared to others but I am a horror movie fan to those movies that I deem worthy. Nowadays, horror is just consisting of a killer going around, mutilating everything in their wake, a main character that somehow ends up coming across said killer, and them trying to figure out how to escape while trying to kill the killer. Sadly, horror nowadays isn’t the genre it used to be. It’s completely watered down. When I think ‘horror’, I think of something that frightens me. In fact when I watch a so-called ‘horror’ film nowadays, I don’t find myself scared but rather I laugh out loud hysterically seeing blood and guts splatter everywhere and a more expensive showing of ‘1000 Ways To Die’. In this retrospect, I guess you can call me experiencing the comedy side of horror versus the fear. Horror films nowadays are just that: a joke. They are constantly repetitious and some of the elements that happen in horror movies have just become cliched. For example, why–TELL ME WHY!!!–there is always a dumb character that walks in the woods by themselves, ends up lost and with a broken car, starts running with the killer behind them and decide to slip and fall, the one and only black character dies protecting everyone (truthfully, most black people get highly offended by it because they would end up abandoning their own mother to survive, let alone a friend or comrade), the killer walks at a slow pace and no matter how much running the main character does, they end up getting killed; and somehow they manage to squeeze in a sex scene between characters right before the man then the woman (most times but it can be vice-versa) gets killed by the killer. Personally, I feel that in order to experience horror and humor first one must fix the horror side, at least to my standards. In fact, Gore needs to have its own genre to keep people from being confused about what is true horror.

In my opinion, the movie exemplars given by Carroll to me isn’t horror. Many of them are comedy movies/sitcoms (<– and that’s stretching the word ‘comedy’ too much for some of the films)  with horror movie elements. I can’t order a large sized meal from Burger King then get a diet Coke and say that it’s a healthy meal just for the diet Coke (<–that’s intentional. ‘Healthy’ is stretched a lot for diet Coke). There may be some elements like tomato and lettuce on your sandwich and the Coke but speaking realistic, it’s not healthy at all. That’s what I see with many horror/comedy movies nowadays. It’s not done right. Heck, sometimes I question the comedy aspect just as much as the horror.

I agree with Stuart Gordon when he states that ‘The thing I have found is that you’ll never find an audiences that wants to laugh more than a horror audience.’ but the only reason I agree with him is because I’m already biased as to how horror movies should be. To me, horror movies are to test someone’s will to survive when they have absolutely nothing and the situation seems totally desperate. That’s right, NOTHING! No guns, no shovel, no laser gun, no army, no knife, taser, mace, or brass knuckles. You are naked as an individual to protect yourself. That’s how horror movies should be, it should portray helplessness to the extreme. You can’t fight the enemy, all you can do is run, hide, and hope that they don’t see or hear you. THAT’S horror. None of this bullcrap nowadays can make me feel the fear of the character lost in a place that they’ve never seen before, surrounded by multiple enemies that when spotted, they must run for their lives. In that retrospective, I can’t say that comedy needs to be in it. True, I do want to laugh when seeing how pathetic the character is and that they are screwed with absolutely no hope of making it out alive; but laughing takes away what makes horror so awesome in the first place. There is no relief, there’s only suffering and no hope for getting out of the situation.

The only two names that come to mind when I think of these are in fact videogames. Honestly, it makes it much more scarier because you ARE the character that’s helpless. This is interesting because all last night, I watched the walkthroughs for both titles after looking up the top 10 scariest games of all times list on YouTube and a reference from a friend for a more recently released game. Both of those titles are called ‘Outlast’ and ‘Amnesia: the Dark Descent’. After hearing how scary these games were from my friend and knowing how much of a Boss I am, I was like, “Man, grow some hair on your chest and quit being such a punk!’. First I watched Amnesia, without any commentary (usually I hate hearing people talk while the game is being played) and found myself screaming more than watching to the point where I couldn’t even watch the first 10 minutes. It was too quiet and had me on edge so I had to find a video with commentary to make things easier. Needless to say, I didn’t finish it. So when my friend said ‘Outlast’ is scarier, I didn’t believe him…until I watched the first few minutes of it then called it quits. Those are true horror genres. When grown men with deep voices are so frightened that they scream out 6 octaves higher, that’s real horror. People truly forgotten what it’s like being caught off guard and surprised then realize that you have no means of protecting yourself. You can’t laugh at that. But with my sense of crude humor, it is possible to instill comedy in it to my liking, but like I said before, it’s got to be done right.

Sorry for the long post! You can tell I’m passionate abut this subject. 🙂

I like this paper a lot and it got me to think a lot about horror, comedy, the fine line in between and user reactions and response to context.

Specifically, such fictions are generally
designed to control and guide our emotional responses in such a way that, ideally,
horror audiences are supposed to react emotionally to the monsters featured in
horror fictions in the same manner that the characters in horror fictions react
emotionally to the monsters they meet there

Carroll mentions this and it really resonates with me. I think a major factor to what is humor and what is horror has to do with the reactions. For me, the reactions of the actors give the audience a context…is it horror or is it comedy. That being said people themselves bring something to the table and decided if it is infact horror or comedy.

So Jared just posted a video on Day-Z. Honestly what made that funny was the guy who was laughing at it. If I personally was playing that game and that happened, I would not hang around, I would head for the hills. It may be because I am in the studio alone this late, but in my context, that was terrifying.

And that brings me to my primary argument. In movies what separates horror from comedy is the reactions of the characters. Carroll points out that horror and comedy both have similarities especially since both of them seem to take a normal situation and juxtapose it with something opposite. Dracula is dead and not dead at the same time. With this juxtapositioning in mind, I want to show the difference in the way we interpret horror and comedy is based on the reactions of the characters. The walking dead vs Shaun of the dead would be ideal examples. Specifically their first encounters with zombies.

In the walking dead the main characters expression is of confusion and fear. Character reaction to Zombies TWD_Ep_101_Sneak-325

This is similar to what Carroll says. But the point is, the actor and his reactions tell us this is serious. There are other queues in the shots, but their reaction to an unusual situation tells us that we should be fearful for him.

Whereas in Shaun of the dead, the characters react very differently to the zombies. they at first sort of ignore them, but when they find out you have to destroy the brain to destroy the zombie they get a hold of their LP’s and proceed to throw it at the zombies

shaun-of-the-dead-records

It is this absurd reaction that tells the audience that this is comedy even though almost everything else is the same. You will never see this happen in the walking dead. The actors will never take their time and go through their LP collection while death approaches them slowly.

We can see how reactions of the characters can persuade our emotional reactions. Now let me give you an example in which we bring our own feelings into it. This is not horror related, but has to do with comedy.

In Inglorious Basterds there is a scene in which the Bastards have captured a group of Nazis and proceed to brutally interrogate them. What is interesting was the audiences reactions to the interrogation. People were laughing when they were graphically scalping heads, even when they beat a soldier to death with a baseball bat. It was funny primarily because we all know the Nazis were not good people (a dumb way to summarize it!)

Similarly in the movie, the Germans were watching a movie in which the Americans were dying…the Germans in the audience were laughing, but the audience in the real theater were not. We do not associate the death of American soldiers to fun.  What I am trying to say is that we as an audience also have a say in what is funny and what is horror. Our experiences and context definitely shape our reactions.

Thus in a similar fashion, I think Jared’s video is funny only and only because the guy is laughing….I swear, watch the video without the guys laughter and it becomes pretty scary!

 

Regardless of the mental exercise that a lot of these readings present, I can’t help but jump to, how is this helping me being a better designer? How is this pushing me to think of different design paradigms, etc ? (This has no real conclusion… you have been warned)

So one thing that definitely stood out was the idea of context, and how a narrative builds not only on “cultural categories, norms, and conceptual schemes”, but being part of that context, and how the lack can alter meaning making. I see this related to our previous reading on how through the narrative, the author taps into the sensorium, and tries to trigger that reaction empathically (this person feels fear, so I am feeling fear).

“In these cases, it seems to me that once one excerpts these quotations from their narrative contexts, the danger that has been building up in the story disappears, and primarily only the anomaly remains in a way which, my theory predicts, is apt to cause laughter.” (p 252, Horror and Humor)

 

Taking this to say, interaction design for mobile devices, where the narrative is not continuous. So when we design for the user journey we are more susceptible to the aesthetic codings we embed in the interaction, since the point of interaction might be short. Alternatively, we also have an opportunity to build that narrative in broader terms perhaps, where the journey is everyday activity.

What other paradoxes are we designing through aesthetic codings and context building in digital experiences?

Reading over some of the other posts here on Carroll’s excerpt on horror and humor, it looks like several other people also found interest in the oscillation between horror and humor. Part of what makes both genres independently so engaging in my mind is the fact that they are on the surface so diametrically opposed to one another, yet have a great deal of overlap in their triggers:

The movement from horror to humor or vice versa that strikes us as so counterintuitive, then, can be explained in terms of what horror and at least one kind of humor – namely, incongruity humor – share….On the map of mental states, horror and incongruity amusement are adjacent and partially overlapping regions. Given this affinity, movement from one to the other should not be unexpected. (Carroll, p252)

While many of the examples provided pertain to cinema, I think this relationship can also be explored in other mediums. For example, the PC game Day-Z presents a number of situations for these genres to intermingle. There are two key elements to Day-Z that allow for this intersection to occur: first, player-to-player encounters are infrequent, with wide stretches of wilderness or abandoned buildings forming much of the experience. Second, because the game is essentially every person for themselves (as a zombie-survival genre game) and death is permanent, any player encounters always carry the risk of losing potentially hours of progress.

With these two things in mind, the following video represents an example of the genres of horror and humor intersecting (the video is really dark, but stick with it):

 

In this clip, we can observe a player entering an abandoned building, most likely to loot for supplies. When he reaches the top floor, he spots a player wielding a fire ax, in the process of killing another player. As he flees the building, Tiny Tim’s “Dancing in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight” plays, triggered via the in-game voice-chat mechanism by the man with the axe. As our main protagonist runs, he is slowly pursued, heightening the tension and absurdity as the music continues to play. Then, when an altercation seems imminent, the offending player suddenly disappears, appearing to log off. The intention of this action seems a deliberate, trolling behavior, and the relief on our protagonist’s voice is apparent.

While there are many examples of this type of behavior in Day-Z, the fact that it is all player generated, coupled with the game’s frequent visual bugs results in a unique combination of tension and absurdity. In Day-Z, the players are both monsters and clowns, one and the same.

I was reading Erik’s blog and saw his review of Nigel Cross’ “Design Thinking”. Erik’s critique would have fit right into our class discussion, he is quite impartial.

What I found most interesting was Nigel Cross’ rebuttal! He talks about what the publishers wanted and what he thought of Erik’s post.

 

Check it out: http://transground.blogspot.com/2011/05/book-comment-nigel-cross-design.html