BA Thesis Concept Seminar 2020

Dominik Szakacs
Jan 7 · 10 min read

Two Weeks Journal

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Instructors:

Dr. Joëlle Bitton
Prof. Jürgen Späth

Guest instructor:
Nicole Foelsterl

Course Outline:

The 2 weeks are divided into two parts: an investigative week with quick exercises and iterations, and a second week where students can advance their prototype, engage in field or test study and summarise their BA idea and related experience in a video.

Introduction

During these intensive two weeks, we develop a conceptual and practical exploration for our BA thesis, and at the very end we present the concept in an understandable and visual way.

The concept seminar addresses notions in preparation for our final thesis work:

  • What does it mean to make a statement and a
    contribution to the field of interaction design?
  • How to identify the design, social and experiential
    opportunities within the topic of interest?
  • How to define a space of potential design explorations?
  • How to narrow down the topic following own personal
    positioning, approach and interests?
  • How to present the desired embodied experience
    that the BA thesis should engender?

Portfolio:

https://dominikszakacs.com/


Week 1

Exercise 0: Quick keywords round

On Monday morning we were briefly introduced to the syllabus of the course. Each one of us had to explain our intention of our BA thesis in just one sentence.

My sentence:

Draw the user’s attention to Virtual Reality (VR) in terms of time perception and make designers responsible for understanding the consequences of using this medium.

VR is becoming increasingly popular in today’s society. This means that Interaction designers will play an important role in creating intuitive and pleasant experiences for VR users. Interaction designers require a whole new way of thinking when involved in UX design. I would like to take this opportunity to utilize this technology for my bachelor thesis because my goal is to pursue a job as an interaction designer in this field.

Exercise 1: 20 ways of description

20 ways of description categorized

In the first exercise we had to write down and/or sketch out twenty ways to define your topics on post its and later sort them into categories we found fitting. After that we had also to define two or three most important statements.

For me, the start was quite difficult, since my topic requires a lot of background knowledge and I kept thinking about how I could shape the perception of time in a virtual world in order to make it understandable or graspable for an audience how this phenomena works. Since practically everything has to do with time perception, I had to narrow it down and focus more on one part. Otherwise it would also be too broad and perhaps difficult to work on.

However, some helpful ideas came up during this exercise and the 20 post-its were split into 4 categories.

  • Gamified and Funny Approach (first ideas appeared)
  • Problems (boredom, routine, monotony, unexpected events etc. — important factors that affects time perception)
  • Intensions and Solutions (findings from the BA project could be used in therapy solutions or with the intention to change one’s perception of reality)
  • Theory and Experience (theory into practice —
    to make it proof and experience it)

Exercise 2: Topic Space

Topic Space Matrix

In the second exercise we had to create a matrix of existing ideas and projects across qualities, parameters and values that are important for the topic.

I have chosen 4 parameters to classify the different related projects and my own ideas by using 2 axes. This has given me a better overview of my topic. It was clear to me that I wanted to go more in the experimental direction and away from projects that go more into application in healthcare fields. For that I would need a cooperation or at least a team to work out the idea.

Finally, I would like to focus on an experimental approach with VR and time distortion with the aim of collecting possible new findings for others in this field on which they could use to build on or generating new ideas out of it.

Exercise 3: Design Space

Design Space Matrix

In the third exercise we had to identify two or three most important dimensions of our topic space. This transformed the topic space into our design space on which we had to quickly sketch 50 ideas on post-its to populate it.

It was quite a challenge to create 50 ideas in only 1.5h. So I made 25 ideas before the exercise and added another 15 later.

As with Topic Space, I used 2 axes for the matrix to confirm its direction, whether it should be more experimental experience approach or problem solution approach (X-axis) and/or take a realistic approach (possible in a decade) or move more into the Fiction/Future Scenario approach (possible after 2030+ ) (Y-axis).

Several ideas appeared, which aroused my interest. I selected 4 ideas and in the next step I investigated them more in detail and looked for some helpful references.

  • Idea 1: Experiencing Lags by being in a viewpoint of a computer.
  • Idea 2: Experiencing Data in an experimental way.
  • Idea 3: Create an experimental virtual environment to manipulate the time perception of the user in an exaggerated way. Theory into practice.
  • Idea 4: Essay Writing Immersion that changes the virtual environment to the written content.
Recap and deepening the ideas

In the mentoring I already could eliminate two ideas. Idea 3 and 4.

I still have to decide between the Idea 1 and 2. I quite like both of them in terms of content. My next step would be to explore the two ideas more closely by comparing them and looking for related projects. Maybe there’s a way to merge the two.

Idea 1: Empathy Lag
Empathy / Ethic / Social Aspects / Experimental Experience / Fiction
What if you could experience stutter/lags or crashes yourself? What if you were a computer and were constantly under full load and your owner yelled at you or even beat you when you were working slowly or making errors?

VR offers the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes, to see and experience things from their point of view. How does it feel to have to work like a computer? When you are processing the tasks too slowly or wrong, your vision starts to stutter/lag and your “master” gets angry at you. How will we behave with a computer that have intentions, emotions or desires?

We are already surrounded by computers in our daily lives, and since artificial intelligence is one of the fastest developing areas of human technology, it is important to understand our relationship with them. After all, human-computer interactions are likely to play an important role in the future of humanity.

Idea 2: Immersive Data Visualization
Information / Experimental Experience / Problem Solution
Experiencing data in an experimental way instead of just reading at a traditional flat data sheet or looking at a fancy and hard graspable 2D-Visualization.

You were able to literally walk through the data and give the possibility to make deeper analysis which could lead to make faster decisions. You also would be less distracted while the focus of the immersive virtual environment is on the data.

Another advantage is that it is multidimensional. For example, you could determine the location, subject, or significance of a specific piece of information by its direction by using data audio.

Exercise 4: 10 ways of manifestation

Storytelling exercises

On Friday morning we did some exercises with Nicole Foelsterl. At the beginning the task was to develop a storyboard of 9 images that describes quickly our intension.

My main goal for the BA project is to change one’s view of reality after using my VR application.

In another exercise, we had to explain our intension to our 2 bench neighbours and they had to give a proverb about it.

  • Vision is an illusion
  • Reality is subjective

In the afternoon we had to sketch out 10 ideas how it could be executed and exhibited.

10 ways of manifestation

I decided to sketch out and write down ideas for my two Ideas. I have noticed that for the second idea I had to put more effort into finding ideas. It was much more difficult for me.

I have received helpful feedbacks. For exhibitions with VR, in which several people are involved, it is important to consider that they have the opportunity to participate as main performers, as side performers and as spectators.

Loop Experience / 3 POV

Conclusion & Next Steps

At the weekend I took some time to reflect on the past week. After further research, exchange and questioning my motivation for both ideas, I was able to make a ponderous decision. I chose the second idea because the topic is quite fascinating for me, there is a lot of literature (old and new), many movies and games that deal with the topic and I am not as limited as with the first idea.

⭐⭐⭐Idea 1⭐⭐⭐


Week 2

Storyboard

Storyboard v1

In my video I wanted to show the interaction between the computer and its operator on a different relationship level (with feelings). I tried to show it in a funny and entertaining way, by giving the viewer the opportunity to get deeper into the topic and possibly generate new impulses for my BA thesis work.

Video

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Excerpts from the video

I focused more on showing a possible experience rather than explaining my intention narratively in a video. So it was more a teaser than a storytelling video.

My focus was more to create an experimental video that could help me to continue the concept. It enabled me to take a closer look at the immersive virtual environment. How should this environment look like? So the factory hall is in my view a metaphor for the OS. It would be exciting to find out how other people would imagine it.

Prototype

The quickly generated 3D models also supported me in imagining the immersive virtual environment.

To be seen is a virtual environment with a production line and objects on it, in which the person wearing the VR headset has to process the task by sorting out the objects correctly, so that the second person at the computer (in reality) can use them without interferences.

One Idea that came up is for example to sort out two different cubes (let’s say they are differently marked) and you need to sort them out correctly in these two boxes.

The person in the immersive virtual environment could even see its operator in real time to maybe see its reaction based on your decisions and actions.

Final Presentation

Conclusion & Next Steps

With what do I want to deal with and what do I want to create in the next few months?
In the upcoming months I would like to create an interactive, experimental virtual experience in a playful and speculative way from the perspective of a computer that has a personality and presence by imitating a human being.

Why do I want to do that?
The reason why I want to do that is that we are daily surrounded by computers/smart devices and so on that are autonomous, conversational, and relational but they’re completely devoid of any ability to tell how annoyed or happy we are in terms on an emotional level instead of predicting in algorithms. Machines are already able to predict human emotions even better than humans themselves.

While AI and ML are one of the fastest developing areas of human technology, it is relevant to understand our relationship to them, and it would not hurt to start thinking today about the possible effects for us and especially for future generations.

What is important for me is not only to do research for my thesis, but also to come across something that would not be possible without this experiment in a best case scenario. Maybe a finding that „hopefully“ helps the research or development in this field.

How do I want to achieve that?
With Virtual Reality (VR) because it’s capable of generating a level of empathy and understanding that is often more effective than any other form of communication we have today.

Next Steps
My next steps are to watch and play some movies and games in this area, as I believe that such kind of media should never be underestimated and at the same time can be more fun than just reading some dry literature.

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