Senior Studio : Play Lab

August 30,2016 — Thinking about the Future

Instant gratification has become a big part of our world. We have become so used to instantly being able to get in contact with someone whether its shooting them a quick text, calling them, email, “evite”, etc. While all these things are great, they don’t have the same formality of sending an invitation or letter via “snail mail”. Bringing the class, elegance, and weight of the physical into a digital space will allow society to hold those digital messages with the same level of importance.

A current trend is having portable bluetooth speakers that are enabled by voice, like the Alexa-Enabled Amazon Echo. Products like these are opening the doors to lots of cool and useful services. Over the summer I worked at Capital One and they were working with the Amazon Echo to allow their customers to access information about their accounts by talking with Alexa. These “smart speakers” are also able to hook up with other smart systems in your home like your lights, switches, or thermostats. While this kind of system is cool and interesting, it only works if you’re in the room with the speaker. But what if it was another built in system of your home, like your lights or AC? Something you could access throughout the house at all times. And what if it was also integrated with your phone so while you were on the go you were talking with the same system? These current trends are changing the way we interact with technology and also working to make those interactions more human.

Social media has created a new way for people to document their lives, a new way to chronicle their life events, track life changes, and document important life moments. In the past this used to be done physically, and usually more personally, through journals, photo albums, and other personal or familial documents. What if there was a service that used a person’s social media accounts to create a physical artifact of their life, or life until this point? It would allow you to have a physical collection of all the important things in your life that could be seen by family members and saved for the future.

September 6, 2016 — Side-effects and Side-shows

Focus: Creating physical artifacts from our social media

Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are three social media platforms I used almost daily, and those barely scratch the surface of what is available to us. People use these sites to share their ideas, beliefs, experiences, desires, inspiration, etc. While our world is becoming more digital, we are letting the components that make us who we are go out into the depths of the internet where they are easily ignored and forgotten. Facebook is trying to combat that with their “memories”, bringing up what you did one, two, three years ago on that day. But once that day is over, the reminder disappears.

There are services that allow you to create a physical artifact using your Instagram or Facebook photos. Some of these services are Chatbooks, Social Print Studio, Blurb, and Shutterfly.

Here is a video from Chatbooks’ website showcasing their product.
(left) options for creating a photo book. (right) spread from one of the auto-generated photo book.

Out of all the services I looked at, Chatbooks and Shutterfly seem to be the most successful. But the biggest drawback I found from these sites and services was that it was almost strictly photos and those that had comments and captions built it were not done as well.

Example from Blurb. Showing the use of captions and comments.

There are many side-effects of our more digital world and this new experience of creating physical artifacts for reflection. One side-effect or consequence is that people are mindlessly creating these artifacts. When someone is putting together a more traditional photo album or scrapbook, there is a lot of thought put into the process of curating your photos and laying them on the page. Sometimes written reflections or narratives are woven into the story creating a piece to be remembered.

Photos from of my photo album (thanks mom!)
Another photo from parents

Another side-effect of our ever more digital lives is that it has become incredibly easier to move 100 miles per hour and never stop to reflect. The services available, while helping you to reflect at more points during your life, don’t help you reflect through out the process of creating the artifact itself.

A lot of these digital-to-physical artifacts seem to be great for someone to share their stories as long as they are present to provide context. But what happens if they aren’t around? Or after they have passed away? Or unable to remember the context of the moments being shared? While we are moving towards constantly documenting our lives through snapchats, instagrams, and Facebook posts, we almost seem to be losing that documentation to the web, never to be reflected on again. Things are simply posted and then forgotten as soon as the window for likes and comments has passed. In a post by Eric Robinson, he said suggested that there has been:

a fundamental transition that has taken place in our culture: without documentation, life isn’t complete.”

But it seems to stop at documentation. As soon as it is documented and their is “proof” that something has occurred, the event is forgotten. I think there is a space for people to regain control and ownership of their moments, photos, and other documentation. A way for us to reflect on our important and meaningful moments in life in a way that will stick with us throughout the years and, hopefully, outlast us long after we have gone.

September 13, 2016 — Documentation

While we are increasing the amount of documentation in our daily lives, the importance and reason for documentation has changed.

Through social media, we document our lives to show others — to share, to impress, to show off, to gain sympathy, to get a reaction, etc. Even though this has been a big shift in out lives, some still do document their lives for themselves — for personal use or reflection. We document through photos, drawings, letters, posts, and journal entries. We also track our food, exercise, health, meditation, hours of work, and hours of play.

While things used to have a more clear distinction between personal and public information, social media and technology has made it easier for personal documentation to shift to documenting our lives to show others. For example people are preoccupied with photographing or filming an experience to share with others rather than living in the moment. People grow more concerned with staging the perfect shot for their Instagram post than documenting what was actually happening in their life. Buzzfeed shared a story about teen Instagram star, Essena O’Neill, who’s “Perfect Life” was making her miserable.

O’Neill decided she had had enough. She said she realized she had stopped “actioning her values,” and wasn’t living an authentic life. … In fact, O’Neill writes that some of her “candid” poses were done just for the ‘gram.

Social media posts seem to have a life of their own. A life that is dictated by the number of likes, comments, and shares. But what happens to these forms of documentation once their time in the lime light is over? Do they disappear? Do they play a passive role in your life? Or do they allow you to continue to interact with them long past the likes, comments, and shares have ceased?

September 13 — Story

Note: below is a quick story to focus the rest of the project.

In a future with over documentation, more traditional forms of personal documentation have become obsolete and no longer play a role in the life of the average person. People have become accustomed to having personal data tracked and shared at all times. This data ranges from things about health, fitness, eating habits, social habits, experiences, etc. The idea of personal information is not understood. Museums have started to look create exhibits on “old” personal documentation so historians can try to educate the public on how their ancestors lived and what they valued. In contrast to these exhibits there are exhibits showing how far they’ve come in documentation and how much more evolved people are in this future.

September 28— An Exhibit

I decided I wanted to design an exhibit on personal documentation set in the future. The focus of this exhibit would be written documentation, photo documentation, and audio recordings.

I started off by planning out the interior of the exhibit. Just a few quick sketches to get the ball rolling. I then moved to mocking up the space in photoshop using templates available online.

(Left)Portion of exhibit focused on photo albums. (Right) area of exhibit focusing on letters.
Potential poster for exhibit

After making a few mockups, I then began to create a pamphlet for the exhibit.

The pamphlet begins with the sections “About the Exhibit”:

This exhibits looks a the primitive act of personal documentation. Personal documentation has similar qualities to the types of documentation we are used to today, but it has one major difference — it was all intended to be kept just for the creator. There were some circumstances where documents were shared with others — like the family photo album was possibly shared with select guests or family members But it was mainly intended for the family members who created it and were the subjects.
Today, every moment of our life is recorded and share for anyone to view. Centuries ago, this was unfathomable. People were very secretive and tried to hide aspects of their lives from public view. Some were even successful.
Our exhibit on seeks to expose this bizarre, drayage tradition for what it is — people wanting to document and hide some of the most interesting aspects of a human’s life. The experience we have created will allow for you, our guest, to see just how far mankind has advanced and compare it to the peculiar lives of our ancestors.
The exhibit is equipped with scanners to track your progress. Each time you pass by a scanner, it will connect with your personal sensors and share your progress on our page and display screens in the museum.

The next portion of the pamphlet goes on to explain different forms of documentation:

There are many different types of personal documentation. This exhibit hopes to help you explore them. Listed below are some examples:
Journaling: Journaling is a very common form of personal documentation. A journal is a notebook, typically smaller in size, where one writes about many different aspects of their life. One could journal about things such as their relationship, mental health, daily activities, health, or even eating habits. Sometimes these journals are called diaries.
Photo Album: A photo album is a physical book comprised of photos. Typically these were created by families to document events and big moments in a person’s life. One example of a photo album topic or spread topic would be “Our Summer Camping Trip” or “Elisabeth and Greg’s Wedding”. These are two very different events, but both are seen as important to the family. An individual could also make a photo album of the things they experienced.
Scrapbook: A scrapbook is similar to a photo album. They have similar functions of holding photos from events that were important to the maker, but a scrapbook is typically more decorative. They have different types of paper, stickers, and even possibly mementos.
Letters: While letters are written for another person, they could be saved by the receiver and cherished. Hand written letters were at one point the only means of communication. They were held dear by many. There were even some experiences where people would receive an abundance of personal letters from loved ones which they would then save to reflect on later.
Audio Recordings: Some people used audio recordings to document events or ideas. These weren’t necessarily shared with anyone or exceptionally private. Their contents vary drastically.

I wrote the text to be intentionally patronizing and somewhat negative. I did this to show the disconnect between the future and the present, even though this attitude and behavior should never be used by an anthropologist.

Wrap up/ Reflection

I really enjoyed working on this project because I was able to utilize my interest in anthropology and history and apply it to a future scenario. I found it really interesting to look at habits that people have through the eyes of someone else. It made me really appreciate some of the things I hold dear — like letters and family photos.

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