I built a collaborative story installation to explore human communication through the medium of machines, to play with how machines can hijack, disrupt and adjust communication.
The building of this weird thing has been a way for me to abstract the work I do in technology and experience design and apply it to art and human experience separate from commercial endeavors.
A Collaborative Story Machine
It’s a bit hard to explain what this thing I built is. Two large screens are running a real-time story building application. People in the same space can work on together to craft a story, I won’t say much more as a lot of conversation and fun arises from discovering how this thing works.
To understand the Story Machine, you should experience it.
The physical structure brings the digital content into the public space in the way that I hope allows whole groups of people to play and think at the same time.
Hacking is Art
When you hack, you get to break all the rules. You get to use things in ways unintended. Hacking is a creative process of seeing how something is used and using it for something else. Hacking is art.
On this project I’m not an engineer or designer, I’m a hacker.
Cutting wood, drilling holes, painting things black, mounting screens, building light fixtures, hours of coding with natural language processing (NLP), sentiment analysis and real-time data technology. I learned a lot about language technology hacking this experience together. I learned even more about human experience as I watched people use the Story Machine.
The project required both digital and physical hacking — which I love.
Even Code Has a Bias Worldview
Machines — cold hard steely processing engines — we think they are pure logic. Machines thought are born out of the philosophy of the people that make them.
When we think we can make machines (and technology) as tools without intent, it reflects a power the tool maker has to use the tool.
When the Story Machine makes a change I have a variable in the code called “improved,” this variable helps me know what’s happening.
The variables in the program are hidden to everyone using the experience, yet by calling it “improved” it highlights the apparent bias in the code. How does this affect the experience? (I don’t know yet)
The machine has a perspective, in this case, it comes from me.
Mash-Up at Bend Design Conference #BNDDSGN
This coming week I’ll be facilitating a design mashup at the Bend Design Conference.
A mashup is an interactive activity. The Collaborative Story Machine will be up for people to play with — a storytelling game with AI technology in the mix.
Join the Mash Up or Conversation!
I’m very excited to have more conversations at the intersection of design and art and human experience, at the Bend Design Conference and online.
With projects like this, I hope to gain a new perspective on how people think about and interact with machines and each other.
I hope that as we build more machines, we do so with intent and awareness of our influence, impact, and power as it relates to other people.
I hope that as machines get better at being machines, humans get better at being human.
P.S. Another gif, as I hunt for bugs.
Originally published at Ron Sparks.