Bittersuite (Week 2) — Micro UX

After last week’s initial research and familiarisation with the brief, we decided to dedicate week 2 to exploratory research.

Designers: Kate Chernysheva, Ula Rodakowska, Sebastian Ervi

Sound mirrors

Our course leader recommended us to interest ourselves in sound mirrors. They are physical radars with a concave shape that were used in the context of World Wars to signal the arrival of airplanes by amplifying and reflecting their sound. Because the original ones are located on the coast, we went to Kew — a suburb of London — to experiment with sound mirror replicates.

Experimenting with sound mirrors at Kew, London.

We noticed how an inaudible sound from one end of the installation became audible when held in a certain position and angle in front of one of the sound mirrors. We also noticed that we could hear some frequencies better than others. We then employed the Artefact Analysis method (Hanington et al., 2019) to better understand the design and the purpose of this peculiar object.

Artefact analysis of the sound mirror.

Micro spaces analysis

In order to better understand acoustic differences between a multitude of spaces, each of us played with two different spaces we chose. I was in charge to analyse a washing machine and a bathtub, which especially resulted in me realising that a space has different states. For example, a bathtub that is empty tells a whole different story than when it is filled.

Conducted analysis of different micro spaces.

Experiments

To explore the different directions that we had in mind, our team experimented with spatial awareness, storytelling through sound, the acoustics of self and sensory feedbacks using various objects and technologies. We also managed to make a piano with conductive paint that we borrowed from LCC’s Creative Technology Lab, to understand how it works.

Conducted experiments and results.

Books and papers

During then week, we also spent time to read about sound design, soundscapes and their cultural implications. I personally started reading A Cultural History of Sound, Memory and Senses by Damousi et al. (2016), which pinpointed how technological development has largely transformed the acoustic environments we live in (Johnson, 2016). I began to wonder how much we are all oppressed by these sounds. Living in a city is very noisy because of the large amount of motor vehicles and construction sites. This aspect also applies directly to digital sounds such as constant notifications in our daily life.

Outcomes of the week

Our course leader John Fass recommended us to now choose 3 spaces or design ideas, and use a same strategy to compare them. He also recommended us to not go too far with time-consuming technologies that wouldn’t provide a distinctive value to the project. Our teachers also emphasised on the fact that we didn’t show any sounds, while the project is about acoustic properties.

Me listening to my own body with noise-cancelling headphones and a blindfold. Photo taken by Ula Rodakowska.

Experimenting with sound mirrors, technologies and senses made us realise the vast amount of possibilities for the project. At the end of the week, I was really interested in the concept of a live-action roleplay (LARP) for people to understand a space through past, present and future with the use of sound, senses and active participation. After discussion with the team, this idea was subjectively not supported, but we have plenty of other ideas to select and play with from now on. Next up, we need to choose a direction!

References and bibliography

Hanington, B. and Martin, B., 2019. Universal methods of design expanded and revised: 125 Ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions. Rockport publishers.

Johnson, B., 2016. Sound Studies Today: Where Are We Going? A Cultural History of Sound, Memory, and the Senses, edited by Joy Damousi, and Paula Hamilton, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Images my own unless stated otherwise

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Writing about my projects and experiences at the MA User Experience Design (LCC)

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Sebastian Ervi

Sebastian Ervi

MA User Experience Design - University of the Arts London

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