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Faculty Research

Research done for my faculty position

Assignment 1: Visualize the Class

The first assignment for the class was to collect data from each other and analyze it. In the first round, each of fours groups polled their classmates and acquired enough data to investigate a question they posed about the class as a whole. The groups exchanged data with each other and created interfaces and visualizations.

Fuki, Katie, Katrina

Leanne, Joe, Rabia, Monique

Kunal, Michael, Vanessa:

Akiko, Cat, Chun-Yu, Shipra

SMALLab on the Small Screen

The positions of the glowballs, and other information coming from SCREM, can be relayed to a little Nokia N800 palmtop over the WiFi connection.

Tracking is still a little rough, and, as I mention in the video, I think the IR cams are grabbing the N800 a little bit, so we'll need to keep it outside of the area--at least until the tracker is a bit more solid. Still, it should be a handy way to bring in another interface--and other participants--inside SMALLab. In fact, I gave the N800 to James in the office, and he could watch the movements of the balls through the wall.

I'm sure that's useful somehow.

3D Buttons and Sliders

Here is a quick video explanation of the HitArea and DragArea render engines.

The engines can track when a pointer enters and leaves them, and the DragArea engine also reports back the pointer's relative position--handy for sliders, etc.

Sonic Slope and the Coordinate Dance

Here are a few more videos from last week's session with ASU. The first is a math game for two players to help students learn about slope through physical and audio interaction. The players can listen to the change in coordinates and then try to determine the right slope based on their positions in three-dimensional space.

There are some issues here with finding the right location for the balls that will prompt some work in the future. Knowing, for example, that you are "on" the right point in the Z-axis may require different kinds of audio cues. One idea we've had is a kind of sonic prompt that fades out when you've hit your mark, but gets louder and louder as you approach the boundary between two integers. This, we hope, will help people visualize where the number 2 and 3 are, rather than floating on the boundary between them and continually triggering the audio sample.

The next video is an improvised dance that the students can choreograph as they each try to reach their X and Y coordinates. This is a variation on the "Coordinate Game" that we had developed the day before. Hopefully, students will get an embodied sense of how the Cartesian system works as they move along in their algebra/geometry units.

It's not quite a game yet, but there's something really fun and compelling about making your own art work (a dance piece) that corresponds to your math assignment.

Enron Email Dataset

I just discovered a bevy of research on the Enron email dataset. After the collapse of the company, all of the email from the roughly 150 ex-employees made it into a publicly available archive. This is a pretty valuable resource for people looking to test data-visualization ideas for social relationships. Hopefully, Chuck and I can find a way to use this in the fall for the collaboration studio we're teaching.

The Coordinate Game

This is simple game we created as part of the SMALLab workshop here at Parsons. It's for teaching middle-school students how to figure out coordinates on a projected grid.

Each player takes their own origin as 0,0 and must reach the goal marker laid down by the teacher. The first player to correctly call out the coordinates of her or his goal marker wins.

Congrats to Christopher for his mad math dancing skills!

More Fake 3D

Here's more work on faking three dimensions on a flat plane.

Disco 3D: Behold the three dimensions!Disco 3D: Behold the three dimensions!

Again, this only works from the perspective of the ball, so one person needs to hold it fairly near their point of view to get the effect. And, from the brief demo we did at the workshop, sometimes people need a few minutes to adjust to the effect before they feel like they're navigating space.

At this point, it seems like more of a fun demo or a parlor trick. One really good suggestion we got recently, though, was that we could give participants a button, say on a Wiimore, that would allow them to assume the first person perspective if more than one person is navigating the space. That might help share the experience a bit better.

Disco 3D

Disco 3D

Behold the three dimensions!

Notes on a Stakeholder Engine

I just finished reading Nicholas Lemann's article "Conflict of Interest" in the latest New Yorker. It crystallized a lot of the thinking I've done in the past few years about politics, all the way back to when I was an organizer for Democracy for America here in Hudson County.

I couldn't call my participation in the DFA effort as anything more than a failure, but it taught me a lot about the push and pull of real politics. As it turns out, I don't have a taste for that kind of work--I think I'm temperamentally unsuited for it. But it did drop the scales from my eyes. I stopping seeing the act of governing as a battle between good and evil, and, rather, saw it as the net result of conflicting and cooperating interests.

The Lemann article sums it up well, and I'd encourage anyone with an interest in the subject (or the engine) to read it. For me, it helped to gel a number of key components that ought to factor into games like this:

  • Players should either represent an interest and compete for the attention of policy makers and the general public (Bentley's organizational interests)
  • OR players should represent a policy maker who is beholden to interests--or, rather, requires the backing of a number of interests, none of which need be permanent or essential. A game of political survival rather than idealism.
  • The game will involve, at its core, the pushing and pulling of different levers on a system.
  • BUT this is NOT the game, no more than resetting a series of timers is Diner Dash
  • Therefore, a game mechanic is needed that creates a sense of expressiveness, in Bogost's terms.
  • And a narrative that explains the affordances of the "lever pushing" in the same way that waiting tables explains the timers in Nick's game.

That's what I have for now. More questions than answers at this point, but it makes sense for me to start taking apart some of the work from this spring's "iPod Game" and working out a mechanic for that kind system and logical interface.

Faking 3D on a Flat Plane

We were experimenting with different ideas for how to represent the third dimension you have access to with the SMALLab installation. This is a trial using a camera viewpoint that tracks the position of the ball as you move through a space with it. It fools you into thinking that a 3d world is changing at your feet.

It's not a perfect solution. It only works for one person, and there are limits to how high you can pretend the Z-axis goes. Still, it's an interesting way of looking at the problem, and it might open more doors later on.

Copyright Mike Edwards 2006-2009. All content available under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license, unless otherwise noted.

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