010.4: Pause, Moodnotes, Bertin, Sautreuil

I haven't posted much (or at all) about inspirations on this blog. Partly, I think, even by the time I started this semester I had put a lot of imagination into the project and was firmly into the working stage — so I wasn't looking around at a bunch of things to get excited about. Recently, though, I came across two apps from UsTwo (makers of Monument Valley!) that seemed related to O/t in interesting ways.

The first is Pause, a phone app to facilitate taking a break. Users move their fingers along with an organic, inky spot. The goal is to not stop and not move too fast and just let one's mind wander. The animation is beautiful and suits the purpose, but the hectoring instructions ("Stopped" "too fast") break the mood often. Also, the dot eventually grows to cover the entire screen — though it comes back if you move fast — and that creates an interesting moment where I was very aware of the glass and how my finger was just touching a featureless surface. Without the interest of the animation, the lack of tactile pleasure becomes very obvious.

Moodnotes is interesting as an anti-influence, or thing to react against. The journaling app was created to make use of CBT principles to work with depressed users. The use of careful color with mood is very compelling, but the idea that, again, the computer's main use is to tell you how to do a better job of being human suffuses the app in a very offputting way. The use of data-visualization to quantify moods is a clear manifestation of brain-as-computer analogy and, for me, it seems to push away from subtle, specific understandings.

Once I started thinking about aesthetic influences — and why, say, I went with the textures I chose instead of something more kinetic like Pause — I realized there were two big influences I should acknowledge for the textures: Jacques Bertin and Olivia Sautreuil.

I first came across Sautreuil's moire pieces on the LinaresFreire twitter account, which is dedicated to geometric art. I loved the senses of layers and juxtaposition, which made it a perfect  aesthetic for an app about layering and juxtaposing memories. These textures also brought to mind the visualizations of Bertin, author of The Semiology of Graphics, one of the best-known works on data visualization. His examples, made for print, use texture often to distinguish dimensions in visualizations, both black and white and color. Using these patterns is a nod to an artistic strain in data visualization that I want to see live on, even when it is hard.