009: System 1: Overview & Aspect 2: Materials

The System

After last week's brainstorm, this week is about drawing out the system in my head and identifying the questions I will need to answer on my way to my final prototype in December. This can in some ways be seen as the next level of instantiation of the system diagram from week 3.

week 3 system diagram

This work focuses on the two rightmost spheres: the physical world and the sphere of communication; the paper covers more of the sphere of culture. As with the paper, these concepts are still very rough.

a simple look at the system

The system comprises five stages, which take place both in the physical world and in the minds of two types of observers: the user-creator-operator (or user for short)  and external observers, who may or may share a temporal space with the user. 

The object will be instantiated in the creation phase. Here we must determine the desirability of the object's being fabricated entirely by the user with reference only to set a plans, from a kit that includes hard-to-fabricate objects, or being made most-accessible but least-special by being manufactured. Another path to consider is the modification of extant objects.

Once created, the object becomes a part of the investment-playback-reflection loop. The interaction is the core of my action to pollute the possible by exposing an interaction that is digital but not context-less. An application and the object will be able to play off one another in order to create a reflexive experience: characterized by intersection, layering, juxtaposition and possibly even surprise. The capabilities and functionalities required to enable this experience — and to keep it from being a job in itself — must be investigated and refined, and this action will be the task of the thesis.

Finally, the system must consider the question of memorialization. The action of freezing and elaboration seems necessary for a complete work of memory and for the social function of talismans. However, it may be a bit of a stretch for this work to fully approach. There is a lot of uncertainty here.

three primary elements

Given this sketch, I believe we can ask more detailed questions of the three primary elements: the object, the application, and the user. Which capabilities and functionalities in the application and object will facilitate the relationship? Does it make sense to use the talisman as a notifier and collecter, and the application as an explorer only? Should the application be the notifier and the object only work as a collector? Will this better facilitate a warm relationship between the user and the digital? Will the digital be hereby domesticated? Once these questions are answered, there are also more practical questions of materials: plaster or resin, Javascript or C++?

Materials Testing

In order to begin testing some answers as well as generating questions, I took some time this week to extend the talisman testing I began in Digifab. I created a newer, larger mold for a single talisman and began researching and testing a stronger plaster mixture. (One option is to mix the plaster with wood glue; another is to incorporate fibers in the plaster.)

Resin, which I tested before, is still an option, particularly resin-metal mixes, but my earlier tests seems to be wearing badly (yellowing, collecting dirt) and I am not sure they have the tactile satisfaction of clay. Then there is  material I have yet to test at all: concrete, paper, wood.

Next Steps

For the final prototype and paper presentation, in addition to revising the paper, I plan to present these system diagrams, plus the materials tests I have begun. We have also discussed creating an evocative-objects type survey to source stories from others.  Ideally, I will also sketch a few screens just for a sense of the visual treatment.

I struggle a bit calling these disparate pieces a prototype since they are investigations but not a lightweight implementation of the full system; they are more the beginning of design documents that lead into a complete, testable set. Overall, I plan to spend the summer creating and testing a prototype so that coming into the fall I am in a position to refine and elaborate.