It has been relatively quiet, project-wise for the past 2 weeks. Tom has left IWM and the new project leader, Carolyn (Head of New Media at IWM) and project partner Claire have been at Museums and the Web in America. The back end boys, KI and Gooii have been coding back and forth in the north. At the museum myself and Wendy (Digital Projects Manager at IWM) have been picking up snagging issues on the SI kiosks in the A Family in Wartime exhibition.
Those first 6 social interpretation kiosks and QR codes have been live for a couple of weeks now. Hardware and software issues with the ASUS tablets have meant snagging has been a little out of proportion to the small number of kiosks installed. Some of this has been because we built the interface from scratch, and worked up to the day of installation. And some of the issues are with the kiosk housing design – pressure on the touch screens is confusing them and meaning re-sets are needing to happen too often.
Comments are coming through though. Consisting of lots of spam, lots of bad spelling and some genuine social commentary. Nothing properly offensive has been reported yet.
I keep popping down to watch people using the kiosks. Love a bit of unofficial visitor evaluation, I do. But it’ll be good to see what Claire comes up with when she gets back to the business of properly evaluating things.
Overall, it appears visitors are confused with our dual voice interface design, as well they might be. Combining a museum voice (digital label) and visitor voice screen (comments) was only ever going to be a compromise. It was a bit of a triumph of internal stakeholders over true visitor experience. The visitors aren’t fooled. And hopefully we will be able to address that imbalance in the 4 kiosks we’ll install at North soon.
Next up is finding content for the roll-out of QR codes planned. Selection criteria for objects were, quite frankly, a best guess when this project was planned. That fudge is coming home to haunt us now as inconsistencies in the collections database make life difficult. But content (always the King) is usually the rub in digital, indeed any, museum project.
It was going to be a massive task to provide customer support for the whole project. We thought about how we could offer the most amount of information and address the simple inquiries which usually take up a lot of time in customer service. Looking at a lot of major sites today they simply offer a Q&A section and no additional customer support (such as Facebook). We decided that we could still offer an email address for customer service and a Q&A that we could update as more questions arise.
We then had the challenge of how to pick the Questions that will cover the most Questions users have. Armindokht Shoosthtari, Melanie Kidd, and Skinder Hundal went through the list of Questions and Answers we had created. They edited them and made sure that they covered all the questions artists would want to know the answer to.
As of any site these days’ social media links are essential and must be displayed in a clear fashion. We used some social media icons and placed them horizontally (seems to be a trend at the moment) and displayed them on the side of the site. I also added a ribbon to the side with ‘Win £2000’ to the site just so it stood out more.
When creating the text I wondered how we can display which menu you are on and keep the site simple. I decided to change the text on the Cloud Logo to say whatever page you are on (Except when on the FrontPage). I think it really helps the site flow and gives it that modern theme.
We also created an about section with had further explanations of the project, a more detailed timeline and links to every single site involved in CULTURE CLOUD.
When creating the registration site we needed to make it simple as possible. The process was very complex with lots of elements and this needed to be displayed very clearly. We started with the textboxes on the registration site displaying the full artist’s agreement the site terms and conditions. I added areas for Name, Address, Email, postcode and where you heard about the project. I added an area for a short description of the submitted works and an upload section. For signing the legal agreement and the terms and conditions I created required checkboxes and a submit button.
After creating this I decided to get the opinion of some Independent Visual Artists. They looked over the site and singed up to register. They fed back some very good points about people not being able to work out what they were signing up for and a lot of the details not being so clear such as percentage cuts for the selling art online and IP issues.
Taking on board these suggestions we presented the registration in a clear way. We then decided to create a Breakdown of the key points of the Artists Agreement and link to full-size Agreement. We also added external links to view the full artist’s agreement in a nicely formatted way. I think these changes really helped the sign up process and make it much simpler for members of the public to grasp the concept.
Last night was the second of the student events promoted in the LSO Pulse app. The web application which processes the scanned tickets had been tweaked a little to make for a better user experience. The screen flicker which had been present on scan for the first event is gone.
There was also a clear improvement in how comfortable the scanner operators were in using the system. The process was more efficient than it was last time and there were no issues for any of the students.
Our next event is at a different location, LSO St Luke’s, where the set up is quite different, with new challenges and limitations, so we are spending some time on delivering in that scenario.
So. The Social Interpretation. She goes live today. The first bit anyway. 6 kiosks for visitors to comment on 6 objects. And 8 QR Codes that resolve to shiny new IWM mobile web pages, for the associated objects. It has taken an inordinate amount of time and effort to get this far. But then exhibition things are never straightforward, seamless, unproblematic or, even, easy.
The A Family in Wartime exhibition, housing this phase of the project, almost overwhelms our beloved social interpretation. Objects, paintings, films and blown-up photographs are your first overriding impression. But, really, that is how an exhibition should be.
Of course, children only have eyes for technology, so they spot the kiosks straight away. A young chap (in the image above) wrote, about an evacuee label: “If Daddy sends me away I’ll call Childline.” His Dad actually marched him around the private view of the exhibition and made him comment on each object. He went and commented willingly enough. We should have got his name and given him a job on the project.
There is not much evidence of people engaging with the QR Codes yet though. They are as small (or rather, as large) as we were allowed to make them. Maybe not large enough. Or maybe people just don’t know what they are. We’ll see.
And although a slight pause from #socialinterp might be nice now, we need to crack on with the presence at IWMN, the mobile app, further rollout of codes and our web presence. I could muster up a comment on the lack of time for a project nap. But it might not be very polite.
Before building the registration website I needed to work out what system could be used for the registration process. I did not want to use a CMS (content management system) as I felt the website was too small and it would have required additional work to adapt the site to suit the CMS.
After a bit of research I found a secure form building platform that I could embed into the site. I started testing it using the jotform.com domain. Once the system had been set up and I was satisfied with the simple form I tried to log on. The site was down and I was pretty confused having paid membership and setting up my form. Strangely it seems that the U.S. Secret Service requested that GoDaddy took the whole .com domain down! The site had been suspended as part of an ongoing investigation disabling around 2 Million Jotform forms. Luckily Jotform also owned jotform.net and my account was accessible via that domain.
After about a month Jotform.com came back online and the U.S secret service refuse to explain the whole situation http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120216/17043717784/us-returns-jotformcom-domain-still-refuses-to-say-what-happened.shtml
I stated off building the basic site with a simple div with a border and some CSS buttons linking to each section with some dummy text. I also added the logos of the funders and partners to the footer of the site.
I wanted to make the site look modern but not over complicated, I had the idea of having one background image with Div layers on top of it full of content. Working with RARE COMPANY we decided to adapt one of our stock images of the main gallery space at the NAE.
Koo came up with this image that reflected the angles and colours of the CULTURE CLOUD logo. This to me looked like a digital storm crashing into a quiet gallery space. Koo also added these orange spikes at the bottom so that I can could overlay them with buttons.
I started to add divs on top of the background to create areas for content. I created divs and added linking text over the buttons area. I also added social media buttons, partner logos, Java Countdown script and social media links.
The website systems and layout was finalised and tested. Now all that was left was to add the content and tweak the site.
by Ravi James Abbott Project Assistant
The following post was written by Simone Ovsey from the MIT Media lab. Simone is the project manager for Media lab and is working closely with all of the team in the Opera of The Future group who are collaborating on the project. We thought it was vital to hear about the project from our digital partners, as up to now only Punchdrunk have spoken about the project on this forum.
For our next post we’re hoping to get a blog from one of the team working on the project on site in NYC.
Media Lab Update
Working with Punchdrunk to realize a new vision for audience interaction and participation is proving to be a most worthwhile and rich experience for our team, led by composer Tod Machover, at the MIT Media Lab. We are excited – and it has been great fun – to be partners in pioneering a new type of live performance that highly personalizes the experience for onsite and online participants and explores original ways of fostering meaningful relationships between these audience members through real-time interaction. Entering into uncharted territory within the world of Web technologies, wireless communication, and multimedia has certainly proven to be a fascinating and ambitious venture.
On the Media Lab end, we are at work integrating technologies that have never before been combined and developing entirely new ones. Pushing the current capabilities of Web standards and wireless communications technologies, we are creating the infrastructure to deliver personalized multimedia content sourced in real time from a central location to allow each online participant to receive a completely unique experience co-created by his or her own actions as well as those of an onsite audience member within the context of the existing Sleep No More experience. Whereas each live visitor to Sleep No More constructs an individual experience based on a single multi-stranded presentation, to make the online experience be equally compelling, we have needed to create an entirely different show for each online “player”, definitely not what we imagined when we started the project! Through custom applications of emerging Internet browser capability, video delivery infrastructure, affective sensing, and Cisco wireless equipment that outfits the McKittrick Hotel, we are able to connect online users with counterparts in the live show to push past the boundaries of virtual collaboration and the dynamics of two people interacting through carefully defined/constructed and mediated methods.
The most surprising aspect of the project so far is how much of an intriguing and creative challenge this work has posed for us on the conceptual level. We’ve discovered that many of the technologies we require to create an experience that successfully integrates an immersive multisensory experience across distance simply do not exist, so we have the exciting opportunity to create them. We are re-imagining the current application of protocols in the realms of video streaming, interactive fiction, and virtual collaboration while building new infrastructures to house our innovative developments. Our team of software and hardware engineers, sound designers, interface specialists, game narrative specialists, and “affective computing” experts has been involved in the entire process of constructing entirely new narratives to add to the current Sleep No More show that can enhance and “explode” meaning for both the onsite and online participants.
Since the start of our collaboration with Punchdrunk at the end of 2011, we have maintained a successful, working relationship with the visionary immersive theater company. Conquering the transatlantic divide, we have found an optimal balance of idea sharing and iteration to ultimately realize our project goals. After months of successful communication via e-mail and video conferencing, our synergy was exemplified in a recent trip to NYC for an intensive day of brainstorming and problem solving with all of the members of the Media Lab and Punchdrunk teams. Once together, we were able to make decisions about the scope and quality of the experience that marked the transition from ideation and development to the production phase of the project. The fluid exchange of creative ideas between both sides has leveraged our broad range of expertise to the fullest in order to co-develop an experience that is completely original in both the technical and theatrical realms. It has also allowed us to proceed through the less-optimal communication channels of e-mail and Skype with renewed vigor and deeper collaborative understanding.
Author: Simone Ovsey