Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Round 02 - Shauna

Yesterday I presented two first concepts with illustrative examples within the domains of physical browsing and ritual, what I call library2.0 and mixed slow rituals, respectively. The starting points were again the group vision we developed as a team and the criteria I developed last week. In addition, I was very interested in nostalgia for physical space and interaction induced by historical or knowledge artifacts.
5 Criteria from Round 1
1. Continuity of experience (spatial and temporal)
2. Flexible interaction
3. Interfacing the best of the digital and actual world
4. Durable/sustainable
5. Accommodates sociality
Physical/tangible browsing is much more satisfying and potentially more powerful than WIMP browsing. Computer search lacks the spatial and serendipitous qualities that are offered by physically located information. Additionally, the accessibility/visibility of this information can be improved.

On the other hand information mapped in physical space is limited, for example in a library, information is mapped 1:1 in terms of data and organizational system.

Earlier in this project, we talked about the Art of Memory by Frances Yates. In her book, she explains the memory technique of embedding information (words or thoughts) onto imagined objects housed in imagined architectural spaces in the mind. I was intrigued by the notion that the same mental places could be used again and again to house new thoughts and words:
"The same set of loci can be used again and again for remembering different material...the loci are like wax tablets" - The Art of Memory, Frances Yates
The digital revolution created new paradigms for thinking about data and its organization. I take Yate's statement to a literal level and propose that digital information can be projected on physical artifacts. In the figure below, I extend the analogy of books organized on bookshelves. Not only can different data sets be organized in the same space (not simultaneously), but also the organization/classification systems used to present this data.

For example, the archive video content could be organized by arbitrary classification like amount of red content in the videos, by keywords, it could be smart...utilizing neural networks to learn how users want to search.

Johan from Sound and Vision mentioned that the archive was created through a merger of 5 separate archives with different information classification systems. Could a physical-digital archive be a solution to the problem of unifying information?

Continuing with the library analogy, I thought about what a physical-digital archive could look like. With infinity on my mind, I thought of a rolodex going forward and backwards in information space. Perhaps the physical-digital archive could be made of circular shelves, housing blank physical artifacts and the digital information could be projected on the spines. Moving forward and backwards in information space would require turning the shelves forwards or backwards. The physical relationship between bits of information could reintroduce serendipity or chance into the search process...The information set projected on the shelves can be changed to fit the query and information demands of the users with a blink of the eye, and the desired information can be physically collected.

For an A/V archive, it is also important to be able to visualize or understand the continuum of information. Maybe when examining a program pulled from the shelf, people can scroll through key points or access further information or metadata about that program.

Some other concerns:
- How can information be placed in space so that there is a visible hierarchy? Should certain information be "featured." Should more obsolete information be placed farther away?
- How can the social context of being in a physical space with other people be reintroduced...like awareness of other people as they pass by on the other side of the bookshelf?
- Can viewing artifacts (e.g. glasses, monocles) be used to delve deeper into the information space? Is it satisfying?
- How can the heaviness/age/etc. of content be visualized?

Mixing Slow Rituals
The second concept is about recombining what I call "slow" rituals, such as going to the museum, library, bookstore, cafe, or archive, in new relationships. I am nostalgic for the hours and days spent in the library or bookstore, browsing, reading, and lounging around for free, not spending a cent. Alas, the physical aspect of libraries is slowly disappearing or changing forever.

What will happen to the sexy librarians (or archivists) when libraries/archives go totally digital? I already miss the cute record shop guys and I wonder if students of the future will study in the same cavernous beux arts study rooms I spent so much time in.

New relationships already exist between these places housing the slow experience.

The question is how can archives recombine into the same kind of relationships? I see an opportunity in the archive and, i.e. cafes promoting each other through their recombination. One very literal example I already see is at the Urban Espresso Bar in Rotterdam. There they have a downstairs space with video exhibitions running all the time.

To think further on:
- Who curates the content?
- Can archive services be offered in these places (i.e. dling or requesting clips)

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