Main Areas of Research and Key Issues

We are interested – as multi-disciplinary practitioners working in mixed media/responsive environments – to examine how “creative user research” can teach us more about how players (users) adapt to an environment (or not), where the main problems of interaction on a technical and social level occur, how people play/participate and what this play/participation constitutes on a creative level. From a design end and further development of the project we are exploring which methodologies to utilise in order to integrate proper user feed-back into the system.

Issues of (informal)learning and the acquirement of skills/embodied knowledge in an intuitive environment are focal points. As is the case with many ethnographic studies, the notion of reactivity (the influence of prior knowledge on the respondents) is to be taken into account. For example, how much do you/should you tell a player about the system during a briefing session before s/he enters the environment? What prior knowledge is necessary in order to maximise the experience? When have you said too much? In addition the contextual sensitivity of the environment towards the players is also something to be investigated. For example, can txOom accommodate a wide range of players coming from diverse socio-cultural strata? (for more on context see further).

The 3 professional (artistic) focus groups that can help us with different components of the system are:

  • movement artists
  • textile and architectural designers
  • digital artists (audiovisual and interaction designers…)

The 3 community focus groups selected in collaboration with Seachange from Great Yarmouth:

  • young single mothers
  • young offenders
  • adults with communication / social disabilities.

The 3 artists groups should be briefed about the possibility to test the txOom system in its early stages of development, so that their input can be substantially incorporated in the environment.

The communication about the project needs to target the 3 community groups in different ways.

  • for the young mothers, the 'adventure' in txOom will be presented as a fantastic role playing game, where the dressing up in different costumes provides new, magical identities for the women to explore
  • for the young offenders, the focus of the experience can be computer based adventure game and/or the interactive clubbing, with an emphasis on the technology that enables socially engaging and creative experiences
  • for the adults with communication difficulties txOom should be presented as an opportunity for exploration, immersion in uncharted worlds, an otherworldly expedition with a group of likeminded individuals.

Group profiles

The workshops will be structured in the same manner for all three focus groups. Each group should consist of 14 people, 7 going through the workshop in the morning (11.00 - 13.30), the other 7 in the afternoon (14.00 - 16.30). In each group, there should be 4 people who are not afraid of heights, as 4 costumes are suspended in the air from security ropes and bungee cords.

The profiles for the 3 artistic groups are very flexible. The can be of any age group, preferably mixed genders, mixed cultural backgrounds. They should be interested in working with responsive environments for their own practice, and willing to share their experiences in the txOom environment from a professional and experiential point of view.

The exact profiles of the people in the 3 community groups should be decided in collaboration with FoAM, Future Physical and Seachange. In this document we want to provide a very general profile that needs further specification, that can be better handled by Seachange and community workers who know the groups and individuals on a personal level.

  • young single mothers - age 15 - 20. they can bring their children along, but the workshop will be prepared for the women specifically, not so much in their role as a mother, but focusing on their creative potential as independent individuals.
  • young offenders should be a mixed gender group - age 13 - 22. We are looking at the ability of these individuals to learn about the environment in a free-form play, with no predefined rules, but with an interest in the technologies involved in creating their experience.
  • adults with communication / social disabilities should be a mixed gender and mixed age group. It is possible to think of mentally disabled persons to join this group as well. The workshops should aid these groups to engage in collaborative interaction that will allow them to create their media environment in a more complex and interesting ways than when experiencing it alone

The txOom responsive space in the Hippodrome exists of several physical and media components that the groups can experience. The exact 'journey' through the environment can not be described, as the goal of the project is not to prescribe behaviours, but allow the participants to improvise. If the interaction is successful, the participants should be able to 'grow their own worlds' within the framework of txOom's action landscape. Therefore in this document the 'adventure' is described only in terms of phases that the participants go through, rather than attempting to describe the phenomenological experience in the space.

The first space the participants enter is the waiting room, where they can see the history of the project visualised in text, image and possibly sound. The second stage involves going into the dressing rooms, depositing bags, coats and other items of clothing, as well as removing the shoes. Here the participants will be handed white overalls or lab plastic coats and protective slippers. The reasoning behind this phase is that the participants should not have cumbersome clothing, and should be free to assume new identities by putting on new garments. The white 'uniforms' function as aesthetically unifying elements (where the participants can blend into the environment when their uniforms reflect light), as well as giving the individuals a sense of going into the environment as a group.

The first four people will be lead to the space, put in safety harnesses, and lifted up in two different types of costumes, that function as projection and reflection screens: two people will be lifted sitting down on two swings, the other two will hang on bungee cords, strapped in comfortable paragliding harnesses. After the four people are lifted up in the air, the remaining 3 people will be guided in the space, where they can play with the objects on the ground and with the hanging parts of the costumes of the people in the air. All costumes and objects have motion sensors (accelerometers) embedded in them, together with a wearable computer and a wireless transmitter, that will allow the media to respond to the movements of the 7 people in the space. The visual media consist of a visually evolving artificial life world projected onto the swing-garments and the floor, lights creating the overall atmosphere in the space, electroluminescent wire in one of the objects on the ground. The sound is designed to surround the people in the air and on the ground in a mix of electronic-organic landscapes.

The experience lasts approximately 20 minutes, after which the participants are taken back to their dressing rooms, where they remove the overalls/lab coats and slippers, take their belongings and head back into the waiting room - which becomes an interesting social space where the experiences are compared and exchanged.

group 1

11.00 - 11.30 Arrivals and brief introduction to the project

11.30 - 12.00 Experience of the txOom environment, without detailed instructions

12.00 - 12.30 Group feedback sessionabout the experience Detailed explanation of the txOom environment

12.30 - 13.00 Instructed experience in the txOom environment

13.00 - 13.30 Individual feedback sessions focused on the issues of:

  • playfulness
  • creativity
  • learning
  • social interaction

13.30 - 14.00 break group 2

14.00 - 14.30 Arrivals and brief introduction to the project

14.30 - 15.00 Experience of the txOom environment, without detailed instructions

15.00 - 15.30 Group feedback sessionabout the experience Detailed explanation of the txOom environment

15.30 - 16.00 Instructed experience in the txOom environment

16.00 - 16.30 Individual feedback sessions focused on the issues of:

  • playfulness
  • creativity
  • learning
  • social interaction

Dates

  • 18 November 2002 - movement artists
  • 19 November 2002 - textile artists
  • 20 November 2002 - digital artists
  • 21 November 2002 young mothers
  • 22 November 2002 young offenders
  • 23 November 2003 adults with communication disabilities

Methodologies and Frameworks

Research for the local community groups will focus on issues of learning, creativity, play, (social) interaction. User testing on skilled professional artists will be aimed at looking closer the same issues as the community groups as well as at the usability of the system and its components. Two major research strategies are employed to further these goals: interviews and observation. The approach taken will consist of a hybrid between ethnomethodology (where the main interest is in how people DO things, rather than how they see things) and several cognitive psychological models (activity theory/situated action models). See further in this document for an overview of the latter. As befitting to ethnographers we will generate our theory as we go along, and produce our own – what Geertz has called - “thick descriptions” (distinctive forms of knowledge) as the research progresses. In observation the main emphasis is on analysing the players actions and behaviour.

1. Briefing

2. Experiment in the txOom space

3. Feedback Sessions

  • group feedback see questionaires below
  • individual feedbacksee questionaires below

4. On site (live) and off site (recorded) observation of the participants in the space

5. Multi angle recording syncronised with the visualisation of the sensor data and direct media output

6. Developers feedback

Questionaires

The questions drafted address the topic of interaction in 4 ways:

  • Contextual interaction (social interaction, measuring of contextual sensitivy of environment, * HCI and HCHI (re/action to media and technology, behaviour/perception in mediatised environment)
  • Spatial / Physical interaction (movement and navigation in a mixed reality environment)
  • Conceptual interaction (ways of play, shaping the environment as a habitat)

The questionnaires are mainly set up as open questions, so respondents can formulate answers on their own terms, and hence allow an opening to articulate the discovery of unexpected things. In that respect the interviews serve triple purposes:

  • Interview event = opportunity for direct observation (how do respondents react/look/general mood after experience; are they comfortable sharing/talking about it/was it fun/did respondents/researchers encounter any immediate problems, etc..)
  • Interview = resource (data/information pertaining directly to the posed questions)
  • Interview = topic (discourse analysis of the language respondent utilise to describe their experiences/answer the questions/association game)

Questionnaire Session 1 (group feedback) for Skills Group and Local Community Group: Addressing Attitudes and Immediate Responses to the tXoom experience. To be conducted in collective feed-back sessions of min.2 groups.

1. How would you describe your experience in txOom, and did it live up to your expectations? )

  • [examines personal response, rationalisation of experience and fulfilment of initial expectations]
  • [examines perception and behaviour, initial grasping of the system]
  • [examines social interaction, surplus value of collective or solitary experience, nature of play and play environment]
  • [examines personal preference, pleasure/frustration with the environment]

Questionnaire Session 2 (individual feedback) for Skills Group and Local Community Group: Addressing Usability of tXoom, Learning, Multi-levelled Interaction (contextual, physical/technical, conceptual) To be conducted as individual session, or max. 2 respondents.

1. How did this experience differ from the previous one, did you feel you were performing different actions (which)/exploring the environment on a different level (how)? Were you paying more attention to specific things (which)? )

  • [examines learning curve and how knowledge of the previous session and of the system influences experience, behaviour and actions]
  • [examines creative involvement and active role in environment, perception of and relationship to temporal evolvement of media]
  • [examines the question of creative authorship, transparency of interaction, issue of one-to-one relationship to triggered media]
  • [examines HCI transparency, personal preferences for media and costumes]
  • [examines role&rationale of physical objects in the play environment; do they induce more social interaction, do they change the ways of playing, do they function as a glue between players? What are people drawn to play with?]

6. What would you like to experience in the next version of TxOom ?

Questionnaire for Open Public Tests

To be conducted as individual sessions or max. 2 respondents.

1. How would you describe your experience in txOom, and did it live up to your expectations?

2. Was the environment responding to your actions? Which actions in particular? Did this make you change your movements/actions?

3. Could you distinguish the sound/image that you were influencing? Was it important to know what exactly you were controlling?

4. Did you move freely or have to think about what you were 'supposed“ to do?

5. Which changes would you make in the costumes, hardware, sounds or visuals? Why?

6. What would you like to experience in the next version of tXoom?

For a selection of audience responses see Project Txoom Interviews

Word Association Games

General:

1. What is a circus?

2. What is play?

3. What is a world?

4. What is evolution?

5. What is a pattern?

6. Associations to “intrude”

7. Associations to “feed”

8. Associations to “spawn”

9. Associations to “reveal”

10. Associations to “morph”

11. Associations to “sludgily”

12. Associations to “turbulently”

13. Associations to “skin”

14. Associations to “bloom”

Education Groups:

Young Single Mothers:

1. What is magical?

2. What is play?

3. What is a role?

4. What is a circus?

5. Associations to “grow”.

6. Associations to “feed”

7. Associations to “bloom”

8. Associations to “other-worldly”

Young Offenders

1. What is a world?

2. What is navigation?

3. What is a circus?

4. Associations to “game”

5. Associations to “intrude”

6. Associations to “generate”.

7. Associations to “turbulently”.

8. Associations to “spiky”.

Adults with Communication / Social Disabilities.

1. What is a circus?

2. What is a journey?

3. What is exploration?

4. What is weightlessness?

5. Associations to “reveal”

6. Associations to “play”

7. Associations to “skin”

8. Associations to “bloom”

9. Associations to “participation”

Observation 1: Social Interaction within Specified Context (Nat): Framework for Fieldwork

Studies have pointed out that HCI design benefits from explicit study of the context(s) in which users/players work/play. My personal interest in the observation part centres on examining social interaction on several levels:

  • strategies for collaboration: how does the interaction amongst players augment the immersive experience; do they teach each other about the environment or is it a more solitary experience? Does the collaboration evolve? What’s the breaking-point? Is there a transfer of knowledge happening? Who collaborates with whom, if at all? Identification of actions.
  • Strategies for play: how do players play with each other? Do they devise a competitive game or is it more free-play? Are there players left out? What are the power dynamics like? Which strategies are utilised to enhance pleasure, or cause frustration? Identification of actions.
  • Roles: Are players able to shed their worldy skins; can they assume a new role, can the social set-up of the group/the contextual sensitivity of the playspace accommodate this? Analysis of behaviour.
  • Evolvement of group dynamics of players: How are the power dynamics distributed? Is there a question of players being dominant and affecting the play experience? How is this co-related to the costumes they wear; the physical objects they pick? The media they generate?

Observations from session 1 and 2 will be compared – methodology for drafting fieldwork notes is yet to be determined.

Considerations for theoretical frameworks

Dip into “Situated Action Models”, which “emphasize the emergent, contingent nature of human activity, the way activity grows directly out of the particularities of a given situation. Concentrates on situated activity or practice. Analysts must pay attention to the flux of ongoing activity…situated action emphasizes responsiveness to the environment and the improvisatory nature of human activity.” Or “Activity Theory”: wherein an activity is something composed from a subject (the person/group engaged in activity), object (motivates the activity, objective, goal), actions (goal-directed processes to fulfil the object, tasks) and operations (routinised practice). All these constituents are dynamic and in flux. A key notion is the mediation by artefacts. The activity itself constitutes the context in activity theory. Context is both internal to people (their own objects) as it is external (artefacts, other people). In activity theory the object/goal is the point of departure for analysis, in situated action models it is the way people orient to changing conditions. In the latter the researcher observes the response to a stimulus.

1. Summary of the Research results

2. Three critical reports from observers (Pam, Steve, Nat) focusing on three different components of the environment:

  • movement and spatial navigation
  • media and human computer interaction
  • social interaction and collaboration

These reports will be developed based on on site and off site observation of the participants in the txOom space, conducting and analysis of the feedback sessions (interviews), correlating the systems response to the activities in the physical space. cfr.Project Txoom User Research Report Nat

3. Developers feedback and conclusions

4. Contextualisation in the field od responsive environments and interactive objects/spaces

5. Evaluation of methodology and results

6. DVD consisting of:

  • recording of the whole path through the txOom experience in gt yarmouth (from entrance to exit)
  • multi-angle recording of the playSpace
  • visualisation of the sensor data correlated with the recordings of the playspace
  • recording of the direct media output (sound, visuals) correlated with the recordings of the playspace and sensor data
  • summary of the feedback sessions
  • summary developers' feedback questions

[note that due to the lack of funds only a small section of the DVD was included in the txOom project overview DVD)