This is my final video that I made for the documentation of project three.
This is my final video that I made for the documentation of project three.
The role of computers has become an instrumental and integral tool in many of our daily lives. It has broadened the potential of what humans are capable of doing and the tasks that they are able to perform. In addition to this, the world today is constantly changing and full of innovation. With the progression of available technology, computer systems are becoming more advanced, complex and provide more functionality. As we are able to interact with computers in increasingly complex ways, we form a relationship that involves enjoyment, productivity and engagement. It builds a human-computer relationship in which maintaining this interaction involves the management of user expectations, intentions, and attitudes (Bickmore and Picard, 2005). However, technology may also confront users with its complexity of functions. For example, many users become faced with more content on their desktop, which can often lead to chaos or confusion. Due to this, it is the designer’s goal to produce innovative interfaces that make this complexity and chaos that computers present more navigable and an enjoyable experience.
The idea behind this project was to dramatically alter the overall computer experience by rejecting this need to design a comprehendible interface, challenging these user expectations in order to create a feeling of being restricted or having less than desired satisfaction with the interaction visually and manually. This computer experience was most significantly changed through several key aspects – the user interaction and the aesthetic. The user experiences a general feeling of having to adjust to more difficult conditions and less available functions on the computer, due to the limited potential that the computer offers. Conditions are harsh and retrogressive – the computer is slow, the keyboard is more difficult to operate, the mouse is rough and choppy, and there is only a single connection port for a power chord with one USB port. This experience involves discipline and patience, as we often expect technology and machines to do obey commands quickly and efficiently.
Often in an austere situation or environment, one must discover and explore the potential of what is provided, since you are not provided with large or excessive amounts. Moglen (2012) discusses a similar idea in which “the way innovation really happens is that you provide young people with opportunities to create on an infrastructure which allows them to hack the real world and share the results”. My project shows that it is up to the user how they utilize the restricted and harsh conditions that they are presented with, as they are constrained to work within these limited parameters.
The structure of the computer consists of a cardboard monitor, cheap plastic for the screen, string for the mouse chord and brown packaging tape to hold everything together. These materials were chosen for aesthetic as well as symbolic reasons. Austerity, in economic terms, is a government policy of cutting on its funding deficits and reducing its spending. Hoven (2012) refers to austerity in a political sense being a “lack of luxuries, or extreme economy”. For this reason, cardboard is a material that is symbolically austere, as it is a cheap, low quality and expendable material. In contrast to the high quality and sleek materials that are often neatly constructed in today’s computers, the computer I have created has a poor and harshly constructed appearance. Cardboard is often perceived as a weak material, particularly when compared to solid wood, metal or silicon/plastic. It may also be associated with items such as boxes, packaging, recycling etc. – a low grade material in which large quantities can be bought for a cheap amount. The computer experience I have created gives the impression/feeling as if it would cost a fraction of the price to manufacture when compared to a standard computer. This aesthetic gives the computer an ironic appearance – it is every day yet austere. It neglects the conventional materials that are used to make today’s computers – which, by contrast, appear as if they have been constructed to perfection with good quality materials.
This poor aesthetic was also present through other qualities of this experience. In addition to the rough appearance of the materials used, the dull brown color scheme also rejects the typical colors of computers and technological devices. Brown is a color that is associated with boredom, practicality and earth (Jung, 2009). These associations obscure the way users think about using the cardboard computer, consequently questioning or distrusting its functionality. For example, computers are usually thought of as progressive and futuristic technological devices with a great amount of potential and power, and not something that is earth-like, organic or boring, which brown represents. While these characteristics are predominantly experienced through the human sense of sight, it is also important to note that touch is affected in a similar way. The low budget feeling is reinforced through the rough and papery texture of the cardboard.
From what started as a machine of calculations and operations, computing has become an activity “that is inherently social, rather than solitary” (Luck et all., 2005). It has lead to new ways of designing, managing and conceiving computational systems. This project brings the computer back to where it started, as being strictly a tool of service rather than a product involving engagement and enjoyment.
In summary, this project contrasts the norm of computers in today’s society and consequently delivers a contrasting experience of austerity. Much of this experience is caused by user expectations and the ‘lower class’ feel provided by the computer that I have created. The materials used are inexpensive, dull and have a rough appearance. Economically, austerity means the government cuts back and spends less (Hoven, 2012). The cardboard, string and packaging tape used to craft the computer resembles this idea of low budget materials and limited functionality. This is matched by the brown and dull colour scheme, which serves to reinforce the overall concept of austerity within my project.
Bickmore, T., & Picard, R. (2005). Establishing and Maintaining Long-Term Human-Computer Relationships. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 12(2), 1-4. Retrieved from http://affect.media.mit.edu/pdfs/04.bickmore-picard-tochi.pdf
Hoven, R. (2012). In Search of the Dreaded Austerity. Retrieved from http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/05/in_search_of_the_dreaded_austerity.html
Jung, C. (2009). The Psychology of Colour: Can Colour Really Affect Our Mood?. (1), 1-17.
Luck, M., McBurney, P., Shehory, O., & Willmott, S. (2005). Agent Technology: Computing as Interaction, University of South Hampton, United Kingdom.
Moglen, E. (2012). Innovation Under Austerity. Retrieved from https://coderdojodublin.com/uncategorized/innovation-under-austerity/
As found from project one, drying yourself with a towel gives you a sense of familiarity and ‘normalness’ where it becomes a personal activity. This idea of it being ‘personal’ is experienced through the smell sense. What I wanted to do for this experiment was to turn this ‘personal-ness’ into a ‘glamorous’ experience.
This experiment involved spraying perfume onto the towel to surprise the person with a sense of glamour.
- I found it to be nice and very unusual to what I expected, however, not in a bad or off-putting way.
- It is not as pleasant as I expected. I was already used to the liquid smells of the shower gels/soaps.
- It is unexpected yet in a pleasant way.
Unfortunately, this experiment had a mixture of results, and not really the results that I hoped for. Although my testers mentioned that the towel smelt nice and somewhat ‘glamour’ like, one of them mentioned that it gave them an unpleasant sense of ‘touch’ because they knew that there was a nasty chemical rubbing into their skin and the towel didn’t feel as clean as it sohuld. Therefore, this unpleasantness is quite the opposite feeling of glamour.
For my second experiment I decided to explore the concept of austerity, and attempted to make drying yourself with a towel bring the feeling of austerity, since it is not a feeling that you usually associate with this activity.
The first thing I did was look up the dictionary definition of austerity:
noun ( pl. -ties)
sternness or severity of manner or attitude : he was noted for his austerity and his authoritarianism.
• extreme plainness and simplicity of style or appearance : the room was decorated with a restraint bordering on austerity.
• ( austerities) conditions characterized by severity, sternness, or asceticism : his austerities had undermined his health | the simple life of prayer and personal austerity.
• difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce a budget deficit, esp. by reducing public expenditure : a period of austerity | [as adj. ] austerity measures.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from French austérité, from Latin austeritas, from austerus ‘severe’ (see austere ).
Unfortunately, the way I imagined for this experiment to turn out didn’t quite work. Freezing the towel seemed a bit too extreme to the point of discomfort, and austerity isn’t exactly discomfort, it is more like restrictedness. Although this experiment brought a restricted feel, it was so restricted to the point of discomfort.
EXPERIMENT THREE (FINAL CHOSEN EXPERIMENT)
My third experiment was chosen as my strongest one. Although I felt that my second experiment (evoking austerity) didn’t work out as imagined, I decided to give austerity another go.
Results from project one suggested that drying yourself with a towel provides comfort when there is friction between the towel and your body. This friction creates warmth and eliminates the coldness of the air, hence this sense of comfort. For this experiment, I wanted to confine/restrict this comfort to create a feeling of austerity; which is a term that can be defined as a lack of luxury, and through this experiment I am eliminating a large amount of this luxury.
Another point to note is that a towel seems to work in a similar way to a currency system - the dryness of the towel represents money that is spent on the wetness of your body. Once that dryness of the towel runs out on your wet body, you have spent all your money (dryness). This is where I have incorporated the feeling of austerity into this activity; I have essentially restricted/confined this amount of money (dryness) by removing a significant portion of the towel.
Feedback from my three testers (James, Anna, and Laurel) were similar to what I anticipated. They mentioned that with the smaller amount of towel, they must regulate and prioritize what parts of their body needed to be dried first and how they were going to do it, giving them this sense of restrictedness and limited amount of towel. They also felt this lack of accommodation that the towel usually easily provides for them.