Museum Installation Design
Sep 2018 – Dec 2018
Kesava Karthik Kota, Kolli Vishal Reddy
Ideation, Research, Design, Fabrication, Prototyping, Testing.
The interactive museum exhibit aims to create a dialog and bring forth the effects of social construct in a viscerally-engaging generative art piece. It is intended for everyone and we plan to not restrict it to a certain demographic. The exhibit’s intention is to plant a seed of thoughts that would later allow for more deeper conversations. For what we found through our research, conversations are vital to create a more inclusive society.
To find a solution for thje challenge we need to explore and understand the tangible factors from the real world situations. Concrete understanding of the real world situations can help us shape abstract models to explore the problem in new dimensions. For design decisions and evaluations of such concepts we envisioned our process to be fluid between the real and abstract. Envisioning this, we adapted “The design Innovation process” which provided flexibility to iterate between the tangible findings and abstract concepts.
After finding our project dirctions, it was time to figuere out where to start before umping into the project. Loooking into various concepts around the world helped us to gain more inspiration on the topic and changes happening in business, technology, society, culture, policy, and the like. We looked into various art forms that explored gthe topic of social constructs. All this helped us to reframe our initial problem definition and look for more opportunities.
Opportunities for creating something new is are identified by understanding latest developments, seeing big pictures, recognizing current trends, and by reframing problems. Even though this is not a concrete statement which changed during the project development, it gave us a good rationale for the work we did in later stages.
Creating an installation focussing on equality and social constructs that reflects the current context and situation making users self reflect rather than trying to impose spread information, or preach the consequences associated various discriminations.
Discrimination can be done knowingly or unknowingly to any individual, so the target audience includes everyone with age more than 18 years.
Prior efforts to contain discrimination have been based on educating, counceling, and imposing it through education or school curriculum. But these strategies fail since they don’t make the user to understand and reflect upon the situation.
The idea of creating people self aware of the social constructs prevalent in the society can create a new dialogue between the users and the society as a whole.
Solutions tackling discrimination always been having a void in it, either it cannot target all the situations or it is able to change the behavior or inspire the use. This design tasks is an unique opportunity that can communicate the inclusive idealogy through self reflection by designing a playful interface.
This museum installations can have either negative or positive responses from the users. Moreover to creating playful solution in this domain is both risky and difficult.
To understand the user behaviors we studied the context, the circumstances or the situations that affect the usage and engagement with out installation. In this mode we were able to gain understanding of the surrounding conditions of the museum. The aim of this mode is to gain as many insights as possible about the context for exploring opportunities confidently.
We had the following questions that we aimed to explore through our research instruments:
What are some socio-cultural signifiers that affect the definition of equality and inclusion?
What are people’s feelings and emotional responses to being subjected to categorization by society (either positively affecting or negatively) to self and to others?
We followed an iterative process for our research and design. We split our research process into two dimensions as described below. Working on them and thinking about the possible traits helped us to build a shared understanding of the context within the team. It helped us to manage time and resources effectively.
Through this, we hope to derive insights into contextual factors as well as mechanics affecting a museum experience.
Discussion related social inequality and discrimination often lead to uncomfortable conversations. We didn’t want our participants to relive or vocalize experiences that can be uncomfortable to them. To address this challenge, we began exploring research methods, or even think of ways we can develop a new method, the goal here was to capture:
1. What social construct is important to individuals? (value)
2. What are the constructs they’ve experienced or seen someone else experience? (frequency)
At every steps to go off the track it is essential to re-emphasize the centrality of user in the design process. Our context and challenge is sensitive and it is needed to based on the user’s and their behavioral patterns. This phase of design process focusses on empathizing with users, observation, personal engagement and problem solving. As per the research plan defined in the previous mode we used observational and ethnographic research methods to learn about people and their behavioral patterns. Insights are derived from this phase that helped us to uncover various revelations and patters of the users behavior, characteristics and attitudes.
We conducted a survey to understand the mechanics surrounding a museum experience. We sent out a survey across the wider University of Michigan community and collected key insights on what people seek in a museum, what intrigues them and also focused on capturing insights on the technology that they use while at the museum. We received 131 responses from our survey. The survey findings are as follows:
To further validate our findings from survey and interviews, and to factor out biases due to the use of a particular research instrument, we conducted an ethnographic study. Our team was stationed at different areas and noted observations. One of us was stationed near a giant wall mural, which was in a busy location at Ann Arbor, MI and the other near another public art piece which was smaller in scale but still in a busy location. We hypothesized that the world is a giant museum with everything to be an exhibit. We found that even though an outside space is largely dynamic and with people not specifically waiting to observe and interact with objects around, there was some level of intrigue.
Additionally, we conducted non-intrusive observations in a museum to understand how people interacted with artifacts and noted key contextual factors that might influence the experience. We created the the experience maps below to reflect our understanding of the user.
Inequality Signifier is a grid of hexagons fused together in the form of a honeycomb pattern. Each hexagonal grid consists of three sections mapped to three questions. The responses for each question are color coded allowing participants to record their responses abstractly. All the responses were anonymous. We carried the poster to different schools and libraries within the University of Michigan campus. Our participants included undergraduate students, graduate students, academic staff, and faculty.
We received a total of 142 responses through the Inequality Signifier. The goal here was to capture the most salient social construct, which we found out to be racism in this case. Additionally, we were able to derive additional insights such as people feeling strongly connected to responses similar to theirs and wishing to engage in a conversation with the respondent. The inequality signifier method is inspired from Giogia Lupi’s work Collaborative data wallpaper for STORY.
After gaining knowledge about the context and the user, we moved to frame insights from that knowledge. These key insights will be helpful while shaping concise, actionable principles for innovation. From the insights we shaped out installation design goals which are user to evaluate our brainstormed concepts.
Personas are created to capture key characteristics, behavioral patterns, and attitudes of users based on the research findings from interviews, surveys, ethnographic observations and inequality signifier. We created two personas one focussing on the museum visitor and the other on the museum exhibit.
Using the insights from past research results, we mapped various areas of opportunities offered by the overlap of culture, activities and offering a museum provides. Based on an understanding of mechanics and personal values, we began to ideate on the museum exhibits focusing on social constructs.
In this mode we identified various opportunities and developed concepts using insights and principles derived from the last stage. Fresh and bold ideas are generated through collaborative sessions. Both of us build on each others concept postponing the critical evaluation.
An interactive wall exhibit where the wall will be filled with all the shades of color and when the user presses on a color tone all the other color tone patches flip showing the same color all through the wall and after removing the hand all the colors reappear. From this concept we want to convey that its the human perspective that always.
This is a collaborative art concept where users can make their own strokes on the screen from the of colors available on the screen. From the exhibit we want to convey that a plain canvas is boring, to make it art contrast colors are needed and to add more depth shades of the same color are needed, similarly diverse races and users need for a better world.
This concept includes a wall with various skin colors and when a user comes in front of it, the wall reflects the user with a silhouette and the same happen when there are multiple users, showing that all the color differences are just the human outer differences, but within everyone is similar.
This is a digital transformation of the inequality signifier we user below, as it could be read as belittling the significance and harm of discrimination by turning it into an art piece.
The exhibit is an interactive sphere accompanied by a response kiosk. The response kiosk prompts the visitors to record a single social construct that affects them the most. The responses are rendered as a dot on the interactive sphere visualized on the adjacent wall.
After developing various concepts, we detailed them to form a system of concepts. We evaluated the concepts and identified the ones which bring more value to the stakeholders. The concepts are evaluated on the characteristics defined in the previous mode to form holistic solutions. We iterated on the prototypes by tested them with various users.
The final design of the museum exhibit consists of a projection of a giant sphere that displays an aesthetic representation of visitor-fed data in the form of differently colored dots. Each dot is also geographically tagged allowing visitors to see where the response was made at. Each data point is captured through a response kiosk either beside the exhibit or the before accessing the exhibit. We added a series of gestures such as pan left, pan right, tap, pinch to zoom to interact with the exhibit.
After recording their social construct experience, user can view a sphere that highlights the types of discriminations prevalent in society. Zooming in and out, the user can view multiple layers of the effect that social constructs have on the people and the society. By clicking on a particular response, the user can find the location of the data source. From the interview, we found that the user is eager in knowing other users that have a similar experience. So, by tapping with two fingers users can view similar responses.
The interactions were carefully thought out to make sure that they are accessible and understandable to vast majority of the museum visitors. To prototype the installation, we used Processing for the visualization and mapping data points on the sphere. For interactions with the exhibit, we used Leap Motion to record gestural inputs.
After the design prototype is developed, we ensured that this installation is built around the peoples experiences and provide real value. To communicate the value to the audience we created a dialogue by creating a teaser for the installation aiming to enhance the human emotions.
As next steps of design, we hope to expand the installation data scope by gathering information from multiple museum locations. We also aim to position this touch screen panel at different public spaces to gather diverse data from various locations that can be later mapped to the visualization to create a single unified collaborative art.
For me, this design exercise is one of the complex and challenging ones. Creating a tangible solution by understand the social constructs was one of the most rigorous research I have done so far since users were not sharing their personal discrimination experiences. But by reaching different artists works, we were able to find a method that was able to capture the users’ discrimination experiences. This taught me that other than UX methods, different design and data collection methods are adaptable to understand the user experiences.