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Friday, October 19, 2007

Interaction design need not involve computers / Jake Barton / Local Projects

I went to the Apple store in Soho yesterday with Trevor MacDermid (Google / LinkedIn / SML Wiki) to see Design Remixed: Jake Barton, an event organized by AIGA New York.

Jake is the founder and principal of Local Projects, an award-winning design studio that seeks to tell stories in public spaces, museums, and over the internet, often simultaneously.

Jake showed a project that I thought was particularly interesting. It's called Memory Map:

It is an environmental design project where the content is entirely user-generated. UGC is a commonplace in the age of Web 2.0, but what is special about this project is that it does not involve technology at all.

In a gist, the installation involves a New York City map, on which visitors of this Smithsonian exhibit share personal stories by anchoring hand-written notes to specific locations related to their memories. Much like the same phenomena witnessed on social networking sites, small clusters of conversations emerge on the map. People felt a sense of connection through these notes, and it is through these memories where the diversity of the city can be felt on this cultural ecosystem.

During the Q+A session which follows the presentation, Jake further emphasized his desire to not involve the use of touch-screens for his museum installations which he felt appear more like ATM machines and thus remove the emotional impact of a stories as told by human beings.

Additional interesting projects presented
  • StoryCorps. A nationwide initiative to instruct and inspire citizens to record each other's stories in high-quality audio. Participants receive a CD of their recorded interviews while a copy goes to the Library of Congress for a national oral history archive.
  • P.I.E. (The Public Information Exchange). A hybrid digital/physical interface designed to create an archive of the NYC projects, proposals, programs, and exhibitions presented or discussed at the Center for Architecture.
  • Timescapes. Said The New Yorker: "Four hundred years of New York History are compressed into a twenty-two minute presentation morphing maps, images, and narration in the new three-screen installation 'Timescapes,' at the Museum of the City of New York. It's an absorbing biography of the city, neatly organized into chapters that outline the city's explosion out into its five boroughs, up into the skyscrapers, and down into the subway system."

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