Scavenger Hunt

As part of our first Video and Sound assignment, we went on a little scavenger hunt for sounds. Here are three of my favorite ones that I collected.

Take it from me, squishy things that produce sound are hard to come by. But here is my idea of a squishy thing – a huge garbage bag.

One of the most fun sounds to collect was of the stranger who told me his ‘deep dark secret’.

The sound of the ambulance we managed to catch on time.

Audio Walk – Her Long Black Hair by Janet Cardiff

As I walked through Central Park to Janet Cardiff’s directions, I felt a certain possessiveness towards the ‘moment/s’ I was experiencing. I wanted the moment to myself – to not share it. Despite having a lovely companion (Joy) on the walk, I recognized that there was a solitude that Janet’s piece brought upon me. It was as if she was whispering in my ear her story, her secret.

What made Her Long Black Hair an engaging experience for me were:
1. Using the Central Park trail as a medium to tell the story
2. The multiple narrative approach wherein her story was interwoven with the directions being given to the listener.
3. The poetic translation of predictability into small moments of surprise for the listener. Now and again she would draw the listener’s attention to familiar scenes – a woman talking on the phone, a couple getting their wedding photos clicked, pigeons on the statue – that made her story more credible and my experience more real.

As I became attuned to sound as my primary sensory cue (and not the visuals I saw), I began to approach my trail based on what I heard. I would tread along a path and validate its accuracy based on the texture of the road or the sound of the chirping birds. Seldom do we have experiences that are so thoroughly multi-sensorial. ‘Her Long Black Hair’ was one such experience for me. I wonder if the experience would have been the same had there been a loudspeaker narrating the story. Is it the illusion of secrecy that made it so personal or the hit of familiarity?

Following are some of the pictures from our walk. Thank you to Eun Jee Kim (Joy) for accompanying me on this walk and also for very kindly clicking all the pictures presented here.

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What is Interaction?

Simply put, physical interaction (as defined by Chris Crawford) is a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think and speak. While the existence of interactivity can theoretically be determined by these three main factors, I believe it is also important to consider the nature of interactivity itself. The ‘nature’ accounts for human needs, context and capabilities – Who are the actors? Why are they interacting? What possibilities can they explore? It is this nature, that in my opinion, helps measure the degree of interactivity, that Crawford so strongly emphasizes upon. An interesting point that Crawford brings forth through the first 2 chapters of this book are what interactivity is not. He distinguishes interactivity from Reaction, Participation, Involvement and to an extent, Engagement. Though the interaction may lead to these, it cannot be defined by them.

Much as I agree with Crawford’s objective measurement of interactivity, I find myself more inclined towards Bret Victor’s vision, simply based on the fact that it considers context. Victor boxes interactivity into situations and urges designers to respond to these situations. For example, in his article, ‘A brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design’, Victor talks about designing future interfaces for existing human gestures. To take this example forward, let’s say if one had to design for starfish, one would understand the starfish’s natural environment and behavioral tendencies and work to amplify them, as opposed to introducing alternative patterns of behavior that the starfish would need to adjust to, before it can actually experience it.

Both Victor and Crawford offer two important facets of interactivity. While one emphasizes on the quality of interaction through context, the other seeks to define interactivity through certain quantifiable parameters. Based on my learnings from ‘The Art of Interactive Design’ and ‘A brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design’, I infer that good physical interaction, beyond the cyclic listening-thinking-and-speaking, is deeply rooted in human instinct and physical behavior.

Examples of non interactive digital technology: the Kindle, a Digital Clock..