Public interactive design

How could you design an experience that would invite someone to explore some of the questions we have engaged in this course?

This creative exploration has three parts. In the first part, in preparation for our November 10 class, you will research how designers communicate ideas in the displays and experiences they design for museums. In the second part, you will work collaboratively to design an interactive exhibit that communicates one of the key ideas we’ve explored over the semester. Finally, you will write up your reflection as usual.

Part One (November 10 class):

Go to a museum in DC (the Smithsonian Museums of Air and Space and American History have a lot of interactive exhibits). Walk around, see what you think, and choose one exhibit. Read through the assignment before you go and choose one that you think will offer some interesting answers to these questions. Don’t choose a piece of art hanging on a wall – though an exhibit or activity that’s designed to help visitors appreciate the art is fine. Take 2-4 pictures and upload them to the blog as media files.

For November 10’s class, prepare rough answers to these questions, which are based on Balsamo’s “Iterative Steps of Hermeneutic Reverse Engineering” (17). You’ll present this verbally in class and write up the answers in your final reflection.

What are the main ideas / pieces of knowledge communicated here?
• Factual (what’s it officially about)?
• Procedural (what are you learning from what you’re asked to do)?
• Cultural (what knowledge and expectations does it presuppose)?
• Unintentional (what do you learn about the assumptions of the creators)
• Design: what are the connotations of the design of the exhibit? Color, images, shape, size, sound…?

Part Two (November 13 blog post / November 17 class):

On November 17, we’ll create our own “Museum of Media and Identity” in class. In groups of 3, you will prepare for class by developing a proposal for an interactive display of some kind that would help visitors to understand one or more of the concepts we have discussed in class.

Your group can choose the concept you want to work with. You should tell me your group and conceptual focus in your blog post due November 13. If two groups want to work on the same issue, I will ask you to figure out a way to make sure you are clearly differentiating your focus.

Here’s a list of possible focuses:

  • The gendered and/or racialized gaze
  • Dominant-hegemonic, negotiated, oppositional interpretations
  • Mythical norms
  • Impairment vs disability
  • Cisgender vs transgender
  • Colorblind ideology
  • Remix as a queer and/or feminist and/or antiracist act
  • The countercultural politics and technology of zinemaking
  • Gendered and/or racialized game mechanics

Your exhibit design can be concrete or speculative (ie: you can present an idea without knowing how you would put it into practice). It can incorporate equipment and technology, sound and images or it can be entirely based on your group’s bodies and voices. The one necessity is that it invite visitors’ participation and attempt to show them (rather than just to tell them) what your topic is about. Think about the kind of audience your exhibit is aimed at, as well: where do you imagine this might be installed?

As your group develops ideas, you should do some online research to see whether others have created anything similar: are there known pitfalls of this kind of exploration? (For example, it’s quite common to ask able-bodied people to simulate disability in order to raise awareness, such as by wearing a blindfold, but many disabled people find this kind of exercise deeply problematic.)

Part Three: your report (due November 20)

In your blog report, which you will write individually, include:

  • A discussion of how your museum trip, class, reading shaped your understanding of the idea of a “public interactive.”
  • A reflection on your individual and group process in designing your exhibit. What inspired you? What disagreements did you have? Were there any interesting ideas you chose not to pursue? Include at least three links to images, examples or commentaries on the topic.
  • A description of the exhibit you created. What were your primary goals? How does your exhibit engage and educate its audience? Why did you make the design decisions you did?
  • An analysis of how successful your group’s exhibit was. What came up in class that you hadn’t thought of? What would you like to have done differently? What was the most effective part? If you were to develop this further, how would you do so?
  • Optionally, if this has inspired you to further thoughts on media, culture, design, capstones, life, the universe, and everything, tell us about them.

There is no required word count for the report.