Summer Sea Grant Scholar Julie catches us up on her prototyping for the climate change exhibit:

“Would you like to take a survey?”  Yes, I have said that very phrase or a variation of it many times this week.  I have talked to more than 50 people and received some good feedback for my exhibit.  I also began working on my exhibit proposal and visuals to go along with it.  This is so fun!  I love that I get to create this, and my proposal will be used to pitch the plan to whatever company they get to make the exhibit program.  How sweet is that?

So, the plan is to have a big multi-touch table – here is what it looks like, from the ideum website:


You can’t see very well from that picture but people can grab photos or videos or other digital objects, resize and move them around and place them wherever they want using swipe, pinch, and other gestures as with tablets and multitouch smartphones.  It allows multiple users to surround the table as well and work together or independently. This is a video showing this table tested here at Hatfield- it has a lot of narration about Free Choice Learning, and you can see the table in action a little bit.

People will be able to learn about climate change and then create their own “story” about what they think is important about climate change or global warming.  My concept of the interface for this has gone through a metamorphosis.  Here are the various transformations the interface has gone through:

Stage 1: My initial messy drawing to get my thoughts on paper and make sure I was on the same page with the exhibit team.  At this point I thought we would just have a simple touch screen kiosk.


Stage 2: Mock-up made by Allison the graphic designer, using stage 1 as a guide.  I showed this to people as I interviewed them so they’d have an idea of what the heck I was talking about.


Stage 3: My own digital version I’m currently working on, now more in sync with the touch table.  The final version will go into my exhibit proposal.


Here’s what it looks like with a folder opened – upon touching a file, an animation would show the file opening and spilling the contents on the workspace to end up kind of like this:


This is a very exciting project to work on, and I’m glad to get to use and hone my skills in creativity, organization, and attention to detail.  This exhibit proposal will certainly need a lot of all 3 of those things.  It’s also very interesting to interview people- I find my preconceptions dashed often, which is very refreshing.  And it’s great to be able to tailor the exhibit to several different audiences, in hopes that the message will be well received by all, no matter where they currently stand in relation to the issue of climate change/ global warming.  Talking with folks helps me know for sure what kind of material each group wants, so I can maximize the success of the exhibit with that group.  I can’t wait to see this thing in the flesh – I have already decided I will have to take a vacation out here next summer just to check it out!

Here’s an update from intern Julie Nance as she wades in to gathering data from the public:

“Last week I began front-end evaluation – talking to people out in the Visitor Center to get their opinions for the climate change exhibit.  I had them choose what case study they would want to learn more about, from a set of 14 pictures (species affected by global warming such as salmon, pteropods, etc).


I wrote down what everyone said and came up with some interesting trends, such as how the majority of women in their 20’s and 30’s as well as school age girls chose the emperor penguin over the rest.  This wasn’t a huge surprise given the options.
So the next round, I removed the penguin and turtle to force a harder choice, so many in that age group switched to the next most familiar and cute creature: the clown fish.  As my fellow intern Nick puts it, they’re only interested in “charismatic mega fauna”.
However, there were many people who chose things that were more local and meaningful to them personally.  My favorite comment I found funny was, “I chose Dungeness Crab, because I like to eat them, and I’m interested in keeping that going.”
The two most surprising comments were from gentlemen who were roughly age 60 to 70.  This demographic is kind of stereotyped as being very skeptical of climate change, and I will admit that I pegged them as probably being in that group.  One chose phytoplankton and said, “they are basic foodstuff.  They’re at the bottom  of the food chain, so that has effects all the way up.”  The other chose algae and said, “some people don’t believe [climate change] and think it’s ‘business as usual’, but I don’t think so.  Algae will probably be one of the first affected.”  Wooohoo!  You go dudes!  Thanks for changing my perception.

This week I’m preparing for the next phase of evaluation in which I will get into more detail with visitors about the exhibit itself, how it will work, and what types of resources they would want available on it.  A graphic designer, Alison, who works on projects for the VC is making a graphic for me to print and show to visitors while I talk to them about the exhibit.  This will really help them to visualize what I’m talking about.

The psychology behind talking to people and getting their opinions is staggering.  Every question, phrase, graphic, etc. I use goes through this complex interview process in my brain.  I wonder things such as, “how might people misinterpret this?”  “Will using this picture bias people’s responses?”  “Will using this phrase turn people away and change their answers?”  “If I color code, what are these colors going to make people think?”
That last one is big right now, along with positioning of things.  I am going to ask people to self-categorize into one of the groups from “Global Warming’s Six Americas,” but the graphic I was going to use from that study has different colors for each and I wonder if people will choose their favorite color, or think that one color is better or more desirable or think that I as the researcher want to lean them a certain direction based on the color or position.  If I lay out the 6 options top to bottom, it makes the top seem to be best and the bottom worst.  Colors- are warm or cool colors more acceptable and which do I appear to be favoring?  If I lay them left to right it might feel best to worst on a spectrum, or perhaps even political left wing/ right wing.  When you are doing research with human beings, whose thought patterns are so complex, you really can NOT control for every variable and you just have to do your best and realize that the results are influenced by many things.”

The design process for our climate change gallery is now underway. In addition to presenting current science, we’re designing the gallery to address the values and cultural beliefs that inform the discourse on this topic. One of the main concepts we’ll be drawing on is the “Six Americas.”

We want the climate change gallery to be as participatory as possible, allowing visitors to provide feedback and personal reflections on the content. Most of our exhibits deal primarily or exclusively with knowledge. This gallery will focus on personal beliefs, and how these influence the ways people learn. It should be an interesting project.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s a little piece from the Science and Entertainment Exchange about the science of cooking a turkey. I’m thankful for it.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanks to a very generous Informal Science Education grant from the National Science Foundation, the Free-Choice Learning Laboratory will soon be experimenting with some very promising emergent technologies. These technologies—soon to be integrated into our research space here at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center (HMSCVC)—include facial recognition, eye-tracking and augmented reality systems. RFID cards will allow visitors to opt out of these measures. We’re also looking to collaborate with outside researchers through our visiting scholars program.

To make use of these potent data collection tools, we will establish three new exhibits as research platforms:

1. Interactive climate change exhibit: This exhibit will ask visitors to share their own experiences and knowledge. The data collected by the exhibit can then be used to study cultural cognition and the underlying values of visitors.

2. Wave tank and engineering challenge exhibit: The hands-on, interactive wave tank will let visitors explore wave energy, marine structural engineering, and tsunami education. This platform allows for the study of hands-on STEM activities, as well as social dynamics of learning.

3. Remote sensing data visualization: The “Magic Planet” spherical display serves as the centerpiece of our remote sensing hall. We will redesign the 500-square-foot gallery space around the Magic Planet to update exhibit design and content, and to incorporate our new evaluation tools. This research platform allow for the study of complex visualizations, decoding meaning, and personal data narratives, including having visitors collect, analyze and visualize their own remotely sensed data.

A lot of preparation is underway, specifically around building the wave tank exhibit. We are also starting to explore a number of tools that will be used in the lab. Laura Dover has been exploring the potential ‘subject eye view’ of a head-mounted Looxcie camcorder—”the Borg camera,” as we have come to know it. We’ll post more about this as Laura’s work progresses, but she has already “assimilated” some volunteers, whom she put to work trying out the camera. The results are promising.

On a related note, the new OctoCam went online this week after our last camera succumbed to a year in seawater. The streaming underwater Octocam gets an overage of 12,000 viewers a day from all over the world. Ursula, our resident E. dofleini, responded in her usual manner by stuffing it into her mouth and trying to destroy it. She has not succeeded. A large octopus—by nature immensely strong and irrepressibly curious—is a good durability test for submersible equipment.

We’re also refurbishing the Magic Planet, our 3-foot spherical projection system capable of presenting global data realistically on an animated globe. The original projector has long since ceased functioning. Our tech team is installing a new projection system as well as redesigning the mounting and image centering systems. It’s quite a task! We are looking forward to installing Michael Starobin’s new movie “Loop” for our winter visitors.

In general we are evaluating our evaluation tools, drawing up plans and falling into a productive rhythm. We look forward to your feedback in the days and months to come.