I’m feeling my way around. The path branches out in several directions. I explore one avenue hunting for clues that may have the insight I need, and then I try another route. This is not a distracted wandering but a focused drive seeking creative possibilities. In my search I encounter more questions. Channeling my inner detective, I analyze methodologies and interview subject matter experts. I turn concepts inside out and backwards. Maybe if I think about them from a different angle, I will see details that I did not notice before? There are moments of exhilaration, exasperation, and fascination. The answers will not come to me on a silver platter. I have to be patient with what develops while keeping the end goal in mind. Thus the creative process of a project unfolds.
While working in the cyberlab I have been reflecting on the process of a project. Our team has a goal in mind – to create a customizable research platform that will provide a setting for researchers to investigate free-choice learning, human and computer interaction, or sociology principles (to name a few). We have many tools and resources to use, but more pieces are needed to reach our destination. Seeking out advisors for assistance, their insight inspires more questions and new routes. My personal comfort zone prefers this to be orderly and structured, but this confining mindset is breaking down, forcing me to question my grip on a pre-determined map. Instead of traveling on a firm road, I am moving along a fluid river. The comfort zone begins to stretch.
I am reminded of the idea to embrace the journey, whether it is related to a project for the cyberlab, graduate school, or life in general! There is beauty in the iteration, the failed attempts, and the pieces that finally connect together. The creative process requires patience and time. Keep driving to design, refine, and reflect. Great inventions and innovations require passion, persistence, and alterations. All of this builds to learning and growth. With this in mind, I am off to navigate the wild river.
This past week at HMSC, we have been getting back to my old favorite – exhibit design and prototyping. Katie and I have been planning the prototype of the video booth that will go in to the new wave tank area, which is intended to capture visitor reflections when they test out their wave-resilient lego structures in the large tsunami tank.
The idea behind the booth is visitors will build and test their lego structures in the tank, and then have the chance to review footage of their “crash” via an overhead camera above the tsunami tank. The video booth will encourage visitors to reflect on their footage and video record their response. Eventually, the reflections we capture will be used to research how visitors reflect on design and test activities in an ocean engineering context.
Depending on the application interface that is being designed for us to run the video review and record capabilities, the prototype will start simple with a touchscreen device behind a curtained booth. We are hoping that “curtaining” the booth will give it an element of mystery for visitors, and hence a hook to use the exhibit – inspired by our lab group’s visit to the Science Factory last summer, where we played for a long time in a darkened booth that allowed us to explore photosensitive materials.
With the help of Becca and Susan’s interpretive expertise, myself and Allison are also in the process of working on some signage to help visitors explore how different construction materials will affect their lego structure wave-resilience. Mark had the idea to weaken different color legos to represent different materials resistant to wave impact, an idea which Harrison began experimenting with last spring. In this way, the weakened legos are models of different construction materials and, in essence, are weakened using a drilling tool so they have less “cling” to the base plate their fixed to during tank testing. Some are heavily weakened to represent wood, some only moderately to represent concrete, and some not at all to represent steel. The idea is to encourage visitors to experiment with differing “materials” and to generate hypotheses about material effect on design as they build and test their structures.
I love exhibit prototyping, so these tasks have been very enjoyable for me so far! I’ll post some pictures once these get out on the floor.
As the lab considers how to encourage STEM reflection around the tsunami tank, this recent post from Nina Simon at Museum 2.0 reminds us what a difference the choice of a single word can make in visitor reflection:
“While the lists look the same on the surface (and bear in mind that the one on the left has been on display for 3 weeks longer than the one on the right), the content is subtly different. Both these lists are interesting, but the “we” list invites spectators into the experience a bit more than the “I” list.”
So as we go forward, the choice not only of the physical booth set up (i.e. allowing privacy or open to spectators), but also the specific wording can influence how our visitors choose to focus or not on the task we’re trying to investigate, and how broad or specific/personal their reflections might be. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some testing of several supposedly equivalent prompts as Simon suggests in an earlier post as well as more “traditional” iterative prototyping.