ddc and icm: sydette harry and nikole hannah-jones

on monday, sydette harry, the community manager for the coral project, spoke to our class. her approach was much more interactive than francis’s, and she really managed to get us to participate in a way that we hadn’t yet.

where francis mostly says information at us (a method i like, but mileage varies), sydette’s technique felt more like collecting information from us. it felt like we were all learning from each other. she asked open-ended questions, wrote responses on the board (!) with chalk (!), and let the responses dictate what content she covered next. i’m sure she already had a loose idea of what she wanted to go over, but she also struck me as someone who has experience/talent improvising and extracting compelling ideas from hesitant/skeptical audiences.

the primary question for the two hours was:

“how do you meet the needs of people who don’t know they’re part of a community (yet)?”

this is the state of affairs for commenters on news sites.

we talked about tuckman’s stages of group development: forming, norming, storming, and performing; and how the obstacle to forming community on the internet is that there’s not consensus about what the task at hand is. the “performing” step, the really important one, is interrupted or never accomplished.

this was all on my mind at the panel on civil rights reporting i went to tonight. at one point, nikole hannah-jones said (to paraphrase) that the public now has access to reporters through social media—that if reporters misrepresent a story, they now have to answer for things they might not have had to answer for in the past.

which i found interesting because in francis’s class, we’re often talking about a “don’t read the comments” paradigm of interaction between readers and journalists. i asked nikole in the q&a how she decides who to listen to, what the balance is between answering readers on social media and ignoring ugly comments. where i collapsed these two into the same category of interaction, she really emphasized the difference between social media and comments. she said she only ever reads five comments deep on a given article but that, in her experience, when there’s a hateful comment that she actually takes time to respond to, the tone of the commenter changes in the follow-up; commenters don’t actually expect their words to reach a human, and they don’t expect to be addressed by a human in response. and (still paraphrasing) she said that the kind of discourse that happens on social media is qualitatively different.

all food for thought, maybe for my icm final project. i’m excited to hear nikole hannah-jones again at the creative summit next weekend.

notes from sydette harry's lecture
notes from sydette harry’s lecture

pcomp: useful things from playtesting

yesterday, we brought in prototypes for the final to test on our classmates.

  • danny and tom both insisted on this one thing:


they encouraged us, instead, to note what people do with our prototype, how they move through it, etc., without knowing our big ideas behind the project.

  • they also said that if no one understands the project and it feels like a failure, that’s good feedback. we were not supposed to correct people. just like we wouldn’t adjust variables and constants in the middle of an experiment, we had to keep the same script for every person and adjust everything at once after a round of testing.

i really like these constraints. i wonder how the expectations around instant understanding change whether you’re making art for a gallery vs. building a puzzle game vs. something else.

  • related: i like that in all of our classes, we are encouraged to think about where our project will ultimately live—on the web, on the floor, in the street, in times square, in a newspaper?
  • danny also said this brilliant thing:

“it’s easy to complicate things; it’s hard to simplify.”

  • i liked that joy brought a form to fill out, not because it necessarily makes feedback easier to collect but because then there’s record that you got feedback. important when you’re working on a team or handing off a project to someone else who wants to know what your process was.
notes from playtesting
notes from playtesting

more notes from playtesting

gal showing strings and scale
gal showing strings and scale

pcomp final: data condensation

i switched gears from my last idea for the pcomp final.

melanie, zoe, and i all ran into each other at the radical networks conference a few weeks ago and decided to work on a data infrastructure project together.

we’re thinking about possibilities for visualizing the flow of data that surrounds us. in terms of physical structure, we’re inspired by this computational sculpture and these rubber strings. another potential direction would be using fog and light, like the illuminator collective did for this bust of edward snowden. this second option would be conceptually stronger for working with the issue of cloud computing.

i’m also thinking a lot about this stuff i found called electrosafe coolant, “a non-toxic, clear, odorless, dielectric mineral oil blend.” it’s used to cool server racks that store our bytes. especially as i think about some of matthew coleman’s work drawing connections between nuclear production and data center infrastructure—and slick, shiny, flat, fast, mostly meaningless tech buzzwords like “seamless” and “frictionless”; and the erasure of the means of production as well as the parallel ecological destruction on which that frictionless sheen depends—the non-toxic, clear, odorless stuff feels like such an apt object to think with.

anyway, marketing video for that strange product here.