Leeds Creative Labs

Collaborations for Academics & Creative Innovators

Tag: iPhone

Progression (Pinter)

July 17th we (Mark Taylor-Batty and I) had our follow up progression meeting, which we had decided to work through some more of the app stuff based on the work we did while we were apart. We had also decided to discuss data visualisation and how this may change or progress the app / our practices in some way. We had also added to our Evernote use, a DropBox folder to share to use resources and share files and or screens we had been working on.

DropBox

DropBox shared folder was used for the resources we built up, and to add to it things to discuss.

Again, as the previous meeting we had both come prepared with work we had done while we were apart, and new things to discuss. I also brought a book that I found inspiring for alternative data visualisation which Mark was able to go through and we discussed as an alternative way to present information. Some of the things that came out following discussions would be a way to use “The Cloud” to sync information on the app perhaps with an iPad version. We thought displaying things visually interesting on an iPad would be a lot more enjoyable experience for the users, however the search through a photo feature would really not be that useful.

So it is a case of balancing what platform users would want for which use. Would it be efficient to have a completely separate app just for a Pinter timeline – would it be presented in an interesting visual way differently every launch? Would the data become ‘smart’, as in, the more a search term was entered, or the more productions done, the larger, or significant that would become? If so – how would this be presented? It brought up a lot of interesting questions.

We also looked at and discussed some initial screens I had made and presented based on our sketches from the previous meeting.

Search Result Screen Draft

This is the draft sketch that came out of an initial meeting. IT was for a search results screen.

results Alt

iOS mock up screen of that initial draft sketch we did showing how potentially the results screen may look.

As with the previous meeting, we made some decisions about futhor areas to research and work on, and what we could bring to our next meeting. We will add a few additional screen mock ups to be able to explain to people who will be involved in the future of this project to be able to visualise it a little clearer. As well as some general changes to these initial screens. We are also looking at mapping out the more complex page of “what’s on”, as we see it as having a social media aspect, a location based search as well as date. This will create a more complex screen where currently we have a clear uncluttered look so it will be an interesting challenge to maintain that.

InformationIsBeautiful

A photo from the book, Information is Beautiful, which has beautiful data visualisations.

 

A final note however for the collaboration so far, is I hadn’t before in my own collaborative work, given much thought to the location of where collaboration happens. I had had ‘meetings’ at conferences, hallways, classrooms coffee shops etc and it was for no particular reason (location for us both perhaps?) that we met at Leeds Museum. The days we met though, had all been nice weather, and so for the most part, we sat outside initially. I hadn’t realised how actually this environment also has a great effect on collaboration, there are other sounds, a breeze, a wide opened space, and I also wondered if being in an outdoor context helps an easy flow of conversation and ideas exchange? It’s an interesting thought that I will look into in the future work I take, to see if the place of collaboration can also affect the open mindedness and conversation aspect of meet up.

Mapping data

There was a necessary gap between our first and second meetings as I recovered from an operation (ouch), but this gave Christine and me time to process the enthusiasm of ideas that we’d generated at our first meeting, and to collect and collate some images and information that would contribute to a series of mock-up images of our imaginary app. We met one morning this week to consider these, but also to think further about how the range of data the app might offer could be presented in interesting and useful ways.

The images that Christine had produced were great to see. They captured the ambition for any interface to be simple, uncluttered and for user choices to be obvious. There might be a rich array of data available, but it was important to allow users to find what they wanted through short, simple steps. The four areas of the app we’d agreed upon at our 2 July meeting were: capture, timeline, what’s on and notes. A simple search field would also be available. The first three are the routes to data, and the ‘notes’ function would be a space to store search results, links and make notes. ‘Capture’ would be the means by which the app might offer contextual material by recognising a section of Pinter text, and we realised we’d need to think further about how that might look and work: some homework for the next meeting. We wondered also how the ‘what’s on’ feature might present the data that it might offer: location or date based information about current and forthcoming Pinter productions. Again, we needed to go away and chew on that.

Christine brought with her a fabulous book, one which I need to get for my own coffee table: Information is Beautiful by David McCandless, which has an associated ‘ultra-site‘. This was really useful in inspiring thoughts about how data might be presented visually in interesting, useful and creative ways. It reminded me of a project I saw online a couple of years ago (Charting the Beatles) that presented Beatles’ song collaborations, music and work in visual ways that, in one glance, told a story but which afforded greater detail upon closer scrutiny. We opened this up on my iPad and examined the various ways that data was expressed visually.

Charting the Beatles

Screen grab from http://www.mikemake.com/Charting-the-Beatles © Mike Deal

 

This led me to think about how the data in my projected database had the potential – through the careful and thoughtful application of metadata – to allow a variety of ways of mapping Pinter’s work across time, across theme, through filtering activities, location, commercial success and so on. We previously discussed data mapping and management such as mohiomap which facilitates visual representation of files, notes and tags:

Mohiomap example

Mohiomap of my research folder in Evernote

Having Christine’s app mock-ups in front of me, and chewing the fat together about data visualisation, I began to think about different ways in which a complex range of data, drawn from a ‘big data’ database (or, at least ‘quite big data’) could present users with simple ways of finding their way through that data. This was useful in that it began to indicate to me how each data object within the proposed database would need to be well tagged with metadata, and that all the metadata categories needed to be well planned in advance of any data capture. With all this in mind, and thinking back to my mock-up of a timeline of Pinter history, I began to envisage how a user might slide through a timeline and how, for example, each of Pinter’s plays might appear as a circle once first produced, and that circle might grow with time as more productions of it appear in the database over the time-scale. Clicking on it might reveal production history to the date selected, which in turn would present an opportunity to select and follow other routes of interest (actor biogs, costume design, production details, reviews, links to pertinent academic papers and so on). The means to present ‘filters’ to the main flow of information-over-time could be considered. In other words, the second meeting stimulated a lot more thought.

Follow Up (Pinter)

After the initial meeting, we had some time apart to work on our tasks that we had agreed. Some of the things that happened since the meeting was that Mark had set up an Evernote notebook for us to share the information / resources that we had been putting together / working on. This was a new way for me to share information. I had once set up a list and that was a collaborative thing, but to use a notebook and share images and text was a different way to do things, and evernote had a lot of great features, like being able to save the images from the posts directly.

Evernote

Using Evernote as a collaborative tool.

We could use the images and text information to create the iPhone mock ups to try to envision the ideas we had discussed. We then planned our next meeting so that we could share the resources we had started to build and how we can put together the iPhone app and work though how we could use this as a starting point.

Pinter Histories app – chatting and sketching

Christine and I met up for the first time on 2 July. We arranged to meet in the Leeds Museum café and sat down with coffee and sunshine to begin our collaboration.  The plan on that first day was to go through the concept I brought to the table and the various ways in which it might be realised. I was keen to get involved with the Creative Exchange programme in the first place to see if the kinds of ideas I had in my head were in any way realistic or manageable. I’m currently preparing a large application to the AHRC for a long project that would have at its centre the construction of a database of production history of Harold Pinter’s work in the UK. Thinking ahead to the next stage, I began to wonder how all that data and all associated metadata could be manipulated, presented, configured in different ways for different audiences. One output I imagined was an app that might, amongst other things, recognise Pinter’s dramatic texts and offer contextual materials and digital objects, pulled from the database and other sources. Meeting with Christine was an opportunity to talk through this and other potential features of the imagined app, to think about its architecture and functionality, and to get a pragmatic and realistic grasp on what is possible.

my sketch

Think through drawing – initial ideas

As well as just talking, we captured thoughts on paper, and Christine began to sketch a series of images in response to the ideas as we tried to clarify what such an app might look like. It was useful to ‘think visually’ as we progressed, and to keep in mind how to construct a simple interface to access a potentially large amount of data.

One refreshing aspect of the conversation was Christine’s ability to focus on the imagined users’ experience, and to ask sometimes challenging questions about what people would want from the app. I learned to appreciate that design needs to start, in effect, from user demand and desire, rather than from a set of stuff we might just offer a set of users digitally. It was useful also to concentrate on the different types of user I had in mind – scholar, student, theatre audience, theatre practitioner – and think about how different routes through the data would be charted by different user interests or needs. How do we accommodate all those routes within a simple interface. What is the ‘front page’, as it were, of the app?

In just a few hours, an ill-defined concept came into shape in my head, as Christine asked questions and sketched out possibilities. I photographed all the sketches and uploaded them to my Evernote account, to access and share later. Over the following week, we would think about how we could flesh out the ideas captured in the sketches, and set an ambition to mock up some app screens as a next step.

Collaborative Conversation

Today Mark and I had our first meeting, we decided to meet at the museum which was a really nice setting, especially for creative collaboration! I came to the meeting with an iPhone sketchbook, because we had initial conversations at the first meet up about what he was hoping to have for this collaboration, which was essentially a way to present the work of Harold Pinter – website, etc, app… to a varied audience (we talked about this too later) and so with that in mind I thought the app sketchbook would be a nice way to help us both to visualize what this could potentially be about.

Mark had prepared for me some initial information, videos, links, images about the work of Pinter so that I could come to the conversation with an understanding of the importance, varied and wide body of work he had done. This was very useful also because it put into scope for me exactly how much information there is – and how would this be possible to represent in an app.

MockUp

One of the draft drawings of a potential screen for an iPhone app. This represents a screen where the user can use their camera to photograph a text from Pinter, and it would then search based on that photo (the text) and return search results of actors who had played in that production, wardrobe information, etc…

Mark had a great way to present some of that information in a timeline which was something I knew we had to include – we spent time discussion essential things that would be important for people using the app, mapping out and drawing possible ways to present it. This was a useful exercise for me to be able to see how a subject with this much background would be best represented. We also looked at it’s wider scope and application as an actual framework potentially for universities etc to be able to bring other subjects to be presented in a similar way.

It was interesting for me to meet up and discuss things that Mark had been visualising for a very long time, a project that he has passion for and to come into it and challenge him on seeing perhaps a different angle or alternative vision. I enjoyed asking him about who the audience would be, and how we could best address these different groups, what features would each group find most useful, and how would someone who potentially was coming to the app (maybe through taking a course?) who has no knowledge of Pinter’s work, be able to even use an app… things like this was addressed through a timeline of works, where you could scroll through and be able to see things right away without using any search terms.

We left this initial discussion with both having some tasks to get on with before our next meeting, screens to mockup based on discussions, information to present and some work to research for the next meeting where we would discuss and look at data visualisation in a more general way.

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