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Building Installations in Five Days (and a bit) at Ignite London 4

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A talk based on my experiences at the Mediamatic Social RFID Hackers Camp at the PICNIC conference in Amsterdam in 2007, 2008 & 2009; as well as the Dev Camp ’10 hosted by Mediamatic itself. …

A talk based on my experiences at the Mediamatic Social RFID Hackers Camp at the PICNIC conference in Amsterdam in 2007, 2008 & 2009; as well as the Dev Camp ’10 hosted by Mediamatic itself.

Given at Ignite London 4.

Published in: Self Improvement

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  • 1. Building Interactive Installations in Five Days (and a bit) February 8th, 2011—Ignite London 4, London, UK Mark WubbenA talk based on my experiences at the Mediamatic Social RFID Hackers Camp at the PICNICconference in Amsterdam in 2007, 2008 & 2009; as well as the Dev Camp ’10 hosted byMediamatic itself.---Hi! I’m Mark and this talk is about my experiences from building interactive installations injust five days (and a bit). These come from hacker camps organized in Amsterdam by culturalfoundation Mediamatic.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105663/en
  • 2. At hacker camps we don’t hack bank accounts or take down websites. Instead, we try to buildcrazy new stuff. These camps typically had 20 to 30 artists, designers, programmers,scientists etc.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105567/en
  • 3. Important to know is that Mediamatic has it’s own social network software. They also providecute RFID tags — like what’s in your Oyster card — that can be linked to this network. Thatway we can identify who interacts with the installation and update their online profile etc.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105983/en
  • 4. This is a mobile massage couch. You sit down and get a massage. Sit down with a friend or astranger, touch your RFID tag and it’ll connect you on the social network. Or ask somebody torecharge your “massage credit”.Made by Edwin Dertien, Fabienne Serriere & Ralph Meijer. Find out more at http://www.mediamatic.net/page/52720/en.Photo by Daria Perevezentsev, http://www.mediamatic.net/page/54511/en. Licensed underCreative Commons, but it’s not clear which specific license.
  • 5. Or how about a Google popularity contest? Challenge somebody, walk up to the ikWin, touchyour tag and take a seat in the elevator. The installation will google you both and the personwith the most results goes highest.If you’re in the Netherlands you can even rent this installation yourself.Made by Axel Roest, Mathias Forbach & Simon Claessen. Find out more at http://www.mediamatic.net/page/52953/en.Photo by Mathias Forbach, http://www.mediamatic.net/page/54630/en. Agreement for usein this presentation with Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license granted via e-mail.
  • 6. This is the Vbird. It’s a flightless bird that you need to throw to other people. It’ll videotapeit’s flight and if you scan your RFID tag to the contained reader, the video will be uploaded toyour profile.It was a massive failure (oh, and I worked on it).Made by Adriaan Wormgoor, Eelco Wagenaar, Erik Borra, Mark Wubben & Martijn Pannevis.Find out more at http://www.mediamatic.net/page/52865/en.Photo by Daria Perevezentsev, http://www.mediamatic.net/page/55874/en. Licensed underCreative Commons, but it’s not clear which specific license.
  • 7. The hardware was in a very cramped space, so it was hard to maintain. And, you know, wewere throwing with it!One lesson you can take from Vbird is that you need to simplify your project. Simplify,simplify, simplify. I can’t repeat this enough, because it’s an incredibly useful mantra whendoing these kind of projects.Photo by Daria Perevezentsev, http://www.mediamatic.net/page/55874/en. Licensed underCreative Commons, but it’s not clear which specific license.
  • 8. Simplify, simplify, simplify 1One lesson you can take from Vbird is that you need to simplify your project. Simplify,simplify, simplify. I can’t repeat this enough, because it’s an incredibly useful mantra whendoing these kind of projects.The challenge of a Hacker Camp is to create something fun and meaningful in very little time,with a rather hard deadline. Camp’s over, you go home, so it better be finished.The only way to do this is to radically simplify your idea. Quite often when you first conceiveof something you tend to overcomplicate. If you’re a programmer you’ll love collecting dataand statistics, if you’re a designer you love building pretty interfaces. These things don’tmatter at all.People like simple interactions. You’ll have to grab their attention, get them to interact, givethem a valuable moment and let them move on. It’s about the value of the experience.
  • 9. Simplify even further!The only way to do this is to radically simplify your idea. Quite often when you first conceiveof something you tend to overcomplicate. If you’re a programmer you’ll love collecting dataand statistics, if you’re a designer you love building pretty interfaces. These things don’tmatter at all.People like simple interactions. You’ll have to grab their attention, get them to interact, givethem a valuable moment and let them move on. It’s about the value of the experience.
  • 10. This is Badger. Based on your online profile it prints one of twelve badges. If you then bumpinto somebody wearing the same (or a different) badge, you’ll have something to talk about!Sounds simple, but it was still too complicated. It should have printed the badges at random,and we could just have told the visitors that it was based on their profile. Getting a badge isfun enough!Made by Jim Wood, Audrey Samson & Mark Wubben. Find out more about Badger at http://www.mediamatic.net/page/22590/en.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission, CC-BY-NC 2.0. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/74925/en
  • 11. Constraints are freeing 2You’ll also find that there are many constraints on your project. These are good because theyprevent you from going too crazy. Where will the installation go? What’s the budget? Howmany people do you have?You’ll build a better installation with more constraints.
  • 12. The Vbird was largely unconstrained. Too many people, too many technical possibilities. Thereal fun was in throwing things. That’s what gave me the idea for the ikSpin: a simple frisbeegame. You need to score “touchdowns” at one of four bases, with RFID tags on the frisbeeand a reader inside each base.Made by Eelco Wagenaar & Mark Wubben. Find out more at http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105826/en.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/112586/en
  • 13. But how do you build those bases? Start from scratch and construct them using wood? That’sboth expensive and time consuming. So instead my partner in crime went to the localhardware store and stumbled across these buckets. Stack them up and they make a nicebase, with plenty of room for the hardware.Right photo by Eelco Wagenaar, used with permission. http://www.flickr.com/photos/_wgnr/4089406740/.
  • 14. Have a Plan B 3You’ve simplified and been constrained. Still, there’ll be risks in the project. Have a plan B.For the Vbird, there was no plan B. For the ikSpin, we had redundancy in the base stations.You’ll also need a Plan B for deciding between two different approaches. For example, theBreaking The Frame team in ’09 was either going to rig up a set of webcams, or propercameras for a bullet-time effect.
  • 15. You’ll also need a Plan B for deciding between two different approaches. For example, theBreaking The Frame team in ’09 was either going to rig up a set of webcams, or propercameras for a bullet-time effect.This is the picture of the moment where they have to make the decision to go to Plan B anduse webcams, because they can’t get the normal cameras working.Unfortunately they spend nearly two days on getting the cameras to work, time they couldhave spend on adding more webcams or making the interaction better.Breaking The Frame was made by Carl Emil Carlsen, Dan Paluska & Mike Wege. Find out moreat http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105824/en.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105994/en
  • 16. The point of having a Plan B is to never need it.The point then of having a Plan B is to never need it in the first place. It makes you realisticabout Plan A. Yes, you do need to experiment, and attempt to go down the riskier path, butyou still have to finish the project in five days.
  • 17. “Share Your Shit” —Tor Nørretranders 4When you’re at a hacker camp, you share. Sweat, tears, food, ideas, support. But of courseyou also try to reuse existing software, some from previous camps, all of it open source.You’ve got five days so you use what you can. Mediamatic has also evolved a set of tools wecould use.For example, back in ’07 one of the teams constructed the Photo Booth. A massive structurein which you could have your photo taken with friends and strangers.[^1] Stowe Boyd, http://www.stoweboyd.com/message/2008/06/share-your-shit.htmlSee also http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonz/2614647984/.
  • 18. For example, back in ’07 one of the teams constructed the Photo Booth. A massive structurein which you could have your photo taken with friends and strangers.Mediamatic has taken this concept and turned it into the ikCam, open source software thatruns on Linux machines. We used it in the ikSpin for having people sign up to play the game.From massive structure to “oh, we used that for signup”. Sharing is awesome.Photo Booth was made by Timo Arnall, Einer Sneve Martinussen, Jørn Knutsen & AnneHelmond. Find out more at http://www.mediamatic.net/page/22730/en.Left photo by Anne Helmond, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0. http://www.flickr.com/photos/silvertje/1446632325/Right photo by Minke Havelaar / Mediamatic. Used with permission. http://www.any.nu/page/14420/en.
  • 19. Of course if you’re at a hacker camp in a strange city, it’s great to have a support team thatdoes the shopping for you, makes sure there’s food in the fridge and can provide somementoring. Luckily Mediamatic took care of that for us, and I hope you can find some supportfor your own projects as well.Photo by Marieke Bijster, used with permission. http://www.mediamatic.net/page/105967/en
  • 20. Thanks! novemberborn.net @novemberborn 11born.net/ignite-lon Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0Because really, I hope this does inspire you to do some hacking on your own projects. Keep itsimple, work within your constraints, and make something awesome.Thank you.P.S. You’ll find the slides at the link, including links to the projects and photo credits.Illustration by Matt Jones, CC-BY-SA-NC, http://www.flickr.com/photos/blackbeltjones/3365682994/.

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