Anarchic Communication for/by Students
From dec.14 2014 on, there is communication monitor at the canteen of the Toneelacademie. All students can freely post their announcements (and thoughts and whatever...) at this monitor.
The idea is to expand this project across all the Art faculties in Maastricht, sharing the same stream of information.
You can watch the stream here:
(If you get a headache - it's because these monitors are tilted on their sides :-)
The interface has been designed by Wies Hermans (www.wies.be).
After half a year of operation, we had some surprising results. It turns out that our user base (mostly students) is not as 'digital-handy' as one might think. They are quite able to produce compelling pictures for sure, but they do so without any idea about concepts as 'resolution', 'compression', 'file format' etc… In short, they have a trial and error approach to producing any digital media. On top of that, they do not read manuals at all. This is quite a challenge for any designer of new digital soft- or hardware. If it's not self explaining, it is not functioning, no matter how well the manual clears out things.
That had some surprising consequences for our KANTINEKUNST.ORG project.
However well explained, almost 40% of all the posted images turned out to be upside down, or on their side. Another 40% had a wrong file format: at one point, someone posted some 20 html files as 'images'…
As that produced lot's of black pages, the screen lost popularity quite quickly. It 'didn't work'… Updating the instructions did hardly improve things: they are plainly ignored. Intuition rules!
In it's next version, we asked the designer to change some things:
* the user sees a preview of how the uploaded image will look on the screen, after which he can confirm or cancel
* the random function has been optimised
* the posted email address is checked through a confirmation proces
update november 2015
The new interface turns out to be quite successful. Students experiment with all kinds of resolutions and file formats within the context of the interface, so no more black pages… Slowly, the students adapt the concept of their design to the format of the screen. They discover that a copy of the regular flyer just doesn't function on a screen. Most tiny fonts disappeared, the presented images concentrate on essential information and a compelling image.
It still seems to be quite a challenge, to produce a joeg of the right dimensions. Youngsters are not as digital savvy as one might assume. They can produce images for sure, but have no idea whatsoever about resolutions and compressions. They will mail you with no hesitation at all a 25MB, one page pdf. Or a 24KB picture for print. If you have no idea why this would be a problem: that proves the point exactly.
In this ever expanding and complicating digital world, we rely on the machines (and the software) to guide us in the process and to correct our mistakes. We demand from software to function in an 'intuitive' and human way, although we slowly - and unconsciously - learn to think in digital terms. We are truly in a symbiotic relationship with our digital surrounding.
In 2016 we will offer the other art schools in Maastricht the possibility yo acquire the same system. The idea is that students of all art schools get access to information about all projects in all the schools.