Working in iterations has helped me and my workflow significantly. By starting off Iteration 1 with research and exploration into the space we would be displaying in – The Foyer of Weymouth House. In groups, we gathered a lot of information about the best places to display in the foyer for optimum audience numbers, and the best times of day to ask questions for the richest data. Although this was early on in the proceedings of the project, it helped me out a lot later in the project when I was deciding where to display my design.
We then started our learning stage, by having workshops in Processing. Within this we learnt so much about programming language and the way in which it is structured. I had not known how much could be done with programming like Processing, but after some research it opened my eyes to the opportunities that lay within programming. When we began looking at camera interaction and forces within Processing, this is when the ideas started to run through my head about using gravitational pull and other real-life forces simulated within graphics. Whilst having many ideas running through my head, I was researching concepts like abstraction, and looking at examples of artists work who I admired, such as Memo Akten who uses simulated forces to create his abstract, interactive designs.
I also looked at different theory related to the project along the way, mainly about media spaces and mediating environments for the audience, within this I looked at how spaces and created and changed to fit the purpose of the audience moving in a certain way. I looked at The Science Museum as a space, and the kinds of interactive designs inside, used to engage and entice the audience into learning.
Moving into the second iteration, I produced a mind-map of ideas I had stored up in my head for a while that I had thought of for my final outcome. Through this it made it clearer for me to pick out my favourite ideas to put forward to the designing and implementation stage. My two favourite ideas were having a face on a bouncing ball, and using ferrofluid either in a graphic simulation or as a real-life installation. Knowing that I would be able to create and knew how to create the face on a bouncing ball, I wanted more of a challenge so conducted some more research into installations and interactivity, which then lead me to talking to members of staff about whether it would be possible for me to create an installation rather than just using graphics on a screen. The outcome of the conversations was that it would be possible, through the use of Arduino.
Still in my second iteration, I carried on exploring audiences and the ways in which they receive messages from media texts, this was to be in relation to the way I wanted the audience of my design to understand the messages I wanted to portray. One of the main messages I wanted to get across to the audience is the idea of using 3D rather than 2D, to give an object a life.
Iteration 3 was my implementation stage – once I knew I could use Arduino to create the outcome I was hoping for, I got straight to work to try and make a motor turn using a sensor. Throughout the whole of iteration 3 I had a lot of technical challenges causing hold-backs in my workflow, but with the use of a small gadget I got the motor turning, and eventually after a lot of coding I managed to create a working prototype.
My fourth iteration was my testing stage, which did not go quite to plan. Although I had a working prototype of the electrical elements of my design, the magnet and ferrofluid part worked together a little too well, causing the motor to get stuck and crash when run. I had to think very quickly of another solution to this, so I came up with the idea of using LED’s instead of ferrofluid and magnets as I would still be getting a visual outcome. Although I was cutting it fine, I managed to get hold of some weaker magnets which eventually created a small-scale version of the final outcome I was hoping for. Throughout iteration 4 I gathered some information from the people who had seen and engaged with my design to get some feedback on what they thought of my installation.
Overall, although I had numerous patches where I thought my idea was never going to work, I managed to work through the problems and create solutions which brought me to my final outcome. However, if I had more time on this project there were numerous things I could do to improve;
- I would have completed my ‘bouncing face’ idea so I had another outcome as a back-up in case of things going wrong like they did.
- I would have added more LED’s to the motor circuit and in different colours to create more of a varitety.
- I would have also added more ‘if’ statements into my code, meaning there would be more stages of speeds, so it would not be so jumpy when going from close to far away and would generally be a smoother transition.
- I would have looked for more professional looking resources, such as finding some small plastic boxes for the feet of the perspex box, rather than using polystyrene.
- I also would have measured the distance between the magnets and the box to see how close/far away they needed to be for optimum spikes and rotation.
- If I also had a bigger budget to spend on the project I would have invested in a bigger, more powerful motor which would have turned the original magnets.
Although there was a lot of things I could have done differently, I am still very proud of my outcome and how much I learnt throughout this project. Not only did I learn skills and knowledge in Processing and Arduino coding, I also learnt a lot about electronics and how they link with coding. I would say that I learnt the most through my own application and problem solving in my implementation stage as I would have to think off my feet when something would go wrong to think of a solution. I would always ask for help when needed, however it was not always available, so this was when I felt I learnt the most as I would have to do my own researching and understanding for myself.
I had very positive feedback on my design from people who had seen and tested it, and overall I am very positive about the project as a whole it when I look back on it, even if I do know how much I would have liked to have changed. I know how much I have learnt in technical terms, and also know that working through a design iteration format has helped me significantly when completing all stages of my design.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Arduino and ferrofluid, and I know that I will continue experimenting with both in my spare time to create some more interesting interactive designs.