AL Jess Funston

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Back to: The Augmented Library

Last Term

We should use this:

Mapping Site: Reading Response

I don't get it. I read a couple pages of this, went back to the beginning, read the whole thing out loud to myself and afterwards felt nauseous. Some things that almost made sense, in no particular order:
- "Non-site as an index of site."
- "The Non-site is a map that will take you somewhere, but when you get there you won't really know where you are."

Alright, so I don't understand much of it. Here's how I'm feeling generally after skimming it a second time:
Places and representations of places are different (duh). Smithson's work looks a lot simpler than he aparently thinks it is. That hotel is poorly designed if people can't map it in their heads. Why is "cognitive mapping" supposed to be an oxymoron? Am I a moron?

The Individual As A Unit

"Order cannot be said to prevail among people going in the same direction at the same pace, because there is no interference. It does not exist when persons are constantly colliding one with another. But when all who meet or overtake one another in crowded ways take the time and pains needed to avoid collision, the throng is orderly." - Edward Alsworth Ross, Social Control, 1908

I just really liked that quote. But here are a couple quotes that I thought spoke to what we touched on last class, about the odd dynamic of being alone in a public space, the way people often are in the library.

"...What is ordered is passings-by of unacquainted pilots--or at least ones who need not be acquainted--thus providing one source of material for the study of the social relations binding strangers."

"Singles suffer a further vulnerability: those who behave in a prankish or questionable manner are judged more harshly than are members of a with. Apparently if others seem willing to accompany one and are relatively at ease in this participation, then it is taken that one's antics cannot be a sign of extreme aberrancy. Singles, in consequence, more than those who are accompanied, make an effort to externalize a legitimate purpose and character, that is render proper facts about themselves easily readable through what can be gleaned by looking at them."

I think it's true about the "unacquainted pilots", but that our goal in this class, and what we have already started exploring with the "Surrender Control" assignment, might be to figure out a) what could be gained from aquainting ones self with these other passers-by, and b) how to facilitate such an interaction.
The idea of the "vulnerable single" is one that relates very closely to our study of the use of the library, and I'd just like to more clearly iterate what I tried to say in class last week, which is that the library might be one of the only places on campus that is a public space where people come to be alone, and for a lot of people the only public space where they are ever alone for an extended period of time. I have often thought that when people are alone, as it says in the article we read, they feel they have to "make an effort to externalize" a certain sense of themselves. I think this leads to a lot of the encounters we were talking about last class where people sitting by themselves seemed extremely disturbed to have someone else walk into their bubble. Also the layout of the library makes it possible for people to be very alone in this public space, for example the number and spread-outedness of little study areas pretty much assures that you will be able to find one where there is no one else in your line of sight. This could be a good thing, because it is what people seem to gravitate towards, but it could also be a bad thing, because it perpetuates the "unacquainted pilots" scenario.


"It is coming--and as yet, the people who will be most affected by it, the overwhelming majority of whom are nontechnical, nonspecialist, ordinary citizens of the developed world, barely know it even exists."
This reminded me of our class, like,

Everyware: coming this spring to a library near you.

I walked by Hannah and David doing their "free candy and draw a picture of the library" thing when I peeled myself out of bed for lunch today (I'm sick, which is why I'm not in class) and was very happy to see it, but then a little confused because my friend turned to me and was like "That's really weird, why are they getting people to draw pictures of the library." So I was thinking about the nonspecialist citizens and whether or not it's good to have them in on the secret. Obviously we want to be representing the needs of the entire campus community in our changes to the library, but hardly anyone evens knows this class exists. Then I was thinking, what if we just told everyone, we have (howevermuch) money to do cool things to the library, what do you want us to do? That would be very unlikely to warrant any helpful response, right? I don't know.

(I will write more about this, the ny-quil i took is kicking in right now.)

A Short Introduction to the Art of Programming

I appreciated the simplicity of Dijkstra's explanation of programming. A lot of this was review for me, but it still made me think about programming in a slightly different way.

Everyware (Section 2)

I really love the way this book is written. This section talked about a lot of uses for technology that I could see pertaining to our research about the library. It also again brought up the idea of the "subject" being uninformed about, and unaware of the technology. The example of the media table at the Asia society I thought was a really good one to think about in this class. It is easily accessible so that anyone who walks into the room will be able to figure it out and participate. I could see something like this being used as a sort of catalogue in the library.
Small Design has a lot of other really neat things on their website. Everyone should look at them.

Seattle Public Library

After looking at some the aspects of the Seattle Public Library's design there are two main things I saw that I thought might translate well in our library, both of which our friend, Austin Public Library's Traveling Librarian, talks about in her blog.
The first is the floor panels by the stacks that display the Dewey Decimal system to help patrons in their search for a book.
The floor is a great space for displaying information that is often forgotten about. It is an empty canvas.
This is a map in the library that seems awkward.
What if this information was instead blown up and displayed on the floor?
The second thing that really appealed to me was this digital screen based installation in the "Mixing Room".
According to the Traveling Librarian, these screens display titles and subjects that people in the library community are reading about at the time, by translating information from the checkout desk into visuals on these giant screens. You'll notice the Dewey system is also displayed which makes it easy for anyone to see something that tickles their fancy and then go and browse in that area.

One thing that was exciting for me to discover personally, as an employee of the library was the amazing wonka-esque automated sorting machine for returns.
It begins here, at the front desk:
These are a collection of images from behind the scenes that should speak for themselves:
I assume an employee then has to take the carts and reshelve the books by hand, because I did not find any mention of Seattle Public Library Robots. BUT just imagine if the conveyor belts instead went directly to the stacks...
(I am fully aware this is not practical in our library, but I still thought it was impressive and wanted to share it with y'all)

I don't know what this is.

The Traveling Librarian visits La Paz Public Library in Bolivia. This is quite a contrast. Books don't leave the building, and the stacks are not open to the public. Look at their computer.

Experience Prototyping

We are very lucky to have pretty much unlimited access to the space we are working with. In a sense it would be a lot more difficult for us if this class was called "Augmented Airplane", although, that would be pretty neat too. Either way this reading made me think I need to spend more time in the space, observing, trying things, much like we did at the beginning of term. I spend quite a bit of time in the library now, but I have a certain routine. I'm either working, or I'm checking out material. I think it would be helpful to us to try something like the "Train Experience" with the notecards with instructions on them. "Check out and watch a reserve video", for example.

Fiona Raby rocks my world

I think it's very important for us to ask ourselves some of the questions Fiona was asking us at lunch. When she asked us why we want to augment the library I drew a blank and the only reason I could immediately come up with was "because Robert and Joe and Oceana want us to." Of course that's not my only reason. Why did I sign up for this class? Because I have developed an affection for the library and have found it very useful and also very pleasant to use. I want others to have this experience and I believe I have some insights that will help make the library more inviting. I think the thing I value most about the library as it stands is the act of browsing. This was also sort of an answer to Fiona's question about what is important to preserve in an increasingly digitalized age. There is so so so so soooo much information in our little library. No, not all of it is interesting to me, but a lot of it is, and I don't even know most of it exists. I love being at work and scanning the returns cart and finding a title that relates to an idea I might have had for a sculpture, or re-shelving a book and noticing that the one exactly above it is about something I have been obsessing over for weeks. I remember one week last term I was obsessing about the circus and during one shift, while shelving, I randomly came across like 5 different books having to do with elephants and clowns and tightrope walkers. There's something almost sacred about finding the perfect book and flipping through the pages, that just cannot be translated on a computer. I think all people, Bennington students especially, share a thirst for expanding their knowledge base, their internal library. But it doesn't always seem easy or important enough for us to take the time to do it. My hope for the library is that we can provide a simple way for people to be either informed about titles that are relevant to their interests, or to just encourage browsing in some way.

How do we want to augment the library?
I personally want to augment the library by encouraging patrons to take advantage of the physical and social aspects of using it, the things that cannot be digitalized. Funnily enough I believe this can be done by utilizing technology to make things more easily navigable and accessible.

What do we want to create?

What experience do we want to provide for library users?

What is the space in-between and what opportunities are present?
I think the space in between is the space in between people, the negative social space. This is a space that has potential for a two way flow of information.

What is the most outrageous idea you have for the library?
Indoor Beer Garden Library Mixer.

What is the simplest idea you have for shifting our expectations of or engagement with the library?
Bulletin board for student recommendations of material.

The Eyes of the Vulgar

"We are constantly framing our experience of the world through representational systems. To interact with others we require a shared language, and even our visual experience evolves a kind of literacy as we learn to interpret the conventions associated with photographs, cinema, paintings, street signs, and so on. These systems are necessary but dangerous. They lead us to believe that the world is a fixed and orderly place and that we occupy a privileged position of stability and coherence within it. The role of art is to remind us of the illusory nature of that coherence- to show us that our perceptions, and our very identities, are shifting, unstable and contingent."
-I was about to type this out and then I thought, maybe I should check if someone else already quoted it, so, thanks Hannah! :oD
Is this what made House unsuccessful in the same way that West Meets East was so successful? This reminds me of the image on Robert's web page, "It's OK to be confused by art." I supposed, although it makes me angry that House could have been put anywhere, that it was not exactly the purpose of the piece to make an exact commentary, so it's fine that it didn't, and therefore it's not "unsuccessful" and vice versa for West Meets East. I think it comes down to that it's important to know what audience you're targeting.

"The moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist." - Oscar Wilde
-Now we are designers? Architects? Instigators of Change? What's the difference between this and art that addresses a social issue, like West Meets East? When I make work I totally think about how it will be perceived.

"The relationship between the commercial image and the work of "authentic" art mirrors that of the prostitute to the sanctity of bourgeois marriage--it threatens to expose the economic transaction at the root of an ostensibly spiritual experience."
-It's funny 'cause it's true.

"...A world of color and sensuality, perceptual complexity and nuance."
-Can this be my new sentence? This is what the library should be like.

"What is "graspable" by the viewer is also "salable"."
-This is about one of our keywords, "Seduction".

After reading this I don't ever want to be called an "artist". Why does art have to be such a narcissistic practice? This also makes me love Dunne and Raby even more. I think they have the right idea. AND this excites me about our library project. I am so pumped.

Conversation Pieces

"How do we form collective or communal identities without scapegoating those who are excluded from them? Is it possible to develop a cross-cultural dialogue without sacrificing the unique identities of the individual speakers? And what does it mean for the artist to surrender the security of self-expression for the risk of inter-subjective engagement? We are all too familiar with the ways in which communication can fail[...]; what we urgently need are models for how it can succeed." - Grant Kester, Conversation Pieces

The context Kester is saying this in is a little different than how I'd like to take it. The pieces that he mentions all very literally deal with dialogue as the subject. I'd like to think about dialogue as the objective. My playwriting teacher always says that the play takes place in the audience. What goes on on the stage is just a catalyst for some change going on inside the viewers. I think art is the same way. The art takes place in your mind and body when you experience a piece. I don't believe that in this way the artist needs to sacrifice anything, in fact just the opposite. It provides the artist with this rich, rich other set of materials to work with. It's what puts life into a piece and makes it volatile. It's harder to intentionally convey things this way, but I think it can also be extremely powerful.
In our work in the library we do appear to have compiled a list of how communication has failed. It's not easy to think about how to make it succeed. Are we adding things? Are we changing things? Will the failed communications still exist when the successful communications are in place? How do we think about the projects in terms of communication? The bookmarks are about communication between patrons, but on a different level the bookmarks themselves communicate something one on one with whoever comes across it. This is what the User Experience team has been talking about. What do they say?

Data is not information.

I found myself fascinated by the idea of "interactive media". I know I've heard this term before, and maybe it's since a chunck of my education here has been dedicated to ideas about interactivity, but I found myself confused about how media in and of itself could ever be considered interactive. When I edit this wiki page am I interacting with it? I thought for a long time about different kinds of media, newspapers, television, the internet, and to what degree these things have ever been interactive. And then I thought about how interactive media is really just a forum for humans to interact with each other through, like what Shedroff says about the most rich interactive experience you will ever have will probably be a conversation with somebody.
Then, all of a sudden, I thought, Who cares? I became very annoyed by the word "interactive" in any context. It almost seems like a novelty to be able to say "Yes, I have created something that is truely interactive!" My question is, what does it do? What is the user experience? Does it engage the participant? Does it inspire a change in them? What I mean by this is, how important really is it for a project to be called "interactive". Surely those things that you find important about the definition of "interactivity" are the things that are important about your project.