Critical Making Showcase

15 May, 2014

Critical Making Showcase

We were thrilled to experience the NWMEDIA 290's Critical Making Showcase on Wednesday, May 7th in Sutardja Dai Hall. BCNM core faculty member Eric Paulos led this class, provoking students to interact with their environments in new and thoughtful ways. Critical Making aims to operationalize and critique the practice of “making” through both foundational literature and hands on studio culture. As hybrid practitioners, students develop fluency in readily collaging and incorporating a variety of physical materials and protocols into their practice. With design research as a lens, students envision and create future computational experiences that critically explore social and culturally relevant technological themes such as community, privacy, environment, education, economics, energy, food, biology, democracy, activism, healthcare, social justice, etc. More information can be found at Eric's website.

Brief descriptions of the incredible projects below. For student videos and insight into their design project, check out this site.

Urban Encounters

Urban Encounters is our imagination of the future of interactive surfaces within our 5x5x5 site. The crosswalk "island" we chose at the corner of Shattuck and Center in downtown Berkeley promotes an interesting combination of isolation, stuck-ness and loneliness. To bring out these themes into the physical world, we decided to modify existing objects to support traditionally web-only interactions. The two we chose are missed connections, which are the moments where you feel a connection to someone but cannot stop to acknowledge it, and casual encounters, which are the personal ads you often hear about posted on sites like Craigslist. By molding these interactions and inputs/outputs into the objects of the site, we hope to show how one day, anything will be able to be transformed into a computing interface.
Team: Alvin Yuan, Dennis Rong, Kelsey Brennan, Moeka Takagi


AdVenture is a wind-activated spin art machine that combines the playfulness of the intense air stream prominent within our site with the critique harvesting energy in unexpected places. AdVenture can be rolled around the vent like pulling a wagon. As you roll over areas of the vent with higher wind-power, adVenture's spinning plate will rotate faster. Therefore, to achieve a desired spin art effect, the user must explore all areas of the space. To accomplish this, the underside of adVenture contains a small wind-farm of 6 propellers that translate the wind into electrical power. The power is monitored by an Arduino board and determines the speed of the spinning plate. What else could this power be used for? What other unexpected places can be harnessed? Throw some paint on the spinning plate and have a blast with the colors of the wind!
Team: Katey Basye, Molly Nicholas, John Parick Sloan, Alexandra Greenspan


aNonY is a place where Generation Y expresses themselves in transitions between the physical and digital world. They come in and out of Moffit having to enter this non-space transitioning to and from the professional life track of school/future ambitions and personal lives dispersed throughout the city. The experience in this non-space captures this moment of transition by enabling individuals to express themselves physically on the walls and digitally to the world. Never before has this moment of transition been captured. The space demonstrates mass transition by enabling individuals to activate the wall with their ID card and type a word that is on their mind based on a prompted part of speech to modify part of an existing sentence. This sentence is projected onto the wall while light is projected back at the individual from the windows on the same wall. Mass transition is captured as each sentence on the wall represents the contribution of seven different individuals. We envision capturing all words and sentences digitally on a web feed so the broader community can view the expression and become enticed to physically experience the transition, collaboration, and contribution themselves.
Team: Claire Tuna, Andrew Cornelis, Jeremy Fiance, Elizabeth Lin

Go There

Go There attempts to slow users down when they are in their biggest rush- revealing to them previously-unnoticed aspects of their world and immediate surroundings. As users traverse shortcuts fixed with our installation, Go There attempts to pique their attention by playing different snippets of radio audio. When users are rushing through, our installation plays these snippets at speeds that are too fast for most 'rushers' to discern each individual 'stream' clearly. However, with a slower pace (or by backtracking), users may find their attention caught by a particular station and they (the users) may continue listening to the given station stream by stopping in their tracks altogether.

Go There features computer vision to track users' positions, audio mixing to give a pleasant fading effect between the "switching" of stations, and the interjection of artful static to further associate the site with a sense of the radio. Furthermore, it is our intention that the specific site wherein Go There is installed would determine the type of audio relayed to the user- a library hallway would perhaps play vivid short stories or audiobooks, while a cafe sidewalk may play anything from recipes to breaking news.

Our goal is to provide a more informative and pleasant commute for users while encouraging them to linger on the paths and moments they might have let pass by.
Team: Amir Mohtashami, Clare Lin, Jose Carrillo, Kevin Simons

Mapping Melodies

An elevator that plays music!
Team: Maxwell N Rutman, Oren Berkowitz, Yang Zhao, Jaclyn Berry

Sather Slant

Sather Slant is a bench that tilts in the direction of majority traffic under Sather Gate. Using Processing and BlobDetection, a webcam is linked under the gate to track human movement in the X axis, either towards Bancroft or towards central campus. Using this information, the bench, resting on casters attached to a carjack, is raised using a motor to tilt the bench in the direction of majority movement under the gate. For example, if more people are walking in the direction towards campus (North), the bench (located in Sather Lane, perpendicular to Bancroft way), will slant downwards to the North. For those sitting on the bench, they will physically feel the movements through campus, making the invisible visible.

With Sather Lane as the chosen site location, to transform the transitional space into a resting/destination point.
Team: Shaun Giudici, Negah Nafisi, Zoe Beba, Julianne Chou

Kroeber Lights

After selecting Kroeber Fountain as our location of interest, we began to notice that it was a place at which people would congregate without interacting with one another. The fountain’s shape - most notably, its tiered steps - affords it the ability to serve as a seat where multiple people can sit in close proximity to one another and still manage to treat each other like strangers.

We wanted to blur the boundaries between strangers’ personal space regions by providing them with an incentive for making contact with one another. Our first idea revolved around the idea of “twin” outlets - if a person wanted to charge their laptop, for instance, the outlet would not supply power unless its twin was also in use. We had discussed the idea of orienting the outlet in such a manner that it would force strangers to sit close to one another, and by restricting power to solitary individuals, we would also be forcing individuals to communicate with one another to reach their shared goal of charging their respective devices. Other ideas at making strangers work collaboratively took on an element of “gamification.” Strangers could work together to race boats, play music, or change the configuration of the fountain’s water pumps.

Once the idea of allowing people to alter the fountain’s state entered our minds, we began to view the concept of personal space in a different light.We began to view personal space as a space in which a person feels a sense of ownership. People spend the vast majority of their time in public spaces in which everything has been predetermined for us. We wanted to give users some agency, a way to make a public space a bit more personal. From there we set out to build Kroebe, the fountain that recognizes and remembers you.
Team: Emon Motamedi, Kiyana Salkeld, Felix Li, Joyce Liu