Overall, I feel I successfully created a piece of interactive information design for the shared public space, which intends to elucidate/explain an idea or concept. I am happy with my final piece and felt that it worked well with the target audience (see users interacting with piece). I have learnt a lot by doing this project, both the programming side as well as following an iterative design process. The concept that my piece applies to is Surrealism, this concept interests me and looking at various surreal art work and photography really inspired me for my piece. I have used surrealist techniques in my piece such as the juxtaposition of falling objects, repetition of shapes, as well as ideas relating to the blurring boundaries between the real and imaginary. Throughout my blog, I have linked the theory modules that I have studied to my practice (media and history, and consumer culture) as I feel that this is important; it has developed my understandings and allowed me to use more theoretical analysis. I used an iterative design process to produce my piece, which allowed me to constantly gain feedback, and make improvements that have helped to make my end piece more successful. The iterative design processes that I followed were:

– Requirements Gathering
– Analysis
– Design
– User Testing

To view blog posts related to each iteration, then click on the individual categories. Throughout my blog you can clearly see the development of my piece: from learning the basics of programming, to watching tutorials, analysing existing examples, experimenting with various ideas, improving the piece, and finally to users interacting with my final piece.

Concept: Surrealism

Surrealism is the concept that my interactive piece will apply to. Surrealism is a 20th century movement that was shaped by emerging theories on our perception of reality. It is dedicated to expressing the imagination as revealed in dreams, which is most commonly done through the irrational juxtaposition of images. Rene Magritte is a famous surrealist artist…

‘much of the work created by Rene Magritte, takes everyday, normal objects, and he would simply rearrange the figures, and locations, forcing the viewer to take a deeper look at what was in front of them, and at what the image truly represented.’ (Renemagritte.org)

Here are two examples of Magrittes surreal artwork that stood out most to me:

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009  øðä îàâøéè, áðå ùì àãí, 1964, øñèåøöéä ò"é ùîòåï éðåáéõ, 2009-The Son of Man, 1946. This painting is a self-portrait that features an apple covering up his face. Magritte says

‘Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present’ (ReneMagritte.org).

This idea relates to the surrealist idea of the ‘real’ and ‘imagination’, as in this case we know that hidden behind the apple is his face, but what individual people imagine his face to look like behind the object may differ. Hence the viewers will experience conflictions between what is actually present and the hidden.

golconda-Golconda, 1953. This painting relates nicely to my idea as you have various men that look as if they are falling from the sky. The ‘raining men’ are positioned against a row of buildings and blue sky. The inclusion of the men encourages viewers to explore deeper into the painting in order to try interpret what is being presented. The juxtapositioning of the men blurs the boundaries between the ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’, as you would expect to see buildings and men in bowler hats but you don’t expect to see them floating/falling from the sky. This relates to my idea as I plan to have falling objects that users can interact with by obstructing them from falling. From looking at this painting, I have decided that I will experiment with different objects/figures that I could use and what would be best to create this surreal effect.

The concept of surrealism and the juxtaposition of objects/images relates to my idea as the user will be captured on the screen along with various falling objects. Likewise to Magrittes’ work, it makes the users more attentive as it encourages them to explore deeper into what is being represented on the screen. It also helps to appeal viewers in as the paintings are unusual compared to most artworks, which I believe makes them more unique and memorable. Linking this to my idea, I feel that users would typically expect to just see themselves being captured on camera, however, their perceptions of reality may become blurred due to the addition of the unexpected objects. The addition of the objects on the screen blurs this idea relating to the ‘real’ and ‘imagination’ and the fact it is interactive could in fact enhance this surreal idea. I feel that incorporating my piece to the concept of surrealism is a good way to engage users as it encourages them to explore the text deeper in order to fully understand what is being represented.

Carrying out previous requirements gathering on my target audience has made me realise the complexity of contemporary audiences and getting users to decode the concept of my piece (surrealism) may be challenging. As Hermes (2002, p.285) states:

‘the meaning of a text is always subject to negotiation.’

Some may decode the surreal concept, whereas others may decode other varied meanings and concepts from interacting with my piece. Liebes (2005, p.363) suggest that:

‘the dominant paradigm has shifted from audiences as users of texts to the process of reception, based on the idea that viewers are capable of creating a plurality of meanings, and allowing for the possibility of oppositional, or subversive decodings’

hypoanimContemporary audiences are more active consumers of texts, rather than the outdated idea of passive audiences, related to the hypodermic needle theory (1920s). Due to my target audience being mainly Media School students, I feel that a range of meanings and concepts may be decoded from my piece – dependant on many factors including the individuals experiences, course, level of interaction etc.


Hermes, J, 2002. Active Audiences. In: The Media: An Introduction By Briggs And Cobley. 2ed, 282- 293. Harlow: Longman.

Liebes, T, 2005. Viewing and Reviewing the Audience: Fashions in Communication Research. In: Curran, J and Gurevitch, M eds. Mass Media and Society. 4th edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 356-374.

Renemagritte.org, 2009. Rene Magritte And His Paintings [online]. Available from: http://www.renemagritte.org/ [Accessed 1 December 2014].

Renemagritte.org, 2009. The Son Of Man, 1946 By Rene Magritte [online]. Available from: http://www.renemagritte.org/the-son-of-man.jsp [Accessed 1 December 2014].

Pseudo Code For Idea

Here is the basic pseudo code for my idea:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 12.15.14This has allowed me to briefly see the steps I need to follow in order produce my interactive piece and the processing knowledge I need. I need to ensure that I have sufficient knowledge in video capturing, object orientated programming, motion thresholding and conditional statements. Next, I will go on to further explore the concept of surrealism, of which my piece will relate to, as well as developing my processing knowledge.

Idea For Interactive Piece

The brief we have been set is to…

‘Create a piece of interactive information design for a shared public space, which is intended to elucidate/explain some an idea or concept you perceive as key to our 21st century media experience.’

The interactive element of my piece will be related to motion, I will video capture the public space and detect the brightness threshold of motion. The piece will feature objects that gravitate towards the bottom of the screen; when motion is detected, the objects are then obstructed from falling. The video capture will be in contrasting black and white, with brightly coloured objects, and the people will be captured as silhouette like figures rather than in full detail. The interactive element of my idea gives the users a sense of agency, which hopefully will help to keep them engaged. A piece that relates to my idea is Text Rain, produced by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv in 1999:

It features coloured falling letters which respond to users motions and can be caught, lifted, and then let fall again.

‘If a participant accumulates enough letters along their outstretched arms, or along the silhouette of any dark object, they can sometimes catch an entire word, or even a phrase. The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language’ (Utterback 2014).

I like how the text produces a poem and think that this piece is very effective. For my piece, I could experiment with using different objects, for example I could possibly use shapes, texts or graphics. Relating it to the public space, I feel the idea would be suitable as the piece can be experienced singularly or by multiple people.

The concept that I could apply my piece to is surrealism. Surrealism is a

‘movement, which began in the 1920s, of writers and artists who experimented with ways of unleashing the subconscious imagination’ (Tate, 2014).

Duval (2014) describes surrealism as a form of expression that surpasses realism, hence in this case the surreal can be seen as being better than ‘real’. Surrealists were inspired by Freud, who

‘identified a deep layer of the human mind where memories and our most basic instincts are stored. He called this the unconscious, since most of the time we are not aware of it. The aim of surrealism was to reveal the unconscious and reconcile it with rational life.’ (Tate, 2014).

Thus, surrealism is related to the blurring the distinction between reality(conscious mind) and dreams(unconscious mind). This could link to Baudrillards’ idea of hyperreality, of which I am studying in my Consumer Culture theory unit. He defines hyperreality as the blurring distinction between reality and simulations of reality, of which in the case of surrealism, dreams and imagination could be classed as simulations of reality. Baudrillard (1970, p.12) suggests that

‘Instead of reality, people are treated to simulations involving the constant recombination of various signs, of elements of the code.’

This highlights the blurring boundaries between reality and simulation of reality, of which can strongly be applied to contemporary postmodern culture. It can relate to my idea as users may think it is reality as they are present on the screen, but in fact it is a re-presentation of reality, with the juxtapositioning of random falling objects. This also relates to Saussures’ earlier ideas regarding semiotics: the signifier (object/words/pieces) and signified (concept/meaning), and as Barthes (1964 p.42) suggest:Saussure-Signified-signifier

‘the signified is not ‘a thing’ but a mental representation of the ‘thing’’

My idea could also relate to the concept of audiences, which I studied a lot in my first year theory modules, relating to the changes from passivity to activity, audiences to users and consumption to production (see previous post – Active Audiences).

Next, I will go on to explore some surreal art work and photography that I find of interest, and will relate it to my idea, as well as further exploring my chosen concept of surrealism. I will also go on to develop my processing skills, by watching tutorials and independently experimenting with trial and error, as well as attending the workshops.


Barthes, R, 1964. Elements Of Semiology. New York: Hill and Wang.

Baudrillard, J, 1970. The Consumer Society: Myths & Structures [online]. London: Sage Publications.

Duval, A, 2014. Surrealism: What Is Surrealism? [online]. Available from: http://www.musee-magritte-museum.be/Typo3/index.php?id=8 [Accessed 27 November 2014].

Tate, 2014. Surrealism [online]. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/s/surrealism [Accessed 27 November 2014].

Utterback, C, 2014. Text Rain [online]. Available from: http://camilleutterback.com/projects/text-rain/ [Accessed 27 November 2014].

Processing – Experimenting with Images

Throughout Reading Week, I have been experimenting with processing and have been looking at several different processing examples. This has enabled me to gain more ideas for my piece and possible concepts that I can explore. I have edited the examples used and will briefly analyse each one to explain how I could possibly make it interactive within the public space.

  • Image Layering (Transparency)

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 19.09.55

This idea relates back to the previous post about Palimpsest, and the idea of layers. In the above example, I loaded 3 images onto processing and altered their opacity so you can still see all 3 images layered upon one another. I could make this idea interactive as I could set it so every few minutes, the camera takes an image of the public space, the images are then layered on top of one another, with the opacity reduced so that previous images are still visible. This idea could relate to the concept of representation, as the layers of images blur what each image represents as it kind of merges the images together. Also, different people depending on when they are in Weymouth House would see different layered images on the displays and individuals may interpret the displays differently. Some may notice the past images whereas others may not, hence the representation of the piece will be open to arbitrary decodings.

  • Image Pixel Distortionoutput_TbebgC

This idea comes from one of the processing examples – Explode – The mouses horizontal location controls the breaking apart of image and maps pixels from a 2D image into 3D space. I could make this idea interactive as each time someone walks past the camera, the pixels could move, hence the busier the public space is, the more distorted the image will become.

  • Pointillism

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 19.28.24

This idea comes from another processing example – Pointillism – The mouses horizontal location controls size of dots and it creates a simple pointillist effect using ellipses coloured according to pixels in an image. I experimented with editing the coScreen Shot 2014-11-04 at 19.29.40de so that it used rectangles instead of ellipses, thus creating a different effect. To make this idea interactive within the public space, I could set it so it captures an image of Weymouth House and then each time someone walks past the camera a certain number of pixel ellipses/rectangles appear.

From looking at examples, I may decide to do something that relates to the concept of representation, and the idea of how contemporary audience decode multiple different meanings and messages from pieces. I would definitely like to make it interactive by basing it around motion and movement within the public space. From this, I need to decide what images to possibly use or whether to base it on video capturing. Next, I am going to look at some video capture examples to help me develop my ideas and experiment further with processing by learning more about how to capture videos and track motion within a public space.