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“The Whisperers”

Christopher Koelsch
/Final Paper Thesis Studio 2



08

Fall


2

Christopher Koelsch

koelschc@gmail.com

“The Whisperers”


Final Paper

1
5 December 2012



Thesis Concept:


“The Whisperers” is an interactive exhibition
design of ordinary Soviet citizens’ dwelling
spaces

during the time of Stalin’s first and second Five Year Plans from 1928 to 1937.
Demonstrating and visualizing the
collectivization

and reduction of space for

the Soviet
public in large cities, the exhibi
t design will comprise orthographic architectural boards
and a physical sample of the exhibit space using interactivity
.

Taking its title name from
a historical record of private life in Stalin’s Russia by Orland Figes,
“The Whisperers”
will illustrate
while demonstrating

the communication of whispering and its effects on
familial relationships within Soviet families

and their neighbors and friends
.

Envisioning
confined and tight spaces in Soviet apartments and
tenements
, the user will gain insight
as t
o how communication with low voices created new emotions of mistrust, lost love,
and heartbreak in these relationships. In addition, the exhibit will demonstrate how
friends and family


individuals whom they knew closely for years


had suddenly
become “
enemies of the people”
and disappeared forever. The juxtaposed ideas of
closeness to absence and family/friend to stranger will be explored.


An architectural scale model of a Soviet dwelling
in
Moscow

after the Bolshevik
R
evolution will be presented: la
rge spaces for one family such as an entire city home
now
condensed into several apartments for several families will be modeled. This scale
model will consist of three to four floors with partitions that resemble the hasty divisions
constructed in buildi
ngs during the First and Second Five Year Plans. The dwelling will
contain reveals on each floor consisting of windows from the exterior of the scale model
that will give viewable access to the unit’s interiors. These exterior reveals will also,
however,

be part of the
narrative of the exhibit and not
merely

the pathway to the
narrative of the experience.


3


Coupled with glimpsing into these exterior spaces and

examining these interio
r
divisions, the user will experience how whispering or speaking in a low

voice enacts

change
s in the scale model of the dwelling.

If a user whispers into a reveal, a new
insight or experience present itself; while it is not possible to glimpse inner
compartments
of a space

unseen

from a
n exterior

window, door or crack

due t
o architecture,
“whispering” into these exterior reveals will reveal secrets and information that will
expose these inner compartments.

These exterior reveals will
also
allow two users to
view and experience the exhibit: if one user

whispers into a window

on the left edifice of
the dwelling or building

and another on an opposite side
, it will display information and
trigger an experience on another unit. That is, one family’s whisper or talk
to another
family or individual
--

about another family
--

will
be interrelated.


User Scenario:


As the user approaches the scale model, he/she will glimpse into reveals being windows.
They begin to whisper/speak into a low voice. An amplifier/microphone placed near the
window(s) will
obtain the audio of the

speech and trigger a compartment on another area
of the building: this could be an inner compartment directly in the line of the user’s vision
(deeper inside the scale model or on another floor of the building)
. At the same time,
another user could whisp
er into another window and enact
a third compartment (two
families, groups, or people whispering about another family group or person). Once
a
user performs any number of “whispers”
, a light will grow in a room as long as they are
speaking. The light wil
l fade quickly once the whispering has ceased.


Coupled with the light, certain walls will be revealed to be translucent: once a
whispers enacts a light, the light will reveal wall(s) with silhouettes of a family sitting at
a dinner table, two people whi
spering, some individual walking. This may be
accomplished
with several media
: with a pocket projector inside the scale model or an
LED light showing a silhouette of the action above. Also to be trigg
ered is audio: mp3’s
of Soviet individuals walking a
way perhaps in the middle of the night, listening to a
forbidden American broadcast, etc. When a user whispers, the idea of a whisper
revealing a secret, something meant to be unseen and unknown, is immediately

4

displayed. A whisperer will reveal guilty
actions, hidden truths, acts against “the
people.” A whisperer can cause trouble, display who is guilty of espionage, a sell an
o
ther
family friend, neighbor, loved one to the
KGB
.


An
important

part of this
interaction is a set of
the vol
ume of the microphone at a cap:
any user voice louder than a whisper will not cause any action or reaction.
A whisper or
low voice at a certain level would be vital for

this

activity.
The user must be in close
proximity to the amplifying microphone. Th
is filters out the background noise around
the model.



















Figure 1.1

Scale
Model

User whispers
into a reveal

Figure 1.2

Top View of
Compartments


5
































Figure 1.4

Before
whisper

(Detail).
Wall with
wallpaper
without
interactivity.

Figure 1.5

Upon a whisper, a
reacting LED displays
a family “talking
illegally”. This is
either done by
projection

or by illuminating the
wall behind the
wallpaper to show the
silhouette.

Figure 1.6


User looking
through a
window to see

a reflection
from an iPad
at bottom of
chute. Mirror
is reflected 45
degrees for a
different
perspective.


6







Some of

the reveals will not be to scale. The user should be allowed to experience a
sense of darkness and peculiarity. One window will allow a whisper to reveal someone
on the bottom floor or basement: a tubing or tunnel with a 45 degree mirror will show a
re
flected display of a video of a Soviet individual shot from above listening to perhaps an
other neighbor in a next compartment:



Envisioned Methodology
/Production Plan:


The methodology
and construction
for “The Whisperers” is presented in chronological
o
rder for the May 2013 due date for thesis:

1.

Reread “The Whisperers” by Orlando Figes

2.

Meet with

Thomas Werner to present updated abstract and concept. Thomas
Werner is an adjunct professor
whose research focuses


on the introduction of
contemporary
education methodologies and the development of creative
cultures within the country

[of Russia]
. Over the last seven years he has
visited over thirty Russian cities, partnering with twenty nine cultural,
educational and governmental organizations to develo
p a series of cross
cultural and educational projects.

http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/faculty_program.aspx?id=48909
.

3.

Thomas will be asked to suggest next steps for research
: books, interviews,
narrative ideas,
and concept

revision.

4.

Practice Processing Code “Voce” which enables voice interaction for an
output. Recognize words will need to be researched and then programmed
(this output is only triggered with recognized, prog
rammed words). These
Figure 1.7


Ipad video of perspective
of person from birds
-
eye
view (except in shadow or
Russian costume).


7

words will include “Hey,” “Hello,” “Hi,” “Soviet,” “Russian,” “secret,”
“death,” “family, “Gulag,” “corner,” “window,” “
privyet
,” “
dobryj vyechyer
,”

“what,” “there,” “shhh,” etc.

It is hoped that this will recognize speech
filtering

out background noise.

5.

Connect Sparkfun amplifier to Processing Code above. This microphone
is
also an amplifier for clarity and precision.


Meet with Kyle Li after
investigation into connection and implementation for troubleshooting if
necessary.

6.

Write processing code for multiple interactions i.e.
when one action is
triggered a corresponding reaction will take place
.

This will involve using
if/else statements.

MAX MSP/JITTER will be used in place of much of
Arduino/C Code for faster implementati
on. A related “patch” in Jitter


already coded


will be used as a template/base and beginning.

7.

Research, conceptualize and develop the media of these reactions: light,
projection design, and sound. These three mediums due to time limit and
aesthetics a
re finalized

decisions
.

a.

Use of a pocket projector and how will function as an
off/on reactor
will be researched. This will most likely utilize MAX MSP/JITTER.


Steps 1 and 2 will be performed during December 2012 and carry through the winter
break. Any conceptual changes will need to take place during this time due to the time
needed for Steps 3 through 7. Steps 3 through 7 have a target date of March 2013.
Co
ding and testing will take considerable time.


8.

Build of scale model. This may involve 3
-
D printing or a build using material
of wood.


Step 8 will have a target date for completion for the end of March 2013.



8

9.

Draft of architectural boards, exhibition
design concepts
i.e.

crowd control,
lighting,
orthographies
.

These exhibition design protocols will depend on
time with the build of the scale model.


10.

Graphic Design for above boards and thesis. Look
-
and
-
Feel presented below

from Rodchenko
:

11.









12.

Mounting in gallery of “The Whisperers” Thesis.

There will be a search and
planning

for a quiet area of the gallery for
whisperi
ng
/sound levels to react
effectively.


Precedents:


The most
relevant

precedent foremost is the historical book,
The Whisperers

by Orlando
Figes. His historical record contains emotive interviews along with diary entries and
Gulag accounts. His descriptive and emotive writing was powerful enough to enable this
thesis to express this experience in history.


The exhibition design
of John Kiesler and his architecture within exhibits inspired the
prototype built for this thesis with doors and unattainable reveals.






9












J
anet Cardiff’s work with
the “Cabinet of Curiousness” inspired ideas of closed spaces in
an installation that trigged a mechanical and digital reaction. Cardiff’s work also with
triggers with audio in her work “The Whispering Room” inspired an idea with space
having a sense of qu
ietude suddenly change
d with a higher volume of sound.













The American History Museum’s “American Stories” Exhibit inspired a use of a
narrative exhibition. Detailing highlights
and milestones during various decades and
years, a timeline is elaborated as the user moves the space. This exhibition design
inspired the idea using the past to chronologically tell and weave a narrative
.

“Cabinet of
Curiousness (1991)

“The Whispering
Room” (1991)

City in
Space,

Exposition
Internationale

des
Arts Decoratifs,
Paris
,

1925



10




Subliminally yet no less important, is work in Russia this summer. Seeing the
architecture of Stalin still existing, how Muscovites behave with general silence in their
everyday activities, and experiencing the influence that Stalin still has over the cit
y, gave
strong inspiration to “The Whisperers.” Riding on the subway in Moscow, one notes the
quiet, the lack of sound amongst people: loud conversation and animated actions are
severely
dissua
ded
. Experiencing the colors of Moscow, the weather, the reg
ulations,
and the aesthetic of the city itself will give the thesis a sense of quiet dignity
desired
.
Working in Moscow, one gets the sense that something monumental happened in the not
-
too
-
distant past that the Russian population always has in the
ir subc
onscious; this

incredible toll
taken on the population
of Russia and how it shattered relationships will
attempt to be conveyed in the thesis.


Evaluation:


Several concepts were
entertained

and explored
at the inception of the thesis research.
Howeve
r, from the inception the concepts of hidden meanings, secrets, and how
architecture meshes with these ideas, were always steadfast. The narrative or core of the
thesis did not become concrete until late December. Having formulated this idea in
October w
ould have allowed a build and prototyping of a more specific, related nature
and thus an insurance for technological success i.e. wind sensors manipulating an image
American Stories
,
Smithsonian Institute


11

or making it appear, voice recognition turning on a projection. Valuable time was lost in
perfecting these sensors and code.


However, the series of
prototypes

did give an insurance of experience with building
architectural models albeit with different sensors that don’t relate to the present thesis.
Through interviews and research around the
same
theme, it

was learned how different
media could evoke the same emotions, feelings and overall ideas even though the core
wasn’t concrete. Different time periods in history were presented, time and its elements
were explored as related to a finite space, processes
for seeking clues to these secrets
were researched.


Personal methodology and how it worked best for the thesis involved moving back and
forth to areas of interest in domains was a vital role in development. Exhausting all areas
of past and present inter
ests were key to a final concept.


Weighing different opinions
from interviews against personal opinion
was perhaps the
most difficult aspect of the thesis development. Aesthetics that weren’t
personal

and
avenues that strayed away from the concept at a

certain time had to weighed heavily.


Being a designer involv
ed a methodology of an incorporation

of
what was loved,
cherished, and believed. Data visualization, product development, app development, UX
interface creation were realized not to have any
interest for a career as well as for further
work. Imagery, interaction design, museum
exhibition
, curation, architecture, physical
computing all gave fulfillment
with its ability

to be combined
personally
to form an
experience of emotions


whether
nativ
e

or foreign. Education in finding the interests
that spark a personal design
was the education also received
.


Again, testing with code and prototypes for parts of the thesis for the scale model
interaction could have been implemented and time management

improved. Yet
exploration had to take place with the loss of a direct build on this thesis.



12

Proposal For Final Writing Deliverable


A written paper, photographs of the final scale model, and a video of user interaction will
be delivered upon the thesis
date.





























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*** Thank you, Louisa
,

for your attentiveness and wise guidance this semester. It was
greatly appreciated.