A conceptual database/user experience.
This project was done in during for my MFA at MassArt, with the guidance of my advisor Abraham Evensen Tena. We were discussing the ways in which my previous work could be expanded upon, especially through the lens of my interest in skateboarding. One of the notes I wrote down from this conversation was:
"the intention is to draw a circle around you where you arrest consequence, but eventually everything becomes serious/real"
The Problem:
This project was the moment my thesis began to change from being entirely about communities of play to an exploration of the magic circle. My inquiry would still be into the nature of communities of play, but what I was after was the ways in which play can devolve within these communities.

I wanted to know why exactly these communities could fall apart, become fun for some but a source of anguish in others. I knew that I had to talk to members of these communities to figure out what they thought about the spaces they occupied.
As noted above, I think communities revolving around play, or maybe just communities in general, are very messy entities. Especially when you are involved in one, it can become incredibly difficult to get a bird’s eye view of the entire community. In creating a portrait of a community, it seems it would be impossible to get an accurate representation of the true nature of the community. I thought that instead of creating an accurate portrait, I could use dynamic media to create a portrait that accurately represents the messiness of the community.
v1.0 (Initial Research)
The first iteration of this project started with the collection of as much material as I could gather. If I was to start asking questions of skaters, I had to figure out what the right questions were.
I didn’t want to waste time in my interviews asking questions that I already knew the answer to, or worse, questions with boring and homogenous answers. I sent out a Google Form with some basic questions to some of my skateboarder friends, and asked them to send it along to some of their friends as well. I used a mixture of both broad and specific questions including “how long have you been skating?” and “what is the best part of skateboarding?” I got a broad range of answers from twenty-one skaters.
Take the survey here.
Problems with v1.0
I felt really good about where this project was headed, but I still wasn’t really sure exactly what it was. There was now a pool of skaters and answers that I could pull from and get ideas from, but I actually needed to figure out a way in which I could present what I felt was extremely interesting material. I also kept asking myself the question I seem to always seem to come back to during my time at DMI - how can I make this more dynamic? As it stood, this project was basically just a concept for a video project. I wanted a way to add interactivity for the audience.

I had to find a good tool for turning my eventual video media into a dynamic and interactive experience. On top of all of this, I needed to reach out to some skateboarders and actually get them in front of a camera to interview them.
I reached out to a few friends, and in total I was able to get four different interviews with skaters. Before I could interview them I first needed to finalize my questions. I narrowed down the questions to seven in total:

What is the best part of skateboarding?
What is the worst part of skateboarding?
Is skateboarding a sport?
Do you have hobbies outside of skateboarding?
Is ‘skateboarder’ your main identity?
Does skateboarding influence culture?
Does skateboarding have any rules?

With this finalized interview format, I was able to collect all interviews within a relatively short period of time.
Problems with v1.1
In total there were now 24 total interview answers that could be edited and presented in different ways. At this point, I was very focused on the way in which I could present the videos in an interesting way, and I was thinking a lot about databases and interfaces. One of the first ideas I had was to present all of the videos on a large screen, all at the same time, in a random array. By doing this, I hoped to portray the idea that the community is made up of many different perspectives all at once.

The progress I made on the interviews was extremely valuable, but I still needed to figure out what to do with all of it, not to mention all of the editing and audio work I would need to finish to be able to insert the videos into an interface. If I was thinking of the interface as a metaphor for my own experience in the community I needed to figure out new concepts for presenting the information.
v1.2 (final)
One of my favorite pieces of software is Twine. Twine is an interactive storytelling tool, which uses different ‘passages’ to take a user from point A to point B. The best way to describe it is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ creator. You give the user a choice during each passage, and it will take them to a new passage based on their decisions. To solve the problem of little to no interactivity existing in the project, I figured I could insert the videos into a Twine sketch. Since I felt that the array of videos wasn’t really what I was trying to get across, I decided that I wanted to use the linear narrative affordances of Twine.

Instead of seeing every video all at once, you would only see one video on your screen at a time, until you made the decision to move to the next video.
My initial idea was to break up the videos and sort them by the question that was asked. Since there were seven questions, I would have seven passages, one displaying an answer for each question. The next piece of the puzzle was to insert a video into each passage, but the idea was that each passage would play a random video each time. So, as the user goes through, they will see each question and each question will provide them with a random response from a random interviewee.
The final version of this project was somewhat complex. The coding for this was difficult, but I was able to get it done. It was a system of random videos, with no video being able to be played twice. This let the user see every video eventually without ever having a repeat, so I could ensure it wouldn’t be too frustrating to find all of the answers.
If we are looking to guide people through design, rather than tell them exactly how to interact with something, perhaps it is sometimes better to present them with a problem and open their minds to the possibilities of a solution, rather than providing them with a solution. This is a principal idea in the world of video game design, where a designer wants to give all of the tools necessary to complete a task, but not necessarily explain how to complete the task. Sometimes, it is simply better to let the user interpret data by themselves. This project acted more as a way for me to be an ethnographer, and to try to better understand the communities and systems that I was trying to recreate the experience of in my work. This wasn’t about solving the problems of the skateboard community, it was about learning what those problems actually were.
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