lördag 22 november 2014

Our CHI video

I've developed and been responsible for the course "Future of Media" for more than a decade. It wasn't until three years ago that we started to methodically collect the output from course and make it accessible on the web and it was only 1.5 years ago that I learned that there is a term - "design fiction" - for what we are doing in this course (let's call it "inventing the future").

From that realisation came the idea of trying to frame and write something about the course in terms of design fiction, but the only output this far is a short position paper for the design fiction workshop at the CHI conference earlier this year. This is all about to change as we are right now working on a movie about the course and about the results of the course.

The idea of making a movie came to me half a year ago, right before I went to the CHI conference. I therefore made sure to look at the video program and take notes about what worked fine and what was less successful in the CHI video program. No less than 23 videos were accepted to CHI this year (the acceptance rate was 37%). Here's what you are up against if you want to submit a video to CHI:

"The videos showcase is a forum for human-computer interaction that leaps off the page: vision videos, reflective pieces, humor, novel interfaces, studies, and anything else that is a good match for video and relevant to HCI. Your work will be screened by a large CHI audience during a special session at CHI 2015, and will be considered for the Golden Mouse award. Because of the large audience the video showcase attracts, it is one of the best means for getting your message out to the CHI community. Videos will be available in the ACM Digital Library after the conference.

Work will be judged on how much it intellectually engages an HCI audience and how effectively it communicates its message. Ultimately, we are looking to put together an enjoyable show for the attendees. Interesting but poorly-produced videos will be rejected - but if it's YouTube-ready per se, it should be ready for the videos track!"

Fortunately we have many talented students in our Media Technology engineering programme and some of them are interested in and experiences from working with video. As it so happens, five students are right now working on making a video based on last year's Future of Media course and last year's theme - "The Future of News/News of he Future". The actual filming will start 10 days from now. Perhaps best of all is that it is possible to "pay" the students with course credits - through an elective course of ours called "Individual Course in Media Technology". We have also secured a small budget for the project (1500 USD - don't ask - it's complicated) which will be used for renting equipment (high-end cameras, lights etc.). The deadline for submitting videos to next year's CHI conference is January 5 and the video can at most be 5 minutes long, but 2-3 minutes are apparently more common.

Besides myself and the students in question (Åsa Linder, Olof Lindman, Sara Långvik, David Nylander, Johanna Sjöberg), I have also involved my colleague Åke Walldius in this project. He taught the course Future of Media together with me some years ago and he also happens to have a background (a long time ago) as a documentary filmmaker. Because of my lack of experience with film as a medium, it would have be much harder for me to "manage" the project (negotiate, give instructions or directions to the students) without having Åke to bounce ideas with. I know it sounds stupid, but I didn't realise beforehand that this project would in fact require quite some of my time too. As it is, the students already have a large degree of freedom to shape and edit the movie the way they want to.

The core of the movie will consist of three enactments of the ten scenarios that were developed in last year's course. Despite that fact that most groups within the course opt for creating short videos to communicate their scenarios, the students I work with now insist on displaying (some of) last year's ideas by enacting them and recording new footage - rather than heavily rely on reusing the already-recorded material. The core of the movie (the three scenarios) will be preceded and succeeded by non-dramatised parts that will explain what we are doing in the course and link what we are doing to the concept of design fiction. I will star in those parts. We will also record some footage from this year's final presentation in the course Future of Media and kinda pretend that it was (could have been) footage from last year's course. It's anyway kind of the same - what we want to show is that there is a big audience listening, that the course is given in English etc. (instead of having to say those things the movie).

This is all very exciting and I very much look forward to seeing the finished movie! The goal for the movie is very straightforward and clear - to get it accepted to the CHI 2015 video program. Below are, for comparison, a few of the 23 movies that were accepted to this year's CHI video program:

- “Draco: Bringing life to illustrations with kinetic textures” (abstact).
- "faBrickation: Fast 3D printing using Lego bricks (abstract)
- "Wrigglo: Shape-changing peripheral for interpersonal mobile communication (abstract)
- "SweatAtoms: Understanding physical activity through material artifacts" (abstract)
- "The secret life of computers" (abstract)
- "GaussBricks: Magnetic building blocks for constructive tangible interaction on portable displays" (abstract)

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