Mood Swings Abound

Life choices I made this week include deleting the LinkedIn app to make room for Pokémon Go and opting to order enough fabric to clothe several elephants. Naturally you assume someone who so clearly has it together would be above things like mood swings, alas no. The last 26hrs or so have been quite the rollercoaster.


Yesterday was going alright-ish, until I got an email from my supervisor describing my Lit Review as “not OK”, so then I was not OK, and proceeded to put on my onesie and go to bed with a litre of ice-cream. At four in the afternoon. That was that for the entirety of the night.


This morning though, was a new day. Well it was after the post arrived, before that I was still in bed, approaching my fourth hour of watching old John Oliver rants on youtube. An informative but ineffective use of time. But the post brought with it my Pimoroni order, and something within me decided to cop on. And it was glorious. Thanks to the good people who staff Pimoroni and Adafruit, coding the Raspberry Pi program was a genuinely pleasant experience. Considerably more pleasant than writing the English language side of my thesis.


Taken by this swell of accomplishment, I began looking into the possibility of setting up an API/SQL to the site again, because I am clearly a technological genius and all things are possible. I borderline skipped into college to do some CSS styling a few hours ago, and it is around here that the day took a turn. Half three is obviously not a time of day that agrees with me. I am still here in college, having just finished implementing a Google map into a page of the site demo. It took three and a half hours. This is not a difficult task. Technically the map itself was not an issue, but for whatever reason, when I tried to edit some of the code, the site would respond with “Oh, you want to add a second marker? And custom icons? I can’t even” *SPAZ ATTACK*.


But it now shows up and I wish the internet had never been invented.

Thesis Phase 2: Design

Design got really, really big, so I split it into three parts. This first one is about the over all interaction without going into detail about the visual and functional design of the wearable or the website. I say interaction, I mean the algorithm that runs the whole thing. I’m just going to describe what it is really, rather than “The Proccess”, because my artistic “process” is thinking about stuff while I binge TV series, writing some of it down and, if I’m feeling particularly motivated, drawing some of it. Copy, paste and apply for all steps. If you are interested, the series in question were RuPauls Drag Race, Orange is the New Black and Silicon Valley. Like I said in Phase 1, I’m measuring four variables;


1. Where the user is
2. Who the user is with
3. What the user is saying
4. What physical contact the user experiences


These variables are tracked and have their worth determined according to an algorithm. The interactions worth is measured by points and added up to establish the user’s worth as person. Remember, dystopia.


A user collects points through verbal and physical contact. These are additive actions in that they are worth points. I am a firm believer in making things “Marketing’s problem” when I design, but even I had to acknowledge that a device recording conversations is a difficult sell. So, instead of recording speech, the device records the presence of speech, without storing any recordings. To factor in the nature of the conversation and how that effects the points value, it uses word recognition, with specific words equating to a higher number of points. Positive words, e.g. “love”, “happy” or “koala”, mark a positive conversation. The “good” word list is not publically available, but the display in the garment reacts to the chosen words, making them learnable.

A value is also assigned to physical contact. Different values for different body parts, higher amounts for more intimate areas. Connection made with multiple contact points at once are added together before the application of multipliers (see below), making concurrent contact more significant than consecutive. To account for prolonged contact the points are re-added every minute the contact continues.
Another source of points, separate to the wearable is the users profile. Each page view accumulating points depending on privacy settings. A users interaction feed can be made private, protecting their information, but making page views worthless. A public profile set with a time delay offers users a limited number of points per view, while a real-time feed generates the maximum number of points.
Where the user is and who they are with does not in itself accumulate points, they multiply the points earned by the additive factors.


Location based multipliers can be created in two ways. One of which is by purchase. Similar to the way in which Snapchat allows consumers to buy an area and timeframe to display Geofilters, businesses and private parties can purchase a multiplier for their venue to make it more attractive to customers or guests. The cost of this is determined by the size of the venue, the length of time it is to be in effect and the value of the multiplier. The second method of creating a location based multiplier is natural development. Venues and spaces that consistently attract high volumes of users, especially highly ranked users can develop multipliers without need for payment. Multipliers created in this way can be higher than those available for purchase. The locations of all multiplier spots can be looked up on the site.
Proximity multipliers are based on the rankings of those that the user interacts with. The higher up the scoreboard, the higher the multiplier. These multipliers are attached to the coloured rank system (see below). This makes friends who use the site, in particular those who do well on the site, more valuable to the wearer.

Obvious example users. Please ignore that I didn’t have a search icon off-hand and picked a random Wingding instead.


Interactions, and the points attached, are only recorded and valued for seven days. So users have to be consistently active to stay on top. It also means early-adopters can’t get too far ahead of newer users. Only the previous seven days are included in calculating a user’s score.
Oh and the coloured rank thing. A big problem with wearable trackers is a lack of long term motivation. Wearers get bored with goals that start to seem unattainable. With space for only one at the top, users could quickly become discouraged with the site. Taking inspiration from the use of levels in social fitness website Fitocracy, which also uses a points system, users will be sorted into different classes dependant on their rank. These classes are identified by colours, with number one having its own unique colour, from two to ten being another and so on. I made a table but I am too lazy to go find it for you now, maybe next week. These classes continue up to the top million, above which the user is “colourless”. The break up lets users set themselves smaller personal goals. This coloured rank also justifies the garments displays existence beyond “I just really wanted to put a bunch of LEDs on a dress”.


I will cover either the dress or the website next week, depending on my mood.

Don’t Panic, Lower your Standards

Boy, I was miserable last week, but such is life as a drama queen. As basically anyone who has ever met me could have predicted, I’m OK now.


I was freaked out about how much I had to do so I made the simple decision to do less.


Like every project I have ever attempted, I got over ambitious, it ballooned out of the realms of what was possible in the timeframe, and I then lost the absolute plot over the entire thing. But unlike during my FYP, when one product turned into eight plus an app, I’m not going to fall into the trap of carrying all the nonsense out until the bitter, sub-par end. I decided for the good of the final product to streamline my task list and do away with some unnecessaries. For the purposes of demonstration I’m going to ditch the API connection, have a visual demo of the website, but have all the Raspberry Pi’s data readings self contained. There’s already so much coming up that I don’t know how to do. There is only so much I’m going to achieve in the next month and I have to accept these limitations. I have to accept the fact that I have limitations.


That said I’ve still got an unholy amount of stuff to do in the next three weeks, but I’m back on caffeine so there’s no way I can fail. The fact that I’ve been shaking uncontrollably for the past two days is fine. Totally fine. I mean except for the soldering I was physically incapable of doing by myself, but no, everything is fine.


Everything is TOTALLY FINE.

Thesis Phase 1: Speculation

Sucking it up and taking back all the horrible things I said about Dunne and Raby here, I decided to take on a speculative design project for my thesis. I even read a few of their books to work out what speculative design actually was. The first step in any speculative design project is obviously the speculation, in this case speculation of what social media will look like 5-10 years from now. Being a research project, the future is inevitably dystopian, because if the ghost of Christmas future had brought good news then “A Christmas Carol” wouldn’t have sold nearly as well.


So what trends are observable in social media today?

  • Success on social media is incredibly important to people, for reasons most people aren’t quite sure of
  • With some work, this “success” can become increasingly lucrative, to the point of being an almost legitimate career option.
  • Mystery algorithms have a large amount of control over what we see and consequently what we do
  • We are becoming aware of how faked a lot of posts are, particularly those from social media personalities

In her book, “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology”, Jill Walker Rettberg states that there are three distinct modes of self- representation in digital media: written, visual and quantitative. For this I am eternally grateful to her, because this is the premise I built my entire thesis on.


In the early internet, self-representation was purely text-based, the internet was less capable of handling images, so social media consisted of blogs and instant messaging. Lying about who you were was very easy to do. As technology advanced, we moved on to basing the transfer of information on visual communication; photos, videos, and emoticons in place of words. Lying on the internet became slightly trickier. Not so tricky as to discourage any of the people who appear on “Catfish”, but the likes of Facebook and Instagram require a little more effort than typing about how you’re totally a 16 year old girl from LA who is also Britney Spears’ best friend. As such, the natural progression would be quantified social media, that couldn’t be manufactured. No one would go to the extent of  actually living a false life for the purposes of social media. Right?


Combining this with wearable technology, because that is literally the only consistent thing in my entire dissertation, my mission is:


To design a wearable connected platform that introduces what is sold as a “purer” form of social media. The quantitative data means users would have to go to extraordinary lengths to misrepresent their lives, thereby making its information more reliable than that of its competitors. Thanks to revenue from wearable sales, it can afford to offer a platform with less advertising.
This platform measures four factors to give as accurate a representation as possible of social actions.


1. Where the user is
2. Who the user is with
3. What the user is saying
4. What physical contact the user experiences


The user is then scored on these factors by an algorithm to earn points, which determine the users rank on what is less a social network and more an online scoreboard. Cutting to its point, this scoreboard reduces each user to a name, a picture, a vague location, a number of points and most crucially, a global rank.


To keep up with daily activities, the device would have to be worn daily. No one wants to wear the same thing everyday. So, the device built for this project is just a representative of what would be a suite of wearables available for sale from the corporation. These would track and display at various different levels, allowing users to choose to what degree they engage at different times. More understated, smaller wearables, like smart jewellery are more suitable for day-to-day wear. Larger scale wearables, garments,  that track more and therefore collect more points as well as offer more pageantry, can be worn for social occasions. The dress built for this project demonstrates the full range of parameters that could be tracked and a more elaborate display. An extended selection of the range is shown in the “Shop” section of the website demonstration.


The name of this social media platform and the corporation behind it is QBee, named for “Queen Bee”.


Phase 2: Design write up should be coming next week, seeing as I’m already on Phase 3.