Looking Back (an ITP reflection): Part 1

In Spring 2011, I embarked on a project called Looking Back. This project was a series of explorations encompassed two types of reflection: a retrospective of my experience and projects at ITP; and a final project entitled Breaking the Frame, which provides a more literal look back in time through reflection of the self.

Kat at ITP
I arrived at ITP in August 2009 with a background in media and communications, where I focused on how brands communicate with people and figuring out ways to improve those conversations. At ITP, I wanted to focus on creating more meaningful interactions between people, using technology as a vehicle for communication.

My work at ITP focused on exploring the interaction potential of traditionally passive activities, and employing inputs that wouldn’t usually be considered inputs, such as breathing, looking, and picking things up. The notion of play and the experience of physically affecting objects in unexpected ways have driven my projects, some of which include the following:

  • SwigJig: Hidden behind the mirrored door of this Art Deco-era liquor cabinet was an interactive experience based on the observation that people tend to associate certain alcoholic beverages with specific atmospheres. SwigJig created a different atmosphere based on the bottle the user picked up: for example, if the user selected the bottle of Irish whiskey, the Pogues’ The Irish Rover launched, accompanied by a green, white and gold light sequence, representing the colors of the Irish flag. When the user picked up the Pinot Noir, SwigJig provided soft jazz and mood lighting for a relaxed or romantic evening. SwigJig was a collaboration with Alex Vessels.
  • I.C.U.: An interactive installation and assistive technology project that enabled the user to make objects explode simply by looking at them. First, the user put on a pair of eye-tracking glasses. Then, a variety of objects such as bananas, strawberries, and Justin Bieber appeared on a screen, one by one. The user focused on these objects to make them jiggle and eventually explode into smithereens all over the screen. I.C.U. was a collaboration with Scott Wayne Indiana and Zach Taylor.
  • BREATHE: An LED light sculpture designed to curb the human stress response by encouraging deeper, more controlled breathing and by providing the user with visual feedback based on their own breathing rate. As the user inhaled, the lights on the sculpture turned on, one by one, all the way to the top of the piece until the entire sculpture was lit up in a warm white hue. As the user exhaled, the lights dimmed from the top down. The overall effect was a calming experience in a stressful world.

Looking back at these projects, I realized that I judge the success of my work by users’ willingness to interact with it. I need the presence of viewers, their minds, their bodies and their actions to complete the piece. For my final project at ITP, I wanted to create a platform that would be fun to use while experimenting with ways of granting the user full control to create his or her own unique aesthetic experience.

While I’m still not sure of all of the ways that ITP has changed how I think about the world, some of its effects have already begun to make themselves clear.  As I head on to whatever I do next, I know that how I see the objects around me and my ability to explore their potential for interaction has been expanded into a spectrum of new and exciting directions.

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