Making Abstract Information Experienceable
Concept, Interaction & Visual Design, Prototyping
This bachelor thesis is a fundamental thesis on data mediation, with which abstract information can be conveyed more vividly. With three exemplary, fully functional prototypes we showed how interactive installations can create new possibilities to convey information in a more tangible and sustainable way.
With the installation "Water pollution", the user can visualize the water pollution of several countries in an interactive water basin.
The installation "Big Mac Index" allows a comparison of purchasing power in different major cities around the world. With the help of a fitness device, the user has to work in order to obtain information about the work necessary to be able to buy a selected product. He experiences the difference on his own body.
With "Human Diagram", the user becomes a data graphic in a digital mirror.
We tried to transport information more effectively, so that the perceptibility is increased. This was achieved with thew help of more intense experiences. We examined possible advantages of interactive installations compared to familiar data visualizations and used them to develop a basic methodology for creating concepts and prototypically implemented installations.
The system we developed is not limited to interactive installations, but can also be applied to other media. However, interactive installations currently offer the best conditions, as they can address more sensory channels than classical media.
Our approach is based on the idea of presenting the Big Mac Index - a statistic for comparing purchasing power - in such a way that the user has to compile the data himself/herself and thus put the information directly in relation to himself/herself and his/her workload.
This starting point led us to reflect on how such relations can be created or even strengthened. The installation of the Big Mac Index thus also played an exemplary role throughout the entire project and is ultimately used for prototypical implementation.
An important goal from the outset was to check our assumptions with functional, interactive applications and to communicate the methodology through them.
Student project, Bachelor-Thesis
Stefan Kraiss (Kuzaj)
Prof. Jörg Beck
Prof. Hartmut Bohnacker
October 2009 - February 2010
The water pollution installation is based on statistics on water pollution with organic matter, broken down by country and percentage. Here we put the pollution data in relation to real water, which is located in a basin in front of the user. The user can place objects in the water basin. These symbolize different countries. The water pollution caused by the country is then visualized by projection onto the water.
The unusual and surprisingly direct use of water as a medium creates a direct relation to the topic and at the same time raises awareness. Thanks to the interaction principle with physical objects, the data sets of different countries can be compared in parallel.
Big Mac Index
The Big Mac Index installation is based on a study comparing purchasing power in various cities. Internationally standardized goods are compared.
The Big Mac from McDonald's is very suitable here, because it is produced in the same way all over the world and thus offers optimum comparability. Bread can also be used as a standard product to compare purchasing power. Statistics show that people in some countries have to spend a lot more money, relative to their wages, than in other countries. This can also be translated directly into working time and the purchasing power can be compared on the basis of this values.
The concept of our installation is based on this data. In this installation we made the work experienceable on our own body. This means that the user has to do work himself/herself in order to get the desired information and compare values of different cities.
The user takes steps on a fitness stepper. One step on the stepper represents one minute of work in the selected city. A touch screen shows how much the user has earned from a Big Mac or a kilogram of bread. The progress indicator is a realistic representation of the products, which is composed gradually.
The user experiences clear differences in the work, such as 12 steps in Tokyo compared to 158 steps in Nairobi, and can also remember this information better.
This installation concept is based on the idea of making the user himself/herself the carrier of information. The user looks into a virtual mirror and is overlaid with information of different data sets. The values as percentage are displayed according to the size of the user. In this way, the data is put in direct relation to the user himself/herself.
A very interesting aspect is the fascination of people when interacting with their own reflection. This seems to have an increased appeal, attracts the user to playfully handle the presented data and increases his or her attention.
The data used in this installation relate to the field of social sustainability and can be compared and evaluated with each other.
Countries and data sets can be changed with foot-operated controls and compared in parallel. Data sets on poverty, happiness and age are available.
In this way, the user can create references between the displayed topic fields.
Our prototypes were shown at several exhibitions and we were able to successfully confirm our thesis.