An analysis of the interactivity design of Brain Drain project

The interactivity design of Brain Drain project

– A sound and visual interactive installation


What is interactivity? In the 1980s, Rafaeli declared that interactivity is

“an expression of the extent that in a given series of communication exchanges, any third (or later) transmission (or message) is related to the degree to which previous exchanges referred to even earlier transmissions. “(1988: 111)

So, Interactivity can be generally concerned as human to human communication and human to artifact communication (Kiousis, 2002). The Brain Drain project mainly achieved a good interactivity towards interaction design.


Figure 1: interactivity definitions (Kiousis, 2002)


Brain Drain is an interactive art installation presented to the public. It has both visuals and sounds interact with the audience based on using an EEG headset to perceive the data gained due to performer’s brain activities. And its generate the data into different emotions: Excitement, Frustration, Engagement, Meditation and Boredom and they are presented in different shapes, movements, speeds and colors through using a programming software, processing. Also there are 10 different kinds of interactive sound object for audiences to play with. This project is aiming to present people’s brain activities in a visually designed way and allow audience to play sounds to change and interact with the visualization based on the performer’s emotion changes.

Human to Artifact Communication

In this brain drain project, from the view of the audience, the first type of thing attracted their attentions are the sound objects. For the light sensor sound object, people press the button to start and move their hands up and down to make the melody. However, through running several experiments, we got feedbacks from people that they are not sure how to play with it, due to the messy cables and unfamiliar arduino board. We also get similar feedbacks on some other sound objects, which cooperate with arudino. People were afraid of touching them because they think they might unplug some cables or press the button they are not supposed to. This situation did reduce a lot of interactivity of the project. So we designed boxes for arduinos and only put the buttons and sensors outside of the box on the surfaces. Also, we used bigger buttons and switches instead of the small ones for people to use them more comfortably. In order to solve the issue that people were not sure how to play with the buttons and switches, we also designed interfaces on the arduino boxes showing the instructions of how to interact with the specific sound object.

step_on_for_sound instructions_for_arduinoBoxes

Since the mid-trimester, we planed to explore different kinds of interactions. So we used motion sensor, which does not require people to touch anything but still triggering the sound object to play. When people pass through the certain area, they have already been part of the whole interaction progress of the project.

On the performer’s side, the EEG headset has 14 sensors locate on specific points of people’s head to gain the data. The performer interact with every person who came to the presentation, due to the sounds performer can hear are not only generated from the sound objects but also audience’s movements and conversations. For the performer, the interactivity might not felt as strong as the audiences. However, the performer is the heart of the whole interaction and the bridge between people and the visualization that was projected on the wall.

Also, using the innovative real-time technologies is the most important method for designers to attract a greater audience and bring the interactivity. (Freyer et al. 2008) In our project, there is a sound object we built up a pressure sensor using two pieces of blades with nonconductor in between around its edges. When people stand on it, their weight made the two pieces of blade connected so that the electricity could go through. And it will trigger the toy motor start to spin. And it is concluded that technology is not the only thing that brings interactivity to a project but also the things that are very simple and people are familiar with. (Bullivant, 2007) This is also the reason why we use the old record player in the project, the feature of simple and people are familiar with it creates the interactivity here.

Human to Human Communication

Play is the basic drive behind interactivity – it’s the big ‘what if?’ aspect that keeps a good interactive experience humming along.” (We make money not art, 2006). To encourage people become physically engaged with a design, and to explore it more through interaction, art forms designed for ‘fun and play’ must make direct connections between people; they can even be a vehicle for other people to gain new insights. This was commented on by a visitor of ‘The Sonic Hedgehog’s Guide to Art’, in Museums News. (Bullivant, 2006)

In the Brain Drain project, there is a tube, which people can talk from one side to another side, which is directly next to the performer. Because of the length of the tube, it makes people’s voice sounds like a robot that attracted people to improvise and interact with the performer.

During the presentation of the project, audiences talk to each other and cooperate with each other through playing the sound objects.


Throughout this project, we used programming softwares, high technology equipments, varies of interfaces and sensors, things that people are adequately familiar with, visualizations and sounds improved the interactivity of it. There are a lot more different and interesting ways for an interactive installation to create more fun and interactivities such as place things at more interesting places and more different kind of sensors. Also, because the signal of the headset is not stable, so that the performer can only sit on the chair next to the laptop instead of moving in space so that audience can also see performer’s reaction through his movements.


Bullivant, L. (2006). Responsive Environments: Architecture, Art and Design

London: V&A Publication.

Bullivant, L. (2007). Playing with Art. 4dsocial: Interactive Design Environments, 77(4), pp. .

Kiousis, S. (2002). Interactivity: a concept explication. new media and society, vol4(3):355-383.

Rafaeli, S. (1988) ‘Interactivity: From New Media to Communication’, in R.P. Hawkins, J.M. Wieman and S. Pingree (eds) Advancing Communication Science: Merging Mass and Interpersonal Processes, pp. 110–34. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Freyer, C., Noel, S., and Rucki, E. (2008). DIGITAL BY DESIGN. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.

We make money not art (2006). Interview of Andy Cameron. Available at: [accessed at: 10th December 2012]

Essay for Submission 3 – “Between Art and Science – elements of Artistic Research in the DMSP ‘Brain Drain’” submitted by Wolfgang Thomas

1. Artistic Research – definitions of the term

Art and science are not separate domains, but rather two dimensions in the common cultural space”, states Julian Klein in his paper “What is Artistic Research” (Klein 2010).

The discourse on the term has gained momentum over the last couple of decades, and while several people have come up with concrete, usable definitions, opinions on what it conveys in detail may differ.

Christopher Frayling introduced a baseline in 1993, by marking out three possible variants of Artistic Research, which Henk Borgdorff refined and redefined:

  • research into art and design (Borgdorff: research on the arts)

  • research through art and design (Borgdorff: research for the arts)

  • research for art and design (Borgdorff: research in the arts)

(Frayling 1993, p5, Borgdorff 2006, p5f.)

Adding another layer of complexity to the subject, Simon Sheikh comes up with the following:

  • research into artistic practices and materials

  • research as artistic practice
  • research that is artistic, i.e. an aesthetic approach to science

(Sheikh, 2009)

As can be seen, there appears to have crystallised a general thrust, where Artistic Research is broadly divided into three areas, the first two of which seem straightforward enough. By consensus, the first case would be research which has art practice as the object to be investigated theoretically (Cp. Borgdorff, 2006), while the second case would be research that ultimately and deliberately leads to artistic practice, or is necessary for it. (Cp. Frayling 1993, p5, Borgdorff 2006, p5f.)

The third area is the most difficult-to-grasp, where artistic practice is immanent to the research process and result. (Cp. Borgdorff 2006, p6, Hellström, 2010)

The common aim of these approaches is the deliberate and intentional acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and ideally the documentation of the processes and findings. (Cp. Borgdorff 2006, p9f.)

In the following I will examine how specific elements of our DMSP constitute Artistic Research, and how successful they were in that regard.

2. The Emotiv EPOC headset at the core of the installation and the research process regarding sound

From the outset, we focused on three key areas we wanted to work on that would gravitate around a ‘performer’ whose affective state, influenced by one medium, would be picked up by the Neuroheadset and then being output into another medium. These were sound, visuals, and a participative element regarding the audience.

Since our main interest lay in the influence of sensitory stimuli on the performer’s brain, signal flow had to be considered, but would be secondary in importance to making conscious decisions about the nature, qualities, and expected effect of what we were to input.

As we settled for the ordering: audience triggers sound – sound stimulates performer’s brain – reactive brain activity is output as mostly abstract visuals – audience is able to see cause-effect relation, obviously knowledge gained (through, of course, research) and publicised by others regarding sound and its influence on the listener had to be considered and implemented – since we were looking for some systematic in our approach in order to see whether we could obtain any validation of our assumptions regarding the affective qualities sound from the resulting headset data. Further, the specifics of our intended installation setup (i.e. location, audience, blindfolded performer) had to be taken into consideration as well.

Both Robbie Christie’s and my own essays illustrate some of the research process that went into our work, specifically where acousmatic sound, timbral and frequency characteristics, and listening situation are concerned. (Cp. Christie, 2014, Thomas, 2014)

In the same vein, we conducted some spectral and waveform analyses of our sounds (Cp. Thomas 2014), to see whether we could find stringent relationships with data we got from the Emotiv EPOC.

Consequently, a large part of our preparatory process leading up to the actual presentation of our installation was taken up by multiple experimentation runs, during which volunteers would wear the headset blindfolded, and were exposed to our sounds. Headset data was recorded as were the test persons’ verbal descriptions of how they felt when listening.

At the time of writing, both sets of data are still being processed, but we are looking to eventually be able to publish our findings.

In conclusion, and in line with the definition provided in chapter 1 of this essay, I think it is pefectly valid to apply the term “research” to the work described here.

3. The DMSP installation as a piece of art

While the research processes described in chapter 2 formed an essential part of our work, undoubtedly it was also our objective to create a coherent piece of art, that would be considered such on its own merit, and with a distinct aesthetic. Due to the constraints of this essay, I will again restrict myself mainly to discussing the sound element of the installation.

Countering the Emotiv EPOC’s glossy hi-tech appearance and its obvious connection to the 0 and 1 world of digital processes, where its output is concerned, and at the same time emphasising the brain as possibly the ultimate analog “device”, we set out to create mostly mechanical or analog sound objects, many of them at least partly “hacked” household devices or instruments.

In no small part inspired by the scrapyard-like atmosphere of room G11 in Alison House (where a lot of the material-sourcing and building took place), as well as the naked, workplace-alluding style of room B28 (where we had been hoping to present from fairly early on), we were looking to build objects that would be visually engaging, mostly in a shabby, DIY way, as well as being haptically/physically inviting to the audience. Digital technology was very consciously either hidden, or kept to a minimum.

Generally, the idea was to break up and contrast the neuroheadset’s connotations of a clean, highly technological science laboratory setting with some real-world dirtiness and quirky charm to create a sense of tension within the installation.

While the jury is out on how we fared in terms of artistic merit, I do think the above illustrates some of the clearly artistic and aesthetics-driven intentions of the project.

4. Conclusion – Can the ‘Brain Drain’ installation be classified as Artistic Research?

I would suggest that – while flawed in its execution, especially where the actual presentation is concerned – our work is a textbook example of the term. Adhering to the categories outlined in chapter 1, and considering that in this case “the artistic practice itself is an essential component of both the research process and the research results” (Borgdorff 2006, p9f.), it should be classified as “research in the arts/research that is artistic”.

At the core of the project lay research, that – if not scientific in the sense of a traditional, strict laboratory setting (Cp. Nordmann, 2009, p10) – clearly fulfils the criteria outlined above, the results of which were presented in an equally clearly and intentionally aestheticised and artful way.

Word count: 1151

Reference list:

BORGDORFF, H. (2006) The debate on research in the arts. Kunsthøgskolen i Bergen, available from: [accessed 22/04/2014]

CHRISTIE, R. (2014) Music and Emotion, [online], The University Of Edinburgh, christie/ [accessed 24/04/2014]

FRAYLING, C. (1993) Research in Art and Design, Royal College of Art Research Papers, Volume 1 Number 1, 1993/94, Royal College of Art, London, available from: documents/79/1372332724-Frayling_Research-in-Art-and-Design.pdf [accessed 22/04/2014]

HELLSTRÖM, T. (2010) Evaluation of artistic research,Research Evaluation, 19(5), December 2010, pages 306–316, Oxford University Press, available from: 785d-48ce-b983-6fddabc99d55%40sessionmgr110&vid=5&hid=102 [accessed 23/04/2014]

KLEIN, J. (2009) WHAT IS ARTISTIC RESEARCH?, published in German in: Gegenworte 23, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften 2010, available from: [accessed 23/04/2014]

NORDMANN, A. (2009) Experiment Zukunft – Die Künste im Zeitalter der Technowissenschaften, subtexte 03 Künstlerische Forschung – Positionen und Perspektiven, p.8-22, Rey, A., Schöbi, S. (Eds.), ipf – Institute for the Performing Arts and Film Departement Darstellende Künste und Film, ZHdK

SHEIKH, S. (2009) Objects of Study or Commodification of Knowledge? Remarks on Artistic Research, Art & Research, A journal of ideas, contexts and methods, volume 2, number 2, spring 2009, available from: [accessed 22/04/2014]

THOMAS, W. (2014) Aspects of sound perception in absence of visual stimulae in relation to the ‘Brain Drain’ installation, [online], The University Of Edinburgh, thomas/ [accessed 25/04/2014]


The importance of cinematography in a project documentation

“The importance of cinematography in a project documentation”



This article surveys research in the role of aesthetics on the creation of a project documentary, that reflects the artist’s interpretation of his own work and how he aspires his audience to perceive it. The focus of this article is directed on the cinematography and particularly on the essential concepts of visual story telling, shooting methods and other technical matters that appear during the making of a documentary.



Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy associated with art and beauty (Zhang, 2009). The digital aspects of aesthetics and design are the method of deliberately arranging elements to appeal to the senses or emotions of the user (Batiha, Al-Slaimeh & Besoul, 2006). Cinematography, from Greek: κίνημα, kinema “movements” and γράφειν, graphein “to record”) is the art or science of motion picture photography(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)



Visual story telling:Building a visual world”

In the process of making a film or a documentary we need to offer a visual habitat to the characters/participants of the plot (Cinematography. theory and practice,Blain Brown). This is an important investment for the audience because it determines the way they perceive it; how they feel and what is the main meaning that they receive when watching it. In addition it is a gate that gives passage to the director’s or the creator’s mind and ideas that he is trying to transmit to his audience without saying something directly. There are several means to achieve the creation of such an environment and for an artistic project to my opinion the following are the most important:


  • Using the right lens: When we talk about lens we need to think about how we perceive the real world and how we want to capture it though the lens. To accomplish this, there are different types of lens and each give a different rendering result but also a different personality(Cinematography. theory and practice,Blain Brown). For example, a wide angle or fish eye lens have the capability of covering a big part of the scenery in the frame, which means that a film or your photos will look more natural (!FMih1). When we are in the process of making a documentary for an artistic project we have to think what kind of lens to use according to how much we want to display, so for example when we are working on an interactive installation that includes many objects working together and interacting with other elements in the same space we need a camera with wide angle lens to show how everything works as a whole.


A good light arrangement makes things Read, in other words it can give your renderings solidity and presence, and communicates the three-dimensional form of an object or character to an audience. Secondly, it makes the whole thing look realistic and believable. A believable image is internally consistent, with lights balanced in a way that would be motivated in real life. For example, if there is a beam of direct sunlight entering a room, the viewer expects the sunlight to be brighter than the light of a table lamp. In addition, some other goals are to maintain the continuity between different shots, directing the viewer’s eye to what is important in each scene and putting the audience into a specific mood on each shot (Visual Goals of Lighting Design


  • Point of view: The camera is the “eye” of the audience, so it is fundamental to know how to show to them what we want them to know about the story(Cinematography. theory and practice,Blain Brown). Films that use many point-of-view shots tend toward dynamic and non-naturalistic style. For example in Peking Opera Blues (Do Ma Daan, Tsui Hark, Hong Kong, 1986) the female impersonator’s fear of the soldier who attempts to procure him for his general is rendered comic by the cut to POV and wide angle ( of view

Shooting methods

There are numerous types of shooting methods, most of which apply to the human form as a terminology but they can be applied in objects as well(Cinematography. theory and practice,Blain Brown). The following are the methods that in my opinion are the most useful when filming for a project documentary:

  • wide shot: wide emphasise the scenery or the location around an subject (Shot Sizes, Elements of, so when we want to point out the location that a project is taking place it is usefull to shoot with wide angle lens from a distance.wide shot

  • Full shot: A full shot displays the character from head to toe, without showing much of his surroundings (Shot Sizes, Elements of shot
  • Medium shots (MS): A medium shot is relative to the subject. This means that the shot is much closer than a wide one at a point that we are able to see the character’s facial expressions and other details (Cinematography. theory and practice,Blain Brown).medium shots
  • Close ups: Close up are probably the most important methods in film because the focus is completely dedicated to one object or character and its details are displayed on the maximum level. _MG_3654                                               close up shot from Brain Drain Project experiments



The above article has discussed the importance of cinematography in the making of a project documentary and what methods are important to follow for the best aesthetic result. Cinematography and its basic methods can contribute to creating an eye catching and artistic result of what happened through the period of building up and presenting an interactive installation, even if it didn’t flow according to plan in real time, because film making has the advantage of planning in advance what will be shown to the audience and gives the ability to the creator to test and take care of the weak points.


Wearing and showing our brain waves

To release from classic user interface

Since the first computer was invented, a communication way between computers and people has been a significant issue. ENIAC, which was the early computer developed in 1947, was programmed by numerous switches and cables.  It took several days to run a new program because programmers had to reorder switches and cables.  At the beginning of 1970s, a mouse device using x-y position system was invented by Douglas Engelbart, and it became common as a computer peripheral in 1980’s.  However, the development of user interface for computers became sluggish until appearance of a smartphone ( we still use these antiques to manipulate computers! ).  Although multi-touch screen interface of smartphones and tablet devices gave a huge impact on user interface, the interface is still limited in terms of using device screens.

Wearable computing and Tangible bits

To release people from controlling a screen, wearable computing such as Google Glass has been attracting a great deal of attention. These interfaces focus on using five senses such as eyesight, voice, biometrical data and environmental information surrounding people.


The wearable computers utilize both conscious and unconscious data of people. For instance, Google Glass shows the map and shop data using user’s eyesight and voice. Meanwhile, warbles for fitness and health care check people’s unconscious information such as body temperature, movement, sleeping patterns and heart beating.

Also, some researchers have a strong interest in exploring more physical and intuitive user interface. “Tangible bits” is one of the most famous concepts proposed by Ishii in 1997. The idea proposed embodiment of digital information in physical space (Ishii, 1997). Ishii launched the Tangible Media Group in the MIT Media Lab, and they have presented various kinds of new interfaces such as Relief (2.5 diminution table interface) and Trackmate (game board interface).

Brain waves as user interface

Brain waves are one of the most attractive user interfaces for wearable computing. In the medical field, brain waves technology has been used for not only monitoring of patients’ condition but also communication with patients.

A study using electroencephalography (EEG) devices found that approximately 43 percent of patients who seem to be vegetative state are minimally conscious, and 19 percent of these patients responded with very simple response such as “yes” and “no”. The result suggests that brain waves can be a user interface to make simple commands and messages even though these patients can not move their face and body completely (MyHealthNewsDaily, 2011). Moreover, a researcher presented a demonstration of an electric wheelchair under control of Emotiv EEG headset. The control system detected user’s facial expression such as smiles and winks. If a user makes a smile, the wheelchair goes straight ahead.

Brain waves as big data : Neuromarketing

The strength of the EEG devices is that these devices can detect not only the conscious but also the unconscious emotions.  The brain waves and EEG devices can be used in the field of games, advertising and market research.   In the field of games, players can control the game with their cognition as the wheelchair demonstration.  At the same time, marketers will prefer people’s unconscious feeling and emotions to research what people need and want.  As  people tend to tell a lie whether consciously or not, marketers have been struggled with the issue of existing research methods such as questionaries.

This neuroscientific approach to marketing is called neuromarketing. A Sony Bravia commercial survey using EEG devices indicated the specific points people showed positive reaction (Żurawicki, 2010).


Testing Sony Bravia commercial (Żurawicki,2010. p.214)

In the field, brain waves are regarded as big data of consumers. There are positive opinions that results using EEG technology are more precise than results of questionaries and verbal survey. Conversely, there is a controversy that neuromarketing is invasive.

Wearing and showing our brain waves with EEG smart devices

Nowadays, information companies such as Amazon analyze numerous buying history and pursue the link steps for their marketing research. In the future, they might use user’s feelings and brain waves for the purpose if EEG wearable computing become smaller and more sensitive for practical use. Brain waves can be utilized both user interface and user data. Facebook that always asks us “what’s on your mind?” might share our emotions automatically, and devices might suggest nice music for current emotions as Amazon’s “customers who bought this item also bought”. If it is not my taste, I might stop playing just thinking “no” or frustration.  It is very convenient, too convenient.  Is the situation utopia or dystopia for us?


Shapes Shape Emotions – s1318968 Donghui (Whitney) XIE

The Brain Drain project investigates how sonic events effect brain activity by representing EEG data visually in real-time. The visuals will be an abstract illustration of brainwave data, with the aim to provide an insightful and interesting look into the brain’s response to sound. In detail, visualization is an interpretation of the performer’s response to different sounds based on brainwave readings. To achieve an artistic yet reasonable visual effect, we experimented using the Processing programming language. Generally, the visualization features five different parameters mapped to different emotional states which are excitement, engagement, frustration, meditation and boredom, while remaining one presentation as a whole. We managed to manipulate parameters such as colour, motion, scaling, shaping etc. in order to deliver an impressive yet simple visualization.

Here I would like to take a deeper look into the shaping as a visual effect in terms of how it relates to emotions. Shaping has its advantage over the other visual effect of colour changing as it is friendly to some colour-blinded people, which features a more organic and obvious transition. However, we tried hard to relate shaping to emotions in a reasonable way with the help of a rough study of shaping.

There’s an example of shaping and emotion, please see to Figure 1. Previous work demonstrating that schematic faces that include eye brows in a downward V-shape and sharp, angular objects recruit the amygdale have provided hints that the geometric configuration of a stimulus may be linked with recognition of threat. This lack of differential activation is consistent with behavioral data indicating that circles and curvilinear forms convey the emotion of happiness (Larson, C, Aronoff, J, Sarinopoulos, I, & Zhu, D 2009). Downward-pointing V’s were more readily identified as unpleasant than upward-pointing Vs (Larson, C, Aronoff, J, & Steuer, E 2012). These studies helped us a lot when implementing shaping as a visual effect to interpret a certain emotion.

Figure 1

Figure 1

In our project of brain drain, when applying the relationship between shapes and emotions to visual design, I referred to the studies above using sharp shapes for emotions of excitement and round shapes for emotions of meditation. To be more specific, though the whole image of the visual remains as the round 3D ‘Hairy Ball’, different characters and features are given according to different emotional state. For example, in the emotional state of excitement, the length of hair is random and irregular so that the edge of the ‘Hairy Ball’ looks uneven and more angular, which relates to the emotion of excitement. In the emotional state of meditation, the length of hair is far more regular than that of excitement so that the edge of the ‘Hairy Ball’ looks even and more round-look, which relates to the emotion of meditation. See to Figure 2.

Excitement/Figure 2

Excitement/Figure 2


Meditation/Figure 2

Meditation/Figure 2

The application of studies of relationship between shapes and emotions does not limit to visual designs for scientific experiments like our brain drain project, it can be widely used in publishing, advertising, education, etc.

Another study found that round face-like shapes both alone and in conjunction with warm color induced positive emotions. Warm colors alone, however, did not affect learners’ emotions. Comprehension was facilitated by warm colors and round face-like shapes, independently as well as together. Transfer was facilitated by round face-like shapes when used with neutral colors (Plass, J. L., Heidig, S., Hayward, E. O., Homer, B. D., & Um, E. 2014). Based on this study, it is reasonable that lots of logos or trademarks are designed in a round-shape to please or cater to the customers. Broadly speaking, logo designs can be classified as angular, circular, or a combination of the two. Angular shapes are those consisting of straight lines and sharp corners (e.g. a rectangle); whereas circular shapes are curved and without sharp angles (e.g. an oval). According to Berlyne, angular shapes induce confrontational associations such as energy, toughness, and strength. In contrast, circular shapes induce compromise associations such as approachableness and friendliness (Yuwei, J, Gorn, G, Galli, M, & Chattopadhyay, A 2012).

Based on these findings and experimenting, I believe that shapes have a great impact on human emotions in terms of visual effects. It can be facilitated as long as we have a better understanding of our brain and its mechanism. It is a fascinating topic to reason how shapes shape emotions, yet more works still needs to be done in the future.


1 Larson, C, Aronoff, J, Sarinopoulos, I, & Zhu, D 2009, ‘Recognizing Threat: A Simple Geometric Shape Activates Neural Circuitry for Threat Detection’, Journal Of Cognitive Neuroscience, 21, 8, pp. 1523-1535, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 April 2014.

2 Larson, C, Aronoff, J, & Steuer, E 2012, ‘Simple geometric shapes are implicitly associated with affective value’, Motivation & Emotion, 36, 3, pp. 404-413, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 April 2014.

3 Plass, J, Heidig, S, Hayward, E, Homer, B, & Um, E 2014, ‘Emotional design in multimedia learning: Effects of shape and color on affect and learning’, Learning And Instruction, p. 128, Academic OneFile, EBSCOhost, viewed 24 April 2014.

4 Yuwei, J, Gorn, G, Galli, M, & Chattopadhyay, A 2012, ‘Shape Matters: How does Logo Shape Inference Shape Consumer Judgments’, Advances In Consumer Research, 40, pp. 745-746, Business Source Alumni Edition, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 April 2014.

Visualization for Installation

Zechao Li    s1204053


In this project, we used EEG headset as an intermediary between stimuli source and visualization. Audiences could interact with blindfolded performer by triggering different kind sounds. The visualization part would change according to performers’ emotions. Since the presentation type for this project was an installation, people with different background knowledge came as audiences. So it is very important to choose a good visualization method, in order to make the visualization more pellucid and attractive for audiences.

Visualization can be classified into two major areas, which are information visualization and scientific visualization (Tory and Moller, 2004). In this essay, I will discuss about both of them appeared in our project and give my own opinion about which one is more suitable for the installation of our project.

Information Visualization

At the beginning of this project, we decided to show the visualizations in an abstract way, which could make them more unreal, more meaningful and clear. At the first stage, we got two different visualizations samples, colorful triangles and colorful fluid. The colorful triangles used different color triangles to show different emotions, but were not very clear about how strength the emotions were. The colorful fluid also used different colors to show emotions, and it showed the strength of emotions by changing the distance from the screen center. But, both of them were not clear for audiences, since they won’t be able to understand the meaning in the visualizations unless our team members explained to them. During the first stage, we focused on finding a visualization which could be easily understood and had a nice art visual effect. But then I found it was hard to make a good visualization show scientific information and art visual effect at the same time without putting letters or numbers on the screen.

At the second stage, we decided to move our visualization from screen to wall after some experiments, in order to make the feelings of audiences about our visualization much stronger. At this stage, our main visualization was a Nero network which can expand according to the strength of performer’s emotions. It worked very well on the wall and made the wall looked like an artistic work. But the scientific information part of this version visualization was too weak. Audiences could only feel beautiful about it but couldn’t find out how the visualization worked with our headset.

At the final stage we got several very nice visualization and they combined the visual effect with scientific information much better. One of them was a 3D ball with small hairs on it. The hairs on the ball moved in different way corresponding to the emotion which had the maximum value among the emotions. The size of the ball also changed when the emotion value changed. For a better visual effect, we finally decided to show the visualization in a dark room and project the ball on to a big black plane. This made the ball looked more real and more attractive. But the problem of the clearness of the scientific information still existed, so we added the information by using words and numbers directly on the corner of the screen. In this way, audiences would be interested in the ball visualization and understood its meaning from the information on the corner as well.

Scientific Visualization

At the final stage, we also had a pure scientific visualization. It was a pentagon radar chart. Each corner of the pentagon corresponded to one emotion and the point on the line between center and corner showed the value of this emotion. The higher the value was, the further the point would be from the center. Then connected the five points and filled the shape with color. It could show the five emotions at the same time and compared them, so the audiences can be convinced that which emotion was stronger than others (Chandoo, 2008). But there were also a problem that, since we showed the final result by using an area created by those five points, we had to considering more about the scales in order to not exaggerate those values (Cleveland, 1984).


In the final presentation, we used 4 visualizations in a dark room at the same time, which made it very attractive to the audiences. I found it was much better to combine different kinds of visualization at the same time. It can allow different audiences to understand our project easily. For instance, audiences who came from academic background might care more about the scientific information or judge them in an art way. But for other audience, they might care more about whether it looked attractive or interactive. A good and effective visualization should consider its specific tasks and goals. The goal for our visualization was to show the result of performers’ emotion change and let different audiences feel attractive and interactive, so in my opinion, it was a good choice to combine different visualizations for different audience groups.


Chandoo (2008). You are NOT spider man, so why do you use radar charts? Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Cleveland (1984), summarized at

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Interactivity and the Expectations of Performer and Audience – Robbie Christie (s1362499)


An ever-present theme during the DMSP project was interactivity. The idea of creating an ’interactive installation’ always appealed to myself as well as other group members and supervisors. However, to successfully design and implement an environment that is truly interactive, and at the same time immersive and interesting, is no mean feat. This task was made no simpler by overlooking something that should have been a priority throughout: What do we mean by interactivity? And to what extent can our idea of interactivity agree with an audience’s expectations?


(Of two people or things) influencing each other.

  • Allowing a two-way flow of information between a computer and a computer-user: responding to a user’s input.

Above is the Oxford English Dictionary definition of interactive[1]. This highlights interactivity as an exchange of data between computer (an electronic device capable of receiving information and performing a series of operations in accordance with instructions defined by the received data) and computer-user. The computer-user could represent a human physically interacting with the computer using touch or speech as input and receiving visual, sonic or tactile feedback. The computer-user could also refer to another computer, be it artificially intelligent or controlled by a human e.g. communicating via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or using a projector, sonic device, or remote control to send various forms of data to the computer.

For the purpose of the DMSP Brain Drain Project, this definition could be tweaked to be more specific in terms of the sender-receiver relationship. In the case of our installation the ‘computer’ could be said to be a number of devices: The sound-objects, the EEG headset, the animated projections, and other tools such as MaxMSP patches and mixing environments. The ‘computer-user’ would then be the audience (using various tools for interaction, be it their foot, voice, a button, a lazer-pen etc.), the ‘performer’ wearing the EEG headset, and the group members who were overseeing all aspects of the installation throughout the entire process.


During the mad rush of performance week tunnel vision had allowed for focus to be shifted to some of the smaller details rather than some of the larger, and possibly more pivotal, ones. Building and arranging individual objects continued to be done right down to the wire and while this seemed unavoidable at the time, perhaps some decisions could have been taken care of ahead of time to ensure the smoothest possible run on the day.

It was assumed that if we build objects that are simple and intuitive, and lay them out clearly and coherently, the audience would feel comfortable enough to interact and explore the space that we had built. However, we remained unsure as to the extent of the exploration that would take place on the day. This stemmed from an idea that was pondered throughout the design of the installation that was made clear during performance day: Group expectations did not match audience expectations.

Within the group it was worried that the audience would be timid during the performance. The idea of making sound using unfamiliar instruments in a room full of people that you may or may not know could pose an issue to some. While most, especially those involved in sound, image, and other artistic disciplines, are happy to interact with an installation, it may be difficult to step-up and be the first person to ‘break the ice’. The true enthusiasm of all those present on the day had not been anticipated, defying expectations of myself and some of the group.

The mad influx of curious hands, ears, eyes, and voices lead to a rethink of the format of the installation. Perhaps utilizing interactivity was not the most effective and sensible way to display our work. Each individual element was lost amongst a mass of sounds and images. The subtleties may be best represented in a more intimate setting.

Installation vs. Performance

The concept of an installation versus a performance is something that requires a substantial amount of consideration with this type of work. Describing something as an installation suggests that there is an aspect of randomness involved. An installation should provide an experience for the audience that makes them feel very much involved. A different audience creates a different outcome. This is especially true for the idea of an interactive installation. The audience can expect, and perhaps do expect to play an important role in the shaping of the entire experience. The label of ‘interactive installation’ blurs the line between performer and spectator.

While an amount of audience interaction is involved in a performance, there is more of a sense of order or perhaps a more specific structure to what goes on. A performance suggests a clearer divide between what the audience does and what the performer does. While an audience can influence what goes on in terms of providing feedback to the performer, which can alter how the performer acts, there is no direct influence from the audience on the system. The computer and computer-user interaction remains firmly in the hands of the performer.


Consideration for the desired aesthetic outcome of a project such as this is paramount. When involving an audience, one must take care to look at the project from all angles. What is the most likely mindset of a stranger; unfamiliar with all features and intricacies of the environment you have created? When ignorant of these intricacies, can the outcome be appreciated artistically?

This is one of the greatest difficulties in working on such a long and laborious project. Finding a way to step back and observe from a subjective point of view, considering each element with a clear mind and open eyes. One must let go of personal attachments to specific aspects and appreciate the project as a whole. Perhaps trying to understand the expectations of a group of strangers is too big a task. It may be possible, however, to transcend expectations by creating an environment that delivers artistically and that is free from ideas built on personal expectations.


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[1] Oxford Dictionaries Online. Accessed 23/04/2014