Confluence of Experiences

Experiential Design, Interaction Design, Interactive, Planning, Theory, Thesis

In thinking further about my thesis, I have taken a step back, and have been doing a lot of thinking about the nature of the project. From the start, I have wanted this project to be about expanding the definition of Interaction Design and Experiential Design.

To me, these ideas have been limited by the creativity of designers and artists. For the most part, they have existed solely to display technology and advancements. It is akin to tricks of a street corner magician. Entertaining for a moment, but rather unmemorable and having no lasting impact.

I started to look at the various aspects that will be brought in and have an affect upon the Monomyth as an experience. I divided them into the loose and broad categories of Art / Design / Architecture, Computer Programming, Social & Psychological, and Education. In the accompanying diagram to this post, I have begun to analyze the interaction between these various components, and list some concrete examples of how they manifest in experiences.

At the center of this confluence is The Monomyth. The experience of the hero journey via the interactive installation brings together all these spheres into one place. It is unlike any showing previously, as the experience is designed towards human connection.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Update 02.11.2015

Interactive, Processing, Thesis

Today, I met with my Processing Professor, Michelle Harris. In addition to teaching Processing and other computer languages, Michelle is a performance artist exploring issues of gender, race and beauty in her performances through Processing, Leap Motion, Kinect and live video.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 3.00.58 PM

A screenshot from W.M. Harris’ ‘Barbie Mirror’

I sat down with Michelle to talk a bit about my thesis project, and what she thought of it. I was afraid that what I am presenting may not be “new” or “groundbreaking” enough. She put my fears to rest – even if it has been done before, I am bringing my own artistry to the table. (Whew!)


So I laid out a really rough diagram sketch of the process and interconnection of the various parts of the type of experience I want to put together.

Schematic Workflow

Draft schematic workflow and integration of components for a diagram / flowchart.

I explained that I wanted the software to be the central brain – analyzing the music, working from a database of assets and receiving environmental feedback from a VJ (an iPad controller interface) and kinesthetic inputs. “This is all very do-able.” Michelle also explained that there are some existing software out there that helps to do some of the heavy lifting such as the database integration, music analysis, projection mapping, etc… Some are even free! So I need to investigate isadora, vvv, MaxMSP and PureData more. Michelle warned that PureData can be a bit difficult to deal with, so I will need to get my head around these applications


Schematic iPad controller interface

Schematic wireframe of iPad controller interface with a color picker on the left and various mood categories on the right.

The important thing for me is to focus on the hard coding of the project – basically, getting it right in Processing, and setting up visual assets that will work. So at this point, I will first need to focus on getting code setup and moving and first figuring out how to get this moving forward. I will need to watch both of Josh Davis’ tutorials again on using the HYPE framework to get back into that…

Progress So Far

Interactive, Kinect, Leap Motion, Planning, Processing, Thesis

In the Fall of 2014, I started my graduate studies in Visual Communication Design at RIT. My first semester was a big shift back to school after completing my Bachelor’s degree in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Illinois nearly 20 years prior. The first semester was challenging, and provided some foundational knowledge to prepare me for later courses.

This semester (Spring 2015), my classes are more specific to my interests in Interactive Design, Processing and Motion Graphics. In addition, one of my courses (VCDE 718) is a Project Planning and Implementation course. It is designed for students to develop a semester-long project or provide a starting point for thesis development.

The Thesis Idea

I have been thinking about my graduate thesis for several years. I began working in Processing around 2009. I also fell in love with work by Joshua Davis and have taken two courses he offers via Skillshare using the HYPE framework for Processing.

In order to produce something new and different, I would like for my project to go beyond an interactive experience and become an integrated sensory experience of music and movement. This can be achieved using live music, Processing, motion detection through cameras, Kinect or Leap Motion, and a database of images that are tagged to specific rhythms or beats per minute (BPM). Using these various environmental inputs, the images will be projected into the surrounding environment. The BPM will control the speed and pacing of the graphics, and the motion detection system will provide the finer dynamics.

I Don’t Know Jack

This project is beginning to snowball as I delve deeper. The more I dig into it, the more I realize that there’s a lot that I will need to learn in order to pull this off. So here’s a very short long-term to-do list I have for myself so far:

  • Learn Processing and coding for natural system movements (such as particle dynamics, flocking, etc.)
  • Coding for visualization of music.
  • PHP & SQL database integration
  • Projection Systems (possibly even projection mapping)
  • Coding for Leap Motion/Kinect/Cameras
  • Asset Creation
  • Contact existing visual environment designers for more background

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and there will be innumerable additional items that will crop up and need to be addressed later such as locating a venue, locating a DJ, etc.

Next Steps

From this point, I will need to put together a plan of action and schedule for the next year so that I can complete my thesis by next spring (2016). There’s a great deal of learning necessary to figure out how I can put all this together, and I will need to develop a timetable for everything.