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Marginalia Mania

A few days ago, we were fortunate to have Craig Mod speak at SVA’s MFA in Interaction Design’s Spring Lecture Series. The topic, “Post Artifact Book Thinking.” Little did I know that I was walking into a lecture that would reinvigorate my thesis.

Here’s a description of Craig Mod’s recent talk via SVA MFA IXD site:

As designers, how should we approach the digital book? What formats will ebooks be defined by moving forward? How much of the design is interaction design? How many of the surface design precepts of traditional book typography can we bring to the screen?

Craig will explore these questions by considering the theory behind what books mean in a digital context.

During the talk, Craig weighed the benefits of a physical book against a digital book. One of those benefits included marginalia, which are basically notes written in the margin. Paraphrasing Craig, in physical books, these notes are written down and once the book is closed, they are forgotten. Unlike its physical counterpart, digital books provide an opportunity to bring these notes to life by sharing them among members within your social network. An example that he brought up was Amazon’s Kindle where users can highlight parts of a story. Through algorithmic curation, highlights such as “Most Highlighted Passages of All Time” are shared with Amazon’s Kindle community.

The Great Immutable Artifact

The Great Immutable Artifact

So how does this have anything to do with my thesis?
With my thesis design principles that I established at the end of last semester, which are listed below,

  • New layer of information
  • Patterns
  • Support through social networks online and/or offline
  • Discovery/Exploration
  • Happens in a public space
  • Feedback (check-in, score, progress, achievements, etc.)

I started to think about how marginalia could apply to a city in a digital context. Are people able to leave behind their opinions, ideas, and viewpoints of the city as they move from one point to another? Can they share conversations about these points of interests? Through discovery and exploration, can we encourage people to move off the beaten path? To my surprise, I sort of touched on this topic earlier last semester, but was unable to solidfy on a concept until now.

Hometown (working thesis title)
According to Craig, “hometown” is the sense of belonging that a person feels when they re-enter an environment in which they are familiar with. In the context of the city, this may be a specific intersection where something happened or a specific restaurant where you had your first date and so on.

Hometown is a service that promotes exploration and discovery by suggesting different paths from a user’s origin to destination with points of interests curated in between based on one’s personal interests and those of their social network.

For my final thesis concept, I am creating a service that encourages people in the city to explore various routes when traveling from one point to another. Routes are made up of virtual checkpoints, which may include photos, stories, music, and other forms of content with respect to its current location. These virtual items are left behind either by the user themselves or by others within their social circle. Conversations may also form around these items in their virtual space. By generating different routes for users based on these checkpoints, we are creating an opportunity for exploration and discovery of relevant content within the context of their surrounding urban landscape. It’s sort of like Pandora, but for walking.

UPDATE (01/24/2011)
This idea has already sort of been touched on by other projects such as Virtual Graffiti and Augmented Reality Post-It System (thanks Rob for the tip!), but using this as a lense, how can we make this concept more utilitarian? One idea is to perhaps use this system as a form of memory recall for people suffering early stages of dimentia.

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  • 21 Jan 2011

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