For this assignment, student projects were reviewed by two external reviewers, Maddy Varner and Jonah Warren, who have extensive experience developing networked art experiences.
Maddy Varner is formerly a contributing researcher at ProPublica, and now a researcher at The Markup, focusing on technology's impact on society. She is a founding member of the cyberfeminist security collective Deep Lab, and a former fellow at the Free Art and Technology Lab.
MV • This is a nice take on a traditional chatroom. I think changing things based off of keywords is intriguing, but I guess if it were keyword-based I'd appreciate a clearcut "palette" to chose from within the app. I sort of wish you had stuck with your original idea, I'm with you that emotional recognition software is assumptive (and I think there's like, a whole cottage industry of essays about it at this point!), but I think the keywords you chose are assumptive in their own way--a lot of the terms are super relevant to students, but as someone who has been out of school for a few years, I would never use (or trigger) those words! Automated presumption of someone's emotional state can cause a breakdown in communication, and I think it's a very compelling (and important!) subject to tackle.
JW • This is visually appealing, but it doesn't quite work as a way to make natural conversation more interesting. I found myself consulting the list and typing in words, which didn't result in compelling communication. Using sentiment analysis to affect styling as you type could be fun to explore, even if flawed (see Dan Shiffman's coding challenge video on the topic).
MV • There's a lot of interesting chunks in this piece. I like the aspects of security theater (messages as audio! headphones on! passwords entered!), and I like the idea of playing with public/private spaces, and leaky transmissions. I disagree that everyone has equal roles though--your premise relies on the fact that you, as the maintainer of the space, *do* have a special role, and you're up to no good! You clearly convey to your Twitter audience that you're pulling chatlogs from somewhere, how do you show your chatroom people that you're leaking their logs somewhere, despite your assurances otherwise? There's a loop that needs to be closed here.
JW • Not much here as a contained experience. After logging in, chatting and seeing the results (but not the Twitter stuff), I'm not sure why I'd continue with this or understand what it's about. There are some fun design decisions to set up a public/private conversation once all is revealed... I just don't know how you get there without more to it.
MV • Ok, I'm a total sucker for blobby games! The mechanics were legible enough to me that I could learn how to operate the chatroom without needing written instructions. The one thing that felt weird to me was when I tried to "eat" the big blobs, it seems like the hitbox is just in the center of the thing? There's probably some fancy boring gamer math for that. I was charmed by this though, in part because it took a multiplayer style I'm familiar with and added an extra rule that changed the way I played it completely--I appreciated the futility of geting *too big*, because then you can't navigate through the little negative pellets!
JW • Good documentation of process. Although the Hungry Hippos concept could have been an interesting starting point, this is fun. Although quite similar to the template, the addition of the two star types result in some enjoyable trade offs to navigate. It's fun to balance how big you get with where you can go.
MV • This is a cute spin on agar.io! I really liked your death hole idea though, I'm sad you didn't have the time to see it through!
JW • Some interesting patterns emerge from combining the movement and painting/shooting interactions, however, on the whole, I wish there was a little more to it. Perhaps some additional interaction between players or their paint. Mouse and arrow key combo is a bit awkward.
MV • This is very much up my alley, I appreciate any chatroom that seeks to squeeze conversation through a very small tube. This is a nice small tube! And I like the idea of forcing people to harvest letters, you should try to pursue that someday! Andreas Mundt, head of the German anti-trust office, once compared Facebook to an "endless bar", that people would just keep filling and never leave, eventually running all the other bars out of business. I'm glad that you're thinking about bars with fixed square footage.
JW • Solid concept, but it didn't get there in terms of execution for me. I found myself hitting return after each word or two to avoid the garbled text. As a result, I didn't feel particularly constrained by the app or self aware of the length of my messages. Requiring a response before you can write again, implementing a meaningful delay, or thinking about ways to add weight to each message (and limit spamming) could be worth exploring.
MV • I played with this for a while! It's really beautifully done, I love the style and it was so exciting to see the changelog for the messages slowly unfurl. I wish that the unicode fucked up the text *just a bit more*, or was a little more layered so that there was more of a shift in the messages--it was sort of boring when people were able to accurately rewrite the same message over multiple iterations. Chaos and degradation forever!!
JW • Nice concept, documentation of process, and follow through. Appealing aesthetic and atmosphere -- there is nice feeling of ambiguity, distorted messages, and history. Unfortunately, in practice, most often, the message was legible enough to be copied accurately. Lots of potential though. I'd love to see version 2.0.
MV • I feel like this is definitely a game my friends and I would've been obsessed with in middle school, which is to say that it has this really lovely combination of super simple mechanics/design and very quick, fast-paced play. Even the use of color to subtly indicate level loading and stuff reminds me a bit of like, late 2000's/early 2010's flash games? It's evoking nostalgia I didn't even know I had! I will say I had a little bit of trouble at first figuring out how I was controling my line, I think your instructions say the controls are in the bottom left, even though they're in the bottom right? But also, I love this, please make a million levels.
JW • I really enjoyed this. Immediately accessible, intuitive, and engaging. Very nice design choices, both visually and interactively -- also some thoughtful levels. There is a lot of room for exploration here. I didn't get to play with three or more, but would love to see how that plays out. One flaw -- the controls being pinned in the bottom right was often problematic for me (e.g., when I wanted to move right, fully extended).
MV • This is some grim stuff! I almost want to be given a beautiful, colorful feather for each bird I have killed, as like a trophy, mostly because I feel bad for senselessly killing an e-creature but would be more incentivized if I got something nice out of it. I appreciate that coalitions can be built in an ad-hoc and anonymous way, and that the tension is dependent on the amount of players on either side. Sort of like tug-o-war! But with murder.
JW • This could be interesting territory to explore. It is a solid start and a bare bones proof-of-concept, however, there isn't enough here to make me want to keep playing. I would love some more feedback of what others are doing, a sense of history, or a little more depth. Pushing the asynchronous-ness and slowing things down could be another direction to explore.
MV • There's something really soothing about this one! I don't mind the little lag at all-- it's more about the "memorable" parts of the users' motion, so it all works! I had a lot of fun switch between stillness and rapid motion, I didn't really realize how still I was when I videochatted with folks until I used this, it made me reconsider how I communicate with others on camera.
JW • Nice documentation of process. This is visually appealing and great to see fully functional. It's OK as an ambient multi-user experience -- I think your personal critique (not facilitating meaningful communication between users) is its biggest weakness. I'd love to see some overlap and/or interaction between the flow feeds.
MV • lmao ok this is good. I wish there were a bit more differentiation between the username style and the message style, just becuase it gets a little confusing when you stack the chairs on top of each other, but I'm impressed by the scooting ability. Cannot WAIT for Kitchen Chat 2.0, I hope it is a whole IKEA catalogue of chairs. Would it be crazy to just assign everyone mandatory random swedish furniture usernames?
JW • This didn't really lead to much interesting interaction, but it was enough parts amusing, absurd, and playful to make me smile and play around. As it stands (sits?), it's a little bland. I'd love to see this getting way more absurd/surreal, perhaps figuring out how to embed more "chairness" into in the constraints of interacting, referencing concepts of feng shui, inserting chairy prompts, or ???
MV • Ok, just want to say I love the idea of a many-headed worm (like a rat king! or even those creepy hammerhead worms!). I like that this requires multiple people for it to feel interesting--alone it's kind of boring. I would love to see you try out some more complicated relationships between the people using it, I think the lines between folks is kind of an easy connection to make.
JW • This is pleasant to interact and draw with. Unfortunately, there is a sameness to the visuals that limits how long I'd engage with it. I'd try to think about how to introduce more variation in mark-making or more unique interactive potentials between users.
MV • I like the idea of a collaborative dressup game, and I think you did a nice job curating how you could customize the emoji. I wish there was a way to know how many other people were collaborating with me, and that it would automatically update to what everyone else was seeing when you joined, just cuz it's a little confusing to try to work together, but this is still really nice for your first socket.io project!
JW • Good documentation of process and follow through. The end result is fun for a bit, but doesn't quite make for a engaging networked experience. Immediately overwriting selections can be a bit jarring. I'd like to see a version of this more about communicating, where a creation of one person is followed by another, perhaps with some additional context and/or constraints.
MV • Truckers! I didn't know they had such elaborate slang! I loved the modifications to the usernames, and when you hit submit the messages are so weird and great. This is a funny, tightly executed concept.
JW • Light-hearted crass fun. The messages are so altered that there isn't much chance at meaningful interaction. They lose their charm somewhat quickly. Not much in the way of documentation.
MV • This seems like an ambitious project! I'm reminded of Yung Jake's emoji portraits, in terms of reusing emoji to create new imagery. I think my screen was a bit too small--the different UI windows layered over each other and I was a little frustrated that I couldn't move them out of the way of each other. I'm curious how you would define the collaborative aspect-have you thought about ways for people to share their emoji creations on the app itself?
JW • Although there are some amusing combinations to be discovered, I don't see any networked interaction happening here.
MV • On a boring compatability note, I can't see other people's drawings on Firefox (which is sort of an exciting exercise in its own right)! I'm kiiind of ambivalent about how explicit the free speech metaphor is laid out in the piece. I think the mechanics of the piece itself already do such a lovely job of making me think of a lot of really topical stuff--what it means to have boundaries, what it means to hold/share space, how individual actions can negatively harm the group at large, there's a lot here! I wish you would trust your players (and yourself!) to be able to suss that sort of stuff out from their experiences of the work, rather than laying it out for them. I think you've tapped into a super rich conversation, and I think it's one that people want to have!
JW • I wasn't able to see other people's drawings (Chrome, Safari). I'm not sure if this was intentional, however, it proved frustrating. The documentation didn't seem to reflect my experience. The metaphor seemed a little bit of a stretch. I like the idea of crossing lines to affect a collaborator's drawing, but I didn't feel particularly invested without a more compelling context or goal.
MV • Ok, I laughed, this is a silly one! I'm reminded a little bit of the "put your finger here" Skittle ads. Building out interactions between strangers using an evergrowing database also reminds me of like, early 2000s sites like KittenWar or FaceSmash. Would love to see some more little interactions!
JW • This is a bit of a one-liner, but fun. It caught me off guard. My experience with it was seamless -- the interaction worked quickly and accurately, and the resulting image was appropriately painfully awkward. I could see it wearing thin quickly, but for me it was pleasantly unexpected. Nice write up.
MV • Trying to pierce a veil to reach out to someone else is really poetic! It could just be my computer, but I had a hard time figuring how exactly I was influencing the particles--I kept trying to wave them away. I almost feel like the particles gathering together/gaining clarity through stillness is sort of the opposite of what your description says. It's very relaxing to look at though!
JW • Although a little screensavery, I liked the aesthetic and auras this generated. I think a little more direction in your documentation could have helped, but I did enjoy the discovery of the particles slowly being attracted to my mouse. Some interaction between the auras could help provide a bit more depth.
MV • This is so stylish! I appreciate the potential for communal collaging, it's just as fun to play it in by myself as with others. I wish the wordset were a little different though-I like the idea of a scarcity of words, but I think if your goal are these sort of abstracted word clouds where communication isn't really the point, you should make those few words really, really exciting. Like, I almost wish there was a place I could dump like, a link to a nytimes article and have my "word palette" be just key words from that article or something. It's definitely the kind of thing I want to take a screenshot of and share, which is awesome!
JW • It took some experimentation for me to realize how much control I could have with this, but once I did, I found it to be quite expressive. There is a nice balance of control and randomness here, which isn't always easy with language.
MV • I'm intrigued by this, I really love the idea of having people's presence be tied to their work on the bridge remaining. I'm a little confused about how the bridge will work--is it turn based? How many people can work on it at once? Am I able to see other people's sticks as they're planning so we can coordinate? But I'm really in love with the idea of forcing people to not only work together towards a goal, but also force them to see it through entirely, lest they sabotage the other players. I really hope you continue to explore that idea!
JW • A nice concept, which I'd love to see in action. I'm curious how the physics would work, as well as the interaction between players. Sounds like a simplified, collaborative World of Goo, which isn't a bad thing.
MV • This is so beautiful, the aesthetics are absolutely gorgeous. The droplets bouncing off the absent space is such a nice touch, and the background does a great job setting the tone and scene.
JW • Beautiful imagery. Great execution and follow through. Thoughtful representation of online presence. You've effectively captured a feeling of being there and not there simultaneously.
MV • Here for competing interests and secret motives!! The food dot / adding creature dots was a little confusing to figure out in your instructions, but once I figured it out it was a lot of fun. I kind of wish that there was a way I could see how well other players were doing, or maybe for it to affect gameplay somehow. I do love that you get slower/it becomes harder to get to the center of the food dot the more you add blobby dots. A poignant commentary on the idealization of productive youth in the workplace!!
JW • Simple concept, nicely implemented. Since dots only accumulate, I found the creature would eventually get weighed down and become almost impossible to play--but perhaps knowing that is part of the challenge. At times I wasn't sure whether the creature was "eating" the dot or not (also why it wasn't in some cases). Some additional feedback to players or making this interaction clearer would help.
MV • I liked being able to draw combined scenes with my partner. I wish there were a bit more rigidity to the way the rules for this chat were constructed--I enjoyed the webcam as a guide for me to trace over myself, but also didn't feel much obligation to stick to it.
JW • Simple, but engaging. I felt compelled to draw my face and it was fun to see the results of my partner doing the same and what they traced. It didn't go much beyond that one session, however.