“Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world, and ultimately derive long-term happiness.”

– Mark Zuckerberg

via Glass, Darkly

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Why I dont like reading digital books

I don’t think I will ever abandon the physical book for a digital one in the long run. Granted that when travelling, an ebook reader makes more sense than a suitcase of books but it’s not the same thing when you want to curl up and read it in leisure at home. I bought a tablet last year to read ebooks while on the go but since then I’ve read less digital books than the fingers on one of my hands. I somehow find the act of reading an ebook cumbersome. First of all, there’s the trouble with powering/charging up the device. Ebook readers that I am aware of just do not seem to replicate the size of the book or the number of pages accurately. To me, the physicalness of the book is something very intimate to the experience of reading. With the move to the digital, this gets lost. Further more, I am often distracted trying to keep a track of the number of pages I finished reading on the digital book but I hardly bother doing so when reading a book. Coffee table sized books look bad on a 7 inch screen and their non-existent weight makes me feel disconnected. Searching through the book is probably easier but where you once used your memory you now end up resorting to a dumb search to find that elusive sentence. Bookstores are slowly disappearing and don’t even get me started on new book smells. The physical book is truly a wholesome sensory experience and sorry technology, but you are not there yet.

Image Credit: Jose Hernandez

The Story Trap

“Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending. Knowing that everything you’re saying from the first sentence to the last is leading to a singular goal and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.” – Andrew Stanton

As Andrew Stanton puts it in his TED talk, ‘Make me care’ is the greatest story commandment. Stories, they say, give life, context, and order to facts [DMI]. Well written stories make you believe in things you might never have dreamed about. Or sometimes fool you into believing unproven ideas. Still stories and most recently videos as storytelling devices are respected the world around.

As student designers, we are often told to be storytellers. Most often this defaults into asking us to make movies. Strangely though, we are not really taught or asked to learn about the nuances of great storytelling apart from a ‘Narratives’ elective. Nor about directing, nor is the emphasis during a module ever on way you tell the story but more on the process that you follow. But time and again, I’ve begun to see that for a layman(anyone other than you/your team), what work you’ve done or what you learnt in the process does not mean shit if you do not have a fancy video(or 2) to showcase at the end of your project. Its sad that they don’t realize that not everyone is endowed with a gift of storytelling leaving most of us wondering; what was wrong with our work? Was it really that bad to not even get a meagre applause or audience? This normally leads to anguish and then possibly an attempt to ape. Most though will not be able to successfully walk this path as making films may not be everyone’s talent. There is the technical know how and equipments required to worry about after all? Asking everyone to follow a similar path therefore is fraught with problems.

I know videos are a good way of making people understand complex concepts but they seem to be used more often as a smokescreen to prevent people from seeing through the barely there project. Videos should just be a one of the ways of communicating the design concept. The concept itself should be tested and discussed about while the effort to communicate it lauded but not given centre stage.

For me this new trend is scary because if videos are what ‘they’ are looking for, shouldn’t we primarily graduate as film makers then?

Third time’s not a charm

Me: this sem review will be fun no? 😛
Rasagy: Sem review? As in your blog post wala?
Me: yes 😀
Rasagy: I wonder what you’ll write in there this time! 😛
Me: exactly.. ditto to you
Rasagy: I’m not posting. You’re the one who posts sem wise. I’ll post next year 😀

Indeed, half this semester was marred by a module that made me wonder what I was doing with my life. I know, I am still a crappy designer but what I felt this semester module left me just feeling plain stupid and so I will not be speaking about it at all. Some part of this failure project has been documented here.

So here are the highlights of this semester.

We started this semester with a new faculty Mr. Venkatesh Rajamanickam, rumoured to take over as the new IID coordinator. At first we were apprehensive about how this would shape IID as a discipline. But our fears were unfounded because within the first few days itself, we realized how awesome he was and still is. I personally had an awesome time, discussing things with him. He showed me Durell Bishop’s Answering Machine which blew my mind. Someone doing such work, when I was in preschool was something I had not imagined. From this I learnt that ‘Why should something digital always mean having a display?’ Sadly, all good things tend to end and with this semester end, Venkat resigned from NID citing personal reasons- a loss, that IID will feel for quite sometime.

Moving on, one of the things that I had decided to follow this semester is try and document my projects. And document I did 😀 You can find the projects over here at the Projects page. This was good because when the time to make a jury presentation came about, I just had to go back to the posts and find the relevant content already prepared by ‘the past’ me.

Being sent to MIT’s DIy workshop was an eye-opening experience. This I feel was the central design project that I did this semester. A week packed to the brim with research, design, prototype and testing; I wish we had atleast one module this intensive at NID, every semester.

As for data visualizations, I’ve begin to realize the balance that I will try to maintain in my work anymore. Not too functional and not too arty. Easier said than done. My semester work is out here.

I became aware of real interaction design thanks to Sudhakar’s interactive classroom assignment. I intend to take this output forward.

So there, another semester goes by and am not any closer to figuring out what I want to do after this. All in all, as I look back this was not really a bad semester. I got to interact with Girish Dalvi a whole lot as part of his Grids and Layouts workshop and APCHI. Arun’s Geo viz workshop gave me a diving board into cartography. Listening to keynotes at APCHI was also wonderful, interacting with Jun Rekimoto or Alan Dix was not something I imagined I would be doing at the beginning of this semester.

What I hope I shall learn some more about the next semester is physical visualizations, tangible user interfaces and anarchistic visual design. A tall order to fulfill but next semester’s going to be a bore otherwise.

Swissnex Gaming Jam

This is the story of the origin of the card game, Glutton and my experience at the Swissnex Game Jam held last Sunday.

This is the story of the origin of the card game, Glutton.

It all started, when I signed up for the Gaming Jam to be held as part of Swissnex’s Game Gazer Exhibition. Feeling very n00bish, I still decided to attend the session on Sunday at Swissnex India. After an Introduction, the theme was released; Indian Culture in Game Design.

Team Stark

I was in a 5 member team which we named as ‘Team Stark’ and it consisted of me, Murali, Debashish, Rufael and Simon. After an initial brainstorming, where we dealt with traffic(not really indian) and gods(too controversial), we narrowed down to food etiquette. This was because Simon pointed out that Indian foods would be something that a foreigner would want to learn about and there was no easy way of going about it. We brainstormed some more where we started out thinking about Game etiquette and ended up trying to conquer cities based on food knowledge. Narrowing down, we decided to make a card game and tried to figure out the game play and the game mechanics of the game.

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Prototyping and Playtesting the game helped us realize the problems in the game play and also how to scale the game. Overall it was a fun experience and I will definitely try to organize one in college in the near future.

What:
A Card Game to introduce Indian Foods and Food Habits to Foreigners.

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How to Play:
One set of cards is designed for a game with 2-4 players and it’s encouraged to have atleast one Indian who could help moderate the game. Each card will have information regarding the food like a photo and a calorie count. The cards would be separated into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner cards. Each player is dealt 9 cards and this forms his ‘plate’. He needs to maximize the value of each 3 card combo before the game ends. There are special combos that can be formed which would create added value for the player. At the end of the game, the points are tallied up to judge who wins which meal.

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Hope to make a better prototype when I get some free time.

What it takes to be a writer

To be a good writer, you have to be totally honest and not afraid to speak out. You have to have the ability to work hard and the stamina for a long haul. Sometimes you will sit for hours staring at a sheet of blank paper in front of you. You will have to have the determination not to get up till the sheet is filled with writing. It doesn’t matter if you fill it with rubbish. The discipline will prove worthwhile.

Always do your homework. A writer’s responsibility — whether he’s an essayist or a novelist — is to inform his reader while he provokes or entertains him. The challenge is to tell him something he doesn’t know. And don’t talk down to your reader; level with him.

– Khushwant Sigh, page 91, Khushwantnama