Exploring Space, no, not that one.

Image from here

Currently, we are engaged in a group project that is centered around the theme of location aware apps. There are other constraints too but I don’t have the time to present a full run down. The purpose of this journal has shifted a little now and its not an academic, marked piece of work and more a place where I can record some what’s, where’s and why’s so that I refer back to this in the future. It’s content should be enough that it jogs my memory of the process and not a full account of everything, so apologies for that.

As part of week ones content we were advised to read a piece called “Step and Play!: Space as interface in the context of location-based musical album apps” found on the ACM Digital Library.

Using the space

The paper talks about the use of the environment in order to access content within a musical album that you own or are experiencing. So the idea is that you have to travel to different locations to play the different songs or that the audio changes and updates based on the listeners physical location. I like the sound of that (Ha!) but the hermit in my immediately thought, ‘yes, thats fine, but I have paid for this I will expect to be able to access it from right here in my throne!’. So, I must say that the purpose to which this material was applied in the paper didn’t really make me want to actually use musical albums but it was food for thought.

Music in urban environments

Now this was interesting to me. I found that it resonated with me because the author talks about the combination of the physical locations that are being traversed by the listener and the ‘invisible’ layer of music that sits alongside or over the top of that more visual and physical experience. He talks about the fact that personal music really was the first mobile AR system. And I think he’s right. A persons reality, how they experience the physical space in which they find themselves, is changed by whatever they are listening to. I have personally experienced this and found it very interesting to have a vocabulary with which to talk about the effect that the use of personal audio can have. The paper talks about putting the listener in the directors chair, that they have agency over this physical sense of hearing and all without any real consequence. There is nothing that the listener has really given up in order that they can do this. I know, I know, they need to more careful crossing the road and all that, but, essentially, they are still in command. It’s very satisfying to have that choice and in thinking about that, it’s made me think how much listening to music may be less to do with the music and at least a little to do with enjoying that agency. Hmm…

What is means to us

Our project (which will be discussed in other posts) will use this structure and we have agreed that the narrative and player directions will be delivered via headphones as much as possible. Our idea centres around making the player feel like an Agent and one of the key mechanics for that is that they will be able to interact with a fully voice acted Handler. I think that this will increase immersion and have the effect that the paper talks about. I hope that we will be able to augment the reality of the player using the headphones as much as any other technology we a planning to incorporate.

Here we go again…

Yes, I am braced.

The course has resumed and that means just one thing. Fatigue. Actually it means a few other things too. It means that I get to learn more about the things that interest me, I get challenged and I get to experience the feeling of accomplishment when the marks come in. Sometimes. Lets get on then…

This module is all about creating an app or game in a collaborative team. This presents a host of opportunities and difficulties and time will tell how many of each we will face. I am generally optimistic and a good problem solver but I have had mixed experiences with academic team work in the past as have many of the cohort. I think, and hope, that at this level working together should be enjoyable and relatively friction free.

What I hope to give

If we get to the end of this project and I have supplied the team with the very best ideas I could, have worked hard to provide the best technical implementation I could and added value to team members where I could, then I will consider the project a success. I do believe that a person just sort of ‘knows’ that they did all that they could, and thats what I will be aiming for regardless of grade. I also want to make sure that the people in the team feel that they can approach me with whatever they need to discuss. I think that its a persons responsibility to make themselves approachable in this kind of context and be mindful of tone, body language and other forms of non verbal communication so that a trusting and open environment can be created. I will endeavour to give honest feedback in a constructive way and will not be rude or insincere in my behaviour toward the work, the team or myself.

What I hope to gain

That said, I don’t want a poor grade! That would not be desirable at all… But, I think I have found that chasing the grade to closely is a recipe for frustration. So, I am focused more on what I believe the course is trying to steer me toward. I think that is the cyclical analysis of my weaknesses, the recognition of where I am falling down, the creation of some plan to solve that issue and the completion of some reflective practice to assess the success of that plan and the practice that it prescribed. On a practical level I hope to learn about AR in Unreal and how to make and deploy Android mobile apps. I also hope to gain a better understanding and appreciation for what works and what does not with regard to working within a distributed team. There will be challenges there and I hope to learn from them

How I think I will record what happens

I have had a little think about how I may record the progress that I make and that the team makes while creating the app. I think that the major areas to cover will be:

Me: Am I operating as I should? Am I completing the tasks and work that I said I would and to the standard that I would be happy with?

Team: Are we operating as a competent, supportive and professional team that is ready to support the needs of the members and also call out poor behaviours and attitudes that are detrimental to the project.

Work: Are we progressing with the work individually and on the whole. This is where supporting services like version control and communication tools may be reported on I think.

Project: I have made this separate from ‘Work’. This may be a look at how the project is going forward overall. Is it going forward as we had planned? Have there been any problems, pivots and so on. Are we able to stick to the Sprint plan and so on.

Lets get to it…