Q&A for Experiential Design for an Unknown Future

Mark Llobrera answers questions from participants in response to his presentation Experiential Design for an Unknown Future. A part of MCN 2020


Unknown Speaker 00:00
buttoned down shirt and I'm sitting in front of a virtual background that is a solid purple color. I'm here as a board member of MC n and to welcome you to the session. Please know that I and all the other board members are always willing to hear your feedback about how this conference is going for you. We want deeply for all of you to have a safe, fun and interesting experience. Welcome. I'd like to thank Microsoft registration assistance and thought sponsor, axial is sponsored the awesome Ignite session last night, and all the other sponsors listed on the program schedule for helping make this conference possible. This session is a presenter q&a and conversation, feel free to turn on your cameras. I hope you were able to watch Mark's presentation ahead of time, but I'll also post the link in the chat box. And note that this session is not under Chatham House Rules. So this session is fair game for tweeting and sharing. We are also using the chat box for questions. Please post your name in there and you will be called on to ask your question. If you would prefer to not ask your question out loud, feel free to type it into the chat and I'll try my best to read it out on your behalf. Once again, this session is experienced with design for future. And now I'd like to turn it over to Mark Yo, yo Bria head of head of technology. Look it up. Thanks.

Unknown Speaker 01:06
Thanks, David. Can everybody hear me? Okay? If you can give me a thumbs up? Yeah, awesome. All your faces came in as a flood. It's good to see some live human beings. Yeah, thanks, everyone, for being here. I'm Mark Llobrera. I use he him pronouns. And I'm the head of technology for blue cadet, and super excited that y'all are here. And in case anyone hasn't seen the pre recorded video, I'll just do the like 32nd overview. It's intended to be pretty general, I bookended to two big ideas at the start and finish. One was opening up and trying to do a provocation about the moment we're in right now, and how that's really not introduced. It's introduced a lot of new things and a lot of new challenges. But it's also just revealed and laid bare a lot of the things that many of us encounter. And so those those stresses, and those considerations are not necessarily new to us whether those are issues of access and equity, and long term planning for our content. So that's kind of like the the first book and, and the the other side of that conclusion was thinking about long term maintenance and maintainability. Especially with regards to those considerations I already mentioned and in between was a sandwich, you know, the sandwich, you know, meat or fake meat, just about different tactical things that my team and I have been investigating. Some of those are going to be faster to implement, and others are a bit more on the sort of exploratory and research side of things. But those were the major sections in terms of, you know, digital strategy, and thinking about building safer ways of queueing and moving through spaces, different alternative inputs. And then finally, thinking about just different ways to expand on, again, this this question of maintainability. So I would love to hear questions. And we can get going.

Unknown Speaker 03:45
Kelsey, Other questions?

Unknown Speaker 03:47
Hi, um, I really enjoyed your presentation. I especially like the notion of using like recycleable styluses, to make touchscreens a little bit safer during times like COVID. But something that really stuck with me was the need to make technology kind of sustainable. You talked about, like with iOS updates, needing to be able to be compatible. And so as a content creator, I was curious what the process is for enabling that sustainability, is that a situation where you have kind of an extended relationship with an institution? Or is it your kind of obligation as the creator to provide tools for them to then continue the sustainability on their own?

Unknown Speaker 04:31
Thanks, Kelsey. So yeah, it depends bluecoat at we operate as more of a service company. And so, a lot of our engagements either follow fall into either being you know, a discrete project. And that project can be high level, it can be strategy, and it can be implementation focused, or it can be a combination. Those things. And then sometimes we have a relationship with, with a museum or an organization that's a bit more longer term. If we're doing something multi-phase, that just changes the complexion of what we do. Typically, though,

Unknown Speaker 05:19

Unknown Speaker 05:21
I think it's rare that we just do an implementation project these days, a lot of our work involves that upfront conversation with our clients, and it's oriented around a future that may or may not include us, right. So even if we do build a thing, say we build a decoupled CMS that serves like six or seven different products, we're still building with an AI, that the tools that we leave in the hands of our client, have to be sustainable for them. And they have to be able to iterate on top of those systems, even after we're no longer there. And real practically, sometimes that just means documentation. Sometimes it means that they're working with a vendor that's worked with blue cadet before, it can take many, many different. There are a few just different scenarios that we end up in. But I think first and foremost, it's looking at those foundational issues of like content, making sure that's in good shape, that it's well documented, and that we're not just trying to like, get in and get out and leave them with a product that only we can, you know, work and change. Awesome. Thank you. Thank you, Mark,

Unknown Speaker 06:43
there was a question in the chat box from john Gordy, a few of your slideshow to queue management system triggered with a QR code. Do you have a system that you recommend?

Unknown Speaker 06:50
Oh, this is a good question. I think the system that I want, hasn't necessarily been built yet. So john, this is actually a good research point for me. In the past, SMS and QR codes, Twilio, Twilio, that's a system that we've used for just doing SMS based communication. I think we did something with the Field Museum a couple of years ago, that hooked that up to their digital screens with the schedule for the day. And you could use Twilio to sign up for events that you were interested, interested in. So that's the closest that like my team and I have come to to using that. And again, the The reason I like those technologies is like SMS is pretty broad based. As opposed to something like a dedicated app, which, as many of you know, adoption for, you know, a native application tends to be in the low percent, like two to 5%. So anytime you can use something that's a little bit closer to just like default, like SMS or a QR code, that that can be helpful. The other reference I think I threw into my deck was taken from the Whitney Museum, they've actually written a lot publicly about how they've used QR codes for Wayfinding. So not quite the queue, the queuing and lining up and spacing out people scenario. But you might be able to draw a few conclusions from what they've written publicly, I think we'll talk and we'll send a link to a channel that David set up in the Slack just for this session. My, I consider links an expression of care. So if you hop into that channel after the session, I'll just be dumping a whole bunch of my own personal reading. And if folks are just interested in continuing the conversation there, I'm happy to do that.

Unknown Speaker 09:08
So there's another question from Joe Hopson in the chat on the topic of sustainability. Are any of your projects open source either publicly or with partners? Have you considered moving in that direction to a better to better ensure long term maintainability by the overall community?

Unknown Speaker 09:24
Yeah, I think that's a that's a good question. Not too much of our stuff is well, I should I should clarify, we have made a very conscious effort to use open source technology for the foundation of a lot of what we build. So a lot of our CMS is tend to be on LAMP stack stuff that's, you know, off the shelf like a WordPress or Drupal stuff that we have open source tends to be smaller utility style things. So on The experiential side are folks who build with the c++ framework Cinder have made a number of those cinder blocks public. Just around low level stuff like handling video, orchestrating views, there's a couple of those cinder blocks which are public. And we have a number of things that we've also publicly shared on sort of like the the PHP, LAMP stack side for content management, it's it's always tricky for us, like my team is pretty small. So a lot of that stuff is just provided as is. And, you know, we're happy to talk to people about and have people extend that stuff. But it so far has not been a major effort on our part. And the reason I say this is like, as a, as a leader on the team, I'm a little bit more obsessed with process. As opposed to like the specifics of implementation, I find that a lot of things that are like, you know, you see a talk, and people are like, here's the case study, and you're like, Okay, that sounds really awesome. It sounds like magic, but it is actually very, very specific to your needs and what you were trying to accomplish. I think most of the stuff that I think it would be helpful for people is actually the way that we arrive at some of those solutions. And that's not a Dodge that actually something that I just really believe in. So, hopefully, hopefully that helps.

Unknown Speaker 11:33
Here's a question from Brenda Adamski. In your experience, what kinds of things can institutions do to organize or manage their interpretive content to best facilitate development of view? user experiences? Whoo.

Unknown Speaker 11:49
I wish we had an hour. Okay. I love this question. I think where we usually start is, let me back up a little bit. A typical scenario, when we we have a kickoff for the client is that we get in a room. And we kind of have to work backwards. This is an imperfect analogy, but it almost feels like if if you think of a train system, or a subway system is having a hub, and then spokes that radiate out to you know, people stops from there. It always strikes me not, it often strikes me that folks are working their way from like a destination and saying, like, Okay, how can I arrive here, like I know where I want to be. And that destination or that product, if we talk more specifically about our context, tends to be it's already kind of hard and set. You know, they're like, I need a mobile app. Or I need a microsite, I need a website, I need an API layer for something. And so our practice at Blue cadet, and our work tends to be taking a step back, actually, as one of the first steps. And we try to get people to think about what that hub might be, to use that train metaphor. Because we want our clients to be thinking of their content, as in a more flexible fashion that isn't married one to one to a specific expression. I just had a long conversation with a friend of mine, Jeff Eaton, who used to be a little about he's now at autograph his own consultancy with a couple other folks. And he talks about that mental model as being something that typically can't be expressed in one system. Right? Yeah, like you're always looking at it through a lens of one thing or another, whether that's like a CMS, or collection of spreadsheets and index cards, like the Model X, its itself is often too dense and too complicated to be just like described in one, one manner. So the closer that we can get folks to just like thinking more generally about their content first. And then thinking about the expression as a secondary consideration. That often helps with the UX, because then you're no longer thinking like, Oh, this is website content. You're thinking like, Oh, this is a story. And it can be told it in a website. It can also be told in a social tweet, it can also be told through a mobile app. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 14:39
So if I may, I have a question. I was really interested in the alternative input section of your talk. Zero touch interfaces introduce their own accessibility concerns for people with mobility issues, or social anxiety, as I'm sure you know, but technology can be finicky so they demand precise movements, and often put the visitor on performance in the middle of a gallery How should we be thinking about inclusive design as we incorporate gesture interfaces in our interactive exhibits? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 15:08
My teammate Ben Bojko, likes to talk about affordances a lot. And he makes a point that many of the devices that people use just have a lot of deep layers of affordances. And you look at something like a touchscreen, whether it's on your phone, or just like something you can touch in a physical exhibit, the precision and accuracy of those things is already pretty high. So to your point, David, write something that's more sensor driven or camera driven. When we use those things, we strive to make them accommodate broad gestures. And so I showed a couple of short gifts of some of the prototyping that my teammate ADL was doing. And we were really struggling to find not struggling, but we were really aiming for gestures that felt simple. And they felt like, didn't need a high level of precision in the gesture to, to translate to something into interactive, so broad sweeps of a hand better than something that had to detect like hand position, specifically. And then the other aspect that often comes up is what what levels of redundancy can we build in for, you know, if somebody if if somebody is uncomfortable or unable to perform the gestures, what alternative inputs can can we provide? And, you know, sometimes that's audio. Sometimes it's like thinking about things like, we've done projects where you have like pressure pads, so like, maybe you could activate the thing with a gesture in front of a Kinect camera, or some other sensor. But even just like putting pressure on on to, you know, a sensitive plate in front of the interactive might also trigger a similar thing. So thinking about those layers of like, it can't just be one input, maybe you're layering several inputs together and figuring out how to orchestrate them, or trade off between them could be a way forward.

Unknown Speaker 17:32
Thank you. And I think this is a question. So I'll ask it. How, how can we manage existing content so that it is ready for deployment in many channels, formats and purposes?

Unknown Speaker 17:44
Wow, this is like, my favorite thing. I think getting I started out in development, a little bit of design. But really, I've just been sort of a closet content strategist. In the last couple of years, I found that like, doing more work with the content strategy and content team at Lucca, that has actually helped me be better on the implementation side. And their work is always focused on making sure that things are sort of like broken down and decomposed into the most useful bits possible. And so, like, we typically it, especially if we're looking at older content, if it's coming from a museum system, it's often got a lot of that work done up front, right? Like we we have like, different fields for like dates, and, you know, titles and display titles, and, you know, descriptive text, but often we're in a different scenario where things are just like, Oh, yeah, here we have a whole page. And that page is not broken up into discrete bits of content. And that's typically where we focus the most work upfront is breaking those things into chunks. So that, especially if you're looking at a collection, you can start to slice and dice that collection across different criteria. And that's a lot of like, taxonomy overhead. And a lot of categorization work. But once you've done that, right, fast forward several months or even years, that starts to become more portable as a result. And so we've done projects recently where, you know, we have collection objects that need to be used in an exhibit context. And we're also using those same objects for a mobile app. But the fields that we might use for those two different contexts might be different. And that may be explicit. Within the CMS, we might explicitly say like, okay, We're flagging these bits as being for the touch table in this wing. And these other bits are for the mobile app. But sometimes it's a little bit more open. Like we might just expose an API. And then on the application side for the mobile app, the team there decides like, what data they're going to use. And you know, what's most relevant to be presented to the user, like on a device that they're using, as they walked around the museum?

Unknown Speaker 20:31
of Cassie has a question related to the accessibility and conversation around gesture based or other touch lists, interfaces? How do you consider or balance things like privacy concerns, or visitor comfort with always on things that are watching for people to do things like a certain gesture? Knowing that for many people, whether or not it's being recorded or monitored by human doesn't necessarily make them more comfortable with the idea of monitoring?

Unknown Speaker 21:00
Yeah, actually, I'm glad. Thank you, Cassie, I'm glad you brought this up. I haven't thought too, too deeply along this line, I think a lot about privacy in terms of the footprint, you might leave across the web, but actually haven't thought too deeply about it in this context. I think, so slightly related to this. I've been working on a project where it's for a museum, and we're talking about ways to you know, anybody who works on the web is familiar with the concept of progressive enhancement, right? Like, you want to make sure that the core of your content is available to everyone across the broadest base of whatever you define as accessibility, right. And then you might layer on start to layer on more things on top of that, but you're always trying to make sure that that core experience is available for something like this, where it's like gestures, and maybe different comfort levels. For this project I'm on right now we've been thinking about like, Okay, if you're given a piece of artwork in front of you say it's a painting, how could you augment that, but make the augmentation be something that people opt into. So if there is a camera sensor, and there is a gesture, you know, maybe it's like, Okay, if you wave your hand, you will trigger the, you know, lighting or projection around the frame of the piece of artwork. But that whole concept was built around the idea of opting in, right? Like, we didn't just want it to be like, hey, you walk up. And all of a sudden, this thing just starts triggering. As a result of your proximity, we could do that. And we've done that in the past. But the curators, we were talking to, were just a little bit more interested in this idea of like, know that the user, please choose that they want to be a part or like, they want to be the ones driving this experience. So I think that's, that's just like a scenario doesn't directly address your question, but it's the way I think about like, even with something that is gestural, there's probably some ways that you can make the sort of like the contract explicit that, okay, this is a touch driven, or like a sensor driven thing, and it'll trigger at this proximity. Or it can even get down to a specific gesture, that is the thing that triggers the experience. And, and allowing people to get off that train, but still experienced the the artwork was was actually we spent a lot of time talking about that for this concept.

Unknown Speaker 23:41
We have just a few minutes left. So if you have a question, now's the time. Otherwise, I'll use another one of my ringers. So I'm not going to put you on the spot because there's no human alive that can predict how users will or will not adapt over the next five to 10 years. How might you balance the need to create healthy spaces with a basic human instinct to be close to each other and touch things? And how might you design spaces that are healthy for visitors? services people in particular?

Unknown Speaker 24:10
Yeah, this is this is probably the the biggest one that my team and I struggle with, which is, you know, and I think I said it in my presentation. But so much of this exists on layers above and beyond like what the museum or the organization might have control over. But there is there's still a decision point, right? Like, we accept that. Even if you could think of a complimentary experience or an experience that is an analogue to something that you clearly built with an eye towards like being in public space, that that analog online might be imperfect and and so I don't know that there's necessarily a good answer except almost ask the question, right? Like, is it worth trying to make that imperfect analog online? Or is this more like, we need to think about something besides this experience that allows us to engage with our users? One thought that has come up a lot in discussion is like, how much can we do short of like insurance and liability concerns? More as pop up experiences? Right? Like, presumably, if you have good weather and can do something in a parking lot? Can you build an experience around something that is just more in the open and, and therefore not exposing staff or, or attendees to, to exposure? The other things might actually, frankly, be more logistical and infrastructure wise, just looking at ventilation, and air filtration within spaces. Actually, a lot of the research is pointing to that as like being more potentially effective than thinking about, you know, sanitizing surfaces, even though that's great, too. I'd love to hear what people are thinking about on that front, because I don't have a great a great answer. Right now.

Unknown Speaker 26:25
We definitely have a Slack channel set up for the conversation and I know that Martina jumps drop some links in there. I put that link in the chat box. We do have one more question if we can squeeze it in from Kelsey Brown, a lot of experience with design can add wonder, do you find that the technology and novelty of cutting edge tech detracts from the content is the increased engagement worth a little less worth a little less focus on the content.

Unknown Speaker 26:50
I kind of have a rep within blue cadet in that I don't have isn't perfect, but I love the shiny stuff. But for my personal use, I tend to favor things that are quite boring. And just more straight ahead. You can almost say that like shiny stuff in the streets, but text driven stuff in the sheets. It's very much like like text.npr.org is one of my favorite sites. It's just like NPR cite just text format, everything. So I try to make a distinction between like what personally drives me, and what I find useful. And sort of like what we build and present to the user. But it's always a balance, like a lot of a lot of times, we have to be really critical of ourselves and say like, are we doing this for the novelty? Are we doing this because of the best way to tell the story? And I think we always have off ramps during concept and design and implementation where we ask ourselves that question and say like, Are we just in love with this? Because we want to play with the shiny new thing, and we're magpies and we're just like constantly attracted to that thing? Or is it because this actually is the way that we feel best conveys the content? And so even just focusing on that question has just been really helpful for for our teams.

Unknown Speaker 28:20
Well try one more question. This is from Marta, are you using easy reading techniques in your content? capital E capital or

Unknown Speaker 28:29
Marta? If I interpret this the right way is this more just like calibrating the the reading level at which the content is created? I'm not exactly clear with the easy reading nomenclature

Unknown Speaker 28:44
is hearing this thing I have been doing some courses about how you can use these techniques to to get the this content accessible for everybody. Because if you use up any scientific language, you know, a video language experts know that normal people that have no knowledge about them, if your work is not familiar with then you don't have rights to these people can be perfect very well. You know, very well written and so on. But it's so significant. So that if not, it's not easy to understand for people that is not in the sector. Yeah, well, that's idea. Yeah. Getting this thing the the Santa Association on college is a translation in English of this is a reading reading. Yeah. So they are trying to convince people in the corporate sector, libraries, museums and so on, to adapt this content in a way that is easy to understand for for everybody.

Unknown Speaker 29:45
Yeah, the short answer is yes. Our content team focuses on typically we've targeted like seventh or eighth grade, especially for things that are like visitation and sort of like very, very information. That's the that's sort of where the voice and tone has been calibrated to target like a middle school reading comprehension level. And I think that maps a little bit to the easy reading, sort of like rubric that you're talking about.

Unknown Speaker 30:17
Okay, folks, that's the time. Thank you again, mark for your your wisdom and insights. And Thanks all for all of you for joining us today. You can view the remaining sessions at mc n.edu. And we can continue the conversation on the MC and Slack. Thank you so much.

Unknown Speaker 30:31
Thanks, everyone.

Unknown Speaker 30:33
Bye bye.