Control

Summary/ Conclusion for ‘Control’

What Did I Set Out To Achieve?

I wanted to demonstrate methods of TV advertising to entice groups into behaving in a certain manner.

How Did I Achieve This?

I constructed a makeshift TV set, that displays nothing but adverts and static. The repetition of the adverts allowed for the audience to spot patterns in technique. I understand that adverts repeat on a real television, however, I believe that through the isolation of these adverts, and the grouping into genre/product will call for a closer inspection from the audience so they can draw there own conclusions.

How Did I Choose the Content and Why Did I Arrange it in the Way it Was?

The adverts were split into 4 channels:

  1. Ads that use celebrities/ role models to endorse the product. All of these ads were by Pepsi. I edited in frames of a pepsi logo- an actual techinique used by advertisers before it was banned.
  2. Military recruitment- mostly from 80s and 90s- all of these ads avoid mentioning any actual military work but focuses on the career/ education aspect. Short clips of a wikiLeaks video showing American drone operators beg for permision to kill journalists.
  3. Tobacco- I think the newest advert is from the 70s- these are far more obvious but due to there extinction, they are much more shocking to see today.
  4. Childrens Food advertising. The time frame for this set is very broad. These often use musical chanting of the product or fun mascots. This is spliced with footage from one of my inspirational pieces “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared” where the characters are educated on healthy eating. It results in one of the puppets being disemboweled and eaten

 

 

 

 

How Did I Present This?

All of this content was presented on a MDF lasercut, vintage-looking screen. It was about the same size as a real TV. There is 1 dial for tuning the channels, a functioning on/off switch with an LED attached and several switches and buttons that are there purely for presentation.

Everything was all wired up to an arduino, even the functionless buttons and switches. My design did have a use for these switches- one was to show where to find the channels and listed there names, and the others would cause the screen to glitch.

Despite this, I decided against it. For every extra button I added, I felt as though it took away from the meaning of the project. They felt more like obligatory distractions rather than any meaningful interaction. I decided to remove them from the piece.

Who Has Control?

There are 3 forces fighting for control in this piece. The producers create adverts in order to psycholigcally contol the audience, the television itself exclusively controls the content the audience consumes, and even will fight against the users dial movement and the last and least, the user/audience controls which advert they want to watch.

I particularily enjoy how this aspect of my porject turned out. It creates the illusion that the user can control what is going on- they twist a knob, the image on the screen changes but dig a bit deeper and the user is serverly limited. The only controls are the knob and the power button they can only choose what advert they want to watch. Or they can fully utilise their power and turn it off and walk away.

 

 

 

 


Journal

Lesson 1

We were introduced to the physcial hardware and software, Arduino. Luckily the language is Java-based(?) so it’s similar to Processing. I find electric circuits difficult to get my head around so the task it quite daunting. However by the end of the tutorial, I felt like I understood most of what was going on.

Afterwards I made a processessing sketch that contained a line of circles that start to move in a sine wave as you move the mouse to the right-hand side of the screen. Although I haven’t used Processing too much in the past couple of months I got used to it again very quickly however there were plenty of little quirks in the program I had forgotten about.ProcessingSketchforArduino.jpg


Lesson 2

We learned how to use arduino inputs in processing. I had never used libraries before but they seemed easy enough.

Afterwards we applied the potentiometer input to our processing sketch. Thankfully, I managed to wire up the components and set up the inputs without a problem.

Potentiometer.gif

I spent the evening sketching out possible ideas.


Soldering Induction

Sodlering.jpg

Although I found it very tricky at first, I eventually started to get the hang of soldering. I learned to place the iron in a secure position on a pin, then moved the solder to the iron instead of the other way round.


Aesthetic Inspiration

I generally have no preference over the appearance of physical interfaces but I do like peripherals that offer a lot of mechanical-feeling feedback, for example a mechanical keyboard or a switch on a guitar.

 

Electric guitar effects pedals tend to have a simple design however are pleasing to the eye. They often consist of a potentiometer, a few large buttons and a couple of audio jacks.

KickBox

I also like the appearance of old vintage television sets or radios. Before remote controls these devices would be operated with a series of large dials and buttons. If I wanted I could make these designs much more complicated to make it interesting. I could also use this to create a television set with fake TV channels to comment on the idea of control. These channels could display things like the news, childrens TV and advertising.

 

 

ChineseMilitaryRadio.jpg
An old Chinese military radio

 

I am excited to use big clunky components for my design as I feel they give a design more ‘soul’ that seems to be missing in contemporary product design. Smartphones are the perfect example of this type of design. As time has progressed, smartphones have had less and less buttons. The iPhone for example, has slowly began to remove bottons from their phones and the touchscreen had progressively grown and I expect at some point, smartphones will be entirely screen.

IphoneComparison.png
iPhone2G and iPhoneX

This topic is covered in Brett Victor’s “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design”. He refers to this trend in interaction design as ‘pictures under glass’, calling it “an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness.”

 


“Control”

The word control offers a lot to work with. It has both positive and negative connotations. I think of being under external control which is often seen as negative but can be good if you are under the control of a more knowledgable authority such as an instructor.

  • Military control
  • Government
  • Freedom of choice
  • Self-control
  • Complete lack of control

insert sketchbook pages- Mind Map

 


Final Idea

Critical

After the aesthetic quality of old television sets sparked my interest, I began to look into television advertising. Particularily the exploitation of human psychology in order to sell a product. The audience would control the interface but the adverts would hold control over their subconscious mind. 

As part of my research, I watched the first episode of Adam Curtis’ “The Century of the Self” documentary series. It follows the career of Edward Bernays, who used Sigmund Freud’s theories on psychology to manipulate groups into behaving in a certain manner.

Bernays is often credited for birthing the consumer culture that exists in most of the world today. Before him only the upper classes would by non-essential items and products were marketed to the working class on their practicality.

I find his most interesting campaign was when he marketed cigarettes to women. In the US, it was a taboo for women to smoke. Bernays exploited the women’s rights movement at the time to make smoking a rebellious act against the system to inspire other- mostly younger- women to smoke.

 

The Illusion of Control In Video Games

When researching ‘the illusion of control’- a 1975 psychology paper by Ellen Langer keeps appearing. Although interesting, this is not what I am looking for.

bioshock-big-daddy-wallpaper-1024x768px-big-daddy-wallpaper-hd-games-images-bioshock-hd-wallpaper.0

I remember watching a video essay on the illusion of choice in Bioshock. This acclaimed video game series is known for pushing the limits of story-telling in games at its time. The creator, Ken Levine, uses the illusion of choice as a way to change the gameplay experience without changing the technical aspects of the game, whilst also making a sort-of meta-commentary on video games in themselves.

Image result for bioshock infinite choice

The first choice in Bioshock Infinite is whether or not to throw a baseball at an inter-racial couple being held captive.

The choice has minimal impact. “Levine is not so much interested in how choices change gameplay, but how the player feels in that moment of choice.” : The choice has no technical impact yet influences the players’ state of mind, perhaps leading to a different play-style and overall experience of the game.

This illusion of choice can be related to consumer choice. Despite the fact that we are given a huge range of choices on what to spend money on, we are constantly encouraged blatantly and subliminally to spend by capitalist governments and businesses. This choice makes us feel powerful. We are told that our buying habits can end bigotry through boycotts and climate change by going vegan.

In the first game, “Bioshock”, the main character is revealed to have been an experiment, who is hypnotically controlled by another character. From the beginning, the main character has been a slave, all of his actions were planned by this elusive character. It is likely that this is designed to reflect the nature of gaming. Players play a game as though they are free, however, the developers have plotted and planned the entire narrative, and set the limits to what players can do.

In my opinion, Bioshock is one of the greatest triple-A games to ever be released and it is one of the very (very) few triple-A games that could be considered a work of art. I would compare Levine to Christopher Nolan in the way that he produces a universally fun and profitable piece of entertainment whilst maintaining philosophical depth.

Sources

Mashable: “Morality and the Illusion of Choice in ‘Bioshock Infinite'”

The Artifice: “Bioshock and the Illusion of Choice in Gaming”

 

Creative

From an artistic point of view, I take inspiration from artist Darren Cullen, who primarily focusses on advertising.

Notable works:

Action Man: Battlefield Casualties

 

 

 

 

 

Multicoloured Bits of Plastic

Pocket Money Loans

Pocket Money Loans by Darren Cullen

Cullen uses humour as a device to highlight how ridiculous some products are. In “Action Man: Battlefield Casualties”, he uses gore within the context of a kids advert- which creates more than just humour but also a kind of shock. Something isn’t quite right about it. He often uses dark humour to highlight brutal realities within his work.

These two devices would work well in my project. The feeling of uncertainy or creepiness tends to make the audience curious and investigate the work. And hopefully, draw a conclusion to how they feel about this type of advertising.

 

Youtube series “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared” comments on the dangers of childrens programming in the UK. It is staged as a childrens show with bright colours, puppets and often music with a wholesome message. It always takes a terrifying turn often decaying into a bad trip with blood and gore.

 


Interface Plan

Components.PNG

The potentiometer will control the channel and the knob will fit on the shaft. There are no planned functions for the other parts. They are mostly just to experiment with but I chose the toggle switch as it fits the vintage aethetic.


Processing

 

 

 

The first prototype for the project is shown in the above video at 00:00:38 to 00:00:47. This sketch displays an image depending on the mouseX value. Static will appear in between these images. The images feature possible topics to look into. Food advertising, news media, etc.

This acts as my base, and I will change these images into video. Then add sound and polish it up.

I created the appearance of static by choosing each pixel on the screen and randomly setting it to black or white. The pixels were too dense so I had to resize it to make it more obvious. The result of this can be seen in the introduction to the video above.

I then edited several pepsi adverts together, dulled the colours, added some grain, and split it into RGB colour channels and displaced them. This gave the video a retro feel. I also added a slight reverb to give it an eerie feel.

I used this in a second processing sketch. The video now faded in and out depending on how close the mouse was. Its location was also set on a noise function which meant it wouldn’t stay in the same place and the user would have to constantly adjust the dial. The result of this can be seen at 00:00:48- 00:01:09 in the video. I now need to make the sound fade in and out and create more channels.

I then adapted the code to take the input from an analog arduino pin. I then mapped this value to the width of the screen and I then had a working dial!


Laser Cutting

I plan to cut out the front panel of an old television set and stick it to the front of one the benQ monitors in the studio. I will leave space on either of the sides of the panel for all of the components to come through.

Artboard 1Laser.png

Cutout.jpgCutoutScreen.jpg

As you can see in the photo above, the holes I cut for the buttons and potentiometer were too small. I had to use a file to make them larger but after that, they fit perfectly.


Processing Part II

My original sketch couldn’t support several channels. The code I had written had become too confusing and would break when it was repeated for another channel. I decided to scrap my original code and start again from scratch.

Originally I had the interference fade in and out on top of the video but I had to reverse this in order to support extra channels.

I also coded in an on/off switch to stop the sketch when it was off.

Paul showed me glitch code that would be useful in this project. Some of the glitching was too digital but if I could find away to isolate the VHS distortion looking glitch then it would be very useful.

I could also use the buttons to control the volume for the piece.

I still have 4 switches that I need to find a use for. I’ve been struggling to think of a solid use for them that doesn’t take away from the project but I’m not sure it’s possible. Perhaps I should find a way to lock all the switches/ buttons in place.

Rewriting Processing Code with OOP

One of the main issues of control was how inefficient it was. I had dozens of variables with names like channel1Video, channel2Audio, Channel4Alpha, etc.

Using Object-Oriented Programming, that I learnt during Ecosystems. All of these properties for each channel can just be stored into an array of objects.

It took me a minute to remember how to write a class but after consulting a class template I made for Ecosystems, I had the channels working in no time.

Instead of an array list. I just created an array as the number of channels is always fixed.

An issue with white noise audio

I ran into an issue where the white noise audio was far too loud and jumpy. I discovered that the white noise was being recreated every frame as it was in draw() instead of setup().

 

Repulsion Code

I would like to be able to have each of my channels experience a repulsion force between them within a specific range so that the channels do not overlap.

I went back to the Ecosystems examples to find code that uses repulsion or attraction forces. I found a “Predator Prey” sketch. I found the function that I need, I just need to adapt my sketch so that this function works as my objects do not have the same properties and I am looking for a repulsion between the same types of objects, not between a different type of object.

Looking at the code again, I realised that the agents could be replaced with the starting channel (c1) and the predators with the other channel (c2). Using this, and changing some parts of the code, mostly code that allows for the forces to vary which I don’t need, I managed to get the channels to push each other away.

I did run into a problem where if the channels spawned too near each other, the force would sometimes push the channel of the screen.

I wrote a piece of code that moves the channel back to the centre if it shoots off the screen.

Loading Video in Class

For maximum efficiency, it would be handy if each video file was loaded in each instance of the object array.

However, when I tried this, I would often get an error message stating that it couldn’t be loaded in this class. I looked online for help but couldn’t find any. So to fix this, I had to load the videos externally, then access them through a switch statement within a class based on the variables within each object.

It still requires a good bit of code but at least it works.

Mapping range between mouse to Opacity and Volume

 

 

Recreated Original

I have now completely recreated my starting sketch using object-oriented programming. The sketch is so much more stable. During Control, I would have to display my work in a way to make it look as though it worked. The audio was wonky and the fades between videos were jumpy. Now the sketch is almost completely stable. I use the word ‘almost’ as there is bound to be a way to break it- I just haven’t found it yet.

Power Button

I had a lot of trouble with this in the last sketch. It would often cause the program to crash or the sound would quietly jitter whilst the sketch was supposed to be stopped.

Now I have just got the appearance of the power being turned off as all volume variables are multiplied by a globalVolume variable. This allows me to have a function that silences all videos while a switch is flicked, or for the time being: while a key is pressed.

Code Screenshots

OOPCODE

Volume Controls

I have added volume controls where the volume of the sketch can be adjusted using the buttons on the frame.

I ran into an issue where the volume only display while the button is held down. But I added an opacity that is constantly fading to zero. And it is set to 255 whenever a button is pressed. This gives the piece a certain polish.

Also, when the button is pressed, it changes the volume very quickly, I need to add a cooldown period between each frame.

Each time a button is pressed, a timer begins. The timer can only be reset if it is less than 0. This allows for the volume to only be changed once every 5 frames.


Wiring

I started soldering the first components for my project. I became used to it very quickly and thankfully didn’t destroy any components. I even managed to solder different wires together. This can be seen in the LED beside the power switch and anywhere there is a yellow signal wire. I found that I needed to wire the signal wire to the power wire just before a resistor in order to get the signal from this. It took a lot of experimenting to discover this and to be honest, I still don’t know how I did it. It worked so I didn’t care.

MessyWiring.jpg

The wires were very untidy. This meant the would spill out the sides and be visible to the user. Also it made them much easier to lose track of or accidentally pull out of the breadboard. To fix this, I just taped them to the back of the frame.

If I had extra time, I would have swapped the breadboard for something I could solder the wires too. It took up a lot of space and made it easy for wire to fall out.


Interface

I used black acrylic paint around the edge of the screen to make the design slightly more interesting and focus attention on the screen. I also used masking tape to keep the edges neat.

Paint.jpg

painted.jpg

I noticed that the frame will bend when someone pushes a button. I can fix this either by reinforcing it with something or propping it up with a book underneath it.

I would like to improve the appearance of my television set as for the time being it is just a board of MDF.

Looking at old television sets, they tend to consist of metal and wood, unlike plastic televisions of today.

I don’t think applying varnish to MDF will have the effect I want seeing as MSF has no wood grain texture to it. Instead, I may be able to stick a wooden texture to the frame to make it appear wooden. Also, I can use metallic paint on the part of the television set with the controls on it.

When I look for adhesive wood grain vinyl, I need to make sure it is wide enough to fit my television screen. My television set is 40 cm tall and around 70cm long.

WoodTexture2

I can also buy a tin of silver metallic spray-paint from the art school shop- hopefully, it’s not too expensive.

I’ll also need a scalpel or a retractable blade knife to cut the vinyl.

Textured
Textured mock-up of the television set

 

Arduino

My frame with the Arduino still attached has been sitting in the studio since ‘Control’. I reattached all the cables and plugged the Arduino in and it all still works! (At least the dial works).

Next, I need to plug in all the rest of the components to make sure they work.

 

Painting & Vinyl

I began by sticking masking tape along the border of the control panel on my TV frame, then began painting the silver acrylic onto it.

Either due to the texture of the MDF or viscosity of the paint, it was applied very faintly. I had to apply about 10 layers on either part of the panel for it to begin to have an even distribution of paint.

I’m unsure of how to accurately cut the vinyl to the shape of my Television set. Originally I was just going to stick it on to the front of the MDF then cut around it, however, this would not keep the detail within the frame.

I think I may have to buy some baking paper, then trace the detail, then imprint it back on to the back of the MDF where I can then cut it.

I found it very difficult to apply the vinyl as it was surprisingly thin so bubbles would appear in anywhere I put pressure. I tried to apply it 3 different times and each time I would fold the vinyl or it wouldn’t fit the frame properly. In the end, I just had to stick the vinyl over the silver panels as I couldn’t risk messing it up again.

 

 


Documentation

 

 

 


Final

Before the final presentations, I quickly reinforced the panel with cocktail sticks I had bought from tesco, then began to adapt the code to work with the arduino instead of keyboard inputs. The dial worked fine, but I ran into issues with the power switch. When it is on, the sketch should run, but when it is off, the screen turns black and the video is muted until it is switched back on and the sketch will restart.

This worked fine with a keyboard input, but would crash with the arduino. After messing with the code, I found a solution but the sketch would no longer restart. With only a few minutes until the presentation, I decided it would do.

The Presentation

I was first to present, and overall it went well. I feel as though my work hinted at its meaning enough to guage interest and its content on its own was entertaining (the credit goes to the advertisers).

However, I do feel that the interaction with this piece was very limited, this was intentional but there was no physical exploration of my project- it was all within the screen. And the fact that the buttons and switches had no function was misleading and I feel highlighted the fact that that there was only two inputs to the sketch.  I still believe it was the right choice as part of the idea of the project was for it to have more control over you than the other way round but I will explain all this later.

I thoroughly enjoyed this project and I could tell the entire class did as well. Despite the fact that we were presenting for several hours and I had little sleep the night before, I never got bored. It was one of those projects where you have so much expressive potential and the medium contains new and interesting challenges but you have processing as a familiar place to ground yourself in.

20190501_161717


Conclusion for ‘Control’

What Did I Set Out To Achieve?

I wanted to demonstrate methods of TV advertising to entice groups into behaving in a certain manner.

How Did I Achieve This?

I constructed a makeshift TV set, that displays nothing but adverts and static. The repition of the adverts allowed for the audience to spot patterns in technique. I understand that adverts repeat on real television ,however, I believe that through the isolation of these adverts, and the grouping into genre/product will call for closer inspection from the audience so they can draw there own conclusions.

How Did I Choose the Content and Why Did I Arrange it in the Way it Was?

The adverts were split into 4 channels:

  1. Ads that use celebrities/ role models to endorse the product. All of these ads were by Pepsi. I edited in frames of a pepsi logo- an actual techinique used by advertisers before it was banned.
  2. Military recruitment- mostly from 80s and 90s- all of these ads avoid mentioning any actual military work but focuses on the career/ education aspect. Short clips of a wikiLeaks video showing American drone operators beg for permision to kill journalists.
  3. Tobacco- I think the newest advert is from the 70s- these are far more obvious but due to there extinction, they are much more shocking to see today.
  4. Childrens Food advertising. The time frame for this set is very broad. These often use musical chanting of the product or fun mascots. This is spliced with footage from one of my inspirational pieces “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Scared” where the characters are educated on healthy eating. It results in one of the puppets being disemboweled and eaten

 

 

 

 

How Did I Present This?

All of this content was presented on a MDF lasercut, vintage-looking screen. It was about the same size as a real TV. There is 1 dial for tuning the channels, a functioning on/off switch with an LED attached and several switches and buttons that are there purely for presentation.

Everything was all wired up to an arduino, even the functionless buttons and switches. My design did have a use for these switches- one was to show where to find the channels and listed there names, and the others would cause the screen to glitch.

Despite this, I decided against it. For every extra button I added, I felt as though it took away from the meaning of the project. They felt more like obligatory distractions rather than any meaningful interaction. I decided to remove them from the piece.

Who Has Control?

There are 3 forces fighting for control in this piece. The producers create adverts in order to psycholigcally contol the audience, the television itself exclusively controls the content the audience consumes, and even will fight against the users dial movement and the last and least, the user/audience controls which advert they want to watch.

I particularily enjoy how this aspect of my porject turned out. It creates the illusion that the user can control what is going on- they twist a knob, the image on the screen changes but dig a bit deeper and the user is serverly limited. The only controls are the knob and the power button they can only choose what advert they want to watch. Or they can fully utilise their power and turn it off and walk away.

 

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