DAY WITH MOBILE [SINGAPORE]

Observing myself

WHEN: On the day I decided to monitor my usage of mobile device, I discovered that I use my phone the most in the morning when I am eating breakfast at home, during my commute to/from work or school, and lastly at night after my dinner.

 

WHAT: When I wake in the morning, I usually check for messages, emails as well as watch Youtube videos if there is additional time during my breakfast.

During my commute, as it takes a long time to get to my workplace or to school, I check my messages, social media apps and emails first. Listening to music is crucial in my commute, thus I open Spotify to play music. On the train/bus, I often read articles on Medium or basically surf Safari to get knowledge of things I find interesting. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts related to design as I find it is a make my commute productive. Occasionally, at transit points, I use my phone to check on apps that inform me of the bus/train timings.

At night, it is often for entertainment. I watch Youtube videos and contact my friends via social networking.

 

WHY: Social Networking – To keep in touch with my friends/kill boredom while travelling

Music – Spotify, Youtube, entertainment for my commute

E-mails – Stay relevant with work and school

Articles, podcasts, Safari – For long rides, to make my commute efficient and productive

Transport apps – Planning my journey

 

Observing others 

I observed others mainly when I was in the train or bus. Most people were glued to their phones. What I noticed was that most people would be on social media like Instagram, Facebook, messaging apps, or being involved in a form of entertainment via the phone. For example, watching drama on the phone and playing games. I rarely saw people reading news, nor educational articles.

Playing mobile games is something I found that was most common, seemed like 1 in 4 people in the train were playing mobile games.

Hence, most people use the mobile phone to kill time, keep themselves entertained.

In work, most people put away their phones and only occasionally picked them up if they had to respond to calls/texts that were of high importance.

My trip to France over recess week

 

DAY WITHOUT MOBILE [FRANCE]

I travelled to France over the week of recess, to visit someone. Here, I did not need to use my mobile as often because I had companion who had a phone. I moreover could not use my mobile effectively because, I did not purchase data. Thus, I thought it was an apt timing to try the experiment of leaving without the phone.

And it made me realized how my phone was my source of security. I felt handicapped without my phone, less secure. This also made me plan my day very thoroughly, during the night before. 

On the day that I did not use my mobile, I was alone in the morning when I arrived in the airport and then I would have to meet my friend at the city center. We sorted our plan the day before, where I would meet and what time etc. However, when I arrived at the airport, the airport firstly was huge and I needed to get the proper ticket to the city center via train. Without using a phone, this was quite a challenge before I had to rely mainly on signages, way-finding design and people. No GPS, Google Map, texting for directions. Not knowing the language well also posed a barrier, it made me not want to ask people for help. Plus, it did not help that the Paris metro ticketing machine was difficult to use if you were not familiar with it. After fiddling with the machine, I was able to get the ticket I want. Also, I was lucky that a girl was friendly and asked if I needed help. She directed me to the train station, which was where I needed to know. Not using my phone also meant not checking the time often because I do not have a watch – thus I had to rely on public clocks. Eventually I was able to get to the train station in the city center. Even though we had planned where in the station we would meet (the platform), I was constantly worrying over things like “Will I be late” “Will he be there” “What if we are waiting at the wrong place?” In the end, there was no problem with meeting, just over-worry that I had.

Hence, there is a general air of uncertainty when you do not get to use your mobile – the need to rely on public displays which are not present all the time like the phone, not gaining the information you need immediately, affirmation via texting. This also made me realise how the non-reliance on phone forces you to plan your day, and be meticulous about it. It made me weigh out possibilities that could happen, how I needed to tackle situations which I often relied on my phone for (e.g. Navigating), if I do not have a phone.

Moving on, I carried on the rest of the day with me relying on my friend for all of the mobile errands. At times, it felt it would be more productive if I could use my phone and search for directions too – it will be faster. Basically, I was relying on someone’s else mobile device. It sometimes made me feel like I wished I could do something.

 

THOUGHTS 

Not using my phone has enabled me to be more observant to my environment. I was much more wary for signages, timings and knowing the direction to head to. It also allowed me to observe people more detailedly since I was not glued to my usual habits of reading/texting on the phone. In Paris metro, I did not see a huge number of people playing games that often as compared to Singapore, and they were not as engrossed to the phones. People would use their phones to read, social network, listen to music, but they would also just listen to music and stare blankly. Since train rides were longer, it was evident that seats were also designed to cater for such context, more chairs facing each other for easy communication between groups of friends. This were interesting observations I gathered.

All in all, it was not overly difficult because we live in developed cities where way-finding and signages are well designed for people to find their way around. Occasionally, especially being in a foreign country speaking a different language, it is more confusing, but it is still doable. I felt that it was an interesting, eye-opening experience.

Yet, this also reminded me the importance of mobile devices being designed to make things so more efficient – for example, things like way-finding, navigating, planning on the go. It gives people certainty, as well. Of course, there is also the entertainment and networking factor – our mobile devices connect us to our friends and at times we feel lonely without that. However, this is brings me to a food-for-thought: Are we overly reliant on mobile devices to socialize with friends, so much that we compensate real-life communication? Perhaps actually mobile devices is making us lonely too?

The trip to ArtScience musuem was really enlightening in helping me realize the rapid development in technology today – it is almost like the realization of Sci-fi movies and games. The devices/artworks were really awesome – they ranged from beneficial – impacting people’s lives via prosthetic arms, to quirky – the wearable skin suit, and even disturbing – the dolls made out of living cells. It also posed many ethical dilemmas in science, being very thought-provoking – how far is too far? While this might be an advancement, seemingly the bright future, it can also be a dystopian outlook for our society if we take this too far. Ethical concerns aside, in which I will be touching upon later, I was still very impressed by how much we can push the boundaries, and how there are just so many possibilities in technology – it gave me further thought that within our course Interactive Devices, there is much to explore, much room to break grounds – thus resulting in the innovative potentially life-changing works in the exhibition.

 

Changing our environment – Integration of the synthetic and natural

The work I will be addressing on is the Beamer Bees by Anab Jain, in which he attempted to create synthetic animals and seamlessly integrate them into the ecosystem. This is inspired by the destruction of many bee colonies due to many combined factors, also known as colony collapse disorder. Bees are very important to the ecosystem, they pollinate flowers – source of our fruits and vegetables. Bees are said to be responsible for “one of three bites we eat”. They also create honey with is an important consumer product in our market. Therefore, the disappearance of bees are a problem.

How the Beamer Bees look like

 

The making of the a synthetic pollinator that never perishes

Beamer Bees are hence bees re-designed, synthetic insects that will never perish – so that pollination will not be an issue. It uses various DNA qualities from animals that will benefit the creation of this artificial species – e.g. pigment cells from colorful fish, wing fibres from birds and wave sensing plasmids from bats. After genetic modification, the bee embryos are created – resulting in its creation.

Process of the making of Beamer bees

Here’s the process video on how they made the bees.

Bees in the works

In a fictional Acres Green, the bees are imagined to be living harmoniously with the residents and ecosystem there.

Humans with Beamer Bees – potential near future

 

Overview and further thoughts 

I thought this work was indeed a huge step from our natural system, showing the possibilities of integrating artificial with the natural, eventually perhaps even the creation of an entirely artificial ecosystem. Beamer Bees project is beneficial to wanting to make the world a greener and self-sustaining place, amidst the environmental downfall. If this project is widely successful, we can start creating more species that are essential to nature and human needs e.g. silkworms.

I do find it interesting and slightly ironic, that such methods are attempts by humans to salvage the damage that we have done to the environment, because through technology it has also brought the means to its destruction. The artificial has killed much of mother nature and thus the artificial is used to build it back up. Once again, how far is too far? The future of our ecosystems could be an optimistic turn towards a greener, self-sustaining area. However, there might be a possibilities that our attempts to manipulate the environment might worsen it even more – bringing us closer to downfall. This could be a potentially dangerous bio-weapon if fallen into the wrong hands. Will we be able to do these with humans next time? If we are able to create organisms will ideal qualities and don’t perish, perhaps we can even produce super-humans that don’t perish – seeing that genetically modified babies are already in the making.

All in all, Beamer Bees is a fantastic push in technological field and it definitely has great intentions. It also makes me think of the potential future of our environments – which can be both good and bad depending on its control.

Reflection

Zimmerman’s article was a very interesting piece that provided insight into the understanding of game and narrative. This also helped open up new insights into this already well-known subject.

Initially, I had a preconceived notion of a game-story, mainly being a game straightforwardly driven by an overarching narrative. For example, most triple-A titles e.g. RPGs like The Witcher 3 whereby the revolves around the main character finding his daughter; Point-and-click interactive movies like Until Dawn which touches on survival in an island. This text helped me understand that even simple games have a game-story, like Pac-man has much more to offer apart from its surface gameplay, interesting game-story as a backdrop.

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Witcher 3, classic RPG that fits the traditional game-story and interactive narrative

Zimmerman widens the perspective of what consists as interactive narrative, and this helped me relooked at games in a different light. The kind of interaction most people are more familiar with; is the straightforward interaction where your participation affects the outcome of the story. Once again referring back to the Witcher 3, it is explicitly participative because the outcome of the character’s fate all determines based on the player’s choices. Zimmerman helps us view that it is an eye-opener to see that many narratives can be interactive in a certain manner. Books can be interactive depending how you view it. However, Zimmerman’s definition of what is narrative might also make the scope of what defines as interactive narrative, being too wide as well. As much as I do believe this concept is subjective and narratives can be interactive in a certain way, I still find a medium like newspaper not as interactive as compared to a choose-your-own-adventure book, since invoking feelings might not be enough but once again this is subjective.

Ultimately, stories are interactive depending on how you view it, along with games, depending on how to choose to play them. Definitely, out of all the concepts that Zimmerman presented, no single concept takes precedence over another since they all work hand in hand to create an complex interactive narrative or game.

The next thing to think about perhaps, now that we have learnt these concepts and new viewpoints from Zimmerman, is how we can push the idea of interactive narratives beyond the traditional well-known concept of it – the mostly filmic concept? How can these concepts intertwine more?