Installation at TtW2011

Saturday was Theorizing the Web, the culmination of weeks, nay, months of planning, organizing, and seemingly endless design work. In addition to building the website, laying out the programs, designing collateral and getting personalized nametags completed, I added on another project to my list called Public/Private. Projected in the main atrium, it consisted of a Twitter feed styled to match the TtW branding, and an ever-changing image next to it.  This project was far more experimental than anything I’d attempted before, and like many experiments it had mixed results.

Functionally, it did exactly what I wanted it to do; it took all of the conference-related tweets with the hashtag #ttw2011 and performed a Google image search for non-common words, then displayed the first medium-sized result along with the feed. As I hoped, some of the images directly illustrated the words searched while others left us either scratching our heads or laughing.  One of the great aspects of the search function is the image cache, which has left me with a permanent record of what words were searched and all the images displayed with them.

However, I had also hoped for direct interaction, that people would make the connection and begin to tweet with the intention of changing the image. I think this part failed for two reasons, the first being the lack of any instruction from my end, and the second being that I didn’t plan at all for the number of tweets that wound up being generated. During the planning stages, when #ttw2011 tweets were being generated at a rate of maybe one or two a day, it was fairly easy to make the connection between the text and image.  During the conference the tweets were updating almost faster than you could read them, and making that connection was almost impossible.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this first attempt. I have more ideas for other interactive, twitter-based installations that are already in the works, and during these I’ll experiment with the level of instruction needed for people to enjoy the piece. As for Public/Private, if you’d like to learn a little more about my ideas behind it, there’s an interview that PJ Rey conducted with me from before the conference.

Ned Drummond (@maneatingflower) is a designer and artisan currently living in Washington, DC