Parklife

The Parklife Project sought to provide visitors to Madison Square Park the option to engage with and affect the space's infrastructure. Our research showed extremely high mobile phone usage by park visitors and we felt that these devices would serve as good entry points into our installation. Given the limitations imposed by the available technology, and the general difficulty in generating participation in such projects, we focused heavily on designing the prompts that would encourage potential users to visit a website that corresponded with a fountain lighting installation.

With an understanding of how people would likely use the installation, and with the weather getting cold enough that testing in the park became more or less impossible, we turned to building a simulation of the experience for an indoor presentation in late December. Here the focus was much more on coding a working prototype, which involved building a particle system to simulate the fountain and lighting behavior, as well as creating a website that could be accessed by many people at once via an Internet connection. The prototype was presented using an overhead projector in our studio and an array of proximity sensors. Participants visited a website where they could affect the color of the fountain with their phone and the intensity of it with their physical presence.

Initial research materials. We passed out cards like these as a prompt to get people to log into a test website and gauge interest.
Sites like this one let us track which entrance points to the system were the most effective. We tried numerous prompts, including small cards with URLs or QR codes, as well as larger signage and even small rewards for logging on. The most effective solution proved to be signage placed near the proposed installation, which provided simple context and encouraged group participation.
This sketch shows the final solution to the structure of the fountain installation. Proximity sensors are used to control the flow of a radial array of water jets while a web-based application allows visitors to change lighting colors underneath each set of jets.
An early prototype of the mobile interface for selecting color and the fountain simulation particle system.
The installation design is a combination of physical and mobile phone-based interactions, prompting a single user to go from passive to active use, then engage with other users through the fountain lighting and water flow.
A more fully realized mobile interface design. There wasn't time to build this version, but the prototype can still be viewed at parklifenyc.com
Building a working simulation was an engaging and fun project in itself. In this video we are testing the proximity sensor array for the particle system display.
This video shows the color change aspects of the project.

Collaborators

Completed December, 2013 for SVA IxD MFA.

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