Note: This was drafted on 2/26.
Summary of how the rewrite should go
- Good for creativity
- Tools can lessen creativity.
- There’s a difference between leading with tools and leading with need.
- Current ideas are begging for more tools.
- What should I do?
Not Interactive. Interaction.
The Eureka Room currently has no technological interactive components. By that I mean there’s nothing the participants can do that effect what the Eureka Room program is doing. I literally hit “play” and it plays a movie. If a tree fell in the Eureka Room and nobody heard it, the program would just play on.
The “interactive” part that I design for The Eureka Room is the interaction between the people in the room. If they high five each other, they laugh together, they work together, they have a shared experience together.
Creatively speaking, this is incredibly constraining. I can’t allow them to choose their path, I can’t have the system keep score, I can’t give them feedback, I can’t take input, I don’t know who will be doing what in the room at any given time. For all I know they have gotten up and left mid-program. They can’t even pause the show. The train leaves the station and nothing will stop it.
This is not to say that this constraint is a bad thing.
On the one hand, constraints help you focus your creativity in a specific range of options. I’ve developed an intimate understanding of what the room can do, and more often, can’t. Being limited has really made me dig deep and explore the limits and the possibilities within those limits in a way that I just would not have otherwise.
When you have a lot of new creative tools at your disposal I think you tend to reach for the shiniest ones and usually deliver the low-hanging fruit. The problem with this is that other creative people with the same tools go for the same easy wins and you can end up with a lot of people delivering similar products. In these cases it’s almost like the tool is doing your creative work for you. As one Eureka Room visitor said about a lot of immersive experiences, “it’s almost like you’re just being shown a demonstration instead of being given an experience”.
Since I have just one shiny tool and was not allowing myself others, I had to dig deeper and think beyond the obvious “look at the light show” if I was going to keep creating new novel content.
My solution was to learn more about the people in the room. People in general, really. How do I convince someone to do things they will enjoy but might not want to do until they’ve done them? What are the ways I can introduce surprise and variation by using the room as a guide for inter-personal interaction instead of the room being the whole of the experience?
But there’s a lot of tempting toys
But man, there is a temptation to add some tech. A Kinect, some motion sensors, a few buttons, some touchscreens, headphones, anything! Man that would make my job so much easier. I know if I did add more tech this would happen:
- Things would get more complicated. And not just technically. HCI’s suffer wear, damage, user error, and more.
- The Eureka Room might start looking like other things out there. I don’t want it to feel like a big video game or some other interactive exhibit that people have seen before (And chances are that one would have a much bigger budget).
- Introducing one new thing makes many people think about what else I could have or should have done. With a plain boring, no tech room it didn’t lead (as many) people’s thoughts to all the technology they could have experienced if only I had put it in there and they don’t leave with a sense of “what could have been”.
…and they would solve some challenges.
I’ve been developing more ideas for new programs lately and the constraints are starting to look like obstacles that I can’t design around or figure my way out of. There’s ideas for moments I want to create but I can’t because I don’t have the tech. I keep running into places where I think “Man, if we could just have a rudementary feedback system I could do this, this, this, and this in the script.”
The temptation to add just a tiny tiny bit of tech is getting stronger. But still I am resisting. Maybe I just shelve the programs that call for the tech and work on the ones that I can already do right now.
But I don’t think I should feel guilty about deciding I need new tools to solve my script problem. Having an idea and making the tools you need to execute the idea is different than asking for tools that come pre-loaded with their own ideas.
If you want some original creative work you shouldn’t look at your tools for inspiration. Your tools are soulless. You want creative work to be meaningful, not just something that says “hey look what we can do with these tools”.
Some of my current ideas could use tech where:
- Visitors are given the choice of two paths. Depending on which path they choose, a different segment of the program is played.
- Visitors are tasked to do something. When they have done it, they would press a button for the answer or to continue the program.
- Visitors interact with a table or other device in the center of the room.
I fear that these are opening a can of worms but I still would like to have them.
My current plan is to write out all the ideas for the 10+ scripts I’m working on. Then I will come up with a way to calculate ROI for any tech ideas that I would make. I can see that some tech ideas (eg, “choose your path”) could be reused in many programs, whereas some other tech ideas would be specific to one program.