CONCEPT & DESIGN
The idea for the cover came to me around the end of the JHI research program. I reflected on what our group created during one of the best months of university life so far tried to integrate our experiences and product into one composition.
This was our first time adding colour to our Draw-and-Write data gathering sessions and the JHiSquares our group collected were complex and multifaceted. As a result, I chose a colour transparent tesseract, or four-dimensional cube to
represent the amount of diversity and depth the iSquare research team has accumulated in the past. This also hints that getting to the bottom of the nature of information can perhaps be beyond our comprehension at the moment. Nonetheless, we continue our research to define it.
The “i” created from binary code at the centre of the front cover composition was typed in OCR Extended and should be recognisable by many machines. It spells out:
May 26 2017
Jackman Humanities Institute
University of Toronto
THEMATIC ANALYSIS |
BUILDING A FRAMEWORK FOR TECHNOLOGY AND INFORMATION
In many of the iSquares, I noticed nuances of technology and I began to wonder - how are people perceiving the relation between information and technology? I tried to find frameworks that connects these tow concepts but I found nothing!
So, I chose to create my own model that explores the role that technology plays in people's perception of information!
Of course, first I had to define what I would consider as "technology", after which I began my process of analysis and ... I can go on and on about this endlessly. The prezi below displays the iSquares I chose and how I built my framework around this!
MacKenzie, D., & Wajcman, J. (1985). The Social Shaping of Technology: How the Refrigerator Got Its Hum, Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Levin, M. (1996). Technology Transfer in Organizational Development: An Investigation into the Relationship between Technology Transfer and Organizational Change. International Journal of Technology Management, 2 (3), 297-308.
Beginnings of the JHiSquare Protocol
Data Collection, Debriefing, and Data Management
Developing a script to guide our data collection session was the starting point of our collaborative efforts on the iSquare team, and therefore, many decisions were made at this stage. First, Professor Hartel and the iSquare team provided us with a script that we used to guide and inspire our own approach to addressing the scholars participating in our study. We felt that many features of this pre-existing script were essential to include in ours, such as the background information on the iSquare protocol, our methodological focus on arts-informed research, as well as the ethical guidelines central to participant-driven studies. Some new features we included in our JHiSquare script were a series of thought-provoking questions about information, as well as a verbal request for participants to refrain from using their cell phones or any aids during the session. Both of these decisions were made in an attempt to create a more immersive and contemplative atmosphere for our participants.
Here are some of the questions about information that we included in our script:
· How is information conveyed and presented?
· Where does information exist?
· Can information be a catalyst?
· When do you need information?
(Credits to Mahika for these incredibly inspiring questions!)
In addition to formulating a script for our study, perhaps the most significant consideration we pondered as a team was regarding the materials that we would feature in our session. Since the JHiSquare protocol was the first to feature colourful drawing instruments among conventional black pens, we initially felt inspired to include a variety of colourful media in our study. Some of the materials we considered were pencil crayons, crayons, oil pastels, and markers. However, after further discussion, we feared that drawings executed with certain materials, such as oil pastels and crayons, would smudge upon the collection and storage of data. Thus, we decided to abandon the inclusion of crayons, and oil pastels to avoid compromising the integrity of our data. In order to ensure more control and consistency among media, we decided to only feature black pens, coloured pens, and coloured markers as materials in our study.
Lastly, upon the recommendation of the iSquare team, we decided to use paper tablecloths to cover the table surfaces that the participants worked upon. By doing this, we hoped to create an inspiring, carefree, and creative environment that provided participants the opportunity to liberally experiment with the diverse materials provided.
How Space Affected Data Gathering
Initially, we were going to use Wymilwood Lounge at Victoria College’s Goldring Student Centre to conduct our research gathering. However, when we went to look at the space, we discovered that it lacked the furniture items we needed - namely, tables. The SiR also had a presentation in the space directly before we were going to be using it, making set-up very difficult. Due to these factors, we chose to move our research gathering to Burwash Hall.
This move benefited us enormously - the space is huge and allowed for us to use the large dining tables. We also had the advantage of the windows which line the hall on both sides, letting in significant amounts of natural light that aided in alleviating the clinical feeling often associated with research gathering. The space is also where we eat communal dinners during the program, which seemed to have contributed to a more relaxed atmosphere. We set-up the space by moving chairs around four large tables. We further divided the tables in half by running a piece of tape across the center. This allowed for us to divide our materials between the two sides and avoid hoarding.
The Social Environment
The latter half of this week focused on the data management of newly collected iSquares. Stephanie Power, the Data Manager of the iSquare Team, provided the JHI Fellows with an overview of how the iSquare Team developed its strategies to manage the growing quantity and complexity of data and the range of storage options available for preservation.
The iSquares collected from our data gathering activity with the other JHI members were then labelled, scanned and recorded in our following process. This management activity was conducted in the University of Toronto Library, using the scanner and computer programs available to the group. Stephanie Power emphasis the digitization of the collected iSquares to the archival quality; thus, requiring a higher print resolution of the scanned material. The cropping and final export of the iSquares were completed in Adobe Photoshop and then uploaded into the cloud.
The process may be less active and more repetitive than the data gathering stage as we are only labelling and digitizing the iSquares. Nonetheless, the group was introduced to the inner workings of data management for the iSquare team and uncovered valuable insight into the significance of having an organized and accessible data management system. Writing from retrospective, this stage can be viewed as a short and dry part of the iSquare project, but it is the reason why the iSquares are still accessible geographically and periodically. Without these systems in place, the projects would be disconnected between each sampling and further analyses would be impossible. Moreover, as the iSquare project is prepared to keep their data accessible in the future, adds another layer of the functionality of information onto the information we collected. Every step of organizing the data collected needed to be thoroughly evaluated and designed with the future in mind.
DEFINING INFORMATION THROUGH
INTERPRETATION OF MY ISQUARE
As I translated the images that conjured in my mind for “information” onto my iSquare, I suddenly realised how broad and all-encompassing “information” can be. Moreover, how closely I associate information with my conceptions of technology and empirical facts. From the order of image-construction, I observed how I prioritize accessing information through the internet and wireless-technology as to paper sources, even if it included multimedia content, as a secondary method. The vision of the global connect was instantaneous, suggesting that I see information as weighted force of connection. Following that was the addition of a newspaper, consisting of text, images, and animated/moving images, revealing my emphasis on seeing news as information whereas the construction of the book near the bottom seemed less prioritised with less clarity in its purpose.
On the periphery of the central focal area, a number of symbols also suggest additional ways I attempted to define information. There are two profiles with a WiFi icon linking the two heads across the globe. The wide angle of the arcs references a rainbow, suggesting an upbeat attitude towards information. The bottom is stacked hierarchically with symbols, comprising a binary code, a cloud symbol, a information logo (often seen on maps), and a row of biological features symbolising how humans identify sensory information. This suggests while I recognise information can appear in digital and physical forms, the basic process to intake information is dependent on our biological abilities and limitations. The text on the back of my iSquare is very limited with only individual words to help clarify some of my drawn icons; thus, less significant in this case. From a self-conducted session of the iSquare protocol, I unveiled my perception of both a hierarchy of physical forms and the subsequent significances and meanings of “information.”
The title is really misleading, maybe I shouldn’t be using possessive pronouns because who can really own information? Can information really be mine? Or is it a global, yet invisible collection of things we’ve learned that we simply access without ownership? This collection of things is ever-growing and ever-changing, but if it isn’t mine, how can I possibly know what it is? I think I might be getting meta but in all honesty, the task of trying to define information only succeeds in limiting the field and its encompassing value! Perhaps this is why the research of iSquares was developed- it is difficult albeit, not impossible, to describe information in words, but would an artistic medium open up a new meaning behind information? Would a visual conveyance be easier to grasp?
However, when placed in the shoes of having to visually represent information and generate my own iSquare, I was at a loss of … perception. My mind was a blank slate. But slowly, ideas began to form and I realized, that at that particular instant, I was using information to decide on what to draw. In a broader sense, I began to view information as a tool that helps us to make decisions. Information is almost always generated with a purpose. This purpose is what defines information, as information is essentially formless or meaningless unless and until it is acted upon. Thus, I saw the value of information through its decision-defining abilities.
Another quality I found about information is its relation to nature. This implies physical nature, human nature, or even natural phenomenon. Information stems from something natural, an occurrence in the natural world, and hence, when drawing my iSquare, I decided to draw a fork in a naturistic trail. This symbolizes the concepts of decision-making, as well as the notion that information is rooted from nature. With these initial perspectives of information, I look forward to delving into iSquare research and beginning a self-reflective journey as to what information is to me, as well as what information means to world.
INFORMATION AND SYDNEY
The iSquare Research Project’s asks participants a simple question – “what is information?”. In the week I have been a junior fellow on the team, I have come to understand that the deceptive simplicity of the question hides an incredibly complex web of different answers.
I was first drawn to the project by the sense of provocative confusion that I felt when I read through the history of the project. As someone who enjoys a challenge, I found myself motivated to take part because of the project’s open-ended nature – it is dynamic and relies on interpretation in a way that linear and causally-oriented research projects are not. I was, and continue to be, completely fascinated by the seemingly endless different understandings of the word ‘information’, a concept that we use constantly without a definitive definition.
On our first day of the program, each of the junior fellows were given our own iSquare in which to answer the question “what is information?”. My drawing ended up being quite indicative of how I tend to function cognitively, and I had no awareness of it. The word ‘information’ immediately made me think of the word in connection with people, specifically in how we parse out understandings of our physical and mental environments by gaining knowledge. Therefore, I decided to draw the outline of a human head, with a crudely-drawn brain inside of it. Outside of the head, I drew a dark cloud. On the brain I wrote “things I know”, referring to the brain as the place in which people store information. On the cloud I wrote “things I don’t know … but could”, referencing knowledge that exists outside of an individual. The latter part of this sentence is intended to illustrate information as something that can exist both externally and internally of people, but that it is able to move freely between these two states. Overall, I found that I depicted ‘information’ as intrinsic to cognition and something that can be gained and lost.
Psychology and Art History double major. Exploring human cognition and the communicative power of visual expression.
Computer Science and CCIT double major. I do art, not to escape reality, but simply to understand it better.
Psychology Specialist. Deeply fascinated with understanding the human mind.
Cinema Studies major. A photographer and writer interested in how people express what it is to be human.
Art History and History Major. Idealistically hopes to visually revolutionize academic publications.