This weeks lecture material encourages us to look into positioning, trends and emergent themes.
It was quite a good topic for me at this point in the brief as I felt quite set on an idea, however I hadn’t at all considered the positioning of this idea and how it would sit in the world amongst other archival projects.

I took a look at The Future Laboratory. An interesting site which maps and forecasts trends. Most of the content was stuck behind quite expensive pay walls but I was still able to see some of the content.
I was particularly interesting in an article looking at big fashion brands starting to make archives and using NFT’s as part of the process.

“In April 2022, luxury fashion brand Paco Rabanne began selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs) of its vintage designs to raise money to purchase items for its physical archive.”
Lavinia Fasano and Emily Rhodes

These NFT’s will be bought for avatars to wear. The brand themselves called the items ‘hard to wear’ but it puts a whole new spin on that phrase… What is clothing when

in the virtual world? I must admit the more I look into this the more mind blown I am. These pieces were originally available at Selfridges at Decentraland. Again this was a new concept to me, Decentraland describes itself as “the first decentralized metaverse that is built, governed, and owned by its users”.

Could this trend work in relation to the Science Museum Digital Archive?
I mean it’s definitely worth thinking about isn’t it?
I could see how these objects could perhaps become digitised as NFTs and sold for use in the Metaverse, but why? And also there is a question of ethics too.
These items have been donated, some acquired maybe unlawfully and would it ethically be ok to then sell these items in the Metaverse even if it did help people discover them?

Tutorial time…

I had a tutorial with stuart and spoke to him about my ‘museum in your city’ idea. As I was talking it through I think I could kind of feel that it wasn’t fully actualised. Stuart seemed to like aspects of the idea. One key takeaway was that he said one of the best bits about the archive is the completely random items that you can find in it. I mentioned the browser extension I’ve been using that each time you make a new tab introduces you to a random item in the collection, its simplicity is amazing. Stuart encouraged me to use that as inspiration.

He did like the getting out and discovery aspect of my project but thought that by linking public spaces with objects in the collection it actually limits your discovery capabilities as the objects will have already been picked out for you. I hadn’t really considered that aspect of this project or the fact that you would probably only do the walk once as it wouldn’t change and there are only so many times you would want to learn about old toilets etc…

Stuart mentioned looking into pyscogeography, I did mention that this is kind of the route I had gone down with the four week project, he said that as long as the project was different enough it shouldn’t matter, it did kind of make me think though, maybe it does matter and maybe this is my opportunity to shake things up a bit and work on something new.

Stuart did talk about looking into Geotagging and Geomapping and how that might be able to help generate random items from the collection if you had the location sensor enabled on your phone?

Where to go next?

So after being a bit thrown off course I started to think more objectively about the items in the collection. I identified a new question or new brief for myself:

How do I randomly generate items from the digital archive through an intentional activity?

One of the first things I thought of

was this website by Neal Agarwal. It’s so simple and just shows sea creatures by depth of water. In a way you could think of the sea creatures as items in the archive and the variable they have been visualised by is depth of water…

It got me thinking, what are the physical variables of the objects?

What if I related the items to human like qualities or more than human qualities?
A simple google search took me to the work: Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

This is kind of interesting, what if I created something where you put in your human traits of the human traits of someone you knew and it would present you with the object from the collection that had the most similar traits?
Or presented you with a collection of objects that had the most similar traits to you?

That could be an interesting idea?

Back to the note pad

A new question emerged in my sketchbook that made more sense to me. It’s kind of like this process of R&D had helped me refine the brief so that it wasn’t so open.
How to randomly generate new items from the digital archive in an interactive way?
I played around with this idea for a bit, thinking about a search bar as a camnera lens looking over the archived objects or an app that maps the rooms in the house or building you are in and generates random objects in the rooms that you have to go and find.

The thought that kept arising was ‘why would someone download this app’ and ‘how am I pushing myself in the realms of graphic design?’. I felt like I was just thinking of creative solutions that would maybe help get people engaged in the archive but would give me zero chance to design anything…

So I started thinking more visually, thinking of the visual mass of objects that are in this archive.

I let go of the map idea and the idea that someone needed to physically interact with whatever I made as I think that was limiting me a little bit.

I drew inspiration from designer Ploterre a data led designer who has worked on the State Of Our Trails artwork [a project I’ve been working on with Trash Free Trails].

This image when you first look at it is just of a mountain. Specifically Yr Wyddfa in Wales. When you zoom in you realise it has colour halftone properties. What is extra amazing about this image is that it is made up of 216,466 individual dots.

That’s the amount of plastic pollution volunteers collected from Trails in the past four years and recorded by Trash Free Trails.

If each piece of trash was stacked end-to-end it would reach the top of Yr Wyddfa. TWENTY TIMES! ⁠

Scientific data can often be inaccessible and viewed as lacking human emotion. We believe this data is anything but. Instead it tells the story within and behind the data, making it more accessible and relatable to every individual.⁠

Dom Ferris: Trash Free Trails

To make this graphic Rebecca Kaye of Ploterre devised a programme that creates the same effect of colour halftone but allows you to control the number of dots on the page.

I’m really pleased that this project came to mind. It’s super inspiring and has set me on a new course of enquiry of what I could produce for this brief.

So much of Rebecca’s work is inspirational for this brief. She visualises data using very specific data sets, creates programmes to help her plot that data and presents it in a way that is visually appealing and fairly easy to digest.

Making a start…

So there are 380,000 objects in the Science Museum website.

I wanted to work out how I could visualise that in dots or pixels so it started with a bit of maths.

For an A3 piece of paper:
297 x 420mm
1250m squared
1250 divided by 380,000 = 1/304

So this means for each 1cm square on an A3 piece of paper I would need 304 dots or pixels to make 380,000 in total.

My first test looked awful and also didn’t work very well.
The image on the left is a 1cm square with 304 squares in it. The image on the right is the start of a repeat pattern of these 1cm squares. I stopped half way though as it looked horrendous but it was quite cool to see.
I think what I need to do next is to try and make the 1cm square more aesthetically pleasing.
It would be cool to look into if there is a programme or a process I can use which would generate a certain number of dots or pixels.

Test Two

This image is 38 lines.
If I was to make each line somehow represent 10,000 then it would be a much visually nicer representation of the items in the collection…


How to do that?

Ok let’s get back to this weeks task…

Your research task this week is to evaluate emerging trends that are relevant to your project and develop a concise three-sentence positioning (or mission) statement for your project.

I started looking into trends again, but this time more in relation to my topic and field of practice. At the start of the week I was having a very general look at the trends and trend writers in all fields.
I started by looking on the site Dribbble the article was on graphic design trends of 2023 and was much as I expected. AI art, abstract 3D images and modern nostalgia were all noted in the top ten as styles to expect. One I was particularly happy to see was Risoprint coming in at number 3.
I love the aesthetic of Risoprint and have definitely noticed a resurgence in its use. If I am able to get my work together in time it might be a really nice medium to use for my final outcome?

Risoprint example: Photo from Dribbble article

The next article I looked at focussed on trends spotted at the Milan Design Week I was super excited to read that the first two trends they sited were ‘Digital meets physical‘ and ‘Industrial waste materials‘. I would say that these two themes actually really mirrored the work that I saw at Dutch Design Week.

I’m equally as interested in both trends in relation to this project but I’ll start by talking about my excitement for the digital meets physical trend.

“Two new digital apparitions birthed somewhere between the second and third dimension out of ai fragments and textures scraped, collaged, printed, and dipped together, forming the last remaining vestige of a time before we’re all grovelling in the mud, unable to support our crippling acai bowl addictions as Chad-GPT has taken our job as secretary to the social media consultant. Exhibited in front of the pinnacle of Italiano graffiti at @alcova.milano , if you’re in Milan please come visit!”

Ryan Decker, AI inspired lamp

The lamps by Decker beautifully bring to life digital textures and make this 3D object almost look 2D. I love his dystopian description of the lamps, they are a dramatic lens to an unfortunate future that hopefully wont come true.

Industrial waste materials as a trend is also just something that interests me massively. There is so much potential with ‘waste’. I read something at Dutch Design Week about by 2080 it is thought there would be more metal in homes than in the Earth.
It wont be long before we are ‘mining’ our landfills and having to use what we once saw as waste.
I feel like this will be a trend for the next few years until it is a little more mainstream.
In relation to this article they focussed on the work of design studio Formafantasma who used surplus sheep’s wool and natural latex. The overall look of this room is super experimental and looks futuristic yet chic.

Formafantasma describe themselves as: a research-based design studio investigating the ecological, historical, political and social forces shaping the discipline of design today.

I think this ethic behind design studios is also a design trend. It has to be a design trend as the world is changing fast, designers need to be the people to imagine and create new futures and so the designers of today have a responsibility to help shape it.

Understanding the impact of the web

Decolonizing Archives

“The imperial imagination enabled European nations to imagine the possibility that new worlds, new wealth and new possessions existed that could be discovered and controlled.”

― Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples

As someone who is White, British I have a lot to learn about colonisation and decolonisation. I feel, especially at the moment and especially working with a collection which holds Palestinian amulets and other objects that have been aquired by the UK it would be completely wrong not to look into how the Digital Archive can be used as an opportunity to decolonize the the way that the Science Museum holds and talks about these objects.

I really love this quote from Linda Tuhiwai, I think it encapsulates the rationale of collectors through history who brought items back to the UK thinking it was within their right to do so.

It got me thinking of the Science Capital graphic shown in John Stacks presentation.

Sir Henry Wellcome Collection

Brass hand, flat sheet, left hand inscribed on upper side with intent to avert evil eye, Persian, 1880-1925
Kareau figure of carved and painted wood, anthropomorphic, representing standing male with wings and European clothes, from Nicobar Islands, Bay of Bengal, 1880-1925
Carved wooden figure of pregnant female in standing position, arms clutching stomach, flat oval stylized face, Ivory Coast, West Africa, 1880-1920

His museum [Sir Henry Wllcome], in common with others of the time, followed a late-19th-century European model of cultural hierarchies. Objects were classified and displayed in a way that placed European culture at the top of a racist, sexist and ableist system of cultural dominance.

Between 1890 and 1936 Wellcome built a collection that told a global story of health and medicine in which Black people, Indigenous peoples and people of colour were exoticised, marginalised and exploited.
The Wellcome Collection

I was pleasantly surprised by the honest statement on the Wellcome Collections website referencing colonialism as the main factor in the acquisition of the collection:

…Our museum and library collections, some of which are now jointly held with the Science Museum, still include many items that were unjustly taken from the people and communities who made them. The agents and collectors who did this were able to do so because colonial structures of violence and control allowed them to.The Wellcome Collection

The above images are just three of the 99,000 items in the Sir Henry Wellcome collection at the Science Museum. I want to think about how to sensitively acknowledge, just as the Wellcome Collection have, the dark colonial past of some of the collection…

Archives uncover uncomfortable truths about our history, if we honour and give space for these uncomfortable truths to be the narrative running alongside the objects then I think we make a start in decolonising archives.

Principles on decolonising the archive

“When archivists and their institutions acknowledge the marginalization or absence of the oppressed they must respond through establishing a reparative archive that engenders inclusivity. Reparative archival work does not pretend to ignore the imperialist, racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist, and other discriminatory traditions of mainstream archives, but instead acknowledges these failures and engages in conscious actions toward a wholeness that may seem to be an exercise in futility but in actuality is an ethical imperative for all within traditional archival spaces.”

Hughes-Watkins, Lae’l (2018), Moving Toward a Reparative Archive: A Roadmap for a Holistic Approach to Disrupting Homogenous Histories in Academic Repositories and Creating Inclusive Spaces for Marginalized Voices, Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies: Vol. 5 , Article 6. P.3. 

I found this quote when reading a statement from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the work they had been doing to decolonise their own archives. I think it is very powerful for an organisation to acknowledge the failures in items it now holds and to create space for a new story to be told.

One of the ways LSoHaTM stated they would tell new stories through their archives was to : Create opportunities for discussion and critical engagement from a decolonisation perspective.

Maybe this is a route I could go down with the collection? How can I encourage people to critically engage with an artefact?

Maybe you could explore artefact primarily on location, or where that artefact is originally from. There could then be a stream of collective thoughts from viewers on that artefact?

Belonging and believing

Jarrett M. Drake, former digital archivist for Princeton University and an advisory
archivist for A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland (APAPVC), is one of
the leading contemporary voices on community archives. In his keynote at the
Community Archives Forum hosted at UCLA in 2016, he stated that “the action of
belonging and the action of believing are two of the most fundamental exercises of the
human spirit, and it’s my argument that liberatory archives possess the potential to
engender both actions within communities whose humanity traditional archives fail to
recognize and respect.”26 This statement represents the goal that all archives should work
toward—this is the definition of creating inclusive spaces.

Records – in all their forms – enable and leave traces of what governments, corporations and individuals do. They can be created in order to repress or to free, to nurture or to attack. They can be shared in order to heal, or withheld in order to deceive. Records and recordkeeping support and affect myriad aspects of the lives of individuals and can influence the direction of an entire society.

Cassie Findley, Archival Activism

Tutorial with Frauke

I had a great tutorial with Frauke where I floated my idea of people recording their mood or emotion they feel after looking at an object in the collection as a way to disrupt the hierarchy of the objects through emotion or through personal connections.
We spoke about whether bringing the ‘self’ into a project or object decolonizes it and Frauke suggested that with some of the objects the true story of how they were acquired may never be uncovered yet this process could be start of the healing process of an object.

It’s given me a clearer vision of what I need to create. I still want to show the objects in a non-hierachacle way

viewers can pick objects at random or search through the collection via country of origin. As moor reactions or emotions are added to each object the actual map of objects will start to change. Frauke suggested this map could be textured somehow. I could assign different emotions with different textures and as more emotions are added to different objects those textures begin to grow and morph.

Viewers would also be able to look at each object individually and see the different emotions splaying out from it, a bit like the biblio-graph format of connections.

I think what I need to do next is sketch out how this would look, I would like to make this project using figma and I really will have quite a challenge as it is not something I have done before, I think however if I stay focussed on the user journey through the initial webpage and just show a few objects in detail then I should be ok.

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