After our initial Sound Safari sessions with visitors we decided to make adjustments to the workshop environment, tools and materials to contextualize and support the explorations we want to see. Making small changes and carefully observing how they affect the tinkering experience is a core part of our ongoing iterative activity design process.
Environment - Introducing visitors to pick-up microphones
We always like to work with artists using their art pieces as inspiration and to immerse visitors in the exploration. For this environment we were lucky to get one of Bryan Day's sound sculptures loaned to the Tinkering Studio. We placed the interactive sculpture near the entrance to the workshop area to introduce visitors to the idea of carefully investigating objects through sound as well as sound harvesting with pick-up microphones. By playing with the sound sculpture, visitors got the concept of amplifying and investigating otherwise inaudible sounds with pic-up microphones without much explanation by facilitators.
A table with interesting and unusual materials and a hand held pic up mic with a speaker next to the art piece invited visitors to explore more, guided by their own interests. The starter station and art piece helped visitors become comfortable with the tools and materials and open up to the idea of working at their own recording station for a longer amount of time.
Software tools - shaping the sound exploration towards quick recording and collecting sounds
During the first visitor tests we found people engrossed in exploring sounds but recording them wasn't interesting to them. A new custom software by our collaborator Keina Konno set up on a recording station for two people significantly changed the way visitors were exploring sound.
interface for representing and arranging recorded sounds on the screen
young visitors quickly took ownership over the software tool
Just like the environment in the physical world, the software environment guides the investigation. In this case the software was set to record short 5 second sound samples, each sound was represented by a circle on the screen. This set up encouraged visitors to collect sound snippets and jump back and forth between investigating the object and recording.
We saw a few visitors thoughtfully naming the sounds and arranging sounds on the screen and some made discoveries about combining sounds by playing them back at the same time.
We also saw more complex experiments when visitors were working in groups of two, four hands help to arrange sound makers and position the microphone carefully to make small adjustments to the sounds.
-Creating with sound
We would like to see more visitors create sound arrangements or even personal stories and sound collages. Our current tools and software don't quite support creativity with sound enough and we observed that most visitors couldn't sustain their engagement when they were done discovering new sounds. We will put effort towards creating context and tools for visitors to use their sounds in personally meaningful creations our next phase of prototyping.
-Engaging young kids in sound explorations
One of the strong suites of Sound Safari that remains through the different iterations is that younger visitors are immediately engaged and motivated to explore, often driving the exploration while collaborating with their parents. We would like to build on this and revisit the idea of sound harvesting, maybe with a simple software tool that allows to capture video or images together with sound recordings.
This work was supported by a grant from Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation
This project was made possible through the generous support from the LEGO Foundation