We’ve just had Nina Reynolds and Kelly Page here for two days. Nina is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Southampton and Kelly is an Assistant Professor in Arts Entertainment and Media Management at Columbia College Chicago. We’re collaborating together on a commission for the National Theatre of Wales. We’ve been working on it for about 18 months and it’s a classic example of the rigours and rewards of deep research and prolonged development.
We’re exploring how an artwork may mould itself around each audience member or participant or (if you’re a drug dealer/interface designer) user. And we’re reflecting on the overall drive towards profiling and personalisation in the culture more widely. This is the theme of this year’s Act Otherwise event where we’ll explore this over two days at our studio. Setting aside the manifest social, ethical and political complexities of this area, we focused our work with Nina and Kelly on the aesthetic aspects of this approach. Can we deduce meaningful knowledge about our audience as they engage with the work through a smartphone app? If so, can we then adapt the experience in ways that are rich and meaningful?
Beginning with research conducted for us by Geraldine Nichols we’ve explored the history of personality profiling and especially summated scales. We looked back at the work done by the Office of Strategic Services during World War Two to assess candidates for their aptitude as agents in a variety of areas. This work culminated in the landmark text Assessment of Men (1948).
Kelly and Nina schooled us in the subtleties and weaknesses of psychological profiling (using examples such as Myers Briggs and the 16 Personality Factor test). Nick from Blast Theory presented some of our works that have explored this area, particularly Prof Tanda’s Guess-A-Where and Ivy4Evr. There are a couple of papers with our colleagues at the University of Nottingham about Prof Tanda on our Research Materials page.
With Nina and Kelly’s input we started to scope the design of the app, looking at how the story may progress and how you will interact with the character at the heart of the work. We discussed how personality profiling tools such as Likert Scales could be embedded within the work. We discussed the ethical implications of data collection especially when Adrian Hazzard shared FBStalker with us. We got a great sense of the artistic and research possibilities of the project. And I learnt just to act cool when being addressed with a sentence that starts ‘Assuming you’re not delusional. . . ‘.
Our next steps will be to scope the software as part of our technical internship and to broaden our discussions as part of Act Otherwise which will be announced shortly. Follow us on Twitter (@blasttheory) if you are interested to take part.