Metasyn

Interactive information visualization

Metasyn_splash_6

Metasyn provides insight and overview of the sound and video art collection at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde.

DEADLINE: OCT 2008  |  CLIENTS: THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN ROSKILDE  |  EXHIBITED BY: CLIENT  |  PARTNERS: DANIEL HøIER ØHRGAARD  |  SPONSORS: DAMVIG DEVELOP

Metasyn was developed as part of a research project titled Media Art Platform (MAP) at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Roskilde (MFSK) presenting an alternative entry for visitors to engage in their media archive. It was also my graduation project at Kolding School of Design, but the work went far beyond the day of my examination. Metasyn was active at the exhibition Total Aktion from October to the end of December 2008.

Documentation video:

Concept

In Danish the word 'syn' means sight or view. Hence, the title is intended to be read as 'meta view'; seeing the information that lies beyond the physicality of objects. The fact that we commonly use the verb 'to see' as a synonym for understanding is a reminder that visualisation can aid the cognitive process of contemplating dense and complex information.

Metasyn is designed to display the collection both as a whole, as interrelated pieces and as individual art works. To simplify this, the interface is divided into three explorative levels of scale; Macro, Meso, and Micro. Functionally speaking, Macro is an information visualisation, Meso is a relational 3D browser and Micro is a media player.

At the Macro level, the entire collection is presented in a diagram where a single selected object is put in context. A horizontal timeline, spanning about a decade, divide the digitised media in the upper half from the physical objects in the lower half. The quantity of objects for each year is distributed like on a bar graph. Metaphorically, the lower half represents a kind of basement archive; mirroring the upper half that is digitised and hence ‘visible above ground’ so to speak. Physical objects are sources like CD albums or VHS tapes, while digital objects are digitised content that originates from those sources.

From Macro, it is possible to dive into the Meso level. The word Meso derives from Greek simply meaning 'in the middle of things' and is often used to describe the space related to human scale. At Meso, the art works are spatially positioned around you and can be approached in order to examine its preview, facts and relations. Because you browse on a timeline, the surrounding objects represent a view into a specific time period of the collection.

When an art work is approached, it is possible to zoom into the Micro level and experience the media in full quality. In contrast to the Meso level, the Micro level is striped from all distracting interface elements and provides a calm setting for focusing on the art work.

Process

Most of the work went into understanding, filtering and sorting the archive database which was full of inconsistencies to say the least. I made the visualisation below solely as a tool for contemplating the whole archive in one image. Because of this image I was able to correct many human errors in the database.

Daniel Høier Øhrgaard did an amazing job helping me redesign the Nintendo Wii remote to fit the needs of navigating in 3D.

Thanks

Morten Carlsen, Michael Edinger, Enrico Passetti, Morten Søndergaard, Mogens Jacobsen, Rasmus Holmboe, Andrew Nagel, Barnabas Wetton, Elle-Mie Ejdrup, Lars Gravgaard, Thomas Markussen, Musik Lab Denmark, Damvig Develop A/S, Fælleskonserveringen and Leona Sui-Ling Hwang.

Technical notes

Ideas were Prototyped in Procesing. The museums SQL database was cleaned and filtered in Java and saved to an XML file. The final application was built in Unity. A redesigned plastic shell for the Nintendo Wii remote was designed in Pro Engeneer and was printed using SLS. The screen and stool was constructed by Total Produktion.