Presenter: Jamie E. Gray
Advisor(s): Meredith Davis
Author(s): Jamie E. Gray
Graduate Program: Graphic Design

Title: Designing Interactive Tools for Digital Collecting

Abstract: With file sizes getting smaller, and hard drives getting bigger, online citizens energetically gather and share digital objects. Technology facilitates the speed and ease with which software simultaneously replicates, manipulates and disseminates files; because of this, users engage both conscious and unconsciously in this activity (in web communities like flickr.com, del.icio.us and blogs). These non-commercial and immaterial collections are comprised of digital documents (such as images, bookmarked urls, mp3s and text). I identify this contemporary phenomenon as “digital collecting”, having many of the same behaviors as collecting in the traditional analog sense.

For my final master’s project I'm designing a series of Graphic User Interface Tools for Digital Collectors. The tools function at the application level (like a plug-in or widget). The interactive behaviors of these tools are informed by the values and behaviors shared by digital collectors, which I've identified in my research. An understanding of physical collecting behaviors guides my studies, although current online developments extended the definitions into the digital realm. 

My studies target the areas of accumulation, order, and sharing. I am exploring the design of a modal cursor that modifies its behavior depending on the collecting task at hand. Since the cursor is reactive to its context, I am also designing complimentary environments that respond to the tool. More specifically, one study includes a space of re-discovery in which a basket-like cursor captures saved digital objects and releases them onto a temporal bricolage desktop. In another study, a digital quilt is made by recording a user’s interactive path and attaching it to the saved object. In a third study, the user creates affinity-based clusters of files by mousing through a dynamic space in which objects attract or repel according to the cursor’s settings.