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Dane's Online Journal

Documentation of Dane's project development.

(posted Fri 30 Jan 04)

(Click on the images above to view a larger version). The initial proposal for LoveMatch is to make use of what is already happening in Watershed's Café/Bar - people meeting, checking each other out, flirting - and layer on top of this a digital experience which allows people to make a mark, in the hope of finding a love match, and view the progress of others.

So people would use PDAs to input their personalities and find compatible partners. In fact the idea is very similar to the "I saw you.." [ran by Venue magazine in bars in Bristol including Watershed]. I wanted to create a way for people to create a virtual representation of themself and use it to communicate with others in a digital landscape. I also wanted to get the commission/bursary and I thought that they'd go for this idea.

The publicly funded art world isn't too dissimilar from the commercial sector. You have to pitch your idea. Which is quite different to the attitudes I was educated in at art school where there was an emphasis on studio practice and developing a visual language. "Don't tell me about it, show me."

Meanwhile inbetween being awarded the bursary in Sept 2003 and starting work on it in Dec 2003 I spent two months in a remote East German Village. This was for a European Media Artist's Residency Exchange program. It was similar to I''m a Celebrity...' but without the media interest, or any interest come to that. There was no form of entertainment other than a large collection of experimental videos. So I spent my days making work, which you can see at www.emptydays.co.uk and learning about the history of experimental film. The two months were completely non-interactive and gave me a desire to produce repetitive animated objects that are unable to relate to anything other than themselves.

This was quite a diificult desire to reconcile with the bursary which was all about communication.

In Dec I met with Jon and Caroline from www.cybersuiters.com, an on-line dating agency. They have a special formula called the Compatibility Quotient to determine compatibility between two people. They were very generous and I could use it as the basis for my project but then it would just have become a design brief.

I have found it difficult in adjusting to the idea of producing something interactive, something that communicates with other users especially as my "studio practice" was bent on producing isolated objects.

The problem I have had is in thinking about making something interactive instead of incorporating the audience into the work so that their responses to the images are stored and change the sign value of the images through use.

I am producing a range of drawings and it will be up to the audience to represent themselves through the drawings and define what they find attractive.

(end of entry)

(posted Mon 22 March 04)

How LoveMatch is designed

The first part of LoveMatch, the personality profile is a development of my previous project TargetArt (2003, commissioned by Radiator festival in Nottingham), another personality profile test. In developing TargetArt I spent about a month researching personality tests before I realised that it would take me a few more years to produce an accurate profiling test, after all I’m an artist who has spent most of my time developing a visual language. So for LoveMatch I drew things that I thought would make nice drawings rather than attempt to create images that reflected accurate personality types. They are almost arbitrary. The comments the viewer receives on completing their profile were written quickly and with little care or attention to creating an accurate or insightful description of their choices. My reasoning for this approach was that if the images and words were sufficiently vague the viewer would create their own meaning.

Like TargetArt, LoveMatch is a visual questionnaire. The user selects different images to construct a representation of their identity, and then LoveMatch gives them a written analysis of their personality. It uses a second person narrative, that is LoveMatch addresses the viewer directly. The second person narrative is the language of the individual attempting to understand themself. Horoscopes are a good example of this format. I thought that if LoveMatch spoke directly to the viewer and gave the appearance that it was trying to understand them, making comments on their choices, then it would give the viewer a reason to engage with the application. I supposed that most people want to talk about themselves and understand how they come across to other people.

Once the viewer has created their profile and received comments on their choices LoveMatch goes on to show them an image of their perfect partner, apparently selected from searching through a database. This is an entirely random process and the attributes of the perfect partner have no relationship to the viewer’s inputs. This is designed to give closure to LoveMatch. It is also a way of showing all the drawings just in case the viewer hadn’t scrolled through all the options. The scrolling text at the top of the animation is entirely random and has no relationship to the images.

LoveMatch is designed to be viewed on a PDA (personal digital assitant), a small handheld computer. I like them because they offer a way of showing discrete animations. I was already interested in making work for PDAs before I heard about the Bursary and so I adapted some of my ideas to fit the Bursary’s expectations, that is I proposed that my animations could be networked.

Focus Groups

LoveMatch was tested on three user focus groups at the Watershed Media Centre in Bristol in March 2004.

The focus groups were initially organised to test the user interface. I would then go on to develop LoveMatch’s network capabilities which would enable participants to communicate with each other through a chat interface.

No one had a problem with navigating through the different sections of LoveMatch and they were aware of all the options in the profile section. I was worried that the profile section was too complicated so it was good to see that LoveMatch is easy to use.

LoveMatch proved to be an engaging experience. The users suspended their disbelief and looked for meaning. Some of the users did think that the profiles represented aspects of their personality and they tried to understand why their perfect partner had the particular traits displayed. They believed that the application was doing what it said it was doing.

The physical nature of the PDAs, which are small enough to hold in your hand, helped to reinforce the intimacy of LoveMatch. The users held the PDAs close to their body so that no one else could view their inputs. The users felt that this added to the experience because it created a sense of privacy.

Most people didn’t want to see a public outcome of their inputs, either by having their profiles broadcast on a large screen or by having their profiles printed out. They liked the ephemerality of the process and that the results were left unrecorded. They felt that LoveMatch captured how they were at that particular moment and that if they came back at a different time they would make different choices.

Although privacy seemed important, during testing friends sitting next to each other and using LoveMatch would show each other their profiles and laugh at the results.

I intended LoveMatch to be a satirical comment on profiling. I thought that the users would recognise the arbitrary nature of the imagery and object to the conclusions. But they didn’t. Perhaps it is because LoveMatch is a safe environment, there is nothing negative in the suggestions. In the tests LoveMatch proved to be an engaging experience but it failed in its attempts to satirise profiling. If it was more satirical and openly questioning of the format it might have proved to be less enjoyable.

The focus groups could see many ways that LoveMatch could be developed as a networked piece, through chat interfaces etc. But the experience of using LoveMatch appeared to be complete in itself. Although the tests were designed to be a step towards creating a networked application they showed that LoveMatch worked as an independent application.

For me LoveMatch has become a piece about the power of suggestion rather than an exploration of wireless technology.

Further notes and the Online Version of LoveMatch by can be seen of at: http://www.eatmydata.co.uk/LoveMatch/

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