The Great Map Problem

Since quite early on in this project, I have had the desire to add an interactive map i.e. Google maps into my application, to be used in two different specific ways.  The first of which was to be a map which allows users to attempt to locate places with Viking names (i.e. ending in ‘by’, ‘thorpe’ or ‘thwaite’) near the city of York, which was an area of England that was densely populated by Vikings during the Viking age.

The second was a map showing the location of museums related to Viking heritage.  So users could then take their knowledge of the Vikings and any interest in the subject, from the application outwards into the wider world to investigate further.

My original plan was to incorporate Google maps, as I have prior experience of working with the Google maps API in my Hull History Viewer application.  Unfortunately a potential problem arose when it was announced that the Google maps API for Adobe Flash was been depreciated.

After searching for alternative map options, I noticed that a lot of people where recommending MapQuest as potential solution to the loss of Google maps for Flash.  I had a quick look at the MapQuest website and it seemed ideal; it said it had a Flash maps API and it uses the term Flash maps repeatedly across the website , so rather stupidly I bookmarked the site to come back to at a later time when I was ready to develop the section where the maps would be featured.  Recently that time arrived and I revisited the site in question, only to find out that all was not as it seemed.  On closer inspection, MapQuest is designed to be used within a piece of software called Adobe Flash Builder (formally Flex builder) and this is not the same software that I am using for my project, I am using Adobe Flash Professional which may sound like it does the same but that is not the case.

So what is the difference between Adobe Flash and Adobe Flash builder?

A good description has been provided by an individual going by the name of “heavilyinvolved” in answer to this question on the Stack Overflow website:

“Flash Professional doesn’t “do” what Flash Builder “does” (or vice versa)… however, there is some minor crossover in that they are both tools that enable designers/developers to compile swf’s.”

Both pieces of software have advantages in differing scenarios but the problem is that they are not really compatible, so ultimately the possibility of using a MapQuest map in my application was looking increasingly unlikely.  I contacted MapQuest directly to ask if there was an appropriate option that I could use within their product range.  In reply I was informed that “Most of our sample code for the MapQuest Platform is for flex” but I was directed towards the link below:

http://developer.mapquest.com/content/as/v/mq/samples/samplesexplorer/index.html#

Unfortunately, despite there been a basic source code available on the MapQuest website for a “Flash map”, it is not the mobile version that incorporates the mobile functionality that people are used to using and expect to use on mobile devices.  This makes it not ideal for my app but with little other choice I decided to give it a go but unfortunately I have been unable to get it to work.  There are lots of tutorials and information available for the Adobe Flash Builder version but not for the Adobe Flash Professional version and I cannot find a solution to my problems, despite posting on forums and contacting MapQuest directly.

With the option of using MapQuest maps within my application now not looking like a feasible possibility, I decided to turn my attention back to Google Maps.  This once again was not a long term solution due to its deprecation but as a short term possibility for my hand-in and exhibition I though this may be the answer but alas again my progress was halted due to a difference between Adobe Air for Android and Adobe Air for ios.  Most functionality crosses both platforms but there is a problem with displaying Google Maps for ios

I have been unable to resolve this problem as well and unfortunately I have decided that this is now not a practical resolution to my map problems.

I have been searching for another solution to the “The Great Map Problem” but unfortunately I have reached a point where I need to concentrate on other things, in order to have a presentable application for my hand-in and exhibition.  I have not given up hope of adding these features to my application and this is beauty of the medium I am working in; my app can be released without these features, with the potential to be added at a later date via an automatic update, should I find a solution.  The updateable nature of the medium means that all aspects of my app can be changed in various ways, to incorporate new content, fix possible problems and improve aesthetics and functionality, in the event of new or improved skills, knowledge and ideas.

One issue that does concern me is the wave of momentum to move away from flash based technologies in favour of a move towards technologies such as HTML5 and Javascript, although I have a knowledge of these technologies, my preferred medium is Adobe Flash and Actionscript 3. I like the visual nature of the interface and the animation functionality, it suits me and the way I like to work and although I am relatively new to my practice I am in danger of becoming outdated in the near future, if recent developments are indications of the future.

As a new media practitioner there is a requirement for me to evolve and keep up with current technologies and one of my priorities upon the completion of my master’s study is to investigate, learn and re-enforce other methods of development such as HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript.  Due to my recent iMac purchase, I can now also attempt ios native development using Apples Xcode software, in order to have more ways to be creative in my future endeavours.

Although it is extremely frustrating and disappointing to not be able to incorporate all the features that I have desired within my application as yet; there is still a possibility that they will be incorporated at some point in the future and I will do my best to try and make sure that my creative visions become a reality.

 

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Improving the opening screen

Today I have created a new opening splash screen for my app, you can see the new and old versions below:

New

This is the new opening splash screen for my app.

This is the new opening splash screen for my app.

Old

This is the old opening splash screen for my app.

This is the old opening splash screen for my app.

What Happened to the Vikings

In the What Happened to the Vikings  section of my application, I explain that “we need to remember that most of the travelling people from Scandinavia who we call Vikings, would not have called themselves Vikings.  In the Old Norse language, the word Viking means ‘a pirate raid’, and few of these Northern people actually participated in raiding.“. This sets the basIs for why their dominance of their era came to an end. The vikings did not really change, it was the world that changed around them and they were simply no longer the big bully who could dominate and cause fear in the way they used to, as i explain “European countries had new leaders who were more organised, with well trained armies who could defend against Viking attacks.”  I have created an image to reinforce this idea see below:

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 16.02.35

I have also created a short swipe-able story to show how the viking age came to an end and the Norman age began in 1066, when William the Conqueror invades England with his Norman army and kills King Harold, see video below:

Creating the Creatures of Vikings Belief

As with the Viking gods I have been able to operate under a rather substantial amount of artistic licence in my representations of the creatures that Vikings believed in.

Vikings believed that there were nine worlds connected by the ash tree yggdrasill.  Each world was home to its own inhabitants and Vikings told many stories featuring these (as far as I know) fictional beings.  See my mood board and representation of the map of yggdrasill and the nine worlds below:

My artwork once again is based upon written descriptions and pre-existing visual representations of the creatures in question.

Below are my mood boards and visual creations, alongside some of the reasoning for my creative decisions.

Giants 

Giants or Jötunn’s as the Vikings called them, were very big and strong.  They ate animals and fish because they lived in the world Jotunheim.  I decided to keep my giants very similar to humans, just bigger but I have given my giant big ears as a fond reflection of a favourite childhood story of mine, Roahl Dahl’s ‘BFG’, illustrated by Quentin Blake.

giants-mood-board

giant

Dark Elves

Dark Elves were ugly, tricky creatures who lived underground and liked to cause problems for humans.  Due to living underground my elves are pale skinned and I have tried to capture their mischievous essence in my drawing but whether or not I have succeeded is open to the interpretation of the viewer.

dark-elves-mood-board

dark_elf

Light Elves

Light Elves were considered to be like “angels” by the Vikings, they were beautiful creatures who inspired music and art.  I have tried to make my light elf similar to my dark elf, in order to see the connection that they are both elves but I have given my light elf  a skin tone that is more reflective of somebody who lives above ground and I have dressed him in a more elegant manor.

light-elves-mood-board

light_elf

Ogres

Ogres were large, monstrous creatures; the Vikings thought they were nasty, strong and dangerous beings who would kill and eat people.  I have created my ogre to look dangerous and grotesque, with a large belly to show that he is capable of consuming a person.

ogre_mood_board

ogre

Dwarfs

Dwarfs were small with oddly shaped bodies, they lived under the ground in the world of Nidavellir. Dwarfs were very good at making things out of metal. I have created a small person with a body shape that is similar to people who have the medical condition dwarfism, as I believe this mythical creature is probably derived from a misunderstanding of people who suffer this condition.  In Viking myths, dwarfs are skilled metal workers which I have tried to display in my drawing, through the characters decorated armour and weapons.

dwarfs-mood-board

dwarf_01

Sea Serpents

Sea serpents were giant monsters that the Vikings believed lived in the sea.  My sea serpent is based on the traditional depiction of a long, snake like dragon creature that lives in the sea.

sea-serpents-mood-board

sea_serpent

Below is a video of this section from within the application.

Creating Asgard and the Æsir

Recently, I have been working on the Viking beliefs section of my application.  As part of this segment I shall be delivering information about the Viking’s religious beliefs; the Vikings had their own pagan religion.

To accompany the written information about the Norse gods I have created some images.  Nobody knows for certain if these beings exist and to the best of my knowledge nobody has met one or even better taken a picture that I can base my artwork on, so a certain amount of artistic licence can be afforded in the production of my designs.  I have been producing imagery based upon my research and previously produced media featuring the individual’s deities in question.  The main sources of information regarding these beings are the old Norse written accounts, featured within writings such as the Saga’s and stories depicted on Rune stones and within other carvings from the Viking period.

I started by researching the home of the Viking gods, followed by the creation of a mood board (see below).

ASGARD_MOOD_BOARD

How do you design the mythical kingdom of an ancient race of gods?  To answer that quest ion I began researching Asgard, in order to identify any identifying features of that realm that would hopefully inform my design.  My research indicated two main areas that I felt would be important in my depiction of Asgard and those were:

Vallhalla

Vallhalla is a great hall where fallen Viking warriors go to feast after their death, until they are called upon by Odin to battle again at Ragnarok .

In front of Vallhalla stands the golden tree Glasir.  The hall’s ceiling is described as being thatched and adorned with golden shields and spears.  Valhalla is the home to some creatures, such as the stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún amongst others.

See my Vallhalla below:

valhalla

Bifrost – The Rainbow bridge

The rainbow bridge is an important identifying feature of Asgard but I have also used the fact that the route to the realm of the gods is a something that is seen in the sky, as the logic to set Asgarde floating above the clouds in the sky but out of view of those below.

The rest of my production was open to a lot of artistic licence but I tried to base my design on things that the Vikings may have encountered in their lives.  As we know the Vikings where intrepid travellers, who will have seen different forms of architecture in many different countries but there is a constant in most societies.  Castles and palaces have been built around the world to house those who are considered or consider themselves to be of importance.

I tried to base my art work upon a castle structure, constructed from materials known to the Vikings like stone and wood, the roofing is based upon precious metals like copper and gold.  I have set my castle structure upon a floating mountainous island, that floats amongst the clouds connected to Midgard via a rainbow bridge. See Asgard Below:

asgarde_02

The Menu

To access information about the individual Viking gods, I have created an interface that features a bottom up menu that auto hides to create more space for the information on the screen.  The menu background is based upon Viking carvings and the buttons are framed headshots of each god with their name displayed on a scroll (see below).

gods_menu_bg

btn_god_balder btn_god_loki btn_god_odin btn_god_sif btn_god_thor

 

 

 

 

 

 

To create the Viking gods, I once again researched each individual god and created visual mood boards of pre-existing imagery.

Below you can see my mood boards and my interpretive creations.

Odin

Odin is described differently depending upon whether he is in Asgard or in Midgard.

One important distinguishing feature of Odin is that he only has one eye, due to him sacrificing the other to drink from the fountain of wisdom.

The descriptions of Odin whilst travelling in Midgard, are believed to have heavily influenced the descriptions of Gandalph the wizard in J.R Toilkin’s, Lord of The Rings and this is evident in mine and other people’s representations of both characters/beings as you can see below:

odin_mood_board

Viking_god_odin_earth

Viking_god_odin

Frigg

Frigg was Odin’s wife and the queen of Asgard, she was the goddess of marriage and motherhood. Frigg is often depicted as wearing blue which is something I carried into my depiction, see below:

frigg-mood-boardfrigg

Thor

Thor is the Norse god of thunder, strength and war.  Whilst creating Thor I felt it was very important to stick to the written descriptive accounts, where he is described as a mighty warrior with great strength, red hair and a beard.  I tried to include his three main weapons:

  • Megingjörð – a magic belt that doubled his strength.
  • Járngreipr – a pair of iron gloves that were needed to handle Mjölnir.
  • Mjölnir – the mighty hammer that could crush mountains and create lighting flashes across the sky.

Many people may not know of the written description of this deity, due to the Marvel comics character Thor created by Stan Lee, scripter Larry Lieber, and penciller Jack Kirby.  Marvel’s Thor is based upon the Norse legend but the character’s visual appearance is different to the recorded accounts, as he has long blonde hair and the only weapon he carries is Mjolnir the mighty hammer. It is hard competing against such popular incarnations but as I mentioned earlier nobody has seen the supposed entity in question, so any visual creation is open to interpretations, that ultimately cannot be wrong or right with no accurate visual record existing.

Below you can see my mood boards and my interpretive creations.

Thor_mood_board

viking_god_Thor

Sif

Sif is Thors wife and most depictions feature her adorned in blue clothing, which I have also done.  The main description that stands out in my research of Sif is her long golden hair, which I have tried to incorporate into my imagery see below:

sif_mood_board

Viking_goddess_sif

Loki

Loki is considered to be a Norse god although his parents were actually giants.

Loki is known as the Norse god of mischief.  He is a trickster with magical powers who is often naughty, causing problems for the other gods which is why I have based my design upon a jester, which also is a theme in older imagery of Loki.

Loki is often described as being handsome but he is a shape shifter, so he can change the way he looks.  He appears in the form of men, women and animals and to show this I have created a simple shape shifting animation, that you can see below:

loki_mood_board

viking_god_loki

Balder

Balder is often described as being very popular amongst the other gods, due to his invulnerability and his good looks.  This is something that I have tried to capture in my imagery, see below:

balder_mood_board

viking_god_balder

Below you can see a short video of my completed ‘Viking Gods’ information section:

In order to make best use of my time, for university grading times and constraints, I have not as yet included or produced imagery and information based on every god but I feel I have produced enough to provide a strong indication of how this part of the application will look and operate.  If time permits I will add more to this section before the end of the project.

Viking Rune Stone Keyboard

I am very happy to be making this post because it means that I am back in the production element of my application.  As much as I enjoy acquiring new information, I really prefer the creative production side of my practice.  I am currently working on the Viking language aspect of my application; the Vikings used a symbol based written language that they called Runes and alongside my research I have created a Viking Rune mood board that you can see below:

viking_rune_mood_board

It is my intention to provide the user with an on-screen Rune keyboard, so that the user can write their name in Viking runes.  I have started working on the development of the Rune Keys for the keyboard and my design for these is based upon Rune stones which were commonly used by the Vikings for casting, which was a part of Viking magical practice and fortune telling.

As part of my development I have learnt a new technique for applying textures in Adobe flash, which I learnt from an online tutorial (see here).

My design is based upon a rough drawing that I made in my sketch book, see below:

IMG_0204

Below you can see my design for the Rune Stone keyboard:

rune_keyboard_screen_grab

The next stage of the development with regards to this feature is developing a code script, which makes the Runes appear on the screen as the user presses the keys shown in the image above.

References

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCFYvG9VVnw

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/write-your-name-in-runes.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runes

http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/The-Vikings-Runes-6133692/

http://norse-mythology.org/runes/

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/worksheets/vikings/rune_stones.pdf

http://www.sunnyway.com/runes/write_in_runes.html

Jack of all trades

In a recent meeting, my external examiner said that he could not see what is masterful about my Master’s project.  This was a statement that I found to be quite painful to hear, especially as it was at odds with other appraisals of my work by my own tutors and my peers.  During my reflections and conversations after the external examiner’s damming thought on my work, it was suggested to me that his statement may have been a challenge to explain and communicate the value of my work to him, a challenge that I may have simply failed to meet.  It seems ironic that as a student who is studying the effective communication of information, in my meeting with my external examiner I may not have communicated effectively the nature of my Masters study.

My Masters study is wide and varied, with me looking at areas such as learning theory and practice, the role of new media in education and heritage, digital natives, Gamification, historical information relevant Vikings and illustration amongst others. It soon became apparent to me that it may be hard to see how all of the areas and theories I am investigating link together, I now understand how from the outside it may be hard to see the wood for the trees when looking at my Masters study, there is rather a lot going on but to me I can see the connections between the dots that maybe are not evident to those who are not directly involved.

There is of course another plausible explanation for what is going on, that are no connections and my perceived associative factors are part of my own delusion and I am in fact crazy?  Hopefully by the end of this post I will be able to effectively communicate the nature of my Masters Investigation, highlighting the connections between the different relevant parts, and you will be able understand my Masters study or officially diagnose me as being a delusional.

Through my Masters investigation, I have been looking at the effective communication of educational information through new media digital devices and as an example of my investigation I am creating an Interactive App for the Ipad, to provide educational information about the Vikings.

Whenever I start a project or individual parts of projects, I find it very useful to create mind maps to try to expand and record my ideas and this may be a very useful way of showing the varied nature of my enquiry and its many investigational strands.  See below:

Interactive Learning Enviroments Mind Map

Interactive Learning Enviroments Mind Map

The Vikings Mind Map

The Vikings Mind Map

These are just two of the mind maps I created and there are many more with differing strands of possible enquiry.  Hopefully this helps enlighten those who may be struggling to see how everything fits into my project, but if not the rest of this post may also provide an insight into my thought processes within my professional practice.

Through my approach I can see how it could be argued that my study does not make me a master of my practice but it may make me a well-rounded jack of all trades.

Through a conversation with my peer Gareth Sleightholme, I reached a realisation that surprised me.  There is a common theme to my master’s project that can be traced back to my B.A dissertation “Looking Towards the Principles of the Bauhaus as a Way to Improve the Relationship Between User, Designer and Digital Interface”.  Although my dissertation was focused upon the design of digital interfaces, when opened up to include my practice and my own personal approach within it, there is a commonality that I had not been previously aware of.

In my 2011 thesis I explore different disciplines including Usability, Psychology, Human Computer Interaction, Cognition, Ergonomics and Aesthetics, in order to see how they can be brought together to inform the design process of digital interfaces.  I draw on the example set by the Bauhaus in the early twentieth century:

“After the Werkbund period, an attempt to narrow the gap between the arts and crafts of the early twentieth century was made by Walter Gropius, a German architect who founded the Bauhaus; an art and crafts school that operated in Germany between 1919 and 1933. The Bauhaus originated a unique approach to bring together artists and craftsmen, to form a new breed of craftsman for a new time:” (Shakesby, 2011: p18)

Walter Gropius believed that narrowing the gap between what was known then as the arts and crafts would have a positive effect, on both sets of practices he saw how they could influence and enhance each other:

“Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist!” (Gropius (1919), cited in Shakesby, 2011: p19)

In 2011, I saw the similarities between the divided practices that Gropius identified and the fractioned design practices that exist today:

The arrogant barrier that Gropius mentions is similar to the divide between interface designers; those who follow particular design philosophies often have such confidence in their chosen viewpoint that it may obscure other possible theories. A joining of theories in order to create a utopian balance requires openness on all sides, to listen and learn from each other, in order to affect change.” (Shakesby, 2011: p19)

Gropius believed that by bringing the Arts and Crafts together to combine their knowledge in a pedagogy to be passed on to a new generation, the result would be a more well rounded generation of producers who had the knowledge to amalgamate Arts and Crafts theories into a more balanced practice.  My 2011 piece discusses how interface design needs a modern day equivalent to the Bauhaus method of teaching, providing students with knowledge of many practices.

“Students at the Bauhaus were taught by masters of form and also by masters of craft, the Bauhaus was attempting to teach an all round production philosophy, well balanced in terms of aesthetics considerations, production values and functionalism, in order to create the new breed of practitioner, the craftsman of a new guild envisioned by Walter Gropius.

For Interface design to progress there is a need for designers to be students of different masters or theories, a well balanced design orientation is required in terms of aesthetics considerations, production values and functionalism, these new designers could be a new breed of practitioner that are equipped for the challenges and changes of the twenty-first century.” (Shakesby, 2011: p20)

In 2011 (p.23), I argued that through this type of union of design awareness “a new design theory could arise, suitable for today’s technology, bridging the gap between designers and users in the same way that the Bauhaus helped bridge the gap between producers and consumers in the twentieth century.”  At the time I did not see the bigger picture in regards to my argument and now I would argue that not only would this approach benefit interface design, it would actually benefit my wider practice of interactive multimedia design.

The pace of technological advancement since the early 1990’s has had a massive effect on the world and it has changed our everyday lives, both professionally and personally.  Computers, the Internet and mobile devices are just some of the technological advancements that are pervading society and becoming integral to the way many people live their lives.  These new technologies present new challenges, and knowledge of differing design practices is required to have the information to work out the design equations, to find the appropriate solutions to the new possibilities that we are afforded by the technology.  If you don’t understand what is possible, how can you be confident that the decisions you make are correct?

There is one problem with attempting to have knowledge of more than one discipline. There is a common saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”.  This is a term used to describe people who are competent with many skills but is not necessarily exceptional in any particular one and it is often used in a derogatory way to devalue these people.

The potential problem for a “Jack of all trades” is that they may be seen as the saying goes, as a “master of none”.  Outside perception may be that a specialist may have the ability to produce a higher standard of work.

This of course does not mean that your work will be inferior but there is a greater risk that a lack of knowledge may arise at some point causing a potential dilemma.  This risk element is one of the main reasons that some people are put off by the “Jack of all trades”

Wagner describes the negative perception of the Jack of all trades“Being considered a “jack of all trades” has always had a negative connotation. It implies that you dabble in bits of everything, but never achieve the expertise needed to be good at any one pursuit.” Wagner, (2009), http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/10/in-defense-of-the-jack-of-all-trades/

Jeroen Van Geel explains how a little knowledge can lead us to become overconfident in our abilities:

“When we think we have an understanding of how things work, we have the feeling that we can impact everything. Of course this is great and we all know that curiosity should be stimulated, but at the same time this energy and endless search for knowledge can be a curse. Before we know it we become the jack of all trades, master of none.” Van Geel, (2013), http://www.tuicool.com/articles/U7RBNv

By following a “Jack of all trades” process, you will need to require a proficient knowledge of the practices you wish to work within and although you may be willing to put in the hard work and dedication needed to acquire this knowledge, others may not have the same level of professional commitment and this can lead to situations where work is carried out at a substandard level, tarnishing the reputation of all who follow the multi-disciplinary approach.

There are positives aspects of the “Jack of all trades”/multi-disciplinary approach and according to Wagner the judgment of people with a broader range of knowledge may be unfair, he offers an alternative point of view:

“Maybe a successful generalist should instead be considered a “Renaissance man” (or woman).” Wagner, (2009), http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/10/in-defense-of-the-jack-of-all-trades/

Wagner’s alternative description places the “Jack of all trades” as an individual whose skill-set spans a considerable number of different subject areas; it is a positive reference that recognises the capability of some to be able to work at a more than proficient level across differing practices.

“Being a jack of all trades doesn’t mean that you are doing a million things at once. It means that you make sure that you are knowledgeable about and capable of doing the basics of any new innovations within your professional field of choice.”  Dixon, (2012), http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2012/04/the-art-of-being-a-jack-of-all-trades/

The earlier negative views of “Jack of all trades” underestimate the capabilities of people in general, Heinlein explains:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”  Heinlein cited by Wagner, (2009), http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/10/in-defense-of-the-jack-of-all-trades/

Every day we prove our capacity to master more than one task and history has many examples of people who were masters in more than one field, the most famous being Leonardo da Vinci “Few would argue that DaVinci should have stuck to one subject.” Wagner, (2009), http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/10/in-defense-of-the-jack-of-all-trades/

By being a “Jack of all trades” you can actually become more valuable, Wagner believes “If you do it right, being a jack of all trades should be considered a strength.” To turn the negativity surrounding the “Jack of all trades” into positivity, a balance is needed between a significant level of knowledge in one area and a small amount in others. Wagner agrees “To really be successful, I suggest you strike a balance between generalist and specialist.”  Wagner, (2009), http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/10/in-defense-of-the-jack-of-all-trades/

In football a player who can play in more than one position is a valuable asset to the team, that versatility increases that player’s value within a team but only as long as he is proficient in each position.

In design the same proficiency is required within any areas you may decide to incorporate into your skill-set, Wagner believes you need to “Go beyond “enough to be dangerous” This requires learning beyond the basics of subject areas, so that you can be proficient to a level where you can solve most problems and be capable of engaging in communication with specialists, if you do encounter any problems in order to identify a solution.

By being a “Jack of all trades” “You can be the person who sees the big picture and understands how all the parts interrelate.”  Wagner, (2009), http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/10/in-defense-of-the-jack-of-all-trades/

There is another approach that allows us to bring together the knowledge of different design practices, this is collaboration.

Wigan (2009: p63) describes collaboration as “The act of working with others to create something.”

One advantage of working collaboratively is that there is less risk of problems due to lack of relevant knowledge; collaborations can feature specialists in the appropriate capacities/roles.

Sometimes, collaborations may produce a result like an attempt to mix oil and water but others can produce mixtures that complement and enhance, like the ingredients in a good recipe.  Over time practitioners can identify and form collaboration’s that are recipes for success rather than disaster.

Working collaboratively can be frustrating, as each practitioner may have their own methods and beliefs and these differences of opinion need to be mediated.

Compromise would be one possible solution in this situation but a successful outcome for this circumstance cannot simply be the ability to make a decision, it needs to be the ability to come to the appropriate decision for the task at hand.

Who would be qualified to make such a decision, if each practitioner has a differing opinion on what is appropriate?

In interactive media, the person responsible for making these decisions would be the ‘Project Manager’.

“The Project Manager is responsible for the successful planning and execution of a project. He or she decides what work needs to be done, who will do what, and when it must be finished.”  Creative Skillset, (2013), http://www.creativeskillset.org/interactive/careers/article_4754_1.asp

As part of their role, the ‘Project Manager’ will be responsible for the organisation of the project as described below:

“The project is usually divided into a number of stages that are often dependent on each other; the Project Manager must work out a schedule and ensure that the right people are available when needed so that each stage is completed on time and does not hold up any of the others.”  Creative Skillset, (2013), http://www.creativeskillset.org/interactive/careers/article_4754_1.asp

The ‘Project Manager’ will have to plan the project, taking into account any potential issues that may endanger the success of the project.

“A large part of the job involves identifying risks and assumptions that might adversely affect the project, and working out ways to ensure they do not – for example, by making contingency plans and by being rigorous in ensuring specifications and deliverables are properly documented.”  Creative Skillset, (2013), http://www.creativeskillset.org/interactive/careers/article_4754_1.asp

One issue that the ‘Project Manager’ needs to be aware of in a collaborative effort, is the potential interpersonal disagreements that may be spawned from both personal and professional differences of opinion, “He or she may need to brief and manage specialists, ensure open communication between team members and resolve interpersonal conflicts.”  Creative Skillset, (2013), http://www.creativeskillset.org/interactive/careers/article_4754_1.asp

My master’s project is an individual pursuit and thus I can see how my personal approach may be seen by others as a “Jack of all trades” styled methodology but it could also be argued that my approach is a wider reflection of my industrial field.

In 2012, as part my Professional Practice module I wrote a piece entitled “A Perspective of a Deeply Ingrained, Integral but Often Misunderstood Practice in the 21st Century.” Within this essay, I highlight the difficulty in defining my professional practice, saying:

“I have experienced people attempting to pigeon hole my practice into a definition that only includes part of my practice; it sometimes feels like I am a square peg being pushed into a round hole.  My practice involves elements of other practices and this is what in my opinion causes a lot of the confusion, Creative Skillset also recognise the overlapping nature of interactive media practice with other practices, their website says “The interactive media industry is a very fluid sector with many overlaps with, and blurred distinctions between, other sectors”.  (Creative Skillset, 2012, http://www.creativeskillset.org/interactive/industry/article_6838_1.asp)”

Due its multi-disciplinary nature, Interactive media is hard to define effectively but there is a definition provided by the authors England and Finney in the ATSF White Paper—Interactive Media UK 2002:

“Interactive media is the integration of digital media including combinations of electronic text, graphics, moving images, and sound, into a structured digital computerised environment that allows people to interact with the data for appropriate purposes. The digital environment can include the Internet, telecoms and interactive digital television.”  England and Finney, (2002: p2), http://www.atsf.co.uk/atsf/interactive_media.pdf

Since that definition in 2002, the mediums and possibilities have further developed but even then the multi-disciplinary environment within the field was more than evident.  As an interactive designer, there is a requirement to have a broader diverse range of knowledge to be effective and I believe this validates my approach when looking into what others may call specialist disciplines.  To be a master of my discipline requires me to have a high level of knowledge of different areas.

To be a Master of interactive media you need to be a master “Jack of all trades”, a “Renaissance Man”.  There may be some specialists who see this as an encroachment on their practice but this is not the case, it is a requisition for my practice to acquire this knowledge and any feelings of distain towards the perceived intrusion, should not lead to them denigrating practitioners of multi-disciplinary fields through terms such as “Jack of all trades”.  By using urban terminology I would say to these aggravated practitioners “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game” and for those who don’t understand that saying, there is a definition below:

“Do not fault the successful participant in a flawed system; try instead to discern and rebuke that aspect of its organization which allows or encourages the behavior that has provoked your displeasure.” Urban Dictionary, (2005), http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Don’t+Hate+The+Playa%2FPlayette+Hate+The+Game

Technological advancement has created new possibilities, genres and practices; this is part of an evolution and others practices may need to evolve too, in order to not become obsolete.

Everybody has the right and the ability to expand their own knowledgebase but this does not mean you must become a “Jack of all trades”; expanded knowledge is a powerful tool, especially to those in the creative industries.

Combinatorial creativity is a theory that believes “To create is to combine existing bits of insight, knowledge, ideas, and memories into new material and new interpretations of the world, to connect the seemingly dissociated, to see patterns where others see chaos.”  Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

The 20th Century Fox Television show Touch (2012), features a young boy described below:

Jake possessed an extraordinary gift – the ability to perceive the seemingly hidden patterns that connect every life on the planet” 20th Century Fox, (2012), http://www.fox.com/touch/about/

The show also features other characters that have the natural ability to see connections in different elements of life, connections that the rest of us are oblivious to.  I personally fall into the latter bracket, I am unaware of any natural ability I may have to see patterns that others don’t but I am naturally inquisitive and I do look for patterns, answers and reasons when sometimes others blindly accept.

Popova explains that throughout time illustrious creative’s, scientists and inventors have embraced the building blocks of combinatorial creativity:

““Stuff your head with more different things from various fields,” Ray Bradbury encouraged students in a 2001 address. “You should stay alert for the moment when a number of things are just ready to collide with one another,” Brian Eno advised. “Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs proclaimed. “Science,” Darwin recognized, “consists in grouping facts so that general laws or conclusions may be drawn from them.” “Substantially all ideas are second-hand,” Mark Twain observed, “consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily use by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them”” Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

These people could see how new juxtapositions can be created through a bricolage of existing practices and philosophies, combined in ways that are different to the intended purposes of the individual original.

Combinatorial creativity is a process that combines the existing elements to form a new, but this means that nothing is truly created but instead repurposed or remixed:

“Implicit to this idea of combinatorial creativity is the admission is that nothing is truly original, at least not in the sense of being built from scratch, and that can be hard. There’s a lot of resistance in the creative ego to that idea.”  Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

Popova provides a paradigm of this idea that nothing can be truly original because it will always be informed by our previous knowledge, in the form of an anecdote about Picasso and an interview with Paula Scher on the creation of the famous Citi logo, in summery of these examples she says:

 “Both of these stories captures something we all understand on a deep intuitive level, but our creative egos sort of don’t really want to accept: And that is the idea that creativity is combinatorial, that nothing is entirely original, that everything builds on what came before, and that we create by taking existing pieces of inspiration, knowledge, skill and insight that we gather over the course of our lives and recombining them into incredible new creations.” Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

Lego is an example used by Popova to illustrate how the combinatorial creative process works:

“The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colors, the more interesting our castles will become. Because if we only have one color and one shape, it greatly limits how much we can create, even within our one area of expertise.” Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

Popova also offers an alternative description “We can, however, optimize our minds for combinatorial creativity – by enriching our mental pool of resources with diverse, eclectic, cross-disciplinary pieces which to fuse together into new combinations.” Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

The gathering of information is an important part of the combinatorial creative process.  All information can be considered useful in one way or another but when you have specific goals or desired outcomes, it is important show restraint and not run around like the proverbial headless chicken, gathering every bit of information you can find.  A conscious decision is required to tame inquisitive desires and focus upon the area that is more likely to yield the informational results you require.

 “Curiosity without direction can be a taxing and ultimately unproductive endeavor. Choice is how we tame and channel and direct our curiosity, where we choose to allocate our time and energy, and ultimately, what we choose to pay attention to” Popova, (2012), http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/ideas/2012/06/combinatorial-creativity-and-the-myth-of-originality/

Popova is explaining that to truly create, to connect the dots, see the patterns, find the answers of even the right questions, then the relevant knowledge needs to be procured.  At that point a cross-pollination of ideas from a range of disciplines can occur through recombination’s that become new creations in their own right.

It is my belief that to flourish as an interactive designer requires an element of the jack of all trades persona; it requires a level of curiosity that drives enquiry beyond the obvious, in order to be informed to a level where it is possible to find connections and correlations that others cannot.  The ability to be innovative requires thinking not only inside and outside the box but also thinking through the box.

Projects like mine are appropriate for collaborative approaches but they are also appropriate for interactive designers who have taken the time and effort to investigate and acquire the knowledge to produce such works, without the need for collaboration but there also needs to be a realisation that situations may arise, where a higher level of knowledge is required in a specific area and willingness to collaborate when appropriate is needed.  Pride is the enemy of many designers when it comes to collaboration, collaboration is not an admission of the inability to perform a certain task, it is an admission that some things can be done better by working with others.

Interactive media is a multi-disciplinary practice and as a practitioner of this field I am required to have knowledge of more than one practice.  Interactive media is also a developing field that is in a constant state of flux, due to the pace of technological development and thus, the ability to adapt to the possible and potential developments and affordances that may arise is also essential to prosper in this field.

Combinatorial creativity suggests that my attempt at accumulating knowledge through my investigational process should aid me in my creative endeavours, both now in my Master’s study and in my future practice.

There is a saying that “Knowledge is power” and I believe that the knowledge that I am procuring during my masters study, will strengthen my proficiency within my practice.

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