Open Crime Data Reflection

For this group project, my group had to investigate the Open Crime Data system. The challenge was to understand this technical system relevant to digital cities and the concept of speculative design. To do this we had to collect information, analyse it and present it through a Data Wall, a self-published printed Zine and a 1-minute film.

At the beginning of the project, the aim was to understand and communicate our findings about the Open Crime Data system. This was probably the hardest part of me. I felt quite lost when I was first introduced to an API system, I didn’t know what it was about, what I had to do with it, or what all that code meant on my screen, which made me feel very frustrated, specially because I did not like the crime topic, so I was trying to reject it. However, I understood the importance of research and I had to look into basic concepts that would help me uncover the information behind the code and expand my knowledge. Although I didn’t want to know about crime, I did like the technology behind it. Once I got the sense of it, I actually got inspired by this way of storing data, and how simple numbers could contain so much information, which is why I decided to represent this idea of staring at a bunch of code and “decoding” it in one of the spreads of the zine (see image 1). Also, our group kept trying to humanize the code, to get behind the numbers and understand what it was trying to communicate, which is why it was so important for us to find a precise piece of code and trace back the crime. We found a crime in Southampton and got to go and take a photo of the exact place where the crime occurred as seen in image 2, which allowed us to get even closer to the data we were looking at.

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Image 1: Decoding the Code.

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Image 2: Tracing Back a Crime

The second part of the project was even more challenging because I had to completely go out of my comfort zone and produce a 1-minute film. This stage of the project was all about understanding the concept of Critical Design, which I now find very amusing. At the beginning I thought this concept only meant making a critique of something, but now I know its all about the attitude, about design fiction in the near future. To start deciding what we wanted to communicate through are short film I think the concept of future mundane expanded our notion of design for the future and this diagram that highlights the major problems of our system helped us decide the message we wanted to communicate (see image 3). We focused on the way data could be manipulated in the near future and thus make the audience think how reliable this data is and if they can trust it. This is a real problem that is penetrating our future, so we wanted to encourage people to think deeper about this, raise awareness and potentially start a debate. I believe the film is very successful because it clearly communicates the message we wanted, it is simple to follow due to the use of quotes at the begging and the end which enhance the general meaning and I really liked how we incorporated both analogue and digital technologies.

 

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Image 3: Major problems of Open Crime Data

Overall I was very pleased with both results. I learnt how to work with constrains, because we were only allowed to use one colour for the zine, which is why we choose red, as it relates to the topic and it allowed us to highlight the important aspects we wanted. Also trying to communicate everything we wanted in 1 minute was very hard. Synthesising and getting rid of the extra bits of the movie was a good exercise we should keep practicing, as Ludwing would say “Less is more”. I was also able to improve my filming, storyboarding and editing skills, something I didn’t know about and I am now inspired by the idea of coding which is something I intend to look into it. With regards to group work, I always find it hard, and this time even harder because of the language barrier. However, I was able to distribute responsibilities, trusts others with the work and maximize each person’s abilities because we all come from different backgrounds and we are good at different things. Moreover, I understood the importance of iterative processes and feedback. I think we edited the movie more than 10 times, and we shoot various scenes over and over again because there was always something we could change. After the feedback from the tutors we edited the last scene and left the ending more mysterious which I believe works better with the tone and context of the film. Finally, if I could go back and change something, I would say I would re-do the crime cards and the boxes and pay more attention to detail, such as the graphics and typography that could enrich the atmosphere of the film even more and help get the message across more clearly.

REFERENCES:

Dunne, A., Raby, F. Dune and Ray. Critical Design FAQ Available at: http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/bydandr/13/0 (Accessed: 28 January 2016).

Foster, N. (2013) Core 77. ‘The Future Mundane’. Available at: http://www.core77.com/posts/25678/the-future-mundane-25678 (Accessed: 2 February 2016).

Resonate Festival (2013) Speculative Everything-Anthony Dunne at Resonate 2013https://vimeo.com/65074246 (Accessed: 28 January 2016).

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