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The Category Game consists of a box with instructions on the inner lid, 20 double-sided boards (“My Categories” and “Category #”), and 120 clay playing pieces. All elements are white, black, or a shade of gray. The box is 6″ x 6″ x 4″ and the boards are slightly less than 6″ square, while the pieces range from approximately ½” to ¼” in their dimensions. It is a multi-player game, ideally to be played with between four and twenty people. Instructions are as follows:

Part 1

Each player takes a board and turns the “My Categories” side up. Pieces are divided evenly among players. Each player then sorts the pieces on their board into categories, using whatever criteria they see fit.

Part 2

All the players flip their boards to the “Category #” side, and they are placed together in the middle. The players pool their pieces and work together to sort the pieces into categories agreed upon by the group, placing one category on each board. Boards may be taken out of or replaced in the box to achieve the desired number of categories.

Part 3

The group replaces first the boards, then the pieces, in the box, and closes it.

The hope of the game is to inspire dialogue and contemplation of the way humans divide and classify. Categories can either promote or hold back understanding of a situation or individual, depending on their use. As the artist, my entry point into this issue was through research into sexual orientations in current American culture (particularly the asexual community, which often sub-categorizes prolifically), but further reading and contemplation expanded my understanding to race, class, nationality, gender, and the general way humans interact with the world. My goal was to produce a work that would highlight the complicated balance of the usefulness of categories (as a source of quick assessment of a situation, a starting reference) and their problems (when they are relied upon too heavily, and reality is forced to fit them, rather than the other way around).

I was pleased that, in general, players in my class picked up on many of the things I thought about in this game’s creation, including allusions to race and sexuality, a general applicability of the “category” metaphor, and both an attraction and aversion to categorization. Unexpected but interesting elements were the increased awareness of the group dynamic and the introduction of time as a critical factor.

A future version of this game will likely include: a revision or removal of the first step (solo sorting), time requirements for playing, a box that is easier to open/put things in, and a gradient of piece colors that does not separate white and black so clearly from the grayscale gradient.

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Participants pilot a feathered vessel (more commonly known as a pigeon) by gently turning their faces in the direction in which they’d like to travel. Feathered Vessel creates an odd intersection between the militaristic concept of surveillance drones and the more mystic concept of becoming/taking control of an animal.

This project was made with Processing, developed by Ben Fry and Casey Reas; and FaceOSC, developed by Kyle McDonald.

mapview3 pigeonMapsMerged-copyMINIMIZED

Above is a significantly scaled down image of Feathered Vessel‘s map. It’s a composite of a bunch of satellite photos taken from 500 feet up. The map is 10,000 pixels by 10,000 with a DPI of 72. Initially, I thought I’d need to split the map into tiles and load them depending on where the view screen was, but Processing was able to handle the strain of re-positioning the entire image every frame.

FaceOSC was used to sense the x and y rotations of participant’s faces. As FaceOSC is unable to sense faces in profile, I had to spend a lot of time making sure that side-to-side movement covered enough distance to prevent participants from turning their heads too far in an attempt to move further in a particular direction. I’ve come to appreciate the fine line between gimmicky controls and sleek movement.

In its current iteration, Feathered Vessel tracks face position, the map’s position, and time. If I were to build upon this project, I would try to implement a more complex event system where crossing certain thresholds causes various animated occurrences to happen, such as a car that speeds down a road or a field that caches on fire.

As I worked on this project for both Concept Studio: Space & Time and Electronic Media Studio: Interactivity, a near identical post about Feathered Vessel can be found by clicking here.