Friday, November 14, 2008

Brenda Laurel

Brenda Laurel is writer, researcher, designer and entrepreneur in the fields of human-computer interaction. She received the MFA and PHD in theater from Ohio State University. Well on that time, she began form the basic idea in the field of Human-computer interaction. 1992, Laurel began a four year project with Interval Research Corporation, this led to the 1996 spin-off company Purple Moon, dedicated to producing software and other media targeted at pre-teen girls. 1999 Laurel wrote a book about this experience entitled Utopian Entrepreneur.
Since her main ideas I read in some books can be reflected in the projects of Purple Moon, I choose them as the project I present

1, Purple Moon was a software company. Its games were more or less visual novels. (A visual novel is an interactive fiction game with anime-style art. Most visual novels have multiple storylines and many endings; the game-play mechanic in these cases typically consists of intermittent multiple-choice decision points, where the player selects a direction in which to take the game.)

2, Purple Moon targeted at young girls between the ages of 8 and 14.
Brenda Laurel and her partner said: there should be some game for girls as well if someone can figure out how to do it.

3, The game encouraged values like friendship and decision making.
First story in Purple Moon is Rockett's New School. Rockett Movado arrives at her first day of grade eight at Whistling Pines Jr. High, clearly unfamiliar with anything that goes on around her. The loudspeaker spouts a corny greeting and she begins her day with meeting the sweet, soft-spoken Jessie Marbella. The choices that the player makes from here on determine the revelation of certain plot points and whether or not certain events transpire ……..

Market Research and investigation
This aspect Brenda Laurel wrote in several books. And her idea about research and investigation is greatly reflected and play important role in the projects of Purple Moon.

First, Designer must through investigation to understand the character of female player since the whole game is designed for little girl. And they found girls like certain points where they had a lot of comfort. For example, they were very comfortable with the shopping part, mainly because there was not time pressure. Girls are not good at" do something right now or you're going to die"

Secondly, They want to better invent a narrative world and a diverse cast of characters. So they need interview thousands of kids and better understand their thoughts and life.
The partner Cheskin Research introduced a methodology to achieve this goal. He thought it's not enough to understand people statistically, you need to find out what their lives are really like. Quantitative data alone is not enough, you can not learn much from" none of the above" in the multiple- choice question, Cheskin taught the innovative technique of the photo audit- kids were given disposable cameras to photograph aspects of their lives. Quantitative studies can be used as brackets to guide you in choosing specific research directions, and in the final stages of research they can lend validity to qualitative findings.

This is the diagram to better show the Cheskin’s methodology (picked from Design Research, Utopian Entrepreneur).
The second step means that you wouldn’t yield deep insights if you just use quantitative data alone. If you are studying an identifiable group of people, see their movies, listen to their music, and hang out in places they enjoy.

At last, they use this method, spent six years and 40 million dollar to interview thousands of kids, and they apply what they find and learned to the design of merchandise and web development.

In Laurel’s opinion, the reader plays an active role in constructing the story. Readers find ways to make good stories personally relevant, in interactive media, the reader's role in construction is more pronounced (Narrative intelligence)

At PM designers played with various structures for interactive narrative. This greatly based on the previous investigation.
Grand storytelling: we are all familiar with the sort of grand storytelling that happens at the level of a culture at large, Classical Greek drama, the plays of Shakespeare are of such a scale.
They tested a variety of story-related concepts, including both personal storytelling and folktales,

Finally, Laurel and her partner launched three interconnected businesses- interactive CD-ROM, the purple- website, and an array of purple moon collectibles, Purple Moon website became one of the largest and most active online communities ever to exist on the net.
But at the same time, the company faced much criticism and a sudden bankruptcy in 1999 and merged with Mattel, creators of Barbie, one of the most famous and well-known franchises aimed at young girls.
Just as the dot-economy started spinning straw into gold, purple moon was spending real money to make real products to go onto real shelves in real stores. In investment terms, that was a big mistake. Even though they had an extremely popular Website, the embarrassing detail of real goods prevented them from passing for a dot-company in the venture community. The eight CD-Roms and Website won all kinds of awards but didn't make them profitable in time to satisfy their investors.

Why they did everything right but sales were dismal? Why hasn't anyone made successful computer games for little girls?
Laurel thought it is because she didn’t connect the popular culture well. She said: Philosophical political and spiritual matters are seen to be central to the discourses of the arts and humanities, not the art and popular culture. And she said: One couldn't effectively influence the construction of pop culture until I stopped describing himself as an artist and a political activist (Utopian Entrepreneur)

While maybe the product is good and right, but the Propaganda is not enough, customer have gotten used to connect the computer games with boy, and due to the habit, the game would be sold in male spaces, by male-oriented consumer channels, I mean the retail world. Maybe they need adequate marketing support.

And maybe the product still meet some resistance, after all, to persuade parents to let girl to play computer game is harder. Maybe Parents think Girls shouldn't think about this, and so we shouldn't encourage them to buy the game.

And the appearance design is not good enough, for example, Rockett's New School Maybe has good character design and good narrative structure, but I think the project in 1990s should be more fashion and distinctive. This would attract more customer.

In sum, the game of Purple Moon explores the right direction for girl gamers and recognition of their rights. Laurel and her partner did four years’ intensive research and designed according to this research, as well as tested current production, they discovered a greater depth and diversity among the characters in game.

Between 1999 and 2006, when Laurel taught at the Art Center College of Design, she developed a course called Design Improvisation. The workshop focused first on basic improvisational techniques and theatre games, then on performance ethnography.

This based on such assumption:
When we observe those around us, we see that context creates some common performative and experiential threads among people in any given situation.
According to the well-known James- Lange Theory of Emotion. If we can mimic a person's physical postures, facial expressions and expressive gestures, we can invoke physiological reactions in our own bodies that map to the subject's emotional states.

Objectives of design Improvisation:
1, try to represent characters and to physiologically induce emotional states.

2, let designer notice how a person interacts with a situated context, and design objects and experiences that enable people to perform themselves somewhat differently in those same situations- with greater pleasure, ease or agency.

In Laurel’s course, they first do Performance ethnography. It means you captured an interesting scene on video and can perform it from the perspective of its main character.
Secondly, to speak the character's thoughts aloud as you perform the scene. This method is called "speaking the subtext"-- a technique where actors verbalize the characters' thoughts, interspersed with the actual lines of dialogue. This method can help design students better understand the emotional aspects of the subject's experience. The student is then asked to perform the scene again, improvising solutions to the problems encountered by the original subject. Such performance can stimulate creativity and often lead designers into new solution spaces.

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