Late Fragment - An Interactive Film

Late Fragment @ CHI 2008 in Florence


It was my first time going to CHI (Computer Human Interaction Conference), though the CFC Media Lab through its faculty (namely Ilona Posner) and staff (Galen Scorer) have been many, many times. CHI invited us to present Late Fragment to its community of user experience specialists, interface designers, human-computer interaction academics, information architects and so on. Our session was to be 1.5 hours of pure analysis of how we created Late Fragment, our process, our use of user-centred design principles, our audience development approaches — basically the first time we would have shared our insights and findings to a group of like-minded experts. Having hired Susan Gorbet as our audience development consultant, and Ilona Posner as our usability consultant, I knew that I was representing work done by highly respected specialists to this community. So, I was only a little bit nervous.

The first night was the demo evening. Unlike film festivals, CHI is really more like an academic conference complete with posters, and interactive demo stations. For those of you who haven’t been to one of these events, it’s kinda like a high level science fair. The posters are just that — large marquee size posters than explain a project in some detail. There are maybe 100s of posters that are displayed during the week long conference.

The interactive demos were around seven in number including Late Fragment. During that evening, I was pleased to see some familiar faces like Bill Buxton, who was on the CFC Media Lab advisory council, formerly from Alias Wavefront, now a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and who was getting the lifetime achievement award at CHI. I also ran into a SIGGRAPH friend Lars Erik Holmquist who is now running the Mobile Life Centre in Sweden. It was a fun evening, whose highlight was a brief conversation with Terry Winograd who wanted to know more about Late Fragment.

The next day was the main event. The room was packed. There were maybe 100 or so people at 10am in the morning coming to hear me present Late Fragment. I opted to share with them the process we went through getting the interactive structure “right” much of which involved extensive user testing to determine not so much functionality but to assess whether the users are able to understand the story, are able to feel a pay-off every time they click — pay-off meaning that they understand that their click results in a flashback, or flash forward, or a clue to what they’ve just seen as in part of a back story, and so on.

I’m happy to say no one left the room during the whole 1.5 hours. (okay maybe one or two people.) The audience seemed engaged and asked lots of questions. I really felt I was speaking to a roomful of people who understood why we would want to spend three years of our lives building this hybrid form. It felt really good.

As soon as the session ended, I had to rush off to the airport. I would have much rather stayed with Galen and Ilona eating one more plate of pasta in beautiful Florence.


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