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I visited the V&A's Decode exhibition over the weekend which showcases digital interactive art. Decode did a good job of showing how code was becoming a tool in its own right for artists and designers, how technology allowed people to interact more fully (read: full of very excited children) with exhibits, and how dynamic visualisations could be generated from vast networks. The video for Radiohead's House of Cards was displayed on an interactive screen but others I hadn't seen before, like Troika's digital zoetrope which whizzed round displaying an incoherent babble of words, then suddenly clicked into focus showing snippets of a story: "stockbroker / 200k / belgravia / she left me" before changing speed again so that the words fell back into the babble. Putting the puritan hat of Edward Tufte on, I guess I'd say that a lot of the visualisations didn't always have bringing clarity to data as their first concern: when walking around lots of things made me think "that looks complicated", rather than "that helps me understand".

I visited the V&A's Decode exhibition over the weekend which showcases digital interactive art. Decode did a good job of showing how code was becoming a tool in its own right for artists and designers, how technology allowed people to interact more fully (read: full of very excited children) with exhibits, and how dynamic visualisations could be generated from vast networks. The video for Radiohead's House of Cards was displayed on an interactive screen but others I hadn't seen before, like Troika's digital zoetrope which whizzed round displaying an incoherent babble of words, then suddenly clicked into focus showing snippets of a story: "stockbroker / 200k / belgravia / she left me" before changing speed again so that the words fell back into the babble. Putting the puritan hat of Edward Tufte on, I guess I'd say that a lot of the visualisations didn't always have bringing clarity to data as their first concern: when walking around lots of things made me think "that looks complicated", rather than "that helps me understand".

In his 2003 book Persuasive Technology, BJ Fogg lists some reasons why using technology to influence behaviour is different from persuading people using other forms of media like traditional advertising. For example the anonymity of interacting with a machine can encourage people to be more open in their responses to questions which could allow a computer to present more tailored responses. Computers can also sift through enormous volumes of data to present people with an overpowering case - or find the one fact in millions that they find most persuasive. Another reason Fogg gives that I find convincing is that computers can present people with a rich variety of text, video, audio and the ability to interact and simulate, allowing people to select the media that they find most engaging.

Decode wasn't an exhibition about changing behaviour of course, but it was interesting to read an interview with one of the artists, Golan Levin, who when asked "what do digital technologies allow you to do or investigate that other tools do not?" replied "I can create 'behaviour'".

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