The paper of the week is “FugaciousFilm: Exploring Attentive Interaction with Ephemeral Material” by Hyosun Kwon and six other collaborators (published at CHI 2015). This paper surprised me when it came up in Google Scholar digging about ephemeral media, and I thought it would make for a fun blog post. FugaciousFilm (pronounced - fyo͞oˈɡāSHəs and meaning “fleeting” to save you from opening up another tab) is a soap film based touch display (think of the bubble solution in the circle opening of the wand before you blow bubbles). As it says in the first paragraph of the Intro, the intention was to “investigate how ephemerality can be deliberately harnessed to encourage a heightened state of close attention involving suspense, tension, anticipation and excitement.” In other words, they're using a modified bubble to explore the fact that bubbles are fun and that bubbles can easily pop. These two facts can combine to make technology that is more exciting and that holds our attention. The scientists set up a display with interchangeable frames (for different activities like tic-tac-toe or a general phone-sized screen) with a projector and Leap Motion device. The soap mixture had to be fine-tuned to be projected on and to enable people to not just pop but touch, pull and push the screen. These affordances added a layer of excitement as participants competed in a tic-tac-toe tournament. Players in the tournament would have to play with the tension of the film by physically pulling and pushing it with their fingers. If none of this makes any sense, still, I have the video from the study included below.
The energy in the participant quotations was infectious, and made me think about intention and innovation. I could imagine others looking to study ephemeral work with the lens of replicating Snapchat and focusing on that sort of industry standard. Experimental programs might explicitly have a counter and data that will delete itself, but there is something organic or back-to-basics about using a delicate soap-film screen to bring a user to the present. Experimenting with bubble displays seems about as ingenious as it does foolish, which I think is a wonderful way to stay adventurous in what is stereotyped as a stingy world of Computer Science. It was fun to poke around this paper just to look at the creativity, but I also get excited thinking about the potential for applications to children’s interfaces, meditation, and slow computing. This paper made for some really fun day dreams, and I’m glad I got to share it with you.