Carnival

How do ideas travel? From makers to curators, they’re passed on, absorbed and cherished. Carnival is a digital space for exploration and participation in the unseen network of creativity.

Overview

Concept

Art and music are frequently found hand-in-hand at festivals to create rich experiences for attendees. My project explores the benefits of at-home streaming, browsing, and sharing to create a contemporary digital experience in the form of a website.

Action

Users have the opportunity to explore galleries, videos, live streams, and music from makers (professionals) featured on the site. In addition, every user becomes a curator with their own display. Displays feature users’ saved contents so that friends or people with similar interests may browse for discovery.

Addressed gap

Existing digital galleries, streams, etc. flush out many different methods of display (i.e. 2D and 3D), but are mostly for browsing purposes. My project explores the ways in which users can become further involved in said online experiences by contributing, connecting and sharing what they see.

Process

Initial research

For this project, my goal was to extract and highlight the benefits of digital platforms rather than their successes in mimicking physical ones. I was particularly interested in exploring the potential of music festivals, as they were all cancelled or rescheduled in line with government regulations.

I began to notice celebrities on Instagram utilizing the live stream feature more frequently. I liked that they were accepting the quarantine situation for what it was and providing an experience accommodated to it. A lot of other developments that have been made surrounding the virus have been weak efforts to replicate real-life situations (that are impossible to recreate virtually). The music streams allowed people to listen to free content that would otherwise be nonexistent while comfortable in their homes.

Existent solutions

To offer their support, music and company, artists have been turning to live streams to host performances from their homes.

There are two types of live streams:

Hosted by the artist directly (often at home with minimal set up efforts)

  • Ex: Major Lazer, Diplo, John Mayer, Pink Sweat$
  • Takeaway: Given the situation, a lot of more professional platforms (i.e. televised shows) are unavailable, so live streams are becoming more appealing. Prior to the pandemic, they were often ignored and rare/unpopular amongst most artists. Additionally, such performances are now being held and distributed at a low cost for both artists and viewers.

Hosted by a third party (filmed similarly to the above, but with an additional layer for distribution)

  • Ex: A COLORS STREAM
  • Takeaway: The benefit of a curated stream is that you can tune in at any time and be met with content. This seems similar to a virtual festival, where many artists come together for the sake of music (as opposed to the above, where artists engage in conversations in addition to performing).

Side inquiries

  • What will the future look like for platforms such as televised shows now that artists and viewers are becoming more accustomed to the agility that comes with streaming? Ex: Steph Curry hosted an interview with Dr. Fauci. Generally, to set this up, there would probably be multiple layers of people, logistics, etc. to work through to appear on a third party host’s broadcast. However, the situation allowed him to host what could be considered a public video chat with great ease.
  • Has it always been this easy to engage in community-wide conversations? Why have we held back on such content? Is it simply the notion of professionalism?

Pros of digital platforms

  • Good sound quality
  • Inclusive
  • Low-cost or free
  • Personal
  • Easier to socialize on a large scale

Cons of digital platforms

  • Connectivity
  • Doesn’t replace the emotions, serendipitous occasions, etc. of a concert or festival

References

  • Camp Flog Naw 2019 → live streamed stages for viewers at home
  • GOAT Black Friday 2018 → digital travel for information collection later used as currency for sneaker raffles

Initial brief

How can I create an at-home concert or festival experience that caters to the given situation? What kind of digital/physical elements must be in place? In what ways could this virtual experience be different or even better? Acknowledging the existing streams, how could they be improved?

One aspect of the GOAT interface I really enjoyed was the digital travel feature. Users could click on different points on a map to explore the history, relevance, etc. of them in relation to sneakers. The opportunity to learn on a worldwide scale was a unique benefit of said digital experience. I became interested in pursuing this further and wondered about its applications in showing a music festival. Perhaps users could learn about artists, art, music, etc. in a geographical context.

At this point, I wanted to find out how people felt about live streams, available platforms, etc. After conducting a few rounds of interviews, I was able to conclude the following:

  • People are interested in a large variety of content.
  • Live streams are difficult to schedule and plan around, as many are spontaneous. Additionally, they happen on individual profiles and rely on instant notifications. This makes everything scattered, uncategorized, and difficult to gauge interest in.
  • Third party write-ups, platforms, etc. are most helpful in curating and organizing content.
  • There is strong interest in interactive and social features in addition to watching, exploring, etc.

From these highlights, I conceptualized a site on which people could browse curated content (not limited to music) based on their categorical interests or preferences, while syncing their queues (or “itineraries”) with friends. By incorporating the latter, the browsing experience can be made social. This syncing feature has proven to be popular with Netflix Party (accumulating over 500,000 users) during quarantine.

Wire framing

Home page
Explore content through a categorized browsing interface or by “location.”

Content pages
See exhibitions (gallery style photos/videos of artists’ works), conferences (live streams with various topics of discussion) or performances (music live streams). Please note that all live streams are saved and archived on the site for use after airing.

Syncing page
Share your own code, connect with friends and see your full friends list.

Queue
Browse content for queueing (based on preferences, ratings, etc.). See your saved contents and set them up in your “Now Playing” queue.

Synced browsing
When viewing exhibitions (for example) in sync, leave reactions, notes, etc. on the page. These items are only seen by synced users and last for a limited time while said users are browsing together. This idea stemmed from the liminal spaces in which people interact at in-person galleries. There’s no pressing, ongoing conversation. Instead, users are free to interact at their own paces wherever curious. I’m also exploring the option to cement certain comments for public viewing in an “Archived Comments” section.

User testing insights

  • Is there too much categorization? This is helpful and efficient for users who have specific preferences, but how does this affect those browsing freely?
  • For the queue page, it’s difficult to distinguish whether saved items go to “bank” or “queue” and what the difference between the two is.
  • Does the liminal conversation on the exhibit page leave little room for actual discussion/thought where desired? Do comments have reply options?
  • Strong interest in the saving feature. People like the idea of collecting items throughout the site to their profiles and sharing what they’ve curated.

Redirection

One of my main takeaways from this round of user testing was the strong interest in saving content. I recently read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, which proposed that people like newspaper clippings, Pinterest boards, etc. because they want to save things for later use/inspiration. This idea seemed to resonate with my users. Whether for personal future reference or social purposes, I became largely interested in growing the saving feature. I scoped out existing gallery sites to see whether or not a feature like this existed.

For the most part, the digital galleries I’d come across were all viewing experiences. The most popular format was a chronological archive of featured galleries. Shared links were the extent of their saving and/or socializing functionalities.

From this, I decided to evolve the project to highlight two aspects:

  • simplicity in browsing across categories (for the most part, users said they’d prefer to browse curated content freely and didn’t have specific searches in mind; this helps with finding new content as well)
  • ability to curate your own gallery/exhibit to show content you have saved and are interested in

Evolved features based on feedback

  • Browsing has been condensed into two pages: Curators and Makers. Curators are users who’ve created their own galleries by saving content shown on the site. Makers are professionals who’ve lent their works. Their contents may come in the forms of images, videos, live streams, etc. There is no more page-based categorization for ease of accessibility and open-minded browsing.
  • Two pages have been added: My Display and My Company (Connections). My Display is each user’s curated gallery and Connections shows those you’ve connected with. You may keep up with friends or users who share similar interests.

Final iteration

Thanks for reading! 👼 Please email me at amberjmlee@gmail.com to chat.