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Two Schools Collaborate to Create New Exhibit in the MuseLab

Posted May. 5, 2014
enter photo description
Kent State University visual communication design student
Joe Wathen makes use of the MuseLab vinyl printer.

How can a single ordinary object - like a top hat - be interpreted in different ways through sound, movement, text or touch? This is the question the new exhibit “What’s Real? Investigating Multimodality” attempts to solve through a new interactive experience.

Forty students from Kent State University’s School of Visual Communication Design and the School of Library and Information Science have collaborated to create a multidisciplinary project called “What’s Real? Investigating Multimodality” that is currently on display in the MuseLab in the School of Library and Information Science on the third floor of the University Library.

The collaborative project explores how visitors respond to the question “What is real?” in a designed environment by interacting with physical and digital media. The project and exhibit focus on how a visitor responds to a specific object, in this case a top hat, through different modes of interaction in the forms of sound, touch, movement and text.

Professors Kiersten F. Latham, from the School of Library and Information Science, and Jessica Barness and David Middleton, from the School of Visual Communication Design, spent seven months researching and designing the course project and are now watching it come to life. 

“The interesting part about doing an interdisciplinary project like this is that you get a richer experience when the other disciplines understand the limitations and expectations of the other area,” says Middleton. “In that way, you can get a better quality project.”

The students were broken up into five different teams to conceptualize, create, design, build and install the exhibit in the MuseLab in seven weeks. The teams were assigned a specific mode of interaction and had to develop a portion of the exhibit using a variety of media. The teams include: Introduction, which is assigned to introduce the project purpose and scope and frame the problem; Sound, which was required to use audio, speech and voice; Touch, which used physical, imaginative and tactile properties; movement, which used movement, performance and action; and Text, which used writing, typography and lettering. 

“This has been nothing but a positive experience for us,” says senior Josh Bird, who is a part of the sound team.

The students came together through three different courses, including the School of Visual Communication Design classes Retail Environments and Interaction Design, and Object Knowledge, from the School of Library and Information Science. The project had to be designed to fit into a 20-by-20-foot space in the MuseLab.

“The MuseLab just opened up in the fall of 2013,” says Latham. “The intent of this space really was to be collaborative. It was created to cross paths and figure out where, across the entire university and beyond, we could work collaboratively.”

“What’s Real?” opened May 1 and will run through December 2014.

“It’s really exciting to see everything come to motion,” says graduate student Cori Iannaggi, who worked on the Introduction team. “When you’re just planning it, it’s just a basic idea of what everything is going to be, but when you start seeing what everyone is doing, it’s really exciting.”

Visit the “What’s Real?” exhibit during its summer hours on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.