(Vera, one of our project participants, in her living room in Woodlawn, audio clip below)
During August and September I was asked to produce piece of art as part of DM’s wider investigative project focusing on the use of virtual canvas and video conferencing as a sharing tool.
The piece of art was supposed to follow the PK (Pecha Kucha) format –i.e. explaining an idea/art form/concept using 20 images for 20 seconds each, each lasting 6 mins. This format was devised as a method to stop presentations running overtime and although I am sure this can be a very helpful tool for groups of non-disabled people, it does pose some barriers for disabled people. However, like most things in life, the format can be adapted to suit the needs of the user.
As I have a particular interest in the themes of community and regeneration, I decided my work would by a documentary-style photography project inspired by Daniel Meadow’s exhibition ‘June Street’. Working with photographer Michele Selway, the original idea was to capture the living space and residents living in Woodlawn Court in order to portray how people in a small community decorate similar spaces differently. Build in the 1960s, the development comprises 78 units built in a horse shoe shape with large gardens both behind and in front of them. All the living rooms in the development have one of two layouts depending on whether they are two or three bedroom flats.
Over the course of a two-month period, we took photographs of residents in their living space and recorded them talking about the area. The recordings were not part of the original plan, but gave the project an added flavour impossible to capture from the pictures alone. We felt they needed to be included in the final piece, which meant that it would be hard to keep to the constraints of the PK framework, and this was before I’d even considered disability-related access issues! To ensure the photographs had some reference to the time they were taken, we included an Olympic mascot teddy in each picture.
The original suggestion was that both artists use PowerPoint, projectors and/or screen sharing over Skype. However, after some research, I stumbled across a really interesting and visually stimulating presentation tool which can be used online in conjunction with Skype. Prezi is a free software package which doesn’t require the other viewer to download or join. As a person with dyslexia I found it really brilliant because the presentation can be completely non-linear. In addition the presenter can give the viewer control of the presentation!
Unfortunately Prezi doesn’t embed audio without the audio being incorporated into an FLV film, and isn’t accessible for people using screen readers. This made it quite complicated and time-consuming to include the audio. Here is an example:
To make adjustments for the lack of screen reader support, my PA described the pictures on the fly during the live event. This, alongside the FLV films, made it impossible to stick to the PK timings!
I have been using Skype on and off for the last 5 years, but still find the visual aspects of it distracting, and as someone with dyslexia this can make it harder to process information. Presenting information over Skype much can be more difficult because of potential problems with sound quality. During the actual live event there were a few technical problems with the sound – such as feedback as I wasn’t wearing headphones – which made my piece harder to follow!During August and September I was asked produce piece of art as part of DM’s wider investigative project focusing on the use of virtual canvas and video conferencing as a sharing tool.
I enjoyed Lynn’s piece around psychogeography and space, however it was difficult at times to hear the spoken word over the existing audio. So I viewed the Youtube clip after the live event. I feel I would have benefitted from knowing beforehand the main theme of the piece.
Overall taking part in the research was a really interesting experience, and even though I didn’t stick to the PK format, I met lots of new neighbours; produced a fascinating collection of stories and images spanning generations; and updated my multi-media IT skills.