SPREAD THE WORD
An Interactive Collage for Listening to Domestic Violence Stories
Spread the Word is a storytelling experiment in the form of an interactive digital collage for its participants to hear rarely spoken domestic violence stories from victims’ perspective by altering their vulnerable images and reconstructing them to show their experiences in a more striking way. It is an individual experience in the composition of video collage projected on a layered surface on the wall. The collage consists of video segments of victim’s face. By clicking on each segment, a video piece starts playing and victim’s voice heard. Video cues support the victim’s storytelling with the layered form on the wall. Layers represent the different sides of the problem and its evolution in time. By continuing to click on segments of the collage, a participant reconstructs the story and engages in the narrative of abuse in a novel and striking way. With the sculptural form of the layered surface, the victim’s portrait gets a tangible presence in a physical environment.
Spread the Word shapes a new conversation on this complex problem with its interactivity and user participation. The aim is to create a connection between the participants and victims and encourage them to speak about the domestic violence problem and its roots in society.
Spread the Word is a single piece video collage. It is an interactive storytelling project to be experienced in public space by projecting the digital experience on a sculptural, layered form on the wall. The core experience is listening to a personal story of a domestic violence victim who stayed in abusive relationship for 20 years. The narrative is based on a real story, taken from Huffington Post Series “Why Didn’t You Just Leave?”. In this series, six domestic violence survivors are telling their stories. I picked up Lisette Johnson’s story which is showing the common pattern behind these stories in a more clear way. In the video, the role of the victim is played by an amateur actor.
The narrative, coming from the Lisette Johnson’s story, has been divided in to pieces as the answers of these questions; “How did it start?”, “Why did you stay?”, “What makes it hard to realize?”, “When did you realize it is domestic violence?” and “How do you feel today?”. Each piece indicates the problem background. The complete experience demonstrates the evolution of the problem over years.
By using video collage form, I was able to create a totally new victim portrait, which is matching victim’s puzzled mindset. I also wanted to portrait the victim more abstractly to convey the message, she can be anybody. While she was speaking, her portrait keeps generating new dynamic collages. Both for participants and spectators, the portrait evolves into unique images every moment. With the sculptural form of the layered surface, victim gets a tangible presence in physical environment which makes the experience for the viewers more immersive. The whole experience includes 5 story pieces and 2 quiet videos.
I created a dynamic digital portrait communicating victim’s emotions by getting participants to focus on the fragments of her faces. Each of the fragments are videos and telling different pieces of a single narrative. The composition of the collage takes the form of a close-up of the victim’s head and face, but shown in layered pieces: a puzzle-like fragmented image. When all the components come together they create a portrait of the victim.
By considering the need of hiding computer and projector in some exhibition spaces, I also built an app to control the interactivity remotely. In this scenario, participants reach the app on the cloud by a URL. This app is in communication with the experience on PC via Firebase platform. Both the video collage and the app are build in Framer Studio. With the help of “Firebase Framer Module” , the app and the videos communicate realtime by using Firebase Realtime Database.
The participant selects the story over pages by sliding. By clicking the button on each page they can start listening the story. While listening, they might follow story script on the same page. The controlling mechanism is exactly the same with pc controlling mechanism.
From the early prototyping experiments, user tests have shaped my project and helped me to reach solid decisions. Likewise, user testing results of the final installation was very helpful to give me vision for the future iterations. During the final tests, overall user feedbacks were very positive. I understood that people engages with the installation in a way that I expected. After they listened the story, I asked them their feelings, difficulties that they might encounter and their expectations. Some feedbacks were:
P I: “It is actually a physical version of what victims go through while experiencing domestic violence”
P II : “Conveying a real emotion was a challenge since the this story is not belong to actor.”
P IV: “It is way more immersive than projection on wall”
They liked listening the story in the fragmented form and they understood the relationship between the form and the complexity of problem.
They understood that there is a narrative structure but they didn’t follow that structure.
They assumed to see real victim rather than an actor. By this way, they thought this experience will be more emotional.
Experiencing the whole installation in physical space made them more excited and grab many other people’s attention.