Unreadable: Midterm Project

For our installation we projected words from RSS feeds onto the corner of the wall in a small room. Within the feeds we chose specific words and modified them, causing frustration to the reader. The piece was created to resemble the experience of someone with dyslexia.* We choose scrolling projected text because we felt that people who have dyslexia are confronted with words all the time, and if they have never heard them before or are unable to read them fast enough, they struggle. We wanted everyone to experience this. This piece is interactive in the sense that the user has to read the feeds and struggle with it, trying to understand what is going on. Our piece does not require the user to touch, push any buttons, or require movement. It is completely dependent on the data being inputted and the predetermined words that will be changed randomly as they appear. The user does not modify the piece, but they experience the struggle someone with dyslexia encounters in their everyday life.  We controlled what words were modified and how much time the reader has to read the feeds.  People with dyslexia have no control over what words they view or how much time they are given to understand what is being read. We also asked one person to read out loud at a time. This caused the reader to feel like they are being put on the spot, and with the added pressure, they tripped up on their words more than usual.

We were inspired by Jim Cambell’s article Delusion of Dialogue: Control and Choice in Interactive Art by looking at ways to modify the input and output. The original input of our piece was typed into a computer and updated on the Internet as a blog. The input data is discrete, either on or off. We wrote a program creating algorithms (in Processing) and modified the text by changing the speed of the scrolling text and significant words so the reader would have a more difficult time understanding what they were attempting to read. We decided to not give any control to the user because in real life, a person with dyslexia does not have any control over what words they struggle with until someone teaches them how to properly pronounce the words and understand their meaning. We wanted the reader to experience the words as if they had never seen them before and were experiencing them for the first time.

*Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. Common characteristics of dyslexia are:

  • difficulty acquiring and using oral and written language, reading and writing
  • difficulty in phonological awareness, blending and manipulating sounds in words
  • difficulty mastering the alphabetical principle and basic decoding skills (mapping sounds to letters)
  • Slow, inaccurate, or laboured oral reading (lack of reading fluently)
  • Difficulty learning to spell accurately
  • Limited reading comprehension due to weak decoding, word recognition and fluency skills

(http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/download/pdf/FF-Dyslexia.pdf )


Both of us thought our piece went really well. The one thing we felt is that if we were not present while users were reading the text, they might not have known what it represented. We think a slight explanation of what dyslexia is and how it affects people in their everyday lives would help the users understand what the piece is about. Once they understood that the piece represented the experience of someone with a dyslexia disability, we heard comments about what a great idea and an amazing concept it was. Besides that, there are a few things that we would include if we continued the piece. We would want to have a way to keep the feeds updated and maybe change some of the “b’s” into “d’s”. This is another common issue many people with dyslexia have to deal with on a daily basis.


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