Text Viz (TV)

Here at ITP we have an email list that is constantly connecting all the students together in this massive conversation about everything from arts to technology to politics. It’s really quite wonderful and at times also very overwhelming. Many student’s don’t bother to read the list because of the sheer volume of messages that are sent, others are very protective of the list and will jump at anyone who might try to subvert the list or appropriate it for their own cause.

With this example in mind, my friend Dekunle Somade suggested we work on a project together to bring text message (SMS) based group conversations to the shared space of ITP. There were several analogues and examples of this kind of communications system before hand aside from the ITP Student List. One is the Blackboard Blogger of Liberia and the other was an internal IDEO project I remember hearing about but can’t seem to find any documentation regarding. The project was an interactive display of all the IDEO employee’s timelines and feeds, each getting a moment on screen and each allowing those who were viewing it in the common room to get a better sense of what their coworkers were working on and thinking.

Daily Talk Liberia

With those two examples in mind we set about creating a platform that would be simple to use but would allow ITP students to share and connect with other ITP students on the floor without having to know everyone’s phone number. It was a virtual billboard that you could send text messages to.

The project had two parts, the first was a PHP/MySQL web app that at first utilized the TextMarks API and then later the Twilio APIto receive text messages, associate the phone number with an ITP face and then display it on our website. You can view the current iteration of the site here.

Text Viz Web App
A view of the Text Viz Web App Interface

After the web app was complete we built a kiosk application that would take the JSON formed data from the website and present it in a manner on the kiosk.

Text Viz Processing App
An image from the Text Viz Processing Application

I plan on returning to this project shortly and improving the interaction and functionality of both the webapp and kiosk application. After the project is in a better state I will also release all of the source code. Stay tuned!