It's been a while since my last (somewhat psychotic) update on the student social area (aka crush area aka Learning Zone) and there have been some interesting developments. You might recall that the furniture was set up and that we were waiting for the screens to be installed and Goat Lady. Both are now here.
Goat Lady is a reclining size 16 mannequin covered in goat hair and fibre optics. She lights up where you stroke her. She is an exhibit created by the artist Helen Storey and the real name of the exhibit is First, Last and Everything . She is currently on loan to us from our School of Textiles and Design. Originally she was designed to produce pheremones but we had to remove those as I was convinced the equipment for releasing them would be a fire hazard and we also though the pheremones had gone off after months in storage. Here is Goat Lady, with one the lecturers from Textiles and Design.
When we started arranging the loan of Goat Lady, there was some disquiet about how she might offend female students. Or enflame the passions of the male students. In fact, the School of Textiles and Design refuse to display her for reasons of this kind. But you know what? It hasn't been a problem at all. In fact, people ignored her as best they could until recently. You'll see in the photo that I made a sign which says "stroke me" because people would never ever interact with her. At least not in public during the day. A few weeks back someone made another sign to put underneath mine which read "No, it's creepy". Which just about sums up how most people seem to feel about it. I personally am rather fond of Goat Lady. I like to stroke her because her fur reminds me of my big white cat. (Mr Bitey also likes to stroke her presumably because unlike the big white cat she doesn't run away.)
In the last week events have taken an unexpected turn: people have started leaving offerings for Goat Lady! First there were coins left in front of her at night. Then origami birds. No-one knows why these offerings appeared but it is the subject of much spectulation! It has fascinated the staff in my department and is the main topic of conversation on the staff mailing list. We hope it removes the need for tuition fees in this difficult economic climate. I have claimed the title of Goat Lady High Priestess, and it is now officially one of my admin duties in my boss's work load database.
Some of the wonderful PhD students and postdocs took on the task of finding things to display on the screens. Stefano wrote some code to visualise incoming tweets from a twitter aggregator in a pretty way.
Pawel is working on a slideshow app which enables users to identify inappropriate content using QR codes. The thing we are now realising about a public display is that it needs a lot of content because it's switched on for such a long time and the material cycles very quickly. We found that the screens were mysteriously being switched off - we think because people were fed up of looking at the same content. Which (predictably) irritates me. There's a message on the screens which clearly explains how to add more content. So in my view if the lack of content annoys you, you should either do everyone a favour and add more, or put up with it, but not passively agressively switch the whole display off. I spoke to some students about it and they seem annoyed by the screens and their lack of content as if their inalienable right to be entertained had been violated. So now they find themselves working on a project to produce content for the crush area. Hehe. I have another group of students working on producing an interactive application using Kinects for user input so we will see what that produces. Maybe some kind of app for GL to keep track of her devotees?