(Click for larger image)
The Ethics Table, at the Newseum in Washington DC, is situated in the display section on Journalism and Ethics. The table is a game where players are asked various ethical questions that journalist face in their work. As players answer questions correctly, a newspaper fills up with articles. The first ‘side’ to complete a newspaper spread wins. The table can be played by up to 8 players, with up to 16 people playing together.
To begin, a player touches one of the eight available ‘plates’. The table is based upon the principle of ‘hot-spotting’, which means any gesture will be registered as a ‘click’, with hotspots changing based upon the game’s context.
As a new player starts the game, one of the ‘avatars’ on the table approaches them and says ‘Grab me!’. This only happens when a player begins. Throughout the game, contextual help is given to the players.
If the answer is correct, the avatar does a dance of joy, hi-fives.. and moves to the side of the plate. At the same time, each correct question fills up a space on the newspaper. You can see by the pile under the question how many answers were correct.
If the answer is incorrect, the avatar becomes dejected, or shrugs, and walks away from the plate. The player chooses a new avatar to question. Each avatar carries a card of a particular color. Each color represents a spot on the newspaper that has to be filled.
Sequences of states of the newspaper in the center of the table:
(left) The newspaper when the game has started.
(second to left) The newspaper gradually fills with articles as the players answer.
(middle) The newspaper has completely filled with articles.
(second to right) When a side has won, the newspaper joyfully spins.
(right) If a side loses, the text looks sad and the newspaper recedes.
The graphics for the UMMA table were developed in long consultation with the museum. We wanted to have available all the artworks on view in the museum’s collection, with a way to update when what was on view changed. We looked at a variety of ways to characterize each piece with, for example, student tags, as well as find ways to connect each piece to others in the collection.
The table is organized around eras and locations. Every artwork has a line that connects it to a location on the map and to the date around the perimeter. The perimeter acts like a calendar, with all artworks displayed as ‘grass’, from the earliest piece at the top, to the latest piece created. As you pass your hand over the grass each artwork’s icon pops up – so that you can select and view it.
When you select one of the round icons (Grab me!) the icon opens up larger with a variety of available options. One option is to show the location of the artwork in the museum. Other options are ‘tombstone’ information – general info about the artwork. If there is a movie associated with it, the icon to start that is shown too.
As two visitors each select a work of art that is available on the table, the tags that describe those works are used to discover relationships between them. Selecting any of the tags opens up a different form of discovery.
A visitor can also create a pool of their favorite artworks. As they insert works into the pool, a variety of tags describing the connections between the artworks appear. Each of these tags, when selected, make other artworks available for browsing. In this way, the pool can become thematic, rather than a collection of disparate objects, as the table hints at relationships in one’s collection. The pool is saved and available on the Internet for further study.
Layout of an artwork as a visitor uncovers more about that work. If a movie is present, that can be played. As it is playing, other works that share information with that movie appear alongside it.
Graphics: Johanna Kindvall