The Blackaeonium Project: Workspace/Keeping-Place - An Archival Continuum of Creative Practice

PhD by Research Project, Lisa Cianci, 2012

homepage & table of contents >> appendix 5


User Testing and Guest Remixes Questionnaires & Surveys


Standard user testing

Initial user testing took the form of an informal interview and testing process where a selected group of users were given 9 "considerations" to respond to while engaging with the Blackaeonium archival system. These user tests have been compiled as a PDF document and can be found at the following link:

User testing feedback <Blackaeonium Project - user testing summary 2011.pdf>


Using more creative methods of testing

Although some of the information gathered from this first round of testing was used to improve and redevelop the interfaces and functionality for the Blackaeonium archival system, it did not provide a great deal of qualitative information for creative use of the system. It was therefore decided that better qualitative information would come from users engaged in creative acts through the use of the Blackaeonium archival system. Two projects were then initiated:

  • Atemporal - a collaborative project in archival space
    This project involves a group of artists (including myself) using the archival space in a collaborative way to create overlapping assemblages that test the system as both "workspace" and "keeping-place".

  • Guest Remixes
    This project involved inviting audience members to participate and engage with the Blackaeonium archive (my own personal archival system) to create their own remix of contents in the archive as a saved Recombinant Group. The participants range in age from 20 - 65 and came from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience with web technologies. Some participants are artists, and some are information professionals (archivists, librarians, IT professionals), and others come from a variety of professions and educational qualifications.


Feedback from the Atemporal project

Artist participants involved in the Atemporal project have provided a wealth of information in an informal way through discussions both in meetings and through email correspondence. This feedback is being noted in the PhD research blog, with my own comments for how this information is impacting on the development of the Blackaeonium archival system. To view this documentation, the best method is to enter the PhD research blog as a guest (username: guest, password: guest), and search for "atemporal" or "development" to see recent posts on this feedback and its implications.

A summary of feedback and its impact on the research project is listed here:

  • further instructional elements for the Inventory data input interfaces have been created based upon user requirements - usually I am able to give a face-to-face demonstration for artist participants to use the Blackaeonium archival system, which is necessary to explain archival constructs and show these users the "workflow" and processes for using the system and initiating the creation of work. In a couple of cases, I have had to rely on artist participants using the system only without personal guidance to get started, so in this case, instructional information is essential. I have begun the development of a comprehensive set of instructions, beginning with a "workflow" list linked to the Admin interface which will have instructional modules linked to the process list over time.

  • we have had many discussions about the processes of uploading content and where and when the detailed documentation should occur. New interfaces for upload are yet to be implemented, as we determine what our requirements are. As stated in the exegesis text, I am concerned with not trivialising the archival process of uploading content and documenting objects at Inventory level, and I view certain "batch processing" methods used by certain social media systems as contributing to the GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out - theory of database design) activities that allow users to upload large quantities of media files that have very little documentation to place them in any meaningful context.

  • new interfaces will be designed based upon discussions with artist participants to see if we can make some new ways of putting together the remixes and recombinant works - in the same manner as the draggable layers, but perhaps with other options for saving things in a slideshow or timeline.

  • implementing the RDF content is one area under discussion at present. Aside from FOAF (friend of a friend) RDF content placed in each archival system website, we have not decided yet if there is just one method we will implement. I am also waiting on information from the Forging the Future group to see how the Blackaeonium system can interface with the Metaserver or other tools developed by this group.


PhD Blog <>


Feedback from the Guest Remixes project

Guest Remix audience participants were asked to do a short Survey Monkey online survey to gain their impressions and feedback as audience users and participants in the creative act of remixing a selection of items from the Blackaeonium archival system:

Guest Remix survey <>

This survey was not mandatory, but approximately 50% of participants completed the survey. The feedback has been useful in the further development of the Blackaeonium archival system. This feedback has been compiled as a PDF file and can be accessed here:

Guest Remix feedback PDF <SurveyMonkey - Survey Results - Guest Remix - 20120821.pdf>

The results of the feedback can be summarised as follows:

  • While more than half the guest users that provided feedback found the system easy/fairly easy to use, 72 % would not have been able to use the system without the Guide instructions provided. This is because there was no face-to-face demonstration of the system, users were on their own with the instructions and the system. One may question whether the users that did complete the survey were the ones that found it easier, I don't know if that is the case because I allowed the survey to be done anonymously without identification so that users would feel free to be truthful in their responses.

  • Most users seemed to find the process interesting, engaging and challenging - a couple of the users had seen the system before, but not engaged with it. Most users had never encountered the system. From the feedback it seems that there is an initial learning curve, but then when people "get it", and can feel they are in control of the process, they enjoy it. In evaluating this information, it would appear that like a lot of ubiquitous social media systems, there is a "learning-curve" initially to understand the interfaces, and to realise the complexity of these systems. Even simple systems such as Twitter are confusing to first-time users (this statement is based upon informal information gathered from colleagues and students of digital media where these issues are often discussed as part of our units of study). At first, when creating an account in Twitter, it can seem that there is nothing happening. But once networks are established by "following" others, and by being "followed", a rich web of content becomes available. I believe that the Blackaeonium archival system operates in a similar way - it takes time to engage with the archival assemblage. I am unsure if a completely intuitive experience can be provided without the "learning-curve", so the challenge is to incorporate instructional material into the Blackaeonium archival system without compromising the visual design - which is an important part of the system's rationale.

    The most logical way to do this with the current ubiquitous web technologies and scripting languages would be to have interactive devices such as tooltips and overlays that are only revealed when needed, thus not interfering with the creative experience for more experienced users. At present, many tooltip instructional elements are being added to the Blackaeonium archival system, starting with the Homepage, About page, View/Search page and Admin page. Further tooltips are being rolled out to all other areas of the system and this phase of development should be complete by the end of 2012.

  • None of the users that completed the survey had interacted with anything similar before. This response may have included certain users that are artists and/or have experience with interactive artworks in an online environment. This was of interest because I have not found anything similar to this myself as a creative work, and am always searching for similar projects or communities of practice to network with.

  • Feedback regarding suggestions for improvements or "wishlist" developments included some useful information - mainly regarding more integrated instructional elements, or more options for visualisation of the contents. Some suggestions such as video guides may be an area to consider for future development, but will not be added to the system at present. The most useful information which is currently being addressed through new developments is...




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created 01/12/2011
last modified 30/07/2012



Database Structure for the Blackaeonium Archive System from 2006 (click here to see larger image in a new window)