Initial Thought Process

This section of my blog is dedicated to the ideas and processes behind the creation of my ‘Prototype.’ For assignment 1 of my Media Technologies module I have been asked to develop a ‘media’, this can be a mobile application, piece of hardware, a machine, website, social media platform etc. We are able to use various pieces of technology available at the University itself – Raspberry Pi, cameras, computers etc. as well as purchasing or borrowing any other components we might need. We will need to present the prototype as if it were a new product that could be developed, I’ll also need to create blog posts about the prototype that I create – how it works, the positives and negatives of it, the challenges I faced during the development process etc.

So imagine my shock, as a third year media student at Sheffield Hallam University, to be assigned this task! From the get go I was very interested in this module, however, I didn’t expect to physically need to create something. On the one hand it’s quite scary as it’s something quite new to me. On another hand though, it’s very interesting and I’m excited to see what I can come up with. It’s going to be a challenge but, I like a challenge.

As soon as I left the first seminar class for this module where we discussed the first assignment and what it entails I decided to contact a friend of mine through Facebook Messenger. I’ve known him for quite a few years now and although we don’t live close-by and therefore don’t see each other much, we get on very well and share many of the same interests. Whilst having a cup of tea I talked my friend through the project via Messenger and arranged to Skype with him that evening.

In the class I’d thought over various ideas and had pretty much settled on the idea that I would like to make a mobile application (app) for this project. During the summer I did an internship at a local Sheffield company that provides Media courses for NEET (Not in Employment or Education) students. One of the tutors at the company was looking into making an app for the business in order to advertise the various courses etc. I was involved in the initial ideas process as well as some of the design phase however, I was only in the position for five weeks and left before the app began production.

Although I’d had a few ideas in the class itself and during the course of the day before my chat with my friend, I wanted to talk to him about the logistics of making the app. Since he has a background in IT and programming I knew he would be more familiar than I on what it takes to make an app. I’ve used his expertise many times in the past when I’ve been struggling with something technical and haven’t quite managed to figure it out. I don’t want to sound big-headed but I’m quite competent when it comes to technology and probably know more than most however, when it comes to the really advanced things, that’s usually when I ask for a bit of back-up! And since my friend helped me build my computer from scratch, I trust him completely!

As it turns out my friend actually created an app using Java for his android device as his dissertation project during his final year at University. Although I will be creating my app for iOS (iPhone) and therefore will be using a different system and software, his knowledge was invariably useful.

The main concern I had was the logistics of the app – how would I have it on my mobile phone/laptop ready to demonstrate in class, how would the app perform all the tasks required without being linked to other sites etc? My friend managed to answer a lot of these questions and we had a laugh at the same time.

To start with we discussed how I would be showing the app to my fellow students during my presentation. He assured me that I’d be able to have the app either on my phone or laptop, providing I use the correct programme to create it. He also explained that, when making a prototype, programmers will make an application or piece of software appear to be following instructions and letting the user look around but in fact, behind the scenes other things are going on. For example, I wondered how I would be able to use the app to create a login and log into a specific account in order to give a full user experience, my friend explain that even though I could make it look as though the app were performing this task, behind the scenes it would literally just allow the user to enter any text and press enter to proceed – at least for the prototype.

We then discussed some of my initial ideas, the first being to create an app that links together logins from different gaming accounts/companies. The user would be able to connect the app to their Steam, Microsoft, PlayStation, Nintendo, Battle.net, Origin etc. and view which of their friends were online at any given time. For example, if the user is not sure whether to play on their Xbox or computer and wanted to see who was online, they could simple click on their app and view each friends list all in one place. For those who enjoy social gaming, it would be very useful. However, my friend was concerned that with all the permissions and different coding software that would need to be used, it would prove too complex for a prototype.

I also explained another idea that I had had where users can create an event – similar to how events work in Facebook and advertise a live music event. This would have particular use for local/small bands and artists who perform on the circuit in specific cities or small tours of the UK however, could also be used my worldwide acts. Members of the public would log into the app and, based on GPS, be able to see who is performing nearby. There would be a map as well with various icons so users can see exactly where they are and where the various events are taking place nearby. I also have a mind to allow bands/artists to create a page or profile of their own so that users can check their page regularly to see all their past and future events at once.

After talking to my friend I felt more determined and excited about the project than even during the seminar! As my tutor has suggested, this is a perfect opportunity to network within the University, to meet other students and collaborate on ideas and projects. This is going to be necessary for this project especially, since I’m no programmer! When I told my friend about this he laughed, explaining to me that programmers are (forgive me) not particularly creative! They are used to fulfilling a brief and following a strict set of instructions in order to create a specific product through coding and are not given the chance to think creatively about such things. Therefore this is a perfect chance for a programmer and media student to work together within their chosen fields to reach a common goal!

My next tasks for this project are to research my chosen area – find out a little more about creating apps for iOS, find out what alternatives are available on the market, whether something similar has already been created etc. I also need to plan out exactly what I want my app to do, what it will look like etc. so that I can succinctly convey the apps outline to a programmer – when I find one. Which leads me to my other task, once I’ve planned out the app as much as I can, discussed my ideas further with my friend and done my research, I’ll need to find a programmer suitable for the project, who is willing to work with me and can get something of the collaboration as well.

That’s all for now! Next time I’ll be posting about the research I’ve been doing. Onwards and upwards!

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