Physical computing art ‘Round-a-Pole’ at CHI 2019 Installation, Glasgow

By: Hanif Baharin
Event: CHI 2019, 4 – 9 May, Glasgow, UK

Figure 1: Round-a-Pole installed at CHI 2019

Many cultures around the world have some form of circle dance. Instead of just serving the need for leisure and entertainment for the community, it is also thought that circle dance enforces mimicry and synchronicity of movements, which has been shown to foster a sense of bonding and empathy. 

Round-a-Pole (also known as Pusing Tiang) (Figure 1)is a physical computing art installation by Dr. Hanif Baharin, a myHCI-UX committee member and a research fellow from the Institute of Visual Informatics (IVI), The National University of Malaysia). It was accepted and exhibited as an art installation for CHI 2019, in May at Glasgow, UK.

Round-a-pole transforms circle dance into a game. Holding hands whilst circling around the pole will trigger LED lights on the pole. The faster the dancers move, the faster the lights will reach the top. Round-a-Pole enforces the dancers’ synchronisation, the faster they want to dance, the more they have to be aware of each other’s movements.

Dr Hanif Baharin’s research took him to 4 primary schools in Kedah, Malaysia, with the aim to understand what schoolchildren understand about bullying and their playing behaviours at school. He wanted to explore how to discourage bullying behaviours among schoolchildren through play. He found out that schoolchildren played games which involves physical movements intensively in a short burst of 15 to 20 minutes during recess. The schoolchildren used limited game equipment or none at all due to the difficulties to access the equipment. They also made their own equipment, such as making a ball from a stack of crunch up papers and cellophane tapes. They created new games by changing a little aspect of previously known games. As such, physical games during recess in primary schools is evolving.

Figure 2: CHI 2019 participants dancing around Round-a-Pole

It was also found that there is an opportunity to train the schoolchildren in empathy. When asked about the consequences of bullying, most of the schoolchildren talked about the disciplinary actions they would face from authority figures, instead of putting themselves in the shoes of the victims, and talked about their physical and emotional pains.

Based on these findings, Dr Hanif Baharin designed Round-a-Pole. It was pilot tested at a school in Kajang before it was accepted as an art installation at CHI 2019. Dr Hanif said it was a delight to see people from different countries and ethnic backgrounds coming together to dance around Round-a-Pole. He would like to encourage researchers and practitioners in UX to work with people; and apply knowledge from; arts and humanities in design. One way to explore such practice is through creating physical computing artworks.

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