Augur - do you want to predict your future?
To avoid a fear of the future and the uncertainty associated with it, we try to predict and control our lives. To reflect on those aspirations, I developed the Augur. It is an experimental project that combines two different approaches dealing with the future. The first one is rational. It involves predictive analytics with big data, statistical algorithms, and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes. The second one, on the contrary, is mystical. It arises from the art of fuzzy interpreting tarot cards aiming to read one’s destined fate. By applying these two approaches, Augur invites its users to explore the boundaries between rational and mystical in future predictions and how we try to control our lives.
While researching possible topics for projects, I became interested in the topic of future predictions and the fear connected with this. I found several compelling concepts on that. Some of them were rather straightforwardly rational such as predictive analytics; others had to do with arcane arts of fate reading by tarot cards or astrology, once again popular today. Yet, the most compelling for me were those concepts that pointed out unusual connections between the opposed ways of future predictions. For instance, I became interested in persuasive computing, a concept about irrational power we grant to computers that influences our decisions in turn. Or risk society, a sociological theory that describes modern societies as those that have traded rational material progress for the security of risk-avoiding. Those ideas brought me to the project’s concept of connecting seemingly incompatible opposites - rational calculations and irrational fate reading - and showing how they are connected through the mutual fear of the future.
According to those ideas, I drafted a product concept, an arcane machine for future predictions by means of tarot cards and modern analytic tools. I called it Augur after interpreters of the divine will in Ancient Rome. As augurs in the ancient time, it’s supposed to take into account bad and good omens (yet, in the form of tarot cards in our case) and translate them into a lay language as suggestions for particular actions (yet, with the help of modern analytics on extensive user data).
An initial version of the Augur looked quite simple as a product landing page but was intended for a wide variety of purposes, from romantic relationships to career decisions. Yet, in the course of further work on the project by developing user scenarios, I realized that it’s much better to concentrate the product on a particular set of issues and chose the work-related context. Also, I understood how vital the physical part of interactions with the Augur is for conveying an arcane experience for users and tried to emphasize it in the final version of the product.
An additional project in the course
It should be noted that before moving on to the main project described above, we first received a warm-up assignment to create a visual system synchronizing various calendars. It was a pretty challenging yet interesting task from the design perspective since different calendars are often based on entirely distinct principles with their own counting units for years, months, days, etc.
I undertook this task together with my colleague. We researched a number of calendar systems but chose only three of them: the modern Gregorian as a point of reference, and the Chinese as well the Islamic as the most distant from the modern one as well as from each other. Our idea was to create an interface that synchronized all the calendars by the beginning of a year, a month, and a day. In this way, we tried to create a symbolic triangulation of the time and show a relative character of each calendar’s system for our users.