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Ashley Booth chairs new artistic research project

In what ways can an investigation of experiences with, and attitudes to, pictograms contribute to increased reflection on life’s complexity? This is the key question in a new artistic research project investigating pictograms chaired by Professor Ashley Booth at Bergen National Academy.

The new research project is the first to receive funding from Program for Artistic Research. From a total of nine applicants, three were awarded funding.

The project is titled "Pictogram-me. Visualisation of a complex life" and is chaired by Professor Ashley Booth at Dept of Design. 

The expert team of the three year project includes:
- Professor of Design Ashley Booth (Chairperson) (Bergen National Academy of the Arts)
- Associate Professor of Design Linda Lien (Bergen National Academy of the Arts)
- Professor Reidar Holtskog (Oslo National Academy of the Arts)
- Associate Professor of Interaction Design Mosse Sjaastad (Academy of Architecture and Design, Oslo)
- Professor of Social Anthropology Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo)
- Media expert and linguist Andreas Wiese (Dagbladet).

Definition of a pictogram
Pictograms consist of simple visual information. We are exposed to thousands of pictograms every day - in the form of the friendly couple on toilet doors, on mobile devices, computers, weather maps and traffic signs which represent information, warnings or simply serve to enhance our environment. The pictogram was originally designed as non-verbal language, and visual representation of facts and statistics made the information universally accessible - even to illiterate societies or reading impaired persons. A fundamental question in this research is whether pictograms can offer new knowledge about human life and conditions. 

The project "Pictogram-me" aims to experiment and investigate whether the simple, fixed and universally accepted visual messages of pictograms can be applied to expressing complex messages and philosophical observations. The target is to develop sharp, humorous or concept-changing pictograms that question our social and political attitudes.

The questions 

• How can pictograms express abstractions, variations in intensity, and nuances to definitions or philosophical concepts?
• How may simple visual symbols promote empathy?
• How can the picto-grammatical language be enhanced with words and terms?
• Which methods can be applied or developed to approach persons in distress and access their narratives?
• How can interactivity produce new visual combinations with unexpected messages and unique experiences?

The data collection from disenfranchised groups requires high ethical end emphatic standards during the research process and with regards to the use of pictograms.

Visualisation of a disenfranchised existence
We can all feel underprivileged, for a shorter or longer period of time or as indivudals and groups. This project aims to cooperate with underprivileged persons. By asking them to tell us about their lives and show us (visualise) their existence, we intend to collect narratives about a underprivileged reality, and transform these narratives to a series of pictograms.

The project wants to highlight the challenges of a underprivileged existence through symbols and pictograms. The project wants to demonstrate how simple, stylized pictograms can tell complex stories. By using public spaces to present the new pictograms, the project wants to promote empathy for underprivileged persons.

Underprivileged may be used as a common term for individuals or groups of persons who, for shorter or longer periods of time, experience particular or general challenges in life. A disenfranchised existence may be caused by unemployment, poverty, crime, current or past imprisonment, prostitution, ethnicity, lifestyle diseases, age, sexual orientation, physical or sensory impairment or psychological disorder.

In theory picto-grammatical narration may become entertainment or education - a means to promote moral values. The desired effect of this project is to use pictograms as a visual instrument to create an open, impartial or ambiguous language which spurs a diversity of interpretations. Alternative interesting interpretations may become catalysts for the observer to reflect on human existence and value.

Published: 10/18/2011 by Astri Kamsvåg Updated: 3/19/2015 by admin