After gathering all of the content I plan to use, and as we approach the Quick and Dirty Show in less than two weeks I have divided my work into two paths; story and prototyping.
Story is the driving force behind this project. I have collected all of the anecdotes and story content. Now the challenge is to find the best way to translate this story to visitors that truly expresses Sybil’s experiences in the world of women comedy writers in the 1970s within the greater backdrop of the history of women in comedy.
Game of the Project
The impetus for the Museum of Funny Ladies stems from the desire to dissolve the age-old adage, the belief that women aren’t funny. Sybil used humour to navigate her way through the residual belief that women weren’t funny that still lingered in the architecture of the writers world in the 1970s and beyond.
The idea that women aren’t funny is the game of this project or storyline, where in the face of being treated badly or differently because she was a woman in comedy, she responded with what she did best, being funny. In the end this goes to show that yes, women ARE funny.
I watched a great documentary called Women Aren’t Funny, by stand-up comic Bonnie McFarlane. It successfully uses the humour of women, funny women, to find out why women aren’t funny. This was definitely a great inspiration showed the game in action.
Breaking Down the Content
I went through all of the recordings again to parse the content and and to categorize the stories and anecdotes based on major themes.
I created two databases – one that details the interview questions, responses, clip locations, script connections and notes, and the other that breaks the content down by theme, anecdote, major characters or script, and the general story summary. This latter database was used to create a post-it schematic that shows the themes and stories that go under each, visually breaking down the content in physical space.
The major themes are:
Integrity/Against the Grain
Not Taken Seriously
Take It or Say Something
Men Missing the Humour
Dramatic Shows Are More Polite
Not Much Had Changed
Alter How You Talked
Because a Woman
As a Woman
As a Writer
Anecdotes (stories pulled from above among others)
Part of the story research is to learn the steps to design a museum in the real world. What do I need to do in order for this process to be as close to professional as possible? Two books have been very helpful in filling in the blanks and teaching me the proper protocol:
Planning for People in Museums
Mastering a Museum Plan
Mastering a Museum Plan is a wonderful resource that provides an almost step-by-step process in the design and development phases. I was able to extract several of these steps for this part of my process. These are the following steps in creating a Strategic Plan that I have taken and plan to take:
Defining the Core Idea of the Museum & Exhibit
The Museum of Funny Ladies
The notion that women aren’t funny is an age-old theory perpetuated by stereotypes, social constraints, sexism, fear and ignorance – not based in fact or reality. Alas, the time has come to banish this thought and celebrate the vibrant living history of funny woman. The idea of “women aren’t funny” should evaporate from conscious thought. Because we are funny. They are funny. Everyone can be funny. And not “just as funny as men” but without needing to be compared to anyone at all. The Museum of Funny Women is a museum experience that takes the visitor on a journey through the history of female comedians from Vaudeville to present-day by immersing them in these moments of history, that highlight the accomplishments, struggles, individual stories and bits of these funny women.
The history of female comedians is a path blazed by legends of laughter past and present. From Vaudeville to the Progressive era, and from women’s liberation to women liberated to push their way into late night tv, women have had to navigate their way over many hills to reach this current peak in their comedic acceptance and accessibility. If not for these pioneers, I would not be who I am today – an aspiring comedian, and no matter what I am pursuing as a career, will always want and wish to be on stage forging my own laugh track. The stories, triumphs, struggles and successes of these funny ladies need to be told.
The Writers Room
As the 60s and 70s unfolded, the Women’s Lib movement grew with a force, which led to a pivotal point in the history of women and comedy: a moment when the roles of female comedians converged – they were now not only performing their content, but creating it as well. Between the struggle to be taken seriously and the fight against being taken advantage of, these women were up against the challenge of an environment where being outspoken was out of the question, and where they had to consciously adjust her behavior and language to play the role they needed to, to get their work and point across. These women were doing more than just writing to get her scripts to air, they were pioneers navigating their way to success. This exhibit/ design places the audience in this moment in history that explores the women’s lib movement through the experiences of female comedy writers that broke the boundaries and paved the way for the women writers of today.
This project aims to shed light on this piece of the greater history of women in comedy, in order to enlighten the world and perhaps add to this path of progress that these women comedy pioneers started down so many decades ago.
Using both my content database and the post-it breakdown, I created the content schematic as laid out in Mastering a Museum Plan.
Next Steps for Story
The next step is to thoroughly parse the content again and extract the stories and anecdotes that illustrate the core idea. Then from this I will create the storyline. Each story is its own storyline that needs to fit into the general non-linear story arc.
Once I have the storyline down solid, the next step will be to solidify the design and create the content map. Presently I am looking at three entry points:
At this point the idea is for the typewriter interaction to be a global exhibit interaction with longer form stories that connect to objects and photons on the wall. When someone places the script in the typewriter, the wall comes to life based on the content of the story. The phone interaction may be the heart of the experience and the more intimate entry point. Visitors will pick up an address book and can dial phone numbers (producer, agent, guy who won’t call back, etc). Each phone number corresponds to a story that corresponds to the contact’s name in the book. This will be shorter, anecdotal oral accounts. Perhaps there will be a way for visitors to interact with content on the desk that correspond to the story. The TV interaction (at this point) will be a simple interaction where visitors can change the channel and sift through clips related to the scripts that Sybil has written, the pots of gold at the end of each of her writing journeys.
Although the storyline and the actual interactions are not set in stone, I do have a general idea of the object-interactions that I plan to design in the exhibit. With the Quick & Dirty show and end of semester quickly approaching, I believe that prototyping the technology alongside story development is crucial for the sake of time. And perhaps working with them alongside one another can lead to sooner user-testing, which can inform the story and design even better at an earlier stage.
The Phone Keypad
“You could tell from the phone, and who would take your call, how you were doing in the industry.” -Sybil Adelman Sage
With the phone at the heart of the project – and in the center point of the exhibit – I felt the need to prototype this object first.
I began with a bone colored 1970s Western Electric Princess Phone.
My plan was to deconstruct the device and find the connections on the 3×4 keypad.
There are 8 wires coming from the keypad. I performed a continuity test, testing each wire against every wire. I used a multimeter and tested by pressing each button on the keypad. I found that three wires each had continuity with the same 4th wire. I also discovered that two other wires had continuity with each other, and the remaining two wires had no continuity with any of the others at all.
The continuity in every case happened when any button on the keypad was pressed down. This was very different than the traditional 3×4 keypad set-up where wires correspond to rows and columns. Each wire with continuity seemed to be connected to every button on the keypad based on the test.
However, the physical set up of the keypad did have the traditional structure of column and row switches that go high and low depending on which button is pressed. For example if the “1” button is pressed two switches are closed corresponding to that row and column.
I tested the actual switches for continuity and got the same results with the wires: each switch went high for any button pressed not necessarily the buttons in its particular corresponding column or row. The problem I am facing finding out which wires correspond to which switches. Going through the phone schematic does not clearly show which wires belong to these connections. There are also no good tutorials for vintage keypad phones. Most are for the rotary phones. I spoke with Jared Friedman, Eric Rosenthal, Danny Rozin, Shawn Van Every and Tom Igoe who had worked with phones in the past. Office hours will be needed to take the next steps.
In the case that the original circuitry of the phone will need to be gutted, I decided to move forward with a backup keypad component. This step also helped in advancing progress, as I now have a basic code structure to use with this keypad that can also be applied to the original keypad should it be usable.
I set up a circuit using the 3×4 matrix keypad from Adafruit.
The next step was to create a program that allows a user to input a phone number and then have this input trigger an action. I knew I needed to save the input values into some kind of variable such as an array. But I did not have any luck comparing arrays with each other in Arduino code. I also did not start out knowing much about saving values and then using the saved values. My learning goal for this part of the project was to understand that coding concept and to apply it.
I searched the depths of the internet for tutorials and help forums and talked with Stephanie Koltun about arrays. I learned that I needed to save the input values as a string, not an array, which informed the next step of my investigation. After much research and many failed attempts, I finally discovered this sample code in this help forum that helped me form the basic code structure that allows for input values to be saved into a string and then trigger an action! By hacking that code I was successful in building on it and creating a program that saves 7 values into a string that Serial writes something if the correct values are input into the keypad. Learning Achievement Unlocked: Going through this forum, I was able to break down the code and understand how to save values into a string.
–> Arduino Code Found Here <–
I then created a quick prototype of the exhibit experience using the keypad circuit, Arduino code and Isadora. The user dials a number, and the content connected to that phone number is triggered.
I reached out to Chino Kim who has worked on multiple vintage phone projects. He mentioned that I needed to add 5v of power to the phone’s wall cord. He also mentioned that I should speak with Eric Rosenthal who had been a great help to him. After speaking with Eric, I was instructed not to take the phone apart and to go through the cord as Chino had mentioned.
I found a cord with only two wires, not four. The old phones worked with four wires within the phone’s wall cord. Testing with a multimeter, I found that when the phone was off the receiver, there was continuity between the two wires within the phone cord. I connected them to 5v through a bench power supply and eventually through an Arduino/computer combination and I did establish a connection where I could hear my own voice through the receiver. The phone, therefore, has proven to be in working condition. Time for some office hours to take the next step.