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Human digital network

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Sangeeta van Beemen
Claire Farbrace

Hi, I’m Claire and I’m currently studying the MA Heritage and Memory Studies at the University of Amsterdam. I’m a creative thinker and come from an interdisciplinary background. With very little experience in the field of Media Studies, being an intern at MediaLAB will introduce me to the world of New Media and teach me exciting new skills.

Bogdan Moroz

I’m an IT student from South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences. My primary background is computer networking and app development, but I’m greatly interested in media studies and productions. At MediaLAB, I hope to apply my technical skills in a creative way to develop a valuable project that I can be proud of. LINKEDIN



Sprint 2 – Exploring the Network

Having looked into potential target demographics during sprint one, this time we decided to explore the partners that make up the EHRI network. We wanted to know general statistics of each partner that has a public facing, as well as what makes them stand out from the rest. Overall, our goals this sprint were the following:

  • Gather insights from a map displaying how individual partners engage with their public and with each other.
  • Gather information from all participating organisations (visitor numbers, number of Facebook followers etc.)
  • Create a physical visualisation of this aggregated data.
Back to the SCRUM board

Back to the SCRUM board

The Research

Given the fact that EHRI has multiple partners spanning all over Europe and beyond, it was important to send the emails with our questions as soon as possible, as we expected the responses to take quite a while. That was indeed the case, so while we waited for the partners to respond, we also conducted our own research based on the partners’ websites, social media presence and news articles. When responses were taking too long, we also called the partners to try and speed up the process. We found that smaller museums and archives were faster to respond and more eager to share their information.

The Visualisation


Laser cutter is our favourite tool now

We started off with the idea of a map of the world, where one would see the geographical locations of the partner institutions and various connections between them. However, it felt like this visualisation would not be informative enough. Eventually we came up with a hexagonal grid, where each hexagon represents a single partner. Each hexagon has a small logo of the institution’s building, and on the opposite side there is a QR code. By scanning the QR, a user can get detailed analytics of each institutions influence and public engagement. An Android app was made to scan the QRs and display the information.

The app was built with React Native

The app was built with React Native

This visualisation might also serve as a research tool in the future – by asking different partners to arrange hexagons based on their relations with other institutions we could gather information on how people view the network from within.


Online Connection

Another thing we did was create a visualisation of the way partners are connected online. By scraping each partner’s website for links leading to EHRI and other partners, we were able to make a representative graph. It was interesting to see that some of the prominent EHRI partners barely mention the network in their materials.


Beautiful, isn’t it?

Prototyping Workshop

We also had a workshop on various types of making prototypes – from paper to Wizard of Oz and role playing. As an exercise, we created a demo of an interactive exhibition space, where people could watch documentary footage of the Holocaust, see people in other EHRI institutions watching the same materials, and leave their thoughts and impressions to be seen by other visitors. This workshop was useful to think about what we could come up with for our end product.

Grace Houghton and Bogdan Moroz demonstrating the prototype

Grace Houghton and Bogdan Moroz demonstrating the prototype

Sprint Review

EHRI appreciated the data that we gathered and enjoyed interacting with the prototypes that we made, and the resulting discussion provided us with more insights about the network. We did agree that the goal of our project is not to focus on facilitating connections between partners, but to address a new wider audience. However, the gathered information will be of great aid to our further prototyping and research.

Sprint One Done

Three weeks flew by and our first sprint is now complete. Although it took some time to master the advanced design tools and methods of MediaLAB and find our footing and direction for the project, in the end we came out more prepared, experienced and inspired.

Sprint Goal

The room where it happens! "It" being our meetings with EHRI

The room where it happens! “It” being our meetings with EHRI

First things first, we had a meeting with our clients – coordinators of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure – in the building of NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
The building, constructed for a tobacco trader Jacobus Nienhuys in the 1880s, has since accommodated the Deutsche Bank, a tribunal on Nazi collaborators, the Agency of the Ministry of Finance and presently NIOD, since 1997. With virtually every room made in a different style ranging from French Renaissance to Moorish, the building seems to match the mission statement of EHRI: bringing separate archives and institutions together.
After some deliberation we came up with a sprint goal – conducting an interactive survey amongst different age groups to test their curiosity and knowledge of the Holocaust in order to define a target audience. We decided to present our results as a tangible visualization.



To get everyone in the mindset of creating and building, next week we had a Makerssprint, which took place at the Makerslab at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The idea was to actually come up with and create some prototypes for our project using an array of tools ranging from laser cutters and 3D printers to disc sanders, saws and hammers. Over the course of three days our team has managed to build three tools that we intended to use in further research.

  • Interactive surveysurveyParticipants were asked to make their estimates on the numbers of victims of the Holocaust, refugees and remaining survivors by placing the appropriate amount of disks representing numbers of people on poles. After that real numbers were revealed. By asking people factual questions about the Holocaust, we hoped to spark curiosity through making people aware they might not know some crucial facts.
  • Jenga towerjengaInspired by a memorial in the Bavarian Quarter of Berlin, each block of a jenga tower had an anti-Semitic law written on it. Pulling out block after block, a player would learn the extent of the dehumanization of the Jewish population. The eventual collapse of the tower was also meant to be symbolic.
  • Then and nowinstallationBy matching modern-day events with those of less than a century ago, the participants were meant to draw parallels and grasp the relevance of continuous learning of the history of the Holocaust.

By using three disparate approaches – a survey, a game and an interactive installation – we tested various ways of engaging people with Holocaust related content, and the feedback and observations that we gathered will be valuable in our future work.

Workshop – Define Intentions
Another valuable experience of the same week was a workshop on defining intentions. We were asked to think of all potential stakeholders of our project and look at the problem from each point of view.


Survey Conducting and Weather Shenanigans

No kidding!

No kidding!

Inspired and prepared, we were ready to hit the streets and talk to people. However, the weather had other plans, a powerful storm hit Amsterdam on the day that we scheduled the survey for. Understanding that no one would be willing to talk to us in the pouring rain and strong wind, we switched to our contingency plan and made an online version of the questionnaire. We spread it on Facebook, not only throughout our friends and acquaintances, but also around groups targeted at different age groups, such as “Mothers of Amsterdam” and so forth. The result was quite fruitful, and we managed to get responses of almost eighty people rather quickly.

Processing Responses and Making it Tangible

Claire Fabrace and Grace Houghton finding insigts in the collected data

Claire Farbrace and Grace Houghton finding insights in the collected data

One of the big realizations of this week was learning that processing responses is actually more valuable and time-consuming than actually getting them. Fortunately, through careful color-coding, categorizing and charting we managed to pull through in time. To visualize our results in a creative and impressive way, we decided to create a pop-up book. Each page had a unique representation of the answers to a question of the survey. Based on the answers, we managed to trace some interesting patterns and pin-point some groups that would be productive to target. We did not treat these results as facts, but rather interesting assumptions and a good place to start.

From prototypes to products

From prototypes to products

Each page of the book has a different visualisation

Each page of the book has a different visualisation

After All

At the sprint review, EHRI was quite impressed with our results and we discussed our insights at length. The research that we had done was conversation provoking and together we managed to define goals and intentions for the sprint to come. Thus, the first sprint was completed, and now we are ready to face new challenges.

Kickoff week at MediaLAB

The Beginning!

The first week at MediaLAB consisted of getting to know each other and developing team-building skills. We had a fun workshop called “Tinkering” where we used different tools for example Makey Makey and Little Bits to develop rapid electronic prototypes. Using these tools provided us with the ability to physically test concepts. They allowed us to test a concept really quickly to see whether it would work or not. This will be useful for future projects. Our prototype revolved around an interactive museum installation that worked with sound, light and data to tell a story. The idea was to create a sensory experience for the user to explore the EHRI data in a personal way. It was great practice for our team in collaborating to create a physical result. We can use these skills in our next project.
for blog 2

Our next task was called the User Scene Challenge. The goal of this challenge was to create an emotional connection with our user’s pain points by depicting their conflict in a short scenario. We had a lengthy ideation phase where we all contributed ideas and ended up with an amalgamation of our best ideas. The conflict we conveyed in the film is the difficulty accessing information on the Holocaust. This could be for many reasons for example, the user must be an academic/affiliated with an institution to access the information or the user might have to pay a costly membership fee etc. We have represented this conflict by depicting a user in the dark reaching for a light and being unable to grasp it before the light goes out.