‘Develop a “media”: a social media platform, a mobile app, a hardware hack, a machine, or a toy.’
Er, what? As a student of a theoretical media course, I had no idea where to start. Once the group was assembled (Shannon Moorcroft and Shauna Christie, along with me), and we came up with a viable and innovative idea, I then struggled with how to physically make an application (app), and I found this a very scary proposition.
With help from a previous media student Laura Burden, and one of Shannon’s flatmates who is undertaking a degree in computing, we were able to start to piece together how to best create the app; a very steep learning curve.
The team looked at several software platforms that could be used to create a working app including Unity and Android Studio. We watched a YouTube video called ‘Android Studio Tutorial for Beginners’ (Devslopes, 2015), which helped us to understand the basics of coding and the software.
Android Studio allowed us to select a Software Development Kit (SDK). Having decided upon Gingerbread (the most recent update available). This allowed better technology to enable all the elements in our concept to work, however, its newness means that it is currently only available to a limited amount of people.
The software allowed us to play with code and learn a few fundamental basics, however, we still struggled to make the prototype work, which was very upsetting. We had a simple design on screen, and the platform from which to code, but ultimately, we struggled even to make a button click. After more research and several failed attempts, we decided to move on to plan B. This was to use a website called ibuildapp which allowed us, using widgets and templates, to create a working design using free trial software.
Having decided to use ibuildapp, we felt confident enough having attempted to learn code, but this was not plain sailing either. It took a lot of trial-and-error to alter features and make everything fit together. The process required outside intervention using the ‘Online Chat’ feature on their website; a supportive technician named ‘Alex’ helped to change the app’s title banner through a series of screenshots sent back and forth. Most disconcerting was to lose the app because our free trial had finished, and the account locked; but the app was completed, and I gained a lot from the process.
We would need a lot more financing to continue the app’s development, to ensure it worked properly, with the help of a professional developer. I am very proud of how far we managed to get with the app, and what its creation means for my personal development, especially as I moved from designing something from a user’s point of view, to a creator’s point of view.
This module is extremely relevant to the course, in a subject area that should cover sociology, humanities and technology. It, along with my project, has broadened my thinking, and given me further knowledge of something I never thought I would ever attempt, giving me an edge over other BA Media students when I graduate.
If I attempt to find a career in a technological industry I have greater skills over other media students who might go for the same role. This wouldn’t happen in traditional courses and this adds to my personal unique selling point.
PHOTOS: FROM OUR PITCH (RACHEL MEASURES, SHANNON MOORCROFT AND SHAUNA CHRISTIE)
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