Black Market Vending Machine
The intent with this final project was to manipulate information and data into an interesting, interactive, and palatable form.
A particular infographic about the cost of legally acquired organs caught my attention at the beginning of this year. While the legal acquisition of organs does occur, more often than not in this country, they are officially donated.
However, as is the case when the demand far outweighs the supply, people tend to look elsewhere.
Around then I became enthralled with black and underground markets.
These illegal centers of commerce speak to many of humanity’s honest demands, however disturbing they may be. Their existence serves to highlight our ability to commodify almost anything in this world.
There are the obvious products, such as drugs, but then there are the darker and more disturbing commodities, like girls being sold for less than 1 US dollar in some places.
My initial idea was to make a graphic that was a little more playful, but while I was researching, this approach felt trivial and thoughtless considering the subject matter. I started to feel as though I needed to provide solutions or more information about the subject at large.
When I spoke with Sam Lavigne about how to present this loaded information, we both came to the conclusion that just the presentation was enough, that there was no need to hit people over the head with solutions. In other words, merely making someone aware of such disturbing commodities and their relative prices was a powerful and not tacky approach.
I still wanted to highlight the absurdity of the whole situation, so I did choose to make a vending machine-style interface and added some lighthearted shopping music. I wanted it to be a little uncomfortable.
I chose to use Havocscope for my information as opposed to live underground market sites (like the Silk Road) 1) for ease of access to information and 2) it provided an interesting data set since it has specifically cited incidents in various countries. It became apparent, while sifting through the information, that comparing the prices of things in different countries contributed to the disturbing nature of the underground market.
It is also interesting to note how Havocscope obtains their information:
Havocscope is currently monitoring 50 black market products and activities around the world for which an estimated financial value is available. These values are usually obtained from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic papers or media reports. Every figure that is a component of the Havocscope World Black Market Value is documented with the original source. In some instances, the total illicit trade value is an aggregate total based upon several sources. In these instances, a link to every data source is clearly listed.
This is the first testing version of my project.
I received some good feedback about how small the vending machine was and decided to scrap this version and make a zoomed in version. I was also struggling with how to make the complicated, interacting buttons.
Each of the buttons are invisible DOM elements that toggle on and off.
This project, while incredibly useful for me, was difficult. It was mostly difficult in the sense that I knew there was probably a better way to do what I was doing, but I just didn’t know how to execute it in such a way.
Looking back, I see a lot of things I would change —
1. Cleaning up the code by looping through repetitive code: I have a lot of repeating elements, just with slightly different locations that I could loop through. If nothing else, I learned the long way.
2. Combining several different languages is difficult: I used both DOM elements and p5.js and applying common rules for each of these proved difficult and caused my code to be less condensed than it was.
3. Add more animations and graphics: Right now, it’s a little lacking in that department because of time, but I do see a lot of potential and would enjoy working on this some more in the future.
4. Make the interaction more intuitive: I think I got a little lost in the concept and as a result, the way the user interacts with the sketch isn’t fully intuitive. I believe resolving #3 would help this issue.
Thank Sam Lavigne for his creative input, Melanie Hoff for her help with never-ending-interacting DOM elements, many of my classmates for their useful input, and of course Dan Shiffman for his patient guidance.