I looked at the Blood Sugar project in the Memory issue of Vectors. This issue prompts us to ponder upon the relationship between history and memory. Memories are fickle. So, it is not history that matters, but how we remember them. Different projects in this issue revolve around the borderline of history and memory. Like its companion piece, a previous Vectors project Public Secrets, which presented the voice of women in the California State Prison system, Blood Sugar is a compilation of voices of an HIV prevention and needle exchange program participants that gives its listeners these drug addicts’ or HIV patients’ side of the story.
When I first launched the project, I was facing 20 voice recordings.
I did not intuitively understand what I was looking at or where I should click. It was not until a few minutes into Bea’s story for me that I figured out I should click on the recordings themselves to zoom into the story. After you zoom into a story, there are different types of phrases the interface user can click: the quotes in quotation marks, the questions addressed, the definitions in squared brackets and, further down, the key words next to a circle.
It look a little getting used to and a little background knowledge as the project did not give much context, but I was soon able to smoothly navigate around the project. I really like the idea of zooming into the blood cells as we dig further into the stories and the sound of heartbeats accompanying every click. This really made me feel like I could “Get Closer” to the speakers. I also appreciate the dark tone of the project as it sets a serious but intimate tone for the stories.
One thing in particular that I noticed and appreciate about the project is the way the key terms are set up. Once we zoom in as much as we can and click on a key term, there are links to other stories. This is so interesting for me because before I even need to listen to the other stories, I already know there are common themes between them or common problems they encountered. In fact, I found out that if we hit the space key, the key terms become nodes and these nodes are then connected by edges to form a network analysis graph. This type of analysis really helps the interface users visualize the many unfortunate connections these people have with each other.
Having read the Editor’s Introduction to the project later, I understood that they showed the drug users’ voices to help listeners steer away from the prejudice we had against them and understand their lack of choices. I thought it was interesting that the visual and audio cues that I liked about the project were intentional. For instance, the authors intentionally zoomed in to make us feel like we are getting closer. I feel like this project is a huge success because despite some initial confusions, I really felt what the authors intended for me to feel. Although I was not familiar with drugs and the life of drug users, I now feel like I understand them.