Had my tutorial with Rebecca on Tuesday. She had some really good points and gave me a lot to think about... Honestly I really agree with everything she said. I was already kind of struggling to justify some of my choices with the chair thing, and this really simplifies things. Sound isn't going to be part of my final piece, at least not directly, so I'm going to focus on a fabric/textile that communicates instead. Here are some notes fro my talk with her, and a few reference images.

  • audience = 2 people who disagree
    • both need to feel comfortable and uncomfortable
  • comfort & discomfort / familiar & foreign / safe & what you avoid
  • combining the two → make a space where two people are comfortable enough to encounter the uncomfortable
  • basing comfort w/ home = the familiar
    • living room, comfortable seating (armchair, sofa), plants, lighting, beds, pillows, soft fabrics (clothes, towels, blankets, pajamas)
  • fine art term trompe l’oeil = trick/deceive the eye
  • forced perspective = architectural/physical trompe l’oeil
  • using both trompe l’oeil & forced perspective as metaphors for creation of textile w/ controversial topics of conversation → see above (combining the two)
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2018-04-28 17.03.50.jpg

In light of feedback from tutorial the other day, I agree that the armchair will look odd in the gallery space and people won't want to interact with it. So in the hopes of creating something with more ability to carry the metaphor, I've started thinking about a museum bench. This way it will look 'normal' in the gallery environment so the audience will approach it without expectations.

After talking with Jeremy in 4D he suggested some equipment and I've decided to embed the speakers in the bench so it's a fully self-contained unit and there won't have to be any wires showing (see sketch above). Ordered the Adafruit and wires and stuff - excited to start tests when everything gets here!! Gonna work on finding the type of sounds I want to play and how to build it this week. 

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degree show sketch

I've decided to work on creating an experience, one in which the audience is presented with a familiar environment and invited to interact with it, and then has to reevaluate their surroundings because the environment is not what it seemed. To do this, I plan to work toward the sketch presented above.

Next steps: 

  • Work on creating working motion sensor (perhaps PIR) code and sensitivity
  • Create/source & edit sound material; possibly protests, aggressive speeches, eery silence, etc
  • Source materials (chair, rug, lamp, etc) to create a comfortable environment
  • Wow everyone! (including me)

Pervading questions:

  • If my project is about creating provocative experiences, how do I submit it for my portfolio review? The goal is the actual event and experience so I am designing it for the space in which it will be interacted with...
  • Since I'm exploring the familiar/comfortable with the unfamiliar/uncomfortable through experience-based design, what else do I need to work toward to demonstrate my research, experiments, etc?
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Another idea! Had a weirdo idea this morning while I was waking up, so it made more sense in my semi-unconscious state (something about a sofa with printed conversations or arguments on it...?), and now I've been reading and doing some research on the differences of debate, discussion, and argument. Some of these differences are:

  • debate tends to refer to formal system of affirmative and negative rebutals
  • arguments are usually regarded as an angry form of conversation
  • discussion is essentially an informal debate and a more rational, less angry argument

An article on The Guardian from two years ago, discusses the importance and value of knowing how to debate. This is in relation to the practice of formal debate, but the argument still holds relevant in demonstrating the value of debate within contemporary society: "the confidence to speak in public, and make sense; the construction of a logical argument; the ability to read an audience’s reactions; and, perhaps most importantly, the willingness to hear others’ arguments, and to respond to them."

... the willingness to hear others’ arguments, and to respond to them.

Several weeks ago several of the cohort were celebrating the end of term after the latest Work in Progress show and eventually Moon and I got to discussing things. Moon always draws out my inner-most thoughts... She asked what I really want, what drives me to do the work I've produced and what question I'm always pursuing. I was just tipsy enough to give her the honest answer, my never-ending line of inquiry is "why don't people like me?" or rather, what is it that pushes people away?

This question is based in my personal experiences and I have always wondered why people seem so unwilling to participate in rational exchange of ideas instead of reiterating their own at louder and louder decibels. I said that night, and it's still true, that a lot of what I've worked on this year is in response to not feeling heard or comfortable talking with my uncle about his views. We haven't spoken in quite a while and ended on pretty sour note, not least because I couldn't let him walk all over me anymore and continue to have my voice go unheard.


Feel-good things to end on: 

  • This guy who says we should be more like cats if we want to improve our arguing skills (by practicing agreeability, knowing when to strike, and being adaptable)
  • Watched the film The Great Debaters telling the story of a triumphant debate team from an all-black college in Texas in the 1930s taking on prestigious white teams and winning
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Some research on people discussing and/or creating ideas around wanting to 'fix' YouTube comments:

xkcd comic that inspired a brief period of YouTube offering a fix for YouTube creators, a moderating system

xkcd comic that inspired a brief period of YouTube offering a fix for YouTube creators, a moderating system

  • plugin called Comment Snob for Firefox to filter comments the user doesn't like
  • guy "reading" comments people left on his youtube videos
  • the Herp Derp plugin that rewrites all comments on Youtube to "herp derp"
  • Talk&Comment app that lets you "make and send voice notes on any app" including comments on social media (most similar to my idea, obviously. in an ideal world my idea wouldn't be an option)
  • This idea that YouTube creators should moderate their own comments and the nearly 10 year history of youtube trying to "fix the comments section"
  • at the WIP show I'll be using this CNN video on YouTube about the Florida school shooting because it has some pretty terrible comments and is a very current issue
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Ok, I just had another crazy idea. 

I was thinking about this YouTube show I really like, Hot Ones... It's an interview show using increasingly spicy chicken wings to throw off the interviewee. The concept is kind of hilarious but still innovative non-the-less. It got me thinking about the tutorial I had with Billie and the quick feedback I had with Matthew last week. They both were finding threads in my work that I hadn't identified yet. Or at least not consciously. 

Billie pointed out that I have been exploring differing points of view, showing that opinions en masse become terrifying if you're outside the group. It's hard to remember that each of the voices making up the chants is still a person when all you hear is yelling. Matthew reminded me that I have a knack for pushing a bit further and seem to feel comfortable in situations that others might find difficult. He suggested I embed myself even further into my topic by designing conversations or shaping a protest, basically getting my hands dirty. 

Something I have almost completely avoided in my work so far, for whatever reason, is direct one-to-one conversations. During the WIP show I really enjoyed interviewing my fellow students, not just the conversation but preparing for it as well. Creating my own podcast has been bouncing around in my head for a little while, but I've been pushing it aside to experiment more with pieces connected to the process I used during the symposium.

Part of my discussion with Billie revolved around the idea to reinvent or recreate debate as a positive experience. That idea is what sparked my previous post and research on the Perspective API. Protests are an echo chamber of thought, everyone collectively complaining, much like we see on social media. What if that echo chamber was a real physical place? What if I can reframe debate and encourage healthy discussion to combat the current social norm of simply ignoring or debasing ideas that you don't understand?

So! What about a drunk podcast?! Back to the Hot Ones reference, perhaps I can create an interview environment that provokes genuine debate in a fun and lively way? Where audiences don't feel overwhelmed and provoked but engaged and encouraged to have productive discussions? It's possible... Moon and I always have really interesting discussions over a pint... Finding people who hold opposing views, giving them a couple drinks, and letting them talk it out. You know, kinda like Hemingway, argue drunk and edit sober!

 Haha we'll see. In the meantime I am still working on the idea to use your voice to comment on social media, ideally giving people the opportunity to think again before saying something they regret.

Anyway, I'll continue thinking about making as a physically engaging process...

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Perspective API integrates AI to score and set limits to 'toxicity' in comments sections. This article in NY Mag discusses Perspective's uses and whether or not it will create a healthier online discourse. The hope is, Perspective will allow websites restrict the toxicity in comments and open exchanges to promote civility, or at least make people think a little harder before posting a comment that could be seen as inflammatory. Just a thought, but is this an infringement on free speech? Anyway...

I had this wacky idea the other day for a game or environmental engagement tool designed to allow an individual to reason and attempt to win an argument with a chatbot or conversation AI. Think like, a Catholic confessional booth where the "priest" is a well trained AI filled with the wisdom of the internet and the "sinner" is a regular Joe or Judy trying to win an argument. I guess the idea is to learn how to reason better. My thought being, if you can win against a computer or the collective intelligence of the internet, then you probably have some pretty solid evidence and reasoning skills.

Another idea I'm working on is also based on this idea of toxic comments sections. I was reading the comments on a Youtube video, generally an ill-advised activity, and wondered, "would these people really say things like this in person?" What if in getting people to be more considerate and less reactionary, I could create a system where comments couldn't be typed but needed to be spoken and dictated by speech recognition? For the WIP next week, this will probably only materialize as a video, but still the idea is there. 

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It's no secret, I LOVE podcasts.

Pretty much since my discovery of the medium I've used them to keep me company while commuting, working on freelance projects, and conversation starters. It's only recently though that I've started analyzing my love of podcasts and which ones in particular I enjoy listening to and why. You never know what you'll learn or be inspired by.

Mainly I enjoy the intimacy of the medium, that both the process of creating and listening to a podcast are private but separate spaces, and the ability to dig deep into a small group discussion. Here's a list of a few favorites.

99 Percent Invisible

As long as there are things to talk about I will have a quote, fact, or little story to add to the conversation that I heard from 99pi. Roman Mars is a brilliant host and clearly passionate about making the world of design more accessible to more people. Of course, most of us "beautiful nerds" are probably in the design industry, but Roman and the producers of the show are masters at researching and narrating their subjects. 

Below is one of my favorite recent episodes. Beware the algorithm!

Ear Hustle

I think it's human nature to be curious about things we haven't experienced, and Ear Hustle is the perfect way to spy on the secretive world of prisons. The show interviews inmates from inside San Quentin State Prison. The stories are raw, emotions can run high, and just plain interesting. We have so many assumptions about prison life from media, rumors, and ideas based on societal beliefs, all of which are respectfully challenged in this podcast.

How often do you get such an honest view of some aspect of someone's life?

Song Exploder

We all listen to music, nearly constantly for a lot of us since we have access to it every waking moment now. But do we understand the process and artistry in creating a song? As the title suggests, this podcast details the minute details that go into creating a song, and everyone has a different process. Getting insight to a usually private, and seemingly mystical, creative process is such a wonderful use of the intimacy of the podcast medium. Hrishikesh Hirway's interview style has such ease, you get the feeling even the most reclusive musician would divulge their secrets.

This episode interviews Jóhann Jóhannsson about creating the score for Arrival, a film and score I absolutely fell in love with.

What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law

Hosted by Roman Mars, the same host as 99pi, this podcast is very much a reaction to the current political climate in the United States, and I feel a very poignant reaction at that. With education comes power, so what better way to respond to the fear of a Trump presidency than to learn as much as we can about the US constitution?! *praise hands emoji*

The following episode I found particularly interesting, for somewhat obvious reasons.

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Recently I've been struggling in my exploration of the topic of protests, and more specifically, what am I really questioning about protests? Something that's always been present in the back of my mind was about the success of protests and how the public can communicate through them. What's the purpose of a protest? Do they ever really succeed in affecting change? What are the pieces of the communication process within a protest? 

According to Oxford Dictionary, a protest is as simple as "a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something". Upon looking up the definition I was actually quite surprised to find that there isn't any inclusion of asking for change. All that's required is the statement or action. This of course makes sense, as anyone participating in current social media trends can tell you, people are more than willing to express their disapproval of something in every tweet or Facebook post. Additionally, I believe protests can take many forms and don't only need to be an assembled group of people, as in the case of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee. But I did think that an inherent part of protest was to ask for change. Have I been bringing more layers into protest than need to be there? Are they just for bringing awareness? And does protesting work?

With the current atmosphere in the US, teenagers are marching and calling for gun reform and the last couple of years have seen bigger protest gatherings than ever before. At least from the sidelines, it's looking like change must be inevitable. Is it though? In my recent memory of protests, it has never led to marked change and that terrifies me a little. What is a normal citizen supposed to do when voting has failed, and will likely continue to fail, us? In my search for answers on the success rate of protests, I found this article in the New Yorker discussing if protesting is even really worth the hassle. "Is protest a productive use of our political attention? Or is it just a bit of social theatre we perform to make ourselves feel virtuous, useful, and in the right?"

The hats were great. The signs were better.

This is one of my biggest fears; participating in something you believe to be meaningful and worthy of your time, but in the end is really just keeping the elite up and everyone else in their place. How then will our voice be heard?

The article takes a brief look at protesting in the mid twentieth century, and looks at the changes the act of protesting has gone through. Protesting between the 60s and 70s went through a significant shift, evolving from organized demonstrations to a more quick-and-dirty type of assembly.  "Authority, in the new tactical model, arose from the number of people who showed up. It swept away the need for common principles or precisely coordinated strategies; the choices behind public protest could be personal and private."

"The recent studies make it clear that protest results don’t follow the laws of life: eighty per cent isn’t just showing up. Instead, logistics reign and then constrain. Outcomes rely on how you coordinate your efforts, and on the skill with which you use existing influence as help." Social media has only continued to shape how we gather, easily creating a virtual mob and sometimes even a real gathering. Information spreads so quickly now, and as the article argues, that rapid spread actually dilutes the potential power for a protest and discards the art of patience, knowing when to play your hand to your greatest advantage.

[...] successful protests seem to speak truth through power.

So where does that leave me? I've tried many different tactics through animation and sound, and even a little print/augmented reality, in exploring protests, but perhaps the power is in the performance? I'm not ready to give up the animated or sound elements, but I might try my hand at something more performed. Reflecting on the difference in reception of flash mobs and protests, I did a little research. Flash mobs are of course generally light-hearted entertainment, but that got me thinking, why? According to wikipedia 'flash mob' cannot refer to a political gathering, but instead that is termed a 'smart mob'.

At the heart of this whole exploration is the hope that people engage in meaningful discussion around polarizing topics. So in thinking of this smart/flash mob and protest juxtaposition, perhaps I can combine the light-hearted flash mob with the empowerment of protest participation... time will tell.

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