Completed for Phil van Allen’s New Ecologies of Things course at the Art Center, this project presents prospective interactants with a touch interface that doesn’t “want” to be touched.
When touch screen interface devices are found in the wild, their shielding appendages haven’t been clipped yet. As you might expect, these appendages have to be surgically removed before the devices can be domesticated and shipped for sale.
This design explores a familiar user interface paradigm (touch screen interaction) and reframes it as invasive, awkward, and potentially erotic. In this way, I treat the interactions between humans and objects as themselves rituals to be tinkered with and defamiliarized.
By frustrating the typical user expectations about touch interfaces, I recast the iPod touch as an animistic object whose skittish behavior suggests trauma. While the object follows a user with its “gaze”, it clamps shut in response when one attempts to touch it forcefully. Instead, users need to earn the object’s trust before it will allow itself to be touched or stroked—an action that triggers a change in the object’s data-visualization display.
This approach to animism drew inspiration from Phil van Allen’s critique of ubicomp’s utopian fantasies and Brenda Laurel’s writing on animism (2008).
Designed as a critique of status monitoring in online contexts, this project presents a prototype of a prosthetic device that conversation partners wear in their mouths to provide visual and auditory feedback about the speaker’s level of online popularity (measured in retweets). The speaker with more current retweets experiences voice amplification (and their mouth glows a clear blue) while the less popular interlocutor gets quieter and their mouth glows red. The design aims to call attention to problematic features of the “marketplace of attention” that structures the amplification of “speech” in online contexts. In this way, I deliberately designed the objects to frustrate communication by awkwardly interjecting online status into meat-space.
Special thanks to Laila Shereen Sakr and Rosemary Comella for helping me to demo this project.
As a collaborator on Jen Stein’s dissertation project PUCK, I worked with Jeff Watson on datavisaulizations of the SCA building’s 100s of sensor feeds.
[Project lead: Jen Stein; Dissertation Chair: Prof. Scott Fisher; MEML team: Jacob Boyle, Joshua McVeigh-Schultz, Hyung Oh, Amanda Tasse, Jeff Watson; Storyboard illustrations: Bryant Paul Johnson]
I’m interested in interactive systems that get completed by leaps of imagination or by social mediation. One example I’ve pointed to is the elevator close-door button. This is a device that is often non-functional yet nevertheless encourages us to assign causality even where there is none. Building on this the idea, I created a responsive system that is only triggered when a user closes their eyes.
This design uses XML data from NAVTEQ to translate daily traffic flow at particular road sections into a rhythmic pulses that maps onto PWM voltage for vibrating motors.
By the year 2060, all the humans who survived peak-oil live in giant honeycomb-like structures that contain self-sustaining mini-ecologies within each geodesic cell. Movement is tightly regulated, but residences are efficiently distributed such that all experiences of landscape are consistent.
There is no open space nor closed space; there is only space. Each individual residence is the same size and the same distance from every other. Experiences of proximity to other human beings are thus normalized, and travel is coordinated by cloud-based supercomputers, so that one never encounters more or less than the same number of people at any given time.
But ironically, years after peak oil, people start to nostalgicize the era of the automobile. Entranced by the tragic romance of our (once-upon-a-time) collective disregard for the future, consumers look at the car as a kind of thematic palette for restaurants, parties, films, etc. In this sense, the era of automobile is experienced the way we think of pirates, the 50s, or the Wild West today.
This design emerged from thinking about how social surveillance operates to regulate recycling practice in Japan. Unlike in the U.S. where recycling is practice by a single household, in Japan, recycling is deposited in a common neighborhood repository. All recycling must be separated and deposited in a specific manner. Paper-goods, for example, must be folded and tied into a 8.5 x 11 stack. When I was living in Japan, I found these standards to be quite demanding, but I was intrigued by how much I internalized the watchful eyes of my neighbors, so that even when no one was looking I was aware of that gaze. My imagination about the potentially disapproving eyes of my neighbors in some ways eclipsed the actual experience. Foucault talks about this kind of internalized surveillance in relation to his concept of biopolitics and the state. But I think this case of localized self surveillance is somewhat different from the way we think about the watchful eye of “Big Brother”, because the act is negotiated and enacted horizontally.
So, I wanted to come up with a design that leveraged this kind of imagination about the gaze of others — but instead of being surveilled by one’s cohabitants, one would be surveilled by tiny eyes that run along the floor. These eyes would be “cute” much the way that public service posters in Japan leverage the cuteness of mascots to encourage you to remember important instructions. Instead of focusing on recycling practice, though, I wanted these eyes to be regulating hot or cold air leakage (by guiding an inhabitant to close an open window for example).