I updated my portfolio as part of the preparation for advancing to candidacy in USC’s iMAP program. As a hybrid theory/practice program we not only write on three exam areas, but also are expected to present a portfolio of work to our committee. I included a fairly wide variety of projects — some of them dating back to my experimental video and performance art — in part in an effort to trace the evolution of several themes that have dominated my work over the years. In the past, I’ve been interested in themes of contextual indeterminacy, ritual disruption, and translation in my video and performance work, and these concerns have carried over to my design practice and design research work at USC.
More recently, I’ve been interested in designs that enable distributed audiences to intervene into public space, collapsing the distance between rituals of the everyday and rituals of public spectacle. I’ve been interested in working through these new models of participation in relation to a methodology of ritual design. In particular, I’m interested in developing a design framework for what I call ‘plebiscitary counter publics’ (i.e. ad hoc publics that appropriate vote-based participatory platforms to intervene into public space). As part of a project funded by Intel’s IXR lab, I researched parallels between cases of plebiscitary counter publics in reality television (such as Vote for the Worst) and parallel examples in virtual worlds where player avatars assemble to protest developer decisions. I’m interested in the new sorts of rituals that have emerged in these contexts, and I’m excited about how a ritual-design approach might support or re-envision these sorts large scale interventions. The concept of ritual design here draws in part from Julian Bleecker’s revisitation of Goffman’s interaction-ritual concept through the framework of design fiction. However, my approach here is interested not only in using objects as a way of activating alternative futures, but also in using a design approach to tinker with the rule-sets of everyday interaction. As I look towards my dissertation, I’m interested in using a notion of ritual design as a springboard for reimagining our civic rituals from the ground up. In particular, I’m interested in new possibilities for audience-performer interaction, emerging models of public assembly and plebiscitary participation, and frameworks for mediating distributed groups through strategies of animistic or telematic representation.