The following portfolio represents a range of work and methodologies, including: physical computing, mobile design, experience prototyping, design research, performance, and experimental video.
In the past, much of my research has explored the tension of contextual uncertainty. I have addressed this theme in a number of ways: (1) by designing interactive systems that enable distributed audiences to intervene remotely, (2) by designing performative and locative games that engineer contextual collisions in overlapping spaces, (3) by building interactive objects that frustrate or complicate the interaction-rituals of everyday life, (4) by researching the effects of context collapse on impression management strategies in a Japanese social networking site called Mixi, and (5) by exploring the themes of translation and performative masks in my documentary and experimental video work.
For my MFA thesis work, I co-designed a mobile interface that crowd-sources the traditional vox pop (“on the street”) video interview. Titled Synaptic Crowd: Vox Pop Experiments, the project enables remote audiences to conduct interviews collaboratively through the phone of a remote camera operator. Drawing upon McLuhan’s imagery of electronic media as prosthetic extensions, the project explores a series of performative experiments in which networked audiences intervene into public space. The mobile platform enables online participants to nominate and vote on questions online while they watch an interview unfold in real-time. By facilitating a live feedback loop between audience and subject, the Synaptic Crowd shuffles the agencies of the interview and destabilizes the compartmentalizing logic of the traditional vox pop. In this sense, I situate this work as “making trouble” for the assumptions that traditional journalism creates when it uses social media to curate the public back to itself. I was particularly interested here in how delegating the responsibility of question formation to a collective body transform the social dynamics of interview interactions. I was also excited about how this system enabled new ways for distributed audiences to intervene into public space. I started to wonder what it might look like to reimagine (and redesign) our public rituals from the ground up.
In the first two years of my course work, at USC I have explored theme of defamiliarized rituals of communication through design prototypes. Physical computing projects have included Heisenberg Eyes an animation that can only be viewed when the viewer closes their eyes (thus connecting an electronic circuit between their eyelids). A more recent project (completed in Phil van Allen’s New Ecologies of Things course at the Art Center) explored this theme of frustrated communication from a tactile perspective. Wild State Touch Interfaces presents prospective interactants with a touch interface that doesn’t “want” to be touched. Another project prototyped a prosthetic device that conversation partners wear in their mouths, providing visual and auditory feedback about the speaker’s level of online popularity (measured in retweets). In this work, I deliberately designed the objects to frustrate communication by awkwardly interjecting online status into physical space. In another design fiction work, Traffic Massage Spa, I reformulated Navteq traffic metadata as the inspiration and XML data-driver for traffic themed massage spas of the future. Another project imagined a built environment for community monitoring of energy consumption, drawing on the model of community-based recycling in Japan and exploring the aesthetic of “cute” self-surveillance.
My collaborations with the Mobile and Environmental Media Lab have also explored a hybrid practice of design fiction and interactive prototypes. At the core of these projects has been the overarching theme of the lifelog — an archive of personal and passive annotation that enables people to experience enriched relationships with objects and environments. The Million Story Building, and its more recent instantiation PUCK, embed the lifelog concept in built environments. We have also been working with BMW over the past two years to develop lifelog experiences for vehicles.
More generally, projects completed as part of my course work have explored general principles of interactivity design, system mechanics, and activation of public space. Games have a performative communication game for relationship partners called Elephant in the Relationship and an alternate reality game called Dendritix.
I also included projects that date back to my experimental video and performance art work, in an effort to trace the evolution of several themes that have dominated my practice over the years. In the past, I’ve been interested in themes of context clash and translation in my video and performance work. My sense is that these themes fit within a larger rubric of contextual indeterminacy and ritual intervention, concerns that have carried over to my design practice and design research work. More recently, I’ve been interested in working through these concerns in relation to, what I’ve been calling, ritual design. The concept 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.