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Thesis abstract (version 0.1)

Written by on 14th September 2011 in "Official" Papers, Thoughts with Leave a comment

Concepts

Instead of only constantly aiming for progress in the form of newer, bigger, and faster how can we add life to the existing nooks and crannies of the world around us? By reconsidering these overlooked spaces, in both the physical and digital sense, I hope to also encourage others, from a diverse background, to find their own personally meaningful experiences. The modern world is ripe with opportunity to expose and create platforms that encourage creativity within those voids, regardless of the end form.

Some possible starting points include:

  • Zombie-mail: Email interface as a passive but social zombie-killing game (because answering emails is like killing zombies, they just keep coming) which questions both our attitudes and priorities towards “work”. Can a digital “non space” as ubiquitous as email be more like “tending a garden” and less about “getting things done”? Can taking action on email be fun? Instead of just being a solitary chore, can an email interface create community by being a social game with bragging rights? This is most directly inspired my experiences from this past summer but, I believe, also loosely tied to my prior project on the normally banal experience of customer service phone trees. As an extension of this idea, how can other “standard productivity” interfaces be re-imagined for more idiosyncratic desires?
  • High-level hacking/crafting: Creating open ended tutorials as a form of inspiration and knowledge sharing about extending ubiquitous technologies into new forms/uses (instead of starting from low-level craft projects like “sew a blinking led!”). For instance, a kit & product-manual-turned-comic book called “101 things to make with an iPod touch on a Sunday afternoon.” By taking advantage of pre-existing apps, or creating new ones, combined with crafting highly specific physical forms, it could change the purpose from solitary digital consumption to collaborative physical creation. This relates to several prior projects that combine craft and technology such as Souvenirs from the InternetRecreate magazine and Huddle.
  • Computer lab rehab: Rethinking the repetitively uniform physical spaces designated as academic computer labs. Instead of an indoor-only teacher-students/worker bee configuration how can re-designing the space encourage different types of exploration and formation of communities? It’s not just about putting colorful paint on the walls or making it look like a Google office, but rethinking the values of the space entirely, including the way we interface with technology and each other. This is also somewhat related to my prior project on creating a sacred space to celebrate stochasticity as well as space-repurposing projects like Playing House and Never Was.

Questions

“Deep within every rational system holding societies together are assumptions that, if taken to their logical conclusion, tend toward absurdity.” (Blaine Merker) How can we use a hacker’s mindset as a way to expose and exploit these assumptions? I’m fascinated by the idea of Design Hacking. How can we recontextualize and repurpose (aka hack) existing technologies and environments as a mechanism for exploring the issues of culture, class, and community within hybrid spaces? “People’s behavior is largely influenced by the context in which they live…When we design spaces (real or virtual), we need to take responsibility for the types of behavior those spaces are likely to encourage.” (Jonathan Harris) What type of behaviors do our current systems, and their corporate owners, value? What types of behaviors would be more in line with our own personal values? How can we find and nurture the bits of humanity in our current machines, systems, and infrastructures? Or how can we bring our own sense of humanity to these spaces?

Interests

I am infatuated with the internet and the increasingly blurry line between our experience of life in the gradient between a physical and digital existence, and have a growing desire to interact with virtual things in a tangible way. I am also very driven by the DIY ethos, and believe in the power of creative recontextualization and resourcefulness as a tool to question our “rational” world. Growing up in the mid-west as a relatively privileged upper-middle class woman of color I’m especially interested in society’s “rational” ideas of culture, class, and community. I am also very interested in how these ideas currently (and could possibly) manifest in an increasingly technological world. I come to the table with my skills in graphic design, illustration, motion graphics, animation, and making. I also have an interest (and experience) in collaborating with product designers, architects, game designers, and programmers.

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