Thesis Abstract. (version 0.3)

Written by on 26th September 2011 in "Official" Papers, Thoughts with Leave a comment

We live in a computational world with increasingly blurry lines between our physical and virtual lives. Our modern world is more orderly, more systematic, and more governed by algorithms than ever before. As technology gets pumped out faster and faster, ubiquitous computing pervades everything from our built environment to our front pockets. Technologists are often rushing forward, in the name of progress, without looking back to understand the effects (or missed opportunities) in their wake. Focusing on the “how” instead of the “why” these new pioneers develop faster and better ways of systemizing, quantifying, and tagging the world, making us more modular and predictable like the very machines we rely on.

But where is the space for human intervention and interpretation? How can we humanize technology instead of technologizing humans? Jonathan Harris’ work as a computer scientist, storyteller, and artist, has also revolved around this idea. He reasons, “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.”(1) What type of behaviors do our current real and virtual spaces value?  I value chance, subjectivity, and platforms for discovery through research “on open water” versus “on the ground,” as Terence Rosenberg calls it.(2) Following a hunch instead of purely scientific logic is a process too nuanced to be predicted by anything other than a human. With these values in mind, I want to hack together virtual systems and physical objects to encourage the co-existence of creative free play in both virtual and physical space. I want to reshape our everyday technologies. Starting points include: our banal office productivity software, smart but homogenous hardware, and environments where we encounter these systems & each other. I choose to not accept arbitrary systems of so-called technological and cultural progress. I too believe “deep within every rational system holding societies together are assumptions that, if taken to their logical conclusion, tend toward absurdity. As such, they are highly fertile terrain for artistic exploration.”(3) Our socialized beliefs about physical & virtual communities, the separation of work & play, craft & technology, and public space are all up for grabs. I want to hack into these assumptions by modifying, re-contextualizing, and repurposing the “new-yesterday-but-now-obsolete” technologies and built environments of tomorrow.

Not being an engineer, I realize I may not have the resources to be a technological tool creator. But in combination with people like product designers, architects, game designers, and programmers, perhaps we could be more than just consumers. By collaborating and leveraging my skills (as a designer, illustrator, animator, and maker) I hope to bring to life more nuanced, personal and meaningful experiences as “an alternative to the programmed myth that there is only one future on the flat graph that goes up and to the right.”(4) And perhaps in the process of exploring these interests, I can create a scaffolding to empower and inspire a diverse group people to take control of their own experiences and relationships with technology.


1 Jonathan Harris . World Building in a Crazy World . World Builders.” Web. 26 Sept. 2011.

2 Terence Rosenberg. The Reservoir: Towards a Poetic Model of Research in Design.” PDF file.

3 Hou, Jeffrey. Insurgent Public Space: Guerrilla Urbanism and the Remaking of Contemporary Cities. 1st ed. Routledge, 2010. Print. 55.

4 Julian Bleecker. “Design Fiction: A short essay on design, science, fact and fiction.” PDF file.

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>