30 October 2017 – 17 November 2017 & 13 February 2018 – 02 March 2018

The Brief
Part One
—Introduction
—Research
—Proposal
Part Two
—Statement & Proposal Recap
—Modification & Case Study
—Research & Development
Deliverable
Instagram
Reflection

The Brief

Design Domain is a School of Design in-studio 20-credit course that takes place over two blocks in Semester 1 and Semester 2, thus fostering a depth and intensity of experience. The Design Domain remit is to consolidate awareness of design in the broader cultural field, highlighting the relationship between the studio’s specialist subject area and other bodies of knowledge outwith the studio discipline yet connectable to it. Alongside Design Domain, there will be a series of extracurricular satellite events and projects that could represent valuable instances of practice, collaboration and experience.

In Semester 1, projects and studio work will be characterised by a positioning, contextualising and probing approach. The two-and-a-half-week block will start on Monday 30th October with a themed Symposium. Subsequently within this block, each studio will operate an internal sequence of workshops, studio projects, activities and talks. In Semester 2, the two-and-a-half-week block will commence on Tuesday February 13th and will offer the opportunity to extend and develop the investigation and process-led activities, culminating in a portfolio for summative assessment.

Design Domain functions as a vehicle to help you explore your own creative process by relating it to ideas and practice within your own discipline and beyond. It involves your own tutors, plus visiting speakers and designers.

Part One

30 October 2017 – 17 November 2017

Introduction

At the Symposium, I attended three talks before the Plenary (Adele Patrick). Annabella Pollen talked about the history of clothing revolutions and pursuits of a more utopian society. Patrick Tresset spoke about his work with teaching robots how to draw, which was a talk that most Interaction Design students were at. Finally, and the most impactful one for me, was hearing Jack Tan talk about using his background as a lawyer to create performance art pieces with music. His work with the court system as performance art is fascinating to me, because the two seem like such an unlikely mashup. It was inspiring to see unlike things come together in a delightful way—perhaps one of the most “original remix” I’ve seen in a while (an oxymoron, I know). Going into this, I know I want to do something with identities, as I’ve recently been thinking a lot about what it means to be you and as a result, you as who. I also want to do some kind of data analysis because that’s a different kind of mashup in itself, human as numbers. Perhaps the unlikely pairing of music and law can inform an unlikely pairing in my project as well.

Research

Initial Thematic Exploration

Bodies
  • Posthumanism
    • Antihumanism
      • Criticism of traditional humanism, ideas about the human condition
    • Human condition
      • “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.”
      • Literary: typically used in the context of ambiguous subjects such as the meaning of life or moral concerns
    • Posthuman
      • Speculative being represents/seeks to re-conceive the human
        • Post-posthumanism and post-cyborg ethics, having to return “back” to humanism after dependence on tech additions/virtual worlds
    • Transhumanism
      • Transform human condition to enhance human intellect and physiology
      • Benefits, dangers, ethics
    • AI
      • Humans not enhanced but instead replaced with AI
      • Nick Land: humans should embrace inevitable demise
  • The Uncanny Valley
    • Mortality salience
      • Awareness that death is inevitable
      • Terror management theory
    • Sorites paradox
      • When does a heap turn into a non-heap?
      • Fixed boundaries vs. unknowable boundaries (epistemicism)
      • Supervaluationism, irreferential singular terms and vagueness
    • Design principles
  • List of fallacies
Identities
  • Post privacy society
    • Ultimate transparency
    • “The Circle”
    • Social challenges, are there benefits?
    • Who has authority
    • Information society
    • creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity
    • Wikipedia
      • Wikipedia twist?
  • Anonymity / authenticity
    • What is authenticity?
    • Authentic leadership
      • Ethical foundation
      • Delusion affecting ethical practice
    • Authentication processes
    • What is the point of authentication?
  • Public / private

Random Interests

  • Human transparency
    • Being delightfully open about who we are
    • Data driven human identities
    • What humanity do we lose when we try to document everything?
    • Binary record of humans
    • 8^8 personality test
  • Where the Wild Things Are
    • How do children survive?
    • Judgment by appearance
    • Wild Thing in all of us
    • Power of imagination
    • Home
    • Love
  • Alice in Wonderland
    • Six impossible things before breakfast
    • Loneliness
    • Nonsense
    • Dreams
    • Generally deeper meaning in children’s books
  • Data
  • What if?
  • Viewing yourself objectively or from third person
  • Binary
    • Obscurity of algorithmic art
    • Artistic representation of 0/1 true/false
    • true/false
  • Data mining
  • Who we are and who we are not
    • Defining who we are through defining who we are not
    • Can this be reduced to a binary?
  • Symmetry
    • Circle art
  • People need to be reminded more than they need to be taught
  • Cryptophasia
  • Exploring status
  • Biological foundation of gender
  • Methods of musical notation as human metric recording
  • Project emulations
  • Quantifying the human experience given that the basis of recording is binary
    • Separation of soft/hard observations

 Information as Human

  • Analog data quality, programmed in practice
  • Depersonalizing personalization
  • Identity post privacy
  • Encoding individual identities in depersonalized data
  • Gentle/benevolent data vs. hard/cruel data
  • What is data? Does data exist if nobody else acknowledges it?
  • Is your identity data? Nobody else can truly know if it’s “true”
  • What is information? Information as identity?
  • Post privacy relation with information as identity
  • Information as thing/process/knowledge (Buckland)
  • Recording and quantifying the quotidian experience as identity
With Paul and Callum
  • Banal quantified self data
  • Beyond realm of plots and computer generated imagery and realize it in physical form in terms of data and whatnot
  • Self awareness in data collection
    • Will you behave differently when you know you’re doing that?
  • Falsification of self data, nobody else can corroborate

Proposal

screen-shot-2018-02-14-at-2-31-23-pm.png

Full PDF: Design Domain Proposal

Introduction

What is information and how does it play a role in human identity? Is a human identity information in itself and is information alone a human identity? Who holds the authority to define one’s own identity? Information as Human explores the marriage between the delicate everyday experience and robust potential of data visualisation to depersonalize the personal identity born from metrics of a living being.

Inspiration

After my initial exploration gave a cursory analysis of Bodies, Identities, Action, and Engagement, I found that I kept coming back to this obsession I have with data collection and visualisation, both analog and programmatic, and employing vulnerability to expose the human experience. Considering the Identities part of BIAE, I thought immediately of two projects that have recently left a strong impression on me. Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec delightfully utilizes data drawing to show quotidian and idiosyncratic aspects of life as meaningful information. Forty Days of Dating by Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman is a social experiment that demonstrates incredible honesty and is quite revealing in many ways. Both share a voyeuristic curiosity for others’ lives and experiences that exemplify identity.

Dear Data is an analog data drawing project consisting of weekly correspondence between Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec chronicling their own personal life data.

dear data.jpg

40 Days of Dating is a project that was carried out by New York-based designers Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman in which they maintained and recorded a synthetic relationship.

forty days of dating.png

Information As

Thing, Knowledge, Process

“It is ironic that the term ‘information’ is itself ambiguous and used in different ways…”

Buckland / What is information?

Michael Buckland is an emeritus professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information.

The following includes excerpts from the abstract from his paper, Information as thing, as well as paraphrased pieces of his contentions that serve a purpose in this project.

Three meanings of “information” are distinguished: “Information-as-process”; “information-as-knowledge”; and “information-as-thing”, the attributive use of “information” to denote things regarded as informative.

Types of information are delineated as data: text and documents; and objects.

Belkin & Robertson (1976), limited information to what is intentionally told: “Information takes at least two persons: one who tells (by speaking, writing, imprinting, signally) and one who listens, reads, watches.”

Though nobody observes me at every point of every day, if I’m to take on the role of the former and presuming there is somebody to assume the role of the latter, does my identity when reduced to data become information? Can I become both the former and the latter and therefore validate my own identity as information if nobody else can corroborate said data?

Me, a Millennial (the self-centered project)

Millennials being selfishmillennials killing things

“The young people of today think of nothing but themselves.” Peter Hermit, 1274

millennial (noun) — a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century known for being lazy and entitled in the workplace, buying avocado toast in lieu of becoming homeowners, and killing industries from paper napkins to golf to marriage.

millennials timeline.png

While millennials are currently being blamed for the downfall of everything, I will perpetuate the millennial stereotype of being self-centered and embrace narcissismfor the purpose of this project. Simply put, it is easiest to gather data about myself and not only do I know exactly what I am thinking at all times, I am the best person to articulate my selection process in what I choose to disclose in the data collection stage.  Furthermore, it feeds the simple idea that there is nobody else in this world whose primary job is to keep track of you—it must be yourself.

Precedents

Topically speaking, three examples of similarly minded projects spoke to me. These three projects all exemplify data expression and data journaling with regards to humans and humanity on an intimate level, but generally serve less exploratory purposes. Domestic Data Streamers works with organizations and thus deal with external sources of data and audiences; Everyday Explorers is analog and creatively minded, yet employs constraints through the use of preset diary entries and prompts; Personal Annual Reports are actually the closest to what I may be attempting to create, though they are perhaps too structured and overly functional.

Domestic Data Streamers — Dedicated to data storytelling by “bringing emotions to data, simplifying complex information and generating knowledge.”

domestic data streamers.png

Everyday Explorers Co. — Everyday Explorers Co. is a company born from the Adobe Creative Residency of Christine Herron. Its focus is documenting everyday life and travel in creative and meaningful ways.

everyday explorers.jpg

Personal Annual Reports — In Personal Annual Reports, Infographic designer Nicholas Felton creates stunning visualisations of his own life statistics and presents them in a polished, corporate-like report.

feltron annual report.png

Project Specifications

Without completely and explicitly defining the output of this project, I will attempt to give specifications that will guide in my final creation. Firstly, this project will be an presentation of an aggregation of data collected about my own life that is expressed visually. Secondly, the data will extend beyond what one may consider “normal” personal data, e.g. height, weight, eye color, etc. Thirdly, data from quotidian aspects that may seem extraneous in any other general context will be brought to the forefront. Presumably, visualisations will be presented in a two-dimensionally rendered format (no three-dimensional, tangible visualizations) either physically, e.g. a book that resembles an encyclopedia, or electronically, e.g. a report-like navigable webpage or document. Regardless, visual aesthetic will be important as it lends to the identity of the project, and thus an extension of myself.

Tangibility

Though important and functional for the purpose of the project presentation, part of the deconstruction is tied to a depersonalization—this may exist electronically. By allowing it to be physical or digital, I remove limitations depending on my experimentation with data representation.

Anticipated Tools

R Studio Data processing and visualisation creation I can use R with libraries such as dplyr and plotly in order to manipulate and represent data programmatically. Things such as averages and summaries can be communicated through methods such as bar charts, scatter plots, and histograms.
Pen + Paper Data collection and analog data drawing Simple pen on paper can be for both recording data and creating non-electronic hand-drawn pictorial elements or other visualizations
Procreate (iPad Pro) Analog data drawing Potential uses for this can be for data visualisations that are quite illustrative in quality, and feature all hand-drawn elements
Adobe Illustrator Digital visualisation creation Illustrator is good for data visualisations that prioritize aesthetic and/or do not deal directly with data that is relatively quantitative
iPhone X Data collection I can record data using applications such as Notes, Voice Memos, and Camera to collect both qualitative and quantitative data

Timeline

30 October 2017 Design Domain Part I launch. Symposium.
17 November 2017 Design Domain Part I conclusion. Proposal submission. Open studios.
13 February 2017 Design Domain Part II launch. Data Collection to follow.
02 March 2017 Design Domain Part II conclusion. Project submission. Open studios.

timeline

Process

One Determine points of data collection and potential directions with different considerations. Previously, I’ve discussed things such as doors walked through and first names of romantic interests; I’d like to be far-reaching and leave this stage as open as possible.
Two Select points of data collection to move forward with, set a time period when appropriate, and begin data collection either through real-time recording or recall. Should recall be involved, consider implications of fallible memory and justification for inclusion.
Three Analyze collected data and determine how best to represent the data. Consider different interpretations of insights and perhaps adjust representations or repeat representations as necessary. This is most likely the most time-intensive stage and leads to the intended exploration.
Four Develop visual language that is reflective of my personal identity in order to further steep the project in narcissism. (Not a joke.) The self-centric identity is inherently married to the visual language as all elements are selected and executed by myself, however, the definition is important.
Five Construct the deliverable, whether that is a physical or digital product. At this point, most attention will be given to expressing the visual language through applications that have yet to be fully determined.
Six Complete process documentation and analyze the given implications of specific data excluded from the final product and any reasoning behind such exclusions. Included in documentation will be the reflection regarding the project as a whole.

Exploration

Ideally, this project will work to deconstruct what it means to be human by reducing a human identity into two-dimensional renderings of information about them; it will suggest limitations of a data-defined identity. Addressing privacy, the human at hand is me, and information will be sourced from myself. While I will draw boundaries as I see fit, being aware of where I find these boundaries will be a critical part of how I inform my identity.

In the information age, corporations use personal data for reasons that vary from targeted advertising to facilitation and authentication and mostly limit the amount of information retained (and it’s largely voluntarily reported). However, as smart home and IoT products, especially voice-activated ones, gain popularity, things such as voice recording parsing are brought to an extremely ethics-based conversation of what’s an appropriate use of data and what disclosure is necessary.

Extensively, do these profiles of individuals that corporations hold document or validate a human existence? What level of data provides a complete human identity? Is it possible for documentation to encapsulate an entire identity? How is identity related to existence and experience?

Limitations

I recognize that while I’ve initially posed many questions, I’m not sure that the scope of this project (mostly determined by time constraints) is equipped to address these at a connected conceptual level. Part of the project is certainly a bit humorous in the same way the the Feltron Annual Reports report banal pieces of data in an elevated profile. Literally, I’m limited by my own fallible human memory for points of interest that I haven’t been actively recording since birth (impossible). Additionally, I’m constrained by my own personal experience with and perceptions of data. My reflection will likely include more once I’ve been through the rest of the project.

Part Two

13 February 2018 – 02 March 2018

Statement & Proposal Recap

Statement

Mara Childs
"Mara Wears Stripes"
100 Pantone Postcards 4" x 6", Sharpie Marker

If someone could collect every piece of numerical data about you, could they theoretically create another you? This is a gentle collection of a number of quirky, non sequitur, and pithy analog data representations about myself that are not collected by digital means. In a world of big data, it’s a certain amount of “little data” and soft information about what makes me me. Postcards are a longstanding analog version of digital communication that has greatly taken over, and I wanted to explore validating an identity as being both the teller and the listener.

Proposal Recap

This responds to my Design Domain Part I proposal in that it is a two-dimensional visualisation and aggregation of data about myself—data that extends beyond “normal” personal data. Initially, I had intended to represent soft data in conventions used for hard data, but I have made some modifications and looked to a few new sources of visual inspiration that I will detail in the modification section. My original proposal reads:

Without completely and explicitly defining the output of this project, I will attempt to give specifications that will guide in my final creation. Firstly, this project will be an presentation of an aggregation of data collected about my own life that is expressed visually. Secondly, the data will extend beyond what one may consider “normal” personal data, e.g. height, weight, eye color, etc. Thirdly, data from quotidian aspects that may seem extraneous in any other general context will be brought to the forefront. Presumably, visualisations will be presented in a two-dimensionally rendered format (no three-dimensional, tangible visualizations) either physically, e.g. a book that resembles an encyclopedia, or electronically, e.g. a report-like navigable webpage or document. Regardless, visual aesthetic will be important as it lends to the identity of the project, and thus an extension of myself.

Modification & Case Study

Modification

As aforementioned, I had initially intended to encode data in conventional methods made for hard data. These data were to be quirky data points, but numerical in essence so that I could do a somewhat direct transfer—the interest being in that it is data not usually seen or visualized in such a formal way. After synthesizing and information from an interview that I conducted and after preparing the case study below, I realized that the execution, while considered, did not expand enough on the sort of soft data side of things that I was getting at. The interview made it clear to me that I needed to accentuate the delightful human qualities more. Rather than turning “little data” or data that is personal and seems to be of unimportance into big data by throwing it into professional grade visualizations, I wanted to do something that instilled my humanity in a way that big data cannot. Given the project specifications that I proposed, my modifications are fairly small in practice but have larger ideological implications.

Case Study

Phone Interview, 05 and 06 February
Company founded in March 2015

I also had the chance to complete a case study in big data usage in a corporate context with someone who works closely with decisions regarding big data collection and representation. The PDF excerpt is below:

screen-shot-2018-03-01-at-2-57-09-pm.png

When I was aiming more towards fitting myself into a big data setting, I was very curious about the lifecycle of data within an established ecosystem. Extending beyond the usage of data at a corporate level, I was curious about their perception of data on the whole. I learned a lot about what I set out to learn about, and it was what prompted the modifications that I made to my project. Given this breath of optimism, I was inspired to take a softer, gentler approach to my project. Originally, it was kind of rigid regarding the collection and representation of data, but I felt that that was mostly already handled in big data settings—the hard collection and representation of data, that is. Moving forward, I chose to represent less quantitative things, but pair quantitative with qualitative to represent a more whole picture of myself.

Research & Development

Additional Research

In addition to completing the case study in big data usage (and optimism), I’ve compiled a number of sources of visual inspiration as I developed the project. These artists choose to share their work on Instagram, as it is a visually driven platform that allows user engagement and sharing within social networks.

Development

Digital components remain a large piece of my work because social media as digital networking and connection serves as a representation of self-reported data. Both the content, its metadata, and the data collected about the users (data collected about humans) tell a narrative about human connection and how we choose to represent certain data about ourselves. If I had completed this project as a two-dimensional digital representation, I might have called it “I am who I am on Instagram”. It fascinates me just how much people do or do not share about their lives on the connected digital platforms that social media networks provide. It is the identity that they craft in public-facing methods that interests me, because the decision-making process that goes into that creation is just as much a part of their identity as the identity that they create. I already have identities that I’ve created on different social media platforms, and a frighteningly large number of companies (and therefore, the humans that make up the companies) have accumulated a staggering amount of data about me—from where I am, what I do online, to things I want to know the answer to. I attempted to find a way to “fill the gaps” of information that has been recorded in some way or another about me, in a way that only I can report and record. Particularly interesting, I’m attempting to answer my early line of inquiry centered around the validation of an identity by taking on the roles of both the person who tells the information and the person who listens to the information (as posited by Belkin & Robertson, 1976).

I am confident in my ability to manipulate data and represent it graphically with the use of digital techniques such as Processing and R. One of the main reasons I chose to create the artifact itself in an analog fashion—and with permanent marker—is that I am forced to make marks and leave them however they may be. Being digitally inclined, I find that it’s easy to tweak things until they are pixel perfect. Just by hitting delete, I can have infinite redos and leave close to no evidence of what existed previously. By using a permanent marker on a physical surface, I faced my perfectionism head-on and exercised letting things be the way they are. Imperfect alignments, shapes, and writing are all present in the postcards, and they show further nuances about me that are less able to be captured in a large data sense. At first, I was inclined to pencil things out first so I might deliberate over certain compositions and whatnot, but I found them to be much more charming when they weren’t perfect. When they looked machine rendered, it was almost like why wouldn’t I just use software anyway?

Furthermore, I will upload images of the cards to an eponymous Instagram, @marawearsstripes, to push the digital interaction between the little data and methods of collecting big data. With a bit of irony, this further explores how, if I voluntarily give up information such as what I’ve put on the postcards, does this position a company or entity better to recreate me? Or does it affect understanding? I would ask if this is an understanding via empathy or if it can only become sympathetic in nature due to my unique life experience. The digital components that helped realize this project, though not necessarily the first types of processes thought of when viewing through the lens of interaction design but digital processes nonetheless, become the components that elevate this project to a place where it can compete with big data.

Deliverable

[vimeo 267874079]

Mara Wears Stripes.jpg

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 5.13.05 PM.png

Reflection

Design Domain was the first time that I’ve had complete freedom over a project within a school setting and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity. I felt like I learned a lot about myself as well as the topics that I chose to research further, and I was quite happy with the progression of the project from conception to execution. In terms of information with relation to the Design Domain topic of identity, I was able to explore that space quite a lot and ask a lot questions prompted by my research. Being in the middle of a self-centric project was also something notable because I expected it to be easier than it was to feel comfortable opening up in that way. While the final artefact was not displayed all at once or forcibly shown to people, just giving people the option of seeing so much about myself felt a bit daunting—especially when I put it back into the digital sphere by making its Instagram.

It was important to me to be working in a space that would push me past the screen and beyond my usual digital methods. I was initially apprehensive towards working with physical media, but I noticed that once I embraced the quality of permanence (and literally introduced the idea of using a permanent marker in order to lock in any mistakes I might make), I was less scared of it. I think if there’s one thing that I’ve improved drastically this year, it’s my comfort with imperfection and incompletion. I don’t mean that in a sloppy sense or in a lazy sense, but more in a gentler-towards-the-process sense; I’ve always been very a hospital corners kind of person and that’s contributed to me making the safe decisions rather than taking risks. However, as I’ve said before, I am quite risk-averse. I think this project was probably about a 6.8 on the 1-10 risk scale, 1 being not a large risk and 10 being a large risk. When I was making the cards, I didn’t use pencil, I didn’t do any erasing, and I didn’t do any alignments. As a meticulous measurer, this was challenging. When I considered the implications with regard to the meaning of the project and the analog qualities of self-reported information, I decided it was an integral part of creation.

Personally, I have a lot of experience working independently on projects, but less experience working independently without any direction. Although we were given Bodies, Identities, Action, and Engagement as prompts along with narrower prompts within Interaction Design, I feel like this was genuinely a chance to do anything. It was exciting to research things of all topics and follow my interests through a train of thought that became a train of research, and feel like I had complete control over how to create my own process. I did a better job of not letting the project consume all of my free time as I sometimes do with projects, but kept it in the front of my mind at all times. This allowed me to recognize things in relation to it (it generally being the concept of information as an identity and the boundaries of such) at all times. I felt that the current state of the world and various current events lended well to this project and it was well-timed.

I was very aware of my level of productivity throughout the project, and I felt like I managed my time well; I didn’t come up against any deadlines without being prepared, but I didn’t finish so early that I had time to kill. It felt good to watch people interact with the final artefact and do things like giggle, stop and think, and take the time to look at every single card. If I were to go back and do it again, I don’t think I would change anything because I’m pleased with the way it went and the things that I learned. As an addendum, I also enjoyed getting the experience of interviewing someone for a case study relevant to the line of inquiry that I pursued. While I ultimately resolved my artefact in a way that moved away from big data representation and visualization, it was both helpful and interesting to get an outside perspective from an insider.

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