Project Proposal: Diversity on Campus Through Film

The question I wish to explore is the following: what will the diversity of CU look like ten years in the future? As suggested in class, I may experiment with dystopian Trump-era visions, as well as CU’s own “push” to increase its diversity. I will be engaging in speculative design, and plan to create a promotional film for the project.

In terms of envisioning a technology to integrate into the question, perhaps there is a machine that determines a prospective student’s return-on-investment, taking into account their race and income level  as determining factors? In the dystopian world, minorities and the poor would be automatically rejected, or given far less priority.

I will spend the first few days researching university admissions demographics, as well as examining recent political shifts involving diversity and classism. The next week-and-a-half will be devoted to creating a script and storyboard, shooting, and editing the final product. I will include research notes, the script, storyboard, and written observations during the filming and editing process as documentation.

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Material Studies – Binder Clips

IMG_1848.JPGI chose to use binder clips as the material for this assignment. While there were many characteristics that I found interesting, the two most prominent were its clasp strength and the fact that, when one blows through the center space, it makes a whistle sound.

Taking the latter into consideration, I thought the clip might be useful as a sensor to measure breath strength and lung capacity. The length of the whistle, as well as its loudness, could be measured with an app.  The sensor would be useful for administering asthma tests and other breathing ailment exams, as well as helping athletes increase their performance.

Its clasp strength could also serve as an actuator in the field of time management. If a student procrastinates on an assignment, the binder clip will pinch the individual with increasing strength until the assignment is done.

When examining the material, I believe I was able to perceive its life.When I blew through it, I imagined how the metal was bent and the plastic was molded. I saw the hinges where the metal arms were initially joined to the clasp, beginning its life.  It is hard to articulate, but the binder clip felt more “alive” after looking at many of its characteristics – it became less of an inorganic object and took on a more “personable” role. It made me think about what would become of it in the years after we depart, in a way that other objects haven’t previously.

When starting with a specific material for a design, one benefit is that it enables an individual to learn about all of the characteristics of the material. It may have different uses (such as the breath strength sensor above) that were initially overlooked, or more obscure. It also helps the designer build a relationship with the material, seeing it as more than something to be used and tossed aside when not needed anymore.

However, using a specific material for a design limits one to the characteristics of the material; metal and plastic, in such a specific configuration, can only do so much. In addition, one may lose sight of the design altogether, and instead focus on what they can do with a material. It can be time-consuming when considering close deadlines, as well. In spite of these detriments, my overall experience with the material study felt beneficial, and is something I would like to do again in the future.

Perception Studies – Repetition

 

The intention of my algorithm was to create a different experience than the typical walking we do every day. I tried to incorporate elements, such as sitting down or texting a loved one, that might add new perspectives to the activity. While I did not have any particular technical goals, as in to reach a certain destination, I focused more on altering perceptions.

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On the walk Jennifer designed, I was caught in a loop on the second floor of the environmental design building and the north stairwell. I did go up to the third floor – a place where, in my 2.5 year career at CU, and being a constant user of the building,  I have never been – and saw interesting wall art. I also noticed different posters, marks on the floor, and signs that I never paid attention to prior. The instructions encouraged this because the purpose was the walk itself; usually, it is merely the mechanism by which we achieve a destination, and our true purpose. By focusing intently on the act, we may become aware of all that we miss.

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In my own design, I attempted to amplify this focus, though mainly on auditory stimuli. By incorporating the sounds of the environment around the user into their music, they might be more observant of the goings-on, and may actively seek out the source of the sound.

Overall, this design might annoy its users. Many people enjoy listening to music as means of escapism – taking them out of the chaos of daily life and isolating them in their own world for a few brief moments. The sounds might dilute the purity of the music they so enjoy, as well, diluting the listening experience. Truthfully, this design may defeat the very purpose for which headphones were invented – to isolate and separate sound for one user’s enjoyment. Thus, they may be tempted to avoid using the headphones and go with another pair instead.

Future Product Catalog – CU Presents

For this week’s assignment, I chose the CU Presents catalog, detailing many of the performances coming to Boulder this school year. It includes information on various dance recitals, quartets, operas, concerts, festivals, and plays.

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Future technology within the realm of production is heavily based on improving interactivity and incorporating more computer generated graphics. Many companies are now livestreaming their events on social media, allowing more people than ever before to see and comment on their performances. Another company dedicated nearly two years to map an actress completely, so that her movements could be controlled by another person during an actual performance; that is, a person would wear a body suit and control her movements organically, rather than controlling a computer-generated figure (i.e. Gollum from Lord of the Rings).

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In response, I took the idea of integrating CGI a step further and designed a production that would rely heavily on virtual reality glasses. The audience would be immersed in the world of the performance, such as Ancient Rome in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. As in the above example, actors would don body suits that would transform them into their respective characters in the audience’s view.

Often, theatre is seen as a separate, unchanging entity: always live, always making use of real people, never adapting to new technologies. However, conducting research into its future has made me question the validity of these claims: does it need to be live? Does it need to use real people, or can simulations work just as well? Why does it need to be static? How does one define theatre?

Truthfully, I love the theatre, its atmosphere, and the feeling of community shared between the performers and the audience members. I often think that contemporary films rely too much on special effects to sell their tickets, and spend little time on the narrative. I have fears that, with these new developments, theatre may take a similar path.

In spite of my pessimistic attitude, I am also very excited about its future, and how it will utilize the new technologies to create innovative experiences. It may not be theatre at all: it may be a next step in its process, or sit side by side with it as an entirely different entity.

Subversion Exercise – BreadCrumbs and Cookie Monster

For this week’s exercise on surveillance and establishing methods of subversion, I determined that the following are tracking my metadata in some way:

  • Iphone, iPad, and computer
    • Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – location, friends, likes, post interaction, messages
    • Snapchat – location (made public)
    • Google products – location services, web history, cookies, ads
    • Amazon, Ebay – purchase history, recently viewed items
  • Game consoles (Nintendo Switch, PS4, etc) – location, achievements, hours played, friends
  • Internet Service Providers – websites visited, location

We selected internet cookies as the surveillance technology to subvert. Our first design, BreadCrumbs, is a browser extension that allows one to enable and disable cookies from a specific webpage by clicking the icon. It also alerts the user when a website requests to use cookies, and for what purpose. This informs the user of what is going on behind the scenes. In addition, the extension also features ad blocking and a VPN. img_17051.jpg

In contrast, our second design encourages the use of cookies to improve the user experience. Called Cookie Monster, the browser extension consolidates cookie-based ads onto a homepage, which the user can browse at their leisure. When purchasing items, it also alerts the consumer if the item will be on sale within a designated time period, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. img_17041.jpg

I believe the first design provides a better space for contestation between users and the website creator than the latter. Breadcrumbs provides the user with the information that is being used to track them, which can be interpreted any way they see fit. They can also bring up issues of invasive activity with the websites they visit, as opposed to not knowing what the companies are doing with their private information. In contrast, Cookie Monster does nothing but consolidate ad-related cookies in one location, without illustrating other uses the company might have for that information.

I do not believe the above designs would be enough to provoke contestation about surveillance; both are features that, once enabled, may be quickly forgotten about. Furthermore, many individuals are already aware that we are being surveilled by our devices any time they are turned on, yet our behaviors have not changed. While preserving our right to privacy is monumental to me, I am unsure if such issues will ever be addressed until telescreens are installed in our homes and we are forced to pledge our allegiance to the Party.

Misuse Studies: Door and Sign

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For the Misuse Studies assignment, I chose to take a picture of a locked door. As indicated on the yellow sign, the politics of the above door are heavily authoritarian; only certain individuals are allowed to access what lies beyond (albeit just a mechanical room).

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The very nature of the door is authoritarian; it excludes those that do not have permission to enter, ensures privacy, and acts as a barrier from unwanted intruders. Others may attempt to request access, but it is ultimately the owner’s decision. In the above example, the locked door was placed there to ensure the safety of the public – if someone were to cause trouble in the mechanical room, they could jeopardize their life as well as those in the building.

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The above redesign features a glass door and a method of contacting the concerning body. This democratizes the door (although not completely), allowing anyone to see and access the facilities, as well as converse with the people in charge. Most of what was hidden and exclusive is now revealed to the observant eye, allowing more interaction.

Inverting Metaphors: Why Self-Driving Cars Need Superhuman Senses

https://www.wired.com/story/why-self-driving-cars-need-superhuman-senses/

In the article “Why Self-Driving Cars Need Superhuman Senses”, Jack Stewart describes a new technology that could be implemented into autonomous vehicles: infrared cameras. One of the stated goals of current “smart cars” is to reduce the amount of lives lost on the roadways every year caused by human error. However, even the technologies currently implemented in most current AVs have their shortfalls. Cameras and lidar, for instance, can be obscured in darkness or in fog, while radar can be confused by small metal objects. To compensate for this, Stewart notes an Israeli company marketing infrared cameras to AV manufacturers. The goal of these cameras would be to fill in the gaps left by the other sensors and detect heat signatures from people and animals, alerting the car in advance to take appropriate actions. This would allow the car to “see” an additional spectrum, thus improving its safety features.

The inverted goals of the infrared cameras would be to interfere with the other sensors, create more crashes, and cause more deaths. As indicated in the drawing below, the infrared camera would cause communications between the sensors and the car to scramble – as well as those of other AVs on the road -, essentially making the vehicle blind. It might also direct the car to hit, rather than avoid, people and animals. IMG_1615.JPG

This opposite goal assumes people don’t want to readily adapt autonomous vehicles, and would rather drive themselves than place their lives in the hands of machines. It also assumes that people want to cause as much death and destruction as possible, both to others and themselves. It also indicates that other sensors are “too safe”, and would need an additional one to cause them to malfunction.

This activity made me aware of my own personal assumptions, and how I imprint them on the general population. For example, I do not fancy driving, and so I will gladly accept autonomous vehicles when they emerge. However, many people still enjoy it, and never want to stop. Assumptions like these may lead a designer to create something not for the general population or their target audience, but themselves. As a result, an exercise involving opposite goals is helpful, as it indicates the inherent biases we may have but do not notice.