And finally my fellowship at the Strong Museum has come to its conclusion. It has been a rewarding experience working in the museum, constantly receiving feedback and support from the museum’s team member—and to come up with an outcome that I would totally have never expected, which is to develop a prototype for a product. Without further ado, I am excited to share and announce SYNDBOX: a wireless, multi-user (and eventually programmable) sound controller that is made out of geometrical building blocks.
Here are some initial renders for the product:
Here are the three following themes that I pinpoint as necessarily relevant and framework-worthy, as well as the individual elements that I actively think about.
But first of all, why sound? Why not on-screen visualization or 3d simulations? True, eventually I am imagining these control points to be application agnostic, i.e. it behaves as an input device for a wide variety of application. However, despite its less than tangible appearance, sound occupies real physical space in a way that visualization could not. With multiple output channels, sound can be sculpted, and I reckoned that there is opportunity for it to be utilized as a component that parallels spatial computing. Additionally, the museum has not had the opportunity to explore sound and music on a more experimental approach, and after a few discussions we agreed that the outcome would be informative to both parties.
However, the default knobs and buttons of synthesizers are more often than not fixed to its hardware. The gesture associated with a button is either pressed or clicked, and that of knob is turned on a fixed plane. But what kind of musical expression would form if this button is instead rolled, thrown, shuffled, balanced, swung? When I arrived at this juncture I was wondering if I should just appropriate the smartphone which, with its multifarious sensors and image recognition abilities, is the exemplar of an interconnected control object/a wireless play object. And thus in thinking about its uniformly planar and rectangular shape, one could almost wish that there is a modular and universal cardboard holder for smartphones, similar to Nintendo Switch’s Labo! Imagine an application that allows a person to make a custom holder for a smartphone that they own, and interact with apps and softwares in a totally different way! (I’m poking at Google cardboard, but in a direction that is beyond goggle/optical application of VR/AR)
All that said, I ended up designing my own system instead. The reason for this was size as well as ease of programming. A smartphone could be bulky, and there were several proprietary limitation that had to be overcome. A DIY microcontroller like Arduino on the other hand, is more flexible and customizable. Eventually I ended up with modules that are half the size of my own smartphone, and I am certain that through mass manufacturing and further development, these could grow to be even way more compact. (On top of that I ended up learning about mesh network and inductive charging designs, which are both pretty neat!)
I chanced upon a number of important inspiration while I was on the go. Mike Streb, the head of the exhibit team, lent me his LittleBits Korg synthesizer pack, and it really got me thinking about modular control points. My supervisor mentioned Johann Sebastian Joust–a local multiplayer no screen video game which is facilitated by a simple handheld tool. The classic Froebel’s Gift became a starting and end point, and as such the concept of SYNDBOX arrived at a super simple approach: embed sensors (such as one that measures tilt, or a color detector) into each shapes, and let their spatial orientation and location determines ‘how far a knob is turned’ or ‘which button is pressed’.
After a series of sketches and experiments, I realized that geometrical shapes allow the transmission and control of certain logical parameter. For an example, at its bare minimum, a cube can express 6 different outcome since it has 6 different sides—just like a dice! If one were to explode this possibility even further, one can also utilize its resting on each edges and corner as a state, with all this eventually amounting to 26 states! Percussive samples on each? That’ll be a fun drum machine.
Furthermore, one can also measure the planar orientation at any point in time just like a knob. This is similar to the case of a cylinder—and in my opinion there is no coincidence for a cylindrical shape to already be used as the default shape of a knob. That said, imagine if this cylinder is plopped out of its base, and still acting as a rotational control point. Now, it can essentially be broken down into 3 different states. The first being it standing on its bottom cap, the second being when it is lying on its side, and the third when it’s standing on its top cap. 3 different interchangeable knobs! One of the basic example would be to have a continuous value control on one cylinder side (a more continuous change in pitch, like sirens for example), and a quantized value control on the other (this would be notes, do, re, mi, etc).
The last module, the cone, is a color picker. On one hand, it still act as a knob; on the other hand, it is a placeholder that store the color of a surface that it sits on. Currently, the cone determines the character/timbre of a sound. However, in the future I am imagining these to be reprogrammable, i.e. a user can then store different functions on these color ranges. For an example, if the stored color tends to blue, the module will talk to the cylinder. Else, if the color tends to red, it will talk to the cube. With more modules and RSSI detection, these building blocks can be combined into a kind of pseudo-orchestra, or perhaps, as I was talking to one of my friends in Rochester, a tool for outdoor play activities.
Towards the end of the fellowship, I conducted a demo at the museum for the exhibit team. On top of that, my supervisor was really kind as to set up an external critique appointment with Workinman—a local game company. Both parties give feedback that are really helpful and productive, which concerns technicalities, pragmatic and marketing strategies, as well as possible future application. Some of the open-ended questions includes: what would be the tutorial to play with this product? Can the modules become objects that connects different installations, and string together a social experience? If these modules become consoles for a game environment, how can it be used outdoors and outside of the screen, similar to Johann Sebastian Joust?
This fellowship experience has truly rewarded me with the opportunity to learn and explore about the infusion of computational principle into analog play, and the various ways to honor social and spatial interaction. It has definitely set a momentum towards my development of a fully modular and spatial programming language. Despite the fellowship ending, stay in tune for more updates–I will be posting here regularly for more progress on the product. But for now, until next time! 🙂
The African Alliance of Rhode Island has carved a path for people of African heritage within Providence and beyond. The struggles of navigating the non profit world will always remain, however these are merely obstacles that are always faced head on through perseverance and determination.
The summer revealed one of the most important solutions to remedy the oppression in the built environment–through self-determination. By definition the term self-determnination is the process by which a person controls their own life. While this definition may imply a level of individuality, within a community setting it is inclusive of everyone. By bettering oneself and fulfilling one’s civic responsibility as an individual, an individual’s contribution aids in remedying the community.
Overall my experience this summer was filled with highs and lows, moments of discouragement but not moments of defeat. After a long conversation with NJ Unaka, I had to rethink my ideas of a successful workshop. I remembered that during one workshop session I asked students to define success. I recall their responses having nothing to do with obtaining a full and complete understanding of Afrofuturism, but rather their willingness to improve or change something. The act of being proactive in trying to learn something new, gain new information was a turning point, a catalyst to a successful unknown. This attitude of success awakened in me towards the end of my time with AARI.
Ultimately, I realized that Afrofuturism though a large topic is an interesting one. And the fact that many people were interested in the subject and its history was a success in itself. The questions and conversations surrounding the topic of community and Afrofuturism ignites a passion that forces one to question the environment and offer solutions to change it. Using Afrofuturism as a tool that injects the community with the spirit of social activism encourages others to consider how their identity, self-determination and civic responsibility can create better spaces for people of color.
I enjoyed speaking with the community and engaging in a workshop setting. There are many many things that I would like to change moving forward but I can say that it was a success! And I think that there is so much more to be said about Afrofuturism and the communities of color it can offer solutions to.
I am empowered and enriched by the contribution of others within the Providence community and can confidently say, “Black is the Future!”
My time in Lebanon flew by and it was time to return to Turkey. I had been keeping contact with the team in Istanbul prepping for the upcoming launch of Karam House. We were keeping up with the modifications and dealing with issues as they came up. It had been a while since I last worked in a construction site so it was an exciting refresher. I was intrigued by how construction sites function in Turkey and to my surprise they quite similar to those in Lebanon. Considering most of the craftsmen were Syrian, communication was easy among us as well as among the different teams. Moreover, all design decisions were made and there are some details to be finalized. The heavy duty modifications are complete and most furniture has been bought. We worked on setting up the spaces and organizing the furniture according to each room. Equipment and tools for the work spaces were also ordered and are awaiting arrival. Most of the custom furniture contracted was complete with some still being worked on. All members of the team worked together efficiently to be able to finish the building as soon as possible.
In parallel to the modifications, the team of mentors began their training with the foundation. Classes will begin in about a month and so they were being prepped on the academic system Karam House follows. Some mentors from Reyhanli traveled to Istanbul to introduce the new mentors to the program. They gave them presentations on previous studios with examples of successes and failures they encountered. Moreover, they had casual conversations on the challenges of working with refugee kids as well as the immense level of creativity these kids were suppressing. The new mentors all had bachelor degrees in various fields especially architecture with half of them having masters degrees. Finding jobs in their respective field in Turkey was a challenge due to the language barrier though most of them are working on developing their Turkish language. They are all eager to start the year with Karam House Istanbul and began brainstorming studio ideas as part of their training. In addition to the program, they were also presented with the development of Karam Foundation and the nature of work Karam does internationally. It is essential that the team of Karam value the ideologies of the foundation and reflect it appropriately. It was interesting for me to observe the training of the mentors and their approach to the studio culture. They are interesting and inspiring people and I definitely learned a lot from their experiences.
Ending my internship, I was grateful for the opportunity to work with Karam Foundation this summer. It truly was a unique and eye opening experience. I immensely appreciate the work Karam does for Syrian refugees internationally. Though the war is nearing an end in Syria, the refugee crisis will take years to be resolved. As an architect and designer, countless methods exist in which I can help and I hope to be able to make a difference one step at a time.
Okay, here we are at the end! I’m writing this post about a week after my last day at the Providence Department of Planning, looking back at what I would consider a successful fellowship!
So what did I accomplish?
My biggest professional accomplishment was definitely the traffic education campaign I made that details new traffic control devices (traffic signals and street markings) that are being introduced in Providence over the next couple of years.
Can you spot how I photoshopped the base image?
I’m proud of this project for a couple of reasons. I think I was able to find a happy medium between my personal aesthetic and the seriousness demanded by an official publication by a municipal department. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to design for a multi-lingual audience, the specifics of which I detailed in my last post. Finally, the posts using my graphics and language got quite a bit of exposure. I can’t take full credit – announcements of new developments are important and exciting in their own right – but I do think their strong visual presence helped to make them stick. Getting my work featured on the local news was a goal I didn’t even know I had!
Personally, I think my greatest accomplishment was the concepts this fellowship helped me grasp. When I went into this fellowship, my biggest goal was to have a vague understanding of “how stuff happens” in cities. Even with that broadness, I have a much better understanding of the timeline behind city projects. I know more about the complex web of funding (federal grants, the city’s general fund, and corporate sponsorship to name just a few) and politics (the influence city council, the mayor, and department heads have on different aspects of projects) that can get a project of the ground, stop it at the gate, or change its course (I’m writing this from the airport, please excuse my plane puns).
Not necessarily relevant, but I really enjoyed this city government-specific magnetic poem set on the office fridge.
I think the most personally valuable outcome of this summer was a better understanding of when, where, and how I could have the biggest impact with a career in municipal government. While I am happy with the projects I got to work on this summer, the timescale of many projects in city government is long, spanning years and sometimes decades. Becuase of this, I think if I want to actively make our cities more equitable (and believe me, I do!!) I should be prepared for the long haul.
If I had to use one word to describe my summer, I would call it “enlightening.” When I am ready to settle down, mortgage a house, and iron out a morning routine, I know that municipal government is a place where I can make a difference. Until then, I have a lot of work to do and a lot still to learn.
Thanks for reading!
On August 15th, members of DARE’s Tenant and Homeowner Association, What Cheer? Brigade, and I staged a press conference/action and political theatre outside of Rhode Island Housing. The purpose of the action was to call attention to RI Housing’s handling of the Barbara Jordan II “redevelopment” project. RI Housing had hired Camiros Ltd, a Chicago consulting firm, to conduct community engagement on the “revitalization” of Barbara Jordan II (also known as Clowntown for its colorful appearance) a recently foreclosed, 74 unit low-income housing project in South Providence.
Roline Burgess, a DARE member, spoke about her experience working to help a former tenant of Barbara Jordan II find housing, when RI Housing couldn’t help her.
Me and Eli Nixon, prepping for the political theatre.
Me in the Camiros Camaro running over DARE members, representing the exclusion of DARE members from the redevelopment process.
For me, this protest has been an interesting point for me to reflect on my own design process and political stances. Specifically, I’m interested in thinking more about how community work and design can intersect in a meaningful way that values voices of community members.
Of the myriad of reasons for how RI Housing poorly handled the process of redeveloping Barbara Jordan II, I was particularly offended by the lack of due diligence RI Housing did in understanding the history of Barbara Jordan II and who picked up the pieces when they foreclosed on it. Their hiring of an outside consulting firm, rather than truly engaging with community members and organizers as the experts, speaks to their stance on whose voices are valued. DARE and other Providence organizations have been working on housing and helping tenants of Barbara Jordan II long before it foreclosed, and as Malchus Mills, a DARE board member put it, “we have data out the ears” when it comes to the housing needs of low-income Providence residents. It seems disingenuous and performative to hire an outside consulting firm and funnel RI money into other organizations, rather than back to our community.
There are also some thoughts that have been forming in my head around how, as someone who wants to live at the intersection of design and community work, to present oneself as being aware of the pitfalls of design and how design has historically served capitalist ends and not necessarily community needs. How do I describe the work I do to other designers, without playing the legitimation game and using design buzzwords like “leverage” and “stakeholders”?
The best moment in teaching for me is always when the students take control of the classroom. For the final printing day we chose some of our favorite designs from the screens we had made earlier this summer and last summer. The participants at this point were experts in technique and it was good timing to introduce printing on t-shirts and tote bags.
The youth from the Staten Island office joined us with a beautiful design they had made “Make the Road Viva La Revolución” and I got to watch the youth from Queens teach the youth from Staten Island to print.
One queer identified student from Staten Island asked to print their bag in rainbow colors. I hadn’t specifically taught this method of printing which in silkscreen is called a split-fountain. The Queens folks were all over it, mixing the colors and laying them down in a row for a beautiful bag.
It was a beautiful way to wrap up the summer project at Make the Road. I appreciate knowing that there will more opportunities for the organization to use the printmaking equipment and for me to collaborate with them on future projects.
Behind the Museum
Two weeks ago, I was finally authorized to work as an artist-in-resident at the Strong National Museum of Play! Right off the bat, I started moving all my equipments—my 3D printer, soldering stations, fabrication tools, etc. My interim studio is situated within a storage room in the exhibit design workspace, and I am super excited to be surrounded by excellent and driven creatives—fabricators, concept artists, technologists, and many others. On that first day, Mike Streb who is the head of the exhibit design team, kindly toured me around the museum’s exhibit workspace. Being a maker, and also having worked as a woodshop and metalshop monitor for 3 years, these spaces feel pleasantly close to home.
I also met Martin Reinhardt—the head for arcade game conservation—and he toured me around the conservation space in the museum’s basement with thousands of toy objects. At one point, he showed me the circuitry of an arcade pinball machine, and it was mind-blowing. He expressed his desire to have a medium for play that hints more towards the existence of this incredibly intricate and fascinating understructure; that behind play itself, there is mechanisms, designs, and curations of play. He also showed me several arcade games from the world war era such as the analog, viewport-equipped Atomic Bomber—released circa world war II atomic bombing. “Looking at it today, this game is problematic on so many levels,” he said. “However, by collecting and having an all-encompassing range of objects, we get a retrospective of the historical influence of play, and how it shaped the cultures of a time.”
On another day, I had a brief afternoon conversation with Beth Lathrop, who is the director of libraries, and Julia Novakovic, who is an archivist. After inquiring about the day-to-day aspect of the collection, I found out that the museum’s library and archive collection houses a massive amount of papers, books, records, and digital artifacts. At one point, I browsed through the Playthings magazine collection—which spans for more than a hundred year! It is incredible to witness the evolution of toys through literal stacks of physical journal: starting from a time where prints were strictly black and white and are mostly dominated by a few toy companies, to the war era where toy advertisement were overtly propagandic, and finally to recent years where the journals brim with both variety and ever-increasing commercial energy.
Additionally, while the space is open to public by appointment, it is also a resource for the museum’s own departments. For instance, the education and public programming team would draw inspirations from various studies of play, while the exhibit team would use the archival collection to access artworks or schematics if they need to recreate a specific historical artifact as exhibit item. That said, running such a impressive collection is not without its challenge. Archiving and recording these artifacts is a physical process. In fact, digitizing and publishing artifacts online are not as seamless as they might sound. Julia describes how keeping tracks of statistics and metadatas of each item takes a considerable amount of time, and that there are various issues related to intellectual property rights as well. “In the end, it is about balancing the urgency of collecting with the goal of providing access of the collections,” Beth said.
Indeed, as a not-for-profit, the museum’s team is tight on expectations and deadlines—especially with its 100,000 ft expansion this summer. For the fabrication team, even using a machine for an additional finish could incur long bureaucratic process. This is perhaps really different from the creative freedom that is associated with having a personal studio, or even art school. As such, JP (my supervisor) and I both agree that the pilot-testing of this artist-in-resident program is meant to generate an unlikely outcome within the context of the museum, and to evaluate the possibility of housing future creatives and their experimental undertakings.
At the same time, JP and I strive to continually negotiate between creative freedom and goal oriented practice. Aside from purely experimenting and researching, one indispensable aspect of this fellowship is to design an effective structure for creative exploration—and thus while the past week has been incredibly productive in terms of experiments, JP offered a counter-balance by constantly pushing me to find a firm footing and a definitive final goal, especially considering the brief span of the fellowship. As JP said, “if the end-goal is to clear, the outcome may not be necessarily creative—it may be replicating what is already present in the museum’s context—but if the inquiry is always loose, one risks spreading themselves too thin.” We agree that creative experimentation that is sustained by research is key.
The library and the archive collection possess a great potential to bolster the artist-in-resident program—and from my own research experience, it has been an absolute game-changer.
The Research: A Case for Computational Playground
While the idea of performative computation was an accumulation of my practice at RISD, I was able to develop a richer conceptual grounding by opening up my research to the resources available at the Strong. One book and idea weave organically into another: from pre-2000s creative computing to the materiality of constructive toys, and then to histories of playgrounds and its relationship to loose-parts play.
In her most recent book the Design of Childhood, Alexandra Lange described how the first playground in America—made by a group of female philanthropists in 1885—is essentially a giant sandbox. While it was originally conceived as a tool of assimilation for immigrant children, the early sand playground is later on regarded as an anti-authoritarian space, where kids can freely rule and take charge of their own play. They create imaginative worlds using “loose parts”; horses out of knot of woods; miniature fields of real planted beans; mini structures out of spare boards and bricks. It had no climbing bars, swings, nor pre-designed nooks for children to hide in. Appropriately, as I was walking around the museum, I found out that many children are really engaged with open-ended constructions and choice-based activities: designing crowns, making pixel images, building things out of soft blocks, etc.
However, she also acknowledged that playgrounds, just like educations, are “…subject to the social and political designs of others”. Indeed, sighting of sandbox-inspired playground would be highly unfounded in many urban or gentrified areas. In an interview with the American Journal of Play, Joe Frost recounted the ways in which many playground designs are stifled by safety guidelines that are overly constricting—such as those released by Consumer Product Safety Commission and American Society for Testing and Materials. This sentiment is also echoed by Susan Solomon, who stated that due to unreasonable fear and anxiety, “… we find maintenance-free caged areas that emphasize safety more than critical thinking, smart reasoning, hopeful investigations, or thrilling adventures.” In other words, playgrounds are highly dominated by the immutability in forms and functions, therefore imposing a decorum on a rightfully open-ended activity. Such restrictiveness is most often attributed to concerns about liability, upkeep in the public domain, and a cost-related stigma among playground patrons when it comes to involving creatives in the design of playgrounds. In reality however, Susan Solomon debunked this myth by stating that stock items and standard playground kits may in fact be damaging. In her book, she cited a research by neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, in which both posit that American playground equipment fails in preparing children for variations, and therefore from distinguishing between what is safe and what is dangerous.
In contrast, consider the multi-texture and multi-sensory Adventure Playground—a half acre of dirt filled with found objects, literal junks, and mishmash play structures. Here, children are allowed to experiments and create their own landscape, while at the same time allowed to assess risks and gauge dangers. Adventure Playground does not only allow productive and compliant play, but it also provide room for chaos, disorganization and de-construction. A similar result also emerged at project PlaySpace, where an art gallery is periodically transformed by the playful interactions from its audience—most of whom are children. Matthew Shaw, the project initiator, stated how the project is about supporting creativity instead of directing it. He recounts how the space changes “…from an empty shell to an intricate maze of structures… These spaces were allowed to organically and often chaotically grow into something that could never have been conceived at the start of the project.”
In these two examples, children and visitors are able take charge of their own choices, and therefore exploit the full spectrum of cognitive functions—pragmatic, exploratory, imaginative, constructive, and social/rule-based elements. As landscape architect Richard Dattner said, “the next best thing to a playground designed entirely by children is a playground designed by an adult but incorporating the possibility for children to create their own places within it.”
But how does all of this relate to computation? And how is computation spatial?
When the idea of personal computer was first conceived by Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, it is imagined to be a creative media—akin to pen, paper, and found objects; canvas, brushes, clay. At Xerox PARC in 1977, the two pioneers published a paper titled Personal Dynamic Media, which essentially described how users, especially children, can use mobile computer in an almost spatial manner. Using intra- and inter-connected platforms called Smalltalk, they are allowed to manipulate information, create their own applications, and work collaboratively. Kay even said that “…[the] semantics [of Smalltalk] are a bit like having thousands and thousands of computers all hooked together by a very vast network.” In its sandbox-like genesis, the personal computer was a playground in construction.
Fast forward to today, we are at a time in which computation is becoming more and more spatial. With the development of VR, AR, and wearables, the computer is not contained within the premise of a single hardware—and as such computation is dispersed not just through information, but through its physicality. Our surrounding environment becomes a component in computing; even the most mundane elements are going to be part of the medium. But still, maybe we don’t have to look too far ahead—consider the smartphone. With their compact and handheld size, they allow a user to type, access wealth of information, finger-scribble, record audio, take pictures, 3d scans, detect geolocation, measure tilts, interpolate facial gestures, all while being able to organize and upload these data online!
And that said, forty plus years onward, Alan Kay argues that personal computing today is more akin to a “sophisticated television”; a mere amplification of old media. Instead of stimulating creativity, he posits that mobile computers are rarely seen as media, and its culture engineers predominantly passive and consumptive behaviors. Marina Umaschi Bers, who is a child development and computer science professor, also compares many programming educational apps as safe playpen—typically commercialized and heavily selected/curated by parents. It is perhaps appropriate to re-summon the imagery of a carpeted playground that is filled with metal armatures and linear ladders.
It appears that there is a necessity to create a learning medium that answers to the advent of spatial computing—one that exists beyond single hardware; one that does not put primacy on the screen. Even today, the term computing is most often associated with the act of coding and programming. Both of these are most commonly understood and communicated through textual abstractions of mathematical structures. However, in Programming for the Puzzled, Srini Devadas argue for an alternative semantics. He talks about the possibility of learning programming through puzzles—a real life application that is familiar and attention grabbing. Role-playing puzzle examples—such as being a chess player or a recruiter for a talent show—grants a visual and embodied understanding more so than directly attempting to grasp programming terminologies (struct, append, float, and other various operators) which have been abstracted almost into pure utility (to be used as variables, loops procedures, decision logic, etc). The puzzle serves as an analogy—and perhaps in some instances, as metaphors.
Yet while I agree with Devadas’ idea, I find that puzzle is not enough of a sole vehicle, since it connotes a process that pursues a final resolution. This is not to say that puzzle games do not afford creativity in choices—instead, I am inclined to augment them into an actual physical playground! Imagine an ontology for programming, where perception of codes, functions, and mathematical structures is made out of, things; things that interact. Real objects, colors, shapes, terrains, landmarks, sounds, and social interactions. Imagine if the manipulation of computational principles is done by combining electronics, fabricated objects, and random household materials; making a route for sensor-equipped ball using cardboard boxes; swinging a gyroscope that is suspended on a string to produce a looping oscillating sound; pointing color detector in a room to pick up data of colored paper and creating visualization with it. Something messy!
Furthermore, in fabricating my sensor equipped objects, I am inclined to use the block-model. Not in the sense of exclusively cubic module such as that in Minecraft (even though it is one of the closest game representation of a physical sandbox), but through using basic handle-able elements/geometry. So far I have been experimenting with different block forms, and these are some of the strange shapes that I have came up with. The final versions are going to be sensor equipped and color-coded.
Lange talked about blocks in her book through referencing Froebel’s gifts; she said that even in early educations, blocks are widely used as a tool to represent letters and numbers as tactile objects. Appropriately, block-play has also been used in many instances as a tool to represent abstractions and computational principles. Mitchel Resnick, who is a LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab, wrote about how he and his team drew inspirations from block-play in writing the programming language Scratch. Interacting within its interface has a feel of arranging, snapping, and connecting modules together in a 2 dimensional playing field. Additionally, more physical and robotics-oriented examples include LEGO Mindstorms, as well as Creative Hybrid Environment for Robotic Programming (CHERP) that was developed by Bers’ Developmental Technology at Tufts.
However, it is worth remembering that spatial computing does not deal specifically with stereometric/linear construction, but more so about the bifurcating relationships of objects and devices in space. It also has to do with the way things are appropriated from their original function into a computational element. In thinking about this, I cannot forget to mention Dynamicland. This computational medium, which is being developed by the CDG Research Lab, affords collaboration with real objects in the real world; visitors would program using paper, stickers, pen, tables, etc. Its entire building in Oakland is essentially growing to be a computer and a playground! Dynamicland is at the forefront of developing a computational playscape, and I continually draw inspirations from the works that they are doing.
In relationship to the model that they have provided, I am attempting to play with the designs of the computational playground, and therefore enrich the possibility of what it can be. Through their radical and experimental projects, as well as the research that I am doing, I am hoping to provide a space that honors the way our body perceive space, where one can solve programmatic puzzles while at the same time play for play’s sake; to the end of creativity.
Anyway I’m going to end it here for now, but stay tuned! More stuff coming soon!
To most people Greenland seems to be a place where life stands still in ancient traditions of whaling, sealing, and kayaking among the icebergs, but in fact Greenland is becoming increasingly modern and you’ll even find fresh tropical fruits in the supermarket that you won’t find in Providence markets (passion fruits, guava, star fruits, papaya). Nuuk is the largest city in Greenland and has a population of 18,000 people making it about a third of the country’s entire population. The settlements of Greenland are mostly on the western and southern coast (none exist inland due to the ice sheet), but due to difficult terrain it’s not feasible (or sensible) to have roads that connect the towns and villages, so all transportation is done by boat or plane. Who own’s Greenland? Greenland has a long history of colonialism and is still technically a part of Denmark, though in 2009 they were granted self-rule allowing the people of Greenland to establish their own government. This history of colonialism has had a myriad of effects on the citizens of Greenland and they are still figuring out how to navigate their own cultural identity.
Cultural context aside, my original intention for traveling to Greenland was part of a collaborative study with scientists at CU–Boulder and University of Copenhagen looking at the potential extraction of glacial sediment deposition as a new economic opportunity for Greenland. As populations grow, developing countries increase construction rates, climate change threatens coastal infrastructure, and a global sand shortage approaches (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6355/970)… we could really use any sand we can get our hands on. When the glaciers retreat from the fjords the sand and rocks trapped in the many layers of ice melts and falls to the sea bed floor. The ice sheet will inevitably melt regardless of climate change meaning that for the foreseeable future (a couple thousand years) sand will be deposited into these fjords. Harvesting the sand is a win-win-win: 1. Removing the sediment maintains the nutrient levels in the fragile ecosystem 2: It assures boats can navigate harbors to deliver goods and 3. It allows for Greenlanders to be in charge of their economy in pursuit of become a fully sovereign nation. Currently Greenland’s lack of economy and incredibly high cost of building and maintaining infrastructure ends up meaning that about two-thirds of their GDP comes from Danish subsidies about $650M. For this reason Greenland has been exploring potential economic opportunities that are becoming easier and more accessible as climate change makes things more accessible. One controversial path that has been considered is the mining of rare earth metals such as uranium. This research instead invites Greenland to put climate change to work for their economy and for the global resource needs.
During my stay in Nuuk I was able to have many conversations with people doing all sorts of different work and hailing from all parts of the world. I was able to talk with an ex-vice mayor about the new development patterns and urbanization of Greenland, a flight attendant about transportation infrastructure and the high cost of traveling, an architect about the challenges of building in remote and difficult terrain, a photographer about the seasonal differences, a chef about the import of ingredients and cost of food, a hunter about the decreasing population of musk ox, and a native student who had live in all four corners of Greenland. Each has their own unique story about how they found themself in Nuuk, but often the sublime nature and endless inspiring landscape were a major allure for most. Those looking to understand Greenland and the complex issues its facing I recommend traveling to not just Nuuk but also the more tourist locations like Ilulissat and especially the small settlements where the lifestyle of subsistence hunting is still quite common. Go soon though as climate change is rapidly changing how connected settlements are to trade of goods which will inevitably threaten the older ways of life. More next time on life in the office and the progress of the maps with JONAA.
The symposium I’ve been planning is fast approaching!
Here is the flyer that Mei Lenehan made:
Picture it on hot pink paper 😉
Today Majorie, my boss, offered me a position at the nonprofit. I am so stoked to be accepted in the office, especially since I admire everyone so much. I’m not sure if I can keep up their high standard of juggling, but being in this environment has definitely kicked my butt and my brain with experience in multitasking.
I realize a lot of problems in the nonprofit world that I didn’t expect, most of which revolve around funding. SO many organizations similar to ours, aimed at women’s issues and empowerment, all go for the same grants. I wish we could combine so that valuable time and effort for all the bright grant writers out there wasn’t wasted!
This opportunity has been perfect post grad, especially since I took David Borgonjon’s Critical Curating course, in which he explained how he had jumped around in nonprofits like Eyebeam. His footing was really found doing the kind of work I have been learning about here, and about the structures of nonprofits, so I’m excited about my new knowledge of the inner workings.
One thing I didn’t expect but am very happy about, is the standard for current events knowledge that has bled into my daily life and now art practice. I truly, sincerely appreciate Majorie Margolies and her attitude which she keeps happy, funny, optimistic, but realistic. She has been an important mentor in my life and a constant teacher.
I will post again about the event when it happens. Until then I’ll be stressing out and making it rain flyers!
As I am approaching my final week of my internship at NASA Ames, I am starting to heavily focus on producing a lot of design work influenced by the research the team has conducted. These designs range from our team logo, to our team’s website and final presentation to be shown in the upcoming iGEM Jamboree this October in Boston.
Creating a team logo was quite an involved task, as it needed to serve several purposes. First, it needed to be a recognizable symbol for our team to be associated with. It also had to be something that the entire team was happy with, as it will be incorporated into our team sweatshirts that will be worn in the Jamboree. Most importantly, it has to creatively show what our team’s research is about, while still fitting into NASA’s already established design identity. After several iterations, I finally created a logo that everyone on the team enjoys.
The design is inspired by NASA’s Mission Patches that are uniquely designed for each mission. We thought it would be fitting to go with a similar approach, as our research has potential to actually be used on Mars to build human habitats.
In the screenshot above, you can observe the several iterations that I went through before producing the final logo. One of the more interesting pieces of feedback I received from my supervisor at NASA Ames was to include the image of the Moon on the logo, despite our focus on Mars, due to NASA’s shift in goals to additionally bring humans back to the moon (after a change in Presidential administrations). There were several other iterations of the logo, but the final one we ended with allowed for a lot of opportunities to create a strong, yet flexible design identity for the team.
I’ve now been focusing on how to translate our scientific findings to a more captivating presentation for the Jamboree, not only through graphic design, but also through how the entire presentation is organized. Though I currently cannot share the presentation, below is a short video of what’s in the works.
My goal is to go back and forth between our data and analogies to either grasp more interest or frame information in a more understandable manner. I’m looking forward to my last week at NASA Ames, as I wrap up my final laboratory tests and continue to design deliverables for the team!