Visual log

This week I started an Instagram page for documenting my research journey for my thesis project. It was difficult coming up with a nomenclature for the page as it still dwells in different aspects that I haven’t completely chalked out yet.

I decided on the name Feeling (s) (are) Analogue as my project aims to toy with the hypothesis that digital apps might not be the solution for wellbeing. My first two posts are based on my thoughts on Sherry Turkle’s reflection on Thoreau’s chairs.

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Branding and visual language for the Instagram page ‘Feelings are Analogue’

Preparing for the journey: Thoughts and Notions

July started with an allotment of supervisors and the Lego building class with Naomi, in order to break down and demystify our research process leading to the culmination of the thesis project.

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Mapping our hopes, fears and motivations for put research journeys in the Lego Workshop 

I’m also beginning to think of how my thesis project can build into the brand that I want to create for myself as a design strategist/ researcher. I attended a couple of talks for Graduate Futures Week including Career Advice and CV checks. I was able to interact with the speakers and employers from IBM and the response was very positive in terms of how my career trajectory is one that could fit into larger co operations like IBM where the work culture is collaborative in nature, and interdisciplinary skills are encouraged.

The career advice session was helpful where a one to one session with one of the professionals helped me understand the need of tweaking my website in order to communicate to employers what my strengths are, by using language/ words that highlighted the strategy part of my process rather than just the design bit.

The session with Laura was also motivating as we spent some time just talking about the concept of the project and reiterating the aims of the proposal rather than just diving into the research plan. Time is definitely a factor, but I want to hold back from compromising and narrowing down on the larger intent of my project.

 

 

Impact and Influence Workshop

The impact and influence workshop helped us gain valuable insights as we move forward in defining our final major project. The disruptive approach to the workshop helped in defying pre conceived notions and alluded aspects of our project that we might have not given importance to before this workshop.

The ‘priority assessment chart’ helped in mapping my insight decisions in order to visually and cognitively register where I stand in terms of making these approaches/methodologies a reality. Two out of the three insights I gained were in the aspirational sector; this reiterated the face that I need to narrow down my topic which is primarily knowledge based to a more practice based outcome.

The exercise helped me question my assumptions and ensure that the terminologies and concepts that I might be using in my research question are not too subjective and biased. The particular exercise where we listed down all the things that go into making a single object that we need to complete our thesis project was eye opening as I realized the magnitude of the project I might be undertaking; and as a result occupying a certain stance as a designers and researcher. By the end of the day I had rephrased the word ‘technology’ in my research question to ‘digital applications.’ The step by step approach made the task of filtering easier as a constant external opinion allowed me to tackle bias in my approach to the project.

Initial project overview:

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An empathy manual for technology driven products and applications dealing with human problems.

Overview after workshop:

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An empathy manual for digital application companies that cater to social and psychological well being for millennials.

The practice of thinking, writing, exchanging and reviewing are all great exercises when done individually; and more so when done one after the other. The workshop fuelled my thought process by disrupting, dissecting and discarding broader themes around my final major project thesis.

 

 

 

 

The Myth of Global Design History

The concept of ‘glocal’ has been pervading through media, the food we eat, the shows we watch, our education system and so on. As an Indian living in a bustling metropolitan city like Bangalore I had the choice of eating in a Japanese/ Vietnamese / Italian restaurant, have my fill of British/American television shows on Netflix and closely engage with the United States’ Presidential election. As a designer, the soft wares I used for my work, the people I whose work I drew inspiration from on Instagram were not restricted to my country or my ethnic background. Even before I was physically in a different continent I felt like I was a global citizen – simply because of the exposure I was privileged to have in my lifetime, through the rise of technology and the phenomenon of globalization.

In the article ‘what is global history now?’ the author Jeremy Adelman talks about the concept of Westerners and Resterners. His point of view is that the progress or decline of the West is closely linked to the economic/political/social changes happening in the rest of the world. This is interesting as we see the West as almost a yardstick for the rest of the ‘Rest’. Who has created this subtle yet poignant yardstick that pervades most of our decisions, lifestyle choices today?

This era of globalization has also ushered in a new but confusing question of the changing face of individual identity and how the labels we often impose on people based on their race, nation state might be misconstrued. The country I come from, definitely helps someone gauge and demographically understand my physical appearance but does it really define me? The cross cultural identities that are now present around the world represent the current state of moving away from rigid boxed cultural narratives. As easily we accept technological advances originating in the ‘West’ we are still generations behind on accepting and exploring the complexities of cultural histories and identities. Hi tech products developed in a software company in the West might be the brainchild of an émigré designer -the novelty of a new innovation could be rooted in the cultural view point of an individual. I am not completely opposed to the idea of a singular global design history. However, I feel like it must be layered, with metaphorical chapters that show how with design, the ideas, expression, values of people have evolved; try to build a framework for a complex cultural design history to prevent the rise of monoculture.

Citations:

https://aeon.co/essays/is-global-history-still-possible-or-has-it-had-its-moment

Fry, T., 1989. A Geography of Power: Design History and Marginality. Design Issues,

6(1), pp.15–30.

 

Understanding Identity and Childhood through Tactile Objects

The exhibit at V&A Museum of Childhood, Century of the Child: Nordic Design for Children 1900 to today, is a fascinating overview of the evolution of Nordic artefacts centered around the needs and wants of a child over the 1900s to the present day. Children are pivotal to the growth and development of society and its cultural fabric. The wellbeing of children is a direct reflection of the values harnessed by family, schools and other branches of a community.

Of all the sections in the exhibit I found the one about ‘Design for Living’ most interesting and relatable. This aspect of creating an amiable, comfortable environment that allows them to play and learn at home has a direct co relation to the mental health and well being of a growing infant. I found the whole aspect of the consumer products that were developed for the children – being ‘designed to aid the child’s development, encouraging them to create, construct and play’ – close to home.

Growing up in the 90s I had a lot of physical artefacts and toys that I would engage with as a child. Tactile objects always allow a child or even human beings for that matter, to explore, create and construct. The feeling of flipping through a pages of a book or putting the pieces of paper together are quite different from scrolling through YouTube videos or dragging and dropping pieces of a jigsaw on a tablet. The fact these products have a tangible value to them gives them an emotional appeal as well; the artefacts become a source of semiotic and emotional association with people, memories and values.

One such product on display that was similar to an artefact I had a child was – the ‘boo boo patterned duvet cover’ which was reminiscent of the patchwork quilt that was common in Indian households in West Bengal, Odisha and Bangladesh also called ‘Kantha’. Identical to the colour palette found in the duvet cover, the patchwork quilt had often had visual stories depicted in bright colours embroidered on them. Kantha in Sanskrit means ‘rags’, as a lot of the Kantha patchwork was created from discarded but vibrant cloth from traditional Indian garments. These Kantha stitch quilts often became heirlooms for generations due to their soft texture and delicate craftwork. The quilts often had embroidered narratives that depict stories of popular folklore. The Kantha quilt is an artefact that is indigenous, imaginative and tactile. We must re imagine these products, in the future while deconstructing our technological worlds to build a more memorable childhood for future generations.

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Traditional kantha stitch fabric

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The duvet at the mueseum

Citations:

http://thekanthaproject.siterubix.com/the-history-of-kantha-stitch

http://www.home-soul.co.uk/Blog.aspx

Somewhere in Between: The other side of empathy

The exhibition at the Welcome Collection is about the intersection of science and art and one being used with another in order to portray diverse concepts like –genetics in contemporary cattle farming, the extended possibilities of touch, sexual health and virus transmission and the human capacity to hold one’s breath.

I found all the topics really interesting but the one that stood out for me and is closely linked to my project was the one about synesthesia by Daria Martin. The outcome of this project was two films screened in the exhibition space, adjacent to one another. Daria Martin explains synesthesia in the catalogue for the exhibition, “synesthesia is an experience in which a stimulus in one sense provokes a subjectively experienced stimulus in another.” The concept of synesthesia explores the ability to move beyond the individual senses of sound, smell, sight, taste and touch. It dwells into the possibility of a human being’s ability to feel when someone else experiences a sensation, for example; if I were to feel the sensation of touch on my shoulder even if I wasn’t exposed to it.

The two films also highlight the possibility of the phenomena being detrimental to the emotional state of a person, is it pleasing to experience the sensations of a different individual constantly? Is there such a thing as too much empathy? This extreme viewpoint on this regard challenges the inherent knowledge of empathy being a detrimental catalyst rather than a driver – “it often causes synaesthetes (people who can experience the phenomenon) to withdraw socially, because our world is not built for such empathy.” The visual language of the films explores this notion as well as ‘At the Threshold’ explores the dynamic of a mother son relationship who are both synaesthetes. The son is anxious to leave home while the mother is hesitant on the same. This analogue film styled in an overtly dramatic way, in terms of direction and set is inspired from the 1950s. It almost adds another layer to the already volatile relationship of parent and child. What would happen if a parent was not just perceptive but could actually physically feel and experience their child’s bodily experiences and vice versa?

The characters in these films experience a kind of synesthesia known as ‘mirror touch synesthesia’,  “which can be conceptualised as a heightened form of physical, and to a degree emotional empathy.” The terminology of this phenomenon could be linked to the concept of ‘mirror neurons’, which are a set of cells in the in the human brain stimulated to perform a certain action when we see another person performing the same action (laughing, reaching for a cup). Mirror neurons help humans and animals navigate and grow in social situations. Mirror touch synesthesia could be seen as a heightened form of this function, where one is not able to see, perceive and subconsciously register but also physically experience the actions of others.

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Sensorium Tests/At the threshold (Image Source: Wellcome Collection)

Citation:

Catalogue for Somewhere in Between by Wellcome Collection

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-mirror-neuron-revolut/

 

A manifesto for our generation: Let us not be a generation consumed by ourselves.

A perpetual whiff of dissatisfaction flows through our generation.

The world is moving forward but we are losing touch with ourselves.

 

Our lives are dictated by technology.

 

Technology that is supposed to make our lives easier.

Technology that can perform the simplest of tasks.

Technology that shows us what we want to see.

Technology that tells us what we want to hear.

Technology that lets us not be responsible for our own actions.

Technology that lets us modify ourselves to please others.

Technology that hoards us with information we do not need to know.

Technology that fuels the fire for self obsession.

Technology that consumes us.

Technology that allows us to be consumed by ourselves.

 

Let us not be a generation consumed by ourselves.

 

Let us live for now.

Let us live for the present.

Let us live for what is real, not hidden behind layers of filters.

 

Let us live for others.

Let us live for the joy of giving.

Let us live for the smiles that we see on the faces of our loved ones.

 

Let us live for experiences.

Let us live through all our senses.

Let us live for the moments which are greater than the sum of the parts.

 

Let us live to grow.

Let us live to learn.

Let us live to never stop becoming a better version of ourselves.

 

Let us live for love.

Let us live for authenticity.

Let us live for the feelings that are a large part of who we are.

 

Let us put the phone down.

Let us put the tablet away.

Let us look up.

Let us step out for a walk.

Let us have a conversation.

Let us let others in.

Let us not be consumed by technology

Let us not be a generation consumed by ourselves.