End of Term Review

The above are posters I displayed at the review last week. You can read the text from the posters in a separate post. I also displayed my animated gif for the show.  Creating an installation from my work so far made me realize that since I have mainly explored my ideas through writing, it didn’t make for a great show. The response to the animation was much better than to the short writing exercises I displayed. I think that by worrying that I wasn’t exploring something specific enough because I found it difficult to put in writing what I wanted to make earlier in the term, I ended up essentially changing ideas frequently in my constant searching for clarity. I realized that I should just go back to the core of what I exploring earlier on: the idea that we are already cyborgs investigated through computer vision and thinking mixed with human understanding and emotions. Overall this term’s research has provided me with a clear trajectory forward, I just feel like I went in a roundabout way to get there. Writing about what I wanted my project to be about before doing a lot of experimentation was difficult for me, but now I see how I can make use of writing in my project in a more productive way moving forward.

A large part of my committee review was focused on discussing how branding can fit into my project since I had proposed it as a way to reframe the project at the time. It was a productive conversation because it helped to give me some clarity on I want branding to fit in, and I determined that it was less interesting to me to make the project about branding than to incorporate branding later in the term as one element of the project. You can see the slideshow I presented here.

Below is the statement about the project  I presented on the larger poster:

Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed—and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing. —Sherry Turkle

Compound Narratives will disregard clichéd assumptions about the undesirable aspects of our relationship to technology and explore the hypothesis that we may want to be overtaken by the machines we so willingly invite into our lives. The false duality between humans and machines that has been developed is no longer relevant; the relationship is more complex than a simple user and device dichotomy. This research project will consider the implications of the shifting technological landscape on the human (cyborg) identity. The scenarios and experiences imagined will be informed by emerging technologies such as advanced facial recognition and documentation systems, artificially intelligent devices, and sensory augmentation tools. These technologies contribute to increased freedom, abilities to navigate between many different worlds, new potentially strange desires, less distinction between humans and machines, and disembodied identities.

Existing design practices, like branding and speculative design, and research
on technology will allow me to explore beyond assumptions about relationships that are often written about in critical theory. The application or playing out of some of the theories and emerging technologies to explore what they mean for applied design in everyday experiences is at the core of the project. By reimagining a familiar form such as a retail experience, the discussion can shift from assumed clichés and generalities to a more specific and provocative consideration of the qualities we want in artificial intelligence, computer vision, and communication interfaces in the future. It is not intended that the project offer a dystopic look at our dependency on technology, but rather explores scenarios which consider the possibility for human-machine relationships that are more pleasurable, entertaining, and desirable, though definitely strange.
The increasing degree to which our lives are electronically mediated alters our behavior, relationships, and self-conception. As people become more machine-like and live in a cyborg world, what behaviors and experiences are considered normal? Will surreal moments in which it is difficult to distinguish whether you or your implanted artificial intelligence system are talking become commonplace? How will simple parts of daily life like waking up in the morning and getting dressed be different? In the future world Compound Narratives inhabits, humans and machines are not seen as separate entities. These blurry boundaries and the constant access to information and communication have caused a fundamental shift in the way humans interpret and understand the world. Easier access to physiological or biometric information allows people to analyze each other and themselves with a high level of detail. A person can transition from seeing through a machine device, to seeing as a machine, or letting a machine see for her. Adding or subtracting layers of mediation to discover the truth in an image, an accurate record of an event, or even what is reality is a common pursuit, a new way of being.

Working Plan
The project involves first creating a series of playful experiments that explore this unfamiliar landscape. Next, more concrete projects will be developed that use the projected next step for a set of technologies as inspiration. The technology and background theoretical argument considering the alternate point of view that we want this level of technology in our lives serve as inspiration, but the project itself lies in the use and application of branding concepts to synthesize the work and make it tangible. I propose to consider the use of these speculative projects in the context of branded experience design. The fictional company or organization I create will perhaps brand or patent experiences and interactions that are strange even within the context I have defined as the new normal. For example, using facial recognition technology’s goal of reconnecting our disembodied identities to our physical bodies as inspiration, I can explore how a brand might function in a way that responds to different faces or environments. I imagine that the result will be set of unique interactions between people and devices that depict a future scenario in the context of a branded experience in a retail or service-oriented business.

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