A speculative design film, shaped by interaction design research on embodied proximity, that proposes a remedy for social fragmentation in this digital age.
Interaction Designer and Creative Technologist
Adafruit Feather Express, Python, Photoshop, Gravity Sketch, Laser Cutter, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro
MFA Design Studio Project
Interpersonal synchronization, such as taking turns in conversation, marching, singing in unison, or dancing, is commonly seen as an enjoyable experience that strengthens group bonds and identity. It also signals similarity, making individuals feel more united.
Now, with social media becoming a major source of news, political debates, professional networking, and more, something called "filter bubbles" have appeared. These online filter bubbles trickle into the physical world and lead to a divisive, extremist discourse, thus breaking down broader social connections.
On the first day of class, everyone was placed into groups and were tasked with creating a mind map related to our interpretation of a superpower.
In reflecting on the exercise, I gravitated towards the larger concepts (shown in green) of “Unconscious Forces”, “Community Organization” and “Human Communication,” with a particular interest the image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial.
I reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “superpower” in motivating millions of people around the United States (and the world) to bring about a fundamental change in how people related to one another through the power of his voice and presence, vibrations of sound and electromagnetism respectively.
Consequently, I underwent a week-long research into concepts surrounding embodied proximity that I best described at the time as “love”.
I detailed all of my research in an Are.na channel.Link
Following the process of secondary research, I printed out the most inspirational images, and expanded my visual research to include images of fashion-focused design projects, insect antenna designs, and scientific schematics.
These print-outs were attached to the walls in my studio.
While perusing images of insect antenna designs, I thought that it would be insightful to change my perspective, so I visited the large antenna farm atop of Mt. Wilson in the mountains of Los Angeles County.
From that vantage point, I was awestruck by the millions of people in southern California who tune into the many signals broadcasting from its central location.
At the Mt. Wilson Antenna Farm, I realized the following two insights:
Telecommunication information transmitting in the airwaves are invisible without a mediating device.
A device attuned to specific signals that conveys information based on broadcast programming.
So, how can I tune into a signal? And, how does one choose which information to broadcast?
I created five interactive prototypes using breadboards and the following components:
During the workshop, participants choose to embody either a Sender, or Receiver.
Each Sender transmits its own signal as both a sound and color, while the Receiver expresses its own sound and light.
As a Receiver approaches a Sender, it adopts the Sender's unique sound and color signal, making them in sync with one another.
After selecting their role, they formed ad-hoc networks, embodying the process of attunement to one another with the accompanying sound and light color.
Senders could adjust the light and sound of nearby Receivers by using a button, and they could switch roles with a simple Toggle Switch.
When the Receiver moves away from one Sender to another, its expresses the new Sender's sound and color information.
If a Receiver sits in between two Senders, it can receive both signals, and will oscillate between the respective sound and color information.
The light color and sound frequency information was transmitted wirelessly via each device’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capability.
BLE was preferred because of its constraints around proximity and its ad-hoc connectivity with other BLE-enabled devices.
My observations during the interactive workshop and an curiosity with the body modification and cyborg communities shaped my idea for a wireless implant technology that transmits personal information (i.e., interests, memories, and emotions), among those attuned through time spent in proximity.
To best showcase my interaction design concept, I decided to create a speculative design film.
In the film, I emphasized the antenna design as an expression of individuality and group identity (fashion).
Drawing inspiration from my research on insect, human-made antenna designs and fashion designers like Iris van Herpen, I sketched various antenna concepts using Gravity Sketch on the Meta Quest 2.
The VR sketch below expressed both the functional and stylish qualities that I desired.
Unfortunately, I ditched the 3D antenna approach due to limited time in 3D printing and refining the design.
Instead, I opted for laser cut antenna designs, and created three different options.
OMNI is an implanted technology that facilitates the formation and strengthening of social networks based on time spent in proximity with other people with wireless technology and an embodied ritual.
Between highly attuned individuals, personal information can be selected for transmission across space, but over time, information between the attuned individuals fades, requiring additional time spent in close proximity to one another.
The OMNI project pushed my creative and technical boundaries, and helped me find a direction for my MFA Thesis project.