The un(comfort) zone

The (un)comfort zone

I’ve been thinking about the ideas of playing, randomness, dialogue, tolerance, and connection with other people, and how conversations can change the way we think and act in our lives in different ways, according to our beliefs. How even small actions reveal the way we think, and our values. But also how dialogue with others can open the way we think and see reality, so we can realize how we are sometimes making wrong decisions without being aware of it.  Also how sometimes we walk away of the possibility of difficult topics and possible disagreements.

For some time I have realized how western culture, there is a strong tendency to be individualistic.  Just by looking at the heroes, we see how they pretend to solve the problems by themselves. In the process, underestimating the potential of the collective potential to create change. Or maybe they just serve as a way to make us realize how our individualistic approach to life is creating a need for these superheroes that can solve our problems with their miraculous superpowers.  This individualist and selfish tendency are leading, some of us, to isolate and become busy people that don’t leave enough time and space for conversation and “non-productive” moments. Social moments that we share with strangers and friends that we used to have before. We have all the social media, parties, collective ports and others spaces to interact with others. But in most of these circumstances, we often don’t find an adequate space to talk about important and/or interesting things.  Another point is that some of us, have a tendency to talk to people that we feel have a connection or common ground with, somehow. Wanting to feel comfortable when we recognize ourselves in them. When we agree, we feel a happy and comforting feeling. And some of us tend to scape disagreements. Disagreements are awkward moments but are necessary to produce change. We can try, by creating a safe and respectful space, in which the uneasiness of disagreement is removed, by shifting the attention in a new direction. We will face the challenge of becoming a different person for the duration of a playful activity.

I was thinking about creating a space to connect strangers or people that already know each other. A playful space that places them in a position where they have to talk outside of their own point of view. So participants can distance from their own self’s and open to other experiences and ways of thinking. A space to look at problems, challenges, and situations from the real world, from a critical, but playful way. To set rules that shake the ground and the status quo of their mindsets.

An issue I want to also address is the problem of not being able to touch sensitive subjects in our normal conversations. We have to be careful of what others can think about us, and also on not hurting the others with our comments. I think that that can be changed with a game with a set of rules, that include randomness, roll-play and disruptive strategies that lead to “breaking the ice”. And that way the conversation can go into different directions that create a shift from our common way of thinking. The idea is that we can simulate situations, develop stories and step in other people’s shoes using this playful fictional space.

When I talked to Seho Cabrian about this subject, he introduced me to the Theater of the Oppressed. The Theater of the Oppressed has the idea of using a theatrical method to promote political change. Augusto Boal talks about art as a political vehicle for making change. The method uses different tools to make people question their way of thinking, so they realize how they can improve as social beings. By creating a fictional space, with tension and dramatic conflict, the goal is to produce a cathartic effect on the participants. The catharsis is produced when they become aware of how they can make positive change in the real world, by realizing specific aspects that they hadn’t been considering before the play. Also making people question themselves about how responsible are they being as part of society. It is very effective as a tool  for change, because the goal is to make us feel more as members of a society, than unique and selfish individuals. The method, as I understand it, also tries to make the participants think about how our actions, are a reflection of our society, which has vices and virtues, as all of us are. The idea is not to make us feel bad as individuals, but to encourage us to feel and become a more important part of the community, a more active part of it. That our roll and small actions do matter, even if we think they are small and irrelevant in scale. To make us think about our future selves and our own potential.

“Theater is change and not simple presentation of what exists: it is becoming and not being” – Augusto Boal

That was the idea of the experiment I did for my seven-day practice. I found an interesting connection with the reflection Boal does in his Theater of the Oppressed book. When he analyzes Aristotel’s coercive idea of tragedy, a tool for enforcing the law and moral values of the state, he talks about the concept of virtue. He says that virtue is achieved by the repetition of actions, by the idea of creating positive habits. That idea led me to the example of the simple gesture of picking up 5 to 10 plastic bottles from the street floor, and placing them in a proper recycling bin. It would reveal a vice/virtue of society. A relationship between a collective problem/solution. This simple and almost symbolic action was at the same time a performance, a political statement, and a theatrical gesture, on a very small scale.

“All theater is necessarily political because all the activities of man are political and theater is one of them.” – Augusto Boal

What to do?

I’m considering different ideas to design the (un)comfort zone around. I found a very effective game to create stories in a collaborative way. It’s called Story Cubes. Two or more people collaborate to make a story based on the results of rolling dice. The nine dice have icons that evoke objects that the players have to appropriate to create a step in the story. This works, by dividing the dice and taking turns, after choosing a random topic or title for the story. What I’m considering is using this strategy to join it with the idea of the Aristothelic tragedy, and the theater of the oppressed method. Also modifying the rules to create more conflict and tension than the normal in the case of the Story cube games. From my tests with the story cubes, the stories people create, are very spontaneous, sometimes funny and absurd, but not a single time have people developed a serious or conflictive story. I’m considering in introducing a third element or party that works as the hand of fate, to introduce conflict, disruption and elements that question the actions and decisions of players. Also a final part meant to generate a reflection of “what to take away from the story”. Much in the spirit of the game of life, which make’s us face life challenges by the dictate of randomness in the form of a roulette.

Another element that can add to the idea of how external events coming into our life’s, is the idea of an oracle and a figure of a random event messenger, evoking the messenger of the gods, “Mercury”. This will cause players to face this challenges and react in creative ways to include them in their story. They will be forced to make moral decisions and actions, creating a debate between the players.

I found a group that is implementing the theater of the oppressed method in the context of New York. I’m attending a show and will meet after the show with them, to listen to their experience, and also tell them about the (un)comfort zone, to get some valuable feedback.

https://www.tonyc.nyc/ The Theater of the oppressed in New York.

I also found some interesting readings about conversation activities in school contexts.

About the act of conversation:

“We may become a part of our local community by sharing stories but we discover who we are through the narratives of our family. Some stories take on the status of the written word. They have been told so often that they cannot be altered. “

“The art of storytelling for teachers an pupils. Using stories to develop literacy in primary classrooms”. Page 5. Elizabeth Grugeon and Paul Gardner. David Fulton Publishers London. Published in Great Britain in the year 2000. ISBN 1-85346-617-4

In this quote, it’s very interesting how we built our own narratives and values, based on the stories we hear in the context we group up and inhabit. Those stories then get incorporated into our own by a process of accommodation. I find it interesting how families make creative corrections to their family stories, justifying bad decisions and actions done by their members. There is in most cases a complicity to hide them. Also a tendency to glorify their personalities and the old times. It’s also interesting how the conversations about that past reveal the way the members of families think in the present time. We also tend to identify with our ancestors and to replicate their good deeds, defend their values, sometimes try to continue with their legacy and become inspired by their good actions.

I also found to be very interesting about storytelling. About the potential, it offers for change.

“Summarizing the work of several research projects that studied children’s responses to stories, Protherough Identified ‘six things’ that stories did to them; 1) They caused physical changes (feelings of dizziness, or nausea); 2) they prompted the recall of past experiences; 3) they caused readers to speculate on ‘what might be’; 4) they instigated changes in attitude; 5) they encouraged empathy with characters; 6) they brought about emotional change. Story reading and storytelling can be a truly seductive experience and we might add to Photerough’s list the potential of the story as a medium for teaching and learning. Given the power of the event then, the act of storytelling can be an extremely effective strategy for establishing and building relationships between children of different ages.”

Taken from: The art of storytelling for teachers and pupils. Using stories to develop literacy in primary classrooms.

Elizabeth Grugeon and Paul Gardner. David Fulton Publishers London. Published in Great Britain in the year 2000. ISBN 1-85346-617-4 Page 99.

It’s interesting to note how stories can even affect our bodies, causing strong sensations. Also how they make us think about.

When I think about how children develop their social skills, I think about my cute nephews and realize how important the socialization process is for their development. When they started school they soon became much more complex human beings. The exposure to stories and conversations made a great impact. They started to talk in a much better way, and they would have many more things to say than before. The stimulus that conversations produce is very powerful, and not only for children. We confront our experience to other, and we take and give, in the process of understanding the other and trying to make sense to the other. Our exposure to the unknown expands our minds. When we meet new people we feel like the world got bigger and more interesting, as it happens when we travel.

The next question of how good our conversations are in our normal routines. How much we learn from them. How much they are changing the way we understand and deal with reality? I often find myself repeating very similar conversations with my friends and family members. It can get boring when we insist in talking about the same subjects, and also trying to agree as much as possible. So why don’t we try to introduce some chaos into our conversations to see what comes out of that?

Other resources yet to investigate:

The man of the dice. A novel written by Luke Reinhardt. (In this novel the character is bored about his own life, and decides to leave all his decisions to be taken by a die (trivial and important) . The book questions the idea of a fixed and static personality, and also the danger of the lack of a structured “permanent” personality. Also how our close social circle and society expects us not to change in a short period of time.

Some parts of the process…

uncomfort - 18 uncomfort - 17 uncomfort - 16 uncomfort - 15 uncomfort - 14 uncomfort - 13 uncomfort - 12 uncomfort - 11 uncomfort - 10 uncomfort - 9 uncomfort - 8 uncomfort - 7 uncomfort - 6 uncomfort - 5 uncomfort - 4 uncomfort - 3 uncomfort - 2 uncomfort - 1
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Un(comfort zone)

The (un)comfort zone

I’ve been thinking about the ideas of playing, randomness, dialogue, tolerance, and connection with other people, and how conversations can change the way we think and act in our lives in different ways, according to our beliefs. How even small actions reveal the way we think, and our values. But also how dialogue with others can open the way we think and see reality, so we can realize how we are sometimes making wrong decisions without being aware of it.  Also how sometimes we walk away of the possibility of difficult topics and possible disagreements.

For some time I have realized how western culture, there is a strong tendency to be individualistic.  Just by looking at the heroes, we see how they pretend to solve the problems by themselves. In the process, underestimating the potential of the collective potential to create change. Or maybe they just serve as a way to make us realize how our individualistic approach to life is creating a need for these superheroes that can solve our problems with their miraculous superpowers.  This individualist and selfish tendency are leading, some of us, to isolate and become busy people that don’t leave enough time and space for conversation and “non-productive” moments. Social moments that we share with strangers and friends that we used to have before. We have all the social media, parties, collective ports and others spaces to interact with others. But in most of these circumstances, we often don’t find an adequate space to talk about important and/or interesting things.  Another point is that some of us, have a tendency to talk to people that we feel have a connection or common ground with, somehow. Wanting to feel comfortable when we recognize ourselves in them. When we agree, we feel a happy and comforting feeling. And some of us tend to scape disagreements. Disagreements are awkward moments but are necessary to produce change. We can try, by creating a safe and respectful space, in which the uneasiness of disagreement is removed, by shifting the attention in a new direction. We will face the challenge of becoming a different person for the duration of a playful activity.

I was thinking about creating a space to connect strangers or people that already know each other. A playful space that places them in a position where they have to talk outside of their own point of view. So participants can distance from their own self’s and open to other experiences and ways of thinking. A space to look at problems, challenges, and situations from the real world, from a critical, but playful way. To set rules that shake the ground and the status quo of their mindsets.

An issue I want to also address is the problem of not being able to touch sensitive subjects in our normal conversations. We have to be careful of what others can think about us, and also on not hurting the others with our comments. I think that that can be changed with a game with a set of rules, that include randomness, roll-play and disruptive strategies that lead to “breaking the ice”. And that way the conversation can go into different directions that create a shift from our common way of thinking. The idea is that we can simulate situations, develop stories and step in other people’s shoes using this playful fictional space.

When I talked to Seho Cabrian about this subject, he introduced me to the Theater of the Oppressed. The Theater of the Oppressed has the idea of using a theatrical method to promote political change. Augusto Boal talks about art as a political vehicle for making change. The method uses different tools to make people question their way of thinking, so they realize how they can improve as social beings. By creating a fictional space, with tension and dramatic conflict, the goal is to produce a cathartic effect on the participants. The catharsis is produced when they become aware of how they can make positive change in the real world, by realizing specific aspects that they hadn’t been considering before the play. Also making people question themselves about how responsible are they being as part of society. It is very effective as a tool  for change, because the goal is to make us feel more as members of a society, than unique and selfish individuals. The method, as I understand it, also tries to make the participants think about how our actions, are a reflection of our society, which has vices and virtues, as all of us are. The idea is not to make us feel bad as individuals, but to encourage us to feel and become a more important part of the community, a more active part of it. That our roll and small actions do matter, even if we think they are small and irrelevant in scale. To make us think about our future selves and our own potential.

“Theater is change and not simple presentation of what exists: it is becoming and not being” – Augusto Boal

That was the idea of the experiment I did for my seven-day practice. I found an interesting connection with the reflection Boal does in his Theater of the Oppressed book. When he analyzes Aristotel’s coercive idea of tragedy, a tool for enforcing the law and moral values of the state, he talks about the concept of virtue. He says that virtue is achieved by the repetition of actions, by the idea of creating positive habits. That idea led me to the example of the simple gesture of picking up 5 to 10 plastic bottles from the street floor, and placing them in a proper recycling bin. It would reveal a vice/virtue of society. A relationship between a collective problem/solution. This simple and almost symbolic action was at the same time a performance, a political statement, and a theatrical gesture, on a very small scale.

“All theater is necessarily political because all the activities of man are political and theater is one of them.” – Augusto Boal

What to do?

I’m considering different ideas to design the (un)comfort zone around. I found a very effective game to create stories in a collaborative way. It’s called Story Cubes. Two or more people collaborate to make a story based on the results of rolling dice. The nine dice have icons that evoke objects that the players have to appropriate to create a step in the story. This works, by dividing the dice and taking turns, after choosing a random topic or title for the story. What I’m considering is using this strategy to join it with the idea of the Aristothelic tragedy, and the theater of the oppressed method. Also modifying the rules to create more conflict and tension than the normal in the case of the Story cube games. From my tests with the story cubes, the stories people create, are very spontaneous, sometimes funny and absurd, but not a single time have people developed a serious or conflictive story. I’m considering in introducing a third element or party that works as the hand of fate, to introduce conflict, disruption and elements that question the actions and decisions of players. Also a final part meant to generate a reflection of “what to take away from the story”. Much in the spirit of the game of life, which make’s us face life challenges by the dictate of randomness in the form of a roulette.

Another element that can add to the idea of how external events coming into our life’s, is the idea of an oracle and a figure of a random event messenger, evoking the messenger of the gods, “Mercury”. This will cause players to face this challenges and react in creative ways to include them in their story. They will be forced to make moral decisions and actions, creating a debate between the players.

I found a group that is implementing the theater of the oppressed method in the context of New York. I’m attending a show and will meet after the show with them, to listen to their experience, and also tell them about the (un)comfort zone, to get some valuable feedback.

https://www.tonyc.nyc/ The Theater of the oppressed in New York.

I also found some interesting readings about conversation activities in school contexts.

About the act of conversation:

“We may become a part of our local community by sharing stories but we discover who we are through the narratives of our family. Some stories take on the status of the written word. They have been told so often that they cannot be altered. “

“The art of storytelling for teachers an pupils. Using stories to develop literacy in primary classrooms”. Page 5. Elizabeth Grugeon and Paul Gardner. David Fulton Publishers London. Published in Great Britain in the year 2000. ISBN 1-85346-617-4

In this quote, it’s very interesting how we built our own narratives and values, based on the stories we hear in the context we group up and inhabit. Those stories then get incorporated into our own by a process of accommodation. I find it interesting how families make creative corrections to their family stories, justifying bad decisions and actions done by their members. There is in most cases a complicity to hide them. Also a tendency to glorify their personalities and the old times. It’s also interesting how the conversations about that past reveal the way the members of families think in the present time. We also tend to identify with our ancestors and to replicate their good deeds, defend their values, sometimes try to continue with their legacy and become inspired by their good actions.

I also found to be very interesting about storytelling. About the potential, it offers for change.

“Summarizing the work of several research projects that studied children’s responses to stories, Protherough Identified ‘six things’ that stories did to them; 1) They caused physical changes (feelings of dizziness, or nausea); 2) they prompted the recall of past experiences; 3) they caused readers to speculate on ‘what might be’; 4) they instigated changes in attitude; 5) they encouraged empathy with characters; 6) they brought about emotional change. Story reading and storytelling can be a truly seductive experience and we might add to Photerough’s list the potential of the story as a medium for teaching and learning. Given the power of the event then, the act of storytelling can be an extremely effective strategy for establishing and building relationships between children of different ages.”

Taken from: The art of storytelling for teachers and pupils. Using stories to develop literacy in primary classrooms.

Elizabeth Grugeon and Paul Gardner. David Fulton Publishers London. Published in Great Britain in the year 2000. ISBN 1-85346-617-4 Page 99.

It’s interesting to note how stories can even affect our bodies, causing strong sensations. Also how they make us think about.

When I think about how children develop their social skills, I think about my cute nephews and realize how important the socialization process is for their development. When they started school they soon became much more complex human beings. The exposure to stories and conversations made a great impact. They started to talk in a much better way, and they would have many more things to say than before. The stimulus that conversations produce is very powerful, and not only for children. We confront our experience to other, and we take and give, in the process of understanding the other and trying to make sense to the other. Our exposure to the unknown expands our minds. When we meet new people we feel like the world got bigger and more interesting, as it happens when we travel.

The next question of how good our conversations are in our normal routines. How much we learn from them. How much they are changing the way we understand and deal with reality? I often find myself repeating very similar conversations with my friends and family members. It can get boring when we insist in talking about the same subjects, and also trying to agree as much as possible. So why don’t we try to introduce some chaos into our conversations to see what comes out of that?

Other resources yet to investigate:

The man of the dice. A novel written by Luke Reinhardt. (In this novel the character is bored about his own life, and decides to leave all his decisions to be taken by a die (trivial and important) . The book questions the idea of a fixed and static personality, and also the danger of the lack of a structured “permanent” personality. Also how our close social circle and society expects us not to change in a short period of time.

Some parts of the process…

uncomfort - 1 uncomfort - 2 uncomfort - 3 uncomfort - 4 uncomfort - 5 uncomfort - 6 uncomfort - 7 uncomfort - 8 uncomfort - 9 uncomfort - 10 uncomfort - 11 uncomfort - 12 uncomfort - 13 uncomfort - 14 uncomfort - 15 uncomfort - 16 uncomfort - 17 uncomfort - 18
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>

 

Wrong numbers, wrong melodies

In this 3 minutes and 35 seconds duration  sound piece, the idea was to continue with the idea of using data to create sounds that somehow evoked the data that triggered the sound. I started with the idea of traffic sounds or “noises” as the material to be used. Then the idea was to find data that would be related to traffic. I found an interesting dataset among other interesting thing sources. It’s a dataset the city keeps about the traffic collisions.

The dataset contains details like the time of the events, the location (latitude and longitude), the borough (five boroughs), the cause of the accident, the type of vehicles involved, and the most important, the amount of injured or dead people involved in the accident. I started to think about what to do with the data.

At the beginning, I pretended to trigger sounds of cars, as I previously did with the previous experiment I called Hell-ectronic music. I thought about associating them to the boroughs where the accidents happened. I tried, but it sounded like hell and not too much like music. Another issue was not really having clear criteria about which sound to match each borough. Then I realized the most important and interesting data to use, was the number of injured people or killed people. It is the reason to be for the data. So it can be used to measure how dangerous the streets are on time. And off course to encourage changes in this regard, to make those numbers to be as closest to cero as possible.

Another aspect I wanted to play with was the equation between noise and music, and what we referred in class, as for how listenable it would be. So I started thinking about which sound should I use to relate to the event of injured people. I came back to the idea of traffic sounds, and thought about some kind of ambulance or siren sound.

Then, as I listened to a song I realized that the main melody would be good for this purpose. The song is called “wrong”, by Depeche Mode. The main melody sounds like a siren, and the song’s video is very close to the idea of accidents and traffic. It has a feeling of a nightmare. Very similar to a recurrent dream I used to have when I was a teenager. So I started to look at the song and I found different versions. I finally found the melody without any other sounds. I used this version that lasts 43 seconds in total.

I set it then to play whenever in the accidents a person or more where injured.

The result was very interesting to me. It sounds like some sort of ambulance parade, and also reminded me of the sound effect used in choirs, when people sing the same lyrics and notes in different time, so they overlap, creating some sort of atmospheric sound. But, going back to the concept and idea of the database, it made sense. It evoked the increasing number of injured people through time, in a very emotional way. Also, you can sense when the number decreases at the end of the database sample when there are less of overlapped sounds, and then none at the end of the sample.

A point that in the end turned to be interesting when listening to the result, was the idea that my friend Ayal told me to consider: the contradiction of a beautiful or pleasing sound that was revealing a tragic or unpleasant or ugly fact. I found the final sound piece to be both beautiful and pleasing, but I also feel a lot of dramatic tension when I listen to it.

That is the point a got so far. What I want to do is to learn the different sound methods that will allow me to play with the sound, such as the reverb and delay effects, of others that might make it more rich and interesting. Also to use them in a way that makes sense, in relation to the database.

Other things I would like to explore are the API’s data like real-time alerts, the current speed of the traffic, among others.

A difficulty I faced was dealing with the huge database. The file is to heavy to be easily handled, so I had to work with a piece of it, that resulted in a short piece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J3FGxHr9iE

“For the song in good sound quality: (video doesn’t work well after some time)“The one Depeche Mode video that Youtube constantly removes , or something happens to the video. They dont want to share. Wrong .“

Close to the original version of the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fos_5QoFaZM

The Virtuous Cycle process and conclusions

The process of the virtuous cycle was very fast. Jumping from the idea of motion energy to the idea of transportation in the city was a very abrupt one, but an interesting and meaningful one.

What did I learn: I learned some principles of physics I might have studied a long time ago in school. It was really interesting to read about them from my current way of seeing the world, and not as boring physics. I was really fascinated with the infinity of this subject and how it really involves every single moment and action in our existence and even after!

The most challenging part of the process was being able to narrow the subject into something useful and also into an urgent one. I asked myself what was really the way motion was related to my life. I decided it had a very important roll in my life, as I needed to move long distances between home and school almost every day.

So the next step was figuring out how to make this a topic o common interest with more people. Commuting definitely is a subject that affects the great majority. The life quality is linked to a very large degree to the quality of our commute and also to how long it takes. The other subject directly related to it is the environmental problem linked to transportation. This, of course, is an issue that affects all people at a global level and also all living forms on earth.

In the first stage, I started finding resources and reading and about motion and energy and then I started drawing mind maps to try to link the different concepts and ideas. This helped me to narrow down the subject to the idea of transportation in the city. So then I thought about how would I communicate this and to who, and for which purpose. I found many resources, documents and also projects that addressed these topics of transportation and environment problems.

The big question I still don’t know how to solve in the project is the balance between the research, findings, and important facts, and the process of communicating it to others. I feel somehow that the format of the project shifted into a platform for raising questions, awareness, curiosity and a space for debate. It distanced from the idea of a guide to access valuable information that was carefully researched and carefully selected. I still don’t have an answer to solve this paradox.

The feedback I got

I got very useful feedback from the class and from people I talked to. Some of the most important points were the following. It was fun as a game and would be interesting to play for adults. But it could be clearer in terms of the instructions, and also more fun. It had a serious tone, which was adequate for the goal. The design had to be improved, and changed to a smaller one, with less text and information. I learned I had to become a temporary expert in design and grammar.

I also learned how much work a simple field guide has. I put a lot of time and effort into it, but it was never enough. Finding a balance between research for the content, design and playtesting was not something I accomplished successfully. I now understand how much iterations you need to get closer to a final version of a product like this. I found myself printing again and again after finding errors. I also struggled with software problems, I learned how to design a box and to laser cut it, challenges that took a large amount of time.

I still have pending a large amount of time for playtesting. I also think that there’s a lot more room for design improvement also considering the possibility of taking this conversational game-guide to a real audience. The idea would be to create the least expensive way to print it, and finding the most successful or “viral” distribution format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every day is exactly the same

botles - 1 botles - 2 copy botles - 3 copy botles - 4 copy botles - 5 copy botles - 6 copy botles - 7 copy
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The weekly exercise I decided to do was simple. Every day I would walk for around 25 minutes taking a plastic bag with me. I would look for bottles on the floor, that were not by a trash bin or plastic trash bags. The goal was collecting at least five to ten bottles each day.  At the end of the week, the idea is to put all of this bottles in a proper recycling container where they now belong.

The idea was inspired by artists like On Kawara that repeated gestures every day. But in this case, the goal was to think about how a small, almost insignificant gesture, could make a small change. Maybe not an important one, but more than doing nothing. This exercise served as a metaphor for social change in any possible field of action we can think of. I often make myself this question: As individuals are we capable of changing society in a verifiable way?  I used to think it’s very little what we can do. Now, my point of view has changed. Small actions produce change. We may not notice it immediately, but it’s real. It keeps adding and we eventually see it. It’s simple math but it works.

I thought that it would be easy to find 10 bottles in a 25-minute walk.  But that was not always the case. In the process of doing this, I felt a contradiction. I felt happy when I found each bottle, but at the same time guilty of being happy about a bad action by an unknown citizen.

I found that the most important part of this action was not taking the bottles from the floor and placing them in recycling bins, but the fact that people would watch a stranger picking up a dirty bottle. That gross action (parents usually tell you not to pick dirty things from the street) was in fact not so gross in ethical terms. It creates a modest statement that hopefully will make some people at least think twice before they throw bottles in the streets.

 

“Caras vemos, corazones no sabemos”

Physiognomy’s New Clothes

by Blaise Agüera y Arcas, Margaret Mitchell and Alexander Todorov

 

https://medium.com/@blaisea/physiognomys-new-clothes-f2d4b59fdd6a 

“Caras vemos, corazones no sabemos” (Faces we see, hearths we don’t know) Popular proverb.

“The idea that there is a perfect correspondence between a person and their image is a psychological illusion fueled by our experience with familiar faces. We instantly recognize images of familiar people, and this recognition evokes our memories and feelings about them. But there is no equivalent process when we look at images of strangers. Each image generates a different and arbitrary impression.”

The misperception of the gestures of people can lead to discrimination and mistakes made by us, common pedestrian, by the police force, by judges, by hiring companies, visa expedition process, people responsible in universities in the admissions process and many other fields.

There are many examples of this kind of mistakes. A few weeks ago I was labeled as a criminal suspect while walking home. I was walking home after eleven p.m. I was walking in the same direction as a young lady of about 25-35 years old, who I never saw her face. She was walking in the same direction as I was, and also at a similar pace. She was about 15 meters ahead of me. When she noticed my presence she started looking over her shoulder very frequently. So it was clear she assumed I represented a danger to her. I felt very bad when this happened. I understand how women feel unsafe, and off course I didn’t take this personally. I have also done the same many times in my country, where you can easily get robbed in the streets. The conclusion is that this misunderstanding is very common, and if made by the authorities or people with guns, the consequences are very bad.

The problem with making assumptions about people based on their appearance is a dangerous mistake. In different cases injustices have been perpetrated because of this. Judges and jury often make decisions that change individual lives, based on how these people look, and not only on what their story is, their context they came from or their psychological profile. Criminals responsible for the same offenses often get different sentences because of how they look. Black people are common victims of this kind of injustice. It’s very common that they get more time in jail when they are sentenced for the same crimes as white people. Also when it comes for choosing between the death penalty or the life imprisonment, decisions are affected not only on the profile and expedient of the inmates but on how their faces reveal a more “dangerous nature” or “evil” one.

If we are not conscious of how we are judging people by their looks, expressions, color of their skin, the way they dress, if they have tattoos or not, their size and weight, etc., we will be training machines to perpetuate this vicious way of judging, leading to more injustice and inequality. This is very present in our human nature. The popular sentence “Tell me who you hang out with, and I’ll tell you who you are” reveals exactly that tendency.

“Our existing implicit biases will be legitimized, normalized, and amplified.”

That could happen if we are careless when we train A.I to make judgments like we do and allow computers to perpetuate our own biases and use them as we enforce them as valid and scientific fact based.

The following case is another example that reveals the dangers of using these systems of machine learning and so-called objectivity.

Predictive policing” (listed as one of TIME Magazine’s 50 best inventions of 2011) is an early example of such a feedback loop. The idea is to use machine learning to allocate police resources to likely crime spots. Believing in machine learning’s objectivity, several US states implemented this policing approach. However, many noticed that the system was learning from previous data. If police were patrolling black neighborhoods more than white neighborhoods, this would lead to more arrests of black people; the system then learns that arrests are more likely in black neighborhoods, leading to reinforcement of the original human bias. It does not result in optimal policing with respect to actual incidence of crime.”

The idea of physiognomy has survived the test of time and is a treat in our present time. The belief of the facial forms and expressions of people having a correlation with their moral qualities is a misconception that often leads to discrimination and injustice. There is a study that is taking this system of thought, and using machine learning to reinforce it, claiming accuracy and objectivity. It’s very dangerous because the law and authorities could agree on its validity and that way implements it as a tool to make decisions that will affect many peoples life.

“Wu and Zhang are able to use a variety of techniques to explore this in detail. This is especially tractable for the simpler machine learning approaches that involve measuring relationships between standard facial landmarks. They summarize,

“[…] the angle θ from nose tip to two mouth corners is on average 19.6% smaller for criminals than for non-criminals and has a larger variance. Also, the upper lip curvature ρ is on average 23.4% larger for criminals than for noncriminals. On the other hand, the distance d between two eye inner corners for criminals is slightly narrower (5.6%) than for non-criminals.” [7]

We may be able to get an intuitive sense of what this looks like by comparing the top row of “criminal” examples with the bottom row of “non-criminal” examples, shown in the paper’s Figure 1:

 

Figure 3. Wu and Zhang’s “criminal” images (top) and “non-criminal” images (bottom). In the top images, the people are frowning. In the bottom, they are not. These types of superficial differences can be picked up by a deep learning system.

 

Figure 4. Stereotypically “nice” (left) and “mean” (right) faces, according to both children and adults.

Another interesting case was the misconception of women being bad at math’s, during the nineteen century and before. Philippa Fawcett managed to get the top score at an advanced math exam, “Cambridge Mathematical Tripos exam”, in 1890 in England. This was perceived, assumed as an error, an exception to the rule. People’s beliefs in Victorian England could not believe and accept that the elite of the British gentleman where beaten by a very intelligent woman. If we think about this case in terms of numbers, we can get their point. As there were practically no women attending universities and academic contexts, there was no data that could reveal the skills or lack of skills of women in math’s, as a group. There could be statistics without numbers. So when this result was obtained, it was seen as an anomaly.

This could happen if we trained a computer without the amount of information we need it to have, in order to get results that come close to the average, what we sometimes call the truth. If these men had allowed more women to learn math’s and to take exams, they would have thought in a very different way as they did. If we think of them as the computer making decisions, and having to choose one person for a job that required high mathematical skills among the people doing the exam, the computer would have chosen any other than the most suited one for the job.

Hell-ectronic music

ride#3

Hell-ectronic music is the result of a combination of data produced from the interaction of a cyclist and a bicycle on a bike simulator and three sound samples produced by cars.

The inspiration sources are the train music by Pierre Scaffer and the Ufo Sightings piece by  Hanna Davis.  I wanted to bring these ideas along to the idea of noise vs music that I started to think about when I did the traffic jam, an “Instrument of torture” to produce and listen to car sounds. You can play different sounds of cars at the same time, producing a chaotic and sometimes relaxing sound piece.

I produced the data making different sessions of 5 minutes each on the bike simulator, trying to create different rhythms int he variable I used: speed, pedaling cadence and heart beats per minute.

This variable where taken into the P5 code. They affect the looped samples from car sounds, so they create rhythms and different pitches of them as they also affect the duration of the looped samples.  I used the P5 Library  play sound.rate for this purpose.

The result was very noisy and interesting in some ways. But I think I need to work it a lot more to make it more inclined into the listenable spectrum.

I’m also thinking about possible ways of taking data from cars.

I want to implement other functions from the library as Reverb to make the sound more interesting and dynamic.

 

ride#3
Ride#3 (Riding hard mode)

Project ideas

The idea is to create a new version of one of the following works, using the laser cutter as the main tool. Also to create a design that can allow something like LED colored lights to replace the painting and ink that were used to make this works. That would allow them to change in time and also would open into a different aesthetical dimension. We could see how the process by which the  “works of art”, or image get completed as a sequence. That’s part of what’s missing in the existing pieces, we can only imagine how they were done, but we only get to see the final result of hundreds of repetitive simple actions.

The first is called “Spin wheel of fortune”  By spinning a roulette, we start collecting the results of the roulettes and also we begin to fill an empty grid with colors to visualize the results, and that way,  also revealing the tendency of the roulette.

We might build a new led displaying roulette and why not our own routes!

In any case, the goal is designing a piece that could be easily built and refurbished.  Meaning that the LEDs could be replaced easily.

 

3O LED lights instead of 30 shades of gray

 

 

ALEA JACTA EST Installation.

 

 

Another possibility would be doing an installation with laser cut cardboards with this pattern, that would be lit by a source coming from behind. The pieces would be hanging on the top of the space.

The space to be used could be dark, like the ITP documentation space.

People would be laying down on the floor to look at the piece hanging above them.

Maybe doing a Roulette clock?

 

 

The vituous cycle

 “The virtuous cycle”

 

Introduction: How do you introduce the guide? What do we need to know? Is the guide a part of a larger system we do not see or are unaware of?

Introduction text about energy, resources and transportation and cycling and energy.

How to use:

Rules could be to play with other player or players in turns.

One puts one card and other puts another and they develop a conversation based on he relationship between cards that they can find.

Instructions:

Each player shuffle her/his cards. Pick one and put it on the table. The second person does the same. Then they all try to create connections between the two cards that where put in the table. After a minute, one of the players adds another card. They talk to connect the ideas of that card with the other cards. This activity can continue until they place all the cards on the table. The final idea is for them to talk about conclusions of the conversation and questions that the process created.

Map:

The map will be a mind system graphic that connects the different topics related to the “Virtue of cycling energy”

Entries:

How many entries are you doing?

Around 12

How are the entries systemically interrelated? (e.g. select parts of a whole, the whole, a subset)

Non-linear way: they can be shuffled as a deck of cards.

How will you express the entries? What visual / linguistic system are you putting to work?

Relational: Conversation and collaboration (the underlying idea of a discussion as a colaboartive practice and not as an “ego war”

connecting dotsgrowing map.

Playful communication

What visual styles are you using, what are you referencing?

Comics and sketchy kinds of images and also icons used for general use like corporate presentations or instructions of products or academic studies (used for giving facts“serious” communication)

Icons:

The icons will be common universally used icons such as energy symbols like a flash, wheels of bicycles, cyclist signs, recycling signs and emogis.

Colors to be used will be black (reminds the tires of the bicycles. Also green to address the idea of clean energy and natural resources, renewable energy and ecology.

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Isolated Electric City Bike Linear Vector Icon