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


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

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.


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.


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.


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


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)


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


Hello universe in motion!

Cycling and motion energy: Is city Bi-cycling possible?

  • MOTION energy: what it is? (200 words)
  • Non-renewable and renewable resources available to produce motion energy. (Quick list with icons (color green for renewable, red for non-renewable)
  • How can it be used? Practical applications. Icons (cars, electronic appliances, hospitals, heating systems, cooking, air conditioning, trains, boat, illumination, planes, etc…)
  • Motion energy and transportation (types of transportation. Icons.
  • Motion energy in the cities (the options of transportation we have for moving in cities) Icons
  • The city bike system VS owned bicycles (pros and cons) WORDS: 250 WORDS
  • Energy we use in everyday life. (What do we need energy for?) Icons
  • Motion energy and electrical generators. 200 words.
  • Availability of motion energy generators for consumers. 150
  • Is city Bi-cycle possible? Generating electricity while pedaling and exercising. How much energy can we produce? How much “wall outlet” electric energy can we stop using Bi-cycling? Exercising and motion energy (benefits of exercising) 400 words.


The aesthetic of the guide has not yet been decided. But icons that are familiar to most people will be used, and probably some analogies will also be used, such as the decision tree, the mind map and visual resources like cartoons with vignetting may be considered to communicate some of the ideas.

Isolated Electric City Bike Linear Vector Icon

How to make a bike stationary electrical generator:


The problems of bike generators, why they are inefficient:


‘This hill is tough going.’ – ‘I’d better keep the brake on in case we go backwards.’
Motion energy
When I hear the Word motion my neurons start to move and to interact, making connections caused by the flow of energy formed by chemical reactions that give way to electrical signals that allow the connection and communication among these neurons. So after that fast process (not so fast in my case), the first things that come to my mind are images. Pictures like soccer balls moving through the air, of the cyclist, fast cars, planets, dogs running, baseballs, airplanes, people running, plates falling to the ground, explosions, waves of the sea, animals, cartoons on television, among millions of others that are somehow stored in my mind. Then the neural network in my head starts creating connections and it start raising questions like:How can I define motion and energy? Energy and motion, motion and energy, that’s exactly the relationship between them? Does motion come first, or energy? Hoy is energy created? Why do things move? Which are the forces behind them that cause them to move? Is everything moving? Is everything energy in motion? So then after all these questions and “neural party” The idea is to search for information to try to answer these questions and to look for new ones as well. Also trying to make sense of all the huge amount of information about motion energy. After that, to extract the fundamental ideas so I can understand the most important aspects, and be able to share the findings with others, and somehow look for useful ways to use this information. The field of study that is dedicated to these subjects of motion and energy is called Mechanics. There are other subfields of studies like:
Kinematics (dedicated to the study of motion without regard to forces)
Dynamics: the branch of mechanics that deals with motion and forces.Statics: the study of forces in the absence of changes in motion or energy.Energetics: the field of study that is concerned about how energy changes forms and location during physical processes.So let’s start in a conventional and a bit “boring way”, looking at definitions about motion and energy, as well as some principles associated with both concepts. Then, we will start moving in more interesting directions, and thinking about the practical ideas and challenges that engineer’s often face, like of turning energy into motion and motion into energy. We can also move a little bit and ask people about what energy motion is for them, to learn from them. And maybe at some point, we could also have fun speculating and using our imagination to think about motion and energy in fun and crazy ways that escape the domains of science western rationality. And why not come up with creative silly ideas to convert energy into useful sources of energy, to share with the smart engineers to see how viable are they to be implemented.Definitions and basic principles of motion and energyFrom the Thesaurus online dictionary:“Synonym study

  1. Motion,move, movement refer to change of position in space. Motion denotes change of position, either considered apart from, or as a characteristic of, something that moves; usually the former, in which case it is often a somewhat technical or scientific term: perpetual motion. The chief uses of move are founded upon the idea of moving a piece, in chess or a similar game, for winning the game, and hence the word denotes any change of position, condition, or circumstances for the accomplishment of some end: a shrewd move to win votes.
  2. Movementis always connected with the person or thing moving, and is usually a definite or particular motion: the movements of a dance. 3. bearing, carriage.

As a noun

  1. theprocess of continual change in the physical position of an object; movementlinear motion Relatedadjective: kinetic
  2. a movementor action, esp of part of the human body; a gesture
    1. thecapacity for movement
    2. a mannerof movement, esp walking; gait
  3. a mentalimpulse
  4. a formalproposal to be discussed and voted on in a debate, meeting, etc
  5. lawan application made to a judge or court for an order or ruling necessary to the conduct of legalproceedings
  6. British
    1. theevacuation of the bowels
    2. excrement
    1. partof a moving mechanism
    2. theaction of such a part
  7. musicthe upward or downward course followed by a part or  Parts whose progressions are inthe same direction exhibit similar motion, while two parts whose progressions are in opposite directionsexhibit contrary motionSee also parallel (def. 3)
  8. go throughthe motions
    1. to actor perform the task (of doing something) mechanically or without sincerity
    2. to mimicthe action (of something) by gesture
  9. in motionoperational or functioning (often in the phrases set in motion, set the wheels in motion)
  10. Verb (when tr, may take a clause as object or an infinitive)to signal or direct (a person) by a movementor gesture

As a noun

“1mass noun The action or process of moving or being moved.

‘the laws of planetary motion’

‘a cushioned shoe that doesn’t restrict motion’”

Taken from the online Oxford dictionary:


Energy: “Energy can be defined as the capacity for doing work”

Taken from: https://www.teachengineering.org/about


Some basic principles between energy and motion:


Conservation of energy: A principle stating that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant regardless of changes within the system. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

Energy: Energy is the capacity to do work.

Kinetic energy: The energy of motion.

Mechanical energy: Energy that is composed of both potential energy and kinetic energy.

Potential energy: The energy of position, or stored energy.


Taken from: https://www.teachengineering.org/about

Keywords around the idea of motion energy

 Words related to motion

Potential energy work kinetic change power momentum collisions friction elastic inelastic static drag mechanical mass acceleration potential, kinetic, heat/thermal, electrical, light, sound, mechanical, electrical, chemical or nuclear energy flow, transition, translational, rotational, and oscillatory, speed, activity, progress, act, gesture, proposal, proposition.

Words related to energy:

Strength, toughness, power, vitality, stamina, efficiency, intensity, spirit, service, electricity, heat, potential, dynamism, initiative, light, noise, mass, natural resources, fuel, gas, pollution, batteries, sunlight, solar energy, wind, Eolic energy petrol, nuclear energy, atomic energy, waves, wave energy, lightning, biological, ecological, physiological, biological, chemical, photosynthesis, protein folding, healing, weight gain, membrane transport, cellular respiration, signal transduction..


Bibliography and References




Argonne Transportation – Laser Glazing of Rails. September 29, 2003. Argonne National Laboratory, Transportation Technology R&D Center. October 15, 2003. http://www.anl.gov/index.html

Asimov, Isaac. The History of Physics. New York: Walker & Co., 1984.

Jones, Edwin R. and Richard L. Childers. Contemporary College Physics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1993.

Kahan, Peter. Science Explorer: Motion, Forces, and Energy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Luehmann, April. Give Me Energy. June 12, 2003. Science and Mathematics Initiative for Learning Enhancement, Illinois Institute of Technology. October 15, 2003. http://www.iit.edu/~smile/ph9407.html

Nave, C.R. HyperPhysics. 2000. Department of Physics and Astronomy, Georgia State University. October 15, 2003. hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hframe.html

The Atoms Family – The Mummy’s Tomb – Raceways. Miami Museum of Science and Space Transit Planetarium. October 15, 2003. http://www.miamisci.org/af/sln/mummy/raceways.html