Forget Controlled Substances, We have Substances that Control

Join the MatchMakerMovement

Click on the image to view the pitch

The MatchMaker is a pill that destroys the brain parts associated with a certain behavior or habit. The idea behind this startup (and the 8 year trajectory) is a reflection of not only how problematic a product like this would be, but easy it would to sell it. Science does not sell, but sex and emotions do.

One assumption that I make in MatchMaker is the lack of discipline that couples take on to solve issues in their relationships. It assumes that there is no space for constructive criticism in a failing relationship. More generally, it assumes that we don’t ask for feedback often, nor do we take it well when it’s given. Constructive feedback always an exchange, while advice is one-way.


Most importantly, MatchMaker assumes that all couples are “perfect” for eachother and that any and all problems in a relationship are based on bad habits. In my pitch, I market the product as the easy, time-saving solution to any relationship. In a sense, MatchMaker makes relationships seem so easy!
One feature of the MatchMaker service is the requirement that both people (assuming its monogamous) purchase a pill for one another.

MatchMaker is a reflection of the integral ways that technology has manipulated our processes and interpretation of time. This new ability to quantify so many aspects of life has potentially led us to being control freaks who only think in terms of input/output.

Besides intentional neuron degeneration and determining the genome sequence responsible for specific behaviors, I do not think we will ever create a pill or service that can target a specific habit in 30 minutes and remove it forever. If I had to quantify it, I think there is a 0.001% chance that biotechnology develops a similar product within the next 100 years. There’s a paradox in the way that medicine has improved our quality of life, leading to longer lives. With the Internet, I think we already take many “shortcuts” in life, because I can look up an article and get advice faster than texting or calling a friend. MatchMaker only speeds up that process (instantaneously).

After the in-class presentation, I explored the ways that MatchMaker is related to Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World (thanks to these sparknotes). Surprisingly, my impossible project is not much different from the dystopian ideals described in 1932, when the book was first published. Psychological manipulation, classical conditioning, and the dehumanization of society are constant anxieties of a generation still adapting to the aftereffects of the industrial revolution.

If A Brave New World is a textual form of design fiction about the power of psychological conditioning and brainwashing, then our society has not done much to address these issues critically. MatchMaker is a product that answers the “what if” in long-term relationships and marriages.


As mentioned by Bruce Sterling, the definition of design fiction includes “deliberate use,” meaning that there is intention behind it.1 The beauty of design fiction is that it constantly borders between what we want and what we should have in the world. More than often, design fiction settles in a conversation that somehow drives consumers to believe that we should have it in the world. The average consumer is not critical enough. After creating an 8 year trajectory for MatchMaker, I realized how easy it might be to sell this product and spread it. No matter how bad the reviews are or scientific research that disqualifies the product, I think a product like this would easily become popular. That the power of rhetoric and marketing in a capitalist society. It makes me reconsider how critical consumers are.

I think consumers who are so worried about their data being used should not purchase items nor live on the grid. The act of browsing online or purchasing a product in the store already adds to the massive metadata that companies and stores collect about consumer patterns.

 

One day, with so much conditioning and control, we soon will be robots. With MatchMaker, the ability to subjectively eliminate another person’s behavior is dangerous since one bad behavior for someone might be interpreted as desired or positive for another.

 

For these reasons, I think the role of anticipatory anthropology is more needed than ever. Anticipatory anthropology is defined by Textor et al. as “the use of anthropological knowledge and ethnographic methods, appropriately modified and focused, to anticipate change.”2 Employing this methodology allows us to naturally critique the fears, aspirations, and opinions of the present generation. Ideally, I would have asked more people what they thought of the MatchMaker pill, to gauge what hopes and fears they feel as a result of this controlling substance.

References:

Bruce Sterling, “Patently untrue: fleshy defibrillators and synchronised baseball are changing the future” in Wired, (2013)

How The Internet Provides a Home for Vices, Fears, Temptations…and Forbidden Fruits

“Indulge me from your Soapbox”

Click on the image to watch the remix from Youtube
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a form of therapy which produces tingling-like sensations. Thanks to Youtube and video-based web platforms, this online service has become widely popular thanks to the internet.

During my search for sources, I encountered WhisperingRose, who is an ASMR Youtuber. In her long 25 minute video called “Body Confidence,” I watched (well, I mostly listened) to her long story. Even though I was expecting a pep talk about dieting and eating healthy, her video ended up being the exact opposite. During the first 10 minutes, she was explicitly addressing her viewers to acknowledge that this video was based on many requests from her fanbase. She began to coach us on how we should feel about our body. Then, all of a sudden, after 10 minutes, the audience of her ASMR video no longer was her fan base: she became her own subject through her shared vulnerability and public self-introspection. It was as if she forgot the world was going to watch her.

Because I tend to think of ASMR as a service for the public, my remix, “Indulge me from your Soapbox,” challenges the purpose of this activity. My remix hopes to highlight how WhisperingRose recontextualizes the ASMR platform in way not done before. Although it is a platform that is in constant renewal and development, I think the topic of “Body Confidence” did not need to be shared as ASMR.

“Indulge me from your Soapbox” doesn’t take her words much out of the original context and highlights her words matched with visual imagery. As mentioned earlier, I found myself listening to WhisperRose more than watching her. My remix is an attempt to give the viewer a reason to watch the video. Because “Body Confidence” is simply a realtime video of her talking, I found myself

WhisperingRose ASMR “Body Confidence support (soft spoken)”

imagining in my mind’s eye what she spoke about. The remix takes that burden away from viewer and slightly forces the viewer into an author-manipulated interpretation. In ASMR, because her eyes, hands, and bodily gestures create an experience that we automatically match together, my decision to place different images draw more attention to the content and meaning of her monologue.

I chose the Sim video to dominate most of the visuals because of the irony in intentionally fattening a female character. Because it’s a videogame, whoever did it was in complete control of the situation.

On the contrary, WhisperingRose began to speak about her experience which, at times, sounded like she was out of control. In my remix, I cut out phrases to strengthen this lacking sense of power. When her story began to exhibit honest, vulnerable narratives about feeling out of control, I imposed a video about pigs to hint at the little difference between these animals and her lengthy, whispering about eating. These moments of imposing visual images with her whispering voice remixed all of the media into my own argument. It was an argument that could not exist in the way that it did alone. Furthermore, Virginia Kuhn has identified this interplay as one of the affordances of digital remixes, in that they do not serve to confirm the validity of one piece, but rather to blend the different digital platforms and resources. 1

Later, I chose Lucy’s candy to not only show moments of uncontrollable stuffing, but to explore how virtual spaces potentially allow us to splurge on our guilty pleasures or anxieties without any consequences. In virtual spaces, we can act out our vices without as many consequences in real life.
The only rule that I broke was not having three different media types. Because her words were already so soft, adding text would have robbed the piece of its power. The goal of including only visuals was to allow the viewer to match the visuals with her slow, soft words without any other distractions. As described by Kuhn about Ong’s concept about second orality, they contend that we have entered second orality because “the affordances of the digital carry some of the immediacy and sonic features of the oral, as well as some of the abstraction and permanence of the written.” I wanted to let her external dialogue dominate. Had there been text, I think the viewer would read the text and briefly hear his/her inner dialogue. The volume and intensity of her voice requires a different type of focused attention, and adding text would have distracted the viewer. In a sense, including text would have activated the viewer’s inner speech, which Charles Fernyhough has cited as being much faster than external speech. 2 This fast, inner dialogue would counter Whispering Rose’s slow, gentle probing of her own insecurities.

The remix ends with vintage McDonald’s commercials that, within its context, seem joyous and fun. Within the remix, along with Whispering
Rose’s voice, I hoped to expand on a deeper set of issues that our outside of Whispering Rose’s control.

Because we grow up around these images online, on the television, and even as we drive by McDonalds, I contend that marketing has much more control over us. Whispering Rose’s ASMR soapbox speech was an attempt to reclaim that control as an individual. Although her experience is personal, my remix attempts to address the underlying factors that may explain how she got to this stage in life. Through “Indulge me from your Soapbox,” I challenge dieting programs and Pinterest boards that encourage people to lose weight. These programs place much of the blame on the person, and this false sense of agency sells. The problem is a cultural and societal one, and overweight individuals should be frame as no more than the consequence of societal or familial pressures and anxieties. 

As I reflect on the process of remixing, I have accepted one more form of control in this video: my remix is a form of ultimate control. My choices influence how viewers understand my argument. Do I think this remix is mine? I think I have partial ownership, because it would be unfair not to acknowledge the creators of the resources that I used.


Kuhn has termed digital fluency as the “competent control of the available semiotic resources.”3 Because of the availability of sources on the internet, the time spent searching for the most appropriate resources to remix together engaged my own critical, digital fluency. On the other hand, the time spent searching for resources allowed me to reflect on the limitations of digital resources as well. For that reason, I discovered what I think is the true meaning of a remix: pushing the boundaries of creativity using what already exists.

Because of the time it took to tediously and consciously choose what sources to use and to consider their combination, I think the beauty of remixing is the revival of a process- and product-oriented culture. Perloff has defined the unoriginal genius, explaining how this new form of creativity allows us to embody “an ethos where the construction or conception of a text is as important as what the text says or does.”4

Do I think this remix was need? I think it adds to the seemingly endless chatter of cyberspace. If I were to define creativity in the digital age, I would apply the concept of central limit theorem (CLT): as the amount of information, online production, and sharing increases, the less unique the entire population appears as it slowly centers around the mean. The mean, in this case, is a plank in the discourse surrounding dieting and eating habits. For that reason, as we continue to fill cyberspace with more junk, we not only confirming the ways that the CLT applies to our use of the internet, but we move into (or have already moved) into the post-parenthetical phase of the gutenberg parenthesis.5 “Indulge me from your soapbox” might be a few “deviations” from the mean, but I think the more additive the digital culture becomes, the more it seems that we repeat ourselves.

The more that we remix and add, the less individualism there is. For that reason, those movies, images, remixes that seem so different are not really different. That is the beauty of remixing and uncreativity, to criticize what already exists and pushing these boundaries. 
Creating this remix gave me renewed hope in the concept of creativity functions in 2017. I sometimes get frustrated when people say “don’t reinvent the wheel.” I wonder what would happen if one day, we shut down the internet for a month…I wonder what my “remix” might have looked like without WhisperingRose or pig videos or the sim of gluttony…would it still be creative?

 

References:

Julie Beck, “The Running Conversation in Your Head” in The Atlantic, (2016)

Kenneth Goldsmith, Uncreative Writing, page 2, (2012)

Megan Garber, “The Gutenberg Parenthesis: Thomas Pettitt on parallels between the pre-print era and our own Internet age” in Nieman Lab,(2010)

Virginia Kuhn, “The Rhetoric of Remix” in The Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures 9, (2012)

Scrolling our way to illiteracy

I’ve read countless poems in language arts classes. As I got older, the texts naturally increased in length and difficulty. It was pointless to look up words in the (physical) dictionary because the confusion never ended.

That’s what the Scrolling poem has to offer. Certain words were selected to be replaced by images from Flickr. Although I preferred using images from Google, I was limited by both the code and my knowledge of HMTL and JavaScript. The images are infused into the poem in an attempt to make it more accessible and readable. It reveals the embedded hierarchy in poems, which are written for a particular, elitist audience. To make a poem easier to read and understand degrades the original intentions of the author and makes it more childish.

I chose “The New Colosses” by Emma Lazarus because of the complexity of words used and the inability to easily understand the sonnet through a quick skim. Although I don’t think it’s meant to be read quickly and understood easily, not even a high schooler would have the patience nor vocabulary to thoughtfully consider the meaning and significance of this sonnet.

The introduction of images and replacement of words create a nostalgia for early childhood. Our childhoods are colorful memories when everything was easy. This desire for ease is reflected in the ways we access information today. For example, in 1883, the poem was used for political reasons, using linguistic rhetoric to appeal to a certain audience. In 2017, the average reader no longer seeks true complicated methods for comprehension. Instead, this generation thinks that getting the “gist” of a text is adequate. A poem hacked by a collage of words allows the reader to quickly get a “feel” for the text.

The childish hack also comments on bad reading behaviors that developed as a result of hardware and software design. More importantly, these could be harmful behaviors that aren’t getting corrected. My hack had an unintentional feature; my original idea was to have images and texts within the same line, like it is originally in the poem. But thanks to the way HTML and JavaScript work, the image always break the line. This created an elongated poem that is not to be read, but to be scrolled through.

The poem, again, tries to make the content of the poem accessible by the amount of time that it takes to scroll through. These are the unintended consequences of software. Writing software was intended to speed up the creation and consumption of content. The information that is accessed virtually is consumed from a surface-level that is sometimes focused more on the aesthetic representation than the message of the content.

I was surprised by a productive accident: the words “silent” and “homeless” are not available on Flickr. Flickr is different from Google images because it’s a platform where individual users upload photos by choice. Since the platform is mainly used for professional or high-quality work, exploiting homeless people for personal gain could be considered not socially acceptable. I was surprised that “silent” didn’t have a picture because there are bodily gestures that could represent this word. Many other words had images, even though they repeated due to limited availability in the selection pool.

More importantly, the basis of software and virtual information is built on the premise of making information permanent. When we archive this information, it is subject to manipulation and change; constant remediation is not an option, but a necessity in response to advances in technology. The act of archiving itself dethrones the authority and further distances the piece of work from its author. The poem has now become no one’s property and everyone’s property, all at the same time, even though it has her name in it. Even I don’t own the poem nor the hack. If anything, I own the process that created the conditions necessary for a reader to interpret her poem differently, mostly forcing them to “scroll” their way through it. But at the end of the day, the software randomizes and therefore creates a unique experience each time someone reads it.

Because their images, I’d argue that our imagination is more limited because we are subject to what the randomized black box spit out. We already create mental images in our minds as we read, but this code subjects the reader to a limited view. Poems are traditionally text-based, and require more theoretical analysis to interpret it. The preservation of an 1883 poem in virtual space doesn’t reflect the physical and cultural changes that have occurred in the past 200 years. This hack is not a comment on what a poem should or should not look like in cyberspace, but rather it attempts to align what 21st century consumers desire from 19th century poem; accessibility, simple language, and multimodal literacy.

 

Here’s the original curated code, which can be downloaded and accessed through a browser.

Babies are ubiquitous. And so are phones.

Are we born with the innate knowledge to take care of a baby? No. That’s why we have grandparents, books, and courses to educate us.

Are we born with the instinct to understand of how technology affects us? No. But companies spend millions of dollars on user design, trying to better improve the user interface and convince us that a tool so abstract can be disguised well.

 

Conventional design probably would have led to a phone simulator that might limit phone usage with a timer making us rely more on “offline” communication. I might have been inspired to design what might benefit a future audience based on current fears. It might have solved an issue that grandparents always complain about: “this new generation is constantly stuck to their phone,” or what google results believe to be a new type of “addiction.”

On the other hand, there’s speculative design, which exposes the problems that already exist or will exist. Although my phone doesn’t provide a recommendation, it does suggest what is the futuristic phone care simulator if it was based on current events. The behaviors associated with phone usage is condemned, but something allows us to override these complaints. Somehow, the culture has justified our continued use of this commodity for economic growth.

My hack, the needy phone, is both a product and service. The phone simulates a few key features that mimic behaviors of phone users today. The hack is to be used in conjunction with the manual or course that teaches consumers how to use the phone responsibly, according to common, daily behaviors and not based on academic research or popular articles.

The needy phone requires full attention, which is measured by constant button clicking. This is meant to mimic how our primary form of phone use is by clicking buttons or touching the screen rapidly. The button clicking must be constant, to mock the endless, pointless chatter that electronic forms of written communication can induce. The Circuit Playground was programmed to say “Look at me” constantly. Coincidentally, it’s a male, military voice (that’s literally how the the sample code describes it). This unintentionally creates an even greater level of complexity to the hack: technology, from its hardware to its software, is male-dominated.

Another way the user can avoid annoying his phone is by always using it, which is measured by the incline. When we use a phone, it’s always tilted; any other position suggests inactivity. The needy phone sends the following message when it recognizes inactivity: “Come back..I need you here..” requiring both the physical and emotional presence of cellphone user.

The last feature that is included in the hack is a sound receiver. Its nostalgic to think back to the days when we cherished unlimited minutes on weekends because when texting was expensive. Now, it’s impossible to find a phone plan that doesn’t advertise unlimited texting and data. The information economy has created silence in the offline world, and has created what Leah S. Marcus has called the “noise of cyberspace.”

According to Norman’s three levels of design, the behavioral design of the phone used to dominate: its function was to help people communicate virtually. Some of its obvious needs was the need to communicate dependent of physical presence. An “unarticulated need” was the desire to communicate without facial expression or immediate repercussions. He later discusses in his book about the virtual worlds as more logical, cognition based environments1. The brand name presents reflective design, but the phone has a dominating behavioral design. Wired recently released an article about the iPhone as an economic necessity. In it, Emily Dreyfuss argues that “the smartphone has become the lifeblood of social interaction and upward mobility. People from every economic stratum use them to stay in contact.” The mixed messages contradict: while they say we should get off our phones, it’s impossible to avoid using it.

According to Bruce Sterling, who works in the Near Future Laboratory, design fiction is the “the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change”2. The needy phone is not the design fiction of 2017; instead, it is the design fiction of the 1970’s. The needy phone is not future-oriented, but it is present-oriented. It does not need to suspend disbelief because the change is already happening!

The service aspect of the needy phone falls under design fiction because it asks what education or learning might be necessary in the future to use a phone “responsibly” (an idea inspired by a school for those can’t adult).

The people of the 60’s could say: wow that’s amazing! You don’t have to go to your friends house to see her new dog; she can just send you a picture! They might only see the convenience of virtual communication. But that ignores social consequences, which are hard to predict for the average user. Instead, these social consequences are predicted by the designers themselves, who foresee the effects and ultimately creates them. For example, Steve Jobs didn’t allow his own daughters to use the phone more than 3 hours a day. In the New York Times, Nick Belton points out that “these tech C.E.O.’s seem to know something that the rest of us don’t” 3. These parents set strict rules to shield their students from what they considered the “dangers of technology.” Even in my own academic research, I find this pattern emerge in education. Those who design technology for education caution the misuse of these devices, which should not replace certain human interactions. These devices are made just for making certain mundane activities more efficient.

The phone represents irresistible hypocrisy between the emotional and logical reasons we use to justify how phones are used. The phone symbolizes constant cognitive friction, while serving as material evidence of what Sicart considers “the conceptual tension between a player’s expectations and the system’s behavior” 4. So, how is that we’ve ignored these cautions? On a daily basis, why do we thrive on cognitive friction? Why do we accept the justifications made by marketers instead of those by researchers? Dunne and Raby argue that critical design is not only to help us confront our needs and desires, but to “help us become more discerning consumers, to encourage people to demand more from industry and society as critical consumers” 5. What expectations must be satisfied as consumers to prepare the next generation, which might offer classes to improve your offline behavior?

 

References:

Bilton, N. “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent” New York Times, 2014.

Dreyfuss, E. “No, iPhones aren’t luxury items. They’re economic necessities.” Wired, 2017.

Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2014). Speculative everything: design, fiction, and social dreaming. S.l.: MIT.

Sterling, B. “Patently untrue: fleshy defibrillators and synchronised baseball are changing the future” Wired, 2013.

 

Process

COURSE MATERIAL:

I created a manual to accompany the Needy Phone. This document imagines what a digital literacy course might teach.

CODE:

Check out the Circuit Playground code here

HARDWARE:

Below are 3d models of what I printed for the Circuit Playground to replicate a phone

Views of 3D printed phone case on TinkerCad

 

BRAINSTORMING:

Here are some photos from my brainstorming process!

random scribbles to understand what output I wanted
Testing out the circuit playground
identifying a problem to criticize
testing out a random idea. Since the circuit playground was so soft, I wanted to amplify the noise..didn’t work

Reflection on Circuit Playground

What do I know now?

I code better know.

I liked the hack, because you must translate ideas into concrete steps. With any project, you always begin a question by saying “I want to ____” but by the end of the project, that question changes to “I want to _____ but I can do____ with _____.” You learn to do one of two things: you either consider many other ways to reach the same goal, or you simply ditch that goal.

I reflected on the concept of measurable and non-measurable outcomes, and how they are both are dependent on technology. For example, it would have been neat to be able to detect people as they approach (so that the circuit playground can scream them away). But it’s not helpful in completing the project if you constantly live in the “what if”. As I brainstormed ideas, the ~12 sensors sometimes represented possibilities but also constraints. To think of a hack, you have to consider what the Circuit Playground can do, and not what you would like it to do.

To be quite honest, I underestimated these hacks. I didn’t understand fully how they relate to our everyday lives. Now, looking back, halfway through the semester, I see greater value in creating MVPs and creating something small that represents a larger idea/concept. Throughout the semester, I reflect on how design affects our behaviors and how our behaviors affect design.

Guess Who? Artist Statement

Artist Statement

“Whether a man is a criminal or a public servant is purely a matter of perspective.” ― Tom Robbins

The family-oriented board game, “Guess Who?” is meant to be fun, simple, and not too challenging. Nile and I decided to hack it by replacing the characters with controversial figures and adding a new rule.

To play the game, a player should have basic knowledge of the following 10 characters included in our hacked game:

  • Genghis Khan
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Kim Jon Un
  • Rodrigo Duterte
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Joseph Stalin
  • Donald Trump
  • Osama bin Laden
  • George W. Bush
  • Abraham Lincoln

 

These 10 figures were chosen due to their controversial status, either currently or historically. Depending on where you were born or educated, players may have different cultural or political opinions about each person. The game embeds agon1, a form of play that is based on skill, by favoring players who either have a more open mindset, or have more knowledge in political or historical domains.

Miguel Sicart states potential ways that play, game design, and emotions may contradict one another to create ethical gameplay2. Our hack hoped to replicate elements of ethical gameplay through three modifications. Procedurally, the rules were changed so that once a character is guessed correctly, the player reads aloud a fact or opinion from the card. The facts attempt to frame the character contrary to popular (American) belief. Secondly, because there are controversial figures that have replaced what used to be innocent ones, the game’s semiotic domain changes. The hacked Guess Who reveals assumptions attached to these symbols of power and change. Conceptual tension derives from the different ways the game and player interpret the characters. Although the Yes/No questions may frame characters as “bad guy,” the hacked Guess Who? makes them to be good people (except Abraham Lincoln).

Searching for facts and opinions created another layer of conflict, because it’s not clear what statements are true or false. How ethical is it that 2 people decide what statements are (1) factual and (2) are included in the game?

Each character had 1-3 unpopular facts or opinions that framed him as a “good” or “bad” guy. (Click for clearer image)

The player should question the reliability of information presented in the game and, more generally, the validity of recorded history. The hacked Guess Who? is a form of critical play due to the “rewritten” the narratives of each character3 that go against the mainstream. Also, the game undermines institutions of history and the creation of knowledge through this act of “subversion”4.

Ultimately, the game depends on from an ongoing debate that shares many elements of a wicked problem5. Being good or bad is not factual, but is constructed through culture, relativity, and rhetoric.

Our board game is a form of agonism because it accomplishes the most basic purpose of adversarial design: “these spaces of confrontation…provide resources and opportunities for others to participate in contestation”6. We hope that our hacked Guess Who? represents a wicked problem through material evidence. This physical space serves as a safe space for confrontation, disagreement, and speculation. This game is guided by what Disalvo has defined as political design which reveals elements of social construction and means of governance7.

The hacked Guess Who? reveals how means of governance have manifested itself in the social studies curriculum, primarily in elementary and middle schools. In the early 19th century, the development of public education in the United States was motivated by political and moral goals8. Even though the goals of education have changed over time, they reveal a strong connection between public and civic education, democratic ideology, and moral responsibility. Culture and education are not identical across borders. Although they share similar processes and structures, their content changes according to the geographic and political climate of each country. Our hacked board game reveals the ways that American education has been used as a political tool in this democratic society.

The hack masks the serious cultural significance of the characters with the playful mode of usage based on the original board game. This tension between the serious and playful reveals hidden boundaries of gameplay through “cognitive friction”9. I think we still talk about these figures today because they are symbols of cognitive friction; they represent the wicked problem of never-ending, political disagreement. For example, how we judge someone is based on a mix of logic and emotion. When I think of Donald Trump, it doesn’t matter how much I may disagree with his actions, because someone out there in America has found a reason to agree with him. I have met German friends who have expressed a new interest (and respect) for Adolf Hitler after reading his autobiography, Mein Kampf. Playing the hacked Guess Who? should be easy physically, but mentally challenging. According to the rules, the game ends once all characters have been guessed correctly. According to the hack, the game doesn’t have an end, since facts are relative in the real world.

References:

Caillois,Roger. Man, Play, and Games. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1958.

Cooper, Alan. The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. Indianapolis, IN: Sams Publishing, 2004.

Disalvo, Carl. Adversarial design. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2015.

Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2009.

Jacobsen, Rebecca. & Richard Rothstein. “Educational goals: A public perspective.” In H. F. Ladd & M. Goertz (Eds.), Handbook of research in education finance and policy (pp. 78-86). New York, NY: Routledge, 2015.

Sicart, Miguel. Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2013.

Footnotes:
  1. Caillois 132
  2. 91
  3. Flanagan 33
  4. Flanagan 10
  5. Sicart 99
  6. Disalvo 5
  7. 7
  8. Jacobsen 78
  9. Cooper 19

Guess who? depends on you

The Process — from idea to product

Brainstorm session
This is a photo from our 1st meeting. We brainstormed any and all ideas first before choosing a final idea to propel us forward.
After selecting Guess Who? as our final idea, we thought about ways to “hack” the game

Creating the Board
Our first board prototype: Nile tried out 3D printing with Tinkercad for the first time! Unfortunately, the print was a bit too small, and took too long to complete (3 hours total)
We decided to laser cut the board, which would be quicker. I tested out the size and shapes on a piece of paper. The slots were too big.
Since the slots were too big in the first attempt, I made them smaller and tested it out on recycled paper.
Here’s the lasercutter in action!
After finalizing the sizes and shapes, we printed it out on plywood in StudioM!

A visual progression of ideas: from prototypes to the final product
The Card Design
One of the example cards (your opponent doesn’t see this side)
Once your opponent guesses the person correctly, you are supposed to read out the fact/opinion about the person. Here’s a card about Osama bin Laden.

The Finished Product

The complete board!
Replicating game-play!

 

To check out the Artist Statement, click here.

 

the virtually unlimited paper fortune teller

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What if…each flap on a fortune teller wasn’t limited to just one answer?


The virtually unlimited paper fortune teller is a game with 8 questions. When revealed, its answers are randomized by a computer.

 

How I hacked the traditional paper fortune teller:

Hardware

I connected each flap to a key on the Makey Makey. When the player opens the flap, they touch conductive tape which is connected to a jumper cable. Some jumper cables were connected directly to the Makey Makey, while others were extended to the up-down-left-right keys through alligator clips. For aesthetic purposes, the cables were then covered with a square sheet, to make it look less “robotic.”

Software

Using the visual coding program, Scratch, I designed a code that would randomize an outcome based on what key was pressed. For example, if the ‘a’ key was pressed, the program would ask the corresponding question “What is your next meal?” and randomize a response. The response choices were pizza, sushi or milkshake

One of the 8 blocks that I created in Scratch.

Artist Statement

As a child, I remember playing with the (now foolish) paper fortune teller. The purpose of the game is to allow a mixture of personal decisions and “fate” determine what your future will be.

Looking back as an adult, it’s ridiculous that this game was so fun and engaging in elementary school! Although it was just one piece of paper folded and cut with writing on it, every new game promised a feeling of uncertainty and mystery believing that my destiny lied behind a flap. Anyone could have simply opened the flaps out of order, but we chose to play by the rules, nor do I ever remember being a spoil-sport1. Also, I never once considered that someone was responsible for writing all 8 definite outcomes, and automatically accepted the authority of the paper fortune teller to decide my future.

My hack made me hyperaware of the silly ‘magic circle’ 2 that we all accepted as children in elementary school. It’s a reflection on our subconscious decision to temporarily suspend all disbelief to allow 2-3 arbitrary decisions lead to a randomized statement that determines his/her destiny.

But there’s one issue with this game: it’s easy to gamify it. After a few rounds, the player(s) can already predict what lies behind each flap. I was hesitant to call it cheating, but it can be considered cheating since the player is not violating the rules but uses them for a personal advantage3. The paper fortune teller loses alea4, its main source of fun and play. The game no longer becomes fun, because there’s no doubt. The medium of the game is paper, which poses both affordances and constraints for the game. While paper can be folded, cut, and written on, these modifications immediately transform into permanent constraints. With each round, the game loses less alea, but doesn’t strengthen in any other form of play. It has potential to strengthen in agon when players take advantage of the loss of alea and transform that into an opportunity to choose the desired outcome. The rules can’t prevent cheating because the constraints of paper facilitate it.

My hack attempts to maintain alea constantly, even after various rounds of play. I redesigned it so that a computer program would randomize the outcomes, and offered a question under each flap instead of a statement. Although the current program has 3 answers for every question, that number could increase to create a feeling of true randomization. The goal of the hack was to make the game feel limitless and infinite.

I, as the game designer, understand that there is not much alea built into my hack because I decided what the possible outcomes were. The only source of alea is left in the code, which randomizes the outcome for each question. Coding in Scratch was an easy task, but assembling the hardware for this project was a difficult process. I went through lots of ideas and prototypes before I landed on a simple, concise design that was aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. I didn’t want the player to see and feel all of the wires, which is what I tend to see in other Makey Makey projects. After connecting the jumper wires to the conductive tape, my project failed me. The tape was probably not conducting well, so there were many times that the messages weren’t translated to the keys. During this project, there were several moments when I found myself feeling like a spoil-sport as I opened the fortune teller to test out the connection. This hack was the first time that I saw a paper fortune teller like this:It allowed me to reflect on how much digital tools and software depend on the hardware. My hack was “technology on top of technology.” I say that because we tend not to think of paper as a form of technology, but our ability to mass produce paper and use it to record our thoughts is an innovation that is too normal to feel different. In a sense, the paper fortune teller is a gamified version of origami. The more obvious piece of technology that was used is the Makey Makey and its many wires. In the most basic definition, a Makey Makey is an extension of the keyboard. I challenged myself to think of a creative way to not extend the keyboard, but to consider the affordances of a Makey Makey.

The questions that I chose for my hacked paper fortune teller also made me think about Huizinga’s concept of play: “play is nonseriousness”5. Had an 7 year old child determined what questions were in my paper fortune teller, I think they would have been much more playful in nature. As a 21 year old, I chose questions that are much closer to the border between play and seriousness, because outside of the magic circle, the questions could be taken seriously. Although the usage of the object remained the same, the questions I created changed its cultural meaning by evoking more serious, thoughtful emotions based on the outcomes6.

My virtually unlimited paper fortune teller was not intended to be a game of critical play, but it ended up having qualities that resemble critical play. The game’s questions create an unclear boundary between the magic circle and ordinary life. My game carries the belief that players care about the questions, the outcomes, and how they relate to their personal life7.

My hack is playful thanks to computerized alea, but serious due to the cultural meanings that the questions evoke. Overall, this was a fun, creative project that used the Makey Makey in a way I haven’t seen in other project ideas online.

References:

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (1938)

Miguel Sicart, “The Design of Ethical Gameplay” from Beyond Choices (2013)

Mary Flanagan, Critical Play: Radical Game Design (2009)

Roger Caillois, Man, Play, and Games (1958)

The assignment:

Hack #1: Play

 

  1. Huizinga 106
  2. Huizinga 105
  3. Caillois 126
  4. Caillois 133
  5. 101
  6. Sicart 86
  7. Flanagan 4