- 1 Forward/Introduction
- 2 Abstract
- 3 Central Question
- 4 Relevance of the Topic
- 5 Hypothesis
- 6 Research Approach
- 7 Key References
- 8 Literature
- 9 Experiments
- 10 Insights from Experimentation
- 11 Artistic/Design Principles & Proposal
- 12 Realised work
- 13 Final Conclusions
- 14 Bibliography
As a modern graphic designer, you design and create for communication purposes. But in the traditional sense, you do it for clients, either in the form of print or a screen. As a creative designer, I always wanted to dabble my feet in other media like photography, film and the physical world. At this point in time, I experience the traditional way of graphic design as very limiting. There are many senses the human species can use to get communicated to that don't get to be used if you just stick to print and/or screen, or complicated behaviors and situations that you can’t provoke or comment on. I work to discover and learn new ways of expressing and communicating my ideas and findings using other materials and mediums. In this way in the future, I have even more freedom to think outside the graphic design box. Though limiting, being a graphic designer does give me the advantage to already have a clear understanding of what to do in order to communicate ideas, principles, and feelings.
As a craftsman, I'm a conceptual creator. I find a story, a metaphor or a happening and create a project around it. We as humans are very complicated creatures. How we interact with each other, the physical world and with the digital realm, created a lot of opportunities to discover, highlight or enhance different corks and characteristics that we possess. Doing this, I hope to bring more awareness to how humans interact. This can be taken into consideration when developing new products or technologies. Or if newer technologies get produced, I can use them to let people reflect on the situation, either positive or negative, in order to create a better understanding of what really makes people tick in the progression and development that we experience.
The world we live in has become smaller and smaller ever since access to the internet has grown and become more accessible by mobile devices. We have created tons of applications over the years to make it easier to find and connect with one and other. By using emails you can do business with people on the other side of the world and using facebook, twitter, Instagram we can stay connected with friends and family or even make new ones. But the same devices and applications helping use doing this are encouraging us to say connected every moment we have. it has turned us in to hyper-connected information addicts. We are too distracted to focus on daily tasks or listen to others and get bored if we are not confronted with the constant flow of information. As a result, we are losing our moment's solitude and collecting all sorts of anxieties. In my project, I will explore and research the relation between hyper-connectedness and solitude to find possibilities for a more mindful future with our phones.
how can I use a phone to help people disconnect in a hyper-connected world?
Relevance of the Topic
We are still in the infancy of using and creating technology like our mobile devices and the internet. And it is already changing our lives rapidly in ways that we could have never imagined. it is improving our lives in great ways. We have infinite access to information because we are always connected. But just like everything else being hyper-connected also comes with its pitfalls. The amount of information we receive has turned us in addicts. Big corporations like Facebook and Google know this and use the knowledge and the phones to grab our attention to pull us back into their platform or application. they use nifty little ques to do that. When you have your phone on the table when you are at a social gathering or even if you are on your own, you will see your phone screen or notification LED light up and hear it make sounds screaming to you to look at what incoming information there is. Even if you have the phone flipped on its face or in your pocket with the sound turned off, you will most likely notice the sounds and feeling of the vibration the phone makes with each incoming message. All these stimulations distract you form being in the moment with the people you have there with you or with yourself to see a funny meme or video.
Vilém Flusser said in an interview at the European Media Art Festival in 1988 that, every revolution as in Neolithic revolution or the revolution or the bronze age, iron age or the industrial revolution, have all been technical evolution mimicking the body. The current revolution is the first time our new technics simulate the nervous system. Because it is a new frontier we have to learn and evolve together with our technology in ways that will give us the benefits of having access to constant information but is also mindful to us as humans.
People nowadays consider their phones as part of their selves. But it is also a big part in letting us indulge in de negative behaviors. So to create a situation where there is solitude it would mean that it would be needed to separate people from their phone. people will most likely feel empty, disconnected and vulnerable at first but after some time that feeling will disappear because they will experience peace and tranquility.
The artistic expression that comes out of this project is the result of cycling between different research methods. self-awareness and solitude are subjects related to the spiritual side of our reality, and technology and spirituality don't often cross roads. So to better understand and define the abstract ideas I did literature research listening to the audiobooks written by Sherry Turkle. The process after that was not linear. With my ideas lined up better, I made up experiments and use my findings to further my ideas and find literature to back up what I found or fill in the answers. all while brainstorming and sketching out ideas to find more connections that I could exploit in my project. slowly but surely I started visualizing what my artistic expression was going to be and combined it with visual and artistic research to create artistic expression. At that moment I allowed myself to start experimenting on production. even though I was already building, My vision was still shifting so I kept on reading and testing till I had the feeling I could explain every detail of my final result. In the next chapters of my research report, I will go more in-depth on the information I consumed, experiments I did and how it shaped my artistic expression.
the referenced I tried to find artistic expression, artists or informative pieces that would help me understand my theme better and could help inspire me to create the experience that conveyed my vision.
In the Documentary innSaei, they document different famous thinkers and spiritual leader in being more connected with the self. They talk about how the world connected as it is, effects us now. In the documentary, they also show places and situations where they teach mindfulness and meditation to the youth. What was interesting for me was that it gave the first answers to what are the distractions and what you need to do to get more connected to yourself. in the documentary, they state that going into nature is a big part of getting the needed rest from the chaos of our daily lives and finding solitude. it also set me on the path to thinking about how I could bring the effects of nature to a place and a space that is easier for everyone to use. I thought about different situations where nature puts us in a meditative self-reflecting state. I eventually decided on the motion of the ocean. lose flowy rhythm of waves climbing on the shoreline.
Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity
Yayoi Kusama was an interesting artist for me. Her way of using space to make you feel like it goes on for eternity makes you feel small and insignificant closely resembling the feeling of ego death the complete loss of sense of self. This is a state reached by meditation. the Buddhist practiced meditation to reach this state. They call this state enlightenment. The artwork Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity is inspiring to me because it sucks all your attention in and can create peace in your mind. For my project, I want to create a similar feeling keeping the person locked into the experience to provide rest. I designed my artistic expression to let the visual part of the installation be the source that attracts the attention and distracts you from the distractions by recreating the hypnotizing effect of waves in the motion with lights.
Giant Psycho Tank
Carsten Höller also created a space and situation that helps the one using it to find solitude. But instead of it being a visual experience it is a physical experience. the visitors were encouraged to take off their wardrobe and lay in a shallow pool of an epsom salt solution kept at body temperature. The saltwater keeps the visitor afloat in perfect balance. Höller intention was to induce extreme relaxation to have the visitor experience an out-of-body experience. What I liked about it was that it focusses on the body aspect of the experience. getting rid of all the outside noise to turn inwards is not a way that often gets considered. For my project it made me think of how I want to let the visitors experience it. At first, I wanted people to stand But that isn't a realistic way to get the visitors in the mindset that I want them to experience. Because of that, I dove into the practice of meditation and found that sitting down with straight posture is the best way for my installation.
Another artist that had a lot of inspirational influence on me was Robert Irwin. He started his career as an expressionist painter. But eventually changed is ways and went on to do site-specific artworks. He's conditional art is interesting to me because of the approach and the minimalism. The whole room or area he is working in is his canvas but his intervention is not always very apparent or in your face. he studies the situation and tries to alter how you perceive that situation. For my project, I am also trying to change our perception of our devices and lives. In my case having people look at them in a slightly other way, may help them realize how they are being influenced. His work also showed me that a small intervention can have big results. Having less decorative features to my installation could help me bring down the experience to the essence. In the beginning, I had ideas that I would include more realistic forms of nature like physical logs branches and leaves. But researching Robert Irwin made realize that it isn't needed and I might risk making it to gimmicky. So I got inspired by his minimalistic approach and searched for the little essential details that made nature so relaxing and peaceful that then influenced how I decided how the visual output and space would look.
Before starting my project I had some inkling ideas that there were negative effects to constantly using a mobile device. In my own use, I got really frustrated with all the social media apps because it just didn't feel real. Even though I was highly frustrated I couldn't stop logging on every single day to see would keep me distracted for hours of my day. I also noticed the same behavier in my social environment. This set me on a path to look for answers.
based on my experience of seeing my family and friend and my self my first assumption was, that using the phone constantly was keeping us distracted from connecting with ourselves. In my head this meant people would never take time to figure out their real problems that would help them live a more fulfilled life. Looking for any insight I found InnSaei. The documentary confirmed the assumptions I had bubbling in my head. In the documentary, they talk about how the world is hyper-connected and that we have lost touch with our intuition. So that was what I was going to work on. I'm going to help people find their intuition. But what is intuition? how do you measure intuition? I very quickly noticed that there isn't a really good explanation or answer to both of the questions. But there are a lot of explaining how to get back in touch with your intuition like the Forbes article on 7 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone. What I got out of it is that disconnecting and finding solitude was the answer.
The definition of solitude is said to be The state or situation of being alone. But that would mean that solitude is the same as being lonely. This didn't completely match up with what InnSaei insisted solitude to be. After diving deeper I found an article on the website Psychology Today that stated "Loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation. Solitude, on the other hand, is a state of being alone without being lonely and can lead to self-awareness.". What I did notice was that in the Documentary and in a lot of the articles they mention going into nature. What I wondered is how solitude related to de digital age and if it was possible to get solitude and create self-awareness in a digital age. What I found is that being hyperconnected can be very toxic. In the book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age written by Sherry Turkle she states that mobile devices empower connections with already made relationships, but can also harm the general sense of solitude and ability to meet personal and social standards on a grander scale. In her book, she goes on to mention numerous examples and anecdotes of people all ages coping with the same underlying problem. With her book, she tries to show that because people are hyperconnected and the lack of physical conversations people are losing communication skills required to interact with others and doing the internal dialog with yourself. They exchanged it for superficial outings on social media that are edited and curated to get a reaction in likes and comments. Thus "I think, therefore I am." changes to "I share therefore I am.".
This made me think of installations where I would, for example, confront people with different beings to have a dialogue with. To see if it was at all satisfying or how the Digital could help you find solitude. The book and an interview with Vilém Flusser at the European Media Art Festival in 1988 inspired me to think of an artistic expression that would bring about change in the people using it. Vilém stated it was the first time we created a technology that simulated the nerves system and that we had to grow with it. besides inspiring me he also mentioned different highly educated thinkers that covered the same field. The one that stood out to me most was Marshall McLuhan. I found one of is quotes "We shape our tools, Therefore our tools shape us. In the case of our mobile phones, it has deeply impacted how we interact with the world. In the paper do artifacts have politics, they imply that there are two types of technologies have existed side-by-side. One authoritarian, the other democratic. the first system-centered, immensely powerful, but inherently unstable, the other man-centered, relatively weak, but resourceful and durable. The unlimited access to everything with our mobile should be the great equalizer. these tools should give us freedom. But our attention is being controlled and manipulated by turning us into addicts. Giving people that shape our tools tyrannical power over us.
My thought process eventually changed and I decided that I wanted to use the ways that they are controlling our attention to free us. But with a theme, so complex I already knew What I would make wouldn't be the answer. I decided I wanted to let my work change the perception of how we experience our phones in a speculative utopian way. My project isn't the answer but the first step in a more balanced and constructive direction.
In my search to find why it is we are so disconnected from others and yourself it became apparent that it's because of the way and the amount of information we consume. every chance we have of at being bored we fill up with endless browsing and surfing loads of social media and platforms we use. But even though we are with other we still get pulled in and we reach for our phones. Using a phone my self I know how frustrating it is to have your mobile phone call to you for every activity somewhat related to you. So in my case, I like to have my push notifications for most apps off because they all want your attention. But the phone was designed to do so. The phone has behaviors and for my project, my goal was to find out what features the mobile devices use to shift your attention from your activity in real life to what is happening in your part of the virtual world to see if I could use them to my advantage. what I did to prove what it is doing is. I asked around is people could put on all their notifications and sounds and if they could record on video what their phone would do.
I knew the best way to have an installation up and running would be doing it with Arduino. I had a knowledge of programming in Arduino from previous projects. But I never took on such a big assignment on creating an installation without having someone with more knowledge in my team. So realize my project I had to learn circuitry and coding to have a project standing at the end.
I started with a very simple experiment like getting a led to light up to practice my understanding and structure I would have to code in. when I had that running I could go on to more complicated parts of my project. I took on the challenge of working with sensors I used an photoresistor (LDR) as a light sensor and got myself a microphone sensor the pick up the sound and then I went on to work with controlling a led strip.
To make the light sensor I used an Arduino and the programming software, a breadboard, jumper cables to connect everything. Using a LDR and a 10K resistor made up the light sensor and to test it I had a led connected to the Arduino to show sign of life. it would go on and off if there was light or not. the sound sensor basically works the same.
to create the visual experience I used an APA102C LEDstrip. these are led strips with an internal driver to make it easier to program them. The FastLED library in Arduino helped me to animate the LEDstrip.
Having done all the smaller experiments I wanted to see if I could make it work if I put everything together. I wasn't able to completely control the led strip the way I wanted but I still wanted to make a prototype to test it out to have a basic idea on how the visitor would interact with it and try to find pitfalls to work on. To build my prototype I tested it with my light sensor to control one aspect of the visual output that I had in mind. I fixed the LDR in position on the inside of a box that you could put the phone in. I had the Arduino connected to my laptop that was running a processing sketch. The sketch contained a white screen and there was binaural music that I made playing. It stayed white till the light of the phone's screen or notification led went on to notify you of incoming messages etc. At this moment a blue bar appeared and moved up and down the screen until the lights went off again.
Insights from Experimentation
After receiving the video recordings of phones with all the notifications turned on and off silent mode I could clearly see what the phone did to grab your attention. after every message or update the sound would go off and in the case of iPhones the screen lit up showing where the notification came from. You could also hear the phone vibrating on the surface where it was laying on.
For me, this meant that I didn't have to go into the system and find other more complicated ways to work with the phone because there were enough strong outputs that the phone itself already has instead of for example working with a specific platforms API. this would have been very limiting because it would me i could only have platform or social media run the installation. that would have meant taking the risk that people would get excluded because they maybe didn't use my selected platform or social media. With my findings, I had enough confidence to start working on coding and circuitry.
My prototype was very technically oriented. I got to show my peers the basic idea of the installation and it worked. But if you didn't have the notifications on it would be a very tame experience. So for my final product, I have to design the idea to make it have a more meditative situation.
Artistic/Design Principles & Proposal
With my artistic expression, I want to change the visitor's perception and show a first step in how humans and technology can co-exist in a more mindful way. In the installation, I want to use the mobile phone as material to create a new experience. By using the push notifications output (sound, light, and movement), I want it to create an audio-visual experience that that is part of a room/space. it has to relaxes and sucks in the visitor's attention and create a situation of solitude for the user to experience a meditative state.
I created the basic structure and functionalities on how my installation is going to work. With all the little experiments I could already build and use one led strip and control one of the visual and sonic outputs I want to use. My next steps will be further finalizing and combining all the coding to add on the other visual output to have the experience ready when you put your phone in. During and after I am going to continue designing and building the physical attributes of the installation to then have it ready at presentation day.
It will be an audio/visual installation with light boxes that have programmed LEDs in it. There will be a Panel/Box where you have to place your phone and close it to activate the installation. Ones activated the Binurial music will play and the lights go on. very time there is a notification the animation of waves and ripple effect will appear. if you open the Panel/Box the installation will shut down.
During my project, I explored the relationship between spirituality and technology. I approached them from the spiritual side learning about self-awareness and solitude from documentaries articles and books that pointed to the phone being the problem. By putting our phones, our primary life partner under surveillance and learning its capabilities made me ended up learning a lot about hyperconnectivity and the effects it has on us as spiritual human beings. We create our tools but we also get manipulated by them. Doing the research and experimenting help me come up with an answer to the question if it is possible to use a phone to disconnect from a hyperconnected world. What I would have liked to do more of in my field research, was doing more experiments on the look and feel visions I came up with to have a more clear understanding of what relaxed people. My conclusion after working on this project is that my answer isn't the definitive answer but it is a first step that could continue on a more speculative direction that will help us understand our situation better. With that understanding, we will shape and reshape our tools to better suit us and our needs as balanced human beings.
Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. Speculative everything: design, fiction, and social dreaming. MIT press, 2013.
Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. Penguin, 2016.
Winner, Langdon. "Do artifacts have politics?." Daedalus (1980): 121-136.
Innsaei. Directed by Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir and Kristín Ólafsdóttir, performances by Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir, 2016.
Miner, Wilson. “When We Build.” ‘An Evening With’ Lectures, Build, 7 - 11 November 2011, Union Club Hotel, West Lafayette, IN. Keynote Address.
Flusser, Vilém. Interview in Osnabrück. On writing, Complexity and the technical revolutions, September 1988, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyfOcAAcoH8. Accessed 13 Jan. 2011.
Estroff Marano, Hara. “What Is Solitude?.” psychologytoday, Sussex Publishers, December 13, 2016, https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/articles/200307/what-is-solitude.
Morin, Amy. “7 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone” forbes, Forbes Media, Aug 5, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/08/05/7-science-backed-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone/#633cebef1b7e.