Here is a link to my 7 minute portfolio and thesis presentation.
Here is my final reflection on my Temporary Expert project!
What It Is
My final project took the form of a Conversation Map about climate change, meant for myself and a Brooklyn resident I meet at the Brooklyn Central Library. The map is inspired by the recent 12 year deadline that the United Nations’ panel of scientists recently reported back to governments and citizens around the world.
Together, my partner and I talk about climate change by asking ourselves if the work to limit climate change within 12 years might actually might be exciting, moving, a relief, ordinary, or astounding?
To me, this is how I feel about the 12 year deadline, after reading the UN report which says that global goals such as poverty, hunger, and education are shown by research to limit global warming. This message sounds like a deal of some kind… 2 for 1! (… if I can reduce the message that much!).
The conversation with my partner is prompted by a map and physical objects that I’ve designed to use no digital technology and only biofriendly materials when possible, such as mycelium and bioplastic. At the end, I invite my partner to write down an action towards limiting global warming.
You can find my final presentation deck here. This describes my process in a more linear way, and is perhaps the clearest description of my journey.
You can see my conversation map design files here. This along with three cups made of glass (next time out of mycelium), a block and bowl made of mycelium, and titles (next time made of mycelium of bioplastic) make up my project. I also experimented with natural ink from plants as a way to stencil text onto my mycelium.
My documentation of my process is over here. There you can find my research on climate change, interviews with experts, materials research into biofriendly materials, and user testing during my 7 day practice.
I began this 10 week project by asking: How I might address climate change using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, to help people tackle huge problems in the next 12 years?
- At the same time, can I make stopping climate change seem approachable to people?
- Can I give people more ways to be motivated to stop climate change?
- And can I do it with relevant materials?
I stayed close to this question during my research. I found it to be straight-forward and action-oriented from the beginning, which ensured my final project would definitely engage the public with my question. For the most part, my question still allowed me to research bigger concepts. I will admit, though, that I was a little jealous of some of the more philosophical or conceptual research that others did as part of their projects. With more research under my belt, I can draw a much wider systems map that might take my project in additional interesting directions.
As for lessons learned, becoming a temporary expert on a topic within a whirlwind timeline will go on to influence my future projects. I will be bringing a much larger lens to any of my projects, whether short and fleeting, or long and permanent. Setting aside time to do systems thinking grounds creative intuition and inspiration in real context. This context provides a necessary structure upon which to hang the semiotics, epistemologies, and visual communication tools you choose to create your projects with. Do your chosen materials and metaphors actually support your concepts? If not, think again!
Because of this class, I now attribute the suspicion, disregard, or just plain disinterest by people who interact with a creator’s work to the disconnects between the maker’s ideas and their chosen form factors, materials, installation space, etc.. Systems thinking sets the ground work for creators to make rigorous and informed decisions about the physical forms they choose for their ideas. Ultimately, people need to perceive the links between your ideas and your project’s physical form. This connection is what allows people to trust and engage with your work’s form factors, and ultimately your ideas.
I accomplished some of these rosy goals, but not all, which is reasonable considering a 10 week timeline and the endless form factor possibilities we are capable of using at ITP. Choosing the right materials and visual communication tools is biggest challenge of the class. Most other ITP classes give you room to pick the idea but the medium is already mostly decided. In this class, we pick the idea and the medium. Time consuming!
In my case, before I knew it my project called for no digital technology! On one hand, this ensured my ideas of climate change were not compromised by using materials that were an antithesis to my project, such as hardware, plastic, automation, and instant gratification. On the other hand, it was a very slow process to grow or cook my own materials, such as mycelium or bioplastic. In the end I found myself wishing I had researched pop-up books, origami, and other paper-based interactions. These might help create interactive objects more quickly that later can turn into mycelium or bioplastic.
In terms of feedback from my conversation partners at the library, they responded positively and at times came up with really interesting climate change actions. They already had a lot of information about climate change, but in only one case (a vegan chef), seemed to be doing anything consistent about it. Mostly they were apathetic in the beginning of the conversation, but by the end, they were more engaged and interested in where the project would go. Other times, I could tell they thought the physical interactions were too simple. And I agree with them! It would be nice to make the interactions a little more surprising or clever. This would match my overall question, which is whether limiting global warming might actually make us feel better in unexpected, surprising, or delightful ways.
From our in-class critics, I received positive encouragement that I was going in the right direction. I agree with Nancy N that I can likely cut the overly specific U.N. goals and instead focus on the emotional switch of asking if stopping climate change can be personally interesting or make us feel better. I suppose said another way, I really actually do find a lot of the work that stops climate change to be interesting, and I wonder if that is a way to frame the conversation that way.
As I mention in my presentation deck, I had to take long breaks from this project because it IS depressing to learn the endless ways that humans are greedy, short-sighted, dangerously ignorant, or otherwise too poor or lacking the resources to stop harming the climate (… like as of 250 years ago when the Industrial Revolution started).
However, just today I came across this quote below from Eleanor Roosevelt, while I research what I else I might do about climate change to inform this project I’ve started:
I also mention in my final deck some of the next steps I have in mind. Certainly, my conversation map needs to be a little smaller to fit on a normal table. I’d want to research paper interactives, by which I mean pop-up books, origami, etc. This can also extend to any analog interactive… puzzles, Rube Goldberg Machines, scales, etc. I also need to do more research into the psychology of climate change, so that I can better place my admittedly incredibly optimistic approach on a spectrum of known strategies and possibly pull from others.
In the end, I would like to continue with this, especially if I have a collaborator of some sort. This could be an equal peer, or specialists who can contribute a little work in one area or another. Of all the changes I can make, I’m most motivated by changing the last part of my conversation map, where people choose an action around climate change. This moment might be more genuine if people choose from each other’s actions, which are built up over time and begin with mine.
Open to any other feedback!
Thanks for a great class, Marina!
You can see an update on my project for our final class here.
My update is in a slide deck, found here.
1. A description of your project.
For now, I will work on one project.
- A in-person project that social engineers a conversation between myself and either strangers or attendees at a community board group or participatory budgeting group. I begin the conversation with a interactive physical object that represents a definition of sustainability made of bio-friendly materials to set the tone. I ask people to pick a global goal and reveal how much their chosen goal connects to stopping climate change.
Later on, I have two more ideas that have come out of my research.
- An interactive installation in which people explore the scientific concept of planetary boundaries, which suggests that we need to operate safely within the limits of planet earth. As you walk from the center of a sphere (safe area) to outside its perimeter (unsafe area), you experience positive to negative inputs.
- An object in the form of a bio-friendly label that states Life Cycle Facts (instead of nutrition facts). This would be speculative or actual project that attempts to label every object around us. I’m imagining it would state the original ingredients, leave a blank space for each user’s name and the ways in which it was recycled. I came up with this during the last Temporary Expert workshop.
2. A concise project research question(s) and plan for discovery (i.e., which papers/books, which interview subjects, and what forms of experimentation)
A concise project research question:
- How might I get people to think positively about transforming society at an unprecedented scale and speed within 12 years, to mitigate climate change?
Questions for discovery:
- In what ways might a physical metaphor for sustainability change how people make decisions today that affect a distant tomorrow?
- How might bio-friendly materials, forms, and metaphors for my physical object refresh or alter how people think about climate change?
- How can I lead someone through a conversation that gets at their existing values? And as the final reveal, when they choose a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal that matches their values, they are shown how positive or negative that goal is connected to mitigating climate change?
- How can I leave this person with something that lets them persuade other people, companies and governments to help realize this transformed world in 12 years.
A plan for discovery:
- Follow up with Diana Liverman’s suggestions.
- Use these to define an improved interactive physical metaphor.
- Incorporate Sarah Kramer’s ideas when I meet with her on Friday.
- Decide on a final interactive physical metaphor, and make a plan to produce it.
- Decide on what I want people to do when I’m done speaking with them.
- One of Diana Liverman’s suggestions was to focus on people who are already organizing around clear values, and then show them how they relate to the Sustainable Development Goals and mitigating climate change. I need to think about finding people who are already organizing.
- Another suggestion from Diana was to find materials for my object that takes carbon out of the environment. What are these materials?
- I could use a “carbon monoxide spot detector, which features a patch that turns black when carbon monoxide is present and clear when the air around it is stabilised.”
- I could ask these people about how they turn pollution into ink.
- I could eventually try take “carbon fibre extracted from decommissioned aircraft through new incineration processes” … or somewhere else.
- A common phrase that might be useful “Kick the Can” in other words, don’t kick the can down the road an assume people will fix climate change later.
- Not like I’m going to build a giant machine, but these people suck in air into fan, trap the carbon on a filter, and then bake it into carbon rock. I could do something like that, but more DIY and just to make a point.
- Or I could grow algae or moss on my projects. I can make my own carbon scrubber, too.
2. Who will engage with your project: how, where, and why?
I will either continue with strangers at the public library or put some thought into finding people who are organized around values. This could be people who work on participatory budgeting projects or attend community board meetings.
3. What do you want your project to DO?
I feel like this gets at it broadly?
- How might I get people to think positively about transforming society at an unprecedented scale and speed within 12 years, to mitigate climate change?
- How do I get people to understand a definition of sustainability in a physical way?
- What medium or interaction do I use to show people how likely their chosen goal links to stopping climate change? (The UN report uses bars and graphs, what can I use?)
- How to get people to walk away with something to talk with the next person about it. Is this another object?
4. Plan your remaining 4 weeks and schedule it.
Week of Nov 19
- Go through Diana Liverman’s notes and interview Sarah Kramer.
- Try to find more materials that take carbon out of the atmosphere.
- Paper prototype physical object based on feedback from experts.
- Finalize designs for producing physical object.
- Prototype how to communicate UN goal linkages to climate change.
- Thanksgiving Break.
Week of Nov 26
- Produce 3D molds for physical object if needed.
- Grow better mycelium if possible.
- Make more bioplastic tests.
- Finalize how to communicate UN goals to climate change.
Week of Dec 3
- Make final prototypes
- Do final interactions with people.
Week of Dec 10
- Do the interaction in class?
Overall my timeline hasn’t lined up as I hoped because I am only just recently able to speak with topic experts, but I am making progress!
I’ve been able to prototype with bioplastic. And I finally was able to interview two experts, including one of the co-authors on the United Nation’s climate report itself! Soon I will speak with more one expert, and be able to update the final form of my prototype and related ideas. I will also finally be able to work with mycelium, and possibly materials that remove carbon from the environment?
See below for more updates and links to my project documents.
Above you can see the bioplastic I made at home. If anyone wants to replicate this, you can find the ingredients and recipes in my documentation here.
I also started the process of growing mycelium. I’m not sure if this batch will work, since I bought it from someone who didn’t refrigerate it. I’ll be documenting my work here, too.
In good news, I was able to speak with two experts in the last week.
You can read more about my interviews with them here.
- Diana Liverman is a scientist who co-authored the United Nation’s recent climate report. She co-wrote the Summary for Policy Makers and Chapter 5: Sustainable Development, Poverty Eradication 3 and Reducing Inequalities.
- Brian Foo is a data visual artist and computer scientist, and works at the American Museum of Natural History. He worked on the museum’s new Climate Wall.
I did material research, and need to speak with people at ITP who have made their own bio-friendly materials. I’m open to suggestions.
I also contacted the U.N.’s teams that manage campaigns around the Sustainable Development Goals through several channels.
I’ve been feeling under the weather for almost an entire week, so I have loose ideas of an audience and poster.
I’m thinking the audience could be found at a public library. I’m looking to meet people who are already open to ideas, and with just a little push, they might think differently because of my project, which afterwards may lead to different actions. It seems I can find these people at a library?? I’ve also found success there already.
As for a poster, if I had lots of time, I could make a set out of bioplastics. I wonder how plant dye behaves as ink on bioplastic? Beyond the materiality, the message needs to communicate that the changes we need to make in 12 years are sobering but actually exciting.
As you read below, you can click links to read my in-depth notes in my website of sorts in google drive.
This last week was very busy doing the seven day practice. It is a very effective strategy. I see it almost like performing lab experiments, with the ability to control for different aspects or introduce new variables as I went.
My seven day practice involved facilitating interactions with one person or people in pairs. I now can see I moved from concept testing to prototype testing. This may have led to two possible outputs for my project: a workshop template and an installation.
For concept testing, I showed people the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with a different physical or visual analogy each time. I was testing how people responded to the goals, and if introducing a different analogy each time changed how they make decisions in my workshop activities. These felt like workshops that could possibly go fit into a classroom setting.
For prototype testing, I moved to more of an installation setting where people interact with what I’ve built but I am not necessarily there for every moment. I hope to do more of these. I’m trying to find out how people respond when I put my concepts into different forms, materials and epistemologies. This type of approach feels more like a pop-up installation or a more artistic installation at a UN event or local community affected by climate change.
When it came to user testing, I found myself unable to be so extroverted so many days in a row. On the day I didn’t have a new visual analogies to test, I found a convenient excuse to skip testing with other people. This made me feel a bit bad but I did do a lot of research, which paid off with new visual or physical metaphors to pursue.
In response to my natural inclinations during Topic #1, I tried to put more effort into testing materials and visual analogies this week. In the end, I probably did more visual analogy and concept testing. But in my mind, this is the best order to go in? Once I settle on the concepts and visual analogies that people respond to, I can test different materials and epistemologies. This is me possibly putting of materials again, though.
I also filled out milestones and completed a significant chunk of research, including reading most of the relevant parts of the UN’s IPCC’s report and a bunch of other interesting articles. I followed up with scientists who worked on the UN climate change report and live in the US. I have a meeting with someone who worked on a new climate change installation at the American Museum of Natural History.
As for updates, you can read about…
- How I’ve put all of my blog posts in online documents here. I find it a lot easier to manage this than my blog. Plus I can use the doc’s comments feature to write down next steps or unanswered questions.
- Who I’ve asked for informational interviews.
- My very full are.na mood board for content research.
- My empty are.na mood board for materials research. I will work on this. But at least I have these two separate tracks set up.
- My research notes. I reread Lakoff’s Metaphors We Live By and got myself oriented within the IPCC report.
I still need to do these things, but really want to…
- Set my milestones.
- Watch Donella Meadows video.
- Make a crazy sketch.
- Audio record a two-minute interview with a working participant / non-climate change expert and write two sentences on how what they said could affect/impact your topic, and to post both interview and your response.
- Did I already did this part here, or this is something different?: State your intent, craft a question.
You can also click around my progress using this link or by clicking on the image below.
The topic you choose should:
- Identify a problem, to which your design is a relevant response (the problem can be grounded in /focused on a subject that is historical, political, social, physical, biological, climatological, economic, etc). From this problematic topic you will design a project that can contribute to change, or offer a participating public critical consideration and new insights.
Climate change is a problem that is tied to other major human concerns, such as racism, poverty, health, and decent work. I was inspired by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their climate change panel’s recent report about terrible climate change by 2040 unless we change all market economics at an unprecedented scale in the next ten years. The panel seems to be saying in their report that mitigating climate change can positively influence other Sustainable Development Goals. I found this framework to be helpful for some reason – it makes stopping climate change seem more feasible because people are going to be motivated by at least one of those 17 goals.
- Start with a question (hypothesis) and design ways to test it
In what ways might addressing climate change from a lens of the UN’s sustainable development goals help people tackle huge problems in the next ten years?
- Require a consideration of media, audience, and outcomes (theory of change)
By using research in my creative process, creating media and/or physical forms for a specific audience to interact with…
I will accomplish a set of outcomes, or a theory of change. For example, an outcome might be I might hope to get people to engage with climate change longer than they do on a typical day. A theory of change might be that by engaging with my crazy ITP project, people are more likely to change how they think about climate change.
- Engage actively with a public (participation, feedback, co-creation)
A public will engage with my piece some how, some way. My research and testing will lead me there!
You are required to address each of these points on your blog:
- Set your intentions (what are you setting out to do?)
To see if I can make stopping climate change seem approachable to people.
To see if I can give people more ways to be motivated to stop climate change.
- Set your goals (personal learning objectives)
I want to learn more about the UN’s sustainable development goals, and how the UN sees climate change interlinked with those.
I want to interview someone from the I.P.C.C. panel, or a similar group, about the IPCC’s report that just came out.
I want to research mediums and form factors that allow looking at one thing from different angles, revealing different layers depending on the tool you use, reshaping the same form.
Maybe my research will lead me to different approaches to mediums and form factors, too.
- Hypothesis: what are you asking?
Can a research-based interactive project help people personally engage with climate change?
- Method: How will you test it?
I could do an artistic-based baseline study, and ask people in different locations how often they think about climate change. What they do or don’t do about it.
And then ask people what they think after engaging with my piece, and/or a week later, too.
- Epistemologies: what ‘ways of knowing” are you employing? How experimental and open can you be in your research of material and form?
I’d definitely like to be more experimental with the material and form of my Topic #2 than my Topic #1. I can build in milestones to have researched and tried different materials and forms at the same time I am researching about my topic.
- Results: what goals will you have for your ideation
That people can engage and participate my project. That I prototype something that could be done at scale.
Maybe it’s something they can take and share with other people?
- Contexts: where do you see this work existing?
Maybe in the mail or drop off points.
Maybe in a public space where a lot of trash is thrown out.
- Public(s): who will you make this work for/with?
I need to think about this more. I could think of moments in the day when someone might be participating in climate change and poverty, but doesn’t know it. My project could intersect at this point.
- Documentation: use the suggested template (on the student blog page) for tracking your work threads, or design your own.