I wonder if i can research two topics

I don’t want to give up my first research topic because it’s so interesting to me and I think it will be my thesis. However i am also really interested in socially engaged art and since I am currently working on the project on homelessness with a team at NYU’s DFA group, I figured I’d also write about ideas and inspirations for that project as well in case Marina has some more input for our team.

After today's class I was inspired to think about ideas for the homeless project I am working on with a team that I told you about. I thought we could create a pop up inspired by Nancy Nowacek's pop up store for M. It's so inviting and makes these difficult conversations and issues feel no longer insurmountable. I was also inspired by Ideas City drawing table public work where participants were asked to engage by drawing or writing their own ideas for creating spaces for migrant workers to rest and to reimagine healthcare. In that same style, we could ask people to think and draw what they imagine a good space for homeless would look like or what ideas they have on securing the affordable housing. This would result in thinking deeper about the issue and that's already enough.

The reason why i love Michael Rakowitz' paraSITE and the Homeless Vehicle project  so much is that it shows the care and thought one person put into the project and it's touching and inspiring for other to think "i should also care this much, others don't ignore it and neither will i". Then maybe people donate more or just think about these people with more compassion. Changing perception of the homeless  seems to be the first step. After that, people will naturally push and be pushed to change policy and the issue of public housing and lack of adequate social services will become too big to ignore. This is what Anthony Dunne talks about in his talk “What if…” He believes that we must first design for different ways of seeing. Changing the public perception seems to be the fist step. 

I also think that the way Joseph Gringely exhibits the conversations he had with people is effective and this could be a good approach for our team to exhibit the bits and pieces of stories we gathered from the homeless women over the past year. However I worry that this approach would fetishize these conversations. They work fit conversations with strangers in a bar but it may be too artistic for the homeless project.

I think we might stay away from art and just have an action- inspiring exhibit. We may hand out soylemt or granola bars to people and ask them to give them to homeless people and to say something nice to them, have a respectful conversation.  

Michael Rakowitz'  paraSITE

Michael Rakowitz' paraSITE

Ideas city brainstorming for solutions station. Ideas were drawn and written for healthcare, food waste, and resting places for migrant workers. The value of it was just to get people thinking about these issues on a deeper level. Not an actionable activity though.

Ideas city brainstorming for solutions station. Ideas were drawn and written for healthcare, food waste, and resting places for migrant workers. The value of it was just to get people thinking about these issues on a deeper level. Not an actionable activity though.

7 Days: Day 7

Entity turns on an axis to follow human bodies. Object gsze. follows it with it's sight until the person is out if site. This one is probably too hard to execute (eoikf need to program for kinekt and I'd have to work with Lisa Jamhoury to program it to only recognize one person and stick to tracking just that person.  I tried it before and it was really difficult. The entity might have to just turn tiesrds different people. Maybe it turns towards the closest one. 


Dunne and Raby: What If… Crafting Design Speculations

Anthony Dunne: What If… Crafting Design Speculations

Anthony Dunne talks about using irony and humor to make the serious thinking behind projects that handle difficult conversations. I like that. It is a way to hold people's attention workout scaring them into the stupor of inaction.

He also talks about working with the attitudes and believe systems to create different attitudes instead of designing for the actual world by making physical designs. He believes that you can't start by trying to change  the physical (using tech, etc) world but that changing minds will result in the physical manifestation of change on a bigger scale.  the first step is to design for new ways of seeing and thinking. I think we can do both. For example, I like that Nancy Nowacek balances actionable work like M_____ (a project aimed to educate people about menopause) and her more speculative work  Citizen Bridge (explores ideas of public spaces and maybe even hints at the ways to walk on water when global warming causes flooding? There may be more ideas I didn't pick up in her work but it feels rich. I can't verbalize all of it but I feel more than just public spaces and global warming when I see the documentation of her work.)



7 Days: Day 6

An instrument that records the environment once in a while, chops up the input, and inserts it into the existing composition that is made up of previous input and also the sculpture's own birth - the sound of it's making. This composition is played usually when the object is set into motion. In a way, it’s also a sonic portrait of the room because it records both the sounds that go through it and the acoustic quality those sounds have.  


7 Days: Day 5

A set of sound immiting objects that periodically ping one another to start sonic exchanges. One may call on another and the other will call on the next to break into something like a very simple song. This happens without any human involvement. During this time the sound is markedly different then when people can interact with the objects. During these periods people can just sit and enjoy or they don’t have to be there at all :). 


7 Days: Day 4

The way an instrument would say "I'm done responding and need to be still" is by (1) quieting down and sending it very minimal signals as a polite east to say "I see you want to keep triggering sounds by I'm taking a break". If that doesn't work then (2) the instrument plays a soundfile of a really annoying alarm that sounds a bit like a fire alarm.  



7 Days: Day 3

A set of instruments that decides which entity it poirs up with. On the coding end I will have to decide this for the system by assigning these associations to happen at certain months but I will assign a random value so that the system can "choose" which month it creates these pairings. 



System's behavior without the human:

instrument A intermittently (once in x amount of hours that are also random) calls instrument B to make a sound. Then instrument A records and makes a response (not sure what but it will be simple. Maybe the same thing but chopped up or with a slightly different pitch. If I can figure out how to do this again I'd love to just have instrument A send a trigger up B to start this kind of soundscape that consists of an existing rhythmic percussion composition with intermittent chunks of the environment. In this way instrument A documents, regurgitates, and plays back a sonic pOrtrait of the space. I did it here :https://youtu.be/7RuLtaZ2P7Y 

But it was in Max MSP not JavaScript. I may be able to rig this again! It will still look like it's part of the system even though really I would be using two different technologies for it. 


System behavior with a human or other:

A person or even a dog that bumps into instrument A would simply trigger the call-and-reply A-to-B experience earlier that the existing A-B relationship would have happened. If it's a different month, seeing off A into motion would trigger C not B. You just have to wait for the next month to find out what the assignment is within the system. It's fun to not know! What will the instrument sound like next month?! Well instrument C also record bits of the environment or will it so something else? 


7 Days: Day 2

An rhythm-maker instrument that you have some control over but not all. The pitch and beats per minute change unpredictably every half an hour. You must adjust if you start playing and set a rhythm and it decided to change course! Something great can still be made but with a bit of improvisation. 



Donna Haraway at Performance Space

Erin, Isa,  Camilla, Sam and I went to see Donna Haraway (and Kim Tallbear!) speak this Sunday. We loved what she said about change and how we care for one another "making gentle for each other across all domains of work could not be more urgent". 

I also recorded parts of her talk where she talks about how we communicate with one another, which is related to my project so that was really interesting and I plan to find more of her words on that for research. "Letting go of the control opens up the possibility of making something together" and allowing yourself to not know and listen.  "A kind of forgiving and not knowing". 


Topic 2 ideas

1. Research for tactile and sonic art that changes over time. 

This would be good for my thesis.

I'm working on a collection of entities (sonic sculptures) that behave in not always predictable ways (sonically) but generally stick to their personalities.

Overall goal: tactile meditative sonic object/toy collection that allows users to create sonic landscapes together or collectively, to observe behavior changes and adapt to them, to be present and focused, reflect on their relationship with things and people. 


The interactions of a sometimes unpredictable set of instruments (a capricious band) is a way to remind ourselves about our lack of control over things in our environment and our desire to control them. It tried to call out human centrality as a faulty way of seeing. And ultimately it's good for people to learn that they have to respect these instruments and that they will behave as they want sometimes and that it takes patience and effort. In that way it's also a meditation on collaboration. Sort of like our relationship with nature, actually. Trying to conquer and control nature and people is proving disastrous.

This can manifest itself in this way:
You can't just shake one of these objects to make it louder and louder. The object may choose to actually slow down and get quieter in response. so it's sort of taking our desire to control things and use tech to do our bidding and turning in on it's head. These objects are saying "slow down, you have to listen". it's like dialogic relationship vs monologic. these things will let you create interesting things with them but you have to be ready to adapt if they change, to collaborate not dominate. It also is kind of funny to have the instruments sometimes change the course of the composition as though they were members of a band.

i'd like the objects to also have influence on one another too. so if you put object a next to object b it may modulate the sound of one of them using proximity sensors. I'm not very good at phys comp but i'd like to explore these types of interactions. 

The sounds that the objects make - the way they behave - can be affected by the environment. They sometimes absorb sounds or they change the rhythm in their algorithm in response to being shaken too vigorously or to being not having movement on the x axis as much as the z axis. If you pick up these "instruments" next week, they may sound somewhat different.

I think also my intuition to make these objects out of paper that deteriorates makes sense now after reading what you wrote about the philosophers who call for a shift of the center of power and for living alongside species with more equity.

In this case these objects are showing their aliveness through the fact that they look sort of organic and have their own behavior and that they physically change like we do. These are entities but they don't represent other species necessarily. they can be interpreted even as other humans in certain power structures. It's asking people to reflect on how they see themselves in relation to things that they see as subordinate to them.  These things really stand for anything that is asking to be listened to and respected. One can even be prompted to think about how they treat themselves, not just others. I want to leave it as open ended as possible. It would be a work that allows people to reflect on the relationship between themselves and their environment but the environment can be other people other species or themselves even.

It's about awareness of power and control.


They will look like oversized abstract blobs, cylinders with interesting texture to differentiate by touch. Exploring the idea of control (creative or otherwise) and lack thereof. Translating that idea to the predictability and variability of other entities, like other people for example, but this would be not overt.

The idea is to make the objects feel as though they are not quite living but also not quite objects. They won't be made of wood but more fleshy and ambiguous textures - paper mush (recycled), maybe some will be fabric (plush) and a few concrete and foam resin. They will change over time (sonically) just like living things.

I'm interested in paper in particular because it ages with use and physical changes to the objects will be very visible. It’s also cheap and green :) . However that may require upkeep and giving the sculptures new shells too often. That can also play in the favor of the project. Animals shed and rejuvenate. There may be a better way to do this. One of my friends has a project called dustbowl. These are bowls that collect dust and they are made of dust. I'm thinking of something along those lines but maybe not dust? If I use dust I will ask him if it's ok and give him credit for the original idea or even offer to have him make the enclosure if he'd like to collaborate.

I'm thinking of using materials that oxadize over time too. Not sure how to make it intentional because all sculptures eventually fall apart if not regularly fixed since they are subject to all the elements we are. The solution might be to make something that intentionally falls apart or oxadize very quickly to magnify this day-to-day change. I'm not going the ephemeral art route though. These things will remain more or less intact for at least a week and live indoors. sand would be too cliche. maybe salt…

Ideas explored: focus, meditation, sound making, collective making, creative control, control in general, change over time, adapting to change, touch (or should I say tactile objects?), play and its importance in human development and maintenance, control over nature, control over people, collaboration

So I just need to find out more about this type of work in various forms. What materials do artists use for this work? Such ones can withstand a lot of handling? What types of corrective sound art had been made to date and what concepts did it explore if any?


2. How might we change the public narrative of homelessness?

With my Design for America (they have an NYU chapter) team, we've been talking to homeless women and institutions that deal with homelessness for the past year - ethnographic research. we've learned about how complicated and political the system of affordable housing and shelters is. We also learned about how the homeless feel invisible and dehumanized. The lack of social acceptance and the sense of belonging is a paint point. Before money or food, they would like to just be seen. 

There are some interesting dichotomies that can be found in how they live - they are seen all day but are also invisible, they have their things on them but they also have very little, they don't have a home but they are often tied to a certain spot they found and can't leave their things alone for long. Could be a way to show people who are in the gallery for only a few minutes what we found after interacting with them (once a week for an hour) for about a year. 


While we don't have the time and resources to start our own NGO to help homeless people we think that as a team that spends about 4-6 hours a week on this project we can help change the public perception of homelessness and give these people s voice and in that way return a bit of dignity back to them.

The fist part of the project will be a pop-up exhibit. It will probably be public. We are looking at projection mapping on to buildings or doing a public art work like Once Upon a Place or maybe even a soundscape of their stories in the areas where they sit sort of like Janet Cardiff's Her long black hair. The exhibit will tell their stories (not a Salgado-like photo exhibit. We need to be careful to not exploit them or make it superficial or a cheap tear jerker) and will create more empathy. Even if a few more people realize they can smile and say hi to homeless people, that's already pretty good. Also if NYU does this, it will draw attention to the topic quite a bit since NYU has visibility that these women don’t have and a lot of credibility in the community. Perhaps influential people affiliated with NYU - like people on the board - would pay more attention to housing policy etc as they take the queue that this is what people find to be important these days. 


We also want to have a panel of speakers who have done work in this space and invite stakeholders (politicians who have some influence on housing reform). This would allow for important conversations to get started and who knows what partnerships and initiatives could come about when you put so many influential people into the same room and ask them to consider this topic. The policy-makers would feel some pressure to hold one another accountable after speaking to so many other influential people on this topic and also hopefully honored to be there because they are seen as people who can make things happen.

We know that there is a lot of corruption in how shelters are run, and more importantly, how housing is distributed and how developers basically bribe people in office to make commercial buildings or luxury building the priority. If the story is told more and the focus on this is amplified, it will be hard for politicians to continue the socially irresponsible cooperation with housing developers. This could, alongside other similar projects being done in NY, help create enough pressure on politicians to make better choices if they want to get re-elected.

The topics I would research are: 

socially engaged art with the homeless - successes and failures, public housing, public art, art as a social practice, art as activism and how to not make it exploitative but also not too preachy and yet impactful. As we asked some of the women to take photos of the things they see every day, we may even think about using them in the exhibit part of the project. This may get into the territory of cocreation and I'd want to research that  as well.

3. Socially engaged art practice. 

I could also pare it down and just focus on learning more about socially engaged art practice or art as social practice. What are they really beyond what i googled. What can they achieve and what do fail to achieve. 

4. Effects of tactile art on cognition, sound on cognition

I could also simplify the first topic by choosing to only focus on how certain things effect cognition but it's only a part of my thesis and i'd like to explore art that changes over time (in the case of sound - how to use Max MSP, Chuck, and programming to create compositions that change themselves through user input and according to their own algorithms - ex Brian Eno stuff but my own). I also would want to focus on materials that change over time that can be handled. There are so many things i need to learn in order to make my project that I may have to do three or four mini-research projects to fit it all into this class.

The future of community making/civic engagement

Oh and another idea i was thinking to research would be just on what creates good communities and what creates isolation. I've been reading recently about collective agency and how people work together and how atomization is rampant in western culture and can be dangerous for democratic processes. Some books I've been reading have been Thinking in an Emergency by Elaine Scary (ppl designing emergency systems and how that can prevent unchecked actions from authorities), Richard Sennet's Together (it's about cooperation and how important it is also to keep it in a time when how we work is deskilling us in cooperation, it's sociopolitical implications), Ezio Manzini's Design When Everyone Designs (about how people have been coming together to form collectives - ex. community hardens and food coops - as a resistance to certain forces that have depleted the sociocultural diversity and biodiversity, and these islands are forming and we may see this become the new mainstream and have a more democratic society. the book is so hopeful but also seems like he’s right). I think the future is about creating more local collectives in order to have a healthier, livlier participatory society that is also more nurturing and supportive. They seem to be doing it in some parts of the world but no one has it figured out, but i think the trend is that it has to start from a practice of local engagement with community for everyone’s mutual benefit. I'm curious to learn about them. Like, what makes some better than others? How do people organize themselves? How do groups interface with others groups? How do you stay hyperconnected and local but not insular? I'm currently writing an adjacent article on this so i've had to become a temp expert on this but i feel like i still have a long way to go and would like to dig deeper. 

Thoughts on feedback on guide

I really appreciate the constructive feedback today.

The map pag feels usess now that I removed the apps. I decided not to call them out by name. Felt too agressive. Like finger pointing at these "bad" apps. Maybe I just keep the body map as it is now and make it full page.

As for the design - I like the idea of making it a zine. The cover we'll be vectorized, not hand drawn. I didn't have time to do it so it was confusing for everyone. The cover will hopefully feel clean, sharp, shiny to match the title.

I liked Alden's comment about explaining how Foucoult's ideas have to do with it but I also wonder if I need the Foucoult idea at all. Maybe I can remove the word biopowEric completely.

M.H.'s comment hit home. I do think it's overly critical or scathing for my taste but I also agree with you that it's not too preachy. Perhaps if I make it even more over the top it would add a layer of irony  that would give a hint that this is a rather sensationalist reaction. I think your suggestion to add the disclaimer about how self- quantifying is fun and that the author of the zine uses them helps.  I might consider sprinkling it throughout the pages too as a reminder to take this with a grain of salt. I might even add that this topic was not really chosen by me? I'm not actually all that passionate about biopower or big data or big tech personally. Is this important to mention? That it's an assignment about research? 

I admire activist artists and artists who create socially engaged art and speculative work because it takes a lot of research and they know it still might seem preachy to some but they are willing to do it anyway. It's a challenge worth taking on if you want to be part of the conversation I think. The stakes of failure are higher than if someone makes abstract expressionist work but it's something that people do because they really need to be heard and add to the conversation.

I love Mays Lin's interview about her work of Manhattan's waterline. She actually addresses the fact that she doesn't want to be preachy but still feels it's important to her to have a say.








Hofstadter uses transparencies

I love that he uses transparencies. He says he doesn’t use PowerPoint! I imagine it’s because he’s protesting Microsoft and their contribution to a culture where craftsmanship is devalued and the bottom line is valued above all (ideas from Richard Sennett, author of the Craftsman and Together). I wonder if Hofstadter has warmed up to Microsoft a bit since they have come along way since the 90s and now are more involved with the open source movement and try to be a more socially responsible organization. I know Danah Boyd, founder of Data & Society, works at Microsoft and I believe they have made progress in ethics and how Big Data can be used more ethically and democratically.

I wonder if Danah Boyd would be a good person to interview for my research on Biopower in terms of understanding the effects of “big data” and how corporations use the data. I will need to research a little more first to understand. When I am done with the taxonomy I imagine it will become clear.

Hofstadter is like a transparency in that he is very clear in his presentation.

His observations and theories on cognition make a lot of sense. Makes me think that maybe people who are good at lateral thinking are just able to observe the analogies they make like he is able to catch himself doing on occasion? Who knows! Maybe people understand the world through these analogies but don’t always realize that and so can’t articulate i. But the people who can, on occasion, see this process (notice it) are able to get a stronger grasp on the analogy and let it float up to their conscious mind, ready for picking and for using as solutions to analogous problems. Maybe that’s one way to come up with really effective solutions for things. I have no idea. I bet there are a hundreds of theories in the field of cognition about that.

I'm down with most of what Lakoff says

There are some things that I don’t agree on in this article but I find it very insightful none the less.

I don't see many of Lakoff's examples.  In some cases it's not about war metaphors. For example, "It's ok to retreat from your argument" the same way that it's ok to retreat from a gulf or the edge of a cliff. Retreating is not not something people only do when they are in battle faced with a stronger enemy. The concepts are just similar and therefore carry similar verbs that might be more often used in war since it's very salient, but they don't belong to war exclusively. Both arguing and war have similarities and share some common abstract verbs.

Argument is War

Arguments structured as dance! What a world that would be. come to think of it, sometimes my brother and my mom seem to argue in this way. they do the collaborative "yes and" technique like most softies i know do (i try to also as I am a total softie myself), which is till arguing i suppose but more like a secret or slow-motion war. Everything takes 100 times longer but it's ok because democracy is slow, right? all the opinions must be considered and given due attention until a compromise is made. it's fascism that's fast and decisive. but maybe this isn't the right metaphor...


Out of curiosity i found a translation of Lakoff that has all of the metaphors translated and they are a bit of a stretch. For example, the person who translated “I demolished his argument” did translate it literally but it sounds like a less common way of saying it. When i translate this, i’d say “I won the argument”, which is much less violent and in russian that word for “won” is associated with winning a game of sport. It’s not the type of “win” as in “win a war”. There are otehr examples too. Russia is a warring nation just like England and the US but I guess in the conversation of arguing we see it more like a competitive but friendly sport rather than a war or a dance.

We do use war metaphors in other concepts however. It is very heavily used in political news reporting. Often we find words like “X is under fire for…” or “put up a barricade”.


I asked Tiri about how it is in Thai and she replied. Looks like they do use quite a lot of war . I emailed her and also Shir David to ask about Hebrew.

Tiri's responce:

"Your claims are indefensible" - We say it more like "your claims are sound inappropriate"

เธอเถียง ฟังไม่ขึ้น 

ter - theang - fang - mai - kuen

"He attacked every weak point in my argument" - This one is pretty much the same

เขา โจมตี ทุกจุดอ่อนของการโต้แย้ง 

Kao- "Joam - Tee" tuk- jood - on - kong - karn - toh - yang

"his criticisms were right on target"  - This one is pretty much the same

ความเห็นของเขา ตรงเป้าหมาย

kwam - hen - kong - kow - "trong- pao- mai"

"I've never won an argument with him"  - This one is pretty much the same

ฉันไม่มีวันเถียง ชนะ  เขา

chan - mai - mee - wan - theang - "cha-na" - kao

"He shot down all my arguments" - This one is pretty much the same


kao - ying(Shot) - kor - toh - yang - chan - ruang(down)

More example,

We are going to win! so smash the pot! - this is a very classic war metaphor. The phrase "smash the pot" came from the real history of Thai war. The leader told the troops to destroy all the equipment for cooking. So the only way to eat on the next day only wins the war so you can take the new kitchenware from the new city they won 


tub - mhor - kao

You are lying like the shepherd boy - From this story

เธอโกหกเหมือน เด็กเลี้ยงแกะ

ter - ko - hok - muean - dek - leang - kae

you panic as rabbit 


Kra - tai - tuen - toom 

How amazing is the “smash the pot” idiom? So specific. We will surely win this war so we might as well motivate ourselves to do so by smashing out pots so that we have no choice but to pillage tomorrow in order to eat. Wow!


I asked Shir David, a friend and ITP alum, about ARGUMENT IS WAR and she said that it’s pretty common.

“I destroyed him”

“ I bombed him with punches”

Time is Money

I also don’t fully agree with this example. As I keep reading I am starting to doubt the one-directionality of these metaphor influences. For example, 

"How much time do you have left"


"Thank you for your time"

These do not make me think of money. In our mind things that are finite have value and so both time and money exhibit this characteristic. I think one can just as easily say that the concept of time - the metaphor of time - is used when we talk about money. Lakoff says "there are cultures where time is none of those things" but i don't really think that the metaphor TIME IS MONEY is all that present here either. Time and money have similar characteristics so they are treated similarly but it's not that one is a metaphor for the other. But I can see how they are sometimes interchanged since there is a relationship between time and money in our culture.

I think when you say “it cost me time” then you are actually using the metaphor. The word “cost” is literal. But “thank you for your time” is not a metaphor for money.

I can see how he might suggest that the more literal action (war, money) are more salient and have more expressions and therefore tend to influence how we speak about more abstract concepts that don't have as many visual and tangible components (time, arguing). And as I said before, I still think that many of the words that happen to be used in war and monetary transactions don't really belong to war or money. “left” (as in “time left”) and “retreat” are neutral . “he was under fire” or “you don’t agree? Shoot!” and “budget your time” are literal and therefore clearly metaphors. But, I suppose he is right in that even the neutral terms like” left” and “retreat” are more primed in our minds with the more salient or tangible associations. If someone was to do an associations test, i suppose upon hearing "retreat" more people would think "retreating in battle” than “retreating from unexpected cliff overhang”.

I do think that when people are careful they try to say things like "i stepped away from that positioning". It's because they are aware that many of the terms that serve the concept of arguing have been used and overused in the concept of war. I think it's a chicken or an egg argument though, and it doesn't actually matter for Lakoff's main argument. His main argument I do agree with. 

In fact, he sort of catches himself later and concedes that we don’t quite know which metaphors came first, etc. and that there is a common metaphor among them. for example, in his conclusion he talk about Happy is Up, Rational is Up, Finish Up and how the word up is actually a common word but gives rise to very different metaphors. He writes

verticality enters our experience in many different ways and so gives rise to many different metaphors.

Highlighting and Hiding

Despite not agreeing with most of his examples, I do see Lakoff's point about the way that metaphor, if relied on too much, can shape how we see our activities and erase the unique qualities of the given activity that set it apart from the analogous one that is more salient that we are using as a metaphor. I do see how someone who is very combative (here i am not careful in avoiding this war metaphor, which is a real war metaphor in this case!) may actually talk about their arguments in war metaphors (battle, shoot, under fire) and because of that this individual may miss opportunities for diplomatic and cooperative discussions. I can definitely agree with Lakoff, that if someone says "step away from this discussion" instead of "retreat from this discussion" they are probably seeing things more clearly and giving the discussion a fair chance at being cooperative. But this isn't because "retreat" belongs to war originally, it's only because we've overused it in war rhetoric. I suppose that's what he's saying too but without the distinction that I am making. We both come to the same conclusion, so it doesn’t matter.

Spatial Metaphors

Here i am completely on board with Lakoff. It does seem like there are some common spatial metaphors metaphors but that they can’t be removed from experiential basis and that we simply don’t know enough yet. Why “finish up” and then “up in the air”, he says. These are two very different up metaphors.

“Rising above one's emotions”

This is really insightful. I value his observation that we often use the spatial metaphor of happiness and success to downplay the importance of emotions in society. It sound like he is saying we abuse the metaphors by relying on them too much when it would benefit us to be more neutral to keep our minds open. For example, if society didn’t encourage the stifling of emotions would we have less emotionally stunted frat boy types? I have no idea. But also sometimes emotions can trick you, right? I can see how society would also want to protect itself from relying too much on emotion.

I have written more than Lakoff but said so much less. I will try to be more precise, concise, and less repetitive in my future blogs. Maybe i'll get time to edit this and streamline my thoughts a bit. streamline! Another metaphor that comes from literal things. 

Streamline: The path of a particle in a fluid relative to a solid body past which the fluid is moving in smooth flow without turbulence.

Mapping Biopower

I know it's too late to change topics so i am considering doing two zines. one on cellular energy, which I have an idea for that will be visually interesting but conceptually is very literal. However, the second topic is boipower and I think that one has more dimension.



At first when I googled it I found the definition by Faucoult and planned to integrate this into my interest in societal structures by introducing a less literal version of biopower.  I was going to create something like Foucault's version of biopower but more playful and less extreme. I was going to focus less on the actual physical energy that someone may produce by biking but focus on how society conditions us to hone our bodies into soft but efficient machines that can produce value and perpetuate the life cycle. The energy put into upkeep of these bodies would have been not only the exercise (i guess that would have been the literal biopower) but but also food, brackets that surgeons use to fashion broken bones together, etc to fashion them for more productivity. I was going to focus on how humans exercise themselves to improve stamina and strength and keep their spines straight when they sit and walk to keep their heads up. 

But then I realized that this is too vague and that I don't agree with Foucault's idea that society's control is the only reason why we exercise and keep our bodies healthy.  After all, we enjoy moving for our own personal enjoyment and health. Even one lives in the woods alone without society, moving and keeping the body healthy is in the interest of an individual so that the person can survive. So I decided to look at this more literally in the sense that deriving power from kinetic motion of human bodies can be a sustainable way to produce more energy.


Back to energy

So, I revisit the idea of biopower. I saw that the example Marina gave is a bike powered by a human that produces energy. I then googled "body energy as a power source" and "body as a battery" and found really interesting articles about contemporary body powered wearable devices. Looks like one can use our bodies as batteries. For example, technologists are developing a body heat-powered wrist band that tracks humidity, temperature, heart rate, etc.

Back to Foucoult and to the duality of Biopower

Quickly it became clear that these biopowered devices are not so innocuous and I am back to Foucoult’s idea of biopower, where society controls our bodies and punishes us by not conforming to what the “successful”, “able” human should be. Wearable tech that uses data is different from the innocent powering of your lightbulb through biking because Big Data is involved.

This chapter from Health Industrialization, called Belief, Myth and Biopower explains that by using biopowered tech, you potentially risk giving up privacy about your body: "The whole matter revolves around the duality of this operation or the mediation between the service provided and the risk of being monitored. " 

We see that Foucoult's idea of biopower was not a detour after all. Often if we are using our bodies to power a wearable we often allow a system to gain insight into our biometrics. An interesting duality between using your body to power tech and in that way also allowing society to shape and monitor us, fashion us into the bodies that society sees as the most successful or, in some cases of predatory capitalist practices, even targets our specific health issues to gain profit.

He’s back

He’s back

Example of a project about biopower

UnFitbit, a project by Surya Mattu and Tega Brain that Marina shared with me, is a great example of a work that counters biopower. It is a spoof website that suggests ways you can avoid exercising - tying the fitbit to your dog so that you can play video games in peace for example. This creates fake data to feed to the insurance companies and allows clients to liberate themselves from the control that insurance companies could have on them. In this case the insurance companies would be able to not lower the premiums for people who don’t exercise “enough”, thereby punishing those who are not conforming to the rules. In this way, the medical industrial complex is exerting power over the patients. Society controls bodies.

For the 1-minute presentation I plan to bring in my Nike Fuel bracelet (if i can find it) to show in class and have like a piece of direct mail advertising with me to imply that Nike Fuel found out I have some sort of health issue, sold the data to my insurance company or a pharmaceutical company, and that now I will have to pay more for my health and also be the target of expensive medicine instead of being offered generic, affordable options. My narrowed down map is focusing on health and biopower, so it makes sense to stick with this area. 

Maps and the energy cycle of biopower


Looks like what is most salient from maps and readings is that biopower replaced the welfare mentality of the "right to health" with the neoliberal responaibilitization of "duty to stay well", whether it's fitness or mental health or normative beauty. 

Ideas and terms taken from Rachel Sanders Self-Tracking in the Digital Era.


Another important takeaway is that the normative baselines used by companies are often based on a very limited test population that isn't reflective of the diversity in society. 


Mailee Hung of Bitch Media writes 

" And when you’re talking about “creat[ing] a Google Maps for human health,” who gets excluded from the sample is more than just a rounding error. There are entire demographics that would literally be excluded from what constitutes “the human race.” It matters if the requirement of four annual clinic visits makes participation in the study impossible for people who, for instance, have difficulty leaving their homes, whether that’s due to physical or mental disability, or economic reasons such as lack of childcare or free time. It matters if the sample sets can only be derived from areas near clinics with the right tech. It matters if the only people able to participate are those who already believe in the goal. Without addressing these biases, Project Baseline will not be a radical leap forward in human understanding, " 

The problem is that biopower pushes everyone to conform to the physical norms of healthy, able, white people who are also probably male.  

Bipower at work  (Biopolicy and Social Justice)

Brave New World of Employee Surveillance: How Wearable Technology Combines Disciplinary and Bio-power in the Workplace

Dr. Ivan Manokha

“new technologies that control the efficiency and performance of employees (e.g. software recording employee computer activity, devices that trace the speed of warehouse loaders, GPS tracking of truck drivers’ speed and the number of breaks that they take, etc.), and those that are now part of the so-called ‘corporate wellness programs’”

In other words, both forms of power are now beginning to focus on the individual body, and employees are increasingly exercising both disciplinary and pastoral power over themselves.

Implications on individual rights, labour rights.


Social change and biopower  

This article by Jen Pylypa is a good counterargunent to buying into Foucout's idea of biopwer too much In the way that Foucoult defines it. By claiming that we police and opress ourselves he ignores the fact that power inequalities do exist in society. If we accept that power is so decentralized then there seems to be no hope of "locating domination in order to defeat it". 


Some old maps from last week

Suggested Template for this blog by Marina


Keeping track of research and ideas is a skill. Here are some suggestions on how to stay on top of your work, track progress, and build a “paper trail” for your project:


Articulate your intentions and goals

  • for the project

  • for your documentation process

  • Your personal goals for learning, experimentation

Write this down as a blog post


Set up blog posts you can edit/add to over time
Tagging works, too, but it’s harder to remember to do it.

  • What are your opening questions/hypothesis?

  • Research leads

  • Bibliography

  • Brainstorm ideas

You can update these as you progress and this creates easy-to-find containers: Make sure you can edit your entries!


Create a map of the systems that contain or relate to your topic


Identify precedents

  • who is working in this field

  • what are some related projects

  • identify methods of projects that share some aspect of your work


Identify and work with at least two visual (or other artistic) analogies for your topic or project. Create or provide images to create comparisons

For example:


Mitigating Outdoor Air Pollution



Are there modular air filtering solutions that work outdoors?

Can I also raise consciousness by making this public?



A sculpture that cleans air at a busy public meeting point



HVAC systems. Rainforests (topic)
Indoor HEPA units. Traffic cops?
Con Ed street steam vents?


Interview experts

Identify and contact 3-5 experts for interviews/exchanges:

Hope for 2 firm responses!
Don’t be afraid to follow up 2x a week! Persistence is also a skill.


Informal interview/transcribe/synthesize

Follow up, try your idea out on them, get their feedback

Design a context/ call for your project


Experiment with your idea

Brainstorming/iteration ideas:
- Make something out of junk, scrap, leftovers, friends, etc

- Identify, observe and maybe interact with your public(s) (ethnography)

-  Create a speculative fiction/new mythology

- Design a daily practice based on constraints (at least 7 days)

- Make an x/y grid of kindred projects

- Make an x/y grid of other project ideations

- Try the program logic model

- Identify leverage points (opportunities) in a system


Taken from class syllabus