Design Brief

Major Studio 2

Parsons MFAD+T


My project deals with the question, how does technology mediate our relationships with each other? Does it contribute or disrupt human closeness  and connection?

The history of this issue has shifted along with culture. As technology advances, traditional avenues for connecting with others around you have become more difficult. Personal visits and aural communication gave rise to letters, letters gave rise to phone calls, phone calls gave rise to emails, email gave rise to text messages, and text messages gave rise to emoji texts, and so on. Each new technology has allowed us to move further from our physical selves connecting with each other.

When researching the context of this problem, many other designers have addressed this problem by creating objects or services that allow people to connect with each other digitally, like Facebook, Twitter, or OK Cupid. Others have created artworks that examine the disconnection of people in modern times, as a means to call attention to the issue, such as the film Her by Spike Jonze, the performance Continuous City by the the Builders Association, or the twitter play Such Tweet Sorrow by the Royal Shakespere Company. Some other precidents include Trapped At My Desk; a woman with terminal cancer’s story as seen through Twitter: Cuff, a werable tech device/jewlery piece that noiselessly lets our network know we need help: Depression Quest, a game that helps survivors of depression:

Instead of the explorations listed above, I propose to examine human relationships and love as they are mediated by and through new technologies that encourage interaction. I propose two design inquires to examine this cultural trend.


In Scenario A I will explore the value of physical closeness. People need to be connected with others. We ride the subway and sit next to others we never speak to and many of those people will be looking at their devices to connect remotely with the emails, pictures, tweets of their friends and loved ones. This remote connectivity can leave us feeling more disconnected and even sad than none at all.  We need  what I will name as “close proximity connection”; the close physical presence and communication with other people. We express close proximity connection to others in some of the following ways: hugging, touching, eye contact, mirroring movements of another, talking face to face, to name a few. The vagas nerve, which connects the brain to the heart,  is directly linked to social encounters which inspire empathy and physical well being.

Imagine a device, like a bracelet that could indicate to the wearer whether or not she was experiencing what I will name as “close proximity connection.”  This device would also track the amount of close proximity connections a user had made in a week and remind them to connect with friends if they had not done that enough.

The project will be made out of web technologies (html, css, sass, jquery, and javascript) and soft circuit technologies ( arduino boards, leds, conductive thread, bendable cables, fabric) material/experience media.

Potential target audiences for the device are people facing depression, parents who want to remember to interact more with their children or track their children’s close proximity connections, workaholics, and people who wanted to live more healthy and mindful lives. The project will be tested in the context of use by the target audience and its role in their lives.

Implementation will be tested, as prototypes will be achieved as prototype resolutions become more refined and robust.


In Scenario B. I will tackle the idea of abstracted communication. As we move into abstracted modes of communication such as texts, tweets, and emoji, we should examine, meditate upon and explore the impact this communication upon our ability to connect with each other. By highlighting emoji as creative medium we start to unpack the millions of Emoji texts and messages sent every day, and what might be emerging as a meaning-making tool beyond the chat log. I think of the Hikikomori in Japan, a group of mostly young men in Japan who do not leave their house and live with their parents. Combine this with Japan’s declining birth rate and young people who are losing interest in romantic partnerships and we begin to see the effects of technological disassociation. I do not think it is a coincidence that Emoji is Japanese. There is a connection between people moving away from intimacy and connection as we begin to mediate our communication through more abstracted and reduced forms or technological communications. What does this kind of abstracted text mean to people as they become older? How does it change the way we relate to others and ourselves?


I am creating a database, website, and resource hub for art and thinking around these new communication forms. The proj

ect is called World Translation Foundation. The WTF MIssion: World Translation Foundation believes that words often get in the way of expressing how we feel. Words can be cumbersome and

WTF is one part web project, one part tongue and cheek art movement, and two parts serious scholarship.misleading, and worst of all, they change from country to country. The pictorial alphabet of the emoji lexicon is ubiquitous; easy to use and understand. In a tradition that dates back to the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, WTF aims to educate the public in the art of letting art speak for you. Let WTF transform the way you communicate, and pave the way to a quieter tomorrow.

The project will be made ou

t of web technologies (html, css, sass, jquery, wordpress and javascript). It will host all forms of emoji related art from drawings, to videos, to books, and plays from a variety of sources. It will also host writing and research about emoji and abstracted communication. Link to Prototype #1

Potential target audiences for the world translation foundation include artist, thinkers and people who want to start unpacking the  real issues we face as technology moves faster than we are ready for.

Implementation will be tested, as prototypes will be achieved as prototype resolutions become more refined and robust.


How Positive Emotions Build Physical Health: Perceived Positive Social Connections Account for the Upward Spiral Between Positive Emotions and Vagal Tone

Americans and Text Messaging." How Americans Use Text Messaging. (accessed December 12, 2013).

Barthes, Rolland. Elements of Semiology. 1964, Hill and Wang, 1968. Print.


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