Thesis Design Questions
How can I use critical design to bring attention to the drought in specifically central California that is and will increasingly affect the country’s food supply?
How might we design wearables that provide comfort given the projected extremes of temperature within already dry regions of California?
What would a reverse “Dust Bowl” migration of displaced farmers from California to Oklahoma look like as a future fiction?
How might we reimagine folk objects dedicated to manifesting water such as dowsing rods, shrines, and rain totems for the digital age?
Climate change is a real phenomenon that is severely affecting the Central Valley of California with a crop destroying drought. This area is of note because it produces 1/3rd of all of the food we consume as a country; to lose it as an agricultural center would be disastrous. I want to explore a futuristic design fiction, which combines critical design, storytelling, and physical computing to contemplate the way we might mitigate climate change over time. I have two propositions for design inquiry into this subject.
A PRAYER FOR RAIN
A Prayer for Rain is a series of folk objects and interactive shrines with one purpose: to pray for rain in the Central Valley of CA. I want to ground my exploration in the local traditions of the area’s farmers’ such as using dowsing rods used to find well water or praying with the aid of holy fountains and outdoor Catholic shrines. I will update these objects to include environmental sensors that connect with humidity, temperature, and dust to comment on the changing climate.
A MODERN MIGRATION
A Modern Migration is a fictional narrative about the farmers of the Central Valley in CA facing a crop destroying drought and their search for a new home and farmland across the US. The transmedia story would be presented combining video projection on fog, an interactive website documenting the “migration” and an infographic, online story map that guides the user through the geolocated narrative of farmer refugees.
Character Name: Michelle
location: San Jose
Occupation: Project Manager at Ebay
Income Level: $70,000
Interests: Foodie, travel, concert going, costume parties, and she loves bright colored clothes!
How did they come to my work:
Michelle went to a gallery show in LA while on vacation. Her friend Sean is plugged into the scene there and always invites her along to shows. She was out for the opening and she waited in a line to get into the immersive installation, which only allowed seven people in at a time. As she entered the space she motivated that the room was filled with fog or mist and there was a billowing projection on the fog. She also noted that it was very warm in the room. She moved to the edge of the space and noticed that the floor was painted with the cycles of the sun moving across the horizon. She moved to step on one of the sun patterns and that triggered the video to change. The video moved from an atmospheric light show to a depiction of a farmer in the central valley working the land and then a woman watching the dry soil slide between her fingers. Realizing that the sun patterns triggered video she moved to the next sun shape. The video shifted to the image of a caravan in the desert lead by an old truck carrying a family and all their belongings. Audio was triggered that told the story of a woman traveling from Visalia to Oklahoma in search of a new life on a farm because the farm where she worked had dried up. Her experience in the room made her wonder if the farms in the central valley were really losing water. She noticed a plaque on the wall and saw a URL to the project website. There she was able to learn more about how the Central Valley of California provides much of the food for the country and how in danger the farms really are.
Character Name: Kristoph
Location: New York City
Occupation: Professor of Architecture
Income Level: $100,000
Interests: Art, design, architecture, gardening, collecting milk glass and other mid century household items.
How did they come to my work:
Kristoph was on Twitter one morning and followed a tweet link about design objects of climate change. That took him to a blog post about my project, A Prayer for Rain:
A series of folk objects and interactive shrines with one purpose: to pray for rain in the Central Valley of CA. He was interested in the idea of mundane, household objects that take on heightened meanings and so he learned more about the show and decided to go check it out in a local NYC gallery. From the blog post he went to the project website and read up on the drought issues facing the Central Valley of CA, which the piece addresses. He explored an interactive map of the region and looked at some photos of the work. He wanted to see it it person so he went to the gallery. When he walked in, he was drawn to the shrine in the center of the room. As he approached the shrine, a sound of thunder went off and he heard rain falling. He understood that his movements somehow triggered the interaction. He was then drawn to a dowsing rod mounted on the wall. The wall plaque described it as a tool for finding water and building wells, something he knows about. He noticed however that the rod was displaying some kind of reading and the plaque said that the rod detects humidity and responds to that by changing it’s color. Kristoph looked at the other items and left the gallery. He decided to share this project with his class and encourage them to explore the notion of climate change as mediated by constructed environments.