Design Process: How will I get there?

Literature and academic research are good sources of background information that have helped me draw connections between points of convergence for my thesis, however design methodologies will be key in the development of the interactive thesis project.

My first year in the Digital Futures program at OCAD U has given me the opportunity to build and experiment lots of interactive pieces, using sensors and visual displays. The process of this creation had always been grounded in research–for me my interest in emotion and psychological expression and of course, nature always found incorporation into my projects. I feel this approach will serve me well in developing my thesis project, I have broken down the iterative design process below:

RESEARCH [consulting valid sources of interest that have conducted thorough investigation]

BRAINSTORMING [connecting research with ideas for application, focus on aesthetics and functionality, bringing a creative project to life out of research]

MAKING [building, coding]

LUDIC ENGAGEMENT [experimenting, evaluation, play]



Where design methodologies are concerned I feel that it is important to acknowledge the multidisciplinary approach I will be taking in …

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Applying thesis research

The previous post I made includes a report I had written to refine my motivation for the area of investigation for my thesis.

In treating a heightened sense of self as synonymous with wellbeing, I feel that not only does my thesis progress towards a more specific solution but I feel that my understanding of one’s relationship between communication technology and his or her identity has broadened. In addressing the complex issue of recovering one’s sense of self (or perhaps preventing its loss) I seek inspiration from technologies that have appropriated the medium overall, a deviation from practices that promote productivity and information exchange. Of course, digital/technological art projects come to mind as examples of provocative and ‘unproductive’ (in the context of human capital) experience pieces but what I have maintained interest in and would like to incorporate into my thesis is the role of nature in helping us recover a sense of balance, calm, and self-reflection. Just as there is literature and research on the self being inadvertently consumed by technology, there has been a vast amount of psychology …

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Refocusing Wellbeing: The Importance of Sense of Self

The following is a report I wrote to refine the motivation for my thesis and to articulate on the concept of wellbeing that I have discussed in regards to my thesis project:

Refocusing Wellbeing: The Importance of Sense of Self

by Harjot Bal

1.         Introduction

In an effort to refine the wide scope of research on the problem area conducted in writing the thesis foundation research paper, this report will specify insights from exemplary texts and draw threads across the literature in order to highlight points of interest, further directing the thesis project. In the foundation research there was a general interest in the convergence of technology and wellbeing. Factors that were investigated during the foundation research include self-reflection, emotion and cognition, human-nature interaction, and design practices for technology that serve wellbeing. In refining previous research to give the thesis project a narrower focus, this report will revisit the initial problem area or motivation for the thesis and redefine wellbeing and the relevant role it plays today in relation to the self. Wellbeing will be considered synonymous with heightened sense …

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Ian Hacking: Rewriting the Soul

I recently met with Paula Gardner, my Independent Study Supervisor, with whom I discussed Nikolas Rose’s ‘The Politics of Life Itself’ and we started to look for new points of interest that were geared towards my thesis. After getting through Rose’s book I felt there was a sense of gloom about the human race–is the mind really just a product of modulation that the brain undergoes? Where is the soul in all of this?

Paula recommended that I read ‘Rewriting the Soul’ by Ian Hacking as a means to dig deeper into my residual curiosity. I have read a complimentary chapter of this book online but will post my notes on the book, and its relevance to my thesis, once I get my hands on it–I remember Paula had a copy.

Post to follow.

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N. Katherine Hayles, Cyborg–augmented self?

Having read Nikolas Rose’s “The Politics of Life Itself” I found some connection to Hayles’ work on the cyborg and augmentation of the self. If biomedicine and the study of genetics in general lends to empowering the medical gaze of the molecular self, which in turn suggests that individuals can alter their own biology to achieve an optimal state of being relative to some ‘normal’ standard, then perhaps this is a realization of the cyborg. Modulation and augmentation of the body allows us to live optimally–of course this is the ideal supposition. What I feel both Rose and Hayles–especially in her works “How We Became Posthuman” and “Cyborg to Cognisphere”–touch on one central idea that is the loss of self. Technology grants us new ways to intervene ourselves, our minds, our bodies, and so with the ability (or rather the possibility) to edit and modify ourselves we surrender to the understanding that the mind is simply a product of our biology and that it has no stable, fixed, pre-destined identity. The self therefore is no longer of importance and is …

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Philip Beesley

In addition to immersing myself in research and readings over the course of my independent study, I found it equally important to explore digital projects that blend art and technology. What I find fascinating about such projects is the dialog they afford–a quality I look to integrate in my final thesis MDes project.

I was led to Philip Beesley’s portfolio by Barbara Rauch, Principal Advisor for my thesis, as she found he would serve as an inspiration. Philip Beesley is an Architect and Professor with an extensive portfolio of industrial design, digital prototyping, and mechatronics engineering. He is interested in creating pieces that break traditional boundaries between art and technology and mimic lifelike processes in doing so. He uses nature, the hybridity of organic and inorganic materials, as well as emotional reaction in crafting his works–much of what appeals to the direction in which I would like to drive my interactive thesis project.

Philip Beesley:

Orgone Reef and Hylozoic Ground are two beautiful projects that have really fed my imagination. See pictures below.

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William James, The Dialogical Self

I’ve wanted to dip back into some psychology research for my thesis as I feel at home there, considering the nature of my undergrad. I’ve also pulled a lot from psychology where human-nature interaction is concerned so I feel that self-reflection would be the next area I’d like to tackle in this vein. Once I’m back in school I look forward to investigating William James’ work in more depth–I also feel this will give my discussion on the ‘self’ a sturdy foundation.

Officially on the reading list.

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Sherry Turkle, Technology and the Self

“We’re letting technology take us places that we don’t want to go.”

I really enjoyed this TED Talk by Sherry Turkle. She is an amazing storyteller and paints such a convincing picture of the ‘dark’ places technology is taking us. I really value the discussion surrounding self-reflection from her work as I feel it is very much in line with the motivation for my thesis project; an overabundance or data and its organization radically change our communication. What is too often overlooked is that communication in the external world is highly congruent with our own internal communication–thoughts are words, no?

Below I’ve included some important notes and connections from Turkle’s talk and her book ‘Alone Together':

Not only do we lose the ability to relate to others, but we lose the ability to understand and relate to ourselves. We learn from conversations with others how to have conversations with ourselves. This is self-reflection–are we destroying our ability and capacity for this? What happens when we can no longer reflect on ourselves or our thoughts? Our attention shifts from us and our …

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Nikolas Rose: The Politics of Life Itself

In reading “The Politics of Life Itself” by Nikolas Rose I gained insight on how to better define and refer to the self–which will help me greatly in writing my thesis.

In his book, Rose dissects the processes that have distanced the ‘self’ from the individual–resulting in the loss of autonomy. Specifically, Rose contrasts the nineteenth and twentieth centuries where the former had individuals more concerned with the corporeal self versus the latter where emphasis is placed on the molecular self. This shift accompanies a need to be directed by those who have access to the molecular self; medical professionals are able to evaluate MRIs and various microscopic developments within our bodies and more importantly present us with their meaning–these practices build on ways of seeing that were initially more symptom-driven and assessed at the corporeal level. What I find interesting is the concept of the ‘medical gaze’ that takes power away from individuals and lends itself to subjectivity. In conjunction with a shift that suggests that personality and mood are products of fluctuations within the molecular body there is …

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Ken Rinaldo

Ken Rinaldo is a multidisciplinary media artist whose work explores the confluence and coevolution of organic and technological cultures. Because my thesis research is very much focused on wellbeing and technology, with nature playing a key role in healing of the self in ways that benefit individuals psychologically and physiologically, I am interested in works that aim to reproduce nature or other lifelike qualities through technology as a means to encourage self-reflection and stress relief.

Standout Project: Autopoiesis (2000)