CIID, Design playground, Thoughts

Project update 3 : Of Empathy, Symbiosis, Expression and multiple Contexts …

Looking back at the original Venn Diagram as a starting point I tried to list out what kind of data sources and types would ‘Radiate’ out from the 3 circles.

In the course of this exercise I tried to expand the initial diagram and words into possible spheres of exploration.

I then tried to explore relationships between the 3 circles.
What kind of relationships could be worthy of exploration in this context?In the meantime I came across Matheiu Lehanneur’s work on empathetic Devices which was rather interesting. He has worked on 4 sensory devices which sense the environment around a human counterpart and react accordingly.

Like ‘dB’which emits white noise and follows a person around, engulfing him in calming white noise whenever it encounters high decibel noises.


He talks about the design of environments as responsive as a mother’s womb to a baby’s needs as it matures.

And along came about the concepts of Symbiotism and Mutualism. Nature abounds with examples of symbiotic relationships where 2 or more entities live in close proximity and live off each other in a mutually beneficial manner (Lichen – a relationship between algae / fungi being an example , Lacto Baccilus bacteria in the Human gut is another example )

lichen: algae aids photosynthesis , and the fungus protects

Could relationships between Natural-Human-Technological systems be symbiotic and what would that mean to the person living in the middle ?
Are there examples of the same? …..This was something I tried to look at further and came across work from the RCA (royal college of art ) and Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby , where they developed robots that are programmed to behave and react with Human and pet-like traits (feeding, affection etc).
For example ‘Needy One’ is programmed to behave like a pet , relying on its user to provide for its needs.


Could the advent of symbiotic long term relationships lead to adaptation and evolution of technology in way so as to make them stay relevant for longer?
Could symbiosis lead to a better understanding of the electronic climate and objects around us.

A couple of years ago I came across this video and article about Shinya Kimura , the Bike designer , who speaks about his motivation and feelings which he puts into his designs.

A bike is an object which I think requires a certain level of a symbiotic relationship.
In the course of maintenance of a motorbike or a bike , there is a human connection with the addition of information. The wearing of gears, clutch pads corresponds to human action as it leaves an indelible imprint , a memory so to speak that you can relate to on each ride.

In the course of asking a few friends about objects which have left a longing impression on them or have lingered in their lives, I came across this interesting aspect of ‘memory traces’.
The wear and tear on a leather briefcase or a wallet , spoke volumes back to the person using them. It had its own story. I got similar  stories of palm prints on the body of an electric guitar , guns which needed to be taken care off before going on a hunt , bicycles which needed do to be oiled etc.
A person almost empathizes with the machine , the tool or piece of technology when it speaks back to them through the memory traces.

Very rarely does this sense of belonging translate onto electronic objects or digital objects to be more precise. Consumer electronics of today do not seem to give the same sense of belonging that analogue devices used to provide.

Why electronic objects?

‘E-waste’, is something which caught my eye. As defined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ,”Electronic waste” may be defined as discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, television sets and refrigerators. This definition includes used electronics which are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/01/high-tech-trash/carroll-text.html
I spent the last few days reading about what consumerism is in the digital age and the ill effects of fast appearing – programed obsolescence in objects on the environment and certain societies. Societal damage is both in terms of technological pressures faced on one hand and in the other the waste /  garbage and the disposal of the same which is turning out to be a big issue.

There are technical solutions with respect to material sciences , legislations and recycling. In my exploration I thought about whether symbiotic relationships could also be an answer to the riddle. Introducing a new relationship with respect to the way we perceive objects around us, might lead to interesting consequences.

This again prompted me to think about the relationships between the 3 categories in the Venn diagram and I came to this opinion that we need a new paradigm , where we could become technopathic towards electronic devices/objects.

We need to find common grounds to talk about relationships with respect to natural and technological environments.
In order to examine whether I could explore these relationships with experiments , contexts had to chosen.

An initial thought about contexts , was put forward in the below sketch.

Here , the focus would extend from the Human being, and the data which could be collected from his daily life, to his social circle, which further extends into the environmental circle, which includes his social circle in cyberspace, electromagnetic and natural climatic conditions and the relationship with the flora and fauna around him.

The next big challenge was to choose the actors in the experiments and the roles they would play in the various plots which were forming in my mind.
An initial sketch is as below , but more will be talked about in the next post.

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