004.1: Outline

Today I pulled together the outline for the final paper. I am not much of a fan of the standard outline structure, especially because it is easy to get sucked into getting ones thoughts to match the structure instead of just getting info down. So I went for a loose list that I think really captures the thing.

To put the outline together, I made a retroactive outline of my paper from last semester, then cross-referenced it with the suggested sections from the course site. After that, I reviewed my reading notes from key works to add in elements of those I know are coming.

All caveats about subject to change, etc.

Download as a PDF.


This is the introduction but the section will not be named that, because I hate introductions

  • Sketch the problem of the watcher object and my initial interest
  • Touch on failures of previous refusals
  • Short overview of polluting the possible and critical design
  • Goal is to better understand for myself (phenomenologically) the assumptions we make re: information and inform future work
  • Secondary goal and audience are other artists and cultural producers to get them to want to pollute with their own work
  • Short overview of phenomenological / practice-as-research / autoethnographic approach.
    • Note: This needs more research.
  • Explain why clear, achievable research is kinda bs


This covers background and the goal of polluting the possible.

The Problem, or How It All Began

  • Computing history up to the 1950s (The Information)
  • Computing / cybernetics history starting in the 1950s
  • Linking the 1950s through today and how the underlying ideas have remained the same (Hippie Modernism, Counterculture to Cyberculture, Close to the Metal)
  • Outlining the definition of information we are opposing (Hayles, Lanier)
  • The spread of the divorce of information from context into the ultimate divorce of mind from body (neurons & circuits)
  • Demand for accommodation from machines

Polluting the Possible

  • Short articulation of why & how to make prototypes
    • Lanier
    • “How Things Shape Us” from Material Culture History
    • Describe graph of the universe
  • Overview of critical design
  • Explain how this fits in (giving possibility) and how it does not (goals are different from “just start thoughts, man”)
  • Can include some comments on the Datacatcher / Goldsmiths style of speculative design here


Defining the goals of the object.

Characteristics of An Invested Object

It should be a real thing.

  • Realness and richness (Lanier, Benjamin)
  • People can find richness in the digital, though it is not given.
    • consider the difference between digital objects that work and those that do not
  • Realness also opens us to material culture analysis and power
    • objects with meaning connect us to the future and connect the future to our emotions, especially if they come with writing (Foundling Hospital tokens)

It should be a thing you can think with.

  • Turkle on thinking with objects
  • the SEI and emotion

It should be a private thing.

  • avoiding surveillance
  • Hook, interactional design
  • negative example of non-private, assuming system
  • autonomy is infringed when a system decides what to communicate to others
  • characteristics of the interactional approach to design
  • distinction from machine in ambiguity

It should be a reflexive thing.

  • Contrast to homeostasis, involving change
  • Information should be contextualized
  • Thought and feeling should be recognized as inseparable
  • Maturana and the idea that perception is not representational
  • Recognize humans as autopoeitic beings (here is where memory comes in)

It should be a transportable thing.

  • Mention of the survey
  • Using this more-traditional method as a test
  • Audience sourced from Twitter

It should be something people can make themselves.

  • Maker movement

    • also built on the same movement from the 50s to today covered in history, Brand & Anderson
    • land of watcher objects
  • We open another avenue to pollute another possible


Memory and the goals of the system

What An Invested Object Might Contain

Memory in General

  • can be used in a broader context, with a stimulus that is common but ambiguous, vast in its experience and interpretation, but known already as a continuous phenomenon, emotional, specific, embodied, a target for communication throughout human existence
  • is physically situated and effected
  • very much reflexive

Avoiding solipsism — memory is cultural

  • Quote from Halbwachs
  • Other material culture notes
  • example of the history of netsuke collection in The Hare with Amber Eyes

Memory is artistic

  • Memory is artistic, which again brings us back to the lichen metaphor: it is the algae inside

Possible meanings of memory and honing in on our definition

  • Types of memory

    • mystical Bergsonian plane
    • documentary images (Tichy)
    • fragmentary images (Kracauer)
    • hallucinatory surrealism
      • (and this one is kind of us, though perhaps without the psychoanalysis influenced idea that what is brought up is hidden to us)
    • Pierre Nora’s four types: true (land), archival, duty, alienated
    • Public to private memory: comparing Proust and Perec
  • Initial impetus: I like Proust

  • Resonance: Memory in computing and memory in the project; information vs. data vs. memory vs. knowledge

Proust in Detail (Shattuck)

  • Optical metaphors in Proust and how memories work reflexively, autopoeitcically
  • Three types of relations: cinematic, montage, stereoscopic
  • Merging of instinctual and rational; insistence on sloppy human contradiction and ambiguity — perfect to shove into a rational system

The Moment of Inflection

  • The structure of moments bienhereux (aka moments of inflection) in Proust
  • Recognition vs. merely moments (Shattuck 38); summoning back (63)
  • Self-creation in this way (99) ties into the introductory meaning conundrum between the humanists and the engineers
  • Notes on paper moment-marking and the pleasure here


Initial idea, design assets, objections

The Idea

  • Short explanation of the system

  • Design objects

    • “Characters”
    • Storyboards
    • any updated elements I create for the science fair
  • Pitfalls and objections to the idea itself

    • Lanier: Expanding the empathy circle too far
    • Lanier: Nostalgia as a waste of our new capabilities
    • Turkle & Nora: The danger of completionism (and painting penitmento; story to record
    • Turkle: The digital character (annotated photos)
    • such a long duration to test; can we say anything about the project with a month instead of 20 years?


Longer section on research methods

An Unconventional Research

  • To test whether an object meets these goals cannot be as simple as user testing
    • the goals are complex and durational
  • Assertions of phenomenological &c. research
  • Explanation of works I have undertaken to meet this type of research
    • self-interview
    • seeding the app
      • monthlong test and observation
    • other writings
    • the rubric as test (include illustration)
  • Pitfalls and responses


Object and system design

The Object Prototype As It Stands

  • Mold making
    • fabrication style
  • Materials testing
    • resin, plaster, concrete
      • look, aging, smooth & rough
    • include notes on degradation / reflection of time
    • Writing Material Culture History, Ch 4: Case Studies in Ceramic Research — “durability in the ground"
  • Size changes
  • Top-shape selection
    • thinking object
      • fidget widget thoughts here?
    • nonrepresentational: SEI shapes and the emotion of the blob
  • Adding components
    • microcontroller
    • power
    • building the button
  • Reflections on DIY fabrication

A System for the Object

Writeup of the application & test woven together

  • Short recap of Shattuck & Proust
  • screens and descriptions, plus reflections (includes the visualizations as well)
  • explanation of tech / diagram of the code
  • Developing the application, phenomenological reflections on being the developer of this type of work

Similar Works

Gordon Bell, My Life Bits

  • the idea of a memory tracking app isn’t new
  • antithesis of what I want: used cameras and sensors and scanners to try to do everything
  • in the bosom of Microsoft
  • in this project memory is set as though the problem is that we forget and for computer is how to efficiently save & search

Nick Felton, Reporter

  • More recent tracker
  • Very straightforward data approach, polls user, survey
  • I was so excited to try this and then very disappointed
  • it was super annoying; I felt like I was working for IT

Ishaac Bertran, Memory Device

  • More up my alley
  • Really beautiful
  • Vague-er than I want ... forgetting makes it gone

Dear Data

  • Finally in terms of ambiguous, personal data, there is Dear Data, by Giorgia Lupi & Stefanie Posavec
  • Generative data

A Website for the Object

  • Why I made lost-time.club
  • Similar to Thync
  • Responses in survey (if I do it)
  • Reflections as a designer on the difficulty of communicating the design, lack of shared assumptions


This will be the conclusion

Review goals & lit in light of comparisons

  • shortly summarize systems & comparisons
  • rubric
  • memory and meaning-making

Consider where it would sit as a piece of material culture

  • Prown & his taxonomy of cultural materials, then later an “old-fashioned” set of questions to ask about an object … what happens if I apply these to the Invested Object? What will it say?


  • tk

Lessons Learned

  • tk

Future Plans

  • tk

Appendix A

List of Collaborators

  • Wes
  • People at Punchthrough, sort of

Materials, Vendors, Budget

omg I hope I can remember half of this

Technical Requirements

Appendix B

This will contains surveys, notes, &c.