My scholarly and creative work is concerned the design of faith. Here, faith is not synonymous with spirituality or religion, but rather it is the complete trust that humans place in someone or something. In this context, faith serves as a system of vision for how we all believe what we believe and how that influences our individual agency in complex situations. In environments with multiple perceptions of truth, design serves as a form of rhetoric (Grudin, 2010). This rhetoric permeates our lives and we are constantly bombarded with fragments of information that we assemble into our own personal ideologies. Vilem Flusser, noted media critic and philosopher, claims that design is always a lie and that designers are professional liars (1999). By adopting this assertion, I place myself in an ambiguous space of reality that allows me to continually question the ethical concerns of using design as a rhetorical device to build faith and examine the ramifications of its use in the real world.
My thesis research uses this framework to ask the question: “how can emotional humanist interfaces facilitate empathy to empower college-aged republicans and democrats to critically question belief systems?” This question lends itself to a qualitative inquiry that creates a scaffold for further understanding of how designed experiences, specifically emotional humanist interfaces, can catalyze cognitive empathetic response in a specific audience. It also is emancipatory, allowing for human actors to critically question, but not necessarily change, belief systems. I hypothesize that these designed experiences can utilize emotions to temporarily alter attitudes among the participating actors, providing a place for empathetic response through embodiment and discussion.
To better understand the attitudes of college-aged Republicans and Democrats, actor personas were developed by analyzing qualitative secondary sources and primary source data scraped from Twitter. These personas represent strong Republican beliefs, strong Democratic beliefs, and cross-pressured partisans from both parties.
Specific attitudes and behaviors were constructed with regularly updating Twitter bots. Each bot scrapes 3 twitter profiles. One from the national college organization associated with their party (College Republicans and College Democrats), one of the president and vice-president from each those organizations, and the highest elected official in the Senate that most represents their ideology as strong partisans or cross pressured partisans. (Elizabeth Warren–D, MA, Claire McCaskill–D, MO, Susan Collins– R, ME, Jim Infoe– R, OK)
These narratives allowed personas to be created for both sides of the aisle that provide a more objective representation of behaviors and attitudes of real people, rather than designer speculation.
This video performance, the Reverie Network Relationship Revival, explores the faith people put in designed personas. By appropriating text from propaganda from the Donald Trump campaign, Kris Jenner, and a myriad of network marketing personalities, a new persona is created to help better understand how technology mediated relationships engage an audience. The monologue created by the persona was juxtaposed with imagery of consumption, providing a narrative to question the status quo.
The experimental interface, Empathy Altar, asks actors to join together to discuss controversial issues through embodied interaction. In order to stop the maddening video loops, participants must join hands with the interface—prompting a platform for discussion and response. In this particular iteration, President Donald Trump's controversial stance on immigration is illuminated, showing three different versions of the truth—Donald Trump, his supporters, and immigrants.
This interface, developed using Processing, scrapes and displays new tweets relating to the keyword #Empathy at the touch of a button.
These posters were designed in response to Donald Trump's election. By appropriating the visual and rhetorical structure of the National Enquirer, they were displayed around campus to provoke multiple responses. One poster was designed and distributed per day for 30 days.
This experimental interface questions the notion of power by using the social media platform, Twitter. Once again examining the President Donald Trump, this interface focuses on the rhetoric he uses to weaponize his words. This platform provides a roulette wheel of shared images of Trump and invites actors to push a button to presumably stop the cycle of imagery. When an actors chooses to push the button, the cycle doesn't stop and instead Tweets the image with randomly generated text related to resistance to Trumps political agenda.