Archive for April, 2014

Final project: Sound Collage of the Digital City

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by willm2

Simply put: I’d like to do a work of media poetics that draws inspiration from Luigi Russolo. However, instead of the symphony of the streets, or the symphony of the machine-noise of the city, I want to attempt to create the symphony of the digital.

This would take the form of a sound-collage made from the sounds of the Media Archaeology lab. It would incorporate the aural capabilities of as many devices as possible. I believe this could be an interesting ‘remix’ of not only the sound one generally hears in the computer-saturated environment, but of the archive itself. By sonically juxtaposing old and new, entertainment and business, smoothly working and struggling to work, I think I can gesture at a kind of anarchive through sound.

While I cannot build my own noise machines, I can use my own computer to record, mix, and save the project.


McLuhan and Cage: Chance and Medium as Message

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by lola192

I have been interested in John Cage and his experiments with chance since learning of his work with choreographer, Merce Cunningham, in a modern dance class. Cage served as the musical advisor for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from its founding in 1953 until his death in 1992. During his time with the group, Cage and Cunningham extensively employed chance procedures in their compositions, experimenting with theories of causal relationships between sound and movement by paying little attention to structured musical form or any other traditional elements of musical arrangement. The I Ching, the Chinese book of changes, inspired the pair’s experimentations. Cunningham describes how Cage utilised the I Ching in his book, Merce Cunningham: A Lifetime of Dance:

“Cage took it to work in his way of making compositions then; and he used the idea of 64—the number of the hexagrams —to say that you had 64, for example, sounds; then you could cast, by chance, to find which sound first appeared, cast again, to say which sound came second, cast again, so that it’s done by, in that sense, chance operations. Instead of finding out what you think should follow—say a particular sound—what did the I Ching suggest?”

For my final project, I shall be writing an approximately 12-page paper on the Cagean method that will be physically formed by then using this method. That is, after completing the paper, I will separate the paper into random sections – breaking in the middle of sentences or paragraphs – rather than adhering to clearly defined and ‘natural’ delineations. I will then apply the Cagean method by rolling a dice to decide which medium to use to write up each section i.e. 1 = Typewriter, 2 = Word processor, 3 = Calligraphy, 4 = Typography, 5 = Stencil, 6 = Copier. The completed sections will then be put together in a hand-bound book. Whilst I have yet to figure out my thesis, my paper/creative book project will consider McLuhan’s theory that the medium is the message and explore his relationship with Cage/Cage’s take on McLuhan. I hope that the Cagean structure of the book will elicit a different response to/reading experience of the paper depending on the medium in which the ‘message’ is written.

McLuhen, MacFarlane, and the Connections between Media and Culture

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by lasu9006

Throughout the semester, I have found myself drawing connections between media archaeological theory and characteristics of The Beatles’ recorded music. Thomas MacFarlane, in his book The Beatles and McLuhan: Understanding the Electric Age, provides a thorough and evocative account of the interplay between the Beatles’ recorded music and McLuhan’s media theory. I would like to use MacFarlane’s line of inquiry (which is sort of MacLuhan’s line of inquiry, only mixed with some Ferrara, Husserl, and Heidegger for good measure) to investigate contemporary music recordings, attempting to unearth hermeneutics about contemporary culture. 

MacFarlane’s trajectory in the book was to use a three-fold “mosaic” approach to analyze The Beatles’ recorded music—an approach he deemed far more appropriate at analyzing pop music than traditional methods of music theory and study. McLuhan himself describes a mosaic approach as one that “takes each problem for itself with little reference to the field in which it lies, and seeks to discover relations and principles that hold within the circumscribed area” (32).  The first element of MacFarlane’s mosaic approach is to analyze the “musical syntax” of the music, or to use conventional analysis of music to describe what the music sounds like. Then, one must employ “descriptive phenomenology,” a method which “avoids the presuppositions and assumptions that are a necessary feature of formal methods” and which attempts “to ascertain what the various sounds … can tell us about space … on the recording” (33; 35). Lastly, one must “attempt to access the dynamic interplay between figure and ground [or space and sound] by using McLuhan’s Tetrad” (35). The Tetrad is pretty cool; it involves asking the following questions in regards to an artifact: “what does any artifact amplify or enhance? What does it erode or obsolesce? What does it retrieve that had been earlier obsolesced? What does it reverse  or flit into when pushed to the full limit of its potential?” (21). Then, once you’ve asked those questions, you draw ontological conclusions about the artifact itself and its relation to its context, or to culture. 

So. All that is well and good for MacFarlane, although I do find some of his methodology to be problematic within the media archaeological context. I decided that The Beatles’ music had been investigated quite thoroughly, and that I was interested in instead potentially applying some version of MacFarlane’s methodology, except in regards to some contemporary medium. I think that doing so would be an interesting way to work with the Tetrad as well, which is concerned with how the past, present, and future, interact. The contemporary work that immediately came to my mind in applicability to MacFarlane’s and McLuhan’s methodology is Green Day’s “American Idiot,” an album which I think (whether you like it or not) provides an interesting insight into contemporary culture, all through the manipulation of new recording media. 

My main problem with all of this, that I am attempting to rationalize in my brain, is that MacFarlane’s technique (or his adaptation of McLuhan’s technique) in confronting The Beatles’ recorded music, involves plenty of interpretation, or inscribing of meaning. I am left wondering, as I have been wondering all semester, how we can actually interpret media artifacts in an Ernst-like manner: with a cold, objective eye; or how can we analyze like McLuhan, without attention to the message itself. And also, as an extension to that, what is the point of such a means of interpretation? If I were to interpret The Beatles’ music that way, I would say things like: “1:37 tambourine shimmies, left center. 1:39 resonating orchestral swell, oscillates between left and right.” And that would be a very boring paper, if I went on and on like that. Instead, MacFarlane describes the recordings with poetic acuity, and then presses his own metaphorical interpretations upon the material. For example, he asserts, “As a result, the spatial environment … of the work is continually reshaped in a manner that suggests a rapidly changing cultural context. The resulting effect is that of a sphere in which the center is everywhere, and the margin is nowhere” (MacFarlane 54). MacFarlane’s technique seems to be too invested in interpreting the “meaning” of the “content” to be truly in line with McLuhan’s ideology, and perhaps in line with media archaeology in general. I am left wondering whether my recreating his line of inquiry with “American Idiot” as my subject would be in opposition to media archaeological principles, and if so, how to write an engaging paper without making any constructive conclusions regarding meaning. Maybe if I just stuck to McLuhan’s Tetrad, that might be a way of navigating that tricky line between humanistic interpretation and objective, archaeological discovery. Obviously, I am still thinking all of this through, so any ideas or criticisms are welcome!

The MAL as (dis)organized Archive

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by kylebickoff

As I think through alternative ways of understanding archival order, and the ways in which the lab systems are organized, I decided to organize some photos chronologically. In the photo below I have arranged images of Apple desktop keyboards, specifically focusing on the placement (or lack thereof) of the arrow keys. In descending order, we have the Apple II, the Apple III, Apple IIe, Apple Lisa, Apple IIc, Apple Macintosh 512, Apple Mac Classic II, Apple Macintosh Centris 610, Aple iMac G3, Apple eMac, Apple iMac G4. These systems are arranged chronologically from the earlier (1977) to the most recent (2002). But is there really any sense of order apparent in these photos? What would Zielinski say? Certainly, it seems that to create any meaning in this ordered list, we would have to construct a narrative around this already organized list. But does that mean that a linear chronology is best for an archive? How about an archive of digital content?
The first photo contains only left and right arrows. The second contains ‘all four,’ but in a horizontal alignment. The third contains four, but arranged in a strange ‘L’ shape. The fourth a modified ‘L’ shape. The fifth, a reversion to the horizontal. The six, NONE AT ALL!. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… What does this all tell us? Very little. In fact, the layouts are representative of navigation, of interface. Maybe these systems should be organized based on their operating system? Do they have a GUI? Do they operate through a command line? These seem to be questions that help to define better categories in the archive.
I don’t have a single clear vision for ‘the one best way’ that the systems in the Media Archaeology Lab should be arranged. But I do understand that the lab is not currently using a better method. I am certainly open to suggestions on how a more ‘user friendly’ layout of computers in the lab might better help us as students and researchers as we’re using these systems.


This photo shows the keyboard progression I note.

The MAL as (dis)organized Archive

Microsoft Word, Concrete Poetry, & Quotation

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by contromal

                In my final project, I am creating a collection of concrete poetry. In Microsoft Word, I construct two dimensional images from (mostly) pre-existing quotes or descriptions. For example, to construct a portrait of Steve Jobs, I use several of his most famous quotes. To illustrate Apple Lisa, I intend on using excerpts from its manual to construct the shape of the technology. Additionally, I will use language from advertisements and the start-up processes of the machines in the MAL. I intend on reconstructing different technologies in the Media Archaeology Lab, different brand logos, and different personas associated with past and present media technologies. In doing this, I hope to draw attention to the different ways that the consumer encounters the product, through words and sight, and suggest that the two are inextricably linked. By weaving language with image, I draw attention to language as the “building blocks” of a machine or person’s greater aura. Through this process, I hope to question how the product is presented, give a historically context to the object, and present an alternate way of interacting with words about machines. Furthermore, I strive to make language strange. I want it to be questioned in relation to these pieces. These poems are admittedly difficult to read. This is a function, in part, of the simple challenges of composition. Like John Riddell, I could simply have used no words to portray the message and construct images from letters, but I must emphasize that I designed it as a mirror of what most of us do when we encounter media. For a while, we struggle to decipher the code and concepts, but eventually we only interact with the graphical user interface that has been prescribed for us. This process of elective de-familiarization is, I think, essential to understanding how man has been taught to interact with machines. By questioning our current understanding of how we should interact with media, we redefine what it means to be a consumer of those products and what it means to unquestioningly accept user-friendly, seamless, magic media.


Draft of “Steve Jobs”



Selfies with the Moon

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by asobol

Selfies with the Moon was born out of a level of friction I encountered with poetry in the digital age. The fatigue I felt reading a poem on a digital screen made me want to find a way to produce a poem that worked online. For me, it’s not enough to overlay the text of a poem on an image. Image macro poems feel disingenuous, heavy handed, limited, and forced. There’s a way the text is always independent of the image and vice versa. By inverting it, by taking a photo of the text, it mitigates the discrepancy between poem and image.

I began investigating what the selfie was, both on an aesthetic and communicative level. It’s a photograph that has a kind of craft and engages in specific tropes (the arm outstretched, the angle of the camera generally hanging from above its subject) and attempts to convey a level of immediacy, even authenticity.

The way I’ve been shooting the poems still sitting in the typewriter is both a nod to the photographer’s arm and to foreground the method of the production. The selfie-taker’s arm suggests that subject and producer are one in the same. The only thing absent is the camera. Here, the typewriter, the page, any scratched out pen marks, all try to point to the medium as producer and subject in one.


Moreover, I think of a selfie as a kind of status update, a quick burst of information with little room for nuance. It affords humor and parody, but doesn’t necessarily beg for a close reading. Given that and the limitations of the size of an Instagram photo (more on that later), the poems themselves have to be short, punchy, and to the point. They have to be disposable.


As a medium, Instagram isn’t meant to function narratively. Its limited mobile (and browser) interface keeps one from getting enchanted by an image. Instagram photos, despite the fact that a user’s profile page acts as an archive, are ephemeral. They show up in your feed, you like them, you comment, and then they may as well disappear, pushed down and replaced by new images from other users. I was thinking a lot of about Crary and constant consumption when I considered how these poems should look.

The language has to be economical. People scroll past images without a second thought. If you want anyone to read the work, it has to provide a temporary burst of pleasure. People do post long and difficult poems on Instagram—but the longer they get, the smaller the typeface, the harder it is to read. I don’t have the patience or willingness to process them, especially in an image macro. SWTM’s poems are designed for the aid of readability and for the benefit of the attention economy.


As for why the typewriter—I could have easily just taken screenshots from a word processing program—it came out of my experiments with them in the lab and at home. The inability to hide corrections (any I’ve made are present in the photos), made whatever I typed feel immediate. There was no tinkering, no hovering over the backspace key. What happened on the page was the poem. No going back. 

I haven’t finished a critical apparatus around the project yet, but it will probably throw in bits of Benjamin, Crary, the Dickinson, and Writing Surfaces

A Media-Archaeological Approach to Word Processing and the User-Friendly

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by brandontruett

My experiences in the MAL have coalesced around two central concepts: the user-friendly and word processing. I have become fascinated by the way we inscribe/input writing into a machine, thereby becoming a user who is often thwarted by the unwieldy operations of the machine. Indeed, Matthew Kirschenbaum, who is completing a project on the literary history of word processing, reminds us of the infamous incident publicized by the New York Times wherein President Jimmy Carter lost several pages of his memoir that he had been word-processing on a Lanier computer in the early 1980s. Even though each machine’s manual is saturated with the ideology of the user-friendly, across the various machines I’ve used in the MAL, I never experienced a seamless interface; such simply doesn’t exist. In my project, I will interrogate the differences and discontinuities of word processing on the range of three machines: the Xerox 6010 Memorywriter, the Osborne 1 using WordArt (also used by Ralph Ellison to write Juneteenth), and the Commodore 64 using HES Writer. (Note: I am also entertaining the idea of proceeding reverse chronologically, from the user-friendly GUI to the electronic typewriter, in order to explore a non-linear approach.) Learning from prominent media theorists as Friedrich Kittler (e.g. “media determine our situation”) and Siegfried Zielinski (e.g. variantology) as well as Michel Foucault’s concept of archaeology, I will implement a practice-based approach to my critique of the user-friendly and its relationship to word processing. I hope to theorize the relationship we have with our word processors; indeed, if what Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed is true––that “Our writing tools are also working on our thoughts”––how does writing on different machines change how we think about what we write, and moreover, why does each manual attempt to bridge the chasm between machine and human, producing the latter as at once subject and user? As an experimental method, to ensure that both the hardware and the software inflect my theorization, I will perform my writing through two media: typewritten paper and digital word processing, reflecting on the idiosyncratic problems that each pose to the user as he or she shifts from analog input to using a GUI interface; in other words, when speaking of the Osborne 1, I will write using the machine with its software, WordArt. My methodology is influenced by Siegfried Zielinski’s concept of “variantology,” whereby one discovers “individual variations” in the use or abuse of media, to borrow from Lori Emerson’s implementation. With this method, I hope to debunk and to undermine the story of casual, linear progress that we tell ourselves about our machine history and that which cleanly narrativizes the transition from, say, fountain pen to typewriter to electronic typewriter and reaching a telos with the digital word processor on the computer. I am not exactly certain about either the outcome or the degree to which I will succeed, but I am excited to see where this media-archaeological method takes me. I of course would love to hear from any of you about my proposal, whether you have comments, critiques, or just outright problems that you see I might face. I am sure that my project will change as I get going.

In the meantime, see the image below for the provisional launch of my project with the Memorywriter:


My Edison Moment

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 by sdileonardi


The impetus for my project is my fascination with the significance of the late nineteenth century and the monumental media technologies that developed around the same time– particularly the phonograph. The phonograph and other 1900 sound technologies feature prominently in some of the theory that has been informing my scholarship recently, but rather than explore this key invention through the intellectual processes to which I’m accustomed, I wanted to become familiar with the phonograph in ways that feel foreign and uncharacteristically (for me) hands on.

My goal is to recreate the experience of Edison capturing his voice for the first time, by constructing a replica of his original tin foil phonograph. This device is drastically different from the one that would find its way into thousands of American homes ten years later. The mass-marketed Edison phonograph that is more recognizable is fitted with electronic mechanisms and that large, iconic horn that directs the sound. The earlier model, which is known for being the first device to capture and play back an audio recording, is relatively simple and composed of only a few basic moving parts. After doing some research and realizing how hard it might be to find actual instructions for assembling this device on the internet (even though lots of folks have attempted this experiment, they seem more inclined to publish the results rather than the details of their process), I was able to use a couple youtube videos to piece together an idea of what I needed. (There is obviously something wonderfully ironic and media archeaological about the fact that my recreation of this nineteenth century device required the use of a myriad of twenty-first century resources). Before long I had the following blueprint:



As you can see, it isn’t very complicated. But for a guy who can hardly be called Mr. Fix-it, this presented a variety of problems for me. For now, I’ll fast-forward through my trip to the hardware store and my first round of tinkering which leaves me with the following work-in-progress:


Obviously the essential missing part is the mouthpiece, which I believe is going to give me some trouble. The mouthpiece, or receiver, has to be adjustable, in terms of distancing it perfectly from the cylinder so that it just barely marks the foil. These specifications and the constant tinkering that they will require are still on the horizon, although I hope to get to that stage soon. 

As for the big question, will I successfully experience the sound of my own voice being played back on a machine I constructed? To be honest, I doubt it, but here’s hoping.

The Process is the Project

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 by angelarovak

My experiment tonight perfectly summarizes the intention of my final project. Tonight, I began playing with printing on standard stock printer paper, but covering sections with (not-so-sticky) tape in order to remove areas printed on to leave behind a planned image. The inspiration comes largely from Steve McCaffery’s Carnival series, with which I’ve been enamored since first encountering it earlier this semester. My initial goal was to see if I can make image impressions when the tape is pulled away, like this one:



Here, the flower was made with cut outs in packing tape placed on the page, and then using a ruler in hand to compare to the ruler supplied in Microsoft word, I typed out the filling. the word “petal” repeats in the flower and “stem” in the, well, stem. My calculations were not too precise (hence the erroneous type you can see), but I find this a successful first round experiment.

While this image and piece was my original end goal, I was surprised to be inspired by and more aesthetically interested in the tape I pulled away from the paper. With flaking letters from the laserjet printer, the tape seems delicate and ephemeral in a way the printed page does not.

petal tape


(Yes, the printed-on tape is currently sticking to my living room wall)

I have concluded that the better way to achieve my first goal would be to cut out the intended pattern on a piece of paper, lay it on top of the intended sheet (securing with bits of tape), running it through the printer, and removing the top page. That would give me the same affect of the peeling tape, but it would not leave me with such an intriguing byproduct of the process.

And now we get to the main point of my project. I intend to compose a portfolio of images inspired by both the art pieces we have encountered and the theoretical material to see how I can recreate the aesthetics or add to the conversation by engaging a variety of media and using the tool I know best: Word. Throughout the semester, as we investigated the long and complex history of communication technologies, I have thought frequently about how they are all related to this program we use most. While clearly Word isn’t my only tool for this project, which will range from copy machines, to typewriters, to scissors and paint, all of the images and experiments will begin here in one way or another. I want to see how tools of communication can be tools for art, and how that is a different form of communication. I want to see what I can, and cannot, do. But my main prerogative is not to create a set of stunning final images (although that would be nice) but to be critical of the process by which I make the item. Hence: The Process is the Project.

I am documenting my trials and errors on my own blog ( where you can see my methods and thoughts and, eventually, see the final images I land on. Right now you can pop over to see the few blog-like ramblings I have posted thus far about my experiments (in “The Process”), but the final results will be more critically engaged. Once complete, the “Results” page will feature each image and will link to a brief 500-1000 word analysis of the image via the technologies and media I have used. I hope to see how the media and machines act as much as an artist as I will, influencing the final product and its reception.

Teacher’s Taste: The Apple IIe

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 by eadodge

After my struggles to create successful BASIC programs on my own, I turned to education materials from the 1980s that taught teachers and students how to use BASIC. Once I had paged through a few, I realized that many of the resources expressed a larger ideology about computers and information society. For instance, one document listed “Applications” that students would understand by the end of the programming course. These included “Problem-solving Tools,” “General Use,” and “Impacts on Jobs.” The last caught my eye as a familiar refrain: technology and job readiness. I took a step back and thought about Apple’s interests in these curricular activities. They would obviously push for more and more students to be using their products, at school and then at home. If they train students to use PCs, which were already implemented in most businesses, they would by extension train the students to be good workers.

It was then that I examined Apple II and Apple IIe advertisements. I found several targeted to students and education, including a promotional video starring Steve Jobs, that praises the Apple IIe as even easier to use than the original, which was already in use “in schools” and “in education.”

For my final project, I want to examine the interrelation of the corporate and the curricular when it came to Apple IIe, one of the first ‘easy to use’ classroom PCs. I am curious to see the extent to which Apple’s promise that the Apple IIe was easy to use and the claims that the PC was customizable (aka “The Most Personal Computer”) actually translated into the computer literacy programs taught in schools. From what I can see so far, the answer is, not much translated. Most BASIC taught to students covers only the first 20 pages of a 200+ page BASIC programming manual entitled Basic BASIC. The materials also highly encourage teaching and using pre-existing programs rather than having students write their own.

The end goal of the project will be to make an educated guess about the impact of corporate vs. curricular messages and the actual experience of programming BASIC on the subjectivity of an Apple user.



Kittell, Linda, and Walczak, Joseph. “Computer Education Curriculum. Connecticut Vocational Technical School System. Version 4.” Connecticut State Dept. Of Education: Hartford, 1985.

Final paper description & conference abstract

Saturday, April 19th, 2014 by dparker90

Hi all, below I’ve posted a description of my final paper, which doubles as my 250-word abstract submission for the International Conference on Romanticism. If you happen to read this before Monday, please let me know if there are any improvements I can make. This project is my first attempt to bring a media archeological approach to the study of Romantic poetry. So far my fellow Romanticists have told me that they don’t know what I mean by “media;” in the context of this paper, I think I’m trying to align it with poetic form, genre conventions, and publishing practices. Do you think those things count as media? Anyway, here you go: 

“4000 lines of one bare circumstance:” Endymion’s Mediated Poetics

 From its conception, John Keats’s Endymion (1818) was shaped by the formal constraints of its poetic medium. When publishers Taylor and Hessey contacted Keats about producing a work of epic length and scope, the poet reflected that it would be “a trial of my Powers of Imagination and chiefly of my invention which is a rare thing indeed – by which I must make 4000 lines of one bare circumstance and fill them with Poetry.” Keats envisioned Endymion’s formal medium as preceding and existing independent of its poetic content. Taking its cue from Keats’s reflections on the poem, my paper reads Endymion as enacting a critique of Romantic media by drawing attention to its own poetic medium through its subversion of both the heroic couplet and the epic genre. In the same way that media theorist Friedrich Kittler reads Goethe’s “Wandering Nightsong” as a discourse on the constraints of German discourse networks, I argue that Endymion comments on the constraints of poetic media precisely by pushing those formal constraints to their limits, a claim that can be confirmed both by analyzing the poem’s form and by examining the critical response in journals such as The British Critic. The poem’s clunky couplets, off-kilter rhymes, and other formal elements that critics tend to chalk up to Keats’s youth and inexperience in fact perform a sophisticated critique of the rules they break. At the same time, the poem’s frequent code switching from epic to “poetic romance” – in the proem of Book II, for example – disorders the conventions of these genres and readers’ expectations for them. In what is often read simply as “bad” poetry, Endymion disrupts communication channels and exposes the mediated reality of Romantic discourse.

“Lefting” the User-Friendly

Friday, April 18th, 2014 by samanthalong88

Here is the rationale behind my final project: One of my very first experiences in the MAL was playing on the Atari with Kyle. We were playing the football cartridge, and for the life of me I could not figure out how to control my on-screen players with the joystick. The movements seemed inverted and alien until I discovered I had been operating the joystick with the “wrong hand,”–my left hand–and had twisted the controller from its intended position to accommodate this. Perhaps if it had been a newer console I would have caught my mistake sooner, conforming my play to the design without a second thought. But, because I had struggled for several minutes (under the assumption that the gameplay was just different because the console was old), my mistake was something of a revelation. Just how often were assumed “user-friendly” designs touted by our technologies (and our technology companies) not really user-friendly at all? Or, perhaps the better question: who is the “user” in “user-friendly?”

This question does not only apply to issues of handedness; as I looked into custom, one-handed game controllers later in the semester, I saw just how quickly issues of accessibility and disability came to the fore when discussing the ideologies and limitations inherent in the user-friendly (as well as in the creation of this “baseline” user by designers). Technology’s second grandest claim, that it opens up worlds and opportunities to all bodies, seemed at odds with this quest for ease of use and operation (or, at the least, there’s often a sharp price difference when comparing “user-friendly” technologies and technologies available for differently abled bodies). Perhaps this could be excused as nothing more than an adherence to the logic of supply and demand, but then there it is–the inextricable link between “user-friendly” and capitalist enterprise. “User-friendly” meets the needs of mass production, and one result is that these technologies lock out/block out/change the experience of themselves for many users. And another unintended result is that this need for mass-producible user-friendliness limits the ways we can/could engage with and subsequently innovate our technologies, present and future.

And here is my plan: In my project, I am taking up issues of handedness and other accessibility concerns when it comes to the design of technologies like keyboards, controllers, phones, hand-held games, etcetera. I am particularly interested in how left-handedness works within systems designed for the right-handed user, and how those with different bodies “undermine” (in a good way) these devices for their own use (especially when private companies would prefer to make money off their various conditions with expensive, “specialty” devices). I would like to highlight these experiences in a visual way, transforming common, user-friendly designs into images such as this through Photoshop:


My “Lefted” Keyboard, click to enlarge

Along with these images, I want to use quotes from usability/design textbooks and guidebooks as well as creative commentary to underline/riff off the ideas presented in my rationale. The end result will be a booklet of text and images (as coffeetable-like in style as you can get with 8.5×11 paper), hopefully encapsulating and expressing my intended messages.

Issues I’m still wrestling with: Because I’m still in the midst (and mist) of this project, my biggest concern at this point is balancing the issues of left-handedness with other differences which cause the “user-friendly” to be questioned. While I initially only wanted to focus on left-handedness, it seemed a disservice to overlook the much larger problems with (and implications of) user-friendly designs for differently abled bodies . Another challenge this project presents is how to convey more traditional criticism in artistic and visual ways; it is not something I’ve been given the chance to do in the past, and want to be sure I select and transform devices in ways that will give me the most bang for my buck (speaking of capitalism). Finally, because I am far from a Photoshop expert, I am discovering some of my limitations with the software when it comes to manipulating these images. At this point, I am trying to think of how this struggle could be incorporated into the project itself (which perhaps could flesh out my reasoning for making this a creative work in the first place).