WAIT, WHAT DID YOU SAY?

Integrative project and thesis presented to the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan

September 2019 - April 2020

Winner of Integrative Project Award as recognition for one of two best projects in thesis section.

Read the full thesis here.

Wait, What Did You Say? is presented as a series of images and drawings comprised of discursive devices. There are five devices featured, the first four which investigate power dynamics within conversation, and one made specifically for the COVID-19 pandemic: Hand-Raising Stick, Sonophone, Eye-Contact Goggles, Elevate-Ur-Shoes, and Canoodler. These devices are presented on separate images, each device shown as an illustration and in prototype form. While my initial goals for presenting this work involved an experiential installation made to look like a brick and mortar store, stripping down the work to focus on the concept of the objects allows their simplicity to shine through. 

The objects are direct, childlike and uncomplicated. With bulbous, awkward forms that are atypical in everyday life, their presence invites exploration. While these devices began as tools for leveling out power dynamics in conversation and making them more visible, the research and experimentation process has shown that these issues are more complex than who holds the power in an interaction. Conversations are two-way streets and while we should work to dismantle unjust systems of power, it is also within our responsibility to manage our own anxieties, and these devices help you start to do that. They are tools to help users build confidence to take up space and assert more power within their own conversations. 

With the onset of COVID-19, face-to-face communication as we know it has become increasingly discouraged, prompting me to apply my previous research to our current situation. This series concludes with a device that, rather than addressing power, encourages intimacy between people in this time period of social distancing. As we build distance between ourselves, the Canoodler is here to bridge the gaps. The middle of the device is over six feet long and is filled with pillow fluff for comfort and lightness. The ‘arms’ that wrap the users' shoulders are filled with kidney beans, each weighing approximately the weight of a human arm, 8 pounds. Similar to a weighted blanket, the weight helps relieve users' anxiety. The arms also act as a hidden food pantry. If the need ever arises, simply rip open the stitching and boil the contents.