My Thanksgiving: Writing a Thesis Proposal

So while all you guys were eatin’ Turkey and cold chillin’ with yo friends. I was at home alone working on my Thesis Proposal. This is a good thing! I need to wrap it up. It’s due in a couple of days.
This is version THREE. And it is FAR FROM PERFECT. But hey, in the spirit of evidencing how I roll here goes:

Looking forward to comments and criticism! Thank you!


“The animal has memory, but no memories”
-Heymann Steinthal

“…I hope everything I grow off, of I grow off of I intensify”
-JRMG, August 4th 2006

Mnemonic ‘Charmed’ Jewelry (Investigations in fashioning technology)
Infusing designer jewelry with a narrative story, these objects are aesthetically pleasing, wearable mobile communication devices. This particular prototype will be a ‘sentimental personal storage device’ in the guise of high-fashion jewelry.

I am designing a set of wearable memories to be contained inside of pieces of jewelry. In this instance the memory jewelry will contain a catalog of letters that my younger brother Jacob sent me from August 2004-October 2008. Each letter will be represented on the necklace as a charm attached to the necklace. The wearer of the necklace/jewelry takes an active role in bringing the object to ‘life’ with its use. The charms on the necklace can be accessed separately or as a group–the necklace itself can be read sequentially or individually. The charms will most likely be homegrown crystals.
Reading the necklace involves engaging with a simulation of ‘place’ through the use of virtualization software that lives inside the jewelry. In this jewelry I create a new space. I ‘store’ the material experience of the letters and the reconstructed memory of the places within the device. The personal history told through the letters all become re-embodied inside the memory palace of the jewelry.

The purpose of designing an experiential/interactive object is about exploring novel scenarios where we examine our sentimental relationship to objects. The space of our memories is sacred; it is the language we use to create and understand the world. The ultimate goal is to create something that not only provokes thinking about this relationship but also moves the wearer into participating in the experience offered by the jewelry. This examines the value/worth relationship of the experiential (analog) moment against the informal (digital) moment and subverts the notion of the ubiquitous and anonymous digital experience.

Re-investing in the Physical
The movements being made now are in re-investing the physical (the analog experience) with the virtual (the digital experience). This has been called ‘neoanalog.’ The neo-analog I am proposing is an invested and thoughtful design of personal sentiments. I believe that our humanity, our sense of being is directly tied to the tangible material experience. Tied to the narrative and synaesthesia. The merging of non-linear information with intelligent device design catalyzes us into re-examining the power of the physical object.

Questions to be raised by the project

My work is currently focusing on staging low and high-fi tangible interactions using forms of analog and digital social media to provoke conversation and ask the following questions:

How do we translate experience, interpreting meaning into our objects?

How can we point to the value of the physical experience when we have the promised experience of the ubiquitous digital?

Now that there are so many different levels of loose and tangential connections, what does it mean to be connected to someone?

Are we losing our sentimentality and kinesthetic memory?

How can capturing a set of tangible experiences (letter writing and reading) and documenting them, salvage or recreate the moment of their passing?

What does it mean to create the elaborate structure of reconstruction?

Why transfer the literary, tactile into anything more than what it is?

How does the creation of a piece of jewelry that contains a memory do anything valuable?

How can we talk about sentimentality if we cleave it from the sensual?


My method for working out this problem involves a significant amount of anthropological research and investigation. I intend to continue this process of continued investigation and document the work as the project comes together. Particular effort has gone into the study of interaction design and information architecture as a framework set of parameters for my artistic efforts. This skill set now forms the main way of describing projects that I am working on. Adding to this will be explorations into prototyping the jewelry and eliciting qualitative research on how people feel about engaging with the prototype.

Project Description and Materials

The overall presentation of these efforts will culminate in a research essay, a website, a mind-map drawing on the wall, a pamphlet that describes the theoretical product and a series of prototypes sketches of the device. The equipment I need includes 15 ft. of wall space, a computer with a monitor, a video projector, and a set of shelves. The materials and techniques employed in the making of this project are information architecture and industrial design. The imagery will consist of prototype models, the letters, and models of the internal space of the jewelry. The jewelry itself will be created using a programmable Arduino.

What I would like to expand upon if I have the time
Expanding the prototypes to include alternate kinds of affects and communication/storage possibilities.
Possible ideas include having the jewelry emit a heartbeat. Or have the necklace become some sort of ‘ritualized permanent bonding’ communication device with each piece of jewelry, bonding the users to each other–the device becoming a tactile touch point between the individuals.

Rough Timeline

1st month: Will be devoted to scanning and cataloguing the letters for the creation of the book.

2nd month: Will be devoted to describing the space and creating a model for the space (real/virtual tbd) and the fabrication of the prototypes for the memory palace jewelry.

3rd month: Will focus on recreating moments from the story and trying to model the actions/behaviors precipitous events for the narratology of the storyline

4th month: Will focus on finalizing the display of the whole story, diagramming out the final exhibit and finalizing the architecture of the project for display.

5th month: Working on the story/essay on the project itself, the website and the pamphlets for the whole project; proofing the book and sending it to the printers.

Relationship to other artists/projects:

Natascha Sadr Haghighian

Investigates established systems of knowledge and information. She does so systematically, in a three-step process she describes as: “researching, maneuvering, and doubting.” Her work is, among other things, concerned with the art world and its relationship to knowledge production and presentation.

Andrea Moed

Lisa Smith

Nadya Peek

From her website “A designer seeking to explore the immaterial depths of our cultural makeup through the production of artifacts. My design process is closely aligned with art practice and privileges the affective over the utilitarian. In general, I cast a wide net when it comes to research and work, but draw strongly from the fields of architecture, cultural studies, and media technology.”

Bibliography / Research / Creative Influences

Analysis of a Mnemonic device

Internet of Things Presentation Lecture at University of Amsterdam

Method of Loci

Jason Wilson- HERE Game

Lisa Smith

Howeler and Yoon


Danah Boyd

Judith Donath

Natalie Jerimijenko

We Make Money Not Art

The Space of Time- Mental Time in Architecture

private virtual worlds

Metaphors we live by- George Lakoff
Media and Performance- Birringer
Design and the Elastic Mind- Antonelli
Here comes everybody- Clay Shirky
Holy Fire- Bruce Sterling
Shaping Things- Bruce Sterling
Sensorium- Caroline A. Jones
Halting State- Charles Stross
Materializing New Media- Andrea Mutter

Anselm Hook
Amber Case
Jane McGonigal
Alan Sondheim
Thomas Zummer
and so many many more….

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